Shadowrun Returns Game Poster Image

Shadowrun Returns




Smart but mature strategy RPG has sex, swearing, and blood.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This game is largely what players make of it. Players will be forced to consider character motives throughout the mystery-style story and make their own decisions as to how to react. The narrative could play out as a campaign for justice or simply as a raging hunt for a paycheck. Along the way, players will need to use their brains to think strategically, developing combat strategies while carefully reading text to solve contextual puzzles.

Positive role models

The personality of the player's character is largely up to the player, who can select response options in dialogue. He or she may be played as a greedy, self-interested, vaguely villainous mercenary or as a slightly dodgy but mostly loyal and honorable freelancer. Other characters in the game range the gamut from clearly evil to unequivocally noble and good.

Ease of play

The action begins pretty simply to start, then slowly ramps up to harder levels. Play outside of combat can be more challenging, forcing players to memorize important bits of text and clues within the environment to solve puzzles or progress. Menus can be a bit confusing to start, but come into focus through use.


Human heroes fight using guns, blades, and magic. Blood can be seen emanating from wounded enemies, but the action is depicted from a bird's-eye view, making it difficult to make out much detail. There are no cinematics or slow motion moves to enhance the style or presentation of attacks.


Several female characters are presented in skimpy outfits, exposing cleavage and dancing in a nightclub. Dialogue includes light sexual innuendo, and it's suggested some secondary female characters are associated with the sex trade, though no explicit evidence is provided.


Several instances of light profanity, including words like "damn," "ass," "bastard," and "bitch."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The player's character can order and imbibe alcohol at a nightclub.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know Shadowrun Returns is an unrated turn-based strategy role-playing game with mature themes and some bloody violence. It is available for download through Steam and unrated by the ESRB as yet; but its predecessor, Shadowrun, was rated M for Mature. Profanity is light but frequent. Sexuality is suggested in some scenes by dint of location (a bawdy nightclub in which several characters can be seen drinking alcohol), some female characters' skimpy clothing, and dialogue with faint but unmistakable innuendo. Only about half of the game involves combat, but these scenarios involve both guns and bladed weapons and wounded characters bleed red. Given the mature content, this game is best suited for older teens and above.

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • reading
  • reading comprehension


Thinking & Reasoning

  • analyzing evidence
  • applying information
  • logic
  • strategy

What Kids Can Learn

While elements of Shadowrun Returns focus on strategy and logic, we don't recommend it for learning because of its mature themes and graphic violence.

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • reading
  • reading comprehension


Thinking & Reasoning

  • analyzing evidence
  • applying information
  • logic
  • strategy

While elements of Shadowrun Returns focus on strategy and logic, we don't recommend it for learning because of its mature themes and graphic violence.

This Learning Rating review was written by Chad Sapieha

Kids say

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What's it about?

The result of one of the most successful crowd-funded game development campaigns yet, SHADOWRUN RETURNS is a mature strategy role-playing game set in a dark future in which the world is inhabited not only by humans but also trolls, elves, and dwarves. Players take on the role of an underground freelancer investigating the death of a friend. About half of the game is spent exploring the game's richly realized world and chatting with non-player characters in an attempt to dig up clues or complete side-missions. The other half of the game is spent in combat, where the player takes turns moving his or her character(s) around a grid and attacking enemies with guns, melee weapons, and even magic. Everything is presented from an overhead, isometric perspective, with players using naught but a mouse to control most of the action.

Is it any good?


It's clear that the team of indie game makers who built Shadowrun Returns put a lot of love and effort into this game. The futuristic world is loaded with bits of detail, and the many-branched dialogue trees are bursting with interesting conversations and ideas. Time spent exploring and investigating is rarely dull, thanks to no shortage of objects to investigate and interesting characters to chat with. That players get to mold their character as they like through the decisions they make is the sugar on top.

The combat doesn't quite live up to the conversations, but it's still pretty fun. Battles tend to be a little too short and easy, especially at the start, but as the game progresses and players earn more abilities and additional gear and weapons it slowly grows more sophisticated and satisfying. It's not quite up to the lofty standard set last fall by XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but Shadowrun Returns is nonetheless multifaceted and enjoyable little game of role-playing and turn-based tactics.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about developing a character. Do you tend to make dialogue selections that give your character a heroic personality, or do you like to explore your dark side and make him or her seem more villainous? What are your reasons?

  • Families can also discuss the depiction of women in games. Do you think games set in the future do women a disservice by presenting them in the same degrading roles -- such as sex trade workers -- some women have historically occupied? Should writers of speculative fiction pay greater heed to the growth and evolution of women's rights, or ought they have free license to create whatever sort of world they care to imagine? 

Game details

Platforms:Windows, Mac
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Hairbrained Schemes
Release date:July 25, 2013
Genre:Role Playing
Topics:Magic and fantasy
ESRB rating:NR

This review of Shadowrun Returns was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Educator and Parent Written byunderscorex March 5, 2015

Entertaining futuristic film-noir adventure, but not for kids.

In this game, the player takes on the role of a futuristic mercenary who can use magic or technology to fight various ne'er-do-wells. It is absolutely not for the younger set. Much like the film noir tales that inspired it, Shadowrun Returns is a complex game with a very grey system of morality. Players can opt to shoot their way through a problem or talk their way around it. References to drugs and sex are fairly common, but again, part of the milieu of the game - the protagonist is essentially a futuristic Sam Spade, hired to solve a grisly murder. To that end, the player encounters sex workers, drug addicts, and various other questionable characters, some of which are very thinly sketched, others are given motivation and explanation for their actions. There's blood and guts and carnage and some body-horror type content, but for a sufficiently mature player, the experience is overall extremely rewarding, with a thoughtful (if extremely linear) plot and challenging action sequences. To that end, I wouldn't say there's "too much" sex/violence/swearing, because again, this is absolutely not a children's game. If you're interested in a game in the style and tradition of the Baldur's Gate series (or the first two Fallout games), then this is absolutely worth the money. But I wouldn't give it to anyone under 15, for sure.


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