Roguelike Games You Should At Least Try

The word ‘roguelike” comes from the 1980 game Rogue, which was developed by Ken Arnold, Michael Toy, and Glenn Wichman for Unix systems. This game was a dungeon-crawler and role-playing game with a number of unique characteristics that would in later years define the genre altogether. Turn-based combat and procedurally generated dungeons existent in the game, but the most noteworthy characteristic was the permadeath mechanic. This means a player’s character would permanently die upon being killed.

As the years progressed, games that played around with these characteristics began to slowly exist in the market. For many, the mechanics were frowned upon because of how punishing they were to newcomers. But for the few that persevered, they found comfort and enjoyment in these games. Fast forward to 2023 and the genre is popular among the community with a wide variety of sub-genres and unique mechanics between them. This list aims to highlight the 4 rogue-like games every player should at least try.

Enter the Gungeon

Photo source: [Steam]

This is a top-down gunfight dungeon crawler from the studio Dodge Roll. It includes an assortment of pixel-art characters that you use to descend through chambers of increasing difficulty. There is an almost endless assortment of guns. Guns, guns, guns. They are scattered everywhere. Never has a game been so gun-themed (even if it was literally in the title). The chambers are procedurally generated. This means that every level is randomly generated from a combination of human-generated assets and computer-generated randomness. What those technical words mean is that every level, enemy placement, weapon, and interaction is unique. Bosses exist at the end of each chamber to challenge the player’s skills and muscle memory. The bullet patterns the enemies create are well-animated and telegraphed. The game adds its own twist to the genre by including dodge mechanics, blank shells as a form of parrying, and much more.
Available on PlayStation, Switch, Xbox, Mac, Stadia, and PC.

Dead Cells

Photo source: [Steam]

Often regarded as one of the best games in its genre, Dead Cells is the epitome of the “just one more try” philosophy by empowering your character with agile movement and fluid combat in a 2D side-scrolling space. The website defines it as a “rougelite”, which means some level of progression exists even after the character’s death. This can either be story progression or character upgrades. With dynamically changing and evolving enemies, as well as its ever-expanding arsenal of melee weapons, it means a player can create a satisfying loop of gameplay. Just like Enter the Gungeon, it also has boss fights that exist to test the player.
Available on PlayStation, Switch, Xbox, and PC.


Photo source: [Steam]

Of all the games in this list, this is the one I’d heavily recommend to players new to this genre. No matter what happens during the course of a run, Hades always makes the player feel like they’re progressing through the game which can be in the form of social connections and interactions with the NPCs, building infrastructure, weapon and character upgrades, and so much more. The game boasts a colourful cast of NPCs who have their own form of relationships tied to the main character. Even setting aside all this, the actual runs themselves are satisfying because of the uniqueness of the weapons, various power-ups in the form of godly favours called boons, and an amazing soundtrack. The game is also amazing to look at, with vibrant environments and unique enemy designs.
Available on PlayStation, Switch, Xbox, and PC.

The Binding of Isaac

Photo source: [Steam]










12 years after this game was conceived, it still remains one of the most influential games in its genre and one of the most important in all of gaming. Think of any mechanic from a game in this genre, and I guarantee you it can be traced back to The Binding of Isaac. In the game, Isaac’s mother is an extremist of the Christian faith always meditating and watching documentaries. She then “receives” a message from God demanding the life of her son as proof of her faith. Fearing for his life, Isaac flees into the monster-filled basement of their home where he must fight to survive. The game is a top-down dungeon crawler. The game boasts a huge assortment of upgrades and weapons, with its procedurally generated dungeons being likened to those in the Legend of Zelda. Isaac uses his tears as bullets to kill his enemies. The game has been criticized for its violent and disturbing content. Some critics have argued that the game’s depiction of child abuse and religious trauma is inappropriate for younger players. However, the game’s creator, Edmund McMillen, has defended the game’s content, arguing that it is meant to be a reflection of the dark and disturbing thoughts that many people have. If you want to experience the uniqueness and conceptualism of the genre, I recommend playing this game.
Available on PC, and Mac.

Other notable mentions include Returnal, Spelunky, and Rogue Legacy.

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