Genre Spotlight: Roguelikes : Classic Style Roguelikes

Today we’ll look at some of the classic games that were based on Rogue and have since developed into decade-spanning addictions for RPG lovers. Since there are over three decades of roguelikes, you are only seeing my personal recommendations of a massive world of games. There are plenty more you if you dig a little. As you can see some of these have even been ported to iOs and Android. Most of the games are so simple that you can install the entire thing on a USB jump drive, pop it into any random computer you encounter and pick up where you left off.

NetHack (1987)

NetHack first was released in 1987. Although its name makes it sound like some kind of cyberpunk adventure, its really not anything like that at all. It is a direct remake of Rogue – the goal is to retrieve the amulet of Yendor from the Dungeons of Doom, but it takes everything to the next level with depth. NetHack is so complex that many people play for decades without completing it. Everything in the game is deeply complex, meaning – just like real life – unpredictable intermingling of circumstances can lead to really random effects. NetHack is such a brutal game that a common practice in forums is to post tales of “Yet Another Stupid Death” – or YASD for short. These stories relate the humorous and ignoble endings to unfortunate heroes who decided to visit the Dungeons of Doom.

There are various ports and versions of NetHack including a iOS and Android versions with rudimentary icon graphics and the more graphically advanced isometric view “Vulture’s Eye” version with music and sound. Many Linux terminals even have native command line install support for NetHack.

Download | iOS Port | Android

Tales of Middle Earth 2 (2000)






There is a whole LoTR branch of roguelikes starting with Moria (1983), Angband and continuing to a personal favorite Tales of Middle Earth 2 (TOME2). The creators of this game have gone on to make more complex non-middle earth themed roguelikes that we’ll discuss that later. TOME2 is based in the world of JRR Tolkien’s novels of course. One thing that is nice about these ones is that they are not strictly “in the dungeon” the entire time. My only complaint about NetHack is it starts to feel a bit dark and claustrophobic after a while. Whereas, ToME, Agaband and other variants have you exploring lush forests, dark caves, towns and towers.


Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (2006)

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has graphical tiles and a great variety of environment and gameplay. What really sets it apart from other roguelikes, though, is that its simple gameplay elements are easy to learn but build on each other into more complex and interesting scenarios quickly. There are things in NetHack that you may never learn or even encounter, or worse, never really understand. DCSS avoids this kind of bloat and offers an accessible and fun roguelike. You actually have a decent chance of winning almost any random generation of this game too, which also makes it a good one for beginners.


Brogue (2009)

Brogue is one of the newest versions of the original Rogue and it brings something new to the genre while paying excellent homage to its roots. Its really the best roguelike for a new player to start with. I would say its like Secret of Mana vs Final Fantasy. The Secret of Mana series is less complex but has more atmosphere. Brogue only has one stat and all interactions are based around that. Brogue still uses simple ASCII art but infuses it with more colors and animated effects. Brogue is the only ASCII art game I’d ever describe as ‘pretty.’ Rooms are filled with green vegetation, you cross rope bridges over dark chasms and diving into water reveals a deep underwater world. Brogue plays beautifully on an iPad too.

Download | iOS (iPad Only) Port

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