Are There Too Many Roguelikes, Or Just Too Many Bad Ones?

Between 'Dead Cells,' 'Flinthook,' and 'Strafe,' roguelikes are no longer a novelty, for better and worse.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I had an idea last night for a piece about how I don’t think most roguelites are that great and then Patrick had to go and write this. shakes fist

I finished Derick Yu’s Bossfight book on Spelunky and it got me thinking if I actually liked roguelites as a genre or just really liked Spelunky and am chasing for another game to give me that feeling. So I was thinking about writing something about that. I might still write that piece. Can’t let Patrick write all the good pieces about things I like.

As someone who’s been fascinated by procedural art for a long time, longer than this current roguelike trend has been going, I think too many games just try and imitate what they’ve seen before (usually Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac or Nuclear Throne), instead of trying to take new approaches to using procedural generation.

Namely I think too many games lean really hard on The Binding Of Isaac’s generation method of just sticking together prefab rooms in a random order instead of actually putting effort into making a generator that creates compelling levels.I think there’s a lot of potential for more exploration-based games using procedural generation, like Starbound or, god forbid, Minecraft. I’m really excited about Heat Signature for this reason: it uses procedural generation in a fundamentally different way to most games that get classified as roguelikes.

Anyway I think there’s a lot of potential in procedural generation generally and roguelikes specifically. Procedural level generation is no longer a selling point on its own like it may have been five years ago, it’s just a tool in the designer’s toolbox, one that’s really useful for making compelling action games on a small budget.

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I, for one, love the idea of rogue-likes, but by the nature of the genre, they almost always need to be really difficult, and I just don’t have the skills or time to get really good at any given one of them.

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Yes, Heat Signature looks like what I’ve wanted out of a roguelite. I loved Gunpoint so I’m hoping Tom Francis can deliver again.

Yeah the probably definitely isn’t too many roguelikes or roguelites as recent games like Unexplored, Cogmind, Dead Cells, and the annual helping of 7drl games prove that there are still interesting and fun things this genre can do. I think the issue is that some games that are billed as roguelites don’t seem to understand what makes roguelikes really tick.

Part of what makes Spelunky not only a good game but a good roguelike/lite is it’s reverence towards roguelikes. One of my favorite things about playing roguelikes is learning how to safely and efficiently navigate their deadly worlds. The first few hours of Spelunky are so memorable as they have you learning how to traverse through spikes, arrows, and falls, how to approach the variety of enemies, and how to use the enemies and environment to your advantage. Flinthook doesn’t really have that. You don’t win when you improve your understanding of the world, you win when your platforming skills, buffs, and understanding of repeated rooms all combine together to get you to the end. Flinthook isn’t going to give you any stories about how you were able to defeat a devastating enemy using the environment or other enemies to kill it because it doesn’t give you any tools to make that possible.

There’s not really anything inherently bad about the clicking prefab rooms together method of roguelike design. It works in Binding of Isaac because there is such a wide variety of items and combinations for said items. Yeah you might be playing the same room for the 100th time but chances are that the items you found have changed your approach at least slightly. When you’re playing the same room for the 100th time probably the only difference is that your numbers might be a little higher. Flinthook does have some subweapons and and some perk that change the way your shot works, it’s just not really to the extent to really make an impact on the way you approach familiar challenges. Flinthook isn’t going to give you satisfying moments like plowing through with the perfect combo of weapons and items or making major progress in spite of being stuck with a limiting cursed item because, again, it doesn’t give you the tools to have those moments. Flinthook is particularly frustrating because they went through the trouble of designing the rooms so theoretically they could’ve just put those rooms together in a satisfying order rather than put them in a roguelike structure that doesn’t really play to the strengths of the existing mechanics.