2016’s Darkest Dungeon is an interesting title, blending the mechanics of roguelike RPGs and survival-horror games.
Each missions sends a crew of barely trained mercenaries to explore procedurally generated dungeons and fight monsters within. However, pure tactics aren’t the only thing to care about: exploring dungeons infested by dark cults and Lovecraftian abominations is a nerve-wracking job, and your people accumulate stress which, if left unchecked, can lead to all kinds of unpleasant and disruptive statuses..
In 2021, a sequel to the game entered Early Access phase over on Epic Games Store. Darkest Dungeon 2 offers a larger world to explore, reaching far beyond the original mansion and its dungeons, and blends 2D aesthetic with 3D graphics to create more complex scenes without sacrificing the series’ visual identity.
However, if you’re not keen to check DD2 right away, consider the games from the list below to play in the meantime! Most of them offer turn-based tactics, many sprinkle in a good measure of team management, and a few even play around with positioning to the same degree that DD does. Some even have a similar hand-drawn aesthetic, if you find the 2D presentation to be crucial to the experience.
While we’re all waiting for its inevitable full release, let’s take a look at…
|Deep Sky Derelicts||2017-11-15||Snowhound Games||98%|
|Ftl Faster Than Light||2012-09-14||Subset Games||61%|
|XCOM: Enemy Unknown Complete Pack||2012-10-11||Feral Interactive (Linux)||83%|
|Vambrace Cold Soul||2019-05-28||Devespresso & Headup Games||90%|
|Into The Breach||2018-02-27||Subset Games||89%|
|Legend Of Keepers Career Of A Dungeon Manager||2021-04-29||Goblinz Studio||96%|
|Urtuk The Desolation||2020-02-14||Mad Sheep Studios||10%|
|Slay The Spire||2019-01-23||Mega Crit Games||42%|
|Warsaw||2019-10-02||Pixelated Milk, Crunching Koalas||97%|
|Iratus Lord Of The Dead||2019-07-24||Unfrozen||89%|
|The Binding Of Isaac Rebirth||2014-11-04||Nicalis, Inc.|
Urtuk: the Desolation
|Developer:||Mad Sheep Studios|
Urtuk: the Desolation looks like it could be Darkest Dungeon’s isometric cousin.
It has a similar (but not wholly identical) art style relying heavily on sprites, it’s set in a dark fantasy world, and it’s turn-based, just like DD. What isn’t similar is the open-world structure letting you wherever you think you can survive, and the hex-based tactical map with a different approach to positioning.
Urtuk is much less claustrophobic than DD, opting for large maps and plenty of room for maneuvering, especially since locations are riddled with traps you can push your foes onto. Urtuk: the Desolation also features an interesting, engaging progression system, which involves extracting useful upgrades from the enemies you defeated, and gaining contextual perks.
MISTOVER isn’t particularly well-known, but worth bringing up if you’re looking for Darkest Dungeon-likes.
This little game might not be exactly as elegant as DD, but between sprite-based graphics (with a animesque aesthetic this time), turn-based battles, and exploring dungeons tile-by-tile you might find what you seek. There’s also permadeath, of course.
Mistover also features eight distinct classes drawing upon both European and Japanese archetypes. As a result a Paladin can enter battle alongside a Ronin. Each class, of course, has its own abilities, which tend to quite over-the-top, more in theme with amine-like characters than dark fantasy surroundings. It’s a curious mix, and the demo is free, so you can try before you buy.
Vambrace: Cold Soul
|Developer:||Devespresso Games, Headup Games|
Vambrace: Cold Soul is even more anime-inspired than Mistover, as far as character designs go, but it’s also a solid roguelike, so don’t let the aesthetic discourage you.
The story, which is, surprisingly, quite a big element of the game, involves a hidden underground city, extremely dangerous, frigid surface, and a clearly enchanted titular Vambrace.
The game mainly plays on two levels: the quiet moment where you move around the city as a cute, chibi-like figure, and the expeditions, which look closer to Darkest Dungeon, and feature full-size sprites of the characters you deployed. They can come from 5 different species and practice one of 10 classes, so there’s a fair bit of variety to the kinds of people joining your group.
Into the Breach
If the clever positioning elements were your favorite elements of Darkest Dungeon battles, you should absolutely look at Into the Breach.
