10 Best Roguelike PC Games Worth Playing in 2017
Death, despair and diabolical challenge in infinite combinations await…in the shifting catacombs of these 10 classic roguelike titles!
When it comes to games that put you through the wringer, there’s nothing quite like the roguelike genre: permanent death that keeps the stakes high, procedurally generated-worlds that push you to adapt, and the sheer satisfaction of pulling off a grand victory after hours of painstaking work put into a single playthrough. It’s no wonder that the genre has proven such a hit with gamers ever since rising to mainstream popularity in the last few years.
Let’s take a look at some of the roguelikes that keep players coming back in 2017!
10) Darkest Dungeon
No list of roguelikes would be complete without Darkest Dungeon, the genre’s answer to Lovecraft.
A nobleman lives in a manor built atop a sprawling labyrinth of secrets and treasure. Crazed with greed and curiosity, he squanders his fortune sending diggers and explorers into the catacombs below. But the horrors he encounters in the Darkest Dungeon ultimately cost him his wealth, his mind, and eventually…his life.
You are that nobleman’s heir, and it falls to you to finish the terrible work he started.
The enemies you will encounter in Darkest Dungeon range from the merely brutal to the utterly alien.
As the inheritor of the Dark Estate, you will hire, equip and train adventurers to go on expeditions into various dungeons in search of valuables and trinkets that improve their abilities. But in addition to the physical dangers posed by traps and monsters, your adventurers take psychological damage from the stresses of venturing into these dungeons. If left untreated, this stress can result in your heroes developing crippling personality flaws or descending into outright madness!
As your heroes take stress damage, they become vulnerable to afflictions that risk making them a liability to the rest of your party.
Having sold over 1 million copies since its launch, Darkest Dungeon has proved a hit both with roguelike enthusiasts and the wider gaming community. Developer Red Hook Studios has released updates that add alternative gameplay modes, including Radiant Mode and New Game+, and is planning to release the game’s first expansion, The Crimson Court, in early 2017.
9) Rogue Legacy
An assassin has wounded the king. A hero braved the shifting corridors and unholy monsters of an ancient castle in search of a cure…but he never returned. Now it is up to his descendants to follow in his footsteps into the castle - and if they meet an untimely fate in its halls, their heirs will take up the quest themselves.
The wealth they find and the equipment and training they buy are passed on to their successors - along with certain quirks of genetics. One day, maybe they will produce an heir strong enough to succeed where they have failed. Until then, you will keep guiding them into the meat-grinder…
Rogue Legacy is the first video game ever to let you play a hero with irritable bowel syndrome.
Rogue Legacy is a simple enough platformer with randomly-arranged rooms, but there’s plenty of elements to keep things fresh. Some rooms entail killing anything that moves, some hold puzzles or platforming challenges. And most importantly, your character can inherit traits which open up or close off different gameplay options - heroes with dwarfism can access small shortcuts, while large heroes can jump higher.
You’ll need to earn upgrades and equipment to have a chance against the castle’s four bosses.
Developer Cellar Door Games is currently working on its next project, a team-based brawler called Full Metal Furies. Definitely worth a look.
8) The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Tears that destroy your enemies. Killer embryos. Wire coat hanger upgrades embedded in your skull. If your tastes lean towards the disturbing and the macabre, The Binding of Isaac is right up your bloodstained alley. A woman is driven by religious visions to sacrifice her son, Isaac, who escapes into his home’s basement. But his mother’s knife might be a preferable fate to the Freudian labyrinth he encounters below.
Admit it, we’ve all had that one dream where we got chased around by killer poops.
The Binding of Isaac is a top-down dungeon crawler in which you clear out each level room by room, fighting monsters either using your own tears or with other items you find on the way. You’ll also find or purchase numerous power-ups, and experimenting with different power-up combinations will yield even more powerful builds.
Pictured: a little child with an upgrade embedded in his forehead. Because of course it is.
The Binding of Isaac has been a hit with players and has sold over two million copies. An expansion to the game, Afterbirth+, was released earlier this year with a slew of additional content. Go check it out!
7) Enter the Gungeon
I’m going to be straight with you on this one: it’s all about the guns. Regular guns that shoot regular bullets. Water pistols that fire water. Flare guns that set enemies on fire. Pea shooters that fire peas. Shotguns that fire skulls. Gunboots that shoot when you dodge roll. If I had a gun that fired bullets of admiration for the purity of a game’s core concept, I’d be emptying an entire clip into Enter the Gungeon.
(If there’s an update in the future which actually adds such a gun to the game, I want you to know that I thought of it independently.)
The game takes place in a world with living bullets.
In Enter the Gungeon, you’ll guide your character - or characters, if you’re playing two-player co-op - through multiple floors of the procedurally-arranged Gungeon. As enemies are constantly firing bullets in varying patterns, gameplay relies on dodging and making use of cover while getting off shots of your own - a process that becomes exponentially more fascinating with the increasingly more powerful and zany items you’ll find yourself unlocking.
Dodge rolling gives you a few frames of invincibility that you can use to your advantage in a fight.
The free Supply Drop Update released earlier this year has added a great chunk of content to the game, from weapons to enemies to rooms, Enter the Gungeon is more worth your money than ever.
Whispers tell of a treasure beyond all others hidden in the depths of an ancient cavern. Countless adventurers have wasted their lives in search of it, only to fall foul of its gruesome traps and ferocious denizens. But unlike them, you have what it takes to find the treasure…don’t you?
It’s a tale as old as time: a hardened adventurer, short on gold and long of blade. A realm of darkness and traps and monsters. Vagante is arguably the entry on this list that is the closest thing to Rogue, the game which spawned a thousand tributes. But don’t mistake that for cheap imitation.
