The 9 Best Roguelike / Permadeath Games Ever Released
Most games are too forgiving with death - but not roguelikes! Pick up the challenge with our top roguelike / roguelite games list.
Permadeath is a “love it or hate it” concept mostly encountered in roguelikes, and of course action RPG games. In this list we are going to focus on the best roguelike games you can enjoy on PC & Consoles. Fortunately, most of these games are compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux and all gaming consoles, so you are able to enjoy them however you prefer!
There’s a huge debate on what is a roguelike, what a roguelite, and their differences. We do not aim to provide “true roguelikes” in this list, because they date a long time back, and we’d rather focus on modern games for this list.
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Release Date: January 19, 2016
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Publisher: Red Hook Studios
Platforms: Windows / Mac / Linux, PS4 / PS Vita / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch & iOS
Darkest Dungeon is one of these games, that even its production quality is enough to hook you in. Amazing artwork, music, interface and mechanics, make for a unique gameplay experience that you won’t easily find elsewhere – especially in the permadeath realm.
And that’s because permadeath is kinda different in Darkest Dungeon. You don’t control just a single character, but rather a whole group of different soldiers, each with their own class, quirks and abilities. You have to really take care of them though – not just their HP – since losing just one of them is going to be a huge setback for your progress.
Careful & strategic decision making is at the heart of the game, as a seemingly small bad choice, may turn out to mean your demise. The combat, exploration & management aspects of Darkest Dungeon are all turn-based. So you will have more than enough time to take any decision – the challenge arrives with their consequences.
It’s also a perfect game to introduce the Roguelike genre to a friend, since it will introduce the concept of permadeath in an “easier to handle” way for newcomers. A gem than any gamer should play, regardless of their gameplay preferences & taste.
Dungeons of Dredmor
Release Date: July 13, 2011
Developer: Gaslamp Games
Publisher: Gaslamp Games
Platforms: Windows / Mac / Linux
Dungeons of Dredmor is one of the oldest games in this list, but you can’t even tell! It’s the greatest RPG roguelike game I’ve ever played – and I think it encompasses the true definition of the genre. Multiple classes, endless gear, random encounters and precious loot is everywhere!
Each time you start a new game, you get to choose 7 different skill trees for your character. Some are weapon-based, magic-oriented, crafting related – or even completely altering the way your character interacts with the environment (Vampirism anyone?). You start “naked” in the 1st floor, and have to go floor-through-floor carefully, picking up better and better gear, while facing harder and harder enemies.
The combat is turn-based, but almost feels like a hack n’ slash action RPG. That’s actually great, because you can either spam your attacks and spells in easy situations, or really take some time to consider your steps and attacks in harder encounters. The game strikes a great balance in this aspect, making every new playthrough just as fun and engaging as the first one!
Everything in the game is randomly generated of course – like a proper roguelike – but with crafting and shops all around, you won’t have to deal with any negative influence from the RNG Gods. 🙏🏻
Sword of the Stars: The Pit
Release Date: February 21, 2013
Developer: Kerberos Productions Inc.
Publisher: Kerberos Productions Inc.
Platforms: Windows / Mac / Linux
Sword of the Stars is the best option for those that do enjoy RPG roguelikes, but like FPS games far more! That doesn’t mean it’s an FPS game of course (check out Heavy Bullets if you want a pure FPS roguelike), but rather than all of its weapons and environments are based around sci-fi technology.
You won’t find many unique elements to the game, but they really have taken the classic roguelike formula, and made it as fun, engaging and replayable as possible! There’s too much going on in each floor, and you have too many skills and ways to deal with all of them. All-out-war, or careful navigation with stealth tactics – you choose how you want to play!
Offering a wealth of classes, skills and build customization along with crafting (not just weapons but also food and potions), you will never be out of options. But your decision-making is what will make the difference into how far you can go.
The ability to bank items in safe spots adds an immense replay value, where not all your progress is truly lost on death – unless this is what you planned for. I really think they tried to create a better “Dungeons of Dredmor” with Sword of the Stars – and they achieved it.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Developer: Nicalis, Inc.
Publisher: Nicalis, Inc.
Platforms: Windows / Mac / Linux, PS4 / PS Vita / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch / Wii U / Nintendo 3DS & iOS
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth of A Nightmare, would be a much more appropriate title for this.. game! If you’re out looking for the hardest roguelike game in existence – and you don’t know about Binding of Isaac – well, you’re in for a fateful meeting. Rebirth is the 2nd game in the series, and albeit a bit “easier” than the original, it’s a much more polished experience.
Of course a proper gamer would hardly skip to the 2nd one without completing the 1st one, but if you are not truly hardcore, I doubt you’ll ever get to finish the original Binding of Isaac – so better get Rebirth and enjoy it a bit more!
Enough with comparisons, so what makes this game so special and hard? Well, it will appeal far more to Platformer fans, than RPG fans. It’s a pure roguelike / permadeath game, but its mechanics and combat remind a lot more of platformers & bullet-hell games. Hell.. that’s a nice word to describe this game. 😁
A lot of unlockables are waiting for you to be discovered while delving deeper in Isaac, so there’s always enough motivation for one.. more.. playthrough. As you might have guessed already, I’m an RPG guy, so yea.. Binding of Isaac is an amazing game, but it’s too f****n hard for me!
