Released in 1980, Rogue was a game that featured turn-based gameplay, randomly generated levels, and a permanent death system for the player character. Its popularity would inspire an entire genre of games, known as roguelikes, which remain popular to this day, particularly among indie developers.
In the last two decades, in particular, the roguelike genre has seen a significant amount of innovation, as developers took the core features of the genre and combined them with various other mechanics to create truly unique games, some of which are among the most recognizable titles in recent years.
10 Moria Was One Of Rogue’s First Successors
Following the popularity of Rogue, students and programmers would go on to create many iterations of the game, including Moria, which was developed by Robert Koeneke and released in 1983.
Moria retained much of the main elements of its predecessor, but was based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Set within the Mines of Moria but following much the same procedurally generated dungeon crawling gameplay that made the original popular, the game features innovations to the level design, bestiary, and character development systems.
9 Diablo Borrowed Heavily From The Genre
While not technically a roguelike, Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo borrowed heavily from the genre, with procedurally generated levels and punishing gameplay combined with action-roleplaying elements that made the game more accessible for casual players.
The influence of Diablo on modern gaming was significant as well, setting the standard for Action RPGs to come. By building upon roguelikes of the past, Diablo charted a new course for similar games while paying homage to its forebears.
8 Spelunky Helped Drive The Rise Of Modern Roguelikes
With the development of modern games came new influences to the roguelike genre, one of the most notable of which was the inclusion of 2D platforming elements that were first made popular with indie developer Derek Yu’s Spelunky.
Spelunky was a notoriously difficult game, challenging players to think carefully in order to avoid the many traps and dangers that would befall them as they explored the game’s randomly generated caves while collecting various loot and treasure.
7 Dwarf Fortress Was A Mix Of Roguelike And Construction
Considered a cult classic video game by many, Dwarf Fortress is a unique combination of construction and management simulator with many elements of the roguelike genre. The Adventurer mode of the game leans heavily into the latter.
In many ways, Dwarf Fortress recalls many of the original aesthetics of the genre, with its text-based graphical system, setting it apart from other, more modern iterations. Unfortunately, the game is in continued development and has never achieved an official 1.0 version, with more updates planned for the future.
6 FTL Took Roguelikes Into Space
Another game that helped launch the success of modern roguelikes was Subset Games’ FTL: Faster Than Light. Putting the player in charge of the crew of a spaceship with critical information while being hunted by a rebel fleet, the game saw great popularity. It was one of the biggest successes for a Kickstarter video game at the time of its funding.
With its randomly generated systems and permadeath mechanics for the ship’s crew, FTL wears its roguelike influences on its sleeve, with the added element of real-time strategy and storytelling that made it one of the most popular in the genre at the time.
5 Slay The Spire Added In Deck-Building
As the roguelike genre began to branch off in various directions, MegaCrit’s Slay The Spire was one of the more interesting iterations, with its basis of a deck-building adventure game mixed with the randomly generated levels and progression of a roguelike.
Originally released in 2017, the game’s sales were slow in the initial weeks, but it quickly began to pick up momentum after being featured on a popular streaming channel. Eventually, the title rose to become the second highest-selling game on Steam, with an estimated 500,000 players at its peak.
4 Enter The Gungeon Is A Shoot ‘Em Up Roguelike
One of the most popular modern roguelikes is Dodge Roll’s Enter The Gungeon, one of several games in the genre published by Devolver Digital. With its fast-paced bullet hell gameplay, the game was an immediate success with strong sales and positive reviews from critics.
In the game, players take on the role of a protagonist either alone or with a friend through the co-op mode, braving the titular Gungeon in search of a legendary weapon said to be able to kill their past. The player must venture through enemy-laden procedurally generated levels while finding new guns to fight their way to the final boss.
3 The Binding Of Isaac Had Deep Influences
Originally developed as part of a week-long game jam, The Binding of Isaac is a classic entry in the genre that incorporates all the main elements of a roguelike, from its randomly generated levels to its permadeath system and high level of difficulty.
What sets this game apart from others, however, is its aesthetics, as the developers based the game’s plot on the Biblical tale of the Binding of Isaac. This, combined with its great replayability, has established it as one of the most prominent titles in the modern roguelike genre.
2 Crypt Of The NecroDancer Mixed Rhythm And Roguelike
One of the unique interpretations of the modern roguelike is Brace Yourself Games’ Crypt of the NecroDancer, which combines classic roguelike elements with rhythm-based gameplay.
Accompanied by an original soundtrack, the game’s rhythm-based mechanics allow for an intriguing gaming experience, including the possibility to use a dance pad rather than a keyboard or controller.
1 Hades Was A Universally Acclaimed Entry Into The Genre
Perhaps the most universally acclaimed of all roguelikes of recent years is Supergiant Games’ Hades. With addictive gameplay, stunning art style, and deep storytelling, it quickly cemented itself as one of the best games of 2020, taking the top spot in many different award ceremonies that year.
Hades follows the story of Zagreus, the prince of the Underworld and son of the game’s titular character. Attempting to escape to the mortal world to reach his mother Persephone, the player must fight through the four main dungeons of the game while being assisted by many Greek gods and figures of legend.