The Best Roguelikes to Play When You’re on a Coffee Break

Joel Lee 07-07-2014

Roguelikes are rising in popularity and for good reason. They’re tons of fun, offer lots of replayability, and trend more towards “thinking” gameplay than “twitch” gameplay. That being said, some roguelikes can take a while to beat. What if your time is limited? Introducing the coffeebreak roguelike!


Never heard of roguelikes? Want to know what makes them so intriguing? Check out our introduction to roguelikes Roguelikes: A Unique & Challenging Spin On The RPG Genre In 1980 a game called Rogue was released that spawned a whole sub-genre of role-playing games, aptly named roguelikes. The dungeon crawling game procedurally generated in-game content, providing infinite replay value by guaranteeing a different... Read More . Otherwise, keep reading and try playing these variants that are pretty quick start to finish. You may be surprised by how fun they are.

Desktop Dungeons

Desktop Dungeons is the one true “coffeebreak” roguelike. Each session is short but packed full of turn-based excitement. Permadeath keeps the stakes high and makes each play-through meaningful. It’s highly replayable – random items, random enemies, and random level generation lend themselves to that – which keeps it satisfying to play in the long-term.

This game takes all of the crucial elements that define the roguelike genre and condenses them into a refined final product, ultimately achieving a level of fun that surpasses many competing titles. There’s no storyline, though. At the start of each session, you pick a race and a class. As you beat dungeons, you unlock more options.

Theme: Dungeon crawler

Estimated Length: 15-30 minutes


Visual Style: Graphical

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux


Most roguelikes operate in a tile-based world composed of square grids. Hoplite is one of the few games to use hexagonal tiles, which lends well to its fundamental design: tactical battles based on movement around an arena. It offers more flexibility and strategic choices for the player, which might explain why this game is so great.

The goal is to delve a dungeon and retrieve an artifact. Each dungeon level is randomly generated and you can upgrade your abilities once per level (or skip for a higher score). You can only sustain so many hits and you only have one life, so you must plan your steps. Death means a new game.


It sounds rather mundane and unoriginal, but the subtlety in-game mechanics is what elevates Hoplite to must-play status. It’s almost like playing single-player chess. For more games like this, check out these awesome roguelikes for Android Roguelikes For Android: A New Adventure Every Time How awesome would it be if a game offered a whole new world and experience every time you played it? Read More .

Theme: Tactical arena

Estimated Length: 30-60 minutes

Visual Style: Graphical


Platforms: Android



TraumaRL started as an entry into the 2014 7DRL competition (where you have seven days to create a roguelike from scratch). After receiving praise for its unique graphics and engaging gameplay, a bit more work was done on it until it got to where it is today.

The most interesting aspect of TraumaRL is its quest engine. Key plot items and objectives are randomized on each play-through, yet guaranteed to be solvable. The game guides the player with log messages from objective to objective, resulting in a game that’s unconventionally replayable.


Other features include multiple weapons, upgrades, a cool stat-boost system, and a combat system based on cover-and-movement gunfire which isn’t seen much outside of actual shooter games.

Theme: Space survival

Estimated Length: 1-2 hours

Visual Style: Graphical

Platforms: Windows



Based on the world famous Doom, DoomRL faithfully translates the action-packed gun-firing gameplay of the former into the boundaries of a roguelike. With a wide array of weapons and armor, your goal is to survive through 24 dungeon levels and beat the boss. However, there are a few twists along the way.

In true roguelike fashion, DoomRL has elements of character advancement. Specifically, you can spend points in various traits and attributes that improve different aspects of your character. As if that weren’t replayable enough, there are several special levels and a secret ending for you to discover. Plus, the game will track your stats across multiple games, effectively logging your progress as a player.

Theme: Action shooter

Estimated Length: 1-2 hours

Visual Style: Graphical or ASCII

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux



POWDER is a Nethack-inspired roguelike that was originally created for the Gameboy Advance. Years of development have brought it much further along than that, making it available on numerous other platforms, including PC operating systems. That’s fortunate for all roguelike fans because POWDER is one of the best in the genre.

Like Nethack, the goal is to descend down 25 dungeon levels, retrieve an artifact (the Heart of Baezl’bub), and return to the surface. Unlike a lot of roguelikes, however, POWDER‘s gameplay leans more towards the fast-and-frantic side of the spectrum rather than slow-and-calculated, allowing for wider-spread enjoyment by casual gamers.

Theme: Dungeon crawler

Estimated Length: 2-3 hours

Visual Style: Graphical

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, GBA, PSP

Final Thoughts

Roguelikes aren’t the only way to kill time at the office 6 Games to Waste Time at the Office It's no secret that being productive is in vogue, but what happens when you want to kill those final few hours before the weekend? Read More . Your options include web browser games 6 Bizarre Browser Games You Can Play Now Buckle up, because it's about to get weird. Each of the following browser games is a hot slice of crazy from the far corners of the Internet that you have to see. Read More , portable flash drive games, and more. The draw of the roguelike, however, is that you get to experience the character progression of an RPG condensed down into an hour or so. If roguelikes are just too hardcore for you, try these amazing Android RPGs 3 Android RPG Games That Rock Mobile gaming is known for puzzle games and casual games, but what about the other genres? Games like Angry Birds and World of Goo took the world by storm when they first came out and... Read More instead.

What did I miss? There are a lot of other coffeebreak roguelikes out there, I’m sure. Share your favorite ones with us in the comments below! I’d love to give them a try.

Related topics: Roguelike, Role-Playing Games.

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  1. likefunbutnot
    July 8, 2014 at 1:34 am

    OK, I've said this before but I believe that it is true so I will say it again.
    I consider the fact that I've won Nethack with a wishless Tourist more of an accomplishment than my bachelor's degree.

    Also, Spelunky plays relatively quickly. It's a rougelike platformer, which is definitely an oddity, but every play through is definitely unique.

    • Joel L
      July 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Haha, I agree. Beating Nethack can be extremely challenging (and rewarding) given the right parameters. Spelunky isn't a strict roguelike (more like a roguelite) but it's definitely a lot of fun and works great as a coffeebreak game. Thanks for bringing it up!