Rogue-like games have been gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason. These challenging, procedurally generated games offer a unique blend of gameplay and storytelling that keeps players coming back for more. We will explore what makes rogue-like games so special and provide a guide for understanding and enjoying the genre.
What are Rogue-like Games?
Rogue-like games are a subgenre of action-adventure games. Randomly generated levels, permadeath, and turn-based gameplay are unique characteristics of these games. The term “rogue-like” appeared in the early 1990s. It refers to the original game Rogue, released in 1980.
One of the defining features of rogue-like games is the use of procedurally generated levels. Each time the game starts, the levels, enemies, and treasures are random. The player never knows what to expect. The uncertainty keeps the game challenging every time.
Another defining feature of these games is permadeath. The game ends if the player dies. The player weighs the risks and rewards of each decision. This adds a sense of tension and urgency.
Types of Rogue-like Games
While all rogue-like games share certain features like procedurally generated levels and permadeath, there are several subgenres within the genre. Two of the most popular subgenres are rogue-lites and metroidvanias.
Rogue-lites are rogue-like games that feature more forgiving gameplay. While the player still has permadeath, they may also save their progress or unlock new characters or items that are carried over for future playthroughs. Examples of rogue-lites include Rogue Legacy and Spelunky.
Metroidvanias are rogue-like games with a non-linear open-world structure. It often includes elements of exploration and platform games, with upgradeable weapons and abilities. Examples of metroidvanias include Dead Cells and Hollow Knight.
Popular Rogue-like games
Dead Cells (2017)
Dead Cells is an action-platformer video game developed and published by Motion Twin. They released the game in 2017 for Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and iOS.
The player controls a zombie named “Dead Cells” who has come back to life. Then they must navigate through a series of randomly generated levels while fighting off enemies and collecting items and weapons. The game features fast-paced combat, a variety of weapons and abilities, and challenging boss battles.
One of the main features of the game is its permadeath mechanics, meaning that when the player dies, they must start the game over from the beginning, but also keeping some upgrades and weapons from previous runs.
The game received positive reviews from critics, who praised its solid controls, challenging difficulty, and re-playability. It got nominated and won several awards for its art and game design.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (2014)
This is an indie game developed and published by Edmund McMillen and Nicalis. Released in 2014, it is a remake of the 2011 game “The Binding of Isaac” with additional content. It’s available on Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch.
The fans and critics loved the game for its unique blend of rogue-like gameplay, challenging difficulty, and dark humor.
One of the unique things about the game was its large variety of items and power-ups, with unique defining strengths. These items allowed players to customize their play-style and experiment with different strategies, adding to the replayability of the game.
Another fan-favorite aspect of the game was its randomly generated levels, which ensured that each playthrough was unique and kept the game fresh. The game’s art style is also a fan-favourite, with a distinct, dark and twisted 2D graphics, inspired by McMillen’s previous work. The game’s soundtrack and the voice acting for the protagonist, Isaac, was one of the critical factor, adding to the game’s atmosphere and humor.
Hollow Knight: Silksong (2022)
This game is an action-adventure game that is the highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed “Hollow Knight” that was released in 2017. Team Cherry developed and published the game.
This game was an absolute masterpiece, filled with breathtakingly beautiful hand-drawn art, an incredible world to explore, and an epic story to uncover. Players play as Hornet on an epic journey through a vast interconnected world. You’ll come across an array of deadly enemies, challenging bosses, and hidden secrets.
The game features fast-paced and fluid combat. It made it even more challenging and satisfying than the first game. You’ll have access to many abilities and weapons, with its unique play-style and combos to take down your enemies.
Hollow Knight is also a very replayable game, with a variety of endings to discover, and a huge world full of secrets, hidden paths/shortcuts, and new characters to encounter. It’s sure going to be an unforgettable experience for the fans.
Enter the Gungeon (2016)
A bullet hell dungeon crawler game developed by Dodge Roll and published by Devolver Digital. They released it in 2016 for Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
The game became popular for its unique blend of fast-paced, challenging gameplay, and its retro-inspired art style. The game features a variety of weapons and items that players can collect. Players must navigate through randomly generated levels while fighting off hordes of enemies and bosses.
One of the key features of the game is its high replayability, because of the random generation of levels and weapons, as well as the high difficulty level. The game also features a variety of characters to play as with their own unique strengths, play-style, adding to the replayability.
Players loved the game’s humor, style and its mechanics of dodge rolling, and bullet-hell gameplay, and it also has a big modding community that adds new content and features to the game.
