author: Krzysiek Kalwasinski
The Best Roguelike Games 2023
Roguelikes are growing in popularity. Curious where their phenomenon comes from? There's no better way than to check first-hand what the most interesting games of the genre are all about. Here's the list.
Games belonging to the roguelike genre can seem uniform, because they're always based on a relatively large dose of randomness and – often discouragingly – the permadeath feature, which means we have to start anew after dying. However, some of these games approach the key features of the genre in a more relaxed or unique way. Almost everyone can find something for themselves – even those who are looking for AAA quality. The following list of younger and older games is the best proof of this – some are more twisted, some less, but all are equally interesting.
Table of content:
- Cult of the Lamb
- Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania
- Enter the Gungeon
- The Binding of Isaac: Repentance
- Risk of Rain 2
- Curse of the Dead Gods
- Darkest Dungeon
- Crypt of the NecroDancer
- Developer: Supergiant Games
- Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, XSX, XONE
- Release date: September 17, 2020
Even if you're not really into roguelike games, you've probably somewhat familiar with Hades. The talented Supergiant Games studio delivered a hit that awed almost the entire gaming community thanks to an extensive and gripping narrative, which is a bit hard to come by in the genre. The story is based on Greek mythology and depicts the adventures of the son of Zeus, trying to escape from the kingdom. There's no shortage of well-written dialogues, memorable characters and witty humor.
Running away from home is not an easy task if you're son of a god. Our protagonist has to fight his way through hordes of dangerous opponents, and the undertaking is not made any easier with the fact that the layout of the interiors changes with each attempt. This is how Hades can be summed up. It's worth adding that with each approach, our rebel hero is getting stronger, so his wandering isn't as hopeless as it may initially seem. The crossing is even more fun thanks to the appealing audiovisual setting. It's highly recommended, if only because the sequel is now officially inbound.
Cult of the Lamb
- Developer: Massive Monster
- Platforms: PC, XONE, Switch, XSX, PS4, PS5
- Release date: August 11, 2022
Among the games belonging to the roguelike stream, at least a slight dose of madness can be spotted. A good example is Cult of the Lamb – Massive Monster's most famous project. The creators focused on an unusual theme, already suggested by the title. Our protagonist is saved from execution and thus becomes indebted to the demonic stranger. However, nothing is free, as our titular lamb quickly finds out.
The goal, or rather the task of our hero, is to gather an army of followers of the newly created cult. To this end, we are endowed with power that not only make it easier to gain more supporters, but also aids us in combat – there's no shortage of fights, from monsters to followers of other sects. In addition to exploration and combat, the game also has the option of constructing buildings, as well as... conducting sermons, the purpose of which is to strengthen the faith of the charges. It's fun.
Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania
- Developer: Motion Twin
- Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, XONE
- Release date: March 6, 2023
To be brief, Dead Cells is great. However, it gets much better with the expansions, which have been released regularly since the game launched in 2018. The game constantly arouses interest and enjoys high popularity – there's nothing strange about it. The formula independently developed by Motion Twin studio is the result of combining the best features of the all-time classics with numerous novelties and improvements. The roguelike genre itself is characterized by high levels of replayability, especially when individual elements work together so well.
Speaking of classics, Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania, the latest expansion, shows clearly which classics the game was inspired by. If you spent many hours with the hit Konami series, you probably don't need to be convinced – maybe you've already completed the first playthrough. The DLC itself was created as a result of cooperation between French developers and the mentioned studio from Japan. Thanks the expansion, it's possible to visit the iconic castle of Dracula himself – and then fight with him. There are also skins referring to iconic characters such as Simon and Alucard.
Enter the Gungeon
- Developer: Dodge Roll
- Platforms: PC, XONE, Switch, PS4
- Release date: April 5, 2016
Fortunately, the so-called twin-stick shooters are not yet lost, even if the heyday of the genre itself has seemingly ended long ago. This former glory somehow restores the great Enter the Gungeon, so if you missed this type of gameplay, and you also appreciate a large dose of randomness, Dodge Roll's work may be exactly what you're looking for. In this case, you get a game with which you can spend several dozen fun hours at the least.
In the set, you will also get a good mood and all things guns. The vendors we encounter really want to meet our expectations, and we can use bullets that counter other bullets. There's no shortage of Rambo birds, a huge "Ammoconda" or a demon with multiple arms that probably escaped from Doom. All of that would be just gimmicks, but Enter the Gungeon is fun to play, and that's the most important thing.
The Binding of Isaac: Repentance
- Developer: Nicalis
- Platforms: Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, XONE, XSX
- Release date: March 31, 2021
Many years have passed, but The Binding of Isaac remains one of the best representatives of the roguelike genre. This especially applies to the extended version released as The Binding of Isaac: Repentance. However, even the base version offers at least several dozen hours of great fun. And if you appreciate a slight macabre and gloomy atmosphere, you will like it even more. One of the creators of the game is the author of another hit, i.e. Super Meat Boy – this is a recommendation in itself.
