ByKevin M. New, writer at
Indie Gaming News, Speculative Fiction, and Community Development. Indie cheerleader. Contributor to Futura and Playsource. @kevmnew
Kevin M. New

Do you like procedurally generated levels, retro-pixelated graphics, epic palm-sweating boss battles, permadeath and a difficulty that can only be overcome by practice and skill? If so, come with me on an awesome journey through my favorite dungeon crawling roguelikes.

In my humble opinion, the majority of today’s popular video game titles are far too accessible and easy to beat. At times it feels like my hand is being held throughout the entire gaming experience. Where is the challenge in that?

The following games have reignited that nostalgic retro gaming difficulty that I love so much. They’re the caliber of games that make you earn your stripes. So let’s crank up the difficulty and bust our thumbs on these seven amazing rogue-like games that will kill you over and over with delight.

1. Nuclear Throne

Developed by Vlambeer, Nuclear Throne brings twin-stick bullet hell to another level. You’ll find yourself torn between 12 charming characters, each equipped with a unique set of abilities that give you the slightest edge against the relentless onslaught of unforgiving foes you’ll encounter throughout Nuclear Throne.

As you blast your way through ferocious enemies and deadly bosses, you’ll collect radiation, level up, and tactically choose abilities that favor your arsenal. If you can actually make it to the Nuclear Throne, therein lie secret endings, loop modes, and extra characters. Oh, and you'll also find a community of maniacs who are probably better than you.

Fear is the mind killer.

2. Dungeon of the Endless

Dungeon of the Endless is no exception when it comes to Amplitude Studios’ array of supremely successful games full of engaging lore and phenomenal artwork. Dungeon of the Endless combines RPG elements, tower defense tactics, and resource management for an engaging, strategy-based, rogue-like dungeon crawler.

With several characters to choose from, each with different roles and abilities, you’ll start off by selecting your ship and a small team. As you accumulate Amplitude’s coveted Dust of the Endless, you will strategically power rooms leaving a trail of resource generators and kill rooms leading back to your precious Crystal.

When you find the elevator, go back, grab your Crystal and escort it to the exit. Just make sure you’re prepared for the impending stampede of aliens.

One more door.

3. Teleglitch: Die More Edition

Teleglitch: Die More Edition is so hard it’s downright intimidating. Test3 Projects, did you set out to make one of the most frustratingly difficult games of all time? The graphics are gritty, the warbles of the voids are disorienting, and believe it or not, the horrifying swarms of mutants funneling out of pipes will definitely make you jump.

You play the role of a Testbot and are only as successful as your survival skills and your ability to tactically craft a balance between offense and defense. Nothing about this game is easy. You can be just as easily mutilated by enemies from the first level as you can be vaporized by the Squid. I’ll leave it at that.

There’s a theory saying the subjective passing of time before imminent death is stretched out to infinity until it becomes almost still, so you subjectively never die. Objectively, however, you have just dropped dead.

4. Crypt of the Necrodancer

Pump it up! Major kudos to Danny Baranowsky, because Crypt of the Necrodancer has a killer soundtrack — which is essential, because you’ll be pounding keys, dodging foes, and crushing baddies to the beat of music. Not feeling the tunes? I find that hard to believe! But in any event, Brace Yourself Games gives you the option to import your own music.

You play as Cadence, who has found herself in a uniquely spooky-yet-groovy situation. You’re father’s missing, the Necrodancer has stolen your heart, and your ability to bust moves, crush skeletons and slay dragons is inextricably tied to your survival. Replay the game with different characters and dive into the Steam Workshop for awesome user-generated content.

If you’re head isn’t bobbing and weaving as you dive down the crypt, then there’s something wrong.

Press ↑ + ↓ to Continue

5. Rogue Legacy

If you’re a major fan of the Castlevania or Metroid series, Rogue Legacy is a fantastic game for you because it pays homage to that canonized style of gameplay. Just toggle the map and you’ll feel right at home.

Each time you begin a run you’ll select a character build with randomly generated traits ranging from helpful to inconvenient to the absurd. For example, you might be a barbarian with irritable bowel syndrome — in other words, you’ll fart when you jump or dash.

Horde your loot on each run until you reach that unforgiving room full of flames, mages, knights and bone-throwing skeletons raining hell on you. After you die (because you will… a lot), upgrade your castle, buy some new abilities, and rush back in with raging vengeance. Bravo Cellar Door Games!

6. Enter the Gungeon

Dodge Roll Games lives up to their name with Enter the Gungeon. Flip tables and dodge-roll through bullet hell mayhem like the action hero you always wanted to be.

Choose from a motley crew of characters each with a different set of starting equipment and blast your way through five dungeon floors. Seems like not enough? Wrong! There are plenty of unlockable NPCs, character stories to explore, secret levels, and weapons and items to purchase from merchants back in the Breach.

BONUS SPOILER: Enter the Gungeon has a number of easter egg guns waiting for you like a Ghostbuster proton pack, NES Duck Hunt zapper, and Mega Man Mega Buster.

You died

7. Risk of Rain

Hopoo Games created an action-packed gem right here. Risk of Rain thrusts you into alien territory after your space train crash lands, leaving you on a strange planet as the sole survivor.

Depending on your character choice, you will begin with a basic set of abilities. At first, platforming around these levels may feel cumbersome and daunting, but acquire some key items or unlock some rare artifacts and you’ll be tearing it up in no time.

Time plays a crucial role in Risk of Rain, and can leave you in a constant state of balancing. As the clock ticks, the difficulty of the game scales, but more time spent farming enemies will yield a greater pay day.

With that being said, there is no centralized location for merchants or a break room to upgrade. You’ll have to rely on your memory and luck to locate chests and loot boxes. Rush to activate the portal to the next level and you might find yourself under-equipped. Over-level and buff your character on the first level, and you might find yourself in over your head by the final stages.

…and so he left, with everything but his humanity.

Ready player one!

If you are a fan of the roguelike genre or difficult games in general, then I highly recommend these games. While they are not the only popular rogue-like games out there (Binding of Isaac), they are the ones that I am most familiar with and can give my sincerest stamp of approval.

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