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Synthwave is an electronic music genre associated with the good old 80s. The genre was started in the mid-to-late 2000s and confirmed its place in modern pop culture visually as well. Outrun and Vaporwave, on the other hand, mostly focus on the visual aesthetics with Outrun focusing on VHS tracking artifacts, magenta neon, gridlines, and kinda fast-paced action. While Vaporwave incorporates early Internet imagery, late 1990s web design, glitch art mainly with a pink or light tone. This article will follow a list of games heavily inspired by the 80’s Synthwave with a little Outrun aesthetics.

HOTLINE MIAMI FRANCHISE

Hotline Miami, the most praised video game by synthwave aesthetics fans, is a top-down beat ’em up shooter published by Devolver Digital. The first game follows a linear story of our protagonist “Jacket” who is getting anonymous messages to go to a specific address and kill everyone there and do a specific objective. The second one is more depressing than the first; being as dark as a squid’s ink. It follows a non-linear complex storyline, having some prequel missions to tell Jacket’s history. Killing — aggressive and violent — is the core of the game. Hotline Miami is the epitome of aesthetics and plays its important role in the synth-pop culture. Whether it is the story, the synth OST, art style, gameplay, or even the gore, you will enjoy every bit of the game. 

FAR CRY 3: BLOOD DRAGON

Blood Dragon, a DLC of Far Cry 3, is more inspired by 80’s action movies like Robocop, The Terminator, and Die Hard. It went all out with 80’s Outrun aesthetics. VHS filters, bright neon colors, lasers, cyborgs, and the cinematic that looks straight out of an old action cartoon. With 2013’s best DLC award by VGx awards, the visual style of the game and OSTs are extremely refreshing. The game is Far Cry 3 re-skinned with a brand new story but it is really good and very funny. It really helps shape some of the visuals people are still creating to this date. FC3: Blood Dragon is one of the most important aesthetic video games to date, with solid Outrun visuals and a pinch of Vaporwave.

TRIALS OF THE BLOOD DRAGON

Trials of the Blood Dragon is what you get when you mix FC3: Blood Dragon with Trials. The game jumps 12 years into the future of Blood Dragon’s world, where you get to play as two children of the power couple from the Far Cry spin-off. Teenagers Roxanne and Slayter must rampage their way through unrecognizable versions of war-torn Vietnam, drug-fuelled Miami, Communist-controlled Japan, and visit the alien world of the CIA, all to “save freedom, and save the world”. However, the characters can be the most unlikable in the history of games. Some of the game elements feel annoying and unfair like the grappling hooks and the RC car. The game does some things wrong, and some things right. The game is only recommended if you really loved Trials or Blood Dragon. However, the aesthetics are pretty great and are probably the best thing about the game.

OUTDRIVE

Outdrive is not really a game but it does its job in terms of aesthetics. It is a never-ending driving experience that has breathtaking Outrun visuals. The game is paid and does not have any objective except tackling the helicopter. The game, however, has one of the most outstanding visuals. You might get bored after playing 5 mins of Outdrive but the game is aesthetically beautiful. The game is only recommended when you want a hardcore aesthetic experience.

KATANA ZERO

Katana Zero is like platform Hotline Miami. As a cyberpunk ninja with a katana on you at all times, you will mainly be getting melee kills. Most of your enemies are loaded with guns, so to counter it, you have the ability to slow time, deflect bullets, and dodge roll, which makes you invincible for a couple of frames. You can also pick up and throw knives and explosives similar to the mechanics of Hotline Miami. The gameplay comes down to a lovely mix where you have to be as fast as possible while planning your route perfectly. The beautiful animation and the retro 16-bit offer a lot of personality through subtle moments. Absolutely everything is dripping with aesthetics. The aesthetics and settings are so well placed that they feel unique to their own world. With old camcorder filters and VCR font and retro visuals, and a bit of cyberpunk, Katana Zero is the epitome of Outrun and Synthwave.

FURI

Furi is an ultra-responsive, fast-paced sword fighting and dual-stick shooting game. Furi distills the basic nature of things I find ‘cool’ and combines them into a stylistic, excessive boss gauntlet. It’s all here: anime cyborg ninjas, a pulsing neon aesthetic, an energetic synthy score, dynamic and responsive combat, and enemies that talk a whole lot of shit. As you progress through the game, you travel to different worlds by walking around. Some of the worlds are really pretty and interesting while others are generic. The game has top-of-the-line synthwave by known artists such as Carpenter Brut, The Toxic Avenger, Waveshaper with a handful of others. The soundtrack really energizes the game and its boss fights. Overall, the art style stands out positively and it will embolden your enjoyment.

MAXIMUM ACTION

Maximum Action is an action-packed shooter where the movement is the key, as well as grabbing the most high-powered rifle. The physics of the world feels great as well as pretty much all of the guns. The gameplay is fun and engaging. The game is like a sandbox where you are given a set of scenes that you can do your carnage within. You can choose between nine different levels where you start with a weapon and try to get to the finish and bring any gun you want. The game also has an endless mode with 6 additional levels. The levels feel like set pieces from movies of the 80’s and 90’s action films, like the lobby scene from The Matrix or something from Die Hard. The OST really energizes the fights and makes the game more enjoyable.

INERTIAL DRIFT

Inertial drift is a fast-paced semi-arcade racer focused on drifting. With the innovative twin-stick control mechanics, the game offers you a mixture of Initial D and the third Fast and the Furious, Tokyo Drift. You steer with the left analog stick and drift with the right analog stick while using a controller. The “A” & “D” replace the left analog stick and right arrow key and the left arrow key replace the right analog while using a keyboard. Each car has its own handling, acceleration, and a top speed that makes the game more interactive as well as interesting. The game has cool synthwave aesthetics with a little bit of outrun. The synth soundtrack surely energizes the drifts and races and makes it more enjoyable. Inertial drift also offers you split-screen PVP for some couch amusement.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Neon Drive
Mother Russia Bleeds
Electro Ride
Powerdrive 2000
Retrowave
Vecter
Nex Machina
Dirty Harry’s Thunder Drive
Neoncode
Vicewave 1984
Sunset Drive 1986
VA-11 Hall-A

Alright! More games in the next list! See you later!

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