Do I need to play Cyberpunk to watch Cyberpunk: Edgerunners?

Edgerunners in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

Though the launch period of Cyberpunk 2077 was filled with controversy and mixed reviews in 2020, it’s been the exact opposite for Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. The collaboration between game developer CD Projekt Red, famed Japanese animation studio Studio Trigger and video streaming giant Netflix currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%. 

Set sometime before the events of Cyberpunk 2077, many critics have gone to proclaim that Cyberpunk: Edgerunners does a phenomenal job at fleshing out the pen-and-paper universe created by Mike Pondsmith. Some feel that the anime has even eclipsed the game’s story, starring Keanu Reeves

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners takes place in Night City. An autonomous metropolis sandwiched between a divided California in a nation dubbed the New United States of America, everything from body modification to social inequality and corporate greed reaches new apexes. Stuck in the complicated cycle is David Martinez, a street kid struggling to survive in Night City before getting a piece of equipment that allows him to become a mercenary outlaw, or "edgerunner." What follows is a narrative that leads to a conspiracy bigger than Martinez realizes. 

With the TV series based in the world of the video game, is it necessary to have played Cyberpunk 2077 before you can watch Cyberpunk: Edgerunners? We connect the dots between the two adaptations. Warning, some SPOILERS AHEAD

Can you watch Cyberpunk: Edgerunners without playing Cyberpunk 2077?

Outside of providing some light context to the role-playing game that inspired the anime, it’s not necessary to play Cyberpunk 2077 before watching Cyberpunk: Edgeruners. The events of the show don’t impact any of the multiple story arcs that come up in the game.

If anything, the main connections to the events of Cyberpunk 2077 are the Arasaka Corporation and its head of security, Adam Smasher. The large cyborg becomes a constant threat throughout Cyberpunk 2077 and becomes the game’s final boss. 

The powerful security and weapons company with ties to the Yakuza serve as the main corporate villain in the game’s single-player campaign. Players (named V) get caught up in Arasaka’s internal power struggle after a failed heist. Though the game has the player topple the corporation, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners tragically shows just how powerful they can be. 

Is Cyberpunk: Edgerunners a Cyberpunk 2077 prequel or sequel? 

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a prequel to Cyberpunk 2077 as it takes place a year before the events of the game. Though the game was released two years ago, there are small references made to David. The most obvious is that the Cyberpunk: Edgerunners lead has a drink named after him at Night City bar Afterlife. 

Players spend a lot of time at Afterlife in Cyberpunk 2077, especially with owner Rogue Amendiares who is also a fixer players receive jobs from and is important to the later half of the single-player campaign. A bar located in Little China, David and his crew find their way there on several occasions in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Even Afterlife owner Rouge makes a small appearance. 

One of the fixers players meeting in Cyberpunk 2077, El Capitan, mentions David being seen as a legend from Santo Domingo. Following the release of a new patch for the game recently, there were some additional quests added that allude to the events of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. This includes a virtual reality Braindance sequence that showcases the opening scene from the debut episode with a simple message: "A cautionary tale. One David Martinez ignored. Will you?"

Cyberpunk 2077 references in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners on Netflix

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

There are plenty of call-backs to Cyberpunk 2077 in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Though Cyberpunk 2077 is a systems-based RPG, there’s a heavy shooter element to it that includes weapons like overpowered shotguns and even smart assault rifles that can automatically target enemies. They all make appearances throughout Cyberpunk: Edgerunners alongside melee weapons like the Mantis Blades, Monoware and Gorilla Arms. 

The ramifications of extreme body modification through cybernetics is a theme present throughout the Cyberpunk universe. Too much can lead to a mental disorder called Cyberpsychosis. Many people in the world who suffer from the condition usually turn into homicidal maniacs. In Cyberpunk 2077, there’s even a whole side-quest dedicated to finding Cyber Psychos throughout Night City. Part of Cyberpunk: Edgerunner’s story is David, alongside some of his comrades, pushing themselves far enough to enter the mental state. 

Even the way characters communicate amongst each other through phone and text is similar. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners actually uses the same user interface and sound effects from the game during moments where characters are making phone calls. The same interface from Cyberpunk 2077 for navigating Night City is seen during scenes in the anime.

Hacking takes place in two forms, which are both present in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. There’s the wire-free way that Lucy exhibits and other characters like David have a cord that can be retracted from their forearms to connect to various devices. In Cyberpunk 2077, there’s a hacking mini-game that also makes its way into the anime. 

Cyberpunks: Edgerunner is now available to watch on Netflix.

Ural Garrett

Ural Garrett is an Inglewood,CA-based journalist and content curator. His byline has been featured in outlets including CNN, MTVNews, Complex, TechRadar, LA Weekly and more.