10 Best Dungeon Crawlers, According To Metacritic

10 Best Dungeon Crawlers, According To Metacritic

On Aug. 11, the well-known publisher Devolver Digital releases their latest game, the action roguelike dungeon crawler Cult of the Lamb. Similarly to other dungeon crawlers, Cult of the Lamb will have players explore a vast maze-like world filled with monsters and treasures.

Since the release of the 1975 game pedit5, the dungeon crawler genre has been a popular and enduring sub-genre of RPGs. Out of the hundreds of dungeon crawlers that exist, titles like Hades stand out among the rest according to Metacritic. Which games are truly the best in the genre?

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10 Enter the Gungeon (2016) – 87

A screenshot from the game Enter the Gungeon

Speaking of games published by Devolver Digital, Enter the Gungeon is a 2016 top-down bullet hell shooter that’s inspired by retro fast-paced run-and-gun titles like Zombies Ate My Neighbors. After a giant bullet fell from space and crash-landed on planet Gunymede, a magic gun that can kill the past was created from the impact. To protect this weapon, a large shape-shifting fortress was built around its location, which is guarded by the Cult of the Gundead.

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Despite the dangers, adventurers known as Gungeoneers travel to the Gungeon in order to change their own pasts. As one of these Gungeoneers, the player must avoid traps, find treasures, and battle monsters. Besides its challenging gameplay that mixes bullet hells and roguelikes, this game is unique for its immense variety of guns that can shoot anything from missiles to rainbows.

9 Guild of Dungeoneering (2015) – 88

A screenshot from the game Guild of Dungeoneering Ultimate Edition

Inspired by classic pen-and-paper RPGs, Guild of Dungeoneering is a 2015 turn-based deckbuilding roguelike where the player is in charge of building the dungeon rather than directly controlling the heroes. Using their cards, players place dungeon rooms, monsters, traps, and loot, which the non-player-controlled characters will traverse through.

Besides acting as the dungeon master, the player also customizes their heroes, builds new rooms in the Guild to attract new character classes, and obtains better cards to use in future runs. With a cute hand-drawn sketch-like art style, players will feel as if they truly are playing a traditional tabletop Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

8 Torchlight II (2012) – 88

A screenshot from the game Torchlight II

Developed by former Blizzard North staff who worked on the horror-based RPGs Diablo and Diablo II, the 2012 action RPG Torchlight II feels like what Diablo III should have been, which is a fast-paced well-polished addictive experience. Set years after the events of the original 2009 game Torchlight, one of the playable characters from the first game, The Alchemist, decides to use the elemental guardians to power up Ordrak’s heart so that he can destroy all ember and cure his own ember blight.

To stop The Alchemist from destroying the land, the customized player character must navigate through randomly generated dungeons, fight monsters, and gain loot. Unlike the first Torchlight, this game features a longer campaign, more non-dungeon locations, a co-op mode, and other mechanics.

7 Slay the Spire (2019) – 89

A screenshot from the game Slay the Spire

Although games like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac revitalized the roguelike genre for the modern era, the 2019 game Slay the Spire popularized the idea of combining the roguelike and deckbuilding genres. As one of several pre-determined characters with specific stats and abilities, the player attempts to reach the top of the titular spire by progressing through the procedurally generated floors.

While fighting enemies and experiencing events, the player gains and loses cards, which is how the player develops their deck. For players who don’t like the frustration of traditional roguelikes, this game allows players to keep some progress to unlock new things for each subsequent run.

6 Curse of the Dead Gods (2021) – 90

A screenshot from the game Curse of the Dead Gods

Though Darkest Dungeon is an excellent dungeon crawler, the afflictions heroes can obtain during their travels can seem frustrating and even unfair to some players. In contrast, the 2021 isometric roguelike Curse of the Dead Gods has a progressive de-buff system that mostly spices up the gameplay rather than making things debilitatingly difficult. The game follows an explorer named Caradog McCallister who enters an ancient temple in his quest for knowledge and power.

