Like... Slay the Spire? You'll Love These!04 Jun 2019 8
Slay the Spire is a masterpiece of game design whose only sin is that it is not currently available on a platform I can play on the bus. Instead, I have to wait until my lunch break to load it up on the company desktop and drag cards around with a mouse, of all things! How barbaric!
If you're looking for more regular card games, we've got a great alternative list for you to check out!
However, all hope is not lost. For if you are like me, desperately craving one more run up the spire, one more shot at building the perfect poison-multiplying deck, or one more chance to try to understand how to use the Defect's crazy orbs, you need something to take the edge off when you can't simply spend all day in front of a PC. Thus, here are the best games to play until Slay the Spire comes out on mobile. It's methadone, but for cards and weird-looking monsters.
- Spellsword Cards: Origins
- Guild of Dungeoneering
We weren't expecting to like this one so much when we (finally) got around to reviewing it a few weeks ago - Dimensions parallels with Slay the Spire are obvious, from it's combination of card mechanics and roguelike design, to the class mechanics, even the premise. Michael was especially impressed with the game's bespoke card pool, which managed to keep the tried-and-true formula fresh.
At the time of writing, the game was still a little bit rough around the edges, but nothing a good patch or two won't fix. If there hasn't already been an improvement by the time you read this, then hopefully the necessary tweaks and content improvements won't be too far away.
First, let's go back in time. Even before Slay the Spire was the innovative Dream Quest, a game known equally well for it's incredibly ugly graphics as its incredibly deep gameplay. Compared to Slay the Spire, Dream Quest is more focused on deck building. You get fewer cards in your hand, and can often simply play all of them rather than having to make tactical choices. Unlike Slay the Spire, enemies play with their own deck of cards and don't broadcast their intentions each round.
Dream Quest is less about playing each battle cleverly and more about making sure your chosen abilities work together against the given opponents. As you advance in the game, you'll learn what each enemy is capable of and which cards you can add to your deck to counter them. If you master it, you'll feel like you broke the game when you finally down the Lord of Dream.
Its creator described Meteorfall as "Dream Quest meets Reigns," and that's about as accurate as anything I can say. Meteorfall makes a smart decision in adapting card-battle gameplay to mobile: rather than having a hand of cards, you draw one at a time and decide to play it or pass, with each choice having a different effect on your resources.
It's like if Grindr was a way to decide which way you want to spank some Adventure Time characters. It's perfect to play one-handed, and complex and addictive. If you can't handle Dream Quest's janky interface and retina-throttling art, this is your best bet for a roguish deckbuilder on mobile. Small wonder it won our 2018 GOTY Award.
Night of the Full Moon takes another path to streamlining Dream Quest. Like Dream Quest, you have a small hand of cards and gradually build up your deck from basic attacks to much more complex card engines. Rather than having a map, you choose from three different encounters, including enemies as well as stores and other places to pick up new cards.
You've got several classes that offer completely different approaches. It's almost as challenging as Dream Quest and also quite a lot nicer to look at, with a fun cartoon style. The translation can be a bit of a struggle, however.
Where Slay the Spire has entirely different sets of cards for each character, even as you acquire new ones in your journey up the spire, Card Crusade gives each character a different starting deck and lets you add cards from a generic pool. It makes the characters less distinct, but improves the flexibility of your approaches.
This is probably the best choice after you've already exhausted Dream Quest and are looking for more of almost-the-same, like buying a bag of Hydrox when the store is out of Oreos.
If what you're looking for is really a clone of Slay the Spire and not just something in the same vein, your options are somewhat more limited. Pirates Outlaws is the clearest doppelganger. However, this copy also seems to sport a goatee, signalling it comes from the evil Mirror Universe of obnoxious in-app purchases and paywalls. It might be worth a try if Dream Quest and Meteorfall aren't doing it for you.
This one is basically a reduced version of Slay the Spire, with an almost identical gameplay loop and the twist of playing two heroes at a time. It's quite a bit easier, however, and the cards aren't quite as interesting. Worth a try after you've exhausted the rest.
If you love the card-battling dungeon-crawling of Slay the Spire but could take or leave the deckbuilding, Card Quest is the game you are looking for. It requires extremely careful, tactical use of your character's deck, but doesn't let you modify that deck card-by-card on the fly. Instead, sets of cards are tied to equipment you can acquire, and your deck shuffles these pre-set groups together.
If developing card synergies and managing your deck is your least favorite part of Slay the Spire, give this one a try. It keeps the roguelike challenge and even makes the battles deadlier to keep the focus on moment-to-moment tactical use of your cards.
Close, but no cigar
There are other card-based dungeon-crawlers or card battlers that are great fun, but not really substitutes for Slay the Spire.
- Solitairica and Card Crawl are really solitaire games where you are playing against a deck, not trying to build one.
- One Deck Dungeon deals out the dungeon from, you got it, one deck, and involves a lot more luck than Slay the Spire fans would like.
- Knights of the Card Table has a similar approach.
- Card City Nights plays closer to an actual collectible card game rather than a deckbuilding game.
There's probably too many card-based dungeon-crawlers on mobile to count so: what did I miss? And what are your favourites?