Are you itching for a real challenge on your iOS device? Then perhaps roguelikes are your cup of tea, because they’re often incredibly difficult and generate a new experience every time you play.
If you’re not familiar with them, roguelikes are a sub-genre of games that originated from a single title in 1980: Rogue. This was a dungeon-crawling adventure that gave players a different dungeon layout for each attempt, and if you died, it was permanent. This means every move counts, and even the smallest mistake could cost you.
Sound enjoyable to you? You’re in the right place for finding some difficult challenges on iOS. We’ve rounded up some of the best roguelike games that you can get on the App Store, so let’s dive right in.
1. Wayward Souls
Are you in the mood for an action-adventure game that has a ton of roguelike elements in it? Then Wayward Souls is the game for you. It’s inspired by the likes of Spelunky, Secret of Mana, and the developer’s previous title, Mage Gauntlet.
Wayward Souls features a retro-inspired aesthetic with the pixel art style visuals. These graphics will appeal to anyone who grew up with an SNES or the like. Developer Rocketcat also upped the ante with a spooky soundtrack that is sure to delight everyone who plays.
In Wayward Souls, players will find six character classes that they can play as, though a few of them must be unlocked by clearing specific dungeons or finding them in chests. The classes include: warrior, mage, rogue, adventurer, spellsword, and a cultist. Players can also have pets, which are useful in battle.
Since Wayward Souls generates a random map each time you play, you get a completely new experience on each attempt. All the classes have a distinctive play style as well, along with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. The game has 13 different area types that are full of unique monsters, traps, and rare encounters.
The best part about Wayward Souls is the fact that there is loot, and tons of it. All the heroes use certain types of weapons and gear, and there are many different combinations that you can find as you hack and slash your way through dungeons. The gear may also change the gameplay entirely, so it’s best to try out everything you find.
While some may think that touch screen controls feel wonky for such an adventure, Wayward Souls feels just right. By default, Wayward Souls uses swipe controls. Just swipe your left thumb around to move and tap on the right side for a basic attack. You can long-press for a charge attack, and swipe vertically for a special attack or use items.
Don’t like swiping? No problem! Wayward Souls has an option for standard analog controls too.
The key to survival in Wayward Souls is the timing and precision of your attacks, as well as your positioning. You need tactical planning and strategy to survive these dungeons, because how can you explore when you’re dead?
If the regular mode is not enough, the developers added Gauntlet Mode, designed for quick play sessions. In Gauntlet, players must navigate a six-floor dungeon, but don’t think it’s a piece of cake. Getting through this one takes a lot of skill, as it’s the most challenging task you’ll face in the game.
Wayward Souls is a popular roguelike on iOS, and it’s a must for anyone’s collection.
Download: Wayward Souls on iOS ($6.99)
2. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
In search of the quintessential roguelike for your iPhone or iPad? Then you can’t miss out on The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.
In The Binding of Isaac, players will find a rather dark and somewhat disturbing story involving a young boy named Isaac and his mother. You see, Isaac must escape the wrath of his mom, who’s been brainwashed by a cult and believes that she must kill her son in order to prove her faith. Isaac will escape through the basement, where he discovers plenty of gruesome creatures and monsters that are out to get him.
The art style of The Binding of Isaac is distinctive and creepily beautiful. The iOS port of the game features brand new hand-drawn pixel art visuals and effects that truly pop on Retina screens. And there’s a revamped soundtrack and audio to complete the experience on iOS.
In The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, players get procedurally-generated runs every time they play. This means that you’ll never have the same run twice, and enemies (including bosses) and items are always different. The goal is to survive for as long as you can and defeat your mother in a final showdown. But once you run out of hearts, it’s game over.
However, since we are talking about Rebirth, there is an option to continue if you die. This lets you start that dungeon from the beginning, without any changes to the layout. Other new features in Rebirth include Challenge Runs, which include a predetermined condition (i.e. complete darkness) that affects the entire run. There’s also a co-op mode for multiplayer fun.
If you’re worried about the controls for an iOS version of Isaac, don’t be. The bottom left has a virtual joystick for movement, and the bottom right has a button for Isaac’s tears that work like a bubble blower. To aim your attacks, just point the joystick in the direction you want to fire your tears in. And for bombs, just tap on the button that’s in the bottom center.
Not a fan of touch controls? Not a problem, because there’s full support for MFi controllers. So if you have one of those sitting around (we compared some of the best options available), make sure to whip it out for the best experience for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth!
But that’s not all you get in the Rebirth edition. On top of everything we’ve already mentioned, there are 10 new playable characters, over 100 new enemies, 50 boss fights, and over 450 items to find. Each character has their own special traits that can help you in battle. There are also runes to upgrade shops and characters to become more potent.
If there’s only one roguelike you can buy for your iPhone or iPad right now, then it should be The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.
Download: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on iOS ($14.99)
3. Soul Knight
Looking for a Nuclear Throne clone for iOS? Then your search ends here with Soul Knight (at least until Nuclear Throne makes a mobile appearance, if ever).
Soul Knight sports a vintage pixel art style that pays homage to the classics and feels like Nuclear Throne at the same time. Even though it’s a pixelated aesthetic, Soul Knight packs in plenty of dynamic lighting effects and detailed textures. Plus, the chiptune soundtrack is one that all gamers will fall in love with.
The gameplay behind Soul Knight is more like a bullet hell shooter, and the action definitely gets chaotic. The dungeons are randomly generated each time you start a game, and with infinite possibilities, you’ll never get the same experience twice.
