The 7 Best Roguelike Games roguelike genre is ideal for video games. If you like RPGs, adventures, monsters, hacking, chopping, and looting, the roguelike is the one for you. In addition, roguelikes are one of the oldest genres of video games. There are hundreds of options on major operating systems.
7 Best Roguelike Games
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What is Roguelike?
The roguelike genre was born with the Rogue game back in 1980. You find yourself in a dungeon, where your task is to go down to the lower level and pick up the coveted Amulet of Yendor. Once in your hands, you must leave the dungeon and return to the beginning.
In the Rogue’s dungeon, you will meet all sorts of beasts and monsters, as well as heaps of loot and treasure. Rogue has a strong relationship with Dungeons and Dragons, which uses the same monsters and weapons using similar level attributes.
Rogue was relatively rare at the time of release, as it uses random level generation for every dungeon attempt. This means that each playthrough is slightly different. While random level generation is now normal, it was a unique feature in 1980.
Rogue had another unique feature: eternal death. Once you die in Rogue, the game is over. There are no lives, no alterations, no checkpoints. It’s cruel but cult.
So games that use a style and spirit similar to Rogue are known as roguelikes.
A roguelike game has several key attributes, the specific definition of which is known as the Berlin Interpretation (since it was created in 2008 at the International Roguelike Design Conference in Berlin). It defines several key principles that roguelikes should follow, including:
- Random Environment Generation: As stated above, roguelikes should use random world generation to improve reproducibility.
- Permadeath: When you die, you die. Part of the fun is learning the game.
- Turn-Based: Each command is a turn. You can take your time to make decisions because time stops between each move.
- Difficulty: The roguelike must have several possible paths to completion, allowing for a number of strategies.
- : The game should be exploratory and involve generating a random environment.
There are other principles as well, including resource management, tactical challenges, dungeons and monsters, using rules similar to custom characters. Plus the classic ASCII design, although many modern roguelikes use easier-to-understand visual styles.
So now you know what a roguelike is, what are the best roguelike games?
1. Your Netack
Rogue is considered the “Major Classic Roguelike”, an innovator and leader in the genre. The second generation of roguelikes is known as basic roguelikes, and Nethack was one of the first in this second wave.
The initial release included many quality of life improvements over Rogue. These include options menus, multiple roles for players to choose from (like a wizard or barbarian), individual map areas in the dungeon (which are still randomly generated if there are multiple features), and the introduction of some very interesting monsters.
Thus, Nethack is one of the most popular and considered by many to be the best roguelike game of all time. It’s completely free and available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. You’ll also find open source Nethack ports for iOS and Android, as well as web-hosted versions.
7 Best Roguelike Games
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2. Tales of Magial
If we stick with the classic roguelikes for a moment, Tales of Maj’Eyal is the fourth iteration of ToME, the third generation roguelike. ToME offers even more quality of life improvements. One of the biggest differences is the tileset that transforms the ASCII roguelike world into a cleaner interface.
ToME notes all the basic rules of roguelikes. It’s packed full of random combat encounters, incredibly deep dungeons, a gorgeous array of almost unique classes, and a rich history to uncover.
What’s more, ToME is one of the classic roguelikes that hit Steam, with support for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
If you are using an old computer, many roguelikes are easy to run without requiring large system resources or expensive hardware. For more tips, check out the best ways to play flawlessly on your old PC.
3. The Caves of Jerusalem
Caves of Qud is one of the best roguelikes released in recent years. While it still uses the traditional ASCII design, the overall user interface is straightforward and easy enough to learn. I mean there is a learning curve, but the menus aren’t locked up behind weird keybindings like in the earliest roguelikes.
One thing that sets Caves of Qud apart is the storyline. The action takes place in a sci-fi retro-futuristic world where you begin the life of a mutant in a foreign country. There is an overwhelmingly crazy range of approaches to play, almost 100 different ways to build your character, and the level of depth and detail in each area (albeit randomly generated) is exciting and inviting.
Another important difference is the introduction of some forms of diplomacy between factions. While roguelikes tend to focus on slash and slash gameplay, Caves of Qud leaves some room for dialogue and user interaction, which is a welcome change.
Like ToME, Caves of Qud is available on Steam with support for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
4. Binding of Isaac and Binding of Isaac: After birth
The Binding of Isaac is an important game in roguelike history. It was one of the first truly modernized roguelike games to take the ideas of the roguelike genre to a new generation.
Combining heavy roguelike elements with a top-down RPG shooter, the Binding of Isaac series showcases how traditional roguelike themes work in other genres.
The visual style of Isaac’s Harness is not to everyone’s liking. This may sound a little grotesque or just plain weird. But there’s no denying the depths of dungeons, randomly generated enemies, tons of bosses, hundreds of unique items, and fun buff attacks.
The Binding of Isaac and its sequels are available on Steam with support for Windows and macOS.
5. Crypt of Necrodancer
Speaking of mixing game genres, how about a roguelike rhythm game? This is what you get in Crypt of the Necrodancer, an award-winning roguelike, whose musical accompaniment determines your movements.
The game includes over 40 original tracks that you can listen to and move through the dungeons. Your every move works in accordance with the rhythm of the track, helping you (and sometimes getting in the way!) To understand how to avoid enemies. When you die, you return to the lobby to spend your earnings before starting your next run.
In terms of style and gameplay, this is definitely one of the most original roguelike ideas. It’s easy to see why it gets so high in reviews and keeps high marks years after its release.
Crypt of the Necrodancer is available on Steam with support for Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as the Apple App Store for iOS devices.
6. Slaughter Spire
Now that you step away from the traditional roguelike, you have Slay the Spire, the creator of the roguelike deck.
Slay the Spire combines roguelike elements like dungeon crawling, immortality, unique items and turn-based combat with deck-building elements like card drawing and combat, boosting items over time, and unique enemies.
After completing the game, it resets and the difficulty level rises, unlocking new challenges, bosses, monsters and custom characters. This is an exciting combination, passing level after level, killing monsters and trying to find the perfect relics (bonuses) for your character.
Slay the Spire is available on Steam with support for Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as the Apple App Store for iOS devices. You’ll also find it as an option under Xbox PC Game Pass.
7. Dredmor’s dungeons
Dungeons of Dreadmor is a modern pixel art roguelike game. In a sense, Dungeons of Dreadmor spans centuries. It combines the classic roguelike approach with challenging gameplay, randomly generated dungeons filled with loot and monsters, and tremendous replay value, an incredibly sophisticated crafting system and a lot of user freedom.
Like other roguelikes, the graphics style can scare people away. But then again, once you get past the graphics and dive into the game itself, you will be hooked.
Dungeons of Dredmor is available on Steam with support for Windows and macOS.
Which Roguelike game would you play first?
The roguelike genre is vast. It’s almost impossible to pick just a few titles for this list of the best Roguelike games, and the games that don’t are as good as the ones that are.
Consider titles like Brogue (a recent Rogue update), Spelunky, Risk of Rain, Stoneshard, and Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. And that’s without mentioning other roguelike games like Dwarf Fortress, Into the Breach, Faster Than Light, and Dead Cells.
Traditional roguelikes like Nethack and ToME are still incredibly popular for their replayability, fantastic lore, and above all, deeply committed communities. But the next generation of roguelike crossovers, in which the best roguelike elements are carried over to another genre, is also excellent, providing a new wave of roguelike gaming.
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