Ever since Slay the Spire has hit the markets, the genre of roguelike deckbuilders was reinvigorated. Thanks to the excellent mechanics and design of MegaCrtis’s game, players saw the potential of games that tested their patience with demanding gameplay and mechanics inspired by various real-world genres, including trading card games and tabletop RPG games.
Obviously, Slay the Spire wasn’t the first title in the honored line of roguelikes. Before and after the MegaCrit title’s success, many other games had drawn the players in with the allure of one of the most difficult genres in the industry. And in this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best of them.
Here’s our list of the best roguelikes and roguelites, otherwise known as “games like Slay the Spire.”
|Into The Breach||2018-02-27||Indie||Subset Games||90%||Read more|
|FTL Faster Than Light||2012-09-14||Adventure||Subset Games||55%||Read more|
|Invisible Inc||2015-05-12||Indie||Klei Entertainment||78%||Read more|
|Heat Signature||2017-09-21||Adventure||Suspicious Developments||87%||Read more|
|Darkest Dungeon||2016-01-19||Indie||Red Hook Studios||82%||Read more|
|Darkest Dungeon II||2021||RPG||Red Hook Studios||Read more|
|Crypt Of The Necrodancer||2015-04-23||Action & Shooter||Brace Yourself Games||80%||Read more|
|Spelunky||2013-08-08||Adventure||Derek Yu||77%||Read more|
|Rogue Legacy||2013-06-27||Adventure||Cellar Door Games||Read more|
|Hades||2019-12-10||Indie||Supergiant Games||Read more|
|Dungeon Of The Endless||2014-10-27||Adventure||AMPLITUDE Studios||95%||Read more|
|Gloomhaven||2021-10-20||Adventure||Flaming Fowl Studios||46%||Read more|
|Tales Of Majeyal||2012-12-31||Indie||Netcore Games||69%||Read more|
|Dream Quest||2014-05-15||RPG||Peter Whalen||Read more|
Into the Breach
Into the Breach offers the quintessential roguelike experience, with all the staples of the genre. Pilot powerful mechs against a race of alien monsters in this turn-based strategy game.
The key components of any roguelike are turn-based gameplay, player character permadeath, dungeon crawling, etc. Into the Breach offers most of them, making it an excellent example of a game similar to Slay the Spire. In ItB, the player controls a team of mechs, fighting against alien monsters called the Vek. The player fights the monsters across an archipelago of islands, bringing to mind the dungeon-crawling features of many roguelikes.
Unlike most of them, however, the islands have a predetermined layout, with battle scenarios occurring on them being procedurally generated in a roguelike fashion. The game’s been often positively compared to FTL: Faster than Light, which should be enough reason for the fans of roguelike turn-based strategies.
FTL - Faster Than Light
FTL takes the strategy/management gameplay into the depth of space. Manage the systems of your spaceship and fight against the enemy vessels in this complex roguelike game.
One of the roguelike genre’s main features is permadeath – the definitive end of the players’ progress, which forces them to start the playthrough from scratch. This mechanic is present in FTL: Faster Than Light. In Subset Games’ title, the player is tasked with captaining a vessel, exploring the far corners of the known space.
The game focuses on the player’s crew managing the ship’s systems, providing energy to those that need it the most. The player can move around and between sectors using beacons, but each move spends one fuel cell and causes the enemy fleet to move in closer, leading to an inevitable confrontation. Losing the space battle results in a wiped save file and having to start a new game. Players with good management skills and high resistance to frustration will find themselves right at home with what FTL has to offer.
Dive into the world of global espionage in the game inspired by XCOM’s mechanics. Lead your spies to the successful completion of their mission, minding the shrinking time window.
In Invisible, Inc., the player is put in the shoes of a handler of a group of international spies tasked with completing a series of daring missions within a given time period. The game features many mechanics common to the roguelike genre, such as turn-based character movement with limited action points per round, instances of permadeath, etc.
The game heavily focuses on stealth, achieved through careful movement, disabling alarms, and dealing with opposition as quietly as possible. If you enjoyed the tactical gameplay of XCOM, you will definitely like this venture into the world of spies.
Send your mercenary crew to carry out dangerous missions in a procedurally generated world of Heat Signature, a title that shares more than one common gameplay feature with the previous item on our list.
The main task of Heat Signature’s player is to board the traveling vessel and carry out various missions, such as stealing, assassinations, sabotage, and freeing captives. The ultimate goal of the game is liberating space stations located in different parts of the map.
The game’s world is procedurally generated and designed as a development tree – each conquered station inlocks new skills for the player to use. The game is played in real-time, but the player can pause at any moment to change the loadout of their mercs to adjust to the situation at hand. This adds a turn-based tactical element to the game, making it similar to Invisible, Inc., and XCOM.
|Developer:||Red Hook Studios|
Darkest Dungeon combines the mechanics of a dungeon crawler with turn-based RPG action. Travel down the titular dungeon and face your worst fears as your characters’ sanity slowly deteriorates.
