I tend towards fantasy settings more than sci-fi but, nonetheless, I own several of them, most significantly Shadowrun, but also pretty much all of FFG 40k RPG settings, Cthulhutech, Starblazer and a few others.
Ultimately my decision here is a pretty simple one, my favourite sci-fi game, bar none is Shadowrun. I’ve been playing Shadowrun since 2nd edition and I’m very proud of my 80% or so complete 1st-5th edition collection (it’s getting hard to find books i don’t own at prices i’ll pay).
I’ve actually been talking at length about Shadowrun today, discussing the things I don’t like about it and I think they bear mentioning before I tell you why it’s my favourite sci-fi game. All my issues come down to one simple thing, the system. The problem with Shadowrun is that it’s system is a little too crunchy for my group, combat takes a little too long and the game expects a level of familiarity with the system that my players aren’t able to commit to.
So what do I like? Simply put, the world. Shadowrun is by far the most complete world of any RPG setting i’ve played. Other systems might have more fluff in novels but Shadowrun has the most detail for a single world of setting i’ve ever owned and it’s all great. I like the fact that I can genuinely discuss the politics of Seattle, or the candidates for UCAS Presidency and I love the fact that it all matters and all links.
With respect to Catalyst, the current publishers, they have managed to pull the system in and come the closest to making decking work of anyone so far with the system in 5th edition. They’ve also managed to keen the timeline fresh interesting and relevant while also managing to still make it feel futuristic, which is hard with the rate of change in modern technology. It’s not really cyberpunk anymore, Shadowrun has moved onto the mirror shades era, with runners pursuing personal interests and doing runs for the payday, rather than sticking it to the man. When other cyberpunk games stagnated, Shadowrun thrived.
I like other games but little is as cohesive and well written as Shadowrun, few worlds are as evocative and alive and few seems as real. Reading the news every day I see something that reminds me of Shadowrun and it’s that closeness, that realism that draws me in and keeps me coming back.