In light of the success that was Diablo 4, let’s take a look at the top ten dungeon crawlers you can play in 2023.
What Are Dungeon Crawlers?
Dungeon crawlers are the ultimate sub-genre of RPGs that revolve around the trinity of exploration, combat, and character progression. As the name suggests, these games plunge players into dark and dangerous dungeons or other underground realms, where they must battle formidable foes and dig up priceless treasures.
The beauty of dungeon crawlers lies in their versatility – they come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like the classic Rogue RPG, feature randomly generated levels and permadeath, while others, like the iconic Diablo franchise, boast a more linear storyline and level progression. But regardless of the game you choose, you can always count on satisfying gameplay mechanics that include loot collection and character customization.
Combat is a significant component of these games, and players must use a wide array of weapons, spells, and powerful abilities to vanquish the many monsters that lurk in the dungeons. Depending on the game, combat can be turn-based, real-time, or a mix of both.
But dungeon crawlers aren’t just about hacking and slashing your way through hordes of enemies. There’s also a strong emphasis on exploration, with players tasked with navigating complex environments, solving puzzles, and uncovering hidden secrets. This often requires revisiting previously explored areas as new paths and treasures become available as the player progresses.
What Are The Different Sub-Genres Of Dungeon Crawlers?
Dungeon crawler games offer a wide range of gameplay experiences, and there are several sub-genres within the dungeon crawler category. Here are some of the most popular sub-genres of dungeon crawlers:
Roguelike Dungeon Crawlers
Roguelike dungeon crawlers are characterized by procedurally generated levels and permadeath, meaning that if the player dies, they must start the game again from the beginning. These games often feature turn-based combat, deep character customization, and a strong emphasis on exploration and discovery. Famous examples of roguelike dungeon crawlers include games like NetHack, Spelunky, and FTL: Faster Than Light.
Action RPG Dungeon Crawlers
Action RPG dungeon crawlers are a fast-paced sub-genre that typically feature real-time combat and a focus on character progression and loot collection. These games often have a strong narrative and may be structured around a central storyline. Popular examples of action RPG dungeon crawlers include the Diablo series, Torchlight, and Path of Exile.
Turn-Based Dungeon Crawlers
Turn-based dungeon crawlers offer a slower, more strategic gameplay experience. Players take turns moving and attacking, and combat is often heavily based on a character’s stats and abilities. These games often have a strong emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving and may feature a variety of different character classes and customization options. Famous examples of turn-based dungeon crawlers include games like Legend of Grimrock, The Bard’s Tale, and Etrian Odyssey.
First-Person Dungeon Crawlers
First-person dungeon crawlers are characterized by a first-person perspective and often feature complex, maze-like environments. These games often have a strong emphasis on puzzle-solving and exploration and may include elements of horror or survival. Popular examples of first-person dungeon crawlers include games like Might and Magic, Wizardry, and the Elder Scrolls series.
Tactical RPG Dungeon Crawlers
Tactical RPG dungeon crawlers are a sub-genre that emphasizes deep strategy and planning. These games often feature turn-based combat and a high degree of customization and character development. Players must carefully manage their resources and make strategic decisions to overcome challenging enemies and obstacles. Popular examples of tactical RPG dungeon crawlers include games like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, and XCOM.
So no matter what you are into, you’re likely to find something up to your taste in dungeon-crawler games.
All that being said, let’s take a look at the list.
10. Crypt Of The NecroDancer
Standing at number ten, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a unique and engaging game that combines the adrenaline-pumping action of a dungeon crawler with the rhythm and beat of a dance game. In this game, players must navigate through a series of randomly generated dungeons, battling hordes of monsters and collecting valuable loot, all while moving to the beat of the game’s thumping soundtrack.
But there’s a catch – players must move to the beat of the music in order to take actions, like attacking, moving, and using special abilities. This means that every move you make must be in time with the game’s infectious soundtrack, adding an exciting and challenging twist to the classic dungeon-crawling formula.
The game is one of the most unique dungeon crawlers you could play. If you get bored with the repetition of these styles of games, this one is made just for you.
9. Children Of Morta
If you’re looking for a game that combines heartwarming family drama with challenging dungeon-crawling gameplay, then Children of Morta is the perfect game for you. In this indie gem, you play as the Bergson family, a clan of heroic warriors who must fight against an evil corruption that threatens to consume their homeland.
As you journey through the game’s treacherous dungeons, you’ll battle hordes of monsters and collect valuable loot, all while uncovering the mysteries of corruption and the dark forces behind it. But what really sets Children of Morta apart from other dungeon crawlers is its emphasis on family and relationships.