This seemingly tiny, pixelated, mech-themed game is all about moving yourself and your enemies around the map. You’d think there wouldn’t be much room to tactical depth on a 8×8 squares map, but ItB’s depth and complexity rivals many larger games.
There’s also a permadeath, although there are ways to mitigating, since the story involves a a good deal of time travel shenanigans. Specifically: you’re sent back in time to save the Earth for a kaiju invasion. That means not only defeating the humongous beasts, but also making sure that you don’t generate a lot of collateral damage. It might seem easy, but things get complex fast.
Deep Sky Derelicts
Possibly the strongest DD alternative on the list, Deep Sky Derelicts into an unwelcoming future and put you in the shoes of a group of mercenaries exploring abandoned (or are they?) alien ships.
Between missions you can recuperate on your ship, but it won’t be long before you must go on another nerve-wracking adventure which might see some of your people permanently dead.
If you’re a Darkest Dungeon veteran, DSD will feel pleasantly familiar. Sure, you have creepy alien ships to explore instead of creepy crypts, but you still have a “dungeon” map to navigate, turn-based battles, loot management, and procedural generation to keep things fresh. On top of that, the dystopian SF setting will leave you with the same kind of gloom that DD’s Lovecraftian vibes do.
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master
|Genre:||RPG & Strategy|
Released in March of 2020, Goblinz Studio’s Legend of Keepers puts a unique spin on the genre by letting the player play against the brave explorers of dangerous dungeons.
As the title suggests, Career of a Dungeon Master has the player managing the dungeon and defending it against those who would dare to steal its treasures.
The gameplay is divided into two parts – management and combat. During management, the player can decide what kind of obstacles the adventurers will face in the dungeon, choosing various traps to hinder their progress. The combat phase allows the player to choose one of three available dungeon master classes and face the heroes in turn-based battles.
Slay the Spire
|Developer:||Mega Crit Games|
Slay the Spire is the perfect title for the fans of both roguelike dungeon crawlers and deck-building mechanics.
MegaCrits turn-based RPG puts the player in charge of a predetermined character, each starting their adventure with a limited amount of health and gold, and equipped with a relic which gives them unique abilities. The player’s task is to clear the levels of the titular spire, defeating regular enemies and end-of-the-level bosses in turn-based combat.
The core gameplay mechanics of StS is deck-building. Throughout the gameplay, the player can use ability cards, each responsible for a different skill type. The player can use them to attack or defend themselves throughout the game, and competent deckbuilding will be crucial to the player’s success in battle.
Warsaw, developed by Polish indie studio Pixelated Milk, tackles the subject of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
The developers’ choice of genre allowed them to present a unique angle on the subject, as well as implement interesting mechanics.
In Warsaw, the player controls a group of insurgents fighting in the streets of the Nazi-occupied city. The core gameplay involves turn-based tactical combat against the occupant, aiming to reclaim more and more control over the city districts. Players have a variety of character classes at their disposal, facilitating different tactical approaches to overcome the better-equipped enemy numbers.
Iratus: Lord of the Dead
Similarly to Legend of Keepers, Iratus: Lord of the Dead puts the player in the shoes of the bad guy.
Iratus is a necromancer, imprisoned ages ago in winding tunnels of an underground dungeon. To break free, he must raise his army of the undead and face those who stand in his way to freedom. The game is a combination of dungeon management and turn-based RPG, in which the player controls their minions in battle and improves their dungeon both defensively and aesthetically.
Iratus offers the player a few neat mechanics, making the gameplay much more interesting. For example, the enemies have a limited amount of morale, which can be depleted by sticking them with various undead nasties.
No morale, no will to fight. It’s almost like reverse Darkest Dungeon. Combat is turn-based; powered by the abilities of the skills of your undead soldiers. Between battles, you can use Iratus’ necromantic powers to raise more minions from the bodies of defeated foes.
A rare non-turn-based outlier on the list Hades takes the player into the world of Greek myths and legends, filled with monsters to bring down throughout cleverly designed dungeons.
The player controls Zagreus, the prince of the Underworld and son of the titular deity. As the protagonist discovers a secret about his own past, he decided to break free of the Underworld and seek answers for himself, explicitly against his father’s designs..
