August 27 2019

Best Roguelike Games

If at first you don’t succeed, die, die again. Roguelike games have gone a long way from a meager needle in an RPG subgenre haystack to almost being considered a completely separate genre on its own. Over the years they have enjoyed a significant rise in popularity, especially among indie developers who found the appeal of dungeon crawling and procedurally-generated maps simply irresistible and inviting.

What sets roguelikes apart from all the other (sub)genres is the fact that each playthrough makes for a unique experience, as you never know what treasures or monsters lurk behind every corner, or even where those corners are! Now you probably feel lost in the sea of roguelikes, not knowing where to start or what games are worth spending money on.

That’s where your old pals at Game Gavel swoop in to save the day! The following list features a bunch of roguelike games or games that contain enough roguelike elements to be worthy of mention. And no, if you’re looking to settle the roguelike vs rogue-lite debate, you won’t get your answers here – everything counts. Grab your swords, drink your potions and pick your stats wisely!

Also, if you’re into RPGs, we’ve got you covered on that too, so check out our guides on the best RPGs of all time, or maybe even some of the most amazing RPG games in 2020. You’ll probably be into some games like Dark Souls as well.

#1 Rogue Legacy

We’re starting our list with a personal favorite of mine that got me craving that roguelike fix ever since. At its core, Rogue Legacy is an action platformer/RPG in which you explore an ancient castle, slay monsters and defeat bosses across 4 different areas of varying difficulties in and around the castle. Every time you die you’re given a choice of several different children to continue your lineage, each with a unique set of traits.

Rogue Legacy

Those traits range from silly ones, like baldness, being gay, irritable bowels, etc., to ones that significantly affect your game, like near-sightedness or muscle weakness. Once you’ve chosen your successor, you are then placed right outside the castle where you’re able to spend coins on upgrading traits, purchasing armor, runes, etc.

And you better spend as much as you can since the Sharon guarding the castle door won’t let you in without paying a certain fee in gold. The premise is simple yet very effective, and it keeps that ‘’just one more try’’ feeling alive and well throughout the game.

This one got me hooked on the genre and I could easily find myself pulling unexpected all-nighters to upgrade my children, unlock new classes and try various methods of progress. The difficulty curve may seem too steep in the beginning, but the game doesn’t force you to progress any farther than you’re comfortable with, so there’s nothing wrong with roaming the same area for a little while and gathering some easy cash for upgrades.

‘’Easy to learn, difficult to master’’ rounds up my thoughts about this game pretty well, so if you’re looking for a way into the world of roguelikes, this is the ideal ticket.

#2 The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Making this list without including this classic would be equal to blasphemy. This remnant of the long-gone era of Flash games made shockwaves upon its release back in 2011, and for good reason. After a roaring success of the original, the creators felt compelled to complete their vision that was barred by the limitations of Adobe’s platform, and in 2014 Rebirth was… re-born? (*ba dum tss*)

The Binding of Isaac Rebirth

The Binding of Isaac depicts a plot loosely inspired by a biblical story of the same name, which would make you think that religious games would feel right at home, but you would be so wrong. The story is riddled with dark elements and deals with lots of controversial topics, so don’t let the cartoony graphics fool you – this game is not to be played by children!

You control Isaac and six other unlockable characters in their quest to find and kill Isaac’s mother (told you it’s not kid-friendly) that will lead them through a procedurally-generated dungeon filled with procedurally-generated creatures, procedurally-generated power-ups, procedurally-generated… well, everything. You must clear out each room to progress to the next stage, and you do so by firing tears at your enemies in a twin-stick shooter manner.

The replay value of this game is enormous and can make or break the experience, as everything depends on where the deadliest enemies and power-ups will be generated. Dying results in permadeath and you’ll be thrown right back at the start of a newly-generated dungeon with a completely randomized layout.

Pair that with a gorgeous art style, sublime music, and a pretty neat co-op mode, and you have yourself a game that will keep your butt glued to that gamer chair for hours on end.