Darkest Dungeon is a unique blend of a roguelike RPG, dungeon crawler, and survival-horror game. In DD, the players are tasked with exploring the titular dungeon, facing the monstrosities that wait within. Each encounter leaves a mark on the characters’ psyche in a system called the Affliction.
Witnessing a party member’s death, being wounded by a monster, and other terrifying events can increase the characters’ stress level. If left untended, an overstressed character might die of a heart attack. It’s something the player might want to avoid – in Darkest Dungeon, like in many other roguelikes, death is permanent.
Crypt of the NecroDancer
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
|Developer:||Brace Yourself Games|
A unique combination of a roguelike dungeon crawler and a rhythm game, Crypt of the NeuroDancer is a real treat for the players bored with the standard-issue turn-based RPGs cluttering the genre.
The unique mechanics of CoND allow the player to control their characters using not only a keyboard or a gamepad but also a dance mat. The player can only move following the played beat, with each successful move increasing the score multiplier. The game is set in four procedurally generated dungeon divided into four levels.
The player completes the level by defeating enemies and the final boss of the dungeon. However, they are limited by the length of the played song. Should the player fail to complete the level before the song ends, they are immediately transported to the next one, with no completion rewards. This provides an additional time pressure, increasing the game’s challenge – something the fans of roguelikes will surely enjoy.
If you ever wanted to play a Tomb Raider game as a roguelike, then Spelunky is the title you should definitely check out. Explore tunnels filled with artifacts, enemies, and traps, and collect as much of the treasure as you can carry.
In Spelunky, the player takes the role of a spelunker, a treasure hunter, exploring deep tunnels. As the player progresses into the procedurally generated tunnel/dungeon, they will encounter many enemies and traps, as well as find treasures and powerful artifacts. The game features permadeath, a roguelike staple, which returns the player to the start of the tunnel should they lose all health or fall into an instadeath trap.
Throughout the dungeon, the player will encounter various characters, including damsels in distress that can be rescued (doing so restores the player’s health) or merchants who trade in artifacts and useful items. The player can purchase from the merchants or try to rob them. However, attempting to steal from the merchant turns them into a powerful, boss-level enemy, so the player should think twice before trying anything shifty.
|Developer:||Cellar Door Games|
Rogue Legacy puts a unique spin on continuing the game after the character’s permadeath. Enter the procedurally generated dungeon and conquer its bosses, and let your unique descendants continue your work should you die in action.
While the gameplay of Cellar Door Games’ title follows similar gameplay patterns as other roguelikes, Rogue Legacy offers one significant mechanic that makes it stand out from the crowd. Upon death, which obviously is permanent, the player can choose a randomly generated descendant of their character to continue the game.
Said descendants are born with various conditions and genetic mutations that add unique gameplay modifications – a character born with ADHD will move faster, a descendant with dwarfism will be able to access smaller spaces, etc. While the ethical correctness of that feature is debatable, it definitely adds something new to an otherwise unremarkable but competent dungeon crawler.
An example of what genre fans call a “roguelite,” Hades features some elements of roguelike gameplay but isn’t limited by them. Explore the Underworld as the son of the titular god of death in one of the most popular games of 2020.
The discussion of what constitutes a roguelike game is as old as the genre itself. To distinguish between “actual” roguelikes and titles that only feature some elements of roguelike mechanics, a new term was coined. Roguelite games, such as Supergiant Games’ Hades, borrow certain elements of the gameplay but are not bound to them. That is why Hades plays much more like a distant cousin of Diablo than, let’s say, XCOM.
The player controls Zagreus, son of Hades, and explores the different locales of the Greek underworld, encountering enemies and friendly NPCs alike and completing quests. The game features RPG elements, with Zagreus collecting items, weapons, and skills which can be upgraded with experience points and coins. Should the player “die,” they are returned to the start of their adventure and lose any and all skills, equipment, and coins they’ve gathered during the specific quest.
Dungeon of the Endless
Lead the survivors from a crashed spacecraft towards safety in Dungeon of the Endless, a turn-based roguelike RPG with elements of tower defense.
The main feature of DotE that separates it from other similar titles on our list is the tower defense mechanic, or in this case, “carrier defense” mechanic. The player’s task is to explore the surface of a hostile planet as a group of survivors from a recently-crashed spacecraft. The player chooses two characters which they control from the start, leading them through procedurally generated dungeons filled with dangerous enemies.
