The turn-based roguelike genre has captivated players for decades, providing a unique blend of strategy, exploration, and unpredictable challenge. As each year passes, new titles emerge that expand upon the classic formula, introducing innovative mechanics, engaging narratives, and a richness of content that keeps the genre fresh and exciting. In 2023, the landscape of turn-based roguelikes has grown even more diverse, reflecting a golden age of design where developers both large and small are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
This selection of games showcases the very best of what turn-based roguelikes have to offer in 2023. From the brutal and thought-provoking Broken Bottle to the evergreen classics like NetHack, these titles represent a wide range of themes and gameplay experiences. Whether you’re new to the genre or a seasoned explorer of digital dungeons, the following games provide endless hours of entertainment and challenge.
What sets these titles apart is not only their adherence to the core principles of turn-based gameplay and procedural generation but also their willingness to experiment and evolve. The innovation displayed in mechanics, storytelling, and visual design ensures that each game offers a unique journey, capturing the essence of what makes roguelikes endlessly replayable and engaging.
Now let’s delve into the 10 best turn-based roguelikes of 2023, exploring the depths of virtual worlds that offer both a nostalgic nod to the past and a bold step into the future. From post-apocalyptic landscapes to mythical realms, these games are a testament to the creativity and passion that continues to fuel one of gaming’s most enduring and beloved genres, including the newer multiplayer roguelike genre.
10: Broken Bottle
In the world of turn-based roguelikes, Broken Bottle stands as a poignant and unsettling exploration of alcoholism and brutality in a post-apocalyptic setting. Created for the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge 2011, this game has continued to resonate with players for its unflinching portrayal of addiction and its consequences. The gameplay is what you would expect from a traditional ascii roguelike. The game design often reflects the harsh and unforgiving nature of the world it depicts.
The game’s mechanics are cleverly interwoven with its theme. As you navigate the wasteland, battling enemies and scavenging for resources, the constant battle with addiction becomes a central part of the experience. Choices regarding consumption, withdrawal, and survival are deeply interconnected, making each decision a weighty one. It’s a game that doesn’t shy away from dark and mature themes, creating an immersive and thought-provoking experience. Darren Grey of Roguelike Radio did a great job here.
Despite its simplicity, the game manages to evoke powerful emotions, driving home its narrative with raw and uncompromising gameplay. While it may not be for everyone, Broken Bottle’s uniqueness and depth make it a standout title in the roguelike genre, deserving of recognition and exploration. You can tell a lot of love went into this game despite being made in only seven days.
Tangledeep is a celebration of 16-bit graphics and classic RPG gameplay, infused with modern design sensibilities. The game draws inspiration from the golden age of SNES-era role-playing games, delivering a visually stunning and deeply satisfying experience that appeals to both newcomers and veteran roguelike enthusiasts.
The game’s core mechanics are centered around exploration, combat, and character development. With a variety of different job classes to choose from and an intricate skill system, Tangledeep offers a high degree of customization and strategic depth. Procedurally generated levels ensure that each playthrough feels fresh, with new challenges and treasures awaiting players at every turn.
Tangledeep’s charm extends beyond its gameplay, with beautifully crafted pixel art and a captivating original soundtrack. The game’s world is rich in lore and filled with intriguing characters and side quests, providing a rewarding experience that keeps players engaged for hours on end. Whether you’re drawn to its nostalgic aesthetic or seeking a challenging and strategic adventure, Tangledeep stands as a shining example of how the roguelike genre can adapt and thrive in the modern gaming landscape.
8: Jupiter Hell
Jupiter Hell is a sci-fi roguelike that transports players to the demon-infested moons of Jupiter, where survival is a constant battle. With a nod to classic titles like Doom, the game marries traditional roguelike mechanics with modern visuals and an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack. Fast-paced and brutal, Jupiter Hell demands strategic thinking and quick reflexes.
Procedural generation keeps each playthrough fresh, as players navigate the hostile terrain, taking on demons and other horrors with a variety of weapons and abilities. The game’s unique take on turn-based combat adds to the tension, with enemies moving simultaneously in response to the player’s actions. This mechanic creates a dynamic flow, balancing tactical decision-making with relentless action.
Jupiter Hell’s atmospheric design and compelling gameplay have earned it praise within the roguelike community. From its detailed 3D environments to the immersive sound design, every element works in harmony to create a visceral and engaging experience. For those seeking a roguelike with intensity, polish, and a unique thematic twist, Jupiter Hell is a must-play.
7: Golden Krone Hotel
Golden Krone Hotel offers a fresh and engaging take on the roguelike genre, presenting players with a world where they must navigate the delicate balance between human and vampire forms. Set within the confines of the mysterious Golden Krone Hotel, the game challenges players to ascend its haunted floors, battling both monstrous foes and their inner demons.
