A roguelite can incorporate its roguelike elements in several ways.
In addition to sticking to its permadeath-run premise, roguelites allow for flexibility that lends itself to experimenting with multiple genres.
Thus, there are mixed combinations of a roguelite with almost every other video game genre in existence – action, strategy, or even story-based adventure stories.
Largely, however, the two types of broad combat designs that dominate the current roguelite landscape are action and deck building. While the former focuses on game-related reflexes and mechanical skills, the deck-building group is more leisurely and managerial.
Five roguelites with the most fun deck-building experience
1) Kill the Arrow (2017)
Developer/Publisher: MegaCrit Games/Humble Bundle
Platforms: PC, PS4, iOS, Android
The success of Slay The Spire is what reignited the hype for deck-building roguelites in 2018, as several knockoffs attempt to branch off from its formula. This formula is simple in principle: Slay The Spire keeps it tight and short.
Getting in and out of the game is extremely easy, and the combat mechanics can be learned intuitively during the first playthrough itself.
However, despite this apparent simplicity, Slay The Spire features an unparalleled depth of deckbuilding combinations that is hard to match even half a decade after its release. Built-in balance and strategic opportunities provide enough player agency that those with the highest level of mastery can achieve over 50% win rate in their runs, as consistent as a deck-building roguelite balance.
2) Earthclaw (2021)
Developer/Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Griftland’s unique selling point is its intriguing narrative, at least compared to other entries on this list. It’s far more story-driven than you’d expect from a roguelite deckbuilder, with clever dialogue, a memorable cast of characters, and superb world-building.
On the other hand, his actual deck construction leaves something to be desired. For Griftlands, the replay value comes not from the variety of its turn-based combat, but rather from exploring the many threads, twists and turns of the plot.
With three selectable characters (classes), all with strikingly different entanglements, this gives the game enough replayability to compare to an average roguelite playtime of 40 hours.
3) The Monster Train (2020)
Developer/Publisher: Shiny Shoes/Good Shepherd Entertainment
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Switch
Monster train is one of the few games to work with the exact simplistic formula of Slay the Spire while still managing to become a completely different stage. There are a few interesting things about the concept board itself: the game takes place on a branching railway track, each with multi-story levels with the ultimate goal of preventing spawning mobs from reaching the last stage.
To defend against them, players can draw from a main monster clan and an allied clan who will largely decide their deck and champion cards. With such a vast range to change playstyles and make on-the-fly adjustments with discard piles, Monster Train strikes a happy medium between RNG and player strategy.
4) Encryption (2021)
Developer/Publisher: Daniel Mullins Games/Devolver Digital
Inscryption revokes a lot of points from the Hand of Fate drawing board. It has a similar perspective across the table and an equally eerie atmosphere.
However, the thin aesthetic similarity ends there, as the game remains a deck-building game through and through. Its grid-based card battles aren’t what makes it so appealing.
The inscription is much more stylish than substantial. It plays its cards beautifully in the stylization and presentation departments, from its eye-catching tutorial to its many surprising twists that demand multiple playthroughs, each as exciting and new as the last.
5) Risky Dungeons (2019)
Developer/Publisher: Terry Cavanagh
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, iOS, Android
Set to a groovy, upbeat soundtrack by Chipzel, Dicey Dungeons is a whimsical, funny, yet surprisingly challenging attempt at the roguelite formula of dungeon crawling (or circus crawling in this case). This title’s “risky” dungeons are quite a material pun, as not only are all of the playable classes themselves dice, but dice are also the very basis of its gameplay.
Instead of drawing from a stack of playing cards, this deck builder asks the player to allocate dice on pre-assigned cards in a turn to determine combat exit.
Note: This article reflects the views of the author.