It’s no secret that Rocket League is an oddity in the world of online gaming. I mean… flying car soccer is already enough to turn some heads.
But Rocket League naturally lends itself to an aesthetic similar to the playfully retro-futuristic themes of vaporwave. Psyonix gravitated toward Sci-Fi glow items, starting with the moment we started drooling over Apex wheels.
When Psyonix announced the radical summer event, they leaned into vaporwave with every ounce of their being. The developers captured a major triumph. That’s good news for us – we’re picking up more design tools by the day. It’s good for Psyonix, too. The dev team adores Sci-Fi aesthetics.
I like to picture vaporwave as mildly unsettling ASMR – hammering millennials with vaguely familiar childhood sounds and imagery. Sometimes it’s artfully executed. Sometimes it’s another angsty anti-consumerist movement that stains the deepest armpits of Tumblr.
Luckily, the former outweighs the latter.
The vaporwave movement was one of a billion just-as-relevant-for-decorating-your-RL-preset micro-genres that emerged from Synthwave music circa 2013. Long story short, an older musical genre – known as Outrun – jostled the internet. It featured vibrant 80’s synthesizer melody loops and blended them with modernized house music beats.
The term Outrun was shamelessly snapped from the 1986 arcade racing game.
From an artistic point of view Outrun took a handful of 80’s sci-fi tropes, feelgood summertime scenes of beachside sunsets, memories of penny-pinching arcades…
And it squashed them all together into a delicious nostalgia sandwich.
Vaporwave took the same principles and replaced the rose-tinted sunglasses with a dystopian tone. The goal was to simulate a more uneasy experience. Imagine coming into contact with the ghosts of abandoned shopping malls. Imagine listening to the hapless groaning of a forgotten track of elevator music. That’s vaporwave in a nutshell.
Vaporwave placed consumerist culture in the spotlight, along with the painfully obvious lies advertisers promised us as customers. Vaporwave also encapsulated the early 90’s in its art and music. Other Synth-blasting micro-genres don’t.
Just like vaporware is a software presentation that fades into obscurity without any real cancellation, vaporwave is a taste of the future we were promised… One that never quite arrived.
It’s also pretty cute to romanticize a time that obsessed over technological advancement that’s become painfully outdated. Gigantic cell phones, anyone?
Since we all mainline the Octane like it’s a line of white powder popularized the ’80s, we’ll start there. The Octane features the most decals in the game, so inspiration flows like a waterfall.
Taste the rainbow!
At first glance, this preset looks like another dime-a-dozen orange and blue wheel combo available in the RL arsenal. The dual color pairing makes it pretty clean. Then everything changes once the goal-explosion nation attacks. We start vomiting colors like we’re a stock VHS tape cover or McDonalds playpen. It’s perfect.
The Mohawk adds a nice cyberpunk touch, doesn’t it? Eh? Eh? I know, I know. You won’t equip it. Toppers are taboo. Your friends would probably banish you from their threes squad in a heartbeat if they caught you wearing one.
The Huntress decal and IO wheels share the same trademark “infinite lines” effect which brings our clashing colors together in an uncanny way.
This car will surely impress everyone watching the replay of your nasty… fake. Look, I’ll keep quiet about the failed flick if you will. The ball went in the hole. That’s all that matters in a game of car soccer, isn’t it?
The mint color featured on these Infinium wheels reminds me of every paper cup ever produced between 1980-1995. Don’t quote me on that… but you feel it too, don’t you? You know the design.
According to Wikipedia, it was called the ‘Jazz’ design.
The design of the “Nice Shot” decal highlights faded zigzag stripes and jagged embellishments. The decal was clearly designed by a man who never outgrew the Jazz solo cup era. [See also: The Bodacious decal for Octane or Fennec.]
The colors in this preset aren’t as loud as we’ll see in the others, but the essence of this car has an unshakable 80’s feel that will surely grab some eyes.
Animated designs aren’t usually my cup of tea, but I went crazy for this preset.
Trigon is part of an endless list of cosmetics in Rocket League based around geometric shapes. Psyonix is particularly fond of triangles. Just take a look at these.
Triangles can give hefty 80’s vibes on their own. The standout feature of Trigon is its animation runs in rows of grid-like straight lines. It’s overflowing with 80’s retro-futurism.
The colors chosen will match each phase of colors shown in Purple Zombas, leaving you with an oddly satisfying sensation tingling through your fingertips as you jump for your next tornado spin aerial.
Pink/light blue is about as iconic vaporwave as it gets. The Septem BL wheels featured here were a limited Playstation plus exclusive. With a little tweaking, we can use Equalizer or Discotheque wheels in a pinch.
The tactical nuke explosion is a nod to the dystopian corporate undertones that run rampant in vaporwave culture. After all, we’ve got the clashing colors covered in this Octane design. Who am I kidding? I just like blinding my friends and opponents with it.
While I’m being honest: The Abtruse decal is a carpenter’s dream for colorful presets. I use it all the time. In this particular case, Abtruse’s vector-like design lends itself to the days of early computer programming.