As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new characters to play as, each with their own unique abilities and playstyles. But these characters aren’t just random warriors – they’re members of the Bergson family, and their relationships with one another form the heart of the game’s narrative.
Through touching cutscenes and in-game interactions, you’ll learn about the Bergson family’s history, their struggles, and their triumphs. You’ll watch as they grow and change, both individually and as a family, and you’ll be invested in their journey every step of the way.
8. Torchlight II
If you’re a fan of action-packed RPG dungeon crawlers with deep customization and addictive gameplay, then Torchlight II is a game that you won’t want to miss. In this vibrant and colourful world, you’ll play as one of four unique character classes – the Engineer, the Outlander, the Embermage, or the Berserker – each with its own playstyle and abilities.
As you journey through the game’s beautiful environments, you’ll battle hordes of monsters and collect valuable loot, all while levelling up your character and customizing your skills and equipment. But what really sets Torchlight II apart from other RPGs is its focus on cooperative multiplayer.
With seamless drop-in/drop-out multiplayer, you can team up with friends (or strangers) to take on the game’s challenging dungeons and bosses together. And with a variety of different difficulty levels, there’s always a challenge waiting for you and your friends, no matter how skilled you are.
But even if you prefer to play solo, Torchlight II has plenty to offer. With a deep and engaging storyline, memorable characters, and a vibrant and detailed world to explore, this game truly has something for everyone.
7. Slay The Spire
If you’re a fan of strategy games and roguelike dungeon crawlers, then Slay the Spire is a game that you won’t want to miss. In this addictive and challenging game, you play as one of several unique characters, each with their own set of cards and abilities, as you climb the titular spire and battle your way through hordes of enemies and bosses.
The gameplay of Slay the Spire is based on building a powerful deck of cards that allow you to attack, defend, and use special abilities in battle. As you progress through the game, you’ll collect new cards and upgrade your existing ones, creating a customized deck that suits your playstyle and strategy.
But the real challenge of Slay the Spire lies in the game’s roguelike mechanics. Every run through the spire is different, with procedurally generated levels, enemies, bosses, and permadeath, meaning that if you die, you’ll have to start all over again. This means that every decision you make, every card you choose to add to your deck, and every battle you fight is crucial to your survival.
But despite its challenging gameplay, Slay the Spire is an incredibly addictive and rewarding game. With multiple characters to choose from, each with their own unique playstyle, and a wealth of cards to collect and upgrade, there’s always something new to discover and master.
So if you’re up for a challenge and love strategy games and roguelike dungeon crawlers, then Slay the Spire is a game made for you.
6. Diablo (1996)
If you’re a fan of action RPGs and dungeon crawlers, then Diablo (1996) is the game that started it all and is a true classic that you won’t want to miss. In this iconic game, you play as one of several character classes – the Warrior, the Rogue, or the Sorcerer – as you explore the depths of a dark and foreboding dungeon, battling hordes of monsters and collecting powerful loot.
But what really sets Diablo apart is its addictive gameplay and deep customization options. As you level up your character and progress through the game’s increasingly challenging levels, you’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of skills and abilities, allowing you to customize your character to suit your play style and strategy.
And with a wealth of powerful and unique items to collect and upgrade, there’s always a new and exciting way to take on your enemies and become more powerful.
But even with its deep and satisfying gameplay, Diablo is also a game with a rich and immersive world to explore. With a compelling narrative, memorable characters, and a dark and atmospheric art style, this game has a special place in the genre’s fans’ hearts.
5. Cult Of The Lamb
Cult of the Lamb promises to be a unique and engaging experience for fans of action RPGs and management games alike. In this game, you play as a newly resurrected lamb who has been chosen to lead a cult of followers in a dark and foreboding world filled with supernatural threats.
As the leader of your cult, you’ll need to build and expand your base, recruit new followers, and perform rituals to gain powerful blessings and abilities. But you’ll also need to defend your cult from dangerous enemies, both human and otherworldly.
The gameplay of Cult of the Lamb is a blend of action-packed combat and strategic management. As you explore the game’s procedurally generated world, you’ll engage in intense battles with a variety of different enemies, all while managing your resources and growing your cult.
But what really sets Cult of the Lamb apart is its story and setting. With a dark and twisted narrative filled with memorable characters and unexpected twists, this game will keep you hooked from beginning to end. And with a unique art style that blends cute and creepy elements, Cult of the Lamb is a game that’s sure to stand out from the crowd.