There’s plenty of variety in the playable heroes in Soul Knight. However, you start off with just the Knight class at first, and must unlock the rest by earning enough coins to purchase them. Some specific heroes, such as the Vampire and Engineer, are only available through in-app purchases.
The main objective in Soul Knight is to get through each dungeon by eliminating all enemies that come at you. At this point, a portal opens up somewhere on the floor and you must reach it in order to advance to the next area. In between levels, the game gives you a few random upgrades that you can choose from before proceeding.
There’s plenty of loot to discover and equip in Soul Knight, and some are game-changing, so take advantage of them. As you blast your way through dungeons, you’ll come across NPCs that you can hire to fight alongside you. And of course, there are pets that you’re able to command, tearing up your foes.
The developers designed the controls in Soul Knight specifically for touch screens, so it’s easy to pick up and play. The game uses a dual-stick shooter control scheme, so you have virtual joysticks for moving and shooting. Additionally, there are buttons adjacent to the attack joystick for using your special attack and switching weapons.
To make your journey even easier and less frustrating, Soul Knight also has an auto-aim function so it’s easier to hit your targets. Whether you’re a casual or veteran, having less work to do means more room for enjoyment. Those with MFi controllers will be glad to know that they fully work with Soul Knight.
Who knows if Nuclear Throne will ever make it to mobile or handheld consoles? But in the meantime, Soul Knight has your back.
Download: Soul Knight on iOS (Free)
4. Crypt of the Necrodancer Pocket Edition
Ever think about combining a rhythm game with a dungeon-crawling roguelike? No? While there are other games that don’t look musical at first glance either, Crypt of the Necrodancer is a memorable one.
Much like the other roguelikes we’ve mentioned, Crypt of the Necrodancer has a fun pixel art aesthetic that brings a sense of nostalgia. The developers made sure to make this game as detailed as possible, because all environments and character sprites look fantastic.
Music is half of the experience in Crypt of the Necrodancer, so it’s important to have the sound on. The soundtrack is a great mix of EDM tunes, so it’s an additional bonus to fans of the genre. But you can play Crypt of the Necrodancer with any song in your iTunes music library too.
What is Crypt of the Necrodancer? Players will find randomly generated dungeons that are full of dangerous monsters, and it’s up to the Necrodancer to get rid of them. The goal is to see how far you can get while grooving and slaying away. There’s a ton of items to find too, which prove useful in battle.
What makes it stand out from the rest is the fact that you must move in sync with the music, including attacks. Along the bottom is a rhythm bar, and you should be tapping along with it as they converge in the center of the screen. This involves hand-eye coordination like never before, as you must keep an eye on screen while tapping to the beat to survive.
Because of the unique rhythm game mechanic of Crypt of the Necrodancer, it is a bit more challenging than other roguelikes. However, it’s incredibly fun and rewarding once you get used to the gameplay. It’s a true gem and should be in all roguelike collections.
Download: Crypt of the Necrodancer Pocket Edition on iOS ($4.99)
5. Dungelot: Shattered Lands
Do you prefer a roguelike that’s incredibly easy to pick up and play whenever you have a spare moment? Then Dungelot: Shattered Lands is the simple roguelike for you.
Unlike most of the games we’ve mentioned, Dungelot: Shattered Lands does not have a retro pixel art style. Instead, it offers up fun and cartoonish graphics that suit the quirkiness of the game. The tone of the soundtrack is also a bit haunting and delightful to listen to.
In Dungelot: Shattered Lands, players get to explore three separate acts of increasing difficulty. Each act contains several different areas packed with nefarious creatures who want your blood.
The twist in Dungelot: Shattered Lands is the fact that each stage takes place on a 5 x 5 grid. Tap on tiles to reveal enemies and items. To get to the next floor, you must find the door, but it’s locked. A key is somewhere on the grid and you need it to proceed.
Enemies will block adjacent squares until you defeat them. To engage in battle, just tap on your target, and they’ll take turns exchanging blows. The amount of damage the foe does and can take is indicated on their sprite.
Players can perform basic attacks, with the damage done dependent on weapons and armor. Tap on your backpack to make use of items. The spell book lets you use any spell scrolls you’ve managed to find.
It’s important to search every tile before moving forward. Your hero needs food rations — which you can find on tiles — because these replenish health between floors. If you have none, then you can’t restore health. It just adds to the challenge of this deceptively simple game.
You start out with the Paladin hero. However, each act has another hero type that you must free before you can play as them. To keep the hero, you need to find them and then defeat the boss of the dungeon.
Despite Dungelot: Shattered Lands having a finite number of acts, areas, and dungeons, everything’s procedurally generated. This means the enemies and loot you find will never be the same, even though they appear the same on the surface. Sometimes conditions activate on floors, such as poison gas.
While Dungelot: Shattered Lands looks fairly basic at first glance, there’s much strategy and planning involved. It’s challenging but a perfect way to spend a few minutes of your day. Plus, it becomes rather addictive as you keep trying to do better on the next run.
Download: Dungelot: Shattered Lands on iOS ($3.99)
Ready for a Roguelike Challenge?
Roguelikes have been rather trendy for the past few years, and it’s great to see all of these amazing options available on the iOS platform. If these intense roguelike games have you nervous, try out some relaxing puzzle games to calm down.
Interested in other niche game genres with great games? Check out our suggestions.