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How to Play the BioShock Games in Chronological Order – IGN

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Players were enamored by the BioShock series from the moment they escaped a crashed aircraft, entered a mysterious lighthouse, and embarked on their undersea voyage to the crumbling city of Rapture. Often referenced and paid tribute to, many consider Irrational Games’ immersive action-horror classic a masterpiece, and in the years following its debut, it blossomed into a long-running franchise.

But in classic BioShock fashion, its sequels were the furthest thing from traditional. As expected for a series that hinges on otherworldly scientific discoveries and reality-tearing experiments, BioShock’s story frequently switches between alternate universes, leaving its games out of chronological order.

So, for those looking for a linear way to play through BioShock’s full narrative, here’s a quick runthrough of the BioShock series in chronological order.

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How Many BioShock Games Are There?

In total, there are four BioShock Games (three released on home console and PC and one released exclusively on PC via web browser) and three expansions.

This list won’t include remasters or ports, including the BioShock Collection, which bundled remasters of the full trilogy and its expansions. It also won’t contain challenge map packs, such as Clash in the Clouds or BioShock’s Challenge Rooms DLC, as these are purely gameplay-focused and thus considered non-canon.

Every BioShock Game in Chronological Order

These blurbs contain mild spoilers for each game, including characters, settings, and story beats.

1. BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution

Launching as a pre-order bonus for BioShock Infinite, BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution was a browser-based flash game that acted as a prequel to Infinite’s story. Casting players as a worker completing cog-based puzzles, Industrial Revolution allowed pre-ordering customers to unlock special items and upgrades that transferred to BioShock Infinite.

As players completed challenges, they learned more about the conflicts running through Infinite’s world, including the battle between the Vox Populi and the Founders. They could even choose which of the two groups to support, unlocking different rewards as a result.

Note: The game was shut down a decade ago and is no longer available to play online.

2. BioShock Infinite

The third mainline BioShock game, BioShock Infinite follows a Pinkerton detective named Booker Dewitt. Drowning in debt, Dewitt is tasked with a simple mission to wipe away what he owes: venture to the city of Columbia and locate a mysterious girl named Elizabeth.

However, when Dewitt arrives in Columbia, things are far from simple. Columbia is a city floating above the clouds and its citizens have branded Booker a “False Shepherd”, rallying together to execute him. Things get even stranger when Booker finally locates and rescues Elizabeth, who reveals she can open tears in reality, allowing her to reach into other universes.

Teaming with Elizabeth to escape Columbia, players are taken on an adventure through the flying metropolis, facing off against the locals, their towering mechanical security bots, and Elizabeth’s relentless bodyguard, Songbird. Along the way, they can open rifts to other dimensions using Elizabeth’s unique powers, utilizing her gifts to scrounge up resources or venture into new realities altogether.

Read our review of Bioshock Infinite.

3. BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Part 1

Set in the same universe as BioShock and BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Part 1 is the first of two expansions for BioShock Infinite. The DLC follows an alternate-universe Booker Dewitt who acts as a private detective in the city of Rapture. Set before Rapture’s downfall, the game begins with Dewitt meeting Elizabeth, who tasks him with assisting her in rescuing a missing girl named Sally.

Burial at Sea’s first part allows players to explore a fully operational Rapture set before the events of the first game. Alongside getting to see the city as it once was, the DLC includes several returning faces from previous Rapture adventures, including Sander Cohen and Yi Suchong.

Read our review of Burial at Sea Episode 1.

4. BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Part 2

Taking place directly after the events of Burial at Sea – Part 1, Burial at Sea – Part 2 switches control from Booker to Elizabeth. Waking up after the dramatic conclusion of the previous expansion, Elizabeth meets Atlas, who strikes a deal with her: He’ll let her and Sally live if she can help him escape Fontaine’s Department Store and return to Rapture.

Taking on a new stealth-focused playstyle to fit Elizabeth’s skill set, players explore Fontaine’s Department Store, attempting to figure out how to return to Rapture and save Sally. Burial at Sea – Part 2 was Irrational Games’ and BioShock creator Ken Levine’s final take on the BioShock universe. It attempts to wrap up some of the franchise’s biggest mysteries while directly setting up the events of the original game.

Read our review of Burial at Sea Episode 2.

