Ready to face permadeath and an ever-changing menagerie of baddies. Roguelike indie games present their own version of entertainment, especially those that have earned their place on this list, ordered in no particular way whatsoever. Just like the seemingly endless dungeons of the games ahead. And as tense as it may be, you return time, and time again.
The stench of rot and musk fills the air, clouding your senses as you traverse deeper through dimly lit passageways. You can hear the horrors slinking about, the rattling of skeleton bones and shuffling of zombie feet the only chorus since you’ve embarked on this misadventure.
The more you fight, the more they amass, gathering to cut you down where you stand. If you’re a fan of the roguelike subgenre of role-playing games, then you know this scenario all-too-well.
Top 6 Roguelike Indie Games of all time
We spent so much time battling the Gods of Olympus in God of War that it’s a little odd to see them on our side in Hades. Alas, Zeus, Athena, and company join the Prince of the Underworld. The mission is seemingly simple yet impossible: defeat the titular God of the Dead.
Hades blends hack ‘n slash gameplay with the role-playing elements and exploration of a roguelike seamlessly. It’s an unending action-packed romp through incredibly detailed and ever-changing levels.
A host of special abilities and weapons are at your disposal as you cut through hordes of mythological beasts, exploring vast dungeons guarded by powerful bosses. Slay them, and they’ll only remember you on future playthroughs, ensuring your quest is far more difficult.
Hades is both bold and beautiful, promising an experience that’s meant to be replayed.
Dead Cells isn’t your traditional roguelike indie game. It’s actually quite a few genres mixed into one, which will appeal to many while driving other players away. Pegged as a RogueVania by developer Motion Twin, Dead Cell draws inspiration from the classic Metroidvania subgenre and dungeon crawlers. And just because they could, Motion Twin added a touch of Dark Souls through combat that requires a lot of patience and thought.
Dead Cells unfolds on a 2D plane as players battle their way out of an island prison and through citizens afflicted by The Malaise plague. Gameplay plays off the 90-plus weapons, which require meticulous control to master. One wrong press of a button, and you’ll return to the depths of the prison with a ton of work ahead of you.
Dead Cells is a stylish and unique experience that takes the best of multiple genres to create a title worthy of ample praise.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Developer Subset Games describes FTL: Faster Than Light as a “spaceship simulation roguelike-like” experience. Realistically though, it’s literally unlike anything you’ve played before. As the captain of a spaceship, you’re in complete control. Your crew will do as you order, even if it means a potentially grizzly end. The randomly generated galaxy offers opportunities for glory and death all the same. It’s up to you to determine which lies ahead.
FTL isn’t your traditional roguelike, but it houses many of the expected elements. For instance, one slip up, and you’ll quickly understand the concept of permadeath. There are no second chances, which means you’ll have to scrutinize every decision. This is exacerbated by the unfamiliarity of space, from the unusual alien races you’ll encounter to the advanced technology.
In FTL: Faster Than Light, you’ll need to consider every choice like it may be your last. Because it very well may be.
The Binding of Isaac
Can you deal with disturbing visuals, toilet humor, and the tragic story of a child escaping becoming a sacrifice to God? Then The Binding of Isaac is absolutely a dungeon crawler you’ll want to play. Developers Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl made sure every playthrough of The Binding of Isaac is unique with randomly generated dungeons, enemies, bosses, items, and power-ups.
There is nothing too complex about Isaac’s trek through enemy-infested dungeons. The game does have a growing difficulty that’s sure to challenge you in later dungeons. Depending on how far you get, you’ll be treated to one of many conclusions that spell a different end for the titular character.
They’re strange, to say the least. Though as they say: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” And this is one hell of a strange, must-play journey for sure!
It’s sound advice, sure, but it’s probably not really something you need to be told. A better warning would be about the strange and unusual denizens of Don’t Starve’s abnormal, procedurally generated world. Not only do you have to deal with a monster hiding in the shadows waiting to cut your exploration short. You also have to traverse the dangerous lands with nothing but your wits.
Don’t Starve steps away from roguelike elements with a survival experience that requires players to manage health, hunger, thirst, and sanity. If any of them deplete, then it’s surely the end of the line. However, players can tackle all four through a robust crafting mechanic that uses materials from the world to create necessary survival tools.
Like any good roguelike, Don’t Starve doesn’t allow second chances. Once you’re dead, everything you’ve accomplished is lost.
Video games don’t often tackle the subject of the mental strain being an adventurer can put on you. It’s always focused on the physicalities of being a hero. Red Hook Studios opted to change things up with it’s groundbreaking Darkest Dungeon.
Players control a team of unexpected heroes, many of them flawed, as they battle their way through terrifying monstrosities. Every encounter slowly chips away at their sanity, making them a liability during future encounters. Darkest Dungeon features turn-based combat, procedural dungeons, and permadeath. Fail to keep a hero alive, and you’ll lose them forever.
Darkest Dungeon is presented in a unique style that lends to the grittiness of a true roguelike, where absolute death is around every corner.
Truly, there are many dungeons to explore and villains to vanquish across the entire roguelike subgenre. Choosing which to take on from this list of the best roguelike indie games will ensure an experience that you’ll want to revisit time and time again.
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