#3 Dead Cells

I know, I know, another pixelated 2D indie scroller – how original and unique *rolls eyes*! Well, despite the overused, yet aesthetically pleasing visual trope, Dead Cells offers a lot more in terms of gameplay. What sets Motion Twin’s baby apart is its distinctive blend of roguelike and Metroidvania elements that are executed pretty much flawlessly.

Dead Cells

What that means is that you run around 12 procedurally-generated levels cutting down enemies, collecting relics, unlocking new abilities and trying to go the distance before meeting your end. However, after collecting and purchasing enough upgrades you’re also able to tread back to previously traversed levels in an attempt to find some new secrets lying around.

The premise of a possessed decapitated prisoner trying to make his way through a neon castle/dungeon is minimalistic yet provides solid groundwork for hours of manic gameplay reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors. Speaking of gameplay, the real highlight of Dead Cells lies in its combat that’s solely responsible for the most fun I’ve had with a 2D game, period.

The adrenaline rushes you’ll experience as you plow through hordes of monsters are further enhanced by a riveting soundtrack that I can never get enough of, and I consider myself a huge videogame OST aficionado.

Anything else that I might say will only take away from the precious hours you should be spending with this refreshing title, so to summarise: fast-paced combat, timeless 2D graphics, and a brilliant soundtrack make this gem more than worth your time!

#4 FTL: Faster Than Light

Star Trek fans rejoice, for this is the best and the closest thing to a Starship Enterprise simulator out there. This type of strategy game isn’t my cup of tea (I’m abysmal at micromanaging), but I do see the appeal in taking control of a spaceship crew and helping them on their treacherous intergalactic expedition filled with peril, excitement, and adventure!

FTL Faster Than Light gameplay

In essence, Faster Than Light is a top-down RTS dish sprinkled with a few pinches of roguelike spices that leaves a ravishing taste of tabletop games in your mouth. Delicious! At the start of the game, you’re given a choice of several different spacecraft with their respective crews to begin your voyage with, after which you set sail in an attempt to deliver an important message to the nearest allied fleet.

The game will take you through 8 randomly generated space sectors that hold 20+ different waypoints to restock and refuel, as well as asteroid belts, giant star flares and hostile ships that threaten to cut your journey short. Once you encounter a hostile ship, the game turns into a real-time space combat simulator and lets you manage the ship’s systems, distribute power, issue direct orders to your crew and fire weapons at specific parts of the hostile ship.

This segment is this game’s cream of the crop, requiring strategy, quick thinking and wit if you wish to make it out in one piece. Success grants you various rewards, while failure results in a game over, so think before you act! You can try to avoid battles by jumping from one waypoint to another, but avoiding clashes will only get you so far, so my advice to you is – git gud!

FTL brings a hard but not frustrating experience that is sure to give you hours upon hours of challenging and rewarding gameplay. The Advanced Edition brings a plethora of new features to the base game and it’s the definitive version to get if you’re in the mood for exploring the final frontier. Live long and prosper!

 #5 Darkest Dungeon

If getting into turn-based roguelikes is what you seek, then Darkest Dungeon is NOT the game for you. Seriously, beginners are not welcome as it will squeeze their starting ambitions down to the last drop and render them too overwhelmed to continue. Everyone else is free to join the party, please take off your shoes by the door and the snacks are next to the booze.

Darkest Dungeon

The developers at Red Hook Studios opted for furnishing the game world with a gothic fantasy aesthetic that compliments the dark and brooding atmosphere of the perilous dungeons. Pair that with some solid sound design, brilliant narration and an outstanding soundtrack and you’ll find yourself immersed in no time.

Gameplay-wise it doesn’t stray far from the roguelike beaten path of going the distance through randomly created dungeons before inevitably dying, upgrading your heroes and trying again. During your ventures, you lead a group of adventurers belonging to one of 15 different classes. You may recruit up to 25 heroes to your roster, but keep in mind that a hero’s death is permanent, so choose wisely!

