Top 8 Games Like Deus Ex

Image credit: Eidos Interactive

The original Deus Ex came out in 2000 guns blazing — and more than twenty years and half a dozen sequels and spin-offs later, it still remains one of the most iconic sci-fi games in its genre ever.

It’s a classic title that cemented its place in gaming history with an uncanny ability to weave stealth, shooting, RPG mechanics, large open environments, and story all in one slightly wonky, but amazing package.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that plenty of amazing FPS games have been inspired by Deus Ex’s revolutionary design in the subsequent two decades. And if you’re itching for something that brings a similar combination of free-form gameplay and a deep story, we’ve got a bunch of suggestions right here.

System Shock 2

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a spiritual successor to Deus Ex, seeing as it came out a year before — but its gameplay and story still scratch a similar itch to our eponymous cyberpunk title. Also, if the name of the game sounds familiar, it’s because it was the predecessor of the modern Bioshock series.

This sci-fi horror roleplaying game is set in the (now less) distant future of 2114. You assume the role of a soldier who’s trying to fight off genetic mutants that have taken over control of your starship. The entire game is set on the ship, which you can explore as you develop your character according to your preferred play style by leveling up various abilities and skills.

At the beginning of your adventure, you choose a starting class in the form of your soldier’s past career, which affects your starting skills and bonuses. You earn additional upgrade points as you complete missions and various objectives which also slowly fill in the blanks of the game’s bleak story and primary antagonist — the crazed AI called SHODAN.

Apart from the wide array of choices you have while approaching various situations in the game, there are also roleplaying elements similar to Deus Ex — such as heavy use of the inventory system. And it’s not just different weapons you can choose from; there are also various ammo types for each weapon, which you can mix and match based on specific situations.

As you defeat enemies and explore the ship, you’ll earn nanites — the in-game currency you use in the ship’s vending machines which dispense health and ammo packs. The option to hack these machines for discounted prices is also reminiscent of Deus Ex.

Dishonored

Arkane is one of today’s most celebrated game studios when it comes to action adventures with RPG elements — and they’re known for their formula that combines top-tier world-building, player choices, and RPG-ish skills and abilities.

Their first game which contained all of these elements was 2002’s Arx Fatalis, a flawed but nonetheless brilliant masterpiece that showed clear signs of inspiration from Deus Ex. However, Arkane would take some of the more interesting elements of Deus Ex, put their own spin on them, and use them in a magical fantasy environment.

Years later, they would refine this formula with subsequent titles before making their arguably biggest hit: Dishonored.

Set in a low-fantasy, dystopian steampunk society, Dishonored sees you step into the shoes of a (dis)honorable assassin and queen’s bodyguard named Corvo, who was wrongly accused for her murder. The game’s dystopian tones are made even more overt by the plague outbreak that’s wreaking havoc throughout the city of Dunwall, where the game takes place.

The gameplay consists of a series of large, open levels which you can traverse as you see fit, and complete sidequests on your way to assassinate various targets. Just like in Deus Ex, there’s a complete non-lethal walkthrough, as all of the targets can also be removed from the story through non-violent means.

You can also choose to stealth your way through the levels or use plain aggression — and upgrade various powers accordingly. These choices also affect the story, which has multiple endings in true Arkane (and Deus Ex) fashion.

Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines

Once you’re done with Deus Ex, you’ll want to take a look at Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines as well. While System Shock 2 leans more heavily on action, Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines goes all-in on roleplaying elements.

The game’s setting is as original as most other games inspired by Deus Ex — a modern-day fantasy setting that imagines a vibrant vampire underworld existing along with our own. The player character is a human that was recently converted to a fledgling vampire and thrust into the macabre world of bloodthirsty choices, stories, and challenges.

The story unfolds in modern-day Los Angeles, which is divided into four distinct areas which the player can freely explore: Santa Monica, Downtown, Chinatown, and Hollywood. Each of them has its own main and side quests, characters, and vampiric societies which you’ll interact with as you reach the top of the current vampire regime.

Unfortunately, the game did not fare well upon its release — the combination of an extremely buggy initial release and the competition from Half-Life 2 and a couple of other titles released at the same time saw Bloodlines sell fewer than 100,000 copies.

While the critics were divided at the time due to the game’s poor technical side, all of them praised the scale of player choices and the game’s writing — which have helped the game rise to the status of a cult classic in the subsequent two decades.

Alpha Protocol

When someone says “Obsidian Entertainment”, the first games that probably pop into your mind are Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, or the more recent Pillars of Eternity series.

However, in between all of that, Obsidian also made an oft-forgotten diamond in the rough: Alpha Protocol. The 2010 game forgoes Obsidian’s usual fantasy and sci-fi scenarios for a modern-day RPG spy thriller, in which you play the daftly named secret agent Michael Thorton.