The gameplay is built from ingredients typical of this genre. During the game, we travel through randomly generated dungeons, eliminate enemies and gradually improve our character. As part of the extended edition, there are many novelties – such as unique items or new bosses. One of the most interesting DLCs (introduced on the occasion of Afterbirth+) is the availability of modding tools, which enable players to independently influence the nature of the game. There are also new characters and endings. You should be well entertained for the hundred hours.
Risk of Rain 2
- Developers: Hopoo Games
- Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, XONE
- Release date: August 11, 2020
Another roguelike game on this list that relies heavily on shooting, this time in full 3D, which is a big change compared to its predecessor (which is otherwise just as great). Risk of Rain 2 is a very successful genre hybrid, in which, in addition to shooting, we spend time developing characters and exploring dangerous locations (in the style similar to platform games). All this, of course, is seasoned with a large dose of randomness.
What distinguishes this production is a unique approach to loot. The creators made sure that each of them actually affects gameplay – not necessarily in a positive way. There are also ten different character classes, each handled differently, and each collecting different items. As a result, it's an addictive and mesmerizing game that will make you relax more than once – also thanks to a great soundtrack.
- Developer: Housemarque
- Platforms: PC, PS5
- Release date: April 30, 2021
By far the biggest production on this list. Returnal is something that couldn't go very well in theory. A combination of bullet hell and roguelike? I think not! Meanwhile, the Finnish developers, famous for Arcade games, knew exactly what and how to do to make their combination perfect – which, by the way, can be said about many of their games. It's also living proof that there's room for a similar approach among much larger titles.
An interesting idea for a game is not everything. The right quality is important, and in this respect, Returnal also stands out. The shooting and movement models are simply excellent. The game can easily be played for hours on end, without getting bored! At the same time, the game sounds and looks phenomenal – especially if you like the atmosphere straight from Alien or Beksinski's paintings.
Curse of the Dead Gods
- Developers: Passtech Games
- Platforms: PC, Switch, XONE, PS4
- Release date: February 23, 2021
Curse of the Dead Gods doesn't turn the roguelike genre upside down, but it's good at what it does. In addition, it introduces some novelties, thanks to the system of curses, which at the same time boost and nerf the protagonist. On top of that, there's also a dynamic and satisfying combat system that allows you to use both melee weapons and firearms. As genre affiliation demands it, we gradually improve the hero and gain new equipment.
What brought the protagonist to such a dangerous place? The usual pursuit of wealth and eternal life. The main character, following their goal, goes to the forgotten ruins where the cursed gods are locked. It's full of all kinds of dangers, deadly enemies and traps. The whole thing is characterized by unique graphics with an interesting style.
- Developer : Picogram
- Platforms: PC, iOS, Switch, PS4, PSV, XONE
- Release date: January 19, 2016
Like the heroine in the picture above, you can also feel hopeless while playing Darkest Dungeon. The key, however, is not to worry about subsequent failures, or at least only do it to the extent that allows learning from them. The overwhelming sense of hopelessness is part of the charm of the roguelike developed by Red Hook Studios. And in addition, we have a charming, medieval dark fantasy and a narrative referring to the works of HP Lovecraft.
The gameplay itself is also interesting – we gather a team of daredevils and go to the dark underground in search of riches. We encounter dangerous groups of opponents there, but that's not the biggest problem. Our team definitely doesn't tolerate traversing gloomy and dark dungeons – so we have to take care of their psychological comfort as much as possible, for example by providing the right amount of light. Otherwise, they will fall into madness and become useless. However, this won't be the end of the adventure, as we can always hire more fighters – provided, of course, that we can afford it. The game is worth checking out, especially since a sequel's inbound.
Crypt of the NecroDancer
- Developers: Brace Yourself Games
- Platforms: iOS, XONE, Switch, PS4, PSV, PC
- Release date: April 23, 2015
Roguelike vs. a dance game? Why not! In theory, a similar mix is unlikely to work, but the one-man army at Brace Yourself Games has shown that anything is possible. In Crypt of the NecroDancer, we assume the role of Cadence, who, in search of her father, goes to a mysterious crypt inhabited by the eponymous demon. He casts a curse that makes our heroine's heart beat all the time to the rhythm of music. From now on, dancing will be her weapon, enabling her to defeat numerous monsters and (probably) save her father.
The key to victory in subsequent fights is to learn the dance moves of the opponents you encounter. In addition, we can find weapons and items, which will make the whole journey a little easier – but using them also requires tapping into the rhythm of the music. The music composed by none other than Danny Baranowski is also a characteristic element. His output could be heard in The Binding of Isaac or Super Meat Boy.
Krzysiek Kalwasinski | Gamepressure.com