After choosing 4 heroes out of your roster you enter the dungeons and begin your quest. Aside from the usual gathering of loot, money and special items, you’ll be battling a myriad of different beasts scattered all across the dungeons.

During those classes not only must you consider your hero’s positions should you plan on using ranged attacks, but also their stress levels which may cause permanent afflictions or even a heart attack if left unchecked. The challenge can leave beginners feeling unnerving and discouraged from going forward, so if you’re a newbie looking to pop that roguelike cherry, you might want to consider giving the next game on our list a shot.

#6 Doom: The Roguelike

Fans of the popular id Software franchise will feel right at home with this fan re-envisioning of a classic FPS series. Officially renamed as DRL in 2016 to avoid legal issues, this turn-based top-down roguelike has been in development for over 11 years, with the first beta version having been released way back in 2002, and the stable release seeing the light of day on March 2013.

Borrowing inspiration from the aforementioned series, DRL combines the fast-paced combat-oriented gameplay of Doom with the addition of traits, permadeath and all that roguelike jazz you’ve come to expect. The limited inventory, 3 class options and a very basic set of upgradable traits further add to its simplicity, therefore making it a great choice for genre newcomers. The goal is straightforward: make it to the end of the game in one piece.

Oh, you lost? Too bad, so sad, let’s start from the beginning. Collecting loot, weapons, ammo, and various items along the way is essential to your survival, so snooping around the levels for extra stashes is recommended.

The presentation is very basic and straightforward: the graphics are simple, functional and very appealing, and the complete sound set and music library are added from the original Doom games to boost dem nostalgic feels. Best of all? It’s free! The developers made the game open-source, so this nifty top-down adventure is only a few mouse clicks away. Have a go!

#7 Spelunky

When it comes to videogames, I’ve always considered myself a hoarding fanatic. Finishing a level without checking every inch for any spare coins is considered sacrilege in my book. In turn, that makes me a boring Lego Star Wars co-op partner as I’ll constantly force you to backtrack with me to destroy any object that might hide a few studs underneath. So imagine my joy when I found out about Spelunky!

At first glance, Spelunky leaves an impression of a cutesy 2D platformer aimed at a younger audience. But underneath that adorable facade lies a brutally challenging game that will leave your child with a broken controller and a ruined self-confidence. Okay, maybe I got too carried away there, but still.

The game puts you in the boots of an Indiana Jones-esque explorer trying to find his way through – you guessed it- randomly-generated levels in search of treasure and any ancient valuables that our desecrating hero can wrap his whip around. Easier said than done! The levels are riddled with hidden traps and obstacles that can put you back to the beginning, but as challenging as it can be, the difficulty never seems unfair.

Every single death can be attributed to you not paying close attention to your surroundings, so patience and calm nerves will be your most useful tools. If you’re in the mood of sharing your suffering, you can invite up to 3 buddies to join you and put your friendship to the test. I and my friends are still on speaking terms, but will you be able to say the same?

#8 Risk of Rain

Unlike some of the previously mentioned roguelikes such as Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, etc., Risk of Rain is a much more platforming-oriented collect-a-thon, that simultaneously delivers an exciting combat experience.

The main catch is that the difficulty slowly increases over time, so you should take care not to linger around a single level for too long if you plan on confronting the boss with good chances of beating him and progressing to the next stage via teleporters.

Before starting the level you’re given a choice of several different classes bundled with their unique kits and traits, which strongly affects your game in the long run. During your quest, you’ll encounter shrines that can grant you random items to prolong your playthrough. Item stacking can be of huge help, and discovering new items and finding out what they can do is the whole beauty of this game.

There’s lots of trial and error involved in your progress, but the sense of accomplishment (yeah, I know) you’ll get when you finally reach the end credits is bound to put a smile on your sleep-deprived face. Roll that up with a great 4 player co-op mode, and you’ve got yourself a real treat!

