Roguelike

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Rogue was a 1980 turn-based role-playing computer game featuring ASCII graphics, permadeath, and by far its most distinctive and notable feature, randomly generated dungeons. Neckbeards have an inveterate fondness for this genre, and they are one of the few types of vidya one can mention on /tg/ without triggering massive nerd rage. Roguelike is a term used to describe games that are made in this mold to one degree or another.

Rogue! It's the epic tale of some guy who needs to find some amulet. Why? Because fuck you!

Typical definitions for Roguelikes[edit]

There is no formal definition of a roguelike. However, it can generally be thought of as any dungeon-crawl RPG that meets one or more of the following criteria:

- is turn-based;
- features randomly ("procedurally") generated levels;
- features permadeath
- uses ASCII or otherwise primitive graphics

Whether the definition of "Roguelike" absolutely requires that it be turn-based is a source of much Skub. For the purposes of this article, we'll call them "Realtime Roguelikes", although some people call such games "Roguelites" (note the 't' in place of the 'k'); but since nobody seems to agree on what "Roguelite" actually means (as there are quite a lot of games nowadays that are "not quite Roguelike"), we can't use it to classify anything with.

Diablo was inspired by NetHack and is a borderline Roguelike, but most noobs misuse Roguelike as a synonym for "Diablo-clone", not knowing what they are missing.

Notable Roguelikes[edit]

"True" Roguelikes[edit]

