Steampunk is one of the most popular subgenres of all times. Whether it’s animation, video games or even movies, steampunk has a certain appeal that many are digging. If asked to describe what steampunk actually is.
No matter how you would define it, there will certainly be a group of people ready to prove you wrong. That being said, the most simplistic way to describe steampunk would be that it focuses on a world built around the steam engine.
A log of cogwheels and steam based machines, even futuristic devices that keep some of that old school steam vibe to them, they all characterize as steampunk. Victorian London is often times the starting and ending point for steampunk creations but those that want to create a story in a steampunk world don’t have to limit themselves to that.
When it comes to gamers and they preferred worlds to explore, modern day gamers sure do love their steampunk. There are many games actually that dissect this subgenre and incorporate it into awesome experiences which shouldn’t be missed. Especially if you like both steampunk and video games, you should check out these selections as they are some of the best games released thus far.
Here are the best steampunk PC games
Bioshock is a game franchise that has always dabbled with dystopian worlds and concepts. From an underwater empire it has made its way to the Heavens in the latest iteration, Bioshock Infinite. In the game, you play as a man that has a lot of debts. In order to pay these debts and be straight with all the involved parties, you must complete one mission: retrieve a girl from a city in the sky.
The mission seems pretty manageable as you are even launched into the air in a very improvised mini rocket, but along the way you have a lot of perils to face and adventures to experience. The world in which the game takes place is very deeply imbibed with the essence of steampunk and traits of it can be found all around the floating city. As you fight to guide the girl you eventually befriend out of the city, you can enjoy a marvelous steampunk world.
There are many elements that make this game worthy of the steampunk category. One of the most obvious one is the weapons, which are a mix of traditional hand cannons and rifles and less historically accurate blast cannons and what not. You also have a set of powers which you unlock as the game progresses, and they always serve an important role in every battle.
Round it all up with an impressive display of imagery and sound and music that seem ripped right out of a 60’s poster and you have yourself a modern day classic which will surprise you pleasantly at every step of the way.
There is also a DLC for the game where the characters from Bioshock Infinite take a swim down to the underwater dystopia from the first two Bioshock games. While they are not so obviously steampunk as Infinite, Bioshock 1 and Bioshock 2 also have great stories ready for your if you decide you want more. Be warned however that it’s a completely different setting and a completely different atmosphere that will feel nowhere near as embracing as the Infinite one. Quite the opposite, it will be very hostile. And that’s saying a lot since Infinite didn’t have the most welcoming hosts either.
Dishonored is a series that focus on the story of a royal family and its demise. In the first game, you play as Corvo Atano, the royal bodyguard and also the queen’s love interest. Your pretty neat life takes a turn for the worst when the queen is murdered, the princess (your daughter) is kidnapped and you are framed. Blamed for the fall into the ruin of the empire, you must journey into a mission of redemption. You must find the queen’s killers, save the princess and restore order to the city of Dunwall.
Speaking of the city, it brings a lot of steampunk elements to the table as it is heavily inspired in architectural design by the reigning queen of steampunk mythos: Victorian England. That being said, there are also a lot of twists which set parallels between England of that period and Dunwall’s steampunk setting.
For example, instead of Tesla’s coils you have huge electric fields that will burn you to a crisp. Instead of having to use petrol for your lamps and what not, you navigate through a city powered almost entirely by whale fat (that’s still a greasy substance so it makes a bit of sense, but it’s funny nonetheless when you think about it).
And what good would all that steampunk be without a bit of magic thrown into the mix? Corvo has a lot of that at his disposal, as he is blessed by a godlike entity only known as The Outsider. He’s nothing more than a myth, a legend for most people, but Corvo finds out in his hour of need that he’s very real.
The powers he grants you will be most needed through your Dunwall adventures, as the game requires a high amount of stealth and precision which no mortal man can be capable of. But you are not a mere mortal, as you are the Outsider’s chosen one. Bearing his mark, you must venture out and find your daughter Emily before villainous minds use her succession right to gain control of the kingdom.
As the title suggests, this is the return of Alice, the famed character from the book Alice in Wonderland. This is not a sequel to the book however but to the first game in which Alice defeated all her demons and yet ended up in a mental institution. It’s a grim and gritty twist on the otherwise charming book, and those with a dark sense of humor will appreciate it.
In this game, Alice is surrounded by a steampunk-heavy setting which makes itself known throughout the levels. It’s not just steampunk, but also pretty goth, as many people describe it. In the game, Alice is not a little girl eager to make friends but a grown young woman eager to bite the head off of any bat would cross her path.
For those that are too young to get that, it’s a reference to the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne, and just like him, Alice is also set on making history in her own little messed up world.
The player is the one that must guide Alice through a world that is nothing like the Wonderland they might remember from the stories. The steampunk elements do help out a lot with fleshing out Alice’s character and also add an adequate color palette for the game’s atmosphere.