Overall, “Enter the Gungeon” became popular because of its unique blend of gameplay mechanics, challenging difficulty, and replayability, as well as its retro-inspired art style, humor and its active modding community.
Slay the Spire (2017)
A deck building game that was developed and published by MegaCrit. They released the game in 2017 for Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
In the game, players take on the role of a character climbing a spire, fighting through a variety of enemies and bosses while collecting powerful cards to build up their deck. The game combines elements of deck-building and rogue-like games, with randomly generated levels and permadeath mechanics.
Critics and players praised its unique blend of gameplay mechanics, challenging difficulty, and replayability. Fans consider it as one of the best rogue-like games in recent years. Being nominated for several awards, it won several awards for its art and game design, and for its innovation in deck building games.
Slay the Spire also has an active modding community that adds new features and cards to the game, making it even more replayable.
Risk of Rain 2 (2020)
A 3D game developed by Hopoo Games and published by Gearbox Publishing. It released in 2019 in early access and officially released in 2020 for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and macOS.
The story begins in a fictional universe. Humanity has developed teleportation technology to explore different planets. The story follows a group of survivors stranded on a mysterious planet. They must fight off hordes of alien creatures while trying to escape.
Players encounter various personalities and their extraordinary backstory throughout the game. The game features some environmental storytelling as well. Items, clues and trivia can be found in the game about the civilization that existed on the planet.
Hades is an action role-playing game developed and published by Supergiant Games. It released as Early Access in 2018 and officially released in 2020 for Microsoft Windows and Nintendo Switch.
The game is very popular and has a dedicated player base. It has received many awards, including the title of “Best Indie Game” at The Game Awards 2020. I have always praised it for its tight gameplay, challenging difficulty, and engaging story.
One of the main strengths of the game is its story. The game tells the story of Zagreus, the Prince of the underworld, who is trying to escape from the underworld and reach the surface, in order to meet his mother, Persephone. The story is told through interactions with various characters, including the Greek gods, and is full of twists, turns, and emotional moments.
The final boss fight is the most emotional and intense scene in the game. I consider it to be one of the best final bosses in recent years, both in terms of gameplay and storytelling. The events in the game culminated in the fight with the final boss.
It is one of the best rogue-like games of recent years and is still popular in 2023, with an engaging story, tight gameplay, and challenging difficulty.
Darkest Dungeon (2016)
Red Hook Studios developed/published this RPG game. They released it in 2016. It’s available for Windows and other platforms. Critics and players love this game for its challenging gameplay, engaging story, and unique art style.
The developers set the game in a gothic-inspired fantasy world, where players must lead a team of heroes through a series of procedurally generated dungeons, fighting off hordes of monsters and bosses while managing their heroes’ mental and physical states.
The game’s core mechanics revolve around the stress of the character you control. The character experiences mental strain as they explore the dungeons. Players must manage the stress levels, as well as their physical health, to keep them from becoming too stressed or ill and unable to continue on their journey.
The game features a variety of characters, classes and enemies. All of them have their unique abilities, backstories and voice-overs. The mixture adds to the atmosphere of the game. It also has an active modding community, adding new items and features to the game. All of this makes for an entertaining game.
Deadly Tower of Monsters (2016)
This is a 2016 action-adventure video game developed by Ace Team and published by Atlus. It is a parody of science fiction and fantasy B-movies from the 1950s to the 1970s.
In the game, players control Dick Starspeed, a stranded astronaut on a distant planet. He has to fight his way up a tower filled with monsters and other hazards. Players encounter a variety of characters, including the robot El Robo and the alien princess Scarlet Nova.
It features fast-paced, hack-and-slash combat, with diverse weapons and abilities. The game also packs many monsters, with their own unique skills and weaknesses. Some monsters are parodies of famous monsters from movies of the past, like giant ants, robots, and giant apes.
The game also features a variety of boss battles, which are challenging and require players to use different strategies to defeat them.
The science fiction and fantasy B-movies heavily influenced the game’s art style from the 1950s to the 1970s, with a lot of colorful, cartoonish visuals and a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor.
How to Enjoy Rogue-like Games
One of the best ways to enjoy games is to embrace the challenge and uncertainty. The player shouldn’t expect to win on the first attempt. Instead, players should focus on learning from each playthrough and improving their strategies.
Another way to enjoy these games is to experiment with different play styles. Each game in the genre has its own unique mechanics and systems, and players should try different approaches to see what works best for them.
Rogue-like games are a unique and challenging genre for gamers. They offer a variety of gameplay experiences with high replayability. Even a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to the genre can find something to enjoy. So, are you ready to embrace the challenge?