Okay, so I’m not a fan of story games. I’m not a fan of lore heavy games. Along with that, I’m also not too hot on the Roguelike and Roguelite genres (seriously, do I like anything to do with games?). However, even I can’t deny that some games in these genres are a cut above the rest, despite my apathy towards them – especially in the indie games scene. When you have games that offer new and unique mechanics, weird and wonderful mash-ups, or some great gameplay, it’s hard not to take notice.
With that said, these are 5 of my best indie Roguelike/Roguelite games, even if you hate these genres. These are in no particular order, with each intersecting with other genres, so there is bound to be something that grabs your attention. If you think we missed one, feel free to comment below and let us know!
5. Legend of Keepers
Platforms: PC, Switch, Stadia
Let’s start with a fresh take on the dungeon crawler, shall we?
Legend of Keepers has you play as a dungeon master who oversees the day to day of a deadly dungeon. Using an array of traps, monsters, and abilities, you must dispatch the goody-two-shoes heroes who enter your dungeon looking for glory and treasure. Along with the fun of killing wannabe heroes, you’ll also train and recruit new monsters, manage morale, deal with random events, and plumber and pillage.
This unique twist on the roguelike borrows a lot of elements from multiple genres, but that’s what makes it such a great game. Combat revolves around enemy placements, damage types, and clever planning that scratches your strategy. Managing your dungeon’s resources and activities feels like something from a simulator or real-time strategy game – having you choose what unit types you want, the different dungeon keepers, and how to tackle each hurdle gives a huge amount of freedom. It’s got great progression, player choice, and layered gameplay that keeps evolving and remains interesting for hours. Seriously, even for a roguelike, this game boasts some major replayability.
4. Dandy Ace
Despite sharing some similarities to a popular game involving a certain Greece god, Dandy Ace has a lot that sets itself apart from others in the genre. Taking control of the magician Ace, you become trapped in a magic mirror by a rival magician. Using a wide array of powers and abilities, you then must fight your way out of the colourful and magical trap you find yourself in.
Dandy Ace has the perfect blend of frustrating and rewarding gameplay. It’s got just enough twitchy elements to put you through your paces, whilst constantly upgrading you and giving that sense of improvement. Not to mention, the level of customisation is insane. But using cards found in levels or brought with money, you can mix and match every card with each other. As a result, there is a huge amount of variety to how your attacks work and feel, as it gives a huge amount of player freedom. Along with charms and upgrades, that makes for some truly deep, rewarding, and challenging gameplay that’s near perfect, all creating that “one more try” feeling.
It’s fast, fun, and frantic. Perfect if you fancy a bit of a challenge.
3. BPM: Bullets Per Minute
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
It’s all about bullets and badass tunes in this entry.
Combining elements from FPS, arcade, and rhythm, BPM managed to blend these into a uniquely awesome experience. Playing as a Valkyrie, players blast their way through levels to protect Asgard whilst keeping in time to a rock-inspired soundtrack. Enemies and attacks also follow the rhythm, with everything from shooting, reloading, and jumping nets you higher scores and greater rewards.
When I first played this shooter x rhythm game hybrid, I wasn’t too sure if it would keep me hooked. But after a few runs, moving across arenas and keeping on the beat gave that same feeling I had playing DOOM 2016 and its sequel, DOOM eternal. Moving across the stage felt fluid and smooth, and combat was intuitive and rewarding. Along with that, it’s got enough challenge to keep you on your toes. The added difficulty of keeping time was made more bearable by the great soundtrack. Not to mention the has a ton of upgrades and interesting twists and changes to the rhythms, enemies, and bosses that make for an evolving and fun experience.
Those wanting a tough shooter, great soundtrack, and some arcade influenced carnage will find that all and more in BPM.
2. Cadence of Hyrule
It’s a Zelda game (technically), so you know it’s going to be good.
From the minds behind the Crypt of the Necrodancer, Brace Yourself games take the Nintendo franchise and put a wholly unique spin on the classic adventure game. Set in Hyrule, players intake the usual adventure style exploration that Zelda is known for. Only now, with the rhythm-based elements found in Brace Yourself game’s flagship title. Along the way, you find new weapons and items, encounter classic and new enemies, and undertake a quest to save Hyrule (again) in a completely new and original way.
I’m a sucker when it comes to Zelda. If a game even mentions the famous mute adventurer, it’s like going to be a Day One purchase for me. That was the case with Cadence of Hyrule, and I’m glad it was. The world was brought to life with splendid detail; it’s both colourful and varied. The gameplay scratched that adventure itch I always crave, but also managed to deliver something new and fresh thanks to its Mishmash of gameplay. Exploring was a joy, the rhythm-based movement and combat were accessible and fun, and the soundtrack… man, the soundtrack is just incredible.
Featuring medleys and remixes of classic Zelda tunes, it’s hard not to bop along whilst you hop and dance your way across the kingdom of Hyrule. Along with options to increase the difficulty and vary up the already expansive game, it’s a real treat for Zelda and Crypt of the NecroDancer fans alike. Not to mention it’s got some stellar DLC too.
Plus, it’s a Zelda game. It’s going to be good.
1. Darkest Dungeon
Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, iPhone/iPad
Adventuring is a hard business, and Darkest Dungeon takes that idea to the extreme.
Set in a gritty and gothic world, Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based roguelike RPG. Players recruit, train, and lead adventurers through all manner of dark and twisted crypts, forests, and dungeons. However, the game also has the added challenge of psychological stress and tumour your adventurers endure, thanks to the affliction system. Adventurers are all flawed and broken in different ways. Each has their own weaknesses that can completely change gameplay should party members succumb to paranoia, fear, madness and a host of other afflictions.
Darkest Dungeon excels in its gameplay. That’s just a fact. The RPG elements offer a wide array of heroes who each are distinct and varied. There is a ton of abilities and equipment to manage and use that gives huge variety and player freedom. And, having to deal with the added struggles of your party makes for some multilayered and diverse gameplay. It’s a tough game too. I remember having to sacrifice supplies to keep party members in good spirits and vice versa. You’ll lose members during intense moments, overcoming tough sections. All of these come together into an RPG roguelike unlike any I’ve seen before, and it deserves all its praise and your attention.