The Roguelike Renaissance

If you’re a gaming enthusiast, you may have heard the term Roguelike thrown around in the past few months. That’s because the genre (if it can be called that) is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. What’s a Roguelike? It’s a generic term used to loosely define games with characteristics similar to the game Rogue. It’s sort of like how every first person shooter was referred to as a Doom clone in the early days of that genre.

Rogue was a dungeon-crawling adventure game with randomly generated monsters, loot and maps. It was released around 1980. The goal was to get to the bottom of the dungeon in one go—fighting monsters and collecting loot on the way. If you died, you lost everything and had to start over again.

According to Wikipedia, the characteristics that make a Roguelike so much like Rogue includes: level randomization, permanent death, turn-based movement and dungeon crawls. Just as the industry eventually left “Doom clone” behind, I can see it doing the same with Roguelike. Most games carrying that label have ditched the turn-based movement (though a few are keeping it alive), and the dungeons have been replaced with more diverse environments.

Indeed, the only characteristics that tie the games below together are permadeath and randomization. Most of them exist within different genres—twin stick shooter, action, strategy, adventure, etc.

BUT THAT DOESN’T SOUND FUN.

I imagine a boxed copy of Binding of Isaac with the pull quotes, “Totally random!” and “death is permanent!” on the front would give most buyers pause. Which is why I think most Roguelikes live just outside the spotlight, thriving on download services like Steam. They’re fun games, but you kind of need to experience them first. Box quotes can’t do them justice.

Playing a Roguelike is sort of like playing a sport. You understand the rules and the tools at your disposal, but the way the game will play out is going to be different every time. You can know all there is to know about how to play basketball, but you’ll never have an identical game.

A good Roguelike has a special blend of random luck, a hard set of understandable rules, and enough wiggle room in the gameplay mechanics to let skilled players succeed, even when they’re unlucky. In other words, they’re still fun, even if you’ve been dealt a bad hand.

The random element combined with permanent death ramps up the intensity too. You tend to be a little more careful when you know one wrong move could undo all your hard work. On the other hand, the sting of dying isn’t as harsh when you know that your next play-through could be even better. It’s like gambling without the potential for crippling debt!

I’M ON BOARD. WHERE DO I START?

The Rougelike genre is growing and expanding. Developers are using permanent death and randomization as foundations to build interesting experiences across genres. Here are a few, wildly different games, that each offer the same Roguelike fix.

THE BINDING OF ISAAC

A twin stick shooter with a crazy Biblically influenced story and grotesque imagery. This came out right around the time my son was born. I remember doing runs at 2 in the morning, rocking the baby in his basinet with my foot, half delirious from lack of sleep. Good times.

DUNGEONS OF DREDMOR

The most Rogue-like Rougelike in the list. Dredmor has you crawling through a dungeon one square at a time taking on enemies in turn-based combat.

SPELUNKY

A platformer with extreme randomization. From what I’ve seen this one can be punishingly difficult. It’s free on PC (with a cool pixel art style) and $15 on Xbox Live.

FTL

Command a starship crew as you explore the galaxy, on the run from the rebels. Move crew members, divert power from your engine to your shields, upgrade your weapons system, and more. It’s like all the exciting scenarios in Star Trek one after the other.

TOKYO JUNGLE

This mega weird Japanese game has you playing as a variety of animals in post-apocalypse Tokyo. Keep your hunger and energy levels high as you mark your territory, seek out mates and avoid predators. It’s on the edges of being a Roguelike, so it’s a good place to start for newbies.

A BAZILLION PHONE GAMES

You know those endless running games popularized by Canabalt? They’ve started bringing in some Roguelike features. They already had the permadeath and randomization, now many of them have loot too (which is, unfortunately, often gated behind micro-transactions). Agent Dash, Jetpack Joyride andTemple Run are great representations of the endless running genre with Roguelike characteristics.

Some would argue that Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are Roguelikes, but I’m not sure I would. The environments are the opposite of random (in fact, memorizing them is the key to succeeding), and while you can permanently die, there are ways to recover your loot and progress.

I would like to see Roguelikes enter the third person action genre. Maybe a brawler like God of War with random environments and enemies? Or what about a shooter? Imagine a game with diverse gun loot like Borderlands mixed with the fast-paced randomness of Binding of Isaac.

Roguelikes aren’t for everyone. They’re more “gamey” than most video games. There’s usually not much of a directed narrative, and the permadeath ensures that you’ll have little to show for your time (some Roguelikes do have achievements that measure your progress and reward you with new starting benefits, like a new character, or a permanent starting stat boost). But you’ll build your own stories from your experiences, and you’ll have a good time doing it. If you haven’t tried a Roguelike, check out one of the games mentioned above, they’re cheap, easy to get into, and hard to put down.

65 Comments
66 Comments
  • 66 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by yeah_write

If you’re a gaming enthusiast, you may have heard the term Roguelike thrown around in the past few months. That’s because the genre (if it can be called that) is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. What’s a Roguelike? It’s a generic term used to loosely define games with characteristics similar to the game Rogue. It’s sort of like how every first person shooter was referred to as a Doom clone in the early days of that genre.

Rogue was a dungeon-crawling adventure game with randomly generated monsters, loot and maps. It was released around 1980. The goal was to get to the bottom of the dungeon in one go—fighting monsters and collecting loot on the way. If you died, you lost everything and had to start over again.

According to Wikipedia, the characteristics that make a Roguelike so much like Rogue includes: level randomization, permanent death, turn-based movement and dungeon crawls. Just as the industry eventually left “Doom clone” behind, I can see it doing the same with Roguelike. Most games carrying that label have ditched the turn-based movement (though a few are keeping it alive), and the dungeons have been replaced with more diverse environments.

Indeed, the only characteristics that tie the games below together are permadeath and randomization. Most of them exist within different genres—twin stick shooter, action, strategy, adventure, etc.

BUT THAT DOESN’T SOUND FUN.

I imagine a boxed copy of Binding of Isaac with the pull quotes, “Totally random!” and “death is permanent!” on the front would give most buyers pause. Which is why I think most Roguelikes live just outside the spotlight, thriving on download services like Steam. They’re fun games, but you kind of need to experience them first. Box quotes can’t do them justice.

Playing a Roguelike is sort of like playing a sport. You understand the rules and the tools at your disposal, but the way the game will play out is going to be different every time. You can know all there is to know about how to play basketball, but you’ll never have an identical game.

A good Roguelike has a special blend of random luck, a hard set of understandable rules, and enough wiggle room in the gameplay mechanics to let skilled players succeed, even when they’re unlucky. In other words, they’re still fun, even if you’ve been dealt a bad hand.

The random element combined with permanent death ramps up the intensity too. You tend to be a little more careful when you know one wrong move could undo all your hard work. On the other hand, the sting of dying isn’t as harsh when you know that your next play-through could be even better. It’s like gambling without the potential for crippling debt!

I’M ON BOARD. WHERE DO I START?

The Rougelike genre is growing and expanding. Developers are using permanent death and randomization as foundations to build interesting experiences across genres. Here are a few, wildly different games, that each offer the same Roguelike fix.

THE BINDING OF ISAAC

A twin stick shooter with a crazy Biblically influenced story and grotesque imagery. This came out right around the time my son was born. I remember doing runs at 2 in the morning, rocking the baby in his basinet with my foot, half delirious from lack of sleep. Good times.

DUNGEONS OF DREDMOR

The most Rogue-like Rougelike in the list. Dredmor has you crawling through a dungeon one square at a time taking on enemies in turn-based combat.

SPELUNKY

A platformer with extreme randomization. From what I’ve seen this one can be punishingly difficult. It’s free on PC (with a cool pixel art style) and $15 on Xbox Live.

FTL

Command a starship crew as you explore the galaxy, on the run from the rebels. Move crew members, divert power from your engine to your shields, upgrade your weapons system, and more. It’s like all the exciting scenarios in Star Trek one after the other.

TOKYO JUNGLE

This mega weird Japanese game has you playing as a variety of animals in post-apocalypse Tokyo. Keep your hunger and energy levels high as you mark your territory, seek out mates and avoid predators. It’s on the edges of being a Roguelike, so it’s a good place to start for newbies.

A BAZILLION PHONE GAMES

You know those endless running games popularized by Canabalt? They’ve started bringing in some Roguelike features. They already had the permadeath and randomization, now many of them have loot too (which is, unfortunately, often gated behind micro-transactions). Agent Dash, Jetpack Joyride andTemple Run are great representations of the endless running genre with Roguelike characteristics.

Some would argue that Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are Roguelikes, but I’m not sure I would. The environments are the opposite of random (in fact, memorizing them is the key to succeeding), and while you can permanently die, there are ways to recover your loot and progress.

I would like to see Roguelikes enter the third person action genre. Maybe a brawler like God of War with random environments and enemies? Or what about a shooter? Imagine a game with diverse gun loot like Borderlands mixed with the fast-paced randomness of Binding of Isaac.

