What is Roguelike Key Features, Top Games and More - thegamerian.com The Gamerian Gaming Blog

What is Roguelike? Key Features, Top Games and More

You’ve probably heard of the term “roguelike” as you browse your favorite game stores, or if you are an avid gamer, chances are you might have played a few roguelike games yourself. 

What is roguelike stands as a distinctive subgenre within role-playing video games, marked by the exploration of procedurally generated dungeons, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and the irrevocable demise of the player character. 

While some games may incorporate elements inspired by roguelikes, known as “roguelites,” true roguelikes adhere to a specific set of criteria often linked to the Berlin Interpretation—a set of guidelines established to determine what constitutes a roguelike game.

What Is Roguelike Game?

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Source: Steam

A Roguelike game is a subgenre of role-playing games, typically characterized by dungeon crawl adventures through procedurally generated levels, with the emphasis on turn-based gameplay and grid-based movement. 

The hallmark of a Roguelike is the concept of permanent death, also known as permadeath; when the player character dies, the player must start over from the beginning. This design philosophy encourages tactical play, as the player must consider each action carefully to avoid fatal consequences. Roguelike games often feature a high degree of difficulty, and the unpredictable structure ensures that every playthrough provides a unique experience.

The name “Roguelike” is derived from the game “Rogue,” a 1980 title that established the blueprint for this type of gameplay. It typically involves role-playing elements, item inventory management, and exploration, all woven into a randomly-generated game world presenting new challenges and discoveries in each session. 

The unpredictable nature of Roguelike games means success depends on a mix of skill, strategy, and luck. This genre has expanded and evolved, influencing other game formats and styles, and leading to the creation of the related term “Roguelite,” which refers to games that maintain some, but not all, aspects of traditional Roguelikes.

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Key Elements Of Roguelike Mode

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Roguelike games are characterized by a set of distinctive features that create challenging, unpredictable gameplay. The following subsections delve into the specifics of these core elements.


A defining feature of roguelike games is their turn-based nature. This means that gameplay unfolds in turns, where players can take their time to make strategic decisions without the pressure of real-time action. Each move or action taken by the player is followed by the game’s response, creating a chess-like rhythm that emphasizes thoughtful planning and tactical execution. 

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Permanent Death

In roguelike games, permanent death is a central mechanic. When players’ characters die, they must start the game anew, usually without any progress carried over from previous playthroughs.

Grid Movements

Movement and action in roguelikes often occur on a grid-based layout, where players move their characters and interact with the game environment in discrete spaces.

Randomized Environments

Each playthrough in a roguelike game features randomized levels, items, and enemy placements. This ensures a unique experience each time the game is played.

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Inevitable Battling or Killing

Combat is an integral part of roguelikes. Players frequently engage in battles, facing a variety of adversaries, and often, success in the game is tied to defeating these enemies.

Non-Modal Gameplay

Roguelike games usually feature non-modal gameplay. This means the player’s actions are not separated into distinct modes or menus but occur within the unified context of the game world.

Exploration Required

Exploration is necessary in roguelike games. Players must venture into the unknown, map out areas, and discover new spaces within the game to progress.

Resource Discovery And Management

Finally, discovering and managing resources effectively is crucial for survival in roguelikes. Players need to find and ration items such as health potions, weapons, and other equipment to maintain their journey.

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What About Roguelite? Understanding Roguelike Vs Roguelite Games

Roguelike games are characterized by their tough, turn-based gameplay where players navigate through procedurally generated levels, facing permadeath if they fail. Inspired by the classic game Rogue, these games emphasize strategic play, exploration, and character progression, typically in a dungeon crawl setting. Think of games like Darkest Dungeon — now, that’s a classic roguelike for you.

Roguelike Key Features:

  • Turn-based
  • Permadeath
  • Procedurally generated dungeons
  • High difficulty

Conversely, Roguelite games borrow elements from roguelikes but blend them with other genres. They soften the concept of permadeath, often allowing players to retain some progress or upgrades across playthroughs. This leads to a more cumulative sense of character growth and a slightly more forgiving experience.

Roguelite Notable Traits:

  • Often real-time gameplay
  • Meta-progression systems
  • Mixed genre elements
  • More lenient death consequences

Players can expect Roguelites to have dynamically changing levels and a high replay value due to variability in play sessions. While they share the randomness and unpredictability of their roguelike cousins, these games are usually more approachable for a wider audience due to their less punishing nature.

Here, procedurally generated environments mean that no two playthroughs are exactly alike, promoting a sense of discovery and adaptability. Noteworthy titles from both genres include Slay the Spire and Hades, with the former presenting card-based combat and the latter an action-packed narrative intertwined with roguelite mechanics.