There are a few reasons that Hades became an unquestionable hit among the 2020 games. First of which is the game’s excellent design and gameplay, blending roguelike exploration with action-RPG combat mechanics. The story, told throughout dialogue-heavy cutscenes, was another factor.
The writers and voice actors created a cast of well-rounded, funny and/or charming characters, interactions with whom often referenced obscure bits of lore from their mythological roots. Sure, it’s not turn-based, but it’s one of the best dungeon delvers in recent years, a few quick runs can be a nice break from pondering your turns in slower games.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Rebirth is a remake of 2011’s Binding of Isaac, a top-down 2D roguelike shooter game developed by Edmund McMillen.
Rebirth was developed by Nicalis, with McMillen acting as the game’s designer. In TBoI, the player controls the titular boy, imprisoned by his devout mother, who thinks he is cursed. When Isaac finds out his mother plans to sacrifice him, he escapes to the basement, which turns out to be a winding dungeon filled with monsters.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a quintessential roguelike shooter – the player controls Isaac or one of other unlockable characters and fights monsters throughout procedurally generated dungeons. The player can also collect items to replenish health and equip different skills, as well as weapons to fight enemies and clear the path to the next section of the dungeon.
Othercide is an interesting game on our list for a few reasons.
The story of the game takes place in an alternate dimension, where a group of women called the Daughters to face off against a nebulous evil entity – the Suffering. Daughters are divided into three classes – melee Swordmaster, defensive Shieldbearer, and ranged support Soulslinger. You’ll need to learn how to utilize the class skills to great effect to survive the turn-based battles.
The interesting elements of Othercide lay within these combat mechanics. The player can use action points to attack or defend, but also for such actions as stalling the turn of their opponent or speeding up the player’s turn. Like many roguelikes,
Othercide features character permadeath, which can be undone only by sacrificing another Daughter. The revived character’s stats change after bringing them back, giving the player an incentive to experiment with mixing different characters together.
FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL combines roguelike mechanics elements with ship management and strategy gameplay.
The story is set in deep space, where the crew of a single ship is tasked with delivering crucial information to the Federation headquarters. The player must travel across eight dangerous sectors filled with enemies and randomly generated worlds, potentially hiding valuable resources to upgrade the player’s ship.
The core gameplay focuses on traveling to new sectors, dealing with whatever problems and opportunities await there, exploiting all the available resources, recruiting potential crew, and proceeding to the next sector.
They are procedurally generated, so the player can never be sure if they’re traveling towards a safe area or right into a trap. The combat mechanics involve giving out orders to the crew, distributing power to specific systems, and keeping an eye on the damage that needs to be repaired.
Rimworld might not be a roguelike RPG like Darkest Dungeon, but it does feature some of the mechanics the players of Red Hook Studios’ game might find interesting.
The game is a construction and management simulator, in which play is tasked with maintaining the living conditions of the inhabitants of the titular Rimworld – a deep space colony.
The player’s tasks are divided between expanding the colony by building new facilities, maintaining the status of the citizen, and defending the colony in case of an attack. The game follows three scenarios, but most of its content is randomly generated, with some events being specific to the scenario the player had chosen.
|Developer:||Feral Interactive (Linux)|
A classic not only amongst the roguelikes but also tactical-RPGs. Firaxis’s XCOM 2 takes the player to conquered planet Earth, where scattered resistance cells fight against the aliens occupying our planet.
As the commander of a revived XCOM soldiers, the player sends small squads of soldiers and scrappy fighters on procedurally generated turn-based missions to sabotage the schemes of alien overlords.
The key gameplay mechanic of XCOM 2 is allowing the team to sneak around and set up ambushes. Another new addition are deepened psychologies, including soldier bonds, and mounting stress levels if you don’t let your people a rest between missions. The game also features base management, setting up a network of contact with resistance cells, and reacting to new missions and opportunities popping up on the strategic geoscape.
Well, there you have it—15 games with something in common with Darkest Dungeon DD, be it turn-based combat, dungeon exploration, 2D aesthetic, or something more nebulous. While none of the games on our list are exactly like Red Hook Studios’ IP, they will serve you well before Darkest Dungeon 2 leaves Early Access and graces us all with its full verison. The games on our list will hook you on for long hours, providing plenty of turn-based and dungeon-delving excitement.