Underrated Sci-Fi Gems You Need to Know About
From the likes of Avatar, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), science fiction (sci-fi) has already established itself as one of the most financially successful genres. In fact, the MCU has made over $25 billion across its past 23 films, making it the biggest movie franchise ever. While these household names are easily recognizable to most, you might want to delve deeper into some underrated sci-fi offerings from games and podcasts to explore the genre's constant attempts at breaking out conventional approaches to media.
If you want to immerse yourself in the sci-fi world even further, here are four gems you should check out:
Guerilla Games’ Horizon Forbidden West
Blending futuristic elements with primitive ones, Horizon Forbidden West follows Aloy, the primary protagonist, in an emotional-driven narrative as she navigates through a far-future America to find solutions that will restore Earth. Alongside the comprehensive story map, users will be able to engage in strategy-driven battles against enemies by using weapons made from salvaged parts. What's more, a Netflix adaptation is in the works.
What sets this apart from its peers is its powerful ecological message. While it isn’t uncommon for post-apocalyptic games to feature Earth damaged by greed and warfare, the narrative crafted around Aloy’s refusal to leave her home planet is, at once, triumphant and subversive.
Ursula Le Guin’s Novels
Ursula Le Guin is an American literature icon who won multiple accolades such as the Nebula, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. Ursula Le Guin penned intergalactic universes to reflect realistic discussions on social norms, and The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin offers you a breathtaking preview of these dialogues.
The novella includes her landmark works, like "Dragonfly," which follows a gifted girl in the world of wizards, and historical sci-fi "Vaster than Empires and More Slow." Both are imbued with the same imaginative storytelling critical to understanding oppressive institutions and other stagnations of progress. Through the lens of futuristic and sometimes alien landscapes in her short works, Le Guin tackles the most challenging and most human themes. This is why she remains one of the most influential albeit underrated sci-fi writers of all time.
Drawing on themes of isolation and loss, the sci-fi film Oxygen instills a growing sense of discomfort in their audience. The film follows a woman named Elizabeth Hansen, who for most of the film is stuck inside a cryogenic chamber with no memory of getting there. She sets out to uncover the mystery behind her isolation through the pod’s onboard computer system MILO. Piecing together her memories becomes the only recourse for Elizabeth’s survival. This allows the film to uniquely maximize exposition the way it does its setting, by mediating between revelation and the unknown.
If you’re looking for an equally compelling story set in space that is family-friendly, Lost in Space takes you through an uplifting account of how the Robinson family navigates a series of life-threatening situations. Sci-fi just may be one of the best genres to experience as a family.
Battle Bird Production’s We Fix Space Junk
We Fix Space Junk is a dark sci-fi comedy show that feels both distinctly retro and refreshing. Expertly produced, this female-led story set in a dystopian galaxy follows the misadventures of seasoned repair technician Kilner and rich murder suspect Samantha Trapp.
The story is equal parts imaginative and delightful, with no shortage of hilarious turns to keep listeners invested in a pair of space fugitives. It’s an easy binge with short but masterful episodes. However, the incredible production and sharp writing combine to transport you through a memorably thrilling ride across the galaxy.
If you're looking for worlds rife with thought-provoking elements and alternate possibilities, it’s easy to take a shine to any of these brilliant stories sci-fi has to offer.