Roguelikes aren’t for everyone. They’re more “gamey” than most video games. There’s usually not much of a directed narrative, and the permadeath ensures that you’ll have little to show for your time (some Roguelikes do have achievements that measure your progress and reward you with new starting benefits, like a new character, or a permanent starting stat boost). But you’ll build your own stories from your experiences, and you’ll have a good time doing it. If you haven’t tried a Roguelike, check out one of the games mentioned above, they’re cheap, easy to get into, and hard to put down.

Posted by Abendlaender

I spent 200 hours (no kidding) with Binding of Isaac so I'm pumped for FTL! DoD was fun too but never really clicked with me.

I wouldn't charaterize Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run as Roguelikes though, they are "Runners" which seems to be it's own genre.

Posted by pornstorestiffi
Posted by flasaltine

You cant call everything with permadeath and random levels a Roguelike. To be like Rogue it needs to have RPG mechanics and hopefully turn based combat. There are some good new actual Roguelikes being updated and released like DoomRL, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, and Tales of Maj'Eyal.

Edited by BlackLagoon

I find it completely bizarre to see people who claim to like rouglikes, and then are seemingly oblivious to the central pillars of the genre like Angband, ADOM, Crawl and Nethack. It's like overhearing a conversation about notable 3rd person shooters centered around X-Com, Silent Hill and Resonance of Fate.

Roguelikes are still being played and developed y'know. Angband just hit version 3.4.0 this month. The Rogulike Developers Conference even published a guideline as to what they consider core to the genre, and most of the games you've listed fail more requirements than they meet. The devs of those games are apparently trying differentiate their works by calling them "roguelike-likes", which is pretty dumb name, but would have been sufficient if only it had caught on. Judging by all the discussion surrounding these games it obviously hasn't.

Posted by JackSukeru

Prediction: 1-2 people are going to make this thread absolutely poisonous.

Demon's and Dark Souls are definetly not roguelike, there's no randomization to the level or enemy placement, there's no point-of-no-return linearity and you don't start from the beginning once you lose your life. It's a very different experience from those other games.

Nevertheless I really enjoy the formula of these games. In a way they are the "hardcore" equivalent of "casual" games, or something in-between the two. They require some investment, but are easy to jump into whenever. They have a setup, character building, a beginning and an end, but are made to be replayable.

Posted by Brodehouse

I actually really like the randomization aspect of rogue likes, along with the heavy focus on exploration and the Everything Just Went Bad Oh God moments. I would like to see those ideas in more mainstream game genres; I've said for a while that what survival horror needs is randomized dungeons and monsters, once you've seen the same monster three times it fails to be scary. Death can restart you at your floor but reorganize the layout and the monsters. But permadeath is not something I can get behind in other genres, it makes me treat each go as if it was just another shuffle of the cards in Spider solitaire. I'm gonna drink every potion and use every wand because who cares? There's no attachment, because I don't expect to get far.

I'm sure this will come off as insane to some people, but I would play more Binding of Isaac if I could save when I finish a floor.

Posted by CptBedlam

I'm immensely enjoying FTL at the moment. So very relaxing and motivating at the same time. And probably the only game in the last ten years that made me play on "easy" first.

Posted by BoG

To who hasn't played it, Nethack is a must. I absolutely love that game, as difficult as it may be. It's so full of surprises. I'm not a gung-ho roguelike fan, so referring to these games as roguelikes isn't a huge deal in my eyes. Many of them drew from the genre as inspiration. Really, though, most of the games you listed aren't roguelikes in the same sense as Dredmor. JetPack Joyride and Temple Run don't even come close to that definition.

Posted by yeah_write

Okay, so apparently the games I mentioned should have been called Roguelike-likes. I’m sorry to those of you I offended on a deep personal level, I hope you can forgive me and overlook this grievous error.

@Abendlaender I played a ton of Isaac as well. It’s a shame it never made it to 3DS or Vita. That would be a great portable game (though they would need to add a one slot quick save--I left my computer paused with Isaac on many times because I was in the middle of what I thought was a good run).

@RockmanBionics “They are the hardcore equivalent of casual games.” ← Nailed it. That’s exactly what draws me to some of these games. They’re simple and casual, but have a punishing twist that would scare off most Facebook gamers. As for Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, I feel like what makes those games hard is the deliberate lack of direction. That’s old school in way Roguelikes are not. Roguelikes usually lay down all their rules and consequences up front, or at least make them easily discoverable. The Souls games don’t tell you anything, and then laugh in your face when you accidentally kill that shop keeper.

@Brodehouse Good point. Once a scripted jump scare has played out, it’s not likely to scare you again. I feel like the first Dead Space attempted those “everything just went to hell” moments by way of ammo scarcity. I never finished that game because I kept finding myself without ammo for my good guns and then I was backed into a corner trying to kills terrifying monsters with a pea shooter. It was extremely stressful, and a little too much for me...I’m a scary game/movie weenie.

@BoG I think some of those runner games could be considered Roguelike-likes, particularly Jetpack Joyride. You always start from square one, but the random power-ups you can get on each randomly generated run can drastically change the outcome. And I’ll check out Nethack, thanks

Edited by lazarenth

Ctrl-F "Crawl", see 2 mentions of crawl, breath sigh of relief.

It took me probably 2-3 years from the first time I played Crawl to the first time I beat it.

I went from tiles-only and clicking to ASCII online games only with vi-key controls and a certain way I had to set up my settings files otherwise the game was unbearable.

My crowning achievement was to be the first player to gain the banner for throwing the Orb of Zot into lava in the 2011(? the results site doesn't seem to exist anymore, it might have been 2010) summer tournament. For anyone not familiar with Crawl, this makes the game unwinnable at a point where victory is 90%+ assured, but I wanted to do it anyway!

Something with the mechanics of Crawl make me dislike every other old-school roguelike I try though (Angband, ADOM, Nethack) but I'm not sure why.

Edited by Snail

Well I don't know about these detailed terminologies for such games, but The Binding of Isaac is such a great, hard game.

I'm also thinking of buying FTL and will definitely buy Tokyo Jungle as soon as I can.

Say, does The Legend of Grimrock fit into that list as well? Or is that just a dungeon-crawler, and that's not necessarily the same thing as "roguelike" or "roguelike-like"? Man, the latter sounds so much like a pretentious label. Just out of curiosity.

Edited by BlackLagoon

@Snail said:

Say, does The Legend of Grimrock fit into that list as well? Or is that just a dungeon-crawler, and that's not necessarily the same thing as "roguelike" or "roguelike-like"? Man, the latter sounds so much like a pretentious label. Just out of curiosity.

No, its levels are static (not randomized), and it doesn't seem like there's true permadeath in it, so it doesn't really fit in any sort of roguelike-ish category. Its heritage is first-person, party based, real-time dungeon crawlers like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder.

Posted by pornstorestiffi

@BlackLagoon:

Man Eye of the Beholder, thats a blast from the past. That game was hard as hell, or at least thats how i remember it.

Posted by blastershift
Posted by BoG

@Snail: If you don't buy FTL, then you don't like having fun. Once you play the game, you'll see how flawless that logic is.

Edited by BisonHero

@BlackLagoon

@Snail said:

Say, does The Legend of Grimrock fit into that list as well? Or is that just a dungeon-crawler, and that's not necessarily the same thing as "roguelike" or "roguelike-like"? Man, the latter sounds so much like a pretentious label. Just out of curiosity.

No, its levels are static (not randomized), and it doesn't seem like there's true permadeath in it, so it doesn't really fit in any sort of roguelike-ish category. Its heritage is first-person, party based, real-time dungeon crawlers like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder.

Legend of Grimrock is weird, because I wanted to like it so bad, but I guess I have been spoiled by recent games that randomize dungeons, because it just seems weird that there is one static dungeon to complete and then you have no reason to play the game again because you know all of the puzzles. Also it is bullshit that the game is still quite challenging even when you use a guide to find all of the best possible equipment, because you have to min/max the fuck out of your party to have any chance later in the game.

Playing that game without a FAQ seems like a hellish nightmare designed for people who can somehow tolerate looking at the same overused art assets for like the 60 hours it would take you to solve all the puzzles by yourself.

Edited by CatsAkimbo

@yeah_write said:

Okay, so apparently the games I mentioned should have been called Roguelike-likes. I’m sorry to those of you I offended on a deep personal level, I hope you can forgive me and overlook this grievous error.

Don't worry about calling it a roguelike; giving a genre a name by using the game that made it popular is really dumb in the first place (see "DOTA-clone" or the thankfully out-of-style "Quake-clone"). Until we agree on a better name, I don't see any problem using the term to describe any difficult, randomly-generated world with permadeath and some kind of character progression. I do think randomly-generated is an important aspect though, so a game like tokyo jungle doesn't seem very rogue-like to me

The Binding of Isaac really got me into this genre. The nice thing about a lot of these games is that they have really fast progression, so you go from pretty underpowered to really buff and awesome in the span of just a few minutes. That's super appealing for someone who doesn't have the ability to sit and play games for long periods of time.

Posted by BisonHero

@yeah_write said:

Okay, so apparently the games I mentioned should have been called Roguelike-likes. I’m sorry to those of you I offended on a deep personal level, I hope you can forgive me and overlook this grievous error.

I was commenting on Kotaku for the first time in a long while, and had an insane argument with a purist who refused to bend the definition of roguelike to include anything like The Binding of Isaac or FTL. Trust me, the definition of that word is going to shift, as the number of people who are Dave-Snider levels of crazy and actually have any interest in playing games as esoteric as ToME and ADOM dwindles (don't let this thread fool you, it's already an astronomically small number of people). Games like Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac, and FTL take the same core game design philosophies but make them into a faster paced game that takes at most like 2-3 hours to finish, instead of the tedious dozens of hours more traditional roguelikes can take to make progress in.

Anyway, roguelike-like is an incredibly stupid word (though yes, people have been using it to describe FTL). May I suggest Spelunky-like? Spelunky was really well known on the indie scene for years before the XBLA version came out, and I believe the developers of both The Binding of Isaac and FTL have said in interviews that Spelunky was one of their main inspirations with its style of quick play sessions with permadeath and some degree of unlockables. We should give credit where it is due, and honestly Spelunky is far more influential to The Binding of Isaac and FTL than Rogue is, and Spelunky was actually quite original when it came out and doesn't really borrow much from Rogue either.

Edited by BlackLagoon

@CatsAkimbo said:

Don't worry about calling it a roguelike; giving a genre a name by using the game that made it popular is really dumb in the first place (see "DOTA-clone" or the thankfully out-of-style "Quake-clone"). Until we agree on a better name, I don't see any problem using the term to describe any difficult, randomly-generated world with permadeath.

I think it is a problem though, because you're miscommunicating your intent to those who are unaware of your newly made definition. I mean, until very recently I was under the impression that the Binding of Isaac was a roguelike - as in turn-based RPG. Turns out it was a single dungeon Zelda clone, one that doesn't really add anything from roguelikes aside from a simpler form of randomized map layout, considering (unless my memory is way off here) the early Zeldas didn't have in dungeon saves either. You died, you had to restart the dungeon from the beginning, same as Binding.

That's a rather tenuous premise to build a genre on, or rather - reapproriate one that already has an established and detailed definition of its own.

Edited by CatsAkimbo

@BlackLagoon said:

@CatsAkimbo said:

Don't worry about calling it a roguelike; giving a genre a name by using the game that made it popular is really dumb in the first place (see "DOTA-clone" or the thankfully out-of-style "Quake-clone"). Until we agree on a better name, I don't see any problem using the term to describe any difficult, randomly-generated world with permadeath.

I think it is a problem though, because you're miscommunicating your intent to those who are unaware of your newly made definition. I mean, until very recently I was under the impression that the Binding of Isaac was a roguelike - as in turn-based RPG. Turns out it was a single dungeon Zelda clone, one that doesn't really add anything from roguelikes aside from a simpler form of randomized map layout, considering (unless my memory is way off here) the early Zeldas didn't have in dungeon saves either. You died, you had to restart the dungeon from the beginning, same as Binding.

That's a rather tenuous premise to build a genre on, or rather - reapproriate one that already has an established and detailed definition of its own.

Binding of Isaac does have a form of RPG mechanics, though, in buffing up your character with items. There's not a level, but there are stats for hit points, attack speed, attack power, etc. It is action based though, and not turn-based.

My real point of that post was that definitions for "clone" names are crappy in the first place because they're so limiting, but they're the best we have. We really need something that's a bit more broad that includes all the games in the OP. It's like talking about Bioshock, that "quake-clone" by Irrational. Because we don't have an equivalent term like "FPS," "rogue-like" is the best, and closest term we have at the moment, even though it doesn't quite work. And no, rogue-like-like is ridiculous, and I don't see anyone seriously using that term without realizing how dumb they sound.

Also, if Super Monday Night Combat can be described as a dota-like game, or a MOBA (and I've heard it described as such numerous times), then binding of isaac and FTL should totally be able to be described as a rogue-like.

Edited by BlackLagoon

@CatsAkimbo said:

Also, if Super Monday Night Combat can be described as a dota-like game, or a MOBA (and I've heard it described as such numerous times), then binding of isaac and FTL should totally be able to be described as a rogue-like.

With MOBAs this could be solved by using MOBA as the over all genre name (including derived games like Awesomenauts and SMNC), and then Action RTS as a sub-genre of it for games that follow DOTA's RTS controls and top-down view more strictly.

EDIT: And further, if you look up the MOBA page, Awesomenauts at least (never played SMNC) fulfills all the genre tropes but top down view. While FTL and Isaac, fail a whole lot of central roguelike tropes.

Posted by legendlexicon

You guys are making me want to write a math book about the definitions of games. Think of this shift as moving from metric spaces to topological spaces. There are obvious qualities to all the aforementioned games that we want to describe. All that is necessary is to give such a definition a general enough basis that that roguelikes are specific subset of those games. Like a square being a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares.

Posted by Mento

I could've warned you from experience that creating a blog about this sort of game would draw out the pedants. Though I am with them to an extent, in that many of these newer games feel nothing like a roguelike despite sharing many gameplay similarities. While you are forced to be careful and consider your options in a game like FTL or Spelunky, death is much more a minor inconvenience than the huge bummer it tends to be in the much slower-paced RPGs that embody the "accepted criteria" of a roguelike. There's still a considerable factor of risk vs reward going on, but I'm far more inclined to pull dumb stunts in what'll almost certainly be a playthrough that can be measured in minutes, regardless of any good fortune or cautiousness keeping me alive as long as possible.

It's pretty cool from a linguistic standpoint that we have a burgeoning and very prominent new genre that no-one really has a name for, and so are either scrabbling for something that isn't quite like it but close enough to suffice as a descriptive name or are coming up with names that are just abjectly terrible (which sort of reminds me of the plight of the Metroidvania, which was also coined relatively recently). Back in the 80s and 90s, with any new genre the convention was to get to the heart of what the genre was about and then add a bunch of hyphens, like run-and-gun or shoot-'em-up. Maybe these games could be called die-and-reloads?

Moderator
Edited by Laiv162560asse

As someone who has never played a Roguelike nor has any particular affinity for the genre, it still seems fairly obvious to me that expanding the definition of 'Roguelike' just makes the term less useful and more of a meaningless buzz phrase. A design philosophy is not a genre. If someone tells me that Spelunky is an unforgiving 2D platformer they've told me something useful. Likewise if I'm told that FTL is a 2D tactical spaceship management game, then that's a useful description. But if someone tells me they're both Roguelikes, that isn't very useful. All it accurately tells me is that they have permadeath and some random-generation element, but it also leads me to assume a lot of inaccurate things about them too. At the same time, there are games that exist for which the term Roguelike can be used to tell me a lot of instant and accurate things. Why even use a genre descriptor if it's not to impart information concisely? 

Posted by Terrorbite

Off the topic of what is a rouge-like and on the topic of rouge-like recommendation, My favorite was older versions of tome when it was still Tale(or troubles) of Middle Earth, but Stone Soup is a great classic rouge-like for beginners, I highly recommend it.

Posted by SSully

Like with every other medium, genre's don't work and you are going to piss off some snob for calling some entity by the genre that they love. Fact of the matter is classing shit into genre's doesn't work because there are so many forms of iteration in these mediums that it makes the task of classing everything into a proper genre very fucking hard without sounding like an ignorant douche bag to someone. So Binding of Issac is a rogue-like, Green Day is punk, Drive is an Action movie, and Harry Potter is Sci-Fi.

Posted by yeah_write

@SSully: "Just as the industry eventually left “Doom clone” behind, I can see it doing the same with Roguelike." I think some people missed that sentence in my post? The purpose was to recommend some games that are in or around that loosely defined genre, but I've enjoyed the discussion (however snobby it may be) about what the genre should be called.

Posted by buzz_clik
Moderator
Posted by SSully

@yeah_write: I just find discussions like this never lead anywhere and have a tendency to derail threads, kind of like this.

Either way I think you hit most of the big ones. I have seen a few kickstarters recently promoting the whole rogue like feature, I am just having a hard time finding them. Either way its a trend that I am really enjoying. These kind of games are usually great for quick gaming sessions and are currently perfect for me in my life. FTL has been fantastic for killing an hour between classes.

Posted by endaround
Posted by DarkShaper

I don't think that games like The Binding of Isaac and FTL should be left out of the genre I just think we need to replace it's "Doom Clone" style name. Also I personally don't count games like Temple Run, Jet Pack Joyride, Ect. because all of those have upgrades that persist between deaths.

Posted by believer258

@BlackLagoon said:

I find it completely bizarre to see people who claim to like rouglikes, and then are seemingly oblivious to the central pillars of the genre like Angband, ADOM, Crawl and Nethack. It's like overhearing a conversation about notable 3rd person shooters centered around X-Com, Silent Hill and Resonance of Fate.

Roguelikes are still being played and developed y'know. Angband just hit version 3.4.0 this month. The Rogulike Developers Conference even published a guideline as to what they consider core to the genre, and most of the games you've listed fail more requirements than they meet. The devs of those games are apparently trying differentiate their works by calling them "roguelike-likes", which is pretty dumb name, but would have been sufficient if only it had caught on. Judging by all the discussion surrounding these games it obviously hasn't.

I don't know much of anything about roguelikes, but defining an entire genre with two kind of simple mechanics (randomization and perma-death) seems far too loose to me. Most of the games the OP listed don't seem to really fit into any genre at all. Spelunky seems like it would fit squarely into an "action-platformer-roguelike" hybrid or whatever, but everything else just seems like its own thing.

Hey, I'm not trying to be a stuck up asshole here, I don't care, but if we're going to define a genre, we've got to define a genre. You wouldn't call Skyrim a first person shooter because it's in first person and you can shoot arrows at things, would you? This seems like something similar.

Posted by prestonhedges

Pretty amazing list of all the best turn-based strategy games. Thanks!

Posted by TwoLines

@believer258: You would call Skyrim a first person action game though. I would. And I think that putting all these games in this roguelike category kinda works. they have simmilar thing going on. Not talking about mechanics here, but the spirit of the game. Randomization+permadeath+masocore elements=roguelike.

People are waaay too uptight about genre names. When I called Dark Souls a Metroidvania (I hate that name) some people fliped the eff out. Genres in video games are messed up anyway, so let's chill out guys.

Posted by impartialgecko

Makes you wonder how ZombiU with all its Rogue-like connections is going to be received.

Posted by beef_melody

Good article, OP. I'd like to recommend Tower Climbas well, it's a platformer with roguelike elements, very addictive despite only being in beta.

Posted by Daiphyer

Dungeons of Dredmor is fucking awesome.

Posted by envane

@BisonHero: yeah what you said ... this genre has been down its own rabbit hole for a long ass time , i still love me some net-hack and go back for attempts quite often , DAMN RODNEY.

but yeh , dredmor is the closest to the original "roguelike" experience , but still is pretty lamely designed with you basicly seeing everything the game has to offer on the first couple of floors , then just amplifying the stats of everything beyond that . god damn monster zoos are supposed to be INSANE , not boring as f .. anyway .. nethack definately spoiled with that expectation.

then games like ftl strike me as lazy , i mean i have played it a bunch now and i find the gameplay addictive , but the scope of the experience is ultimately too small , there really is only a certain amount of variety in what you can see (not giving up till i have that damn crystal ship however) and do , the combat seems dynamic but it all fades away when you realize the same combination of weapons/systems is always going to win over any other playstyle. if ftl was more akin to dwarf fortress with a giant sprawling proceduraly generated universe to explore , and more "endless" gameplay would actually be alot more fun , but i guess the kickstarter only paid for so much and we have to wait for someone else to copy the game to explore those avenues. mabye ftl 2 can expand on things ?

spelunky was meant to be a quick roguelike interpretation of the experience you get from playing la-mulana , the steep difficulty plateau , and the more random explorative aspect , with hidden secrets such as the city of gold etc are very much a condensed la-mulana puzzle sequence.

spelunky did it well but i feel its now just an easy out for developers to avoid putting the effort in to create a nice persistent world or reward system that isnt just a "high score" .. the games aren't actually roguelike enough to warrant it , so it feels like a cheap alternative to actually making games replayable on their own merits , not just making it extra difficult to attain any lasting progress ..

tl:dr if i hear roguelike now i instantly suspect lazy developer syndrome (let ppl tell their own story)

hack slash loot is probably a prime example of how just having the elements there but no depth = a complete and utterly boring waste of time.

we need to use the politicly on the nose term of RINO (roguelike in name only)

Posted by MikeGosot

  

Posted by Levio

@envane said:

but yeh , dredmor is the closest to the original "roguelike" experience , but still is pretty lamely designed with you basicly seeing everything the game has to offer on the first couple of floors , then just amplifying the stats of everything beyond that . god damn monster zoos are supposed to be INSANE , not boring as f .. anyway .. nethack definately spoiled with that expectation.

then games like ftl strike me as lazy , i mean i have played it a bunch now and i find the gameplay addictive , but the scope of the experience is ultimately too small , there really is only a certain amount of variety in what you can see

I agree, both of these games lacked depth. And the real crime was that they forced you through so many levels of repetitive content to see the ending.