The Vaporwave decal is vaporwave themed? What!?! Jokes aside, I think this is a pretty creative loadout.
Grassy paint finish is mostly used to darken our primary color. It gives the grid lines more room to pop. I do appreciate the added texture, though. Grassy paint finish looks more digitized than your average choice.
Power-Shot is a great multi-colored boost family that falls into the “not too annoying to listen to” category. It’s one of my favorites.
Please don’t fillet me alive.
I don’t play Fortnite. I know the Yonder’s Fleece decal is somehow related to the poorly-received Psyonix/Epic Games Llama Rama crossover, but I’m in the dark.
What I do know: Yonder’s Fleece is, without a doubt, the most colorful decal in the game. This car screams cybernetic vibes just as loud as it screams internet troll vibes. Each time you demo your opponents is a potential episode of ‘thrown controller’ syndrome.
Hey, I’m shameless! I’ll take all the free ranked divisions I can get.
FG Hot Rod has a blue core that ties this preset together quite nicely. The Twitch Prime reward wheels also highlight the gold accents on the decal while sustaining a bright atmospheric tread lining.
Although, not everybody can use TP-19 wheels. In a pinch, painted Loopers look pretty solid, too. They match the dashed line pattern seen on the profile of the car.
The lavender on the rear wheel wells and spoiler are naturally occurring. That’s part of what makes Abtruse such a masterpiece for decorating cars.
This car is both cheap and beautiful.
Hidden deep within the depths of ugly rocket pass items littering your inventory, you might find a set of default Parabolic wheels collecting dust. They’re easily in the top three most well-designed vaporwave cosmetics in the game.
Would you see this car strolling down the palm tree-lined streets of Miami in GTA: Vice City? Probably not. It’s not a convertible.
I’ll be damned if this preset doesn’t give off a modernized 80’s aesthetic, though.
Making a vaporwave-themed preset post without including Goop would’ve been a cardinal sin.
I opted for the deeper color palette to match unpainted Hypnotiks. The animations between the two blend really well, and the unpainted Hypnos have more color variables than the premium versions.
Star Princess boost might have a name that makes me vomit a little bit in my mouth, but it provides the perfect color offset to bring this preset to life.
Look, Octane Dune Racer is like the Frank’s Red Hot Sauce of Rocket League. I slap that sh*t on everything.
Orange teams needed a little more representation, so I paired Galaxial wheels with a cobalt Dune Racer and used the secondary and trim to match the colors on the wheel.
That gave plenty of room to adjust colors to whatever my heart desired. Cobalt Dune worked best because most other colors are illegible on a yellow background.
I chose the boost to add variance between presets. The Vaporwave or Synthwave boost both fit better than hiring Michael Jackson as your backup singer.
Teal and gold have entered the chat.
If we add some pink highlights, this preset starts to take the form of an early 90’s Nickelodeon commercial. Perfectly muted and still so vibrantly eye-catching.
I’m giving Rocket Pass items some love because they often sit around crowding our inventory. Seriously, when’s the last time you even looked at a RP item?
Seeing a perfectly matching binary undertone on both items makes it painfully clear that Psyonix intended to pair these items from the beginning.
Cybernetic themes might feel a little too modern for my tastes, but I think the color pop makes this preset worth an honorable mention. Make sure you witness this decal in motion before trading for any of the components. It may not be animated in a traditional sense, but it’s arguably the most distracting decals in Rocket League.
One more octane preset before we haul off to the ol’ station wagon.
Personally, I think the grid lines on Framework give it an edge over Encryption. This preset gives off some great ‘outdated tech’ vibes, which really heightens the personality.
Although, I found color combinations pretty limited for a three-color decal. Heck, it’s four colors if you count that black background effect between grid lines. I blame the subtlety of the accent color.
Season 6 platinum reward wheels matched the palette and gave the impression of a retro-futuristic fantasy I could imagine witnessing on Robocop.
The Fennec is a universally-adored hatchback station wagon from the OG radical summer event. You’d better believe I showed it some TLC in my virtual garage. Here are some Fennec designs sure to grab the admiration of your rivals:
The colors mesh together to form a look similar to overheated alloy. Still, if we slap on our most vaporwave-themed cosmetics in the game, there’s no denying it’s a gorgeous sight to behold.
Low key, Burnt Sienna is the most underrated trim color in the game. It gets a bad wrap. The abbreviation BS isn’t doing it any favors, and there are better things to feel nostalgic for than your daddy’s terrible cooking. Burnt anything is destined for a lifetime of failure.
Look, you can dance around it all you want: This preset won’t isn’t complete unless you sport that BS Fennec. Sorry, bro.
The Yorebands decal is similar to the octane Abtruse decal I was gushing about earlier. It will systematically generate a color between the primary and secondary and can potentially produce 4-color builds.
Blue and orange presets are a bit too common for my liking, so I wanted to spruce the car up with purple trim and tie it together with a Synthwave boost. Our result was a colorful 80’s inspired build that might be a little tacky, but in a way that is enticing to look at.
