In most games, death is a momentary set back. You get eaten by a big bug, and time rewinds by about five minutes to the last checkpoint.
Not so in roguelikes. This genre makes your mortality meaningful by sending you back to the very start of the game whenever you're killed off. No save games, here. It's one chance or back to the beginning.
These games also have randomly generated worlds, and often feature items that don't explain their use until you use 'em. At least you'll know what it does on your next go, eh?
Beyond that, a roguelike can be anything. A platformer, a dungeon crawler, a shooter, or an adventure. We run the gamut in this list of the best roguelikes you can get on Steam.
Dungeons of Dredmor
By Gaslamp Games - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£3.49)
Let's start with a traditional take on the genre. Dredmor is all about stomping around dungeons, gulping magic potions, and wailing on rats. It's massively deep, with that chunky RPG backbone, but charmingly approachable.
And it never has to end, as the extensive support for user-made mods has given the game a constant source of new content to explore.
Proving that roguelikes don't have to be stodgy turn-based tile 'em ups, Spelunky is a frantic platformer that's more like Mario than some ASCII dungeon crawler.
But that hostile difficulty curve, those game-changing items, and that nasty permendant death makes it super rogue-ish. And it's those elements that will keep you coming back until you finish off Olmec for good.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
By Nicalis - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£10.99)
Binding of Isaac is gross, probably a bit blasphemous, and rather obsessed with poop. But don't let that put you off this terrific religious roguelike.
The game looks like Zelda but plays like Robotron, and is filled with all manner of weird, unpredictable upgrades that you'll just have to use to figure out what they do. Oh, that one gives you three eyes. Good to know.
By Red Hook Studios - buy on PC and Mac (£14.99)
You don't often think about the psychological stress of exploring dungeons, but that's what this game is all about. Each Erdrich horror you see, each Lovecraftian nightmare you stumble upon shatters your team's sanity.
You'll have to put as much time into levelling out your crew's mood, as you do their health and weapons, or you'll end up with more problems on your hands than when you started.
By Failbetter Games - buy on PC and Mac (£13.99)
There's no one way to win at Sunless Sea. You just have to achieve whatever ambition you set out with. So that might be to make loads of money, discover some special place, or - weirdly - find your dad's bones.
There are plenty of ways to die, too, and while you'll have to start your adventure again you will at least get to pass some stuff down to whoever takes your place.
By Maschinen-Mensch - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£9.89)
An unknowable landscape. Unpredictable events. The threat of death at every turn. It's no surprise that the roguelike genre fits a jungle expedition so well.
In Curious Expedition you play as a famous explorer, and try to hunt down a golden pyramid. Every move you make has far-reaching consequences, especially as you juggle your crew's sanity and your standing with the locals.
By Vlambeer - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£9.99)
Proving that just about any game can be made into roguelike, Vlambeer has given permadeath and random levels to a manic, screen-shaking, bullet-spewing arcade blast 'em up.
It's all about mutated animals trying to shoot their way through a post apocalyptic wasteland. The game's in early access and you can follow its development in regular live streams over on Twitch.
By Klei Entertainment - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£10.99)
Take the surviving, item-hunting, and crafting from a game like Minecraft. And then threaten to wipe your save game if you die or, as the title warns, run out of food.
Suddenly, the stakes for surviving in this hostile wasteland are a little higher. And you'll be way more scared about stepping away from the safety of your camp and exploring some weird new location.
Crypt of the NecroDancer
By Brace Yourself Games - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£10.99)
You might look at that screenshot and think 'great, another dungeon crawler. Yawn'. But wait! What if I told you that it's not a dungeon, it's a dance floor.
Every map has a soundtrack, and the enemies dance around to the tune. You have to learn their choreography, and move to the beat, to deal damage. It's utterly bonkers, and brilliantly unique.
Even better, you can play the game with a USB Dance Dance Revolution mat if you own one.
868-Hack is all about risk and reward. You're a hacker in a computer system, looking to loot as much data as possible before you're killed by security drones. The more you nab, the more enemies spawn in to attack you.
It's elegant and sharply tuned, which you might not imagine given its ugly Spectrum-like art. Get past that, though, and you'll have a very fine, very refined roguelike.
Tales of Maj'Eyal
By DarkGod - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£4.99)
Tales of Maj'eyal, or ToME as some might call it, is another traditional take on the genre. All stats and RPG races and tiles. Just, with slightly more dashing artwork and other modern conveniences.
Fans love this one because it's deep, detailed, and utterly enormous. And has a clever tactical battle system that's more involving than just bashing into rats.
Roguelikes have a fascination with death, but few do anything particularly clever with it. Well, meet morphing Metroidvania, Rogue Legacy. Each time you die, it's your kid that becomes the next character in the game.
That means they inherit all your ancestor's stats and upgrades, so things don't reset completely upon each death. But random traits, like colour blindness and vertigo and irritable bowel syndrome, keep things fresh.
Teleglitch: Die More Edition
By Test3 Projects - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£8.99)
You're on a distant planet. And the lone survivor of some horrible accident. Which would be bad enough, if a malignant AI hadn't stuffed microchips into your dead crew members and resurrected them as bloodthirsty enemies.
The game mixes survivalism with shooting, and only shows what's in your line of sight so you'll have to be careful to not get surprised by baddies. The brutally hard difficulty will send you right back to the start.
You have two things to worry about in FTL. What's happening inside your spaceship, and what's happening outside your spaceship. So, that's everything then.
Because the cold expanse of space is scary enough. But things get truly hectic when aliens get on your ship and then the cargo deck is on fire but you open a door and oh dear your captain just suffocated.
With real-time combat against other ships, it can take approximately two and a half seconds for everything to go horribly awry.
Tower of Guns
By Terrible Posture Games - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£10.99)
Roguelikes don't have to be top-down. Or even side-scrolling. This manic game grafts the genre onto a first person shooter, with random arenas and random robots and random boss fights.
The game's filled with ridiculous power-ups like a centuple-jump (think double jump, but just more) and a rocket-spewing shotgun. You'll need them to face some of the baddies towards of the tip of the tower.
By Klei Entertainment - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£13.49)
Invisible, Inc has enough genres on its Wikipedia page, as a stealthy sneak 'em up that operates like a turn-based tactical game. But, hey, let's add roguelike to the mix as well.
So you get levels that are randomly laid out, and are encouraged to play through the short but sweet campaign over and over, on incrementally more challenging difficulty levels.
Risk of Rain
By Chucklefish - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£6.99)
Risk of Rain is a feisty platforming shooter, with all the usual roguelike elements you've come to know and love.
The game's got a clever difficulty system where enemies become more difficult over time. So do you spend a few extra minutes grinding for experience, or high tail it to the level exit?
Captain Forever Remix
By Pixelsaurus Games - buy on PC, Mac, and Linux (£10.99)
This one is just too imaginative to leave off the list. It's a space shooter like Asteroids, but you can nick bits and bobs from enemy ships and glue them onto your craft.
Physics apply, though, so a lop-sized spaceship will spin in circles and a massive juggernaut will need loads of thrusters to move. It's a game where creativity in design is more important than just grinding for bigger numbers.
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