Top 10 Roguelikes to play in 2021

Top 10 Roguelikes to play in 2021

As we head into an era where 4k/60FPS is king, here’s top 10 games with a traditional charm that’ll keep you entertained for hours. The top 10 roguelikes for the players wanting to test their wits in order to adapt and overcome any obstacle.

Roguelikes aren’t the prettiest, nor are they the most gameplay intense – it’s just hard to compete against the blockbuster energy levels of today’s AAA releases. With fans craving newer, fresher ways to stimulate their minds, who would want to play a game priding itself on its repeatability? However, the genius of the best roguelike games is that they hardly feel repetitive at all.

10. ALTF4  

One of the wackiest roguelike 3D platformers to make an entrance in 2021. In ALTF4 you take control of an amour-clad knight who needs to make his way through a medieval-style Ninja Warrior obstacle course armed with nothing more than his trusty chicken and quick reflexes.

The physics will have you laughing maniacally as your character is flung across the map to his death. Over and over and over again.

9. Darkest Dungeon  

Going towards the edgier side of the spectrum, Darkest Dungeon is highly regarded in the hardcore circles of the genre. The art itself speaks volumes in terms of how nightmarish things can get. Despite having limited animation and assets, this game boasts a full-volume UI with plenty of interesting game mechanics.

The caveat? Most of these game elements exist to kill your virtual brotherhood. You’ll spend resources and time building your perfect team, yet quickly lose to challenging foes or a crippling insanity mechanic. As a matter of fact, your character’s mental health can make or break your experience.

8. Dead Cells  

Described by the devs as an illegitimate child of a roguelike and a Metroidvania, this game incorporates the best of both worlds. It features both the adrenaline rush of permadeath and a sense of wanderlust from complex level design.

Players will seamlessly explore a series of interconnected levels that make up a larger, sprawling world. That is, if you can mercilessly crush anything that stands in your way. The game features 13 levels, each built with handcrafted assets that offer a fresh atmosphere. There are a total of four bosses that have been manifested from the darkest recesses of the dev’s brain.

7. Downwell 

One of our favourite bite-sized games, this roguelike adventure takes a couple of minutes to complete each run. This 2015 title looks and feels retro, but don’t let that fool you. Its high-speed gameplay can only be described as thrilling and engaging, but you must also mix and match the best power-ups to boost your survivability.

Falling into an endless vertical stream, players are forced to survive by shooting or stomping their foes whilst avoiding danger. 

6. Loop Hero 

Loop Hero is a roguelike that ties a lot of different gameplay elements together. It has a bit of deck building, resource management, and city planning, all wrapped into a neat little experience.

Your character will make repetitive trips around a procedurally-generated loop. At first, a few monsters spawn which you’re character will automatically fight. Upon killing a monster, they have a chance to drop items that improve your character or deck cards. 

5. Hades  

Finally, a roguelike with art and gameplay fitting of the 21st century. Released in 2020 following its 2018 early access, this game has been polished to perfection. Despite having the visuals akin to any other contemporary release, the gameplay keeps true to the spirit of modern roguelikes. 

If art is any indication of quality, then you’re in luck.

Whilst avoiding damage, you’re forced to use a limited arsenal of abilities to hack and slash your way through randomly generated floors. Each time you progress further, you get new abilities and weapons to help you, improving variability and replayability.

4. Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer  

Shiren the Wanderer is the roguelike series that pioneered the genre in Japan. The game actually had mixed reviews upon its release — I guess Japan in 1995 just wasn’t ready for a game built around replayability. Despite having absolutely zero game mechanics fit for the 21st century, the game flaunts nothing but pure perfection in staying true to the basics.

The game truly stands against the test of time. The 1995 game was successfully ported onto the NDS in 2006 (2008 for its English release) before coming onto mobile devices in 2019.

3. Risk of Rain 2  

The original Risk of Rain was a beautifully crafted 2D platformer roguelike that followed a lone survivor battling for his life on faraway alien planets. The sequel expands on this concept and even adds an extra dimension. I mean that literally, this game is a 3D third-person shooter.

Featuring 12 locales with a myriad of monsters and vicious bosses, this game will have you expelling blood-curdling screeches of fear and excitement as they wallop your puny human butt. Take this endeavour as a lone wolf, or invite up to three of your friends to join the ride.

At this stage, the game offers up to ten playable characters, nine of which you need to unlock. Each character has its own abilities, adding a bit of diversity to your playthroughs. A central focus of the gameplay is the accrual of items through runs that modify and level up your abilities.

2. Spelunky 

Splelunky was the roguelike that brought pain to the genre. This 2008 game was originally released as a freeware for the PC, with several ports following its success. Paying homage to 1983’s Spelunker, this game kept the original motif of ‘literally anything can kill you’ and added an extra degree of precision in its keyboard controls.

Don’t let it’s cutesy visuals fool you: every step you take is a gamble between progress and death. It’s like someone took all the fun out of Mario and just spiked the difficulty scale. Yet, perhaps this is why each playthrough just feels so rewarding – even the tiniest victories grant a sense of satisfaction.

1. The Binding of Isaac  

At first glance, one might assume that The Binding of Isaac appears to be some sort of nightmarish, abominable take on the original Legend of Zelda’s top-down dungeons. Which isn’t wrong - that’s pretty much exactly how the original game was conceived in 2011. 

But swap out Zelda’s peppy elf protagonist and deliberately bespoke level design in favor of a deformed child making its way through endlessly harrowing and procedurally generated grotesque caverns and you’ll start to see how Isaac stands on its own. 

Isaac ultimately plays like a twin-stick shooter, just with dozens of passive and active power-ups to experiment with. 

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