Welcome to our list of the best roguelike games you can put your hands on in 2021. But first, what even is a “roguelike“? Roguelikes have been around since the 80s. They are characterized by procedurally generated levels, typically set in some kind of a dungeon. The most important constant in this genre is the permanent death of your character. If you go down, that is it for this “run”. Or in some cases that specific character is no more.
These games push you to learn your enemies, learn your arsenal, and pursue that “god run”. A run featuring luck so good it seems almost too good. And what are some of the very best games that follow that formula? Let us see.
Here Are 10 Best Roguelike Games To Play In 2021
Noita is just one of the best roguelikes I have ever played. The game’s physics are incredible. You can flood caves with water, acid, or lava. Break through floors. You can create rockfalls. You can take out properties from one wand and transplant them into another in pursuit of the stupidest game-breaking spell.
But at the same time, the game doesn’t explain ANYTHING to you. And some parts are really unintuitive. Not to mention secrets that seem like they do not want to be found. The game will repel some of you 5 minutes into the first area, and because of this, it lands the 10th place on this list.
9. Crypt of The NecroDancer
Crypt of The NecroDancer. It’s all in the title already. It’s funny, quirky, original as all hell, and rhythm is involved. Every movement and attack of both your character and enemies are tied to the rhythm of the beat. If you do not move and attack in-synch with the background music you take damage. But enemies always attack on the beat, meaning that they become very predictable.
The game is at its best when you enter a trance, becoming a hurricane of death. All to the beat of this game’s banger soundtrack. You can even import your own mp3s! But the main gimmick is a double-sided sword. It will either land and you will have a great time, or you will play 10 minutes and drop it forever. And there is simply no alternate mode or anything like that.
8. Into The Breach
Into The Breach is chess where the pieces are giant Kaiju and mechs. You strategically move your pieces across the “board” to attack enemies. The stages feature hazards like rivers, crumbling ground, and much more. Each one of those can be incorporated into your attack to deal more damage.
Customize your mechs to defend cities from giant alien bugs. Improve your strategy, overcome the threat, and if you fail, it’s back to square one. The graphics and art style are nothing new, or flashy, or that great. But the gameplay is just phenomenal. There simply isn’t another turn-based strategy quite like this. Though certain XCOM like games do feel somewhat similar.
7. The Binding of Issac
I would be shocked if you told me you do not know what The Binding of Issac is. The game is said to be the biggest factor in roguelike games exploding in popularity ever since the 2010s. Issac features hundreds of unique items, therefore the luck factor is important for your run. But at the same time, knowledge and good reflexes are a must.
The Binding of Issac sometimes plays like a straight-up bullet hell with hundreds of projectiles flying all over your screen. This game definitely will keep you coming back for another run over, and over again. By now the game has 3 installments and 2 huge DLCs. Each is a little different from the other, each worth the price.
6. Darkest Dungeon
A very brutal, gritty, and hopeless experience. I love it! Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based RPG game where you manage your estate, which enables upgrades for your team. But more importantly, you manage four unlucky souls during their descent into vile dungeons. Losing health in this game takes a second seat to your adventurers losing sanity.
Stress will drive your characters to their limits, where they will emerge either empowered or a liability. Stress them out further and they will just suffer a heart attack and die on you. Characters can be grinded out to max level over the course of hours and lost to a stroke of bad luck. I highly recommend this stressful masterpiece.
5. Enter The Gungeon
Something much more light-hearted compared to previous entries. Enter The Gungeon is a run’n’shoot roguelike featuring hundreds of different guns. Some of them you might recognize from other iconic games. Most of them require careful aim and positioning. Other than its obsession with guns and bullets there is no gimmick here. It’s just run’n’gun fun with A LOT of guns and characters to unlock.
4. Dead Cells
Dead Cells jokingly calls itself a RogueVania. Because it combines the best parts of roguelikes. Such as the randomness, the fact that each run is a unique experience, and the adrenaline-pumping thrill of permadeath. With the progressive exploration of a large interconnected world you would find in Metroid or Castlevania. The game also cannot escape comparisons to Dark Souls with its complex combat system featuring more than 50 unique weapons and spells.
3. Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is a nearly perfect roguelike experience. It is a third-person shooter with deep movement options. It features hundreds of items just like Issac. But RoR2 puts almost all emphasis on your skill. Almost all of your damage comes from your random items. But you are in charge of avoiding the swarm of bullets.
There are also a lot of mechanics that mitigate the randomness of the game. And then there are diverse characters with such different playstyles, varied game modes, and co-op for up to 4 people. Not to mention frequent updates. This is a gift that keeps on giving. The base price of this game feels like a robbery considering the amount of content.
2. Slay the Spire
This is a card game. You build a deck of cards during your run and then unleash it to annihilate some poor creatures or die trying. Slay the Spire feels way less deep than some of the games mentioned above, but not one of them sucked more hours out of me. The gameplay loop of collecting cards from a huge pool, combined with many random encounters, plus the enemy variety. It all equates to such an addicting game. You will want to just start another run, after another run, after another run. Forever. The real Spire is the deck-building addiction we suffered along the way.
Hades is a very unique roguelike. Why? Because it features an interesting story. Between your runs you can chill out with the gods of Olympus. And each one of them is just such a deeply realized character. The art style is great. The soundtrack is godly. The many builds, the phenomenal combat. Damn, where do I begin and when should I end? Hades is likely the best roguelike game we will see in a while.
And this is all for our list of best roguelike games to play in 2021. Many titles did not make the cut. FTL, Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, Downwell. There are so many good entries into that genre, that it would take like a top 50 to talk about each of the ones I liked. And I probably did not play most of the big ones yet! If you have other suggestions for the best roguelike games in 2021 or even beyond, share them in the comments. We might revisit or build upon this list in the future.
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