The Best Roguelikes To Spend Your Time Dying In
The best roguelikes come in all shapes and sizes and genres and art styles and basically every other measurable thing you can imagine. At this point, the idea of a roguelike isn’t set in stone any more than you can describe a game as being in 3D and be excpeted to predict how it plays. It’s a description of the mechanics now, rather than anything else, and it means there are a lot of really good games here.
It also means that it can be quite hard to find new games that are good, ebcause everyone and their mum is a roguelike these days, so it can be tough sifting through all of that to try and find the best roguelikes. Well, lucky for you, we happen to be experts in the field, so we’ve put together a list of the best roguelikes just to help you out.
The Best Roguelikes
What makes a good roguelike though, let alone one of the best roguelikes? Well, people make the best roguelikes (har har), but the components of the best ones can be whittled down to two main factors. Number one, it has to be fun enough that you don’t mind dying every five seconds, and you’re willing to persevere until you no longer die. Number two, it needs to have a good progression system, despite generally being the genre where you don’t keep your progress, the best ones tend to have unlockable units, items, or powers. These two aspects are incredibly important, and they’re the two main things that make the games on this list so exceptionally wonderful.
Deadly Days is a new entry on this list. That’s not because it’s a new game, in fact, it released back in 2019, but it’s one that we only recently got the chance to try out, and it’s absolutely great. You get to control the survivors of a zombie apocalyopse, and you have to guide them from mission to mission trying to gather resources, find new survivors, and find new weapons too. It’s not a hard game to play because it’s more strategy-heavy than most on this list, but it’s got a good depth to it, and it’s a huge amount of fun too thanks to a good sense of humour.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
The Binding of Isaac is perhaps the most well known of all the roguelikes at this point. It stars a cast of biblically named characters attempting to flee from a religious and overbearing mother who is hellbent on removing sin from the child. The thing is, the best way the mother knows to remove sin is to kill the child. It’s incredibly dark, but that’s kind of the whole point. The game itself unfolds as if playing a bullet hell game, though at a generally slower pace to begin with. You have to use your tears to defeat various monstrosities and horrors, all the while avoiding streams of blood, vomit, and explosions. It’s hard, but it’s also devilishly moreish.
Dwarf Fortress is technically the oldest game on this list as it started development in 2002 and was initially released in 2006. Despite that, it’s still one of the most intense and complicated roguelikes around. The developers skillfully meld the worlds of management sim and roguelike to create an experience that you’ll never truly understand until you play it. Also, you really should play it, it’s spectacular in nearly every aspect and also had dwarves, and who doesn’t love them? Nobody, everyone loves these beardy folk.
Slay The Spire
I’m not saying that card games are superior to all other games, but I’m also not not saying that. Slay the Spire has a simple premise, get to the top of the spire and kill the weird beating heart that powers it. You add new cards to your deck as you cut, poison, or electrocute your way through the battles, and you can also acquire powerful artefacts to help give you an edge in each fight. The thing that makes Slay the Spire so enticing is the incredibly flexible time commitment it asks of you. If you want to play for five minutes, then you can, but if you want to make your way through a few runs and spend half a day doing that, then you can.
Look, Supergiant Games are undoubtedly one of the best teams out there. With the likes of Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre under the belts, they’ve moved into creating a roguelike. Hades has you playing as Zagreus, the son of Hades, and trying to escape from the underworld. It’s more story-focussed than many of the other games on this list, and it’s also got more hot people, like, so many hot people. Also, the music is extraordinary, the graphics are stunning, and beating up Hades is one of the most cathartic experiences around. Do not sleep on this game, even if Hypnos is lurking.
Noita is an incredibly unique game, even among weird indie stuff. You play as a witch, and your aim is to make your way through the dungeons using wands you find as you go along. Each wand will have different spells tied to it, and you can then take those spells off of that wand and start combining them to make new spells that do absurd things. That’s just the start though, what makes Noita really special is that every pixel is simulated. If there is wood and it catches fire, then that fire will spread, objects on top of that wood will fall, and you can take out enemies using heavy objects instead of magic. It’s a genuine delight to play, but it’s also one of the hardest games on this list.
As a roguelike with the feeling of a Metroidvania game, Dead Cells does a good job of melding two seemingly incompatible styles of games together. It does so thanks to incredibly slick action, very funny and subtle humour, and more weapons than you can shake a weird undying blob at. I wouldn’t recommend shaking said blob though; it might take over your mind. Dead Cells has been out for a year or so now, but it’s also just gotten a new bit of DLC too, making it a fantastic time to jump in, get your feet wet, and get your head cut off. Ah, the finer things in life for sure.
Risk Of Rain 2
I love a good co-op game, I really do. There’s something glorious about forgoing the outside world in favour of digitally hanging out with friends and doing weird stuff together. Risk of Rain 2 is one of the rare examples of a true co-op roguelike, and it’s also an exceptional third-person action game in its own right. There is a nearly endless string of challenges to undertake, the characters all feel completely different from one another, and the difficulty literally never stops going up, so if you’re playing for a long time the only real end is when you get one-shotted by a giant jellyfish. Also, it’s still in Early Access and gets fairly regular updates, so you know things can only get better.
Into The Breach
A good strategy game is life-consuming, the kind of thing that you may or may not play in a hospital while waiting for your daughter to be born. Into the Breach isn’t just a good strategy game; it’s a damn near perfect one. It has you controlling the last remnants of humanity as you attempt to oust an alien threat from your timeline. If you succeed, then you simply jump to a new timeline to try and save it. If you fail, you basically do the same thing, but while sad? It’s all turn-based, and you can see what your opponents are planning on doing, which somehow both helps you plan your attacks, and also gives massive spikes of adrenaline when there’s nothing you can do to stop them killing you.