What’s a roguelite?

Published by Caroline Lamarque on

As all gamers know, there are many different kinds of video games. Among all those existing, we count the roguelite that we propose you to discover in detail today.

Origin of the roguelites

The roguelite is a sub-genre of the roguelike, itself a sub-genre of the role playing game. Roguelikes take their name from a 1980 game created by Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman and Ken Arnold: Rogue, which was released on Unix, DOS, Mac OS, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit and ZX Spectrum.

If Rogue gave its name to the roguelike, it should be noted that other games were precursors of the genre as early as 1975, and especially with Beneath Apple Manor (1978) which integrates the main characteristics of the roguelike. Their inspirations were the fantasy universe of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons and the text adventure game Colossal Cave Adventure. We also note that some game mechanics are borrowed from the first dungeon crawlers developed for the PLATO system, although it is not known if the developers of the first roguelikes had access to PLATO.

Characteristics of a roguelike

Before defining what a roguelite is, we need to know about roguelikes. The International Roguelike Development Conference was held in 2008 in Berlin to characterize the genre. The Berlin interpretation defines the main criteria of a roguelike based on 5 titles of the genre: Rogue (1980), NetHack (1987), Angband (1990), Ancient Domains of Mystery (1994) and Linley’s Dungeon Crawl (1995).

Thus the main characteristics of a roguelike are :

  • procedural levels, either randomly recreated after each game, or “run
  • permanent death: once the character dies, the game ends and you lose all progress
  • turn-based game
  • all actions can be done in the whole game and do not require a specific location
  • actions can be resolved in different ways
  • resource management is necessary
  • hack and slash system which implies to kill many monsters to reach your goal
  • objects and their characteristics change with each new game

The differences between a roguelike and a roguelite

It is at the beginning of the 2000’s that we notice the rise of roguelite by several small independent studios and the release of titles like The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, Nuclear Throne and Rogue Legacy until Rogue, Rogue, Baby! planned for 2023.

We then see the emergence of the two main aspects that differentiate the roguelites:

  • the game is less punishing : the improvements unlocked during a run are kept on the next one
  • the end of the game : a roguelike has no end and the objective is to go as far as possible while a roguelite has a defined objective to reach

With the success of titles like Hades and Dead Cells, the roguelite still has a lot to offer.