Hades was one of the best games of 2020, introducing many players to the wide world of roguelikes. Here are just a few titles worth diving into next.
Roguelikes have been around since the days of the original Rogue and its clones, but the genre only really achieved mainstream success in the last decade. As the years went by, roguelikes remained isolated to PCs, operating as a growing niche that eventually took over multiple aspects of gaming. Now, Supergiant Games has a game of the year winner under the belt with Hades, a procedural action game that very much fits into the genre. Many who followed Zagreus through the cavernous underworld and saw him to victory may need some help navigating the similarly deep roguelike genre.
This does require defining exactly what a roguelike is. Genre purists would likely not consider Hades a proper roguelike for several reasons, including the lack of turn-based combat and the progress Zagreus makes between runs. However, Hades does fit the criteria of the most popular entries in the genre as far as the mainstream is concerned. Hades has random maps and power-ups, making every run unique. The goal over time is to make small progress each go-around before reaching an ultimate boss. In addition, Hades’ gameplay focuses on a simple combat loop that the power-ups can disrupt or enhance, with players creating a new character build as they go.
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When defined that way, the term roguelike can be pretty far-reaching. Focusing on games fans of Hades might enjoy reveals a selection of fellow indie blockbusters and a few hidden gems worthy of more attention. From those who want to dive into the origins of the genre to those who just want to experience more precise combat mechanics, digital catalogs provide a wealth of options when it comes to what to play next.
Roguelike Games For People Who Want To See What Inspired Hades
Supergiant Games has developed a string of impressive titles, but Hades was their first roguelike. It emerges after a decade of genre-shaking releases that likely inspired both the development team and those playing through the game in Early Access. A quick browse through the Steam marketplace allows players to sample the games that defined the genre as it’s known today.
- Spelunky: Derek Yu’s 2008 riff on the mining games of old was one of the roguelikes to break off from the standard roguelike interpretations and appeal to a wide range of players. The game struck big success upon its release on Xbox Live Arcade in 2012, but the platformer hit it big in its original form among enthusiasts and developers alike. Some might even say that it was late to its own party when it launched on console. Its sequel, Spelunky 2, released alongside Hades in 2020, but failed to make a huge impact when compared to Supergiant’s new release.
- The Binding of Isaac: Another game that has gone through many iterations, The Binding of Isaac is arguably one of the most important roguelikes of the early era. Thanks to developer Edmund McMillen’s work on Super Meat Boy, the game had a baked-in fanbase upon release, and it seems that a good chunk of them latched onto the genre for good. Isaac is still seeing large expansion releases to this day and remains a deep and rewarding experience for players of all skill levels.
- Dungeons of Dredmor: A lesser-known but still important release in the early days of the genre, Dredmor brought a more traditional roguelike setup into the future with a welcoming graphical interface and a great sense of humor. For anyone who wants to explore what a “proper” roguelike actually plays like, Dungeons of Dredmor offers that experience without the impenetrable layer of text-based graphics seen in so many foundational roguelike entries.
Roguelike Games For People Who Love Hades’ Combat
One of the things that makes Hades a success is its precise combat. Players choose from six base weapons and a whole set of upgraded forms, each with unique mechanics, strengths, and weaknesses. While each player will prefer a certain weapon, each one feels like a viable choice, further adding to the variety of each run. For those who want more of this chaotic combat, there are a few great choices.
- Dead Cells: When it comes to combat in roguelikes, the first game that comes to mind is Dead Cells. Released in 2018 by developer MotionTwin, this side-scrolling sword fighting game expands the weapon choices significantly from Hades. Furthermore, each choice feels powerful in the hands of Dead Cells‘ headless warrior protagonist. Just knocking enemies around is great fun, but learning the intricacies of each blade in Dead Cells reveals the game’s true depth.
- Wizard of Legend: Released by Contingent99 and Humble Games in 2018, Wizard of Legend puts just as much thought into its magical combat as Hades does with its godly weapons. Whether it’s maneuvering baddies around with gusts of wind or locking them down with electricity, this magical action roguelike lets players manipulate the battlefield to their whims… if their run grants them a decent loadout.
- Curse of the Dead Gods: Released out of Early Access earlier this year to critical acclaim, Curse of the Dead Gods shares its great melee combat, its perspective, and its godly obsessions with Hades. The only difference is that Dead Gods trades out a cast of friendly characters for silent observers who demand the player’s blood for weapon upgrades. Curse of the Dead Gods is a much darker spin on roguelikes, but it’s still a blast.
Roguelike Games For People Who Love Hades’ Presentation
There’s one thing that Hades has over just about any roguelike, and that’s the game’s incredible writing. Every denizen of the Underworld is a fleshed-out character worth talking to, and there are several well-written stories to take in. It’s hard to find any roguelikes that can even come close to Supergiant’s effort in telling a complete story via randomized runs. However, a few high-quality roguelikes have that same polish in other areas of their presentation. These are games that step away from the genre’s small-time roots and show what a bigger crew could do with the genre.
- Risk of Rain 2: The original Risk of Rain is minimalist to a fault, featuring spacefarers with tiny sprites taking on huge creatures. This combat dynamic carries on into Risk of Rain 2, only with a generational leap in graphics that takes the combat into a 3D arena. The perks are just as weird, the music is just as groovy, and the combat is just as chaotic, but Risk of Rain 2 feels like a big-budget sequel to an indie darling, and that’s pretty unique.
- Void Bastards: Anyone who loves the amazing voice acting talents Supergiant Games acquired for Hades will appreciate all the story bits that surround Void Bastards‘ excellent randomized FPS sections. The narrator, helmed by The Stanley Parable‘s own Kevan Brighting, provides distinctly quirky humor to the proceedings that really serves to push the game over the top.
- RAD: Double Fine’s last game before the Microsoft buyout, RAD shines thanks to a unique style made possible by Double Fine’s artistic vision and Bandai Namco’s budget. Financials aside, the game is one of the most visually stunning entries in the genre to date, and the combat isn’t half bad either.
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