Posted by BoG

@envane: as much as I love FTL, I have to agree about the scope. In 15 hours, I've seen just about every possible scenario. To this day, NetHack still surprises me with new and wild things. It's hard to believe that a game so old can have far more content than many of today's best games. I'm really, really, really hoping that they update the game with more content. Even if it's an expansion that cost $5, I would pay for it. I've browsed the forums, and the demand for more content is pretty high. Personally, I'd love to see more weapons, more add-ons, more scearios, and a difficulty that makes the journey longer.

Posted by EarlessShrimp

@BlackLagoon: nethack is the best game ever, that is all.

Posted by Tackchevy

So, I played Baroque on the Wii and thought it was a pretty cool, challenging, and crazy eccentric take on the genre. I may be the only person that feels that way, but I digress.

Posted by zeekthegeek

For those who want to get into 'real' roguelikes - the core of the genre - I can highly recommend stuff like TOME, DoomRL, and Stone Soup as easy to get into/understand but tough to master games. Also the obscure japanese game ELONA has SNES-like graphics that work really well.

Edited by Christoffer

So if I start a Hardcore character (permadeath) in Torchlight 2, could that be considered as a roguelike experience? It's random maps, permanent death and dungeon crawl. The only thing missing is the turn-based element.

Great read. I still need to try out Dungeons of Dreadmor. From what I've seen it looks really fun.

Posted by BlackLagoon

@Christoffer said:

So if I start a Hardcore character (permadeath) in Torchlight 2, could that be considered as a roguelike experience? It's random maps, permanent death and dungeon crawl. The only thing missing is the turn-based element.

Diablo was heavily inspired by roguelikes, the original was even grid based, leaving all Diablo-clones a direct heritage to the genre. So there's certainly basis for calling hardcore mode "a roguelike experience". Though if someone were to simply state outright Torchlight 2 was a roguelike, I don't think that would be that useful since most gamers would get a more accurate idea of what the game was about by calling it a Diablo-clone.

Posted by Daveyo520

I am very glad they are around. I am a fan and these games have been some of the funnest I have played. I am glad they came back so I can experience them.

Posted by Christoffer

@BlackLagoon said:

@Christoffer said:

So if I start a Hardcore character (permadeath) in Torchlight 2, could that be considered as a roguelike experience? It's random maps, permanent death and dungeon crawl. The only thing missing is the turn-based element.

Diablo was heavily inspired by roguelikes, the original was even grid based, leaving all Diablo-clones a direct heritage to the genre. So there's certainly basis for calling hardcore mode "a roguelike experience". Though if someone were to simply state outright Torchlight 2 was a roguelike, I don't think that would be that useful since most gamers would get a more accurate idea of what the game was about by calling it a Diablo-clone.

So I could say Torchlight is like a roguelike. Or Roguelikelike, if you will.

Just kidding, thanks for the response.

Edited by mdnthrvst

I'm glad a bunch of smart people have jumped onto this article to clear up a few common misconceptions.

People, the games he lists are mostly Roguelike-likes, and as bad as that term is, they are still not true 'Roguelikes' in any sense. A Roguelike, plain and simple, is like Rogue, and Rogue was a grid-based, turn-based, stat-based, dungeon-crawling RPG with randomized layouts and permadeath, period.

We've been playing these games for decades - NetHack, ADOM, Angband, DCSS and ToME like I mentioned, and no one was paying attention at all, except until Diablo made it real-time and removed the permadeath. But even Diablo, yes, even on Hardcore, does not meet the qualifications for a Roguelike, as its combat lacks the grid-based and turn-based foundation that defines the genre. To see a bunch of Indie new-Jacks and myopic journalists jump on the Binding of Isaac/Spelunky/FTL bandwagon deservedly gets us upset.

And here's the thing - I love all three of those games. I have 50 hours in Binding of Isaac alone, and untold hours in Spelunky. But they simply aren't the same experience as hopping into Crawl, rolling my 100th Vampire Assassin, and getting my ass blasted by a Centaur.

The only true Roguelike OP lists is Dungeons of Dredmor, and its insane blend of complete animation priority and bad character art make it mostly junk. If someone wants to jump into a very good, yet accessible entry into the genre, I'd recommend Tales of Maj'Eyal, which Dave Snider occasionally livestreamed a while ago.

  • 66 results
  • 1
  • 2