What are roguelike games?

Roguelike games (aka rogue-like) is a subgenre of rpg with the following definitive gameplay elements like randomly generated levels in a dungeon crawl, turn-based mechanics, making grid-based movements, and experiencing permanent death for the player character.

The term “Roguelike” pays homage to a 1980s game, Rogue. Rogue was a turn-based dungeon crawler released for early computers. “How early?” you wonder, here’s how the game was played on text-only terminals using simple ASII graphics only:

Roguelike as a game genre

Roguelike has gained so much popularity among gamers ever since that a proper definition for Roguelike games was eventually developed at an International Roguelike Development Conference in 2008.

What makes a game Roguelite?

Key factors that define a Roguelike game includes:

  • Randomly generated environment: everytime a player visits a room or level, the layout is procedurally generated. 
  • Puzzle like gameplay with limited resources: Players have several ways to solve problems and have to wisely utilize their resources in order to win.
  • Permadeath: when the player dies, they lose all progress and will start from the beginning. 
  • Grid-based and Turn-based mechanisms: There is no free movement. Actions are done on a grid, and take place in turns instead of real time. 
  • Non-modal: All battles and actions are done on the same screen, there are no cutscenes.
  • Exploration and Discovery: players may be required to discover how in-game items work at every run, while exploring the environment.
  • Battling, usually hack-and-slash, is a key element

That said, the definition of a roguelike game remains fuzzy and it is common for developers and players alike to debate if a game can be classified as roguelike.

Some popular Roguelike games include:

  • Faster than Light (FTL)
  • Into the Breach
  • Dead Cells
  • Crypt of NecroDancer
  • Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer

Why are Roguelike games popular?

They are challenging. 

The challenge of beating randomly generated runs with the risk of losing everything can be addictive, especially for the hardcore gamers. 

Roguelike games also offer deeper mechanics, a sense of in-game skill development and keeps the gameplay interesting and refreshing. 

However, Roguelike games may not appeal to everyone. It can be frustrating for new gamers or folks who prefer to relax with a game. 

Hence, a more forgiving version was born:

Roguelites: a natural branch of Roguelike

Creative minds like to bend rules. And with so many specifications for a Roguelike game, it’s only natural that developers verve off the path. 

Roguelite aka Roguelike-like games were borned after developers incorporated key Roguelike features into their games, without abiding to the full specifications. 

Most Roguelite games tend to incorporate key Roguelike features like permadeath, exploration, discovery and randomly generated game levels, while including features like persistent resources for selected purposes, non-turn-based play and many more.

Roguelike games are fun. But the Roguelite subgenre allows developers to create even more variety of games that could appeal to a wider group of gamers.


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