The Best Roguelikes on Android and iOS01 Oct 2019 21
Roguelikes are a tricky genre to pin down, seeing as the name itself began popping up everywhere at once without much structural rigour once a certain type of game started to in win players over. Conspicuous features include turn-based gameplay, usually with exploration or combat, and limited-to-no persistent progress carried across different play sessions.
Not feeling Rogue enough? How about some excellent war games instead?
These constraints made for entertaining, thoughtful and compact games which acquit themselves well to on-the-go bursts of play. This list includes the most classic and favorite members of the roguelike genre on android and iOS.
These roguelikes are recent additions to the review library that, while decent, aren't quite good enough to earn a top-spot. Might still be worth checking out though, if you like what you read in the review:
The Pocket Tactics readership has thrown up a bunch of games they think are excellent examples of the rogue-like genre. Because we're not able to include all of them, we'll list notable recommendations here. Some might rotated into the main list below, otherwise they'll remain here:
- Quest of Dungeons
- Cardinal Quest
- Pixel Dungeon
- Sword of Fargoal
- 100 Rogues
- Out There
- Hyper Rogue
- Look, Your Loot
- Pocket Realms
- Rogue Cards
- Binding of Issac: Rebirth
Dimensions of Dream (Review)
Developer: WEXPLORE GAMES CO
Platforms: iOS Universal
Price: $0.99 (with IAPs)
In the absence of a mobile version for Slay the Spire, plenty of roguelike/card game hybrids have stormed the app store to try and capture that audience. Dimensions represents one of the better ones to come along recently. It's a token premium game with IAPs, but we've found that everything is very neatly balanced and scaled so that it doesn't feel like a grind. There are plenty of different deck archetypes as well for you to play around with and experiment, and it's just a 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.
Necrodancer: Amplified (Review)
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Platforms: iOS Universal
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 the original game plus all of the DLC and add-on content from the PC game. 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 the generation, and now there really is no excuse to not get involved if you haven't already. Read Jarrett's review for more.
Immortal Rogue (Review)
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 reap civilisation. Because reasons.
The game struggles at times to interesting thigns with the premise from a narrative perspective, the but the tactical choices you make as you slaughter your way through an age have consequences for the ages to come. Depending on who you kill (or don't kill), the make-up and technology of enemies could be radically different. This is an addictive, one-handed game that evokes the best of what the genre can offer. Don't forget to read our interview with the developer, if you want to know more.
Card Crusade (Review)
Fair and as advertised is our elevator pitch for Card Crusade. In a niche that includes Dream Quest, Slay the Spire, Meteorfall et al. there's little here you wouldn't have seen before, but it's a stable and competent enough game to scratch that same itch for a short spell. You must pick one of several classes and go delving into the dungeon, finding loot and spells along the way that can help 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 game usually proceeds in bursts of activity, with some turns devoted to healing and survival while others see play of 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.
Developer: Hideki Hanida
Platforms: iOS Universal
Release towards the end of last year, we were a little late to the punch getting this one reviewed, but it's worth the wait. MIYAMOTO is an interesting blend of turn-based strategy, card mechanics and rogue-like gameplay where one of its few faults is that it's all-to-brief. The eight levels pit you against progressively tougher enemies, with short-term goal being to defeat your opponent's leader. If either your's or their leader 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 4x4 arena makes from some really tight tactical engagements. It a fast-paced game of throwing your units into battle as quickly as possible, filling as many spaces around your leader, so that you can place new ones ever deeper into opponents’ territory. If you're looking for something short and sweet, MIYAMOTO is an excellent new addition to your roster.
Hoplite might very well delight that wight who likes only the right sort of roguelike. The hoplites of history aren’t usually considered lone wolves or heroes, but this is exactly what the game casts you as: one nameless figure on a tight hexa-based on a quest to retrieve the golden fleece. Soldiering across levels of escalating difficulty, visiting temples to get incremental bonuses. The movement and decisions are simple, just a series of swipes along with the odd special ability. Small numbers and single turns are always decisive, and the ability effects are simple yet profound, little deus ex machinas bestowed each level. The skill synergies are tantalizing enough to draw you in, and the fiendishly difficult achievements (pacifist run, anyone?) will keep even veterans engaged. This one is a relic of the genre that is sterling.
Road Not Taken (Review)
In Road Not Taken, the winter is harsh and full of children, lost and dearly missed by the village. You, a sackcloth-clad stranger, take your torch and use what precious energy you have to brave the elements, to find and rescue each child. Along the way, the stranger will fend off wolves and spiteful ghosts, scavenging for food and the materials to make campfires. Each step drains energy, more so if carrying items, so the whole game is turn-based but with a soft cap on the number of steps. ‘Soft’ because energy can be replenished by eating various foodstuffs. The procedural generation behind each run belies the handcrafted puzzle levels which recur. This hybrid game wears many hats, though it is primarily a puzzler with crafting elements and a dash of combat. The secrets are a delight to discover and add to your book of recipes, while the multiple play modes offer a softer means of approach for newcomers.
FTL: Faster Than Light (Review)
Developer: Subset Games
Platforms: iOS Universal
Faster Than Light is a quest to save one corner of the galaxy, powering your ship through sections whilst questing for a handy crew, a devastating array of weapons, and sometimes just a glug 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 1 HP scrapes while slowly updating its bells and whistles till it can slay the beast. The chiptune beats and graphics were neither wholly retro nor AAA trendy but instead creating their own cool aesthetic. An uncontested classic.
Dream Quest (Review)
Publisher: Peter M Whalen
Platforms: iOS Universal
The challenge in Dream Quest is always the same: proceed through three levels as a chosen class, building a deck strong enough to escape the realm of dreams at last. But like its namesake, the twists and turns this progression takes are strange and wonderful. Rogue-likes typically rely on stochastic events and imperfect knowledge, yet Dream Quest transforms these uncertainties into a must-try 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, giving show-stopping battles. The art is so bad it has become iconic; the theoretical possibilities it provides are captivating. Dream Quest’s endgame is supremely satisfying in of itself, but the arduous journey to meet the Master of Dreams is equally thoughtful and intense. A pleasure throughout.
Developer: Dinofarm Games
Auro is the result of Keith Burgen’s careful tinkering and experimentations with game design. He’s an outspoken creator with a definite vision which hinges on useful distinctions like the knowledge horizon (a player can’t know everything at once, the designer draws a line beyond which information is out of reach). The prince must save the kingdom by bumping enemies and judiciously using spells and skills across this hex-based battler. Speed, precision and efficiency are paramount; score-chasing the measure of success. Not praised enough, and an android exclusive to boot!
Crowntakers has a sense of scale, uniquely balancing tactical combat with long-term investments via the overworld. It needn’t even be played as a roguelike at all, strictly speaking, for one of its alternate play modes is a persistent RPG with unlockables. The emphasis on individual decisions in either case remains paramount, from the exploration phase to combat. Its limitations are in how carelessly it hides some information, about enemy abilities, for example, from the player. In short, an excellent refreshing roguelike-RPG-lite which might be outmatched by other roguelikes but remains a distinct favorite.
Hall of Fame
We like to keep these lists lean & mean, so here's a round-up of former entries that shouldn't be forgotten:
What would your list of the best roguelike games on iOS and Android look like? Let us know!