Roguelike games are uniquely challenging games. That’s the niche they occupy. They are inherently challenging by design, in most cases. But that doesn’t mean they should be difficult.
In this list, we look at roguelike games that are beginner friendly. And yes, there will be some roguelite games added into the mix as well. It’s fine, okay!
I actually wanted to add Darkest Dungeon onto the list as well. Then I realized no matter how I look at it, there is nothing remotely beginner friendly about Darkest Dungeon.
What is a Roguelike Game?
In the broadest sense, a roguelike is a game that features both procedural generation and permadeath as core elements of gameplay. In a more literal sense, games that mimic the mechanics of the 1980 classic, Rogue. Hence the term roguelike. Either definition is acceptable.
Difference Between Roguelike and Roguelite Games
What sets it apart from a roguelite is that in a roguelite something persists after the run is over. Be it special currency or unique power-up. This fundamental difference makes it more of an offshoot of the genre than anything else.
Roguelites have meta-progression, whereas roguelikes don’t. This is a simple distinction and it’s a fairly straightforward idea. When you die in a roguelite game, you take something with you into the next run. Regardless of execution, both are still fun in their way.
Enter the Gungeon
All the characters in Enter of Gundeon have one goal in mind – to find the gun that’s capable of killing the past. Why? Can’t really speak for each one individually, but if you are willing to fight your way through hordes of bullet shaped enemies to get to it, then it’s probably worth it.
What makes Enter the Gundeon beginner friendly is that you can pick up some powerful guns early on, and you can use said guns for a deep runs. Of course, the armory is where the game truly shines.
Subsequent runs don’t reward the player with better stats. The currency you pick up in each run makes sure more guns are available when you open chests. In the end, variety is king.
And as far as top down shooters go, it is very forgiving. Right down to the gracious amount of time you are invulnerable during rolls. It’s no bullet hell, that’s for sure.
Streets of Rogue
Streets of Rogue is best described as an RPG rogue-like that honors the player’s wish to take on levels in whatever way they want. (Within the confines of the game’s logic, of course.) But seeing as the opening of the game sees your main point of contact explode into a bloody mess, should tell you everything about the direction this game is going.
What makes the game very beginner friendly is that you and 3 other friends can enter in the same instance.
Because the game supports multiple classes like any good punk RPG, there is always the potential of mayhem and destruction. And besides, having a friend around to rez you when you go down doesn’t hurt the experience one bit. But you will have to spend those chicken nuggets eventually… You know what? It’s best to leave it there.
Downwell is a criminally underrated roguelike. The stickman inspired visuals are designed to make everything clear. You are here to jump down to the bottom of this pit, and nothing’s going to distract you.
There are only three buttons in the game – left, right, and jump. It’s as simple as that. And for most roguelikes, this has got to be the most simple of them all in terms of pure mechanics.
All of Downwell’s mechanics serves multiple purposes. You use your gunboots to kill enemies, break through blocks, and change directions in mid-air.
Your objective is to accumulate gems by killing enemies and naturally falling down. It’s that simple. And your reward for doing deeper into the hole, you get to try out modifiers that change up the gameplay in one way or another. This game is addictively fun, for all the right reasons.
Into the Breach
Into the Breach is a turn-based strategy game with its roguelike elements shining brightest when studying the enemy A.I’s actions and when the player decides to press the reset button.
What makes this title so accessible is the fact that it plays out like a casual game of chess on the surface, and very much like chess, you only ever see the bigger picture many, many turns in.
When the player decides that losing becomes the only outcome, they can pull a Terminator and send one of their best pilots to the past to tip the odds slightly to the side of humanity.
All in all, Into the Breach is packed with all sorts of tough choices, but I’d wager that you’ll be enjoying the game too much to let it affect your judgment.
Yes, Othercide is somewhat akin to Darkest Dungeon and Into the Breach. And in many ways, it really is… But hear me out! The thing that makes Othercide beginner friendly, unlike most roguelikes, is that there is less randomization in its encounters.
The missions your daughters go into may be randomized from time to time, but the general placement of units and their spawn order are mostly the same as they were in previous runs. Think Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise, but with plague doctors instead of aliens.
Admittedly, if you make a mistake at any stage of a run, it’s a short trip back to the beginning of the game. Thankfully, you have these handy dandy resurrection tokens that can be used to bring back your most powerful daughters in the next run.
Surely, that will even the playing field somewhat. Still can’t afford to let your guard down though.
A classic of the 2000’s era of roguelikes, Spelunky embodies everything that’s come to be expected from a 2D roguelike. We’re talking about multiple levels of procedurally generated caverns and a permadeath feature that basically resets everything back to zero.
What makes Spelunky beginner friendly though is that there are shortcuts in the game. If you do some tasks for the Tunnel Man, he can dig you a new passage in the hub world that allows you to bypass entire levels completely.
It won’t help you get the true ending, since unlocking it requires players to find hidden relics in each level. But maybe that’s something to worry about in subsequent runs.
It’s all about speed and precision in Dead Cells. Though I can’t really say that the game is all that beginner friendly, you are still expected to die… a lot. But dying feels like a step forward rather than backwards, depending on how deep your run goes.
You see, every time a run comes to an end, you have a chance to upgrade your equipment and such. However. The moment you decide to embark on your next run, it’s going cost you everything to try again. You have more upgrades to choose from, the deeper you were in your last run.
What I’m trying to say here is that there is this sense of forward momentum when you play Dead Cells, and that’s credited to its fast paced action and fluid movement.
You can’t dread much about failing if you are zooming through level all Sonic like, slicing through enemies and artfully jumping between floors.
Much like Dead Cells, you can’t start another run of 20XX until you’ve used up all your remaining money. What makes 20XX unique is the fact that 20XX is essentially Megaman meets roguelike.
Expect disappearing platforms and boss battles a plenty. And much like Rogue Legacy, upgrading Nina and Ace’s arsenal using nuts over time will inevitably make the game easier over multiple runs.
As an added bonus, you get to keep all the unique boss upgrades after you’ve beaten said boss. Basically, the longer you play the game, the easier it’s going to get.
Even if you aren’t the very best in terms of mechanical skill, it’s hard to argue with anyone who has a blaster capable of untold amounts of destruction.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is very well done roguelike that doesn’t get talked about as much as it deserves. Imagine being asked to survive on an alien planet for as long as possible, with only the prospect of another run to look forward to.
This is where the beginner friendly aspect kicks in. Risk of Rain 2 allows a friend or a complete stranger to accompany you in runs. Great! So you won’t just be looking out for your neck but someone else’s as well.
Joking aside, having the right companion in very deep runs of the game can make all the difference since the game will have become a bullet hell at that point. Good luck trying to dodge and weave endless waves of giant walkers.
What more can be said about 2020’s Indie GOTY? Hades ties its death mechanic to practically every fiber of its being. We are reminded by it constantly by daddy dearest himself and all the denizens of Underworld. But that somehow plays into the grand comedy that is escaping the realm of Hades.
Everywhere you look in Hades though, there is a sense of progression. The gifts you pick up and the favors you ultimately gain from the gods and goddesses are a result of many painful attempts.
Even your weapon combinations are a result of all the choices you’ve made. Heck, the Hall of Hades, with its permanent fixtures, are built using precious gems from previous runs.
Hades may be tough as nails in certain sequences but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the game is very approachable and rewards you for sticking with it for a long time. The true ending alone is proof of this. The addictive gameplay and snappy as hell writing are just the cherry on top.