#9 Don’t Starve

Ever since Notch the Almighty blessed us with the blocky sandbox survival phenomenon that was (and still is) Minecraft, survival games have seen an intriguing rise in popularity, and many games have been borrowing a ton of mechanics from the prior hit ever since. Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve is certainly no exception.

Don’t Starve

Don’t Starve wastes no time in showing you the ropes and throws you straight into the belly of the beast that is Mother Nature, and it’s up to you to make a shelter, start a fire, gather food and do whatever it takes to prepare for nightfall. You better stack up well, for the night is dark and full of terrors lurking behind every tree bark.

This is where the roguelike element comes into play: the only way the game ends is with you dying, so the question isn’t whether you’ll make it, but for how long you’ll be able to postpone the inevitable. Once you die, it’s all over. Everything you’ve accomplished and gathered vanishes in an instant, leaving you with a few experience points which you can use to purchase new characters.

Yup, it’s that kind of game. The sheer brutality of annulling your entire progress is equally beautiful and frustrating, so it’s no surprise that many find Don’t Starve to be quite divisive among gamers.

The visual aspect is without a doubt one of the games’ strongest points. The paper-cutout art style mixed with Tim Burton-esque gothic elements breathes a dose of originality to the presentation, even though the isometric camera perspective can obscure your vision at times.

Don’t Starve is no walk in the park (maybe a national park, though). It’s brutal, unforgiving, and may leave you with a feeling of emptiness after each playthrough. However, if you’re willing to forgive it’s slightly nihilistic undertone, it’s a survival experience worth checking out. The standalone co-op expansion, Don’t Starve Together, is also a great choice if you’re looking to share the adventure. Two heads are better than one, right?

#10 Sproggiwood

Up next is a cutesy top-down turn-based RPG roguelike that’s sure to charm your socks off. Sproggiwood’s story follows a simple farmer who is tasked by a mischievous spirit named Sproggi to tame the magical beasts that roam Sproggi’s forest unchecked. To do that, the farmer must embark on a quest that includes clearing out numerous dungeon-like stages filled with deadly creatures, mystic items, and valuable loot.


The gameplay aspect isn’t revolutionary by any means and plays it quite simple and safe, which makes Sproggiwood an ideal choice for genre newbies. There are 6 playable characters to choose from, but only the farmer is unlocked from the start. By beating dungeon bosses you’ll unlock specific buildings for each class. These buildings can be constructed in your very own city, which gains you access to those respective classes.

After choosing a class, you’re thrown into a dungeon and it’s up to you to find gold, items, and abilities to help you adapt and survive the ordeal. Once you die or beat the dungeon, you are returned to your city with only your coins that you’ve collected which are to be spent on various permanent upgrades.

All of this may sound quite dull and repetitive – which it can get over time. What kept my interest was the whacky presentation and the overt humor sprinkled throughout the game. The look and feel of Sproggiwood can be described as cartoonish and waggish, which makes the graphics look ageless and fresh even 5 years later.

If the desktop experience doesn’t satisfy your yearning, you’re in luck: Sproggiwood is also available on Android and iOS devices for dirt-cheap. The miniaturized aspect amps up the charm even further and will surely eat up your battery life faster than you can say: ‘’what’s a rogue-lite?’’.

#11 Hand of Fate

In the modern gaming industry often driven solely by money and greed, indie developers need to get their creative juices flowing to grab their spotlight and stand out from an endless sea of gaming try-hards. Hand of Fate is a result of such efforts that deserve to be commended and taken as a prime example of how a good idea can go a long way.

Hand of Fate

Presented through an intriguing card game, Hand of Fate starts you off with building your very own deck to face the mysterious and unusually quippy card dealer. Through dealing cards, the card dealer will affect your progress and throw you into various predicaments, the outcome of which is decided through a dungeon crawl with a boss awaiting you in the end.