Tales of Maj’Eyal
Release Date: December 31, 2012
Developer: Netcore Games
Publisher: Netcore Games
Platforms: Windows / Mac / Linux
Tales of Maj’Eyal’s single purpose, is to ruin your relationship with achievements in games – forever! You’ve been warned – if you are an achievement-w***e like me, steer clear from this game. ⛔ 1,755 achievements await those brave enough to face Maj’Eyal, so good luck with it! 😁
Damn.. and it’s such a good game! A single, dedicated & passionate developer, putting out updates and new content – faster than you could ever hope to experience them. The mechanics & artwork remind of an incredibly well-done browser game that’s a decade old – and I do mean that as a compliment. Just playing Tales, fighting and building your character is a Nostalgia Overdose! 🤒
There’s myriads of classes, items, spells, secrets, storylines, locations, and monsters in this game – it’s just mindblowing – and not because of the quantity, but because of the quality and attention of each one of these elements.
I do want to admit, that if I was stranded in an island for 10 years, and could take only one game with me, there’s a ridiculously high chance I’d pick Tales of Maj’Eyal. I’d probably return back to civilization, with around 50% of achievements completed.
Note: I’m not really sure if there are any good “hacks” to help with achievements in this game. Just reading through them, and trying to figure out a strategy for earning a lot of them through one playthrough, would cost you days of planning.
Dungeon of the Endless
Release Date: October 27, 2014
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Platforms: Windows / Mac, PS4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch
Dungeon of the Endless is a “small” game, that helped shape Amplitude Studios, and their other “Endless” titles, like Endless Space, Endless Legend etc. It’s by far one of the most polished roguelike games you’ll find out there, as it’s clear it’s not an “indie” production. The game’s interface is a delight, while artworks, sound & story blend perfectly.
You won’t be controlling a single hero, but a team of 4. Each one is a unique character with their own personality, strenghts & psychoses! All of them are condemned criminals, being shipped of to Auriga through a special “prison” program. Escaping the ship will be your task, and resource management along with smart decisions, will be your strongest tools of survival.
The premise of the game is not unique to roguelikes – on the other hand its a cliché scenario. What makes it so different, is the bond you will form with all these characters, figuring out the best escape route and gear for escaping the ship.
There’s too much going on in each playthrough, so this is not your “die in 5 minutes” type of roguelike. Each defeat will become a big lesson, and each replay will last longer. I’m not sure I can do justice to the game – it’s hard to explain the feelings. So if you find the above interesting, I suggest you take your own look at the game.
Risk of Rain 2
Release Date: March 28, 2019
Developer: Hopoo Games
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Platforms: Windows, PS4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch
Risk of Rain 2 makes a hidden wish of everyone a reality – a true 3D RPG Roguelike! Mix in 4-player coop gameplay, and the original Risk of Rain’s depth and immersion, for a recipe that can’t fail! Everything from the original is here, translated in a 3D masterpiece!
The game is still in early access, so if you can’t wait, it’s a good time to try it! Community feedback is king, and new updates keep coming out all the time. And I heavily suggest you bring over a friend or two! Sharing the roguelike experience wasn’t the norm, and it’s really, really worth it!
You can expect to face a multitude of randomly generated enemies, bosses, environments and loot – a lot of them making a return from the original Risk of Rain. The item and character combos you can make are endless, ensuring that every new playthrough, is actually new!
It’s worth mentioning that enemy scaling works great. There is no limit to how powerful you – or them – can get! That’s why your actual fighting skill will determine your progress more than the numbers on your gear.
Slay The Spire
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Developer: Mega Crit Games
Publisher: Mega Crit Games
Platforms: Windows / Mac / Linux, PS4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch
Slay the Spire is the smartest deck-building roguelike game, and has earned multiple awards for this reason. Fans of collectible card games will definitely get the most pleasure out of it, since the game offers many unique mechanics to a deck-building / card-fighting experience.
There are hundreds of beautifully crafted cards and items to collect, and through 3 different characters you can have a memorable experience with each attempt to climb the Spire. RNG lurks in each corner, but you can never blame it for your results – after each defeat, you can always spot the things you did wrong.
Deck-building and smart-thinking never stop in StS, making it a true gem for any age and even non-gamers. I don’t have any kids yet, but I wish they’d be playing Slay the Spire instead of Fortnite. 😂
The hype is real – it’s not marketing. Don’t overlook this game, even if it doesn’t really feel like a game you’d enjoy. You will – trust all of us!
Release Date: 1992
Developer: Sami Maaranen & Erkka Lehmus
Publisher: Enormous Elk
Platforms: Windows / Mac / Linux / DOS
UnReal World is a very special game. Its development began back in 1992 (!), and it’s still being updated up to this day. That’s a feat on its own! 🏆 It’s much more than just a “roguelike game” though. It’s a survival simulator with immense depth, realism, and sandbox features.
It’s like a single player survival MMO, where you get to choose 1 out of 9 cultures as your “class”, and then choose your own path – whether you want to level your hideworking or herblore skill. You get to hunt animals through advanced mechanics – that are essencial to your survival – and an everyday struggle in surviving the randomly generated wilderness around you.
Realism is at the core of UnReal World. You don’t even have hit-points, but rather can track your overall health and condition with detailed injuries, bruises, tears, cuts etc. in each different body part. Every plant and animal is accurate to the Northern theme of the game, and there are even detailed behaviour patterns and feeding relationships that pertain to animals.
Interactive and choice-based narratives will guide you through your quest, showing once more that money is not everything for creating a masterpiece (although just think the potential a game like this could have, with a proper budget behind it).