Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis
Senior couple having fun at home playing video game holding joysticks in hands.Quarantine.
Senior couple having fun at home playing video game holding joysticks in hands.Quarantine.
Video games senior couple maybe in quarantine Adobe Stock licensed

Shelter in Place? Your Sci-Fi Video Game Binge List

You’ll never know where the long hours went, courtesy Sci-Fi Saturday at Mind Matters News

Last week we took a look at some of my recommendations for the best sci-fi apocalypses around, especially if you are stuck indoors waiting out the much less spectacular COVID-19. Similar lists and movie recommendations came pouring through my Google News feed last week so let’s keep going with the flow. A friend tells me that an influx of sci-fi gamers have been quarantined (lockdown, quarantine, self-quarantine, shelter in place, whatever) To the rescue with a new list!

Has your ISP lifted bandwidth limits in your area due to thousands more Americans working from home? Great news for gamers too! Here’s my list of top-notch sci-fi apocalypse games. Note that I am not ranking them or claiming the list is comprehensive. But I believe that these games are worth your time.

Note that most video games can be watched as a cinematic on YouTube. So, if you’re interested in a great story, but not too excited about slashing through the gameplay, I’ve got you covered too.

1.The Last of Us (2013). “In a hostile, post-pandemic world, Joel and Ellie, brought together by desperate circumstances, must rely on each other to survive a brutal journey across what remains of the United States.” (IMDB) Yes, this title was on my previous list, and for good reason. The Last of Us is one of the best and most unique pieces of zombie sci-fi, not an overstatement. The story concept for how people become infected is intriguing and one that I’m surprised I’ve not seen more often in film or TV. Cinematic:

2. Fallout (except Fallout 76) (1997ff) Rather than put every single Fallout favorite on this list, I am grouping them all together. Beginning with Fallout 3 (2008) (“ a faction of technologically advanced pro-human soldiers who survived the nuclear holocaust, becomes engaged in a desperate war”) I would also highly recommend Fallout New Vegas (2010) and Fallout 4 (2015). With all the disappointments and poor quality coming from Bethesda in recent years, it’s easy to forget that Bethesda used to be a ground-breaking game developer. I will never forget blowing up a nuke in Fallout 3 on my laptop as I sat in history class pretending to take notes on the lineage of British kings in the 10th century. While the games are not based on the sort of apocalypse that conjures up zombies, the post-apocalyptic landscapes are absolutely something to be explored. I poured endless nights into wandering through the wasteland and exploring the unique stories it had to tell. Fallout 3 Cinematic:

Also: Fallout New Vegas (Cinematic) and Fallout 4 (Cinematic)

3.The Walking Dead (2012) (“In a world devastated by the undead, a convicted criminal is given a second chance at life when he comes across a little girl named Clementine.”) Okay, I will admit. I never actually finished playing through the entire series. I have, however, played through enough to know that this game needs to be on this list. This five-part series is based on the acclaimed work by Robert Kirkman (the popular AMC series of the same name is also based on his work). If you’re a fan of intensely captivating stories, I would highly recommend giving this one a playthrough. Cinematic:

4.The Metro trilogy. It includes Metro 2033 (2010), Metro: Last Light (2013), and Metro Exodus (2019). The series, like Fallout, is set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been ravaged by nuclear war. With a world full of mutated creatures, and an uncertain presence known as The Dark Ones, Metro is often an underappreciated heavyweight when it comes to fantastic video game sci-fi. This is one story I know will have you going back for more. Cinematic:

Now I know what you’re thinking, “but what about State of Decay (2013)???” Well, there is a ton of great sci-fi post-apocalyptic games out there. These are merely the ones I’ve played and highly recommend for those who enjoy deeply compelling story driven gameplay. I hope this list serves someone’s happiness and brings a little joy into an otherwise anxious world.

Stay safe, and stay healthy. Also, wash your hands!

Last week’s “wait out COVID-19″ binge: How sci-fi treats pandemics Five sci-fi apocalypses to help you wait out COVID-19
One thing for sure, all those doomsday preppers, at whom we silently rolled our eyes years ago, are now crackin’ a secret smile. Never mind, us sci-fi buffs are going to need more than fizzy water and disinfectant. We need food for the mind! Here’s a sci-fi binge list, to keep our minds occupied.

Still stuck indoors and viewing the world through the silver screen? Here are some of Adam Nieri’s other recommendations and reflections, brought to you by Mind Matters News Sci-Fi Saturday:

2019’s Best and Worst Sci-Fi TV: 2019 featured many sci-fi television and movies that were less sci-fi than political narrative. In 2019, I fell out with Netflix. I felt bombarded by more and more edgy content, as though Netflix wanted me to know how “adult” it is. Rather than producing a few amazing originals, Netflix started vomiting up a ton of terrible originals.

Ad Astra: The Great Silence becomes personal. The film images the fate of those who seek significance in the stars and may well wait indefinitely. In a world where the divine touch of extraterrestrial intelligence doesn’t elevate human existence to any level of significance, we are left with Ad Astra: a slow, methodical decay of human significance.

Alita, Battle Angel A Mind Matters Review: If you love anime and felt betrayed by the flop of Ghost, I would highly recommend Alita.

Another Life All fun and games till an AI falls in love. Then it descends into a convoluted drift of uncertain storytelling. And the victim is not primarily the viewer, who has other options. The victim is the art itself.

