It’s a fun and creative genre of gaming that has brought us some of the best and most replayable video games of all time. Plus, it seems there’s no limit to what kind of game this formula can work well with. Top Down shooters, sidescrollers, strategy games, whatever you can think of!
But what actually are Roguelikes? Well, the answer is actually not so simple. Some people seem to disagree on what actually counts as a Roguelike, but if you ask me, they can be summed up in three things:
1. Procedurally Generated Levels
3. Random Bullsh*t You Can’t Do Anything About
So here and now, I’m going to run you guys through The Top 16 Roguelike Games. Keep in mind, all this is just one man’s opinion, these are just my personal favourites, and there’s still quite a few I haven’t played. But hey, at least if I mess up writing this article, I can always write it again and hope for a better run next time, right?
16 Dicey Dungeons
|Initial Release Date||August 13, 2019|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems|
So our first game is actually quite a recent one, having only come out in August 2019. It’s also probably the most random game on this list, and I don’t mean the “2009 Internet Humour” kind of random that makes me suicidal.
I mean literally, everything about this game is undetermined. Not only are the level layouts and enemies random, but basically everything you do in the game is determined on the roll of a dice. Good thing too, otherwise the name of the game would be f*cking stupid.
It’s actually a really unique and interesting system. You roll your dice at the beginning of your turn, put your numbers into different slots, some of which will only take even numbers or numbers below 3 or something like that. And whatever number you put in, that’s how much damage you do, or HP you heal, or children you sacrifice to Erebus, the Greek primordial god of darkness, y’know, whatever you want.
It’s honestly a really clever and well-executed system that works incredibly well for a Roguelike. I mean, you can’t get more random than literally playing as walking dice, can you? Plus there are numerous different classes to play, that honestly really change up the gameplay depending on who you pick.
It’s one of the most varied Roguelike games out there, with a smart combat system, an adorable art style, and a whole lot of maths and calculations.
Yeah, admittedly I’m weird, but I like that.
15 Death Road To Canada
|Initial Release Date||22 Jul, 2016|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, Linux, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems|
|Developer||Rocketcat Games, Madgarden|
|Publisher||Rocketcat Games, Noodlecake Studios, Ukiyo Publishing Limited|
Yeah, yeah, I know. Zombies, pixelated graphics and standard apocalypse weapons. You’re probably filling in your “Generic Indie Game” bingo card as we speak. But trust me, this game has a lot more going on.
Death Road To Canada is about you and potentially your buddies, taking a busted-up car to Canada to escape the zombies, who apparently won’t go to Canada. Maybe they’re allergic to maple syrup and French people or something.
But really, this game is one of the most hectic, tense, and entertaining Roguelikes out there, and definitely a great one to play with friends. It’s like a mix of Oregon Trail, and Zombies Ate My Neighbours but better, and somehow even more ridiculous.
You can customize all the potential characters to look and act like the cast of Breaking Bad.
You can tear through zombies with an umbrella, a spatula, and an actual pirate cannon.
You can teach a dog how to drive a car. Seriously, that’s not just me saying that. You can do that. They put that in the “About This Game” section on steam, that’s how much you can do that.
Seriously, get a few buddies and beers together, pop on this game, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a good time. Unless you’re the kind of group that fights over weapons. In which case, for the love of God, RUN.
This game will ruin your friendships, your group, and probably your marriage. Even if you’re not married. It will still ruin it.
14 Void Bastards
|Initial Release Date||May 28, 2019|
|Platform||Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems|
|Developer||Blue Manchu, Blue Manchu Pty. Ltd.|
Yup, you read that right. It’s actually called “Void Bastards”. Man, I really wish other games would name themselves like that. Like what if Skyrim was actually called “Shout Assholes” or if anything EA made was called “A Game By A Bunch Of Corporate Drones”.
But I digress.
Void Bastards is like if you took Bioshock and put it through a paper shredder. It’s got that comic book art style that you see in games like Borderlands and XIII. (Which is meant to be pronounced “thirteen” but I call “ex-ee”.)
You play as various prisoners going from space base to space base, killing aliens who scream the same three phrases at you every time you see them. But still, it’s a lot of fun and I especially enjoy the random prisoners you play as, and how there weird little quirks affect the gameplay. Like if you play a smoker you’ll cough a lot, or if you’re short you’ll look like you’re always crouching.
I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a Sci-Fi shooter with a good sense of humour, and an even better art style.
Plus, it’s called Void Bastards. I mean, come on.
13 For The King
|Initial Release Date||February 28, 2017|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems|
|Developer||IronOak Games, Warp Digital Entertainment|
Now the concept of a randomly generated tabletop RPG may not sound like a good idea on paper, but hey I always thought DnD would be more fun if the DM chose the enemies completely blindly.
Tarrasque fight at level 2, anyone?
