Post-apocalyptic settings aren’t just specialized by western RPGs, oh no, some of the best post-apocalyptic games out there come from Japan. NieR: Automata takes place on Earth, as the remnants of humanity battle machine lifeforms created by beings from another planet.
You play as two different combat androids, 2B and 9S, as they and the other YoRHa androids fight to drive back the androids. Automata’s setting is one of its strongest aspects, as the destroyed world is still gorgeous to behold, and overgrown with plants and wildlife.
All of Automata’s enemy designs are incredibly unique, and the game has some brilliant story twists that toy with player’s expectations and assumptions.
Horizon Zero Dawn
What makes Horizon Zero Dawn such a good post-apocalyptic game is just how different it is from anything else out there. Instead of the dark and destroyed worlds we usually see, Horizon shows us a flourishing world that’s recovered from the apocalypse and found a way forward.
The inhabitants of Horizon have reverted to a tribal-like civilization, although they still make use of certain kinds of technology. Of course, the main threat of this world are the giant mechanized animals and dinosaurs that roam the world.
Horizon’s fantastic gameplay makes these encounters as nail-biting as they are majestic, and the general aesthetic design of the game is super unique.
There’s much more lore and story that goes into Horizon’s post-apocalyptic world, but it’s better to find that all out for yourself. Honestly, it’d be nice to get more games like Horizon that don’t show life after the apocalypse as anything but dark and depressing.
Fallout 3 is the quintessential post-apocalyptic game, the literal definition of the term. Dropping you right into the desolate wasteland of Washington D.C. after a nuclear winter, Fallout 3 has you scavenging and scrounging for survival.
The Fallout series has always done a fantastic job of weaving post-apocalyptic stories, but Fallout 3 is easily the best of the bunch. The Capital Wasteland is filled with interesting characters and stories to tell, whether you’re deciding to blow up a nuke at the settlement of Megaton or investigating the mysterious Brotherhood of Steel.
Fallout 3 really makes you feel like a survivor in this hostile wasteland, and you need to comb each and every building for ammo, stimpacks, and all the other supplies you can. Undoubtedly, this remains one of the greatest post-apocalyptic games of all time.
The Last Of Us
Naughty Dog are masters of emotional storytelling, and The Last of Us still, years later, represents the developer’s peak in terms of storytelling.
The world in The Last of Us is wracked by the devastating Cordyceps virus, turning humans and animals alike into horrendous zombie-like creatures that are sensitive to sound.
The Last of Us tells a very personal story about the life of Joel and Ellie, two survivors stuck in this horrible reality. It’s a fascinating study of human nature, as the two characters become co-dependent on each other, past what is healthy.
The Last of Us also does a great job at portraying the brutality of humanity in an apocalyptic setting.
Both the protagonists and villains blur the lines between good and evil, and create questions about what happens to morality in times like this.
Metro Last Light
In a genre as overused as post-apocalyptic, you need to do something big to stand out, and that’s exactly what the Metro franchise does.
Based on a popular novel series of the same name, the Metro games take place in the subway tunnels underneath Moscow. A nuclear war has irradiated the surface and made it inhospitable, forcing the surviving citizens of Russia to group into the Metro tunnels and eke out a life there.
While the recently released Metro Exodus is a fantastic game in its own right, Metro Last Light is still the strongest of the trilogy. The title tightens up the shooting and gameplay of Metro 2033, while looping in more of the supernatural elements of the story, another thing that differentiates the games from other post-apocalyptic titles.
Metro has some interesting ideas that help immerse you in its setting even more, like having to use bullets as your currency.
It makes sense that a game called Wasteland would be one of the better post-apocalyptic games out there, and Wasteland 2 definitely fits the bill. The game is set on an alternate history Earth, where a nuclear war broke out between the U.S. and Russia in 1998.
Wasteland 2 almost has a “Wild West” feel to its world and characters, and while the overall story doesn’t pack any huge surprises, it’s the characters you meet and the towns you explore that hold all the personality.
The original Wasteland was hugely influential for the post-apocalyptic genre in video games, and Wasteland 2 does justice to its roots in almost every way.
It’s a traditional top-down RPG by all regards, so it may not be the most accessible for everyone, but there’s a hugely satisfying world to explore underneath.
Remember when we said post-apocalyptic games need to do something unique? Well, you can’t get much more unique than Tokyo Jungle. There are no humans left in this apocalypse, only animals, and that’s exactly who you play as.
You start out as a Pomeranian in the ruins of Tokyo, struggling to survive, and as you complete missions you’ll get the chance to play as even more animals. There’s a basic story to see in Tokyo Jungle, but the game is so ridiculous that it ends up being loads of fun, and it knows how ridiculous it is.
Based on which animal you’re playing you’ll face different challenges, like fighting Cat bosses as the Pomeranian, or taking on a tough Beagle when you play as a Hyena.
It’s absurd, but it’s one of the most wonderfully unique post-apocalyptic games out there.
Rage comes from the talented developers at id Software, the same studio behind the Doom and Quake franchises, so you know the shooting is top-notch. That’s really what makes Rage such a good post-apocalyptic game honestly, its gameplay.
The mutated enemies you face are devious and they’ll employ advanced tactics to flank and take advantage of you. This creates some seriously tense encounters where you’ll need to use every tool at your disposal to survive.
Rage is set in a post-apocalyptic world created by a giant asteroid colliding with Earth, and the main struggle involves the surviving humans struggling against hordes of bandits and mutants.
The setting and story fail to break out of the post-apocalyptic schlock, but they’re serviceable, and the title’s gunplay is enough to elevate it even further. Hopefully, Rage 2 can make all of those aspects even better.
The Division 1 & 2
Ubisoft took their own crack at the post-apocalypse with their looter shooter The Division, providing a Tom Clancy military theme to everything.
Set in the abandoned streets of New York in Winter, a smallpox epidemic has torn through the metropolis, forcing the U.S. government to put the entire city in quarantine and activate a group of sleeper agents known as the “Division.”
Both Division games present stunning recreations of their cities, with New York in the first and Washington D.C. in the second. While the looter shooter gameplay is the main draw, and it’s very good by the Division 2, it’s still interesting to see the story unfold with all its twists and government conspiracies.
Considering it has the name Tom Clancy attached, you can bet there’s much more happening than just a simple virus outbreak.
That’s right. The bright cheery inktastic Nintendo game is *technically* a post-apocalyptic game. Okay, this last one might be pushing it, but hey it’s actually in the game.
If you collect the Sunken Scrolls collectibles in the first Splatoon, together they provide a disturbing hint that the game’s world is set thousands of years in the future, after the death of humanity.
One scroll says that creatures on the surface were driven to extinction by rising sea levels, causing sea life to evolve into intelligent beings. Another scroll shows a human fossil, trapped in stone with various pieces of electronics.
There’s some seriously crazy stuff in the rest of the scrolls, like Judd the Cat being 10,000 years old and placed into suspended animation by his human owner. Seriously.
Changes your whole perception of Splatoon, really, so remember this the next time you are blasting your friends with ink.