The great gran'pappy of all roguelikes, naturally. Looks like chewed-over ass and plays about as well but you'd better have some motherfucking respect, this thing basically created the gaming industry.
Arguably the most balanced traditional roguelike. Doesn't take itself too seriously, except for player etiquette regarding an NPC named Izchak who is a tribute to a deceased dev team member named Dr. Izchak Miller. It's known for creating a subgenre called "hacklikes", which put a greater focus on resource management, improvisation, secret knowledge and spectacular, brilliantly bullshit zany schemes. Pulls from more than a few various fantasy works, including Discworld and the Tolkienverse.
Harder than hard. As its name indicates, based completely on the Ragnarok event of Norse Mythology. You are an adventurer starting at his abandoned village and needs to win Ragnarok which will start around 20000 turns. The solution to winning the mythic war is inhumanly difficult and laden with WTFuckery levels of monster combat and insane logics. Everything, and anything in game can and will kill you; for this the game lets you backup saves 200 turns separated from each. Virtually unwinnable without at least one savescumming and/or guide. Amongst 171 different common monsters in game, more than half have a (mostly preventable but still...) instadeath effect; the others upon contact will permanently maim you so hard you might as well quit unless you have specific cure items on demand, or even destroy your inventory with acid even if you are immune to it. And that's not counting unique daemons who ignore every immunity and even manage to steal your immunities and adding to themselves while pumping out your clones out of an alternate universe to kill you. Have fun.
Massively expanded roguelike. The quintessential randomized D&D solo adventure in Tolkien's world. Brutal, though. Has also inspired a subgenre of variants; these are called "bands." It's as the name implies, you go down 100 levels into the "iron fortress" of Morgoth and kill him. As Hobbit wizard that casts millions of acid rains on dragons and teleports at will.
Severely fun roguelike, occasionally quite imbalanced, with an insane set of classes, races, and gods. Also has one of the most diverse dungeon environments. The Stone Soup version has a kickass tileset, an improved mouse-optional interface, more classes, more races, more gods, and more of generally everything. /tg/'s preferred roguelike. Sadly, in recent years it has been on the decline, gutting itself with each successive update.
It's Doom, as a roguelike. /tg/'s current second favorite behind Stone Soup. Wickedly difficult, prepare to have your anus ripped and torn. Is sadly dead, killed first by the author's attempts to make money off of a sequel called Jupiter Hell, then buried and the earth salted by a trademark claim from Bethesda.
A German roguelike set in a large mountain chain with many dark caverns where the forces of law and chaos do battle for the fate of the universe. A gazillion different skills to upgrade and feats to take. The biggest flaw of the game is that many elements are not randomized, requiring you to trudge through them over and over every time you die. And you can't be Lawful Evil, but simply Chaotic Evil or Lawful Good.
Old-skool roguelike made in the glory days of Windows 3.1 shareware. Has a tileset.
In the words of the author "Incursion is a traditional roguelike", and it is very influenced by D&D. You have to descend through multiple floors of caverns to reach the Goblin King and slay him. Plans include an outside world but that's for future releases.
A solid, graphical roguelike (with a side option for ASCII players), with relatively deep lore and a heavy "quest" focus (in other words, multiple dungeons and a few puzzles). A heavily tactical focus, with lots of class skills limited by cooldowns. Available in a free version, and a purchasable Steam version; the latter is only required if you want to play the expansions, of which there are three so far: A mini-expansion that brings a lot more Demons, and some demon-related classes, another Lovecraftian-themed one, and a full new campaign about attacking what you achieved in the original campaign as an Orc. Notable for having the most achievements trophies of any legitimate game ever (there have been "games" with more, but they've either been pseudogame shovelware, or pure jokes). [1]
Cataclysm: DDA is what happens when you take people from the Bay12 forums with a sizable knowlege of C++, and have them create a sci-fi equivalent of Dwarf Fortress' Adventure Mode. This game starts you off at Day-0 of every apocalypse imaginable happening at the same time. Its key features include a crafting system with literally thousands of unique items, a highly robust combat system reminiscent of Dwarf Fortress, and a vehicle creation system so meticulous you can make a life-sized LAND RAIDER in it. (Don't believe me about the Land Raider? Here it is!) Oh, and tilesets are also available with a menu option to disable the graphics if you still prefer the feel of ASCII.
Caves of Qud is set in a place not unlike most of the human death worlds during the Age of Strife in Warhammer 40k, such as pre-explosion Caliban, it also seems like what a planet entirely controlled by tzeentch would look like, he even gives a tour of it (using his Sseth avatar) here. It looks like a straight-up fantasy roguelike at first, complete with its own order of mutant hating templars but then you realize that it's more of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world when you find a bunch of artifacts around like modern-day guns, lasers, grenades, anti-matter power cells, handheld nukes and weird crap which crushes you with the force of 10,000 suns if you drop it on the ground. Similarly, you'll find ancient ruins full of said artifacts, as well as murderous robots, some of which are huge, flying, teleporting pyramids covered in chrome. shields, missile launchers and fabricators for those missile launchers. Player characters may choose to start as either mutants or pure humans. Mutants have access to a variety of powerful mutations such as flamethrower hands, spontanious combustion wings, scorpion stingers, multiple arms legs and/or heads (upper limit is 8 of each, except heads which you can only have 4), two hearts, healing factor, permiation (phasing through solid objects), photosynthesis, teleportation, mind control, shooting invisible lasers with your mind (some of which cause people to have brain aneurysms) and a mutation that allows you to screw with the space-time continuum (essentially resulting in lore-sanctioned savescumming). Pure humans get none of the above, but instead have much higher stats., and can get cybernetic augmentations to compensate for there lack of mutations.
You ever wonder what a JRPG Roguelike would look like? And we're not talking mainstream JRPG, we're talking the really weird shit they usually keep in Japan, the kind of shit where Pianist is a playable character class and Snail is a playable race. Well, wonder no longer. While main development has ceased, there are at least two variants currently under development; as a result, we're linking to the Reddit community, which has links to download all three in English.
A free-to-play graphical game made by some neckbeard named Waz for many platforms including mobile, PC, and Internet. A platformer style game which actually turns out to be basically 100% roguelike. Shares the randomly generated dungeons, magical items, overall paradigm (being D&D inspired, turnbased, saveless and alternatingly frustrating and enthralling), various classes (which cost $1 each to add, though, and you also have to pay for going deep into the dungeon, but it's worth it, you will stay because as you discover this game is based as all get-out.) Some of it's failings include occasionally being unplayable, or inordinately easy (a few items, especially some of the wands, are OP as fuck), if certain conditions of randomness are met, but overall, a replayable, addictive, enjoyable time. Protip: You want to keep your pet alive at all costs, at least in the beginning of the game, lest you fall victim to some serious [not as planned] when you pick up certain objects.
A relative newcomer to the roguelike genre, critically acclaimed for its creative use of hyperbolic geometry in its game world and mechanics. For those of you who aren't math nerds, this means that most of the things you'd expect from a grid-based roguelike don't apply- the world rotates around you when you return to a tile after a few steps (a side effect of the sum of a triangle's angles adding up to less than 180 degrees in hyperbolic space), you can always outrun a monster unless it's directly behind you, trying to return to a place you've been before after going a long way away is nearly impossible unless you go back exactly the same way you came, and so on. Luckily, the game does have tutorials explaining the basics of hyperbolic geometry and the rest can be figured out as you go along. As a bonus, another quirk of hyperbolic geometry means that the game worlds are practically infinite so you'll never run out of stuff to find.
One of the most basic Roguelikes on this list, and yet, one of the most fun. Pixel dungeon follows the basic formula of a roguelike: run through a dungeon, kill monsters, find weapons, and get perma-deathed until you finally beat the game.
On this list for the fact that the project is open source; a huge amount of mods, reskins, and almost completely different games have been made from the original code, to a staggering degree.
That being said, vanilla got discontinued years ago. Don't expect any new updates from the developer, look into the mods instead.
Note: Don't start with vanilla. Pick up Shattered Pixel Dungeon first.

What We'll Call "Realtime Roguelikes"[edit]

There are several games whose only notable deviation from the "Roguelike Formula" is that they are action games, rather than turn-based. Since many of this set of games are called both "Roguelikes" and "Roguelites", depending on who you ask, we figured we'd have a section just for games that deviate in only that aspect.