Dirty Machines: Short time travel flick exceeds expectations
A Mind Matters Short Film Review: A tense soundtrack, intriguing ending, and thoughtful stylistic choices make Dirty Machines: The End of History a thoughtful exploration of a logically tricky subject. Now, if the director can just resist the temptation to get woke…

The Expanse: A Mind Matters TV Series ReviewThe attention to detail and the realistic portrayal of space set it apart from run-of-the-mill sci-fi. I love the deep mystery surrounding the show’s central narrative device, the proto-molecule. It is somewhat sentient and is desperately trying to figure out what happened to the civilization that created it and was then wiped out while it lay dormant in our solar system for millions of years.

The Expanse, Season 4: The Best So Far? A Mind Matters Perspective: Unlike critic Zac Giaimo, I preferred Season 3 but it really depends on what you are looking for. Season 4 is, as critic Zac Giaimo notes, integral to character building and plot development for the overall series. I gave it 9/10 in an earlier review. However, I don’t know if I completely agree with Giaimo’s Amazonian optimism. Season 3 set up urgent questions that should be answered by the end of the show, preferably beginning in Season 5.

The Feed—A Mind Matters TV Series Review: I started out thinking that the show was just the usual ho-hum tyrant-AI-takes-over flick and it is so good to be wrong! Imagine a world where your mind is stored on social media. Now, what happens if someone steals, then abandons it? What will you do?

Her (2013): If you created her, is it real love? In this retrospective Mind Matters movie review, Adam Nieri ponders the questions raised by a thoughtful AI film. Unlike Catherine, Samantha is exactly what Theodore was looking for. No surprise there; Samantha is, literally, adjusted and updated according to Theodore’s preferences from when he initially began speaking to her. She exists only to be Theodore’s soulmate. Is that enough?

How To Become Human—A Mind Matters Short Film Review. This new film turns a conventional sci-fi storytelling premise upside down. Rather than an AI struggling to become human in a human-dominated world, we watch a human struggling to be more like an artificial intelligence in an AI-dominated world.

Lost in Space, A Mind Matters TV series review. I was skeptical at first, based on Netflix’s track record, but was pleasantly surprised. If I could rewind time a week and add a piece of 2019 sci-fi to my list of the year’s Best and Worst Sci-Fi TV, I would add Netflix’s Lost in Space, Season 2—which came out just after I had published. Let’s fix that now.

Love, death, & robots Despite the trash and ruined expectations, several shorts were enjoyable and downright fun to watch

Nightflyers: A Mind Matters TV Series Review Despite its flaws, Nightflyers does not deserve all the criticism it received. It’s the saga of a ship of scientists making their way through the cosmos to unlock the secrets of a mysterious entity known as Volcryn. It turns out that Volcryn is not the only mystery; the good ship Nightflyer holds many of its own secrets.

The Outer Worlds—A Mind Matters Game Review: You must discover the dark secret of the Halcyon space colony, despite the greed and corruption of a handful of powerful corporations. After the raging dumpster fire that Fallout 76 (2018) turned out to be, I hesitated to invest my time and money in another role-playing game (RPG) epic. But I am glad I did.

Picard (2020): Episode 1 Is an AI-Themed Mystery. The mystery is related to another familiar Star Trek character. Seeing the Star Trek universe from a different perspective—that is, not from the interior of a starship—was super refreshing and rewarding. It gives viewers a unique look at what day-to-day life is like for other people (much as The Mandalorian did for the Star Wars universe).

Star Trek: Picard — On second thought, some serious quibbles. Now that I’m four episodes in, I’ve gotta say, the “haters” might be onto something. Not everything but something. Why does Picard seem to be obsessed with Commander Data? And what happened to The Federation? Star Trek fans are quick to point out that Star Trek: Picard takes an unnecessary malevolent tone towards The Federation. Why do the Romulans look different? I’m still watching but I’d like some answers.

Simulation: Would a simulated universe even make sense? A well-crafted short sci-fi film suggests, intentionally or otherwise, maybe not. I’ve seen quite a few sci-fi short films over the years and Simulation is certainly one of the better ones. However, beyond that, I’m not sure this film knows what it is; it’s an identity crisis.

Sprites: Will plausible robots replace movie stars? A short film prepares us to think about it.

Tales of the Loop: Pushing the boundaries of the possible. Simon Stålenhag’s captivating post-apocalyptic landscapes remind us that the world could, at any time, be different from what we think it is. Science fiction, as an art, has always meant to inspire. It’s meant to push the boundaries of the possible. And Stålenhag’s world isn’t just different, it’s unique.

Terminator: Dark Fate—A Mind Matters Movie Review. Aside from the fact that it felt like a retextured version of Terminator 2, I was constantly being reminded of the film’s obvious political agenda. Movies like Terminator: Dark Fate  don’t seem to be made by people who care about the narrative. They seem to think that they need only make something that looks like a movie but acts as a medium for broadcasting their message to the masses.

Also, a defense of science fiction fans: Does science fiction encourage narcissism? As a sci-fi critic, I think most fans are just looking for a genre where they can understand and be understood. It’s true that many people who are attracted to science fiction feel like outcasts or disconnected from mainstream popular culture. And many of them feel welcome, loved, accepted, and validated in the sci-fi community. Does that really make them narcissists?

Adam Nieri

Adam Nieri has interests in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind and he holds an MA in Science and Religion from Biola University. He has background in social media and marketing, photography/graphic design, IT, and teaching.

Shelter in Place? Your Sci-Fi Video Game Binge List