The game has the most psychological component out of all presented here. Saying that “it’s all in your head” is really too simply put for what the game strives to achieve. The right way to put it is that the game will teleport you into a world of uncertainty and constant uphill battles against yourself. Whether or not Alice manages to overcome her own limitations and regain full control is up to you. But you’ll have to play through the whole game if you want to find out what her fate is.
What all the above games have in common is a lot of dialogue throughout the story campaign. While Machinarium has a satisfying and rich story nonetheless, it lacks dialogue as the other games in this list. Readers shouldn’t be hasty to judge that as a flaw, however, as it is part of the game’s charm.
Machinarium is an indie game developed with beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds. It’s definitely a game that feels very personal and you can’t help but get attached to Josef, the little robot which plays the lead role in this story. Fun fact: Josef was named after the guy that invented the word robot, which makes it an even cooler name for a robot.
The game is filled with steampunk inspirations as it is set in a retro- sci-fi- futuristic –dystopian- apocalyptic city. Here, the plot unfolds when Josef’s girlfriend Berta is in trouble and needs to be saved. Who other than our brave little robot to complete this task?
The game uses a point and click gameplay mechanic and has no dialogue. The adventure never stops however as you’ll be mesmerized from start to finish by this wonderful addition to the steampunk subgenre.
Final Fantasy is a franchise that many are familiar with as it is one of the biggest gaming experiences known to date. The game franchise has spawned countless titles, making its way to double digits. With so many titles to choose from, it is pretty hard to decide upon which Final Fantasy you want to pick up.
Each game features its own strong points and allure, and the different style and characteristics of each game and its story make each game a completely new experience in a way. Since we are taking a look at steampunk games, the choice becomes super easy for us. We choose Final Fantasy VI because it is truly loyal to the steampunk theme and fantasy.
The game features a thriving industrial setting where steam is behind all machinations. Final Fantasy games are known for their amazing mix of fantasy and sci-fi elements. This is pretty much the best setting for a steampunk game, and FF VI doesn’t disappoint.
There are many things about this game aside from its heavy steampunk roots that will attract players. Some might be very pleased with the truly amazing soundtrack that the game has produced, while others might find themselves enthralled by the sheer captivating nature of the story.
Thief is another pretty old gaming series. And by old, we don’t mean outdated but really worthy of the title of “veteran”. While the old games aren’t really playable by today’s standards, the latest iteration of the game which came out in 2014 is definitely worth a playthrough.
Thief embraces its steampunk element to the fullest and never backs down from making use of its gritty setting to display its potential. While other steampunk games focus a lot on the evolution part where steam technology boost mankind into a new technological era, Thief maintains a low profile, in complete accord with its theme, and settles for more of a medieval approach to the steampunk fantasy.
It’s worth mentioning that while the 2014 edition of Thief does do the franchise justice in a couple of departments such as voice acting or even graphics, it falls short on other elements like story or even gameplay.
The older games might have a more suitable experience ready for you if you’ve thoroughly enjoyed this iteration. So if you finish Thief (2014) and are left unsatisfied, don’t hesitate to try older games too. Now that you’ve broken through the Thief shell and liked it, the older games should be close to solid gold for you despite how old they are.
Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends
This is a pretty unique entry to the list as we are dealing with an RTS? The RT-what now? RTS stands for Real Time Strategy and there’s a fine distinction in age between those who know that and those who don’t. RTS is a dying genre, or better said dead for years, but its remains manage to turn up here and there occasionally. While there is no more mainstream interest in strategy games, that doesn’t mean that a game like Rise of Legends isn’t worth your time.
In this game, you control one of three factions and aim to complete certain objectives that will bring you the victory. However, the cherry on top is the fact that it is set in a world where a third of the population is steampunk. Yes, there is a steampunk faction which is playable, and those who have a knack for steampunk stuff will definitely appreciate a steampunk RTS.
The focuses aonthree factions, as mentioned. Aside from the steampunk Vinci, players can also take control of a race of infected human-aliens or middle-eastern mages. It’s a pretty diverse cast of character backgrounds and it’s surely something you can fiddle with and have fun for a long period of time.
Steampunk and beyond
Steampunk has no shortage of loyal followers and it would seem that this subgenre is here to stay for another decade if not even longer. It’s just a perfect combination of elements that happens once in a million years (that might be a little exaggerated) so it’s not easily forsaken by those who really like fantasy and, well, steam…
The concept of having futuristic cities, weapons, devices and even clothing that works off of steam of all things is a real mind twister and that’s what people like about steampunk. It offers a window into an alternate reality where steam tech is not outdated but at the head of a glorious evolution. The gaming industry is the best place to let this idea run loose and create offsprings of its own, as game developers have no boundaries when it comes to what they can bring to life.
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