The occasional in-game shop provides a welcome break from getting your butt kicked.
Though it’s still in Early Access on Steam, Vagante boasts some wonderfully intricate levels, dizzying depth of character customization, and a personal favorite of mine - magic items that you have to identify, meaning that in times of great desperation you’ll find yourself playing Russian roulette with your own inventory and hoping you don’t accidentally teleport yourself onto a spike pit.
The game features differently-themed areas, all with their own flavors of platforming challenge.
As mentioned above, Vagante is still in Early Access but it’s already attracted a strong following. Get in on the action now and you’ll have a chance to give the devs your feedback and make for an even better gaming experience!
5) Lost Castle
As dark magic and demonic influences overtake the land, the only hope for the world lies at the heart of the evil: the lost Castle Harwood. As is always the case with these things, a veritable horde of adventurers is soon knocking at the castle gates in search of treasure. And, uh, the chance to save the land. But mainly to seek treasure.
Floor traps can make for some tricky timing puzzles and add tension to combat.
Lost Castle is less experimental than most of the games on this list, but that doesn’t mean it can’t show you a good time. Its gameplay takes inspiration from classic beat-em-ups, giving it an arcade feel: the combat flows very nicely, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. The experience is enhanced with an adorable chibi aesthetic and a wide variety of items, equipment and skills to mix it up.
Oh, and did I mention there’s a co-op mode too?
The game contains five main areas with unique bosses, enemies, and traps.
We haven’t heard anything yet about Chinese developer Hunter Studio’s next project, but if Lost Castle is anything to go by, this is definitely a team to watch.
4) FTL: Faster Than Light
Two starships, locked in combat in the depths of space, or in a perilous asteroid field, or around the ember of a dying sun. We’ve all seen it on Star Trek, and we’ve all wanted to be that underdog captain, using every dirty trick at his disposal to win the day. The developers of FTL: Faster Than Light took that childhood fantasy and rebuilt it as a game.
You can deal with fires by sending in your crew, or by opening space doors to suck the oxygen out of the rooms.
It’s impossible to do FTL’s gameplay justice in mere words. It’s a masterpiece of stripped-back, elegant design that allows for a dizzying array of playstyles - using lasers, missiles, drones, hacking systems, boarding parties, and cloaking systems will all push your tactics to develop in different directions. This is a game where you can hack your enemy’s oxygen generator and asphyxiate them without firing a single shot, and pulling it off is just balls-to-the-force-field awesome.
Various in-game encounters, if successfully completed, can provide you with equipment, crewmembers, and other necessary goodies.
FTL’s developer Subset Games recently released a trailer for their next title, a turn-based strategy game called Into the Breach. Check it out!
A whip-wielding treasure hunter who dodges traps and enemies in search of archaeological artifacts…now why does that sound familiar?
One of the early entries that powered the genre’s comeback, Spelunky is a cave-based dungeon crawling platformer.
You’ll need to make careful use of the equipment you have to navigate the levels - running out of rope can spell death.
You control the titular Spelunker and descend into a procedurally-generated network of underground caverns in search of treasure. As you navigate the levels, you’ll occasionally find yourself rescuing Damsels for health bonuses. Or throwing them at enemies to kill them. Or using them as human shields to take damage from traps meant for you. Or sacrificing them to evil gods for your own benefit.
Morality’s a fluid thing down here.
Bombs and traps can alter the terrain of a level. Sometimes this works against you; other times you can use it to your advantage.
2) Crypt of the NecroDancer
Cadence, the daughter of a renowned treasure hunter, goes in search of her father but falls into the clutches of the sinister NecroDancer. To defeat him, she must dance to the NecroDancer’s beat to meet his challenge and defeat his minions. You will guide Cadence in this masterwork of funktastic fantasy!
There are six different enemy types on this screen, each with a unique movement pattern. You’ll learn all of them and more.
Built around what may be the genre’s single most creative concept, Crypt of the NecroDancer rewards you for moving, dodging, and attacking in time to the tempo of the game’s soundtrack. (Or your own - you can import your own mp3 files into the game!) And just as importantly, enemies have dance patterns of their own which you will have to learn and exploit, like playing a game of speed chess.
It’s intuitive, it’s challenging, and it’s glorious.
Different characters become unlockable as you progress in the game, each with their own abilities.
The Amplified DLC for the game is currently in Early Access, featuring soundtrack remixes and bucketloads of new content.
1) Risk of Rain
In the distant future, a cargo ship crash lands on an alien planet, with only one survivor. That survivor has only the scattered cargo of the downed vessel to withstand the strange and hostile environment of this uncharted territory. But with every passing second, stronger and stranger creatures emerge from the undergrowth to challenge our hero…
You can linger as long as you like in a level, but you’ll end up fighting multiple bosses simultaneously.
Risk of Rain gives its levels a shot in the arm by linking difficulty to elapsed time. The longer you remain in a level, the more power-ups and experience you’ll be able to earn - but the enemies that spawn will become increasingly more powerful, until you find yourself running around barely surviving against ludicrous hordes of flying jellyfish with force fields. The wide variety of unlockable items and characters also goes a long way towards keeping the eternal struggle for survival interesting and spontaneous.
Various random power-ups collected on a level will push you to adapt your strategy for that playthrough.
If you find yourself digging Risk of Rain’s style, you might be interested in checking out developer Hopoo Games’s subsequent project - DEADBOLT, a stealth-action platformer in which you go hunting for the undead.
All in all, times are good for roguelikes - not only do we already have a wealth of classic titles to choose from, but developers are experimenting with the form and coming up with strange new games to keep us mesmerized for hours on end. Here’s hoping 2017 will bring good things to this little genre we know and love.
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