And it actually works really well in For The King. You gather your party, go on a quest through the random world, and build up your characters with weapons, treasure and experience. And then just when you think you’ve got a good grasp on the game, and start to believe you might actually complete this run,
That’s when you get one shot by the Ogre you failed to sneak past. Naturally.
This may all sound pretty generic, and admittedly it’s not the most original game out there, but what it does, it does well. Plus it does have some unique ideas like the chaos system, and since it’s release they’ve added FIVE new campaigns for completely free!
If this was Activision, they would have squeezed like nine sequels out of that!
There are no random encounters, the combat system suits a Roguelike very well, and it’s just overall an easy game to get into. Hail to For The King, baby.
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12Risk of Rain 2
|Initial Release Date||Early Access|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems|
Wow, a 2D game got a 3D sequel that actually made it better? There aren’t many series that can claim that. Apart from maybe GTA, The Legend of Zelda, and of course Sonic the He-
… nope, can’t even joke about it. Too sad.
I’ve played this with my friends quite a bit, and let me just say, stay away if you have a heart condition or are a pregnant woman. This shit gets TENSE. Unlike a lot of Roguelikes, Risk of Rain 2 doesn’t ever really end. The difficulty just keeps gradually going up until eventually, you’re dealing with a game that would make Dark Souls veterans catatonic.
I mean, technically you could play the game forever if you were “L33T” enough. It only ends when you die or shut the game off. But I really like that. I love watching things gradually spiral more and more out of control until you’re eventually sprinting from about 50 projectiles that will kill you if you stop for even a millisecond.
It’s tough, but the good kind of tough. Like a good steak, or a father’s love.
And the gameplay itself is definitely entertaining enough to make you want to keep playing and break your record. Especially with all the different characters that all control so differently. It’s a total blast, and it’s twice as fun with friends. Especially at the end.
I mean, a heart attack shared is a heart attack halved.
|Initial Release Date||15 October 2015|
|Platform||iOS, Microsoft Windows, Android, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch|
Downwell may be designed to be played on a phone, but trust me this ain’t your stereotypical phone game that bleeds your wallet dry and has the icon of an angry man screaming like they all do. Nope, in this game, you just fall. (with style, of course.) There are enemies and obstacles blocking your path and you get more points the longer you fall and the more turtles you stomp on.
Somewhere, Mario is planning a lawsuit.
And it’s one of the most simple yet addicting Roguelikes out there. Building up these insane point combos, soaring through the air and squashing baddies brains like their made of gelatin. It rocks. Plus the power-ups you get make things so much more fun, without making the core gameplay more complicated.
Like really, all you do is tilt your phone, or your analog stick or your head if you’re in VR. Actually, I don’t think there’s a VR version, but there SO should be!
Yeah, there’s not much to say about it really. It’s simple, satisfying, stompy, sss….
….fun. It’s fun.
|Initial Release Date||June 27, 2013|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS|
|Developer||Cellar Door Games|
|Publisher||Cellar Door Games|
Huh. I think this is actually the only game on the list with Rogue actually in the title.
Oh shit, spoilers I guess.
Anyway, this is a game where you can play as a giant lesbian who sees everthing uspide down, so that should pretty much tell you everthing you need to know. Just like in Void Bastards the characters you play as have different traits that alter your game, and once again I totally love it. However no trait you pick can save you from the inevitable spanking you’ll receive from Rogue Legacy, because GOOD LORD THIS GAME IS A PRICKLY PEAR.
Seriously, I’ve been playing it on and off since it came out six years ago, and I’ve still only beat like, two bosses.
The game is relentlessly hard, and that’s kind of why I love it. Every time you die instead of trying again as the same character, you’ll play as their offspring. And trust me, you’ll go through quite a few generations of similar-looking kids before you even make a dent in the castle. But once you do, that shift in difficulty from “What the f*ck!?” to “Oh, that’s what the f*ck.” makes everything worth it.
Rogue Legacy will beat you until you love it.
Much like my father…
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jum’s father is actually pretty cool. He’s number 4 on Jum’s list of Hottest Video Game Characters.
|Initial Release Date||December 5, 2015|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch|
First thing I gotta get out of the way. This game’s soundtrack absolutely SLAPS.
Seriously, it’s some of the best dirty rock tracks I’ve ever heard, and it only gets better as the game goes on. I don’t know if it’s meant to be performed by the green fish guy with the guitar on the front cover, but if it is someone better sign that boy like yesterday.
…but yeah, the game.
It’s a post-apocalyptic top-down shooter where you play as a literal mutated abomination, each with their own weird, and probably highly toxic special abilities. There’s a melting skeleton who can explode bad guys, there’s literally just a bunch of eyes who can throw stuff with its mind, and there’s a walking piranha plant who can get put in Smash Bros for some reason.