4. Darkest Dungeon
If you’re a fan of challenging and atmospheric RPGs with a dark and foreboding atmosphere, then Darkest Dungeon is a game that you won’t want to miss. In this game, you play as the heir to a cursed estate, tasked with leading a team of heroes on a perilous journey through the depths of a dark and twisted dungeon.
But what really sets Darkest Dungeon apart is its emphasis on the psychological toll of dungeon crawling. As your heroes battle through the dungeon’s treacherous levels, they’ll face not only physical threats but also mental ones – from stress and fear to madness and despair. And the more they’re pushed to their limits, the more likely they are to break under the weight of the dungeon’s horrors.
The gameplay of Darkest Dungeon is all about strategy and survival. You’ll need to carefully manage your heroes’ stress levels, upgrade their abilities and equipment, and make strategic choices as you navigate through the dungeon’s deadly traps and enemies.
But even with its challenging gameplay, Darkest Dungeon is also a game with a rich and immersive world to explore. With its haunting art style, atmospheric soundtrack, and compelling narrative, this game will keep you hooked from beginning to end.
3. Dead Cells
If you’re a fan of fast-paced action games with a deep and satisfying combat system, then Dead Cells is a game that you won’t want to miss. In this challenging and addictive game, you play as a nameless warrior who must fight their way through a series of interconnected levels, battling hordes of enemies and collecting powerful upgrades and weapons along the way.
The gameplay of Dead Cells is all about skill and strategy. You’ll need to master the game’s fluid and responsive combat system, which allows you to string together devastating combos and dodge them out of harm’s way. And with a wide variety of weapons and upgrades to collect and unlock, from swords and bows to traps and grenades, you’ll always have new and exciting ways to take on your enemies.
But what really sets Dead Cells apart is its roguelike mechanics. Every time you die, you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the game with a new set of randomly generated levels, enemies, and upgrades to contend with. This means that every playthrough is different, and you’ll need to adapt your strategy to the ever-changing challenges that the game throws your way.
But even with its challenging gameplay and roguelike mechanics, Dead Cells is also a game with a lot of heart. With its beautiful pixel art style, memorable characters, and a wealth of hidden secrets and Easter eggs to discover, this game will keep you hooked for hours on end.
2. The Binding Of Isaac
If you’re a fan of challenging, roguelike games with a dark and twisted sense of humour, then The Binding of Isaac is a game that you won’t want to miss. In this game, you play as Isaac, a young boy who must navigate through a series of horrific and grotesque levels, battling demonic creatures and collecting powerful upgrades along the way.
The gameplay of The Binding of Isaac is all about skill and strategy. You’ll need to master the game’s fast-paced and responsive combat system, which allows you to shoot tears at enemies, dodge incoming attacks, and use special abilities to turn the tide of battle. And with a wide variety of items and upgrades to collect and unlock, from new weapons and power-ups to passive abilities and stat boosts, you’ll always have new and exciting ways to take on your enemies.
But what really sets The Binding of Isaac apart is its dark and twisted sense of humour. The game’s story and setting are inspired by the biblical story of Isaac but with a macabre and surreal twist. As you progress through the game’s levels, you’ll encounter a variety of bizarre and grotesque enemies, each with their own unique abilities and weaknesses.
So if you’re looking for a game that’s both challenging and rewarding, with a dark and twisted sense of humour and a lot of heart, then The Binding of Isaac is a game that you simply have to play. It’s a modern classic that has earned its place as one of the best roguelike games of all time.
If you’re a fan of action-packed, fast-paced games with a deep and engaging story, then Hades is a game that you won’t want to miss. In this epic dungeon crawler, you play as Zagreus, the son of the god of the underworld, as you battle your way through the depths of the underworld to escape your father’s realm and reach the world above.
What makes Hades truly unique is the storytelling mechanisms. As you play through the game and get to know the characters, you feel like you are not only uncovering but also shaping the story. Your actions and your dialogue have consequences that hunt you throughout the game.
Additionally, what makes Hades stand out is its compelling narrative. As you battle your way through the underworld, you’ll encounter a variety of memorable characters, each with its own backstory and motivations. You’ll feel truly invested in the game’s world and characters.
The art style is also very impressive. The depiction of the levels of the underworld, the captured beauty of the gods and goddesses, and the decorative choices are all stunning. The soundtrack is also praiseworthy. Whether you’re a fan of roguelikes or not, Hades will keep you happy and satisfied.