Resurgence of Traditional Turn-Based Roguelike Games

Hello there, fellow adventurers and dice rollers! Isn’t it just bewilderingly fantastic how the gaming landscape constantly shape-shifts like a pixelated polymorph trying to fit into an ASCII dungeon grid?

One moment we’re knee-deep in high-definition, open-world sagas, the next, we’re resuscitating a bit of ol’ turn-based magic from the antiquated catacombs of gaming lore.

Surprisingly, (or not, for those dyed-in-the-wool, nostalgic enthusiasts among us) traditional, turn-based roguelike games are making a splendidly triumphant return. Now, why would that be? Let’s plunge down the pixelated rabbit hole, shall we?

Origins of the Roguelike Genre

If we’re going to embark on this epic quest for understanding, it’s only fair we begin at the cryptic roots. And where better to start than with the wonderfully classic “Rogue”? This much-loved piece of gaming history, with its fiendishly challenging gameplay and text-based charm, was the spark that ignited a whole sub-genre, cunningly named ‘roguelike’.

Rogue wasn’t simply a game; it was a raw, adrenaline-pumped survival test of wits and luck. With the arrival of early graphical versions like “Moria”, “Angband”, and, my personal favourite, the proverbial rabbit hole of complexity – “NetHack”, the genre escalated swiftly from its humble ASCII beginnings.

Key Elements of Traditional Roguelikes

For the uninitiated, the term ‘roguelike’ can sound perplexingly strange, almost like an inside joke among veteran gamers. But fear not, it’s simpler than it seems.

Traditional roguelikes possess a cornucopia of distinctive features. Procedural generation? Check. Turn-based combat? Double check. Grid-based movement? Triple check. Permanent death? Quadruple check… and then some. These are the very elements that make roguelikes a heart-throbbingly thrilling and unpredictable experience.

Why the Resurgence?

Alright, so we’ve danced around the question long enough. Why this fascinating resurgence? In a time when photorealistic graphics and vast, sprawling worlds are all the rage, why are these simpler, quirkier games climbing back up the popularity ladder?

The answer lies in their strategic depth and unique narrative-building potential. With each playthrough crafting its own distinctive story, every step, every turn, every last breath becomes a critical decision – a dance with Lady Luck herself. Plus, the sheer variety within this roguelike Renaissance allows for a banquet of gaming tastes to be tantalizingly tickled.

Where, you may ask, can one partake in such sumptuous, strategic feasts? Look no further, because there are five captivating examples of modern roguelikes that certainly deserve our star-studded attention.

First off, we’ve got “Caves of Qud”. Now this is a game that doesn’t just pay homage to its roots, it positively revels in them. It uses an innovative procedural generation technique known as the “Wave Function Collapse” algorithm to spawn its infinitely varied, post-apocalyptic world. It’s pure, unadulterated old-school magic.

Next up is “Cogmind”. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like an adaptable robot rummaging through an underground facility, this is your game. Its unique approach to the roguelike genre is so refreshing that even after countless deaths, you’ll be rebooting for another go.

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Now let’s not forget about “Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup”. This delightful romp offers a beginner-friendly approach without skimping on the strategic depth that makes roguelikes so addictively tasty. It’s like dipping your toes into the genre, but instead of a pool, it’s a massive, monster-filled, many-levelled dungeon.

Then we have “Tales of Maj’Eyal”, or ToME for short. With its class and skill system, it adds an extra layer of strategy that appeals to all the careful planners and tacticians out there. Remember, it’s not just about survival, it’s about building a legacy!

Lastly, the wonderfully enigmatic “UnReal World”. This roguelike takes the genre to a new dimension – the dimension of survival simulation set in Iron-Age Finland. It’s not just the beasts and brigands that are out to get you, it’s the very world itself!

Tower of Gates: a Roguelike Revolution

In the throng of modern roguelikes, one gem gleams with a peculiar radiance – “Tower of Gates” by LitRPG author, Paul Bellow. Straying from the traditional paths, this game sails boldly into uncharted waters.

Utilizing state-of-the-art AI technology, “Tower of Gates” implements ChatGPT and DALL-E2 to create a unique gaming experience. ChatGPT is used to fuel interactive and dynamic storytelling, providing players with immersive dialogue and decision-making options.

DALL-E2, meanwhile, works its magic by generating a myriad of diverse, eye-catching in-game visuals.

The convergence of these advanced AI technologies results in a game that doesn’t just challenge your strategic skills but also pushes the boundaries of immersion in roguelikes.

Unraveling the Complexity of “Tower of Gates”

What sets “Tower of Gates” apart is not merely its revolutionary use of AI. This game leans into the genre’s traditional turn-based gameplay, adding an extra layer of strategic depth and complexity.

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In “Tower of Gates”, you must meticulously plan your steps and anticipate enemy moves. The game captures the unforgiving challenge of roguelikes, where every choice can mean the difference between glorious victory or crushing defeat.

It’s a testament to the adaptability of roguelikes, a genre that can embrace modern technology while staying true to its roots. “Tower of Gates” is a shining example of the continuing evolution of roguelikes, and an affirmation of their enduring appeal in the ever-changing landscape of gaming.


Reflecting on this enduring genre, it’s intriguing how its core principles – procedural generation, permadeath, grid-based movement, and turn-based combat – have proved so timeless. The roguelike genre, much like the mythical phoenix, continually rises from its own ashes to offer us new, exciting forms.

It’s not just about those snazzy, high-definition graphics or the sweeping epic narratives. Sometimes, it’s about stepping into the dark unknown, one turn at a time, and creating a story of triumph and tragedy that is uniquely your own. Here’s to the glorious, never-ending resurgence of roguelikes, and to all the marvelous adventures yet to come!

Paul Bellow

LitRPG Author Paul Bellow

Paul Bellow is a LitRPG author, gamer, RPG game developer, and publisher of several online communities. In other words, an old school webmaster. He also developed and runs LitRPG Adventures, a set of advanced RPG generators powered by GPT-3 AI. Here at LitRPG Reads, he publishes articles about LitRPG books, tabletop RPG books, and all sorts of DND content that's free to use in your personal tabletop campaign - i.e. non-commercial use. Enjoy your stay and reach out on Twitter or Discord if you want to make contact.

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