And it’s genuinely really fun. I know it’s a weird thing to harp on, but seriously the amazing sound design, combined with the banging tunes give the game such an electric energy that makes it twice as entertaining. Not that the combat isn’t fun on its own. It all feels really satisfying, and the over the top guns and animations are as boner-inducing as it gets.
Yes, even if you’re a woman.
8Crypt of the Necrodancer
|Initial Release Date||April 23, 2015|
|Platform||iOS, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|Developer||Brace Yourself Games|
|Publisher||Brace Yourself Games|
Damn, two games in a row with soundtracks funkier that James Brown’s old underwear.
And this one has one of the most unique and well-executed ideas to ever be put in a Roguelike, or even a video game. You see, everything you do in Crypt of the Necrodancer, you do to the beat of whatever song is playing. You fight to the beat, dig to the beat, and if you’re me, die to the beat. A lot.
And the entire world around you moves to the beat as well! The enemies, the tiles you walk on, everything. It’s such a captivating experience, and I honestly can’t think of a single game that does what it does. Although, I guess that’s where the comments come in, berating me for never having heard of “The Titillating Adventures of Funky Joe: IV” or whatever.
Honestly, I may be the only one, but I’m still impressed by how well this idea was executed like, four years later. I really can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t get a kick out of this. The only stick up you may have is if you don’t enjoy the music itself, but even that can be changed with your own MP3’s.
Trust me, you haven’t lived till you’ve shot a dragons face off to the tune of “We Are Number One.”
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|Initial Release Date||August 8, 2013|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Chrome OS|
Now this little gem right here is known for playing a big part in establishing what we now consider to be Roguelikes. Some would even call it the first-ever modern Roguelike. And a lot of people don’t even realize that the version we all know and love is actually an HD remake of a free version of Spelunky that was released in 2008.
…fine, f*ck me for trying to be educational.
We all know and love Spelunky. It’s a cute little mine-and-explore-and-whip-snakes-to-death-because-why-not-em-up. You open it when you’re bored, play for 10 minutes, and then die when you misjudge the distance of a drop. It’s freaking great. All you really do is travel down a randomly generated cavern, collecting gems, lost women, and probably more than a few infected cuts. Then you walk through the door, collect your cash, and continue on your Indiana Jones adventure.
And really, I don’t have too much to say about it. Like I said, everyone knows and likes Spelunky. It’s simple, addicting, and an absolute classic of a game. It’s like the F.R.I.E.N.D.S of Roguelikes. Or the pepperoni pizza of Roguelikes.
Or y’know, heroin.
6Enter the Gungeon
|Initial Release Date||April 5, 2016|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
Next up on our list of best roguelike games is a gem called Enter the Gungeon.
You like guns? How about guns that shoot lasers? How about guns that shoot bubbles?
How about guns that shoot bullets? And I don’t mean normal bullets. I mean the letters B U L L E T as the ammunition?
HOW ABOUT A BULLET THAT SHOOTS SPINNING GUNS, THAT SHOOT SMALLER BULLETS!?
…yeah, you see where I’m going with this. Enter the Gungeon has all of those things as so much more. Seriously, the amount of utterly unique and hilariously entertaining guns this game has is mind-boggling. If you ever want to feel spoilt for choice head over to the guns section of the Enter the Gungeon wiki and scroll down.
Go do it. Go do it now.
Of course, these incredibly impressive guns wouldn’t mean jack if you didn’t have a fun game to use them in. Thankfully, this game is a jam in every way. I mean, it’s brutally difficult, but every single run is worth the inevitable death. The enemies are very creative, the NPC’s are absolutely hilarious, and the bosses will make you cry and tear out your teeth with frustration every single time.
In a good way, of course.
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|Initial Release Date||May 10, 2017|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems|
Ah, Dead Cells. The poor Roguelike 2D Souls-like game that had the poor misfortune to be released right next to Hollow Knight. I mean, that’s like performing directly after The Beatles.
It doesn’t matter how good you are man, it’s the f*cking Beatles.
But thankfully, since its release, Dead Cells has become somewhat of an indie hit, and people have come to appreciate just how awesome it is. You play as what looks like a literal ball of puke that attaches itself to most of a body, and goes on a killing rampage. So y’know, about as much context as Dark Souls, too.
But just like that game, you piece together what’s happening through observing the game itself, which is absolutely fantastic, by the way. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s harder than Batman’s nipples in Batman Forever, but it wouldn’t be much of a Souls-like if it wasn’t. The combat is incredibly satisfying, the movement is swift and fluid, the enemies and bosses are cool as hell.
The game controls smoother than butter and gives you a wonderful and weird world to take advantage of its fantastic mechanics. Can’t ask for much more than that, can you?
I mean, not dying every 5 minutes would be nice, but y’know, whatever.