What sets Golden Krone Hotel apart is its unique light and shadow mechanics, where illumination plays a key role in gameplay. Players must master the use of light to defeat vampires, all while being mindful of their transformation into vampiric form. This dichotomy adds layers of strategy, as players must juggle their dual nature, each with its distinct abilities and weaknesses.
The game’s pixel art aesthetic and atmospheric sound design complement its innovative gameplay, creating an environment that is both eerie and enchanting. With multiple classes, branching paths, and a rich lore to explore, Golden Krone Hotel offers depth and replayability that keeps players returning for more. Its unique blend of traditional roguelike elements with innovative mechanics makes it a standout title that offers a fresh and memorable experience.
Soulash is a fantasy roguelike that invites players into a world on the brink of destruction. As a forgotten god seeking to regain lost power, players embark on a journey of conquest and revenge. The game’s open world is teeming with life, filled with various factions, creatures, and mysteries to explore, providing a playground for destruction or domination.
The game’s mechanics emphasize freedom and creativity, allowing players to approach situations in various ways. From forging alliances to decimating entire villages, choices carry significant weight and consequences, shaping the world and the player’s path through it. The crafting system and environmental interactions further deepen the experience, adding layers of complexity to both combat and exploration.
Soulash’s handcrafted art and attention to details with worldbuilding both create an immersive and nostalgic experience. The combination of classic roguelike aesthetics with innovative gameplay mechanics has resonated with players, earning Soulash praise for its depth, challenge, and creativity. It’s a title that offers both a tribute to the roguelike tradition and a unique voice within the genre.
5: Ancient Domains Of Mystery (ADOM)
Ancient Domains Of Mystery, widely known as ADOM, is a legendary title in the roguelike genre. This game has captured the hearts of fans for decades with its deep, procedurally generated worlds and intricate gameplay mechanics. Players find themselves in the land of Ancardia, where they must navigate dungeons, forests, and caves in a quest to stop the forces of Chaos.
ADOM offers an immense variety of character options, quests, and gameplay paths, allowing for countless hours of exploration and discovery. The game’s complexity is both a challenge and a reward, as players must learn to navigate its systems to succeed. With a multitude of races, classes, and alignments to choose from, ADOM offers an unparalleled depth of customization and replayability.
The game’s legacy and ongoing development have ensured that it continues to thrive and evolve. New content, updates, and a dedicated community have kept ADOM at the forefront of the roguelike scene, making it a must-play for both newcomers and longtime fans of the genre. Its rich history, complex gameplay, and expansive world make it a standout experience that continues to inspire and entertain.
4: Tales of Maj’Eyal (TOME)
Tales of Maj’Eyal, often referred to as TOME, is a celebrated title within the roguelike community, blending traditional mechanics with innovative features that make it accessible to new players while retaining depth for veterans. Set in the rich world of Eyal, players can delve into numerous dungeons, explore vast landscapes, and unravel the lore that underpins this captivating universe.
TOME’s standout feature is its robust class and talent system, allowing for a plethora of character customization and development options. With dozens of races and classes to choose from, each with unique abilities and playstyles, the possibilities are nearly endless. The game also introduces an engaging story, a rarity in the roguelike genre, which provides context and motivation for the player’s journey.
The commitment to ongoing development, free expansions, and a lively modding community has kept TOME fresh and engaging over the years. Its graphical tileset, intuitive interface, and wealth of content make it an excellent entry point for those new to roguelikes, while still providing a deep and challenging experience for seasoned players. TOME stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of the roguelike genre, blending tradition with modernity in a compelling and accessible package.
3: Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (DCSS)
Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, or DCSS, is a classic in the roguelike genre, known for its complexity, balance, and endless replayability. Players descend into the perilous Dungeon, facing a myriad of foes, traps, and challenges in their quest for the coveted Orb of Zot. The journey is fraught with danger, but the game’s intricate mechanics and strategic depth keep players coming back for more.
DCSS offers a wide variety of species and backgrounds to choose from, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. This diversity, coupled with procedurally generated levels and intelligent enemy AI, ensures that no two playthroughs are the same. Tactical decisions, resource management, and careful exploration are key to survival, making every victory hard-earned and satisfying.
The game’s active development team and community contribute to its enduring appeal, with regular updates introducing new content, balancing, and enhancements. The traditional ASCII graphics can be augmented with graphical tiles for those who prefer a more visual experience. DCSS’s challenging gameplay, depth of content, and dedicated community make it a must-play for anyone seeking a pure and rewarding roguelike experience.