Action roguelike written in Flash, intended as a sequel to the original Rogue. The flash file is small and you can save it locally to play without a net connection. Open-source, and dude writes articles about his design decisions.
A roguelite shooter available on Steam. You play a naked toddler who escapes into the basement beneath his home to escape his murderous mother. What it lacks in any fantasy or sci-fi ambience, it more than makes up for in sheer biblical WTFery.
A bullet hell shooter roguelite where you play an adventurer infiltrating the remains of a fortress-monastery belonging to a cult of firearms enthusiasts so zealous it would make the NRA cringe. There you hope to find a gun so powerful that it can kill your tragic backstory.
A quirky roguelite rhythm game. You play a meddling girl who was cursed by the NecroDancer, a fabulous necromancer with a flair for the performing arts. Burdened by the curse, you must dance your way through the NecroDancer's symphonic labyrinth matching the tempo of the game's awesome soundtrack and slaying his musical-themed bestiary. (Of some note for this section: By playing the Bard, you can play this game as a traditional Roguelike, turn-based combat and all.)
A post-apocalyptic shooter roguelite, where humanity is extinct and Earth is a toxic wasteland infested with irradiated mutants. As a mutant, you can mutate further as you get more radiation, and by using each character's unique mutations, and whatever weapons you find along the way, you must fight your way to the fabled Nuclear Throne.

Roguelites[edit]

"Roguelite" is a highly subjective term, much like "OSR" or pretty much any other /tg/ category. As a rule of thumb, the further the gameplay is from "randomly generated deathtrap labyrinth with turn-based combat, collectible piles of unidentified loot and no persistence between games[2]", the more likely it will be considered a roguelite instead of a roguelike.

Babby's first roguelite. Currently popular due to regularly being on special offer on Steam, this multiple award winning game describes itself as "a real time roguelike-like IN SPESS". A good way to ease into the genre.
Indiana Jones, the roguelite. A platformer where you take the role of an explorer braving the depths of a mysterious and deadly temple looking for ancient treasures to donate to a museum hawk at a pawn shop.
A maritime roguelite available on Steam. Should appeal to fans of the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
A 2d platformer with randomly generated levels that refresh each time you die. Three things move it slightly away from even a "Realtime Roguelike": You can directly gain in power after each run (unlike, say, Binding of Isaac where you merely unlock new possibilities), the fact that it's a 2d platformer, and the fact individual rooms are completely non-random (although the layout of the overall dungeon is, other than a few constants (the dungeon is always below, the attic above), completely randomly generated). What moves it more closely to a Roguelite is it's most unique feature: You must pick from among three randomly generated characters for each run, and that each character after the first has at least one trait, chosen from among many; these Traits can be beneficial (eg., one trait makes it so that you don't set off floor spike traps), negative (eg., one trait makes it so your health is hidden from you), both (eg., one trait makes you tiny, allowing you to dodge more easily and get into small passages, at the cost of a much reduced sword swing), or purely cosmetic (eg., one trait makes you bald, and two others make the game sepia-toned and greyscale, respectively). Whether this game even counts as "Roguelite" is a matter of some debate, but for our purposes, it marks a good line of demarcation: if a game is more different from Rogue than Rogue Legacy, it's probably not even a Roguelite.

Not quite Roguelikes[edit]

Roguelike-like games that have the player playing more than one "character" (a single ship is allowed to count as a "character" here), or are fundamentally strategy games rather than RPGs (but are still procedural death labyrinths) go here.

If you don't know what this is how did you even get here? It's got motherfucking dwarves, mining, goblin sieges, every other goddamn thing you could imagine, and a bunch you couldn't. Not strictly speaking a roguelike as much as a strategy sim but we can't stay mad at it. The Adventure mode is much closer to the roguelike archetype, but it's not really the main focus.
What would happen to the people who went into a dungeon, fought monsters and (if they were lucky) came back? The answer: bad things. A solid game with an incredible visual design and audio, you have to manage a platoon of "heroes" by sending them into dungeons, where they can become sickened and scarred, physically and mentally, in order to get loot to build your family's dilapidated (and also horribly cursed) estate up. In its own way it's more grimdark than 40k is. As a bonus it also contains a healthy amount of Lovecraftian abominations.

See also[edit]

  • RogueBasin, a wiki dedicated to documenting various Roguelikes.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. There is a fairly good reason for this, BTW. Game is fairly hard, and large, and thus has (in theory) one achievement for each major dungeon and the like (which would be about a hundred cheevos, which is fairly reasonable). However, the game has four difficulties, and two death modes (full Roguelike, and Adventure, where you can afford to die a (very) few times), and the difficulties all represent a major step up in difficulty; thus the game chooses to have each major difficulty/life combination have its own achievements, resulting in each major achievement being duplicated nine times (4 difficulties with 2 death modes, and an extra for "Explorers", the third lives option, who are considered to be in a difficulty of their own). Three notes: (1) This game broke Steam's achievement system when it first showed up. (2) There are two other game modes, that have their own achievements. (3) Each DLC adds its own achievements, so each time some more comes out, that's 9 new achievements per DLC achievement.
  2. Some definitions allow for starting choice, item pool, and branch choice unlocks as being within the definition, so long as every run is essentially a completely new thing--in other words, "if Binding of Isaac did it, and you're still turn-based, it probably still counts as a Roguelike".