The Difference Between Roguelike vs Roguelite Games (Explained in Simple Terms)

Roguelike vs Roguelite
Bring on the loot.

What is a Roguelike?

Roguelikes are a genre of challenging games (typically for PC) based on three mechanisms: permadeath, turn-based combat, and randomized levels. Permadeath means that when you die in the game, you have to restart as a new character with none of the items or abilities you gained during your last life. And after each death, you begin in a new, randomly generated level. Combined with permadeath, this creates a truly unique, first-time experience every play-through with engaging battles and difficult situations.  

Finally, combat in roguelikes requires you to plan out your attack/defense/next move before you initiate it (think Final Fantasy and other JRPGs). Hardcore fans of the genre will tell you that a true, traditional roguelike requires these mechanics, but there are similar, more modern games that put a twist on this classic formula. These games are known as roguelites.

In FTL: Captain's Edition, one false move could mean an early retirement.

What is a Roguelite?

Roguelites have some, but not all of the essential characteristics of a roguelike. Roguelites usually take design influence from different games like platformers, dungeon crawlers, and 2D shooters. While combat in roguelikes is strictly turn-based, combat in roguelites is typically much more fast-paced and engaging.

Another common difference is that roguelites often include unlockables, achievements, or characters that are not lost when the game restarts. Different roguelites put a twist on the classic roguelike formula in various ways, but their wide variety and interesting mash-ups of genres create delightful and frustrating experiences with each new game.

Characteristics of Roguelike Games

  • Randomly generated levels
  • Permanent death (permadeath)
  • Turn-based action
  • Dungeon-crawling theme
  • Tile-based/ASCII graphics
  • Complex, decision-oriented gameplay
  • Resource management

Characteristics of Roguelite Games

  • Complex gameplay features
  • Randomly generated levels
  • Gameplay is turn-based, fast-paced, or somewhere in-between
  • Combat is optional, but it’s present in most games
  • Modern, usually 2D graphics
  • Combines roguelike elements with other types of games (shooter, strategy, dungeon crawler, etc.)

Top 10 Roguelike Games of Today

  • Dungeons of Dredmor
  • WazHack
  • Dwarf Fortress
  • Caves of Qud
  • Dungeon Crawl
  • DoomRL
  • Tales of Maj’Eyal
  • Cogmind
  • NetHack
  • NEO Scavenger

Top 10 Roguelite Games of Today

  • FTL: Faster Than Light
  • Spelunky
  • Rogue Legacy
  • Darkest Dungeon
  • The Binding of Isaac
  • Risk of Rain
  • Dead Cells
  • Enter the Gungeon
  • Slay the Spire
  • Downwell
Alex is a writer living in New Orleans, where it's much too hot to do anything but play Apex Legends. His fiction and essays have been published in multiple magazines and journals.
Gamer Since: 1994
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Monster Hunter World, Persona 5, Apex Legends, Battlefield V, Fallout 76,
Top 3 Favorite Games:Resident Evil HD Remaster, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Dark Souls 3
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