The equipment that you’ll find across the dungeon consists of the equipment cards that you choose when building your deck, while the consequence cards can give you awards or take away precious items, health, and more. The card game rules are quite simple and you’ll quickly get the gist of it, which complements the smooth combat during dungeon crawls.

Killing enemies earns you gold which you can use during random shop encounters to buy and sell weapons and miscellaneous items. The card dealing ups the replay value and keeps the game exciting and unpredictable, so hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.

The voiceover is simply outstanding: Anthony Skordi nails the part of the mystic card dealer whose arcane appearance and intricate storytelling keep you engaged throughout the whole ordeal. Visually the game still holds up pretty well in terms of atmospheric lighting and texture quality, minus a few silly graphical glitches here and there.

All in all, Hand of Fate is a refreshing take on the roguelike genre deserving of your time and attention. The sequel builds upon the card game mechanic and is also wholeheartedly recommended should you crave more of the same. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

#12 Sword of the Stars: The Pit

Ever played Sword of the Stars? Yup, me neither, and judging by the review scores of the first two games, it seems as though we didn’t miss out on anything special. The Pit represents the developers’ attempt at a spin-off that managed to entirely overshadow the mainline games and deliver a decent rookie-friendly roguelike experience.

Sword of the Stars The Pit gameplay

Playing it safe is the name of this 2D dungeon crawler game. You play a nameless hero on his quest to find the cure for a deadly plague that has decimated the human population of the planet. The bad news? The cure is located on the last floor of ‘’The Pit’’, an ancient alien facility riddled with extraterrestrials which our hero must confront if he wishes to save humanity. No pressure, dude, you got this!

The Pit plays like a classic 2D dungeon crawler and never tries to step off too far from the beaten path of familiar roguelike mechanics. The semi-turn-based gameplay is a somewhat novel feature: while you’re able to move freely using the arrow keys or WASD, every action adds a few action points to your timer. This means that you should be wary not to give the monsters a chance to attack you while you’re rummaging through chests, unlocking doors, etc.

There are 12 classes two choose from, and all of them play out in a nigh identical fashion as the differences are nominal, so you don’t have to worry about adapting your playstyle to your character. There are 40 procedurally-generated floors to go through that get progressively more difficult and are filled with different items that you can store in your inventory and assign hotkeys to if you wish to have them ready for use.

The graphics are simple and functional without much variety or creativity put into the monsters’ design, nor the hallways of The Pit. Think of this game as a roguelike tutorial that you play through to move onto something a little more challenging, and you’ll appreciate the experience (and the low price) a lot more. The comfort zone in digital form.

#13 Enter the Gungeon

This game is the very definition of bullet hell. At first, it breaks you and makes you feel worthless and incompetent. After a little practice, it lulls you into a false sense of proficiency, only to eventually throw you a fastball in the form of overwhelming difficulty spikes that puts you into your righteous n00b place, all the way back to stage one. You’ll turn off the game, maybe even uninstall it, and move on with your life.

But the passive taunting will continue. You’ll feel as if one more shot is all it takes to beat it. Buried deep into your cerebellum, it will taunt you and urge you to try again. You’ll turn the computer back on, brimming with confidence and oozing determination. Then you’ll die again. Rinse and repeat.

Enter the Gungeon is a strangely addictive gunfight dungeon crawler with an interesting gun-oriented theme to boot. Everything is guns or gun-related, including your bullet enemies that fire tinier bullets, your bullet gun that shoots guns, gun puns… you get the picture.

Everything about this game is insanely wacky and hilarious, the gameplay is frantic and unforgiving, the soundtrack is riveting, the weapon, enemy and level design are creative and oftentimes hilarious… I could go on forever. It’s well worth your time, so take your shot and bite the bullet (get it?). The puns in the game are a lot funnier, I swear.

