What is a Roguelike Game?

A Genre of Evolving Definitions

Over the past several years, roguelikes have enjoyed a new height of interest. It is likely that the genre and its relatives will continue to explode in popularity in the near future. The genre, and a few core mechanics specifically, have become extremely popular among the gamers and developers who discovered and implemented them. New games are quickly tagged “roguelike,” despite covering a wide range of mechanics and design features, and pushed out to an eager (and often uninformed) audience. With this surge of new games comes a rush of new players to the genre, and this has led to confusion and debate over what exactly a roguelike is – see the History of Roguelikes for more specific info. This confusion is far from exclusive to players new to the genre; even veterans of the genre have trouble agreeing on what exactly constitutes a roguelike game. This website uses a rather forgiving, open-ended interpretation of the word roguelike, which we present here.

TL:DR – Roguelikes are a genre of games stemming from the classic RPG adventure game Rogue, which introduced and/or expanded on a variety of mechanics in the 1980’s.

Our Working Definition of “Roguelike”

FTL, a mainstream “roguelite”

Here at Living Roguelike, our staff believe that definitions are useful tools for categorization and organization. However, we also believe that definitions can be limiting, and that it is easy to spend too much time discussing the words themselves, instead of  the games we enjoy. For the sake of simplicity, we define a game as a roguelike or roguelite if it features all or some of these characteristics, in relative importance:

  • Features procedurally generated content
  • Is turn and grid-based
  • Features permanent death
  • Is able to surprise you through emergent gameplay and complex mechanical interactions
  • Is challenging or difficult
  • Requires strategic resource management

Inclusive Definitions Lead to Growth of the Genre

We believe that the most meaningful discussion can only take place when we are willing to explore the design behind the mechanic, and the experience resulting from the gameplay. In pursuit of this philosophy, you will see games discussed here that do not always fit neatly into the “traditional” definition of roguelike. We are also generous in the roguelike vs. rougelite argument, where we make only one major differentiation between the sub-genres. This is not due to ignorance of definitions or our history, but out of sincere desire to explore interesting concepts and ideas and to make our genre more available to a larger group of potential players.

We hope to see the genre we love develop and flourish while remaining respectful to its roots, and we hope you will join us in developing an inclusive mindset toward the games currently under development, both mainstream and independent.

About the Writer

symbol-representing-authorAlexander Ashpool is a pop-culture enthusiast and writer. Interested primarily in games, books, and film, he has served as a consultant, contributor, and tester for various projects and publications. When he isn’t writing for Living Roguelike, he can be found at https://ashpoolwrites.wordpress.com/ or on twitter @weeknightwizard .