If you’ve recently seen Mad Max: Fury Road then you could be forgiven for coming down with a case of wasteland fever. That might sound like something that happens when you get too much motor oil and blood seeping into your fresh water supply, but you know what I mean. There are still a few months to kill until the release of the upcoming Mad Max game, so here are a few of the best wasteland worlds in gaming to help keep you occupied until then.
The wastelands of indie roguelikeNuclear Throne aren’t populated by humans with ridiculously badass cars and even more ridiculously badass wardrobes. Instead they’re filled with a cast of mutants, each with their own distinct abilities and advantages to help the player progress through the hostile landscape. This particular game is a good choice if you love the idea of the post-apocalypse (who doesn’t?) but are dreadfully sick of the humans who might populate it (who isn’t?).
Things are a lot more lush in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. than they are in your typical ruins-of-mankind scenario. The wastelands you’ll find in these games are quite different in that sense. Also a lot more Russian, but the scarcity of resources and the general grease-caked griminess of life is as familiar as ever. Bonus: If you get wrapped up in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. universe and find yourself wanting more once you’ve finished, you can also transition smoothly over into the related Metro series. While the games aren’t strictly connected, they stem from the same source material and even share some of the same developer DNA.
Brütal Legend doesn’t have all that much to do with the end of the world, so much as it’s the cover of every metal album and the side of every airbrushed van come to life. But it does have a wasteland. It also has characters who spray fire out of the necks of their guitars while on massive stage-like constructions trimmed with subwoofers, which ought to sound familiar. And unlike many of the other games on this list Brütal Legend doesn’t take its world (or itself) too seriously… Not that that’s a bad thing of course, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little fun.
If Mad Max had been a Japanese comic it would be almost certainly be Fist of the North Star, the largest difference between the two likely being the latter’s unabashed love for its bombastic and downright surreal martial arts. There have been quite a few Fist of the North Star games released in Japan, but precious few have been localized. And they are so very precious. Thankfully the Dynasty Warriors-inspired Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage and its sequel made it overseas, so if you want to take on wave after wave of leather-studded underlings in a barren gray hellscape and kill people before they even know they’re dead (yes, you read that right) then look no further.
It’s not just the name alone that earns Wasteland its place on this list. The original game, released way back in 1987, remains a classic of post-apocalyptic gaming cannon. It inspired countless games that followed, not to mention the fact that it’s responsible for the existence of the Fallout series as we know it). If Wasteland is a little too old school for your tastes, then Wasteland 2 (released just last fall) might be a better choice.
It’s a shame that the MMO market (especially so far as free-to-play games are concerned) is still largely dominated by generic fantasy worlds. In the race to be the next World of Warcraft, MMORPGs are all too often just remixing the same tired elements. Elves and humans and goblins and tanks and healers and DPS and… It’s just kind of boring. It’s also why Fallen Earth has no trouble separating itself. It has the usual things you would expect like crafting and PVP, but it also blends RPG elements with first-person shooting, a flexible skill system in lieu of more traditional classes, and a map based on the area surrounding the Grand Canyon. Oh, and vehicles. Loads of vehicles, from scrap metal buggies to battered sportscars, all ready to tear a path across the sun-parched earth.
Though many games grasp at the bleak desert wastelands of Mad Max, far fewer grasp at its wild-eyed, screaming, over-the-top personality of its world. Among those that do, Borderlands probably comes the closest to succeeding—even if it sometimes veers more toward the cartoonish side of things. Regardless, the spirit of shrieking your way through the wastelands is alive and well here.
The Fallout games are peppered with Mad Max references, as outlined in a recent post by Patricia Hernandez over on Kotaku, but if you really want to feel that dry, post-apocalyptic heat on your skin, then out of every game in the series Fallout: New Vegas is the best way to go. What makes New Vegas my top recommendation, in addition to its searing, sprawling deserts, is its moddability. No one should be surprised that there are already Mad Max inspired mods for this game, whether they admit it as overtly as the Mad Max Armor and Playable Race mod or not, but a well-modded copy of New Vegas will scratch your wasteland itch while also delivering one of the most interesting post-apocalyptic gaming experiences in recent memory. And, of course, it has the raddest scorpions.