5. BioShock

The franchise’s debut entry, BioShock follows Jack, the sole survivor of a devastating plane crash. Escaping the wreckage of the accident, he finds refuge in a mysterious lighthouse, where he discovers a submarine that transports him to the underwater city of Rapture. Although the city looks like a technological marvel from afar, Jack quickly realizes it’s hardly the oceanic utopia it appears to be.

Envisioned as a neon-lit metropolis where society’s greatest minds are allowed ethical and creative freedom with no governmental intervention, Rapture is a fallen wasteland by the time Jack arrives. The blood-drenched streets are patrolled by monstrous citizens slaughtering each other in search of a genetic-splicing drug known as Adam, while the city’s shadowy founder, Andrew Ryan, controls the ruins with an iron fist.

Teaming with a fellow survivor named Atlas, players are tasked with venturing through the city, attempting to escape Rapture and return to the surface. Along the way, they gain access to plasmids, powerful injections that unlock elemental powers. In the years following its release, BioShock has become a classic, with many regarding it as one of the best games of all time.

Read our review of Bioshock.

6. BioShock 2

A sequel to BioShock, BioShock 2 was developed by 2K Marin rather than Irrational. Strapping players into the hulking suit of a Big Daddy, BioShock 2 has players return to the submerged dystopia of Rapture eight years after the events of BioShock.

Taking control of a Big Daddy codenamed Subject Delta, the story follows the towering protagonist searching through the ruins of Rapture for a Little Sister he used to protect. Along the way, he’s pursued by Sofia Lamb, a scientist who’s filled the power vacuum left by the deaths of Frank Fontaine and Andrew Ryan.

BioShock 2 was largely a continuation of the gameplay and themes of the first game, albeit with a hefty arsenal of brutal Big Daddy weaponry and a new mechanic where players defend Little Sisters while they scavenge Adam.

Read our review of Bioshock 2.

7. BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den

An expansion for BioShock 2 that occurs alongside the events of the main campaign, Minerva’s Den follows a second Big Daddy codenamed Subject Sigma. Tasked with tracking down and accessing The Thinker – Rapture’s computer mainframe – Sigma works alongside the creator of the system, Charles Milton Porter, to retrieve it.

Minerva’s Den offered a short campaign that fills in some crucial Rapture lore and offers new gear, including the Ion Laser and Gravity Well Plasmid. Minerva’s Den currently marks the end of the BioShock timeline.

Read our review of Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den.

How to Play the BioShock Series by Release Date

  • BioShock (2007)
  • BioShock: Challenge Rooms (2008)*
  • BioShock 2 (2010)
  • BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den (2010)
  • BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution (2013)
  • BioShock Infinite (2013)
  • BioShock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds (2013)*
  • BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Part 1 (2013)
  • BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Part 2 (2014)

*Non-canon

What’s Next for BioShock?

Plans are already well underway for a major BioShock return. After years of leaks and rumors, 2K officially announced the series was getting another entry back in 2019, which we are tentatively labeling Bioshock 4. Following the closure of Irrational Games, developer Cloud Chamber will be the brains behind the next BioShock, although there’s little indication of how far along the reboot currently is.

Although we know it’s in the works, we’ve still yet to see the sequel in action or hear more about the Cloud Chamber’s direction for the series. That’s not to say we have no information on the sequel though. For one, we know Ghost of Tsushima writer Liz Albl has taken up the role of narrative lead. The game will seemingly also follow BioShock Infinite’s lead by opting for a fresh setting, with job listings referencing the team building a “new and fantastical world.”

A sequel isn’t the only long-awaited BioShock product currently in production. Back in 2022, Netflix revealed it had greenlit a movie adaptation of the original BioShock. Netflix later confirmed the film will be directed by I Am Legend and Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes director Francis Lawrence, while the script is being handled by Michael Green, one of the writers behind Blade Runner 2049 and Logan.

BioShock creator Ken Levine’s next project, Judas, is also deep in development. From the early glimpse we saw at The Game Awards in 2022, it seems akin to BioShock, from the dual-wielding combat to the high-concept sci-fi setting. If all goes to plan, it seems BioShock fans will be feasting on a banquet of twisted sci-fi goodness over the next few years.

Callum Williams is a freelance media writer with years of experience as a game critic, news reporter, guides writer and features writer.



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