#14 Mana Spark

The world is bleak and dreadful without any resemblance of hope. Humans are enslaved by mana consuming monsters whose reign remains unchallenged. This is where you, the hero, step in to save humanity from the shackles of servitude. Wow, much original, many cliches.

Mana Spark is a classic action RPG roguelike that provides a nice challenge to those seeking to test their skills on the 2D battlegrounds. The skill-based combat requires you to memorize the enemies’ patterns and approach every battle with caution and focus if you plan on using their weaknesses to your advantage.

While the game starts you off with a plain crossbow, later stages will reward you with lots of new weapons, runes, coins and upgrades to help you progress even further. There’s not much else to say that hasn’t been already mentioned in previous reviews, as it successfully reuses all of the aforementioned roguelike mechanics that are tried-and-true without much experimentation on the side.

Mana Spark is a challenging, yet very rewarding adventure that won’t blow you away with its overused 2D blocky pixelated graphics, but will surely bring you a couple of hours of pure action RPG fun that won’t leave you disappointed.

#15 Nuclear Throne

Hotline Miami on steroids – that sums it up quite nicely! Nuclear Throne is a roguelike bullet hell shooter with a mighty strong emphasis on HELL that makes even the toughest of veterans sweat profusely.

Nuclear Throne

Although the combination of a top-down perspective and heavily pixelated Nintendo DS-esque graphics may perhaps deceive you and lull you into a false sense of security, this book definitely shouldn’t be judged by its cover! It’s chaos incarnate, which you’ll soon learn upon starting the first level.

Thankfully, death is but a doorway, and time is but a window, both of which will serve as your best teachers and guides throughout your journey. Deaths never seem too grim as you’re constantly awarded new weapons and skills to aid and encourage you to try again as if the game is showing signs of compassion towards your efforts.

Running into post-apocalyptic, procedurally-generated levels with guns blazing may seem like a good idea at first, but a careful methodical approach might be a better option, especially during the later portions of the game.

Though you’ll never enter the same dungeon twice, the thematic similarities will always give you a rough idea of what to expect and how to adequately prepare for the trials ahead. Every time you level up you’re awarded 1 out of 4 available mutations that can cause havoc once stacked and combined in a way that suits your playstyle best.

And what would a top-down shooter be without co-op? With an ingenious and almost twice as chaotic 2-player mode, Nuclear Throne solidifies itself as an ideal choice for both hardcore challenge seekers and casual players looking for some occasional run-and-gun action.

#16 Invisible, Inc.

The beauty of the roguelike (sub)genre lies in the versatility of its elements, allowing developers to put on their thinking hats and implement them in virtually every game genre out there, resulting in tons of unique creations. In many ways, Klei Entertainment fits the bill with its seemingly infinite creativity and inventiveness, and Invisible, Inc. is yet another testament to that claim.

Invisible, Inc. gameplay

The world has become a corporate hellhole of monopolies, greed, and lust for financial power. With seemingly no hope left, the agents from Invisible, Inc. step up to save the day in this tactical turn-based espionage adventure. As you may notice from this brief description, the story is as predictable and cheesy as spy stories get, though the way it’s presented through decent voice acting and funky cutscenes may hold your attention a teeny tiny bit longer.

Gameplay-wise, stealth lovers are in for a treat! You’re put in the shoes of an agent coordinator and are given two agents at your disposal before starting each mission. During specific missions, you’ll get a chance at rescuing new agents and having them join your team, which will prove very useful in a couple of segments.

Everything revolves around sneaking past security guards, hacking terminals, buying upgrades, rescuing agents and staying as invisible as a ghost’s shadow. Unlike classic stealth games a la Splinter Cell whose real-time gameplay allows for some wiggle room, Invisible Inc. demands your utmost attention through a top-down turn-based approach.

Every action uses a specific number of action points, thus making it easy for security guards to ambush you while performing certain actions, potentially costing you an agent’s life. Oh, almost forgot – once an agent dies, there’s no way of getting him/her back, so good luck! Due to the levels being – you guessed it – randomly generated, luck will be a significant factor during some tricky missions, of which there are but a few.