In summary, while the core of Roguelike and Roguelite games revolves around replayability and procedural generation, Roguelikes demand perfection in each run, whereas Roguelites are about gradual improvement and often invite a broader range of play styles.

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Why Are Roguelikes So Popular Among Gamers?

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Roguelike games have surged in popularity due to their unique blend of rewarding achievements, unpredictable nature, flexible playstyles, challenging gameplay, and extensive replayability. Each of these elements contributes to an engaging experience that keeps players coming back.


In roguelikes, achievements serve as significant milestones for players. Each run through the procedurally generated labyrinths offers unique opportunities to unlock new content or achieve rare feats (a little like playing Cook, Serve, Delicious! hehe), offering a tangible sense of progress.


The unpredictability of roguelikes is a core appeal. Procedural generation ensures that each playthrough creates a new layout, with different enemies and items, making every session a fresh adventure.


Flexibility in playstyles caters to a broad range of gamers. Whether one prefers cautious exploration, aggressive combat, or clever resource management, roguelikes offer various approaches to succeed.


The challenging nature is a hallmark of the genre. Roguelikes don’t hold players’ hands; they demand strategic thinking and adaptability to overcome the relentless difficulty and permadeath consequences.


Finally, the replayability factor is immense. With death as a reset rather than an endpoint, players continually dive back in to beat their previous scores or simply experience something new, making each attempt as thrilling as the last.

Top 7 Roguelike and Roguelite Games To Start Playing

Going through the roguelike and roguelite genres can be both challenging and rewarding, with each game offering a unique twist on the core elements that define these categories. Here are five top picks for anyone looking to dive into the genre.

#1 Hades

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Developed by Supergiant Games, Hades takes you on an epic journey as the immortal prince of the Underworld, trying to escape the realm to reach Mount Olympus. 

With its isometric hack-and-slash gameplay, Hades offers a unique combination of dynamic combat, rich storytelling, and roguelike progression. Each attempt to break free is different, with a variety of weapons, upgrades, and storylines to explore.

#2 Risk Of Rain

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Embark on a journey with Risk of Rain, a platformer game that seamlessly blends action and progression. Each expedition through the game unfolds as a unique adventure, introducing fresh challenges and a plethora of items that intricately alter the dynamics of play. 

Each run through the game is different, presenting new challenges and items that change the dynamic of play. If you can’t get enough of this game, try Risk of Rain 2, an engaging roguelike shooter game for a refreshing change.

#3 Into The Breach

Into The Breach stands out with its strategic gameplay, where players control mechs to defend against an alien threat. Every decision is crucial in this turn-based title. 

Take command of mechs to defend against an imminent alien threat, where every decision becomes pivotal in this turn-based masterpiece. Prepare for a gripping experience that demands tactical prowess and strategic finesse at every turn.

#4 Darkest Dungeon

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Manage a team of flawed heroes through psychological stresses and unimaginable horrors in this gothic roguelike turn-based RPG, where the human mind is as much a battlefield as the dark corridors and forgotten warrens you’ll explore. 

With its dark, hand-drawn art style and a grim narrative that explores the consequences of adventuring, Darkest Dungeon delivers a tense and immersive experience. The game’s strategic depth, coupled with the ever-present threat of permadeath, forces players to make difficult decisions and live with the outcomes of their choices, whether they lead to victory or ruin.

#5 Slay The Spire

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Dive into the strategic intricacies of Slay The Spire, a game that introduces a deck-building mechanic, challenging players to craft intricate strategies with each ascent. 

The fusion of roguelike gameplay and the complexity of a card game creates a dynamic and engaging experience. Prepare to strategize, adapt, and overcome as you ascend through the ever-evolving challenges of the spire.

#6 Enter The Gungeon

Experience the adrenaline-pumping thrill of Enter The Gungeon, captivating players with its bullet-hell gameplay and an extensive arsenal of guns and items. Stay on your toes as you navigate unpredictable encounters and unravel hidden secrets throughout the game. 

Enter The Gungeon promises a relentless and exciting journey through a world filled with danger and discovery.

#7 The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

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This indie hit, designed by Edmund McMillen, is a remake of the original The Binding of Isaac game with significant enhancements. It’s a top-down, 2D dungeon crawler with rogue-like elements, where players control a crying child named Isaac (or one of the other unlockable characters) through a series of basements, caves, and dungeons. 

With each item pickup drastically altering the play style and capabilities of the characters, players must adapt their strategies on the fly, making for a highly replayable and often unpredictable experience.

What’s Your Favorite Roguelike?

With achievements to unlock, flexibility in gameplay, and the ever-present allure of replayability, the roguelike experience is a dynamic adventure that awaits your discovery. As you explore the top picks like Darkest Dungeon, Hades and Risk Of Rain, or any other roguelike of your choice, we certainly hope you have lots of fun playing in this immersive gaming odyssey like no other!

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