The Cyberpunk genre has reached far and wide, spanning from the namesake Cyberpunk board game to movies such as Matrix. Despite being a genre of cautionary tales, many do dream of living in Cyberpunk cities. But which ones are the worst?
Well, in this top ten list, we’ll go through the top ten worst Cyberpunk cities to live in. They all suck, but some of them are undoubtedly cool to look at.
New York: The Matrix
The world of The Matrix is technically Cyberpunk, but only barely. Based on the concept of a virtual Metaverse or living cyberspace, The Matrix is a perfect recreation of the 90s, right down to CRT monitors and young Keanu Reeves.
The world of The Matrix doesn’t appear very Cyberpunk, which makes it a little boring. But that’s also why it’s the best cyberpunk city to live in. Sure, there’s no cool augmentations, but the machines do make sure you like an okay life. That might be worth being an unconscious living battery. It’s better than the alternative.
Glass: Mirror’s Edge
Mirror’s Edge’s City of Glass is Cyberpunk, but it’s Cyberpunk-lite. The definition of high tech, low life is more so slightly higher tech, sometimes low life. With this in mind, it actually seems like a decent place to live.
Outside of the cyber-enhanced cops chasing down sick parkour athletes, the everyday citizen seems to be fine in Glass. Yes, there’s evil billionaires, we have those as well! Of course the cops are cruel, they’re cruel IRL as well. Corrupt politicians? Have you seen the Tory government?
Out of all of the cyberpunk cities available, Glass would be a great holiday retreat. The only issue: sometimes a runner may jump through your building. There’s not much you can do about that.
London: Watch Dogs Legion
The city of London in Watch Dogs: Legion is an oppressive take on the English capital. It’s a city filled with surveillance drones and crooked cops, and old ladies who beat the crap out of you. However, if you’re looking for one of the worst Cyberpunk cities, you won’t find it here. Yes, it’s got political and social struggles, but it’s also got some improvements over regular London.
For example, virtual London is much cleaner, and there’s certainly less people around. One time in real London, I saw a rat the size of my shoe; there’s barely any in this London. No, Watch Dogs: Legions’ London is not a nice place to live. However, it is a darn lot better than some of the other cities on this list.
Night City: Cyberpunk 2077
Ah, the quintessential Cyberpunk city, Night City! An overcrowded, underfunded enhanced population centre with the lavishly rich parading in front of the desperately poor. Who wouldn’t want to live here?
That was sarcasm, obviously, Night City is a sty for the average Joe, Jane and Jay. Unless you come from wealth, you’re down in the gutter, resorting to crime or sex work to get by. And that’s on a good day.
In Night City, it’s a fight to survive. For many, stealing augmentations or implants is a daily occurrence. Implants are expensive, and unsupported hardware such as optical eyes will leave you blind. (Another Cyberpunk trope that’s happening in real life now.)
Most people know of Night City from Cyberpunk 2077. However, that adaptation of the original shows far less of the struggles and squalor of the everyday person.
Tiphares: Alita: Battle Angel
The great aerial city of Tiphares is cyberpunk architecture in a nutshell. A melting pot of cultures, the massive overpopulated city is packed with poor people trying to get by anyway they can.
In Tiphares, work is life, and you’ll still struggle to get by working 20 hours a week. Those who wish to escape the city spend all of their money on augmentations to compete in deadly sporting competitions. If they win, maybe they can leave. Maybe.
Outside of very specific areas, Tiphares is filthy. It’s a disgusting, junk-filled city that’s built on scrap covering scrap. Every building is a hodgepodge of whatever materials can be used to make something semi-structurally sound, and that’s the best there is. All in all, not a great place to live.
Subway Town: RAGE
Subway Town in id Software’s RAGE is not exactly a memorable city, but it technically is a cyberpunk one. Well, technically, it’s a cyberpunk town. Set in the post-apocalypse, this shaky, crumbling population centre is one of few refugees in the wasteland.
It may be one of very few places to live in the original RAGE, but it’s certainly not one you’d enjoy living in. Built inside the abandoned subway, hence the name, not much has been done to make the town look like a real home. Well, outside of neon lights everywhere.
If you want to live in Subway Town, you’ll need money, and there aren’t many jobs to go around. Instead, you’ll likely spend most of your time competing in Death Races in order to get cash. You’ll also likely die.
Every City: Ready Player One
As bad as living in Subway Town, nothing feels as grimly dystopic as life in Ready Player One. Often glorified by fans as the best alternative future, the ideas of Ready Player One are depressing, sad and manipulative.
The real-world of Ready Player One is ruined; the majority of people live in stacked trailers that pile high into the sky. All day every day, humans as young as babies are stuck in virtual reality, fighting each other for money, barely ever leaving the world of The Oasis.
Ready Player One’s version of the world may not be the worst place to live in all of cyberpunk media. However, it’s definitely one of the most depressing.
Neo Tokyo: Akira
A futuristic version of Tokyo is often thought of as the most apt alternative Cyberpunk city. With anime aesthetics and traditional Asian designs being a major part of the genre, a Neo Tokyo is Cyberpunk down to a T.
There are many versions of Neo Tokyos across media, but Akira’s is one of the worst. As far as worst cyberpunk cities go, the post-World War 3 world of Akira is grimy, dark, and dangerous.
In the manga, we see a city ravaged by war, stricken by class divide, and a population that’s easily manipulated into believing in a higher power. Sickness is common, poverty is the norm and kids are fighting tanks in the middle of the street.
Obviously, we’re not ranking this city as if the events of Akira are going on. Otherwise, this would absolutely be the worst cyberpunk city to live in. As it stands, the normal version of Akira’s Tokyo is pretty crappy.
Los Angeles: Blade Runner
Blade Runner’s version of Los Angeles was one of the first cyberpunk cities that many ever saw. Set in a retro-futurism alternative 2019, Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is one of the most iconic dystopias in all of cinema.
While Blade Runner’s version of Los Angeles isn’t falling apart at the seams like Tiphares, it is an absolute cesspit of corporate-run cities. There’s grime, dirt, crime, constant rain and a local community designed around tricking each other.
Even outside of the lower bounds of the city, Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is not a pretty side. Massive screens fill the view with adverts, titan-sized Atari and Coca-Cola adverts litter the view. It’s a corporation’s dream and a human’s nightmare.
Even worse, plumes of fire burst at regular intervals as the industrial plants poison the air more than they already have. Because when the planet is already in its death throes, why not choke it some more?
Mega-City One: Judge Dredd
If overpopulation was an issue in Night City and Tiphares, Mega-City One suffers from extreme overpopulation. Built after 90% of the population was killed, Mega-City One is the main city on Planet Earth, and it’s well past breaking at the seams.
An extremely dense city of homogenised towers, Mega-City One is a place filled with low life’s struggling to get by. If you do manage to get a home, you’ll live in a massive apartment building with tiny rooms, most of which are governed by crime lords. Each apartment building is one part of a colossal block, and blocks are often at war with each other.
Of course, there’s also a chance that you won’t live in a block, but homelessness is a crime. If one of the powerful, oppressive Judges find you living on the streets, you’ll be locked up, or shot.
Living in Mega-City One is awful, but the alternative is even worse. Outside of Judge Dredd’s massive cities, the deadly wasteland stretches on for miles upon miles. That’s where the mutants live!