NetHack, a true titan in the roguelike genre, offers an experience that has captivated players for generations. First released in 1987, the game’s depth, complexity, and sheer variety of interactions and outcomes have made it a classic that continues to be played and revered today. Players embark on a quest to retrieve the Amulet of Yendor, facing an unpredictable and challenging journey that will test their wit and skill.
What sets NetHack apart is its astonishing level of detail and the almost endless ways players can interact with the game world. Every item, creature, and environment has been meticulously crafted to allow for unique interactions and strategies. From taming and riding various creatures to discovering secret interactions between objects, the game is filled with surprises and opportunities for creativity.
NetHack’s community is a testament to its enduring appeal, with active development, forums, and a plethora of user-generated content that continues to enrich the experience. While its ASCII graphics and complex interface may seem daunting to newcomers, those who take the time to delve into NetHack’s labyrinthine depths will find a rewarding and unparalleled gaming experience that truly embodies the spirit of the roguelike genre.
Dungeonmans takes the roguelike formula and injects it with a dose of humor, accessibility, and style. The game’s vibrant graphics and lighthearted tone provide a welcoming entry point to the genre, without sacrificing the depth and challenge that veterans seek. Players take on the role of a Dungeonmans, a hero embarking on a journey filled with danger, loot, and no shortage of tongue-in-cheek humor.
The game features a unique overworld system, where players can explore various dungeons, each with its own theme and challenge level. The character progression is satisfying, with plenty of options for customization, and the game’s mechanics encourage experimentation and discovery. The death of a character also contributes to the progression of future heroes, adding a layer of strategy and continuity to the game.
Dungeonmans’ blend of traditional roguelike gameplay with modern design sensibilities has earned it praise and a dedicated fanbase. The game’s approachable nature, combined with its challenging content and engaging humor, makes it a standout title that appeals to both newcomers and seasoned roguelike enthusiasts. Whether you’re in it for the loot, the laughs, or the thrill of exploration, Dungeonmans delivers an unforgettable adventure.
We’ve left out so many great games, but here’s three more to keep you entertained.
3: Dungeons of Dredmor
Dungeons of Dredmor offers a humorous and approachable take on the roguelike genre. With its quirky art style and whimsical humor, the game provides a lighthearted yet challenging experience. Players explore the randomly generated dungeons, battling bizarre creatures, and discovering all manner of odd items and spells. Its intuitive interface and engaging gameplay make it a favorite among newcomers and seasoned roguelike fans alike.
2: Rogue Empire
Rogue Empire brings a blend of traditional roguelike elements and modern design to create an engaging and accessible experience. The game features an overworld map with various biomes, cities, and dungeons to explore, allowing for a more expansive adventure. Its streamlined mechanics, rich lore, and well-balanced gameplay provide a satisfying journey that appeals to both veterans of the genre and those looking to explore it for the first time.
1: Caves of Qud
Caves of Qud is an open-world roguelike that immerses players in a rich, post-apocalyptic science fantasy setting. The game stands out for its complex world-building, deep lore, and intricate systems. Players can explore ancient ruins, interact with various factions, and even modify their character’s body with cybernetic implants. The game’s combination of traditional roguelike mechanics with a unique and detailed world makes it an experience like no other in the genre.
The roguelike genre has a rich history, deeply rooted in the traditions of complex mechanics, procedural generation, and permadeath. Its influence can be felt across the gaming landscape, and the titles listed above demonstrate the genre’s ability to evolve and flourish. From classics like NetHack that continue to challenge and inspire, to innovative newcomers like Dungeonmans that inject fresh ideas and accessibility, roguelikes provide a diverse array of experiences for all types of players.
What makes these games stand out is not just their adherence to genre conventions, but their willingness to experiment and push boundaries. Whether it’s tackling serious themes like in Broken Bottle or offering a humorous take with Dungeons of Dredmor, these games have found ways to engage players through unique stories, inventive gameplay, and dedicated community support. They showcase the versatility and creativity that have come to define the roguelike genre.
The honorable mentions and top ten selections represent a snapshot of the best turn-based roguelikes in 2023, but they also serve as an invitation to explore further. The roguelike community is vibrant and welcoming, with developers and players alike contributing to an ecosystem rich in innovation, collaboration, and shared appreciation for the challenges and rewards that these games offer.
As technology and gaming continue to advance, the roguelike genre shows no signs of slowing down. Its timeless appeal, adaptability, and capacity for endless discovery ensure that it will remain a beloved and influential part of the gaming landscape. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or new to the world of roguelikes, there’s never been a better time to dive into these virtual dungeons and embark on your own unique journey.