The game’s third-person gameplay lets you keep track of your surroundings, which is especially useful if you choose a stealthier path. And that’s just one of the couple of different ways you can approach enemy encounters in Alpha Protocol — there’s also the classic guns-blazing approach, but you can also opt for a hand-to-hand build that completely alters the pace of the game.

As you’d expect from an Obsidian RPG, there are plenty of equipment upgrades and unique skills you can choose from. Also, you’ll be spending a lot of time in dynamic dialogue sequences that are as important as your choices during combat. You’ll frequently have a time limit for choosing your answer to numerous questions and situations, and your response will severely impact the course of the game.

Thief (2014)

Fans of the Thief series don’t have a lot of love for the 2014 reboot of the same name — but it’s still a worthy entry in the most famous pure stealth franchise of all time. The eponymous thief, Garrett, once again takes center stage as the player character.

This sneaky adventure isn’t as combat-heavy as most of the other titles we’ve explored here. However, its large, open levels and the variety of choices you have while approaching each environment definitely warrant a comparison to Deus Ex.

The same goes for the steampunk slash gothic environment which leans closer to Victorian-era aesthetics than most other games in that vein — it’s visually attractive and thematically unforgettable, even though you’ll spend most of the game sneaking around its darkest corners. There aren’t a lot of RPG elements to speak of, but if stealth was always your favorite route in Deus Ex and the old Thief titles are a bit too archaic for you: this will do the trick just fine.

Arx Fatalis

Before Arkane would achieve planetary success with Dishonored, there were a bunch of other titles in which they perfected their action RPG formula. And the first one among them was Arx Fatalis — a fantasy first-person RPG that brought players to a fresh, new world.

The eponymous land of Arx was filled with turmoil in the aftermath of an incredibly destructive war. As a result, the sun disappeared from Arx — leaving the world in non-stop, eternal darkness. The world’s communities clustered together in underground mines, but resource scarcity has driven races — humans, rat-men, goblins, and trolls — against each other in a struggle for survival.

Your mission is to defeat the God of Destruction and uncover the secrets of Arx — exploring abandoned mines, bustling cities, and ancient temples in the process. The gameplay itself revolves around a fully customizable character, whom you can upgrade by allocating points to various skills: primarily stealth, armor, weapons, and spellcasting.

The unique spellcasting system of Arx remains innovative to this day — you cast spells by drawing runes via mouse gestures in mid-air. And even if you choose the non-spellcaster route, there are still plenty of challenging puzzles, non-linear gameplay, and great storytelling to keep you hooked until the very end.

Just like in most other Arkane games, you’ve got the freedom to choose your own path and playstyle, leading to one of several possible endings.

Bioshock Infinite

We’ve already mentioned that the Bioshock series was the spiritual successor to the System Shock games — and Bioshock Infinite is, according to many, the peak of the franchise. This third game completely upends the previous subterranean setting, switching it for a vibrant city in the sky.

However, the superficially bright and sunny disposition of the flying city of Columbia quickly falls away as you immerse yourself into the game, revealing the immersive storytelling and horror aspects that confirm that this is indeed another Bioshock game.

If the classic Bioshock gameplay leaves you wondering if this game truly rises above its predecessors, the amazing story — and the jaw-dropping ending — don’t. They’re not just one of the best narrative arcs in the franchise, but in all of gaming as well. 

Bioshock: Infinite is a thrilling ride — and in many ways, a love letter to classic, linear FPS that don’t bother too much with open worlds. Still, there are some large, more open environments — and your selection of powers and weapons, along with environmental puzzles, definitely carry some of that Deus Ex roleplaying DNA.

You can upgrade your weapons and gain additional ones as you go through the story, and the same goes for a refreshing variety of powers — from lighting bolts to telekinesis, and a bunch of other less traditional ones.

There’s also a lot of great character customization through passive bonuses that give you different resistances and improved damage. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the other Bioshock titles or not, Infinite definitely has a lot to offer.

Prey

Yes, there are a lot of Arkane-developed games on this list — and Prey is one of their latest ones. The game begins as you awaken aboard a moon-orbiting space station — Talos I — in 2032.

Your character was a part of an experiment that was supposed to drastically change humanity for the better — but as things do in gaming’s various spacecraft and space stations, things have gone horribly wrong. In no time at all, you find yourself battling hostile, shape-shifting aliens as you slowly dig into the Talos’ dark secrets.

Along the way, you must survive and adapt by using your supernatural abilities, weapons, and wits. And if all of this sounds familiar, it’s because Prey plays very much like a Bioshock 1 in space — but definitely an improved one.

There are plenty of open areas, which you slowly unlock one by one as you try to restore sections of Talos I. Also, you gain and upgrade different powers and skills — and use the various items and resources found on the station to craft increasingly handy items and overcome obstacles.

The story isn’t as inspired as some of the others on this list, but it’s a solid pick if you’re looking for a superb Deus Ex-like gameplay experience with modern graphics.

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