After locating the exit from the dungeon, one of the survivors becomes the carrier of a crystal, which needs to be transported to the exit. The game then introduces its “tower defense” mechanics, with the player protecting the carrier against the alien onslaught. Should the crystal carrier perish, the game is over. The game features a four-player online coop mode to tackle the Dungeon of the Endless together with friends.
|Developer:||Flaming Fowl Studios|
The electronic version of a popular tabletop strategy game, Gloomhaven offers a lot of decent roguelike gameplay features, despite only being an Early Access title.
At first glance, Gloomhaven might be a by-the-books roguelike, featuring the usual mechanics of the genre, like turn-based gameplay, elements of RPG, permadeath, etc. And, if we are to be a little bit pedantic, it’s true: Flaming Fowl Studios game doesn’t come up with a bunch of new mechanics or revolutionary features.
What it does come with is the legacy. BoardGameGeek.com named the originalGloomhaven as the No.1 tabletop game of 2017. With such high commendation the, electronic version of Isaac Childres’s creation had a lot to live up to. And so far, it does. With the game still in development and new content being released, we can expect Gloomhaven to deliver a solid dose of roguelike gameplay for all the fans of the genre.
Hearthstone - Dungeon Run mode
|Genre:||Digital collectible card game|
The digital trading card game set in the world of Azeroth with roguelike mechanics? As proved by Hearthstone’s Dungeon Run mode, nothing is impossible for the geniuses at Blizzard Entertainment.
Dungeon Run is indeed quite similar to Slay the Spire. Both games feature deckbuilding mechanics, which translate quite well into roguelike gameplay. At the start of the game, the player chooses a class of cards they are going to play throughout the game.
The hands are dealt randomly, and the initial choice of class is the only one on which the player has any influence. The player’s task is to defeat a series of increasingly difficult bosses. Each victory is rewarded with new cards, including special treasure cards. The run ends after defeating the eighth boss. Dungeon Run mode came out with the Kobolds & Catacombs expansion and is a perfect choice for both the fans of dTCGs and roguelike tactical games.
Tales of Maj'Eyal
A classic roguelike RPG with not-so-classic mechanics, Tales of Maj’Eyal will satisfy both the hardcore veterans of old-fashioned roguelike and those who would rather play something more modern.
When it comes to roguelike gameplay, Tales of Maj’Eyal offers the best of both worlds for the conservative traditionalists and those not stuck in the 80s. In Netcore Games’ production, the player will encounter the usual mechanics of classic roguelikes, including the dreaded permadeath, but will also be able to stave off their effects by leveling up to receive extra lives.
The core gameplay mechanics follow the traditional turn-based RPG, featuring tactical combat and various ways of leveling up the player character. The game’s story is told in a non-linear fashion, with outcomes of events dependant on the players’ choices.
Dream Quest is proof that it doesn’t take a big budget and a studio backing to develop an interesting roguelike title. All you need is a good idea and a bit of luck in order to make a unique game.
Dream Quest follows a similar route as Hearthstone’s Dungeon Run – the title focuses on digital trading card game mechanics, embellished with some of the roguelike features you can find in other games on our list. The player explores procedurally generated, simplistic dungeons as one of 13 character classes.
When encountering an enemy, the game shows its card game roots, playing similarly to the two aforementioned titles on our list. Careful deckbuilding is important in Dream Quest as poorly chosen cards might end up dooming the player’s progress. If you’re a fan of indie roguelike games with, um, unusual graphics, then you should definitely give Dream Quest a shot.
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Combining the gameplay features of roguelike games and Metroidvania titles, Dead Cells offers a unique experience for the fans of both genres.
In Dead Cells, the player controls a cluster of cells controlling the body of a deceased prisoner, moving through procedurally generated levels, and defeating enemies standing in the player’s way. Throughout the game, the player will collect new cells to add to the cluster, offering permanent upgrades. While exploring the dungeon, the player can acquire new weapons, abilities, and host bodies for the cell cluster.
The game features boss battles compared to those of the Souls series. There are 6 bosses in total, each of them with a different pattern the player will have to learn. While the game doesn’t feature permadeath, the player will definitely have to perish several times before finally figuring out the key to defeating a specific boss.
What’s it like to play a roguelike?
What you have here is just a selection of the most popular roguelikes and roguelites currently available on the market. Admittedly, this genre isn’t the easiest to get into. Unlike AAA titles offering excellent graphics to go with the gameplay, roguelikes often look like they had been made 30-40 years ago, no matter the release year. And that, in our opinion, is a part of their charm.
Because a roguelike isn’t determined by the quality of graphics but the demanding gameplay it offers. Some of the “worst-looking” games on our list offer the most thrilling gameplay. If you’re bored by the constant handholding of the contemporary AAA games and are looking for truly challenging games, you should definitely try one of the titles on our list. You won’t be disappointed.