4Slay The Spire
|Initial Release Date||January 23, 2019|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4|
Jesus Christ, a card game that you DON’T have to pay out the ass to play? Damn, usually to play one these days you need to take out a second mortgage.
Not with Slay The Spire, though. This genius little dungeon crawling Roguelike takes the fun of building up a deck you love, and using it in clever and surprising ways, and put it into a video game where you kill rats with mushrooms sticking out of them. There are so many combinations of cards that work well together, and so many combinations you can make!
It’s like poker, but without the gambling and life-ruining debt.
It’s honestly really surprising how well a Card Game and a Roguelike fit together, and even more surprising how well they pulled it off. Using the cards is fun and simple, and much like any card game learning how to use them as best you can is incredibly satisfying. Plus, everything surrounding the card mechanics is top-notch as well. The writing is great, the music is good, the art design…
…well actually the art looks mostly like it was done by a teenager on Deviantart, but hey, It’s not like I could do better.
3FTL: Faster Than Light
|Initial Release Date||September 14, 2012|
|Platform||iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, Macintosh operating systems|
Ok, I know this isn’t exactly a new observation, but why is this game called FTL, and also Faster Than Light? Why abbreviate if you’re just going to say the name anyway? It’s like putting a hat on a hat, and on it you write, H.A.T: Headwear And…
…sh*t, I can’t think of an abbreviation, but you get what I mean.
Anyway, for my money FTL, is the best-written Roguelike game ever. Really all you do in the game is to look after your ship, jump from one point to another, and make a ton of small decisions that could have big ramifications. Oh, and kill aliens with lasers, of course. And the game is very good at generating that all-important feeling that all good decision-making games should give you.
We’ve all been there. You’re faced with a tough decision, there’s no clear right answer, and you’re worried you’re going to pick the option that will make you lose all of your money, friends, and custody of your kids. That feeling is what FTL thrives on, and I genuinely can’t think of a game that does it better.
The game is essentially a collection of little tense and exciting moments, that make you want to keep going, even though it doesn’t look exciting at all on the surface. It’s like the definition of substance over style, and I f*cking adore it.
Remember Captain, NEVER accept surrender.
|Initial Release Date||January 19, 2016|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One|
|Developer||Red Hook Studios|
I gotta say, it pains me to put Dank Dungeon at number two. I mean, this isn’t only one of my favourite Roguelike games ever, but also one of my favourite games ever, period. Remember when I said FTL makes you feel really tense?
I mean, you should, it was like on paragraph ago. Pay attention.
Honey, Darkest Dungeon wrote the book on tense gameplay. In fact, it’s actually so nerve-wracking, it could almost be considered a horror Roguelike. It’s definitely got the tone, gore, and general feeling of hopelessness for one. You play as a group of disgruntled adventures who delve into these gloomy dungeons, fight horrific abominations, and do the best to hang on to their ever-dwindling sanity.
It’s frickin sick, bro.
Honestly, there is no Roguelike out there that has made me feel so nervous, helpless, and genuinely depressed as Darkest Dungeon. And trust me, I mean that as nothing but a compliment. Yeah, I’m weird.
Losing your sanity, money, and fighters to this utterly bleak world that’s always out to get you is a tough experience, but there’s nothing more satisfying than that heavy sigh you give out at the end of a brutal dungeon that you just barely scraped through.
Darkest Dungeon is a beautifully dark and wonderfully exhilarating Roguelike, and I can only think of one I prefer.
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1The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth +
|Initial Release Date||January 3, 2017|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows,OS XLinux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS, Xbox One, iOS, Nintendo Switch|
Yup. You saw it coming, but here we are. The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth + HD Remix 2.0 Funky Kong Edition, or whatever the latest edition is called, is by far the best of the best when it comes to roguelike games.
It’s the best. It just is. It’s as simple as that.
I like to call Binding of Isaac my “Whatever” game. Meaning after I switch on my PS4, browse through my collection for 10 minutes, and try to figure out what I’m in the mood for, I’ll often say “whatever” and turn on Binding of Isaac. And not once have I ever regretted my decision. It’s just that good.
I mean, the amount of stuff they’ve put in this game since its release in 2011, is nothing short of insane. I’ve always thought that the most important aspect of a Roguelike is how many times you can replay it, and still run into new things. Well, Binding of Isaac is probably one of my most played games ever, and I STILL run into things I haven’t seen every now and then.
You know what that means. Either this game is f*cking magical, or I have a terrible memory and forget things I see in the game, and think I haven’t seen them before when I see them again.
…nah, magic game, definitely.
It’s disgusting and adorable simultaneously. Its items change up the gameplay like no other game I’ve seen. And I’ve played through it more times than I can count, and still genuinely think no two runs have been the same.
It is simply the best Roguelike ever, and I absolutely can’t wait for the latest and final expansion to the game, Repentance.
Shine on, you crazy, beautiful, sh*t covered diamond.
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