The Best Roguelike Games for Android

From traditional to creative, the best permadeath RPGs on Android

What the heck is a roguelike? Well, that's actually a good question. The short answer is that it's a game where you start from a base character in a world with randomly-designed elements and build them up, but if you get a game over, you have to start over entirely fresh. The idea is that you can't master a game through rote memorization, you have to practice and get skilled in order to do well.

But what a roguelike is, often varies. Initially, it was described to mean a very specific set of definitions. Initially, the eponymous Rogue and Nethack drove the definition of roguelike. Seriously, there's what's called the Berlin definition that gives many, many parameters as to what a roguelike should be.

But many modern game developers have taken the principles of roguelikes, and built entirely new games around them, expanding them to other genres, and tweaking the parameters to create different experiences. What these games are to be called is often confusing – you hear the terms roguelite, roguelike-like, and even just roguelike used to describe these games. Here are some of the best modern roguelike-inspired games, including both turn-based games that aspire to the Berlin definition, and games that veer wildly from what the original Rogue was meant to be.

Rocketcat Games

This game perhaps represents the best halfway point between the classic roguelike and the modern interpretation of its principles. It's an action-RPG where you have limited health and abilities to make it through several incredibly dangerous dungeons, starting fresh every time you play. But the currency you collect can be used to upgrade your base stats, giving you just a bit more of an advantage every time you go back through the game. It's a tense but fun experience, making you aware of every mistake you make, forcing you to learn how to use your characters properly and to get better. This is a game with the kind of depth that you could play just this game for a long time and not get bored, between the different character types and the difficulty of getting to the next dungeon. And if it proves to be too difficult, there are cheat codes!

If you've played Rocketcat's other action-RPG Mage Gauntlet, you'll find better controls and systems in play, with more replayability and more character types to use. It's a dramatic improvement on that game. This was my favorite game of 2014 when it came out initially, was on many top lists, and it holds up well to this day, and should do so for a long time. More »

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This roguelike is much closer to the original definition of the roguelike, as it's a turn-based game where there are no advantages you can confer on yourself before you play. You control a Greek soldier armed with sword, shield, and spear, trying to advance through a dangerous dungeon to obtain the golden fleece of legend. The game puts a lot of hazards in your way, with enemies with particular behaviors that must be learned. You'll have to use your abilities wisely. Throwing your spear might help you out, but you'll have to go collect it and will lose the ability to lunge through enemies. Your shield bash will help, but you'll be without it for a few turns.

While you should be able to eventually get the golden fleece through determination and effort, your score is tracked, and if you pass up the upgrade "blessings" along the way, you can get more points and can skip the fleece to go even further to try and get a higher score. There's lots awaiting you if you want to keep going. And that's without mentioning the challenge mode. It lives up to its name. Special note: this game actually was available on Android before it was out on iOS, where the game picked up extra attention and acclaim. More »

This roguelike from the now-defunct Lucky Frame is probably a bit closer to what you'd get if Threes was a roguelike, but it's a ton of fun. You move groups of heroes around, moving everyone at once, trying to defeat and dodge enemies as necessary. You pick up new party members, gold, and potions as you go, using your abilities wisely to try and make it through all 16 floors of the dungeon. It has a unique feel because of the way that you control everyone at once and the number of levels you have to make it through, but it's really, really fun. This game was initially released for desktop systems but is probably at its best on mobile. You can play it in portrait mode on phones, or in landscape mode on tablets, and it works well either way. More »

Butterscotch Shenanigans

 This action-roguelike doesn't take itself too seriously, with a unique style and humor to the game. But the action is deadly serious, as you collect powerful weapons and abilities as you hack and slash through enemy after enemy, getting more powerful along the way, all in the name of defeating your comically-named nemesis, Pete. There is a goal and objective to the game, but plenty of upgrades and replayability to be had for those wanting to dive in again and again. It's more casual-friendly than perhaps Wayward Souls is, but still plenty challenging. The developers are working on a new game, Crashlands, and have a documentary in the works about its production, particularly as one of the developers has had to deal with two bouts of cancer during its development. More »

Mi-Clos

 If you want something with a narrative experience, Mi-Clos' game is really interesting. You're a lost and adrift space explorer, trying to make it from planet to planet, refilling your lost resources as you travel. You'll interact with alien races, take risks in drilling for more resources, and uncover a mystery across the galaxy you're lost in, starting from a fresh beginning each time. The game was great at first, but a major Omega Edition update brought many improvements along with dramatically revamped art and a new game mode where you can find the ships you've lost before was added in. Definitely check this out. More »

Do you rogue-like our choices?

Are you more of a traditional roguelike fan, or was there a more modern interpretation of roguelikes we missed out on? Tell us in the comments.
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