But, he is then quickly cursed by the God of Death, Xbeltz’aloc, and finds himself trapped inside an endless labyrinth. As the player explores the randomized dungeons and fights enemies, McCallister’s curse meter rises, which can hinder his abilities, give additional challenges, and, surprisingly, provide helpful opportunities.

5 Crypt of the NecroDancer (2015) – 92

A screenshot from the game Crypt of the NecroDancer

Although sound is an important element to any video game, the 2015 roguelike rhythm game Crypt of the NecroDancer is one of the few games where sound is an integral part of the gameplay. After her father, who was a famous treasure hunter, went missing, Cadence accidentally falls into the Crypt of the NecroDancer while searching for him. Now, she must fight her way through the crypt to regain her heart, find her father, and defeat the NecroDancer.

While exploring the dungeons and fighting enemies, the player must move to the beat of the background music in order to become stronger, and they can get hurt or even killed if they lose the rhythm. The success of this title led to the 2019 crossover game Cadence of Hyrule, and a sequel was recently announced titled Rift of the NecroDancer.

4 The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (2014) – 93

The starting screen of The Binding of Isaac Rebirth video games

Since video game dungeon crawling has its roots in classic roguelikes, it’s not surprising that one of the most iconic modern roguelikes, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, would also be one of the most critically acclaimed dungeon crawlers. Developed as an expanded remake of the original 2011 game The Binding of Isaac, this 2014 game once again follows the titular Isaac as he is forced to navigate the labyrinth underneath his house after his mother decides to sacrifice him.

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As the player navigates Isaac’s mother’s basement dungeons, they will have to fight various enemies and bosses using items found along the way. Besides adding new monsters, items, and room types, this remake also allowed a second local player to join in the game.

3 Hades (2020) – 93

The main character, Zagreus, talking to his father, Hades, in the game Hades

Developed by Supergiant Games, who had previously made the award-winning titles Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, Hades is a 2020 action roguelike that proved that the genre could tell engaging and well-written stories even with random elements. When the main character, Zagreus, who is the son of the Greek god Hades, discovers that his mother is actually the Greek goddess Persephone, he decides to battle his way through the Underworld in order to reach the mortal realm and meet his mother.

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As he navigates his way through the ever-shifting dungeons of the Underworld, he has to fight various enemies and bosses, which includes his own father. Each time he dies, however, he doesn’t lose all his progress because he simply arrives back at his home where he can develop relationships, upgrade abilities, unlock weapons, and more.

2 Diablo (1996) – 94

A screenshot from the game Diablo

Although dungeon crawlers are older than the action RPG genre, many modern dungeon crawlers are also action RPGs, which is why it’s not surprising that the game that popularized action RPGs, the original 1996 Diablo, would also be one of the most well-regarded dungeon crawlers to this day. Set within the small town of Tristram, the customized player character must travel through a series of dungeons to reach hell and defeat the powerful demon Diablo.

Though the game’s story is fairly standard, Diablo’s dark gothic atmosphere and incredible soundtrack make the experience extremely worth a playthrough. While fighting enemies and completing randomly assigned quests, the player will feel an ominous tension that few other games can replicate.

1 Persona 5 Royal (2019) – 95

Joker holds his mask in Persona 5 Royal

One of the classic franchises that established the dungeon crawler genre is the Megami Tensei franchise, which began with the 1987 Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei. Despite its long history, the modern entries have continued to hold onto their dungeon-crawling roots, which is even shown in the 2019 award-winning JRPG Persona 5 Royal.

Created as an updated expansion of the original 2016 Persona 5, the game follows a group of high schoolers who discover a supernatural realm known as the Metaverse where they can use beings called “Personas” to fight enemies called “Shadows” in order to change the hearts of corrupted individuals. Along with the social sim aspects, players spend most of their time battling through various dungeons.

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Author: Deann Hawkins