A non-lethal playthrough is an ultimate challenge, meaning clearing the campaign without killing anyone or being noticed at all. Perfectionist heaven! If the world of tactical espionage makes your inner secret agent squirm of excitement, you know what to do. The replayability factor mixed with smooth gameplay mechanics and an appealing presentation makes Invisible, Inc. excellent value for money.

#17 Sunless Sea

Ye olde gothic horror is back in full swing! Looks like someone’s been fiddling with the ouija board a little too much and ended up burying Victorian-era London beneath the earth’s surface, right up to the edge of Unterzee, a dark underground ocean. Oops! Well, we’re all human after all, what are you gonna do…

Sunless Sea

Sunless Sea puts you aboard an Unterzee steamship setting sail into the dark and watery horizon riddled with valuable treasures, deadly monsters, and a riveting story ready to be unveiled. As the ship’s captain, you get to customize your background as well as your ambitions.

You win the game by fulfilling by either becoming the most celebrated explorer of Fallen London or amassing enough wealth to live out the rest of your obscured days in peace – well, as peaceful as retirement in demon-infested London can get. Regardless of your endgame, the means through which you’ll work towards it are the same: explore, trade goods, kill monsters, complete quests, rinse and repeat.

Repetitiveness during the early game that may present an issue to those of us lacking patience. The main strength of the Endless Sea lies in its tense and eerie ambiance, as well as an engaging, well-written story to boot. The feeling of isolation and powerlessness follows you throughout your sailing, and death can come from anywhere and when you least expect it.

Your crew’s sanity can turn out to be a far greater foe than any sea creature lurking in the deep, in which case your shipmates turn against each other and cut your expedition short. On the plus side, your successor may inherit a few of the items, with whom you’ll sail out richer in gold and experience.

I’m a huge sucker for a strong atmosphere and a solid soundtrack, so if you feel the same – look no further than Endless Sea. The sequel called Endless Sunrise continues in the predecessor’s footsteps and is arguably a better game in every way. Both should be your bucket list candidates.

#18 Caveblazers

Upon completing Spelunky you may find yourself in some sort of an existential crisis, wondering about the purpose of existing now that the ultimate challenge is finally completed. The bad news? There’s no definitive answer. The good news? You can delay the dilemma by a few months by playing Caveblazers! Success?

Caveblazers gameplay

Similar to Derek Yu’s 2D side scroller in question, Caveblazers revolves around side-scrolling platforming with randomly generated levels, loot, and permadeath. The further you go – the tougher the opponents get. Along the way you’ll encounter new weapons, spendable gold and a few AI partners to aid you in your endeavors.

Unfortunately, they’ll only delay the inevitable and numerous deaths that you’ll experience, with most of them being a result of your misguided actions. Your character is equipped with two weapons, one ranged and one melee. Therein lies the unique approach to combat, as you’ll often be forced to act out in an instant and choose how you’ll tackle the threat standing in your way.

Before you know it, the creatures may close in and force you to use your melee weapon, so think fast and be light on your feet! What makes matters more difficult is the fact that everything is randomized. Every. Single. Thing. Look, a potion! Could that be a health pickup? Or is it a stats downgrade? Oooh, the possibilities! The bosses you encounter will remain the same and unchanged, so you’ll always have an idea of what you’re getting into.

Be on your guard, though, as the game is easy to punish a moment of carelessness. Remember, you’re never on top of the game, it simply stoops down to your level at times, for fun’s sake, which is promptly followed by pummeling you into the ground and giving you a game over.

The pixelated graphics style is nothing to write home about, yet the gameplay side will always leave you with a feeling that you could go further if you only gave it one more shot before going to bed. Before you know it, it’s 2:30 AM, and you’re sitting there, bathed in the light of your PC monitor, having yet another crack at beating the whole thing in one sitting. We gamers are a misunderstood bunch. Oh, did I mention co-op? It’s there, go get it, period.

