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In fiction, a dungeon is a self-contained slice of the world, filled with challenges, rewards, and stories waiting for an intrepid adventurer. They also make for great basis for video games. We’re here to present to you a list of games you can refer to when your usual tabletop RPG group bails on you, of if you want to plunder some forgotten tombs of ancient emperors.
A good dungeon will have plenty of enemies to fight or sway, it will encourage exploration, and will present challenges to the players, such as traps, blocked passages, or even faction politics. In short, dungeons are the source of experience points, loot, drama, story, and challenges. A distilled form of what many games are all about. Now that we’ve established what a dungeon and a dungeon crawl are, let’s talk about video games which feature a lot of good dungeon delving.
Baldur’s Gate 2 starts out in Irenicus’ Dungeon, a secret complex used by a powerful elf mage Jon Irenicus for furthering his schemes. It’s one of the most famous dungeon crawls in cRPGs, and an excellent beginning to a legendary game.
As the only D&D game on the list, BG2 definitely has its share of dungeons even after you win your freedom from the first one. And that’s in addition to an epic-scale storyline, lots of role-playing to be done, and plenty of ways to tinker with your character build.
Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on Joe Madureira’s 1990s comic book under the same title (sans the “Nightwar” bit), and is created by a game dev studio he founded. Which is to say it’s very faithful to the themes of the comic book, and does an amazing job turning Joe Mad’s unique art style into 3D assets.
Battle Chasers’ dungeons are built out of pre-defined rooms, which are then arranged on a grid. Like in any classic dungeon crawl, a room is a unit of progress: a puzzle to solve, a combat encounter to beat, or a piece of story. Often all at once. It’s a distilled dungeon crawl experience.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Darkest Dungeon brings horror to dungeon crawling. The heroes you hire to explore the dungeons beneath your inherited mansion are subject to intense stress. If you don’t let them unwind from time to time, they will start to suffer from any from a number of disorders.
It’s not an easy game, it’s not a simple one, but it’s tense and very satisfying, regardless of how things go. Darkest Dungeon also has a very characteristic art style, later adopted by Deep Sky Derelicts.
Diablo is one of the most famous video game series out there, and over three games it has seen its fair share of big dungeons. The very first game took the players deeper and deeper into the underground complex under a village.
By the time of Diablo III, the dungeons became much more varied, but the essence remained. Go into a dungeon, spend some time trying to survive, and come out some time later more powerful and with better equipment. It also has cooperative multiplayer, so you can a full party of adventurers to explore with.
As a game dedicated to replicating the tabletop RPG experience in a video game form, it was only natural that DOS2 would include dungeon crawls. And thanks to the way DOS2 is designed, these crawls become really interesting challenges. Much of it lies in DOS2’s simple, but competent physics engine.
It allows the players to move elements of the environment around. In turn, allowed the developers to hide switches behind paintings, create trap which a creative player can cover with a barrel or a box. There are also secret passages which a perceptive (with high Wits) character might spot. Just the stuff you’d come across in a D&D crawl.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
The first Legend of Grimrock was a neat revival of a dungeon crawler genre the way it was established by the likes of Bard’s Tale in the late 1980s. It’s a first-person perspective game, and has the player move as the entire party.
The sequel improved on many features, and presented complex dungeons for the party to conquer. There are puzzles, enemies, real-time combat, and even some riddles. If you’re a dungeon crawler video game traditionalist, that’s the game for you to check out.
Legend of Grimrock 2
As a role-playing game inspired by the classic Infinity Engine-era RPGs, having a few dungeon crawls is a must. And there are plenty of those, of all varieties. Derelict crypts, volcano lairs of weird cults, mansions of self-important wizards, there’s something for everyone.
Beyond the dungeons, PoE2: Deadfire abandons the classic quasi-European setting and takes the action to the tropical Deadfire Archipelago inspired by the Caribbean, including naval trading companies and pirates.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
Slay the Spire is unlike other games on this list. Not only because it takes place in one location: the eponymous spire, but also because of the way it’s played. It’s a turn-based deck-building game. Every action you can take is represented by a card, many of which you’ll buy or loot off the fallen enemies.
If you’ve played games like Hearthstone or Magic: the gathering before, you probably know the drill. You have a deck of cards, a certain energy pull, and you have to deal with it. The one difference is that every turn gives you a new hand, while unused cards from the previous one get discarded.
Slay the Spire
An extremely reductive way to talk about the Torchlight series, is to call it Diablo clones. It wouldn’t be entirely unfair, seeing how they play in a broadly similar way, and some of its devs are former Blizzard employees.
It’s atmosphere is significantly lighter than Diablo’s. The game is full of vibrant colour, and the protagonist even has a helpful pet. But don’t be fooled, it’s a very satisfying game, and a very number-crunchy one, if you want it to be.
Wizard of Legends is a very fun, very fast, and very satisfying rogue-like game about a young wizard trying their hand at clearing an elaborate dungeon. The dungeon is supposed to be a trial, and most of the bosses are older, more powerful wizards specialised in using a different element.
There is an incredible flexibility to the spell combinations you can come up with. So much so, that it’s unlikely that you would find the same build that someone has developed organically, instead of from a guide. it also has a nice, pixel-art style, which won’t drain your PC’s resources at all.
Wizard of Legend
Thus concludes our crawl through some of video games that feature good, satisfying, and engaging dungeon crawling, in any capacity. The list is not exhaustive, but it should provide plenty of choices, depending on what your taste in games is.