Roguelikes have come a long way since Rogue, and the original tentpole facets such as permadeath and randomized dungeons tweaked and altered to create new iterations on the concept. Today, many roguelikes are instead roguelites, meaning they offer the player some or a lot of permanent progression elements at various levels to ensure that the experience can be completed by dedicated players.
Some games, like Returnal, obfuscate the development to kick up the tension factor while still offering powerful permanent progression boosts, while others like Rogue Legacy offer massive, easy-to-grasp power-ups. Any way you look at it, the variable hooks from run to run in the roguelike make them fascinating to play and experience, tinkering around with different builds and options over many hours. What roguelike should you play today? Let’s take a look at some of the best listed in no particular order.
Roguelikes have been popular for a long time, but Hades is probably the best example of a game that has ushered the genre into the true mainstream. With a heavy focus on permanent progression, unforgettable characters, and a story that gradually unfolds from run to run, players are incentivized to keep trying new weapons, builds, and strategies as they try to escape the depths of Hell.
Of course, that might be just the beginning, as players can opt into much more challenging runs and unlock new playstyles over time as the drip-feed of options expands. Hades rules, and you should play it if you haven’t already. Oh, and yes, you can finish in this game too. | Our Review
Slay the Spire
Within the roguelike genre, the deckbuilder has become an incredibly popular subgenre, bringing a deluge of titles to Steam (and other platforms!) with a dizzying frequency. Much of this can be attributed to Slay the Spire, a game that begins utterly simple – but delivers massive depth over time.
As you unlock new characters, new cards, and new possibilities, tinkering with each deck archetype and wild artifact combination becomes an obsession; a one-more-run compulsion that’s a ton of fun and difficult to put down. Do you want to try to cut your entire deck down to a single rotating hand? Do you want to bloat a titanic pile that gets bonuses from a large stack? Poison? Defense? Magical lightning ball blasts? Choices are yours and the journey is a blast. | Our Review
Binding of Isaac
Binding of Isaac has remained a mainstay of the roguelike world for ages, and is given new power continuously by frequent, giant expansion packs that add tons of new options, secrets, and dangers to contend with. If you’ve never played Isaac, forming the right tools to go on a run to try and take on some of the hidden or ultra-powerful bosses is a whole thing, and one could mess around with these variables for ages. While the original Isaac is a decade old at this point, new content continues to keep it relevant and thriving, with The Binding of Isaac: Repentance having launched this year. | Our Review
Dead Cells combines elements of the Metroidvania, tasking players with finding their way through a dark universe brimming with bold bosses and awesome powerups. Permanent progression exists to help, but it can take many runs to work up that kind of boost, so players are instead encouraged to maximize their progress via special traversal options that let them get more from each exploration. Bonus if you’re a streamer, you can have viewers come along as a boisterous bird – or even add special attacks to bosses as you fight them. Dead Cells has also received multiple updates that build upon the excellent foundation. | Our Review
Children of Morta
This family sure knows how to have fun! Build up an amazing crew with varied abilities and techniques as you plunge into the dungeon’s depths again and again. Whether you like ranged play or in-your-face smashy smashy, one of the characters in the family is sure to resonate with your playstyle.
Of course, it helps to build up everyone so that you’re ready for challenges as they come, so get ready to have many failed adventures before finally coming out victorious. Luckily, you’re always making progress toward your next big skill or milestone. | Our Review
This PlayStation 5 exclusive is an atmospheric nightmare ride though sci-fi horror, and it’s enchanting and enthralling every step of the way. Returnal brilliantly veils much of the permanent progress that you’re making from run to run, ensuring that your tension levels stay taut and realized as you dive into majestic bullet-hell boss fights.
Prevail, and mysteries unravel as your weapons gain incredibly powerful bonuses and perks. If you have the means to play it, Returnal is a roguelike masterstroke that should be experienced. | Our Review
While Darkest Dungeon 2 promises to bring the dark delving to a more pure roguelike experience, the original contains plenty of elements including permadeath and random dungeon structure. If Darkest Dungeon excels in anything, it’s a cohesive vibe that echoes through every design decision from character abilities to voice narrative.
Wayne June provides an absolutely cosmic performance as the narrator, leading you from each grisly discovery to another eldritch abomination. If you have somehow dodged the shuffling terrors so far, it’s time to give Darkest Dungeon a try – be sure to include the DLC! | Our Review
It’s like Indiana Jones, except you die a lot. Distinct biomes and secret treasures keep the adventure alive, death after death, run after run. Even if you get annihilated by some mistimed inputs, you’re back in the saddle within seconds and back on the next attempt.
The loop is engaging and you’re always looking to see what’s going to be discovered next in your dive down to danger and riches. Oh, and this one has mounts. | Our Review
Ready to summon a truckload of monsters to try to reclaim Hell? Turn-based deckbuilding madness awaits as you attempt to manage three different train floors of action with a variety of summoning spells, items, and magical powers. Regular fights can challenge your mind, but boss battles, complete with game-altering special abilities, will force you well outside your comfort zone and inspire you to try and come up with your own game-breaking combos and designs.
DLC has added even more elements that can come into play on each run, so hop on the train for one wild ride! | Our Review
Into The Breach
Form mini-assortments of mechs to save the world. Or watch it blow up if you can’t beat back the bugs. In Into The Breach, every move your opponent is about to execute is telegraphed, so you can come up with the perfect counter – if you can noodle it out in your mind.
In some ways, Into The Breach is an elaborate puzzle game packaged up as an alien defense roguelike, but any way you want to take it, there’s a ton to discover from run to run as you unlock new pieces, abilities, and powers for your next attempt at saving the world. | Our Review
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