#19 Moonlighter

Shopkeeping by day, adventuring by night – sheesh, dude, when do you sleep? Moonlighter tells the story of Will, an ambitious and brave shopkeeper who spends his nights wandering the many realms and dimensions near the village of Ryoka in search of new treasures and unique finds to add to his stock. Everything that you manage to gather can be spent on expanding your shop, upgrading weapons and making improvements wherever needed.

Moonlighter gameplay

Will’s double life is very much reflected in the gameplay aspect. While slaying monsters under the moonlight in a roguelike action RPG manner, everything you might gather is to be sold in your shop the next day. During your workday, your job is to overlook your business and adjust prices according to the customer’s reactions and interests, as well as prevent any thieves from stealing precious goods.

After nightfall, it’s back to finding as many interesting artifacts as possible to sell them afterward. Moonlighter’s basic and simple premise makes it accessible to even the freshest of rookies, who will eventually find themselves facing progressively greater challenges. What makes it stand out from the rest is an adorable pixelated style that puts any similar attempts to shame.

In an overabundance of pixelated indie games, it is quite refreshing to stumble upon a game whose developers didn’t simply resort to slapping a few pixels together and calling it a day, hoping that the charm will do the rest. The environments are rich in detail and lush colors, the monsters designs are very creative and ingenious at times, making the experience even more alluring.

When it comes to Moonlighter, there’s simply no beating around the bush. It’s engaging, addictive and quite charming, so recommending it is a given.

#20 Dungeonmans

Developed by Adventure Games, Dungeonmans represents an attempt to bring the classic PC RPGs and tabletops back to your game library, where it rightfully belongs. This turn-based RPG roguelike tasks you with exploring a randomized mystical world full of dungeons, monsters and other forms of peril.


Your main goal is to collect and bring back as much loot as possible to the dungeonmans academy, to permanently improve it and make life easier for future dungeonmans. The roguelike element lies in the fact that dungeons will get progressively more and more difficult until eventually, you succumb to its challenges, bringing you back to the academy and starting over.

There’s plenty of classes to choose from, with an option to merge existing classes or create your own once you gather enough skill points. It’s about as classic as it gets, and it’s awesome! The humor sets the tone right from the get-go, highlighting the self-awareness of the characters combined with the over-the-top goofy dialogue, and I loved it to bits.

Dungeonmans doesn’t take itself too seriously, giving newbies a chance to slowly adapt and embrace the game’s quirks and features. The humor tends to overshadow the story at times, thus disengaging the player from the plot, so I often found myself not remembering huge chunks of it simply for adopting a nonchalant attitude.

Aside from that tiny flaw, there’s nothing else stopping me from wholeheartedly recommending Dungeonmans to any classic RPG fan willing to be reminded of the good old’ days. Happy looting!

Honorable Mentions

Oh, you want more? No problem, there’s plenty of fish in the roguelike sea! Here are some more games that are worthy of checking out:

Slay the Spire, Monolith, Flinthook, Dungeons of Dredmor, Thea: The Awakening, Undermine,  Crown Trick, Drakefire Chasm, Golden Krone Hotel, Tangledeep, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, Caves of Qud, etc.


Roguelikes are surely not going to go away for quite some time now, and their evolution is far from over. We can expect lots and lots of new additions in the future, as mainstream developers are slowly starting to pick up on the trend, which is evident upon taking a look at the upcoming games lists. Something’s cooking alright, and we’re eager to try their new dishes!

We didn’t include your favorite roguelike? Oh, dear! Our ancestors frown upon our failures, and we’re eager to set things straight. Feel free to start a discussion in the comments below and tell us what roguelike do you consider to be the crème de la crème of its kind. See you there!

And if nothing here caught your attention, maybe some of the most amazing strategies, or outstanding open world games will!


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Jovan Krstić