Apex wheels do what they do best: They shine as bright as a shooting star. No surprises there.
This one is a bit wild. You know those old 80’s magazine photos where the teenage girl is walking around in fluorescent green socks, hot pink leggings, and has hair tall enough to get caught in a ceiling fan?
Well, she needed a little bit of 80’s representation, too.
Slight mismatches on repeating colors can turn a boring build into something more refreshing – as long as you’re consistent about it. I chose a darker color palette for the paint colors to help the Fennec trim stand out.
Hopefully, this one can inspire you to dig through all your mismatching random objects and tweak the colors until something catches your eye. It takes a bit of time, but it’s incredibly rewarding!
These colors are LOUD, and I love them. Seeing splatter paint garnish the decal is also a nice touch.
Look, if you haven’t figured it out yet: Infiniums are the best futuristic multi-colored wheels in the game. I’ve used 4 colors by now. I could have easily used the full set.
If the SB trim is a bit overboard for you, FG works fine. Just be sure to adjust the boost to accommodate the change.
Freestylers love their Breakouts and Dominus dudes love playing Rocket League like it’s Giant Paddle Simulator 2077. Let’s see what else we can scrounge up:
Traditional Vaporwave art tends to lean to these softer pastel colors.
In Rocket League, that’s going to be pink and sky blue on most of your wheel options. There are a few colors of Zombas that can hit different pastel combos, but I pulled those designs out to make room for more Infiniums.
Chat has been disabled for 4 seconds.”
The RLCS decal has Japanese letters on it, which is a subtle nod to every Vaporwave album or EP being titled in Japanese. The ’80s and ’90s were the golden age of Japanese economics, after all.
Still, it needs more random flickering Sailor Moon images, if it wants to hit that proper weeb vaporwave vein.
Meanwhile, traditional Outrun art leans toward saturated tones like deep blues you would expect to see on a dinosaur Macintosh programming screen. Neon Fields does a decent job of capturing the vibe.
I love these robust paint colors, but Psyonix doesn’t throw us a whole lot of wheels to match them. That’s the struggle for decorating cars for the orange team in Rocket League. Can I get a “Psyonix, please?”
Except there is one cosmetic that fits the bill. Carry me, Sunset 1986 wheels!
“In the distant future, in the year 2000: All humans will drive flying sleep pod cars. They will live virtual lives in virtual headsets. Robots will conquer the elements.”
– Every old sci-fi film ever
I get it, nobody uses the Nimbus. So, I slapped on a universal decal and made an Equalizer-themed car. It surpassed my expectations. Feel free to try it out on other vehicle types. A Diestro or Imparator, maybe? Those two have an 80’s supercar vibe about them.
The trinity boost tied the trim color into the build while spamming more unnatural polygonal shapes into the fray. Trinity boost also sounds hideous, so take this suggestion with a grain of salt.
Twinzer’s Good Shape decal has that lighthearted shape spam that could easily be seen on the intro title sequence to an 80’s sitcom or infomercial. Who knows, maybe this exact preset was featured on an episode of Full House.
Meanwhile, SARPBC-10 wheels are wildly pseudo-futuristic.
I know, you probably don’t use the Twinzer, either. Dune buggies are cool, too. So here’s a shout to our failed Fennec prototype.
At the end of the day, that’s what these old car designs are, to begin with, right? A celebration of the outdated technology that led us to where we are today.
Slap the bust of a random Greek statue on as a topper, if you insist. Throw a palm tree on there. Name your preset Saint Pepsi or whatever. Run that text through Google translate half a dozen times until you get Japanese words that don’t mean anything anymore. I don’t care. Your import body, your choice.
I wanted these designs to look good. Show some mercy.
Vaporwave was declared a dead movement as early as 2016. Hipsters instantly slapped down on the killswitch once it gained momentum. I guess I don’t blame them. Anti-commercial counter-culture loses its appeal the moment it appears in commercial media. That’s fair.
If you’re that OG vaporwave hipster, join the club. Roguelike fanatics are going through the same struggle.
Still, our niche car soccer video game clenches its grip around the flickering torch of vaporwave. We have a handful of 80’s inspired cosmetics at our disposal in a game that was nonexistent throughout the era. In its own unique way, Rocket League captures that same original objective of manufactured nostalgia. I think it’s cool to be a part of such an oddity.
The outer world may have moved on from a trend often hailed as an internet meme. When we fire up our gaming systems, a little pocket of our shared reality still adores the vaporwave movement.
Sure, we aren’t droning nonsensical lines of nihilism like “At the end of the world we see vapor consumerism and gaseous desire” or whatever…
I don’t care for any of the politics, do you? Sometimes it’s just fun to spit hilariously outdated words like bodacious or radical.
At the end of the day, I just want a safe space to decorate absurd cars. I want loud contrasting colors. The types of colors I wouldn’t have the audacity to sport on the car I take to the grocery store every week. I want to look as vibrant as possible while watching a replay of my nasty preflip redirect.
Vaporwave is dead. Long live Vaporwave.
If you’re itching for more waves to catch, check out my wavedash tutorial next!