They can often be a tricky genre to pin down, but, in spite of that, roguelikes have risen to massive popularity over the past few years. If you were trying to explain what a roguelike was to your friend who’s been living in cave, you might say their conspicuous features include turn-based gameplay, exploration or combat, as well as a harsh progression cycle, punishing you and almost invariably resetting your progress.
At the same time, you’d also be wrong. The debate around roguelikes still exists because they aren’t a one-size-fits-all genre, and there will always be games which serve as exceptions to the rule. But in our opinion, that’s what makes them most fun.
One thing we can agree on, is that the best mobile roguelikes can be recognised by the way they use constraint; creating entertaining, thoughtful, and compact games that actually lend themselves wonderfully to the mobile format. There are tons of quality games you could be playing on-the-go, so lets take a look at this fantastic genre, with our list of the best mobile roguelikes.
What are the best MObile Roguelikes?
In the absence of a mobile version of Slay the Spire, plenty of roguelike/deck builder hybrids have stormed the App Store to try and capture that audience. Dimension of Dreams represents one of the better ones to come along recently. It’s a token premium game with in-app purchases, but we’ve found that everything is neatly balanced and scaled so that it doesn’t feel like a grind.
There are also plenty of different deck archetypes for you to play around and experiment with, so it’s a real shame it isn’t on Android yet. This, and some choice patches is all that’s stopping it from being the ultimate contender to Slay the Spire’s throne. For more games like Dimension of Dreams, see our list of games like Slay the Spire on mobile.
Naturally, the only thing that could knock Crypt of the Necrodancer off its coveted top spot would be more Crypt of the Necrodancer. The Amplified version released in April 2019 contains both the original game as well as all DLC and add-on content from the PC version. There’s a new protagonist to take control of, Nocturna, along with new enemies, music, and new levels. This is easily the definitive version of one of the best roguelikes of this generation, and now there really is no excuse to not get involved if you haven’t already.
It’s amazing what you can do when you take two seemingly by-the-numbers tropes and package them into something genuinely interesting. Your uber-powerful vampire may not seem that special as it terrorises society in a replayable game, but the fact that you’re doing it over countless generations is not something you see every day. In Immortal Rogue, your job is to wake up periodically and harvest human civilisation. Because reasons.
The game struggles at times from a narrative perspective, but the tactical choices you make as you slaughter your way through an age do have consequences on ages to come. Depending on who you kill, or don’t kill, enemies can appear radically different. This is an addictive, one-handed game that evokes the best of what the genre can offer.
Fair, balanced, and as advertised is our elevator pitch for Card Crusade. In a niche that includes Dream Quest, Slay the Spire, Meteorfall, and others, there’s little here we haven’t seen before, but it’s a stable and competent enough game to scratch that same satisfying itch for a short spell. Pick one of several classes and delve into the dungeon, discovering loot and spells along the way, aiding you in repeat playthroughs. It’s got its share of mediocrities, but also plenty of innovation as well.
Battles have an unusual tempo to them. Of course, it’s always best to clear the field as soon as possible, but the gameplay usually occurs in bursts of activity, with some turns devoted to healing and survival, while others see you playing an especially strong card to eliminate a key foe. Here Card Crusade breaks with longstanding roguelike tradition and does not offer full healing upon level-up or floor clear, which means damage suffered becomes persistent. This is one of the game’s smartest choices, adding a sense of pressure while simultaneously rewarding clean strategy and play. For more deck-based drama, browse our picks for the best mobile card games!
Released towards the end of last year, MIYAMOTO is an interesting blend of turn-based strategy, card mechanics, and roguelike gameplay, where the primary fault is that it’s all-too-brief. Eight levels pit you against progressively tougher enemies, as you battle your way to defeat their leader. If either your leader or the enemy’s dies, it’s game-over. Beating levels nets you coins that you can use to invest in better leaders.
The card mechanics are perhaps a bit token; there’s no way to interact with your deck of troops, but every unit is varied and unique, and the small 4×4 arena makes for some really tight tactical engagements. It a fast-paced game, as you throw your units into battle as quickly as possible, filling as many spaces around your leader as possible, so you can place troops ever deeper into an opponent’s territory. If you’re looking for something short and sweet, MIYAMOTO is an excellent new addition to your roster.
The hoplites of history aren’t usually considered lone wolves or heroes, but this is exactly the role that Hoplite casts you in: one nameless figure on a tight hexagon-based quest to retrieve the golden fleece. As you soldier across levels of escalating difficulty, you visit temples to get incremental bonuses. The movement and decision-making is performed with a series of swipes alongside the odd special ability. These abilities can be simple yet profound, a little deus ex machina bestowed each level, while the skill synergies are tantalizing enough to draw you in, yet fiendishly difficult to achieve, and will keep even veterans engaged.
The winter is harsh and full of children in Road Not Taken. You, a sackcloth-clad stranger, take your torch and use what precious energy you have to brave the elements, finding and rescuing each child. Along the way, you’ll have to fend off wolves and spiteful ghosts, scavenge for food, and find materials to make campfires. Each step drains energy; more so if you’re carrying items, so the whole game is turn-based, with a soft cap on the number of steps; as energy can be replenished by eating various foodstuffs.
The procedural generation behind each run really shows off the game’s handcrafted puzzle levels. This hybrid game wears many hats, though is primarily a puzzler with crafting elements and a dash of combat.
In a quest to save the galaxy, Faster Than Light sees you power up your ship, quest for a handy crew, a devastating array of weapons, and sometimes just a spot of fuel. Real-time with pause combat works around cooldowns, with each battle encounter ending once the enemy ship is destroyed or its crew incapacitated. Honestly, the ship is the real hero, suffering hull breaches and one HP scrapes while slowly building power till it can slay the beast. The chiptune beats and graphics are neither wholly retro, nor AAA trendy, but instead create their own cool aesthetic.
Dream Quest is simple: proceed through three levels as a chosen class, and build a deck strong enough to escape the realm of dreams. But like its namesake, the twists and turns this progression takes are strange and wonderful. Roguelikes typically rely on random events and imperfect knowledge, yet Dream Quest transforms these uncertainties into a must-play challenge for strategy buffs.
The total card pool is modest and manageable, but in total produces a surprising variety of synergies and unique challenges. Inscrutable sphinxes, malicious mimes, and immortal hydras, all make an appearance as foes, offering show-stopping battles. Dream Quest’s endgame is also supremely satisfying.
The result of Keith Burgen’s careful tinkering and experiments, Auro is a roguelike that hinges around bumping monsters and creating spell combos. The prince must save the kingdom, judiciously using his magic and skills across this hex-based battler. Speed, precision, and efficiency are paramount, and score-chasing is the measure of success. Not praised enough, and an android exclusive to boot.
With a sense of scale, while balancing tactical combat with long-term investments, Crowntakers needn’t even be played as a roguelike at all. For one, its alternate play mode is a persistent RPG with unlockables. The emphasis on individual decisions in the game is paramount, from the exploration phase to the combat. But its limitations lie in how carelessly it hides information from the player, about enemy abilities, for example. In short, an excellent, refreshing roguelike RPG that, while outmatched by others, remains a distinct favorite. Check our list of the best mobile RPGs for more like Crowntakers.
Other Roguelike Recommendations
For your perusing pleasure, here’s a round-up of former entries that shouldn’t be forgotten: