Roguelike, Roguelikelike, Roguelikelikelike, Or Rogue?

Rock, Paper, Shotgun have been on the cutting edge of the ludic lexicon since 1873. We coined ‘Minecraftbut‘, ‘Zachlike‘, ‘Uppie‘, and more ’em ups than is reasonable. We were there on the front lines, staring at trees, when ‘walking simulator‘ was seized as positive. And it’s only mostly for funsies that we/I distinguish between Roguelikes, roguelikes, and roguelikelikes.

Everyone calls their game a ‘roguelike’ lately, it seems sometimes. If you’re a developer concerned about the serious harm your flippancy may be doing, relax! Simply turn to Ben Porter’s tool How Roguelike is your game? and discover whether you’ve made a Roguelike, a Roguelikelike, a Roguelikelikelike, Roguelikelikelikelike, or just plain Rogue.

Simply go down the list and tick off any aspects found in your game – permadeath, turn-based, hacking and slashing, random environments, ASCII, being named Rogue, and so on – then the handy AND VERY SERIOUS tool will spit out your game’s Rogue rating. Then take that finding and correct your marketing materials, you scamps.

Thank Moonman developer Ben Porter for making it, and DoomRL dev Kornel Kisielewicz for inspiring it.

You might think that Porter’s deadly serious definitions jump from Roguelikelike to Roguelikelikelike too quickly, but do note that it’s Roguelikelikelike – not roguelikelikelike. That capital R warrants an extra ‘like’.

‘Roguelike’ is such a funny term. It had a very specific meaning once, directly referencing the game Rogue. Now the baseline of lower-case-r ‘roguelike’ is perhaps games which have procedurally-generated levels and minimal exposition, but the term will also sometimes imply any combination of permadeath, dungeon crawling, persistent unlocks, high difficulty, and… you know, I’m not even sure.

It’s a word so very bendy and too confusing to throw around without explanation. I like using ‘roguelikelike’ because it recognises both the historical roots and modern usage yet is so patently silly. And I do try to remember to explain quite what that means, and which roguelikelike characteristics any particular game possesses.

‘Roguelite’ can do one, mind. It’s not 1997, grandpa.

P.S. ‘video games’ is absolutely two words.


  1. Hunchback says:

    As a person who’s spent their whole life in a wheelchair, i find the term “walking simulator” offensive!

    Or i would, if i was one of them “newly-disabled” who recently stopped walking. Or i was old and grumpy.

    Wife says i am old already, but i don’t trust her.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      So you prefer on rails shooters? Or those are not in your wheelhouse?

    • GrumpyCatFace says:

      What a ponderous statement. Stuff like this should just be wheeled outside.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        Not as ponderous as The Wheel of Time, but wheel get to that another time.

        • Pelaf says:

          As another disabled RPS reader and a WoT fan, I swear this is the best string of comments I have ever seen.

          Also, if you want a legit wheelchair shooter, play the last level of Cry of Fear, you hold your ruger in one hand and use the other to wheel yourself; personally I thought it was brilliant since I’ve actually done that. (American here, yeah, yeah, I’m a yankee/cowboy, lol.)
          10/10 realistic wheelchair gunfighting.

    • Strangeblades says:

      Just don’t trust spouses/partners. You have to love ’em, die for ’em, agree wit ’em, but you can never trust ’em.

    • Strangeblades says:

      Alice O’Connor is still the reason I come to RPS. John Walker is the second. The rest of the RPS hivemind are all different names for one opinion-spouting head. Unless it’s Quints.

      In other words, please insert more sillies Alice! And please keep your name confusingly close to Alice Cooper.


  2. King in Winter says:

    For me, as an oldschool grognard on these, the absolute necessity for the roguelike title is turn-based action. Those newfangled poseurs can go cry in the corner!

  3. Detocroix says:

    Quite pure roguelike by that criteria :) Only thing missing is ASCII, keyboard only, and it isn’t named a rogue nor has rogue anywhere in the name.

    Beat that roguelike elitists!

  4. KDR_11k says:

    Also of note is that turn based should be that step-based approach that Roguelikes use, not action points or any of that more complicated stuff.

    • Detocroix says:

      At core yeah, but action points on top of that is fair game! Many modern roguelikes expand the basic “bump to kill” mechanic and I think it’s a good thing :)

  5. JFS says:

    No mention of the Berlin Interpretation, the only sensible thing to ever come out of that city?

  6. Sin Vega says:

    I’ve come to interpret it as “arbitrary trial and error bullshit”, and “don’t play this”. I’ve been thinking of writing an essay to elaborate, but I found it much more entertaining to simply stab people who ask and insist it’s their own fault for not psychically divining that I was going to stab them.

    • Detocroix says:

      I think you should play a bit more of roguelikelikes so that you would grow a nice and juicy stockholm syndrome to the mad amounts of RNG present.

    • aliksy says:

      “trial and error bullshit” gets used pretty speciously.
      “Look at that ogre with the huge spiked tree-club-thing! I bet I can fight him with my dagger and 4 hit points. Oh, he hit me and I died? TRIAL AND ERROR BULLSHIT.”

      • Sin Vega says:

        …and that’s why nobody likes roguelike fans.

      • X_kot says:

        I think a more fitting example would be

        “Hey, I just found an unlabeled vial of liquid. Because it might be useful and I might find more like it, I’ll note its appearance, drink it, and remember the effect. Hmm…not a bad taste, but it doesn’t seem to do any…”



    • Doogie2K says:

      I prefer “randomly-generated fuck-you”, myself.

      • Monggerel says:

        Random Access Fuck You (RAFY for short) is my personal name.

        For Roguelikes, I mean.

    • April March says:

      That’s just, like, your opinion, man, and that’s perfectly fine. I remember when John hated Limbo and thought it was mean because it kept killing the main character, often with little to no warning. I didn’t think that, because I didn’t see deaths as failures, I saw them as little things that happened (and then you respawn pretty much directly before you died). Likewise, roguelikes kill you a lot, but I don’t mind that because killing doesn’t end the game; because the game is randomly generated, the early game is as interesting as the late game (as long as the game is well designed).

      I’m rubbish at games. If I keep dying at the early level of a regular game, I need to replay the same level over and over until I can beat it. If I keep dying at the early level of a roguelike, every time I do I play a completely different thing and am amused in a different manner.

      • qrter says:

        Was that John? I know Kieron hated Limbo (and I remember agreeing with his assesment).

    • LionsPhil says:

      One of the hallmarks of a proper roguelike (such as Nethack) is that the probability of random unavoidable (or luck-based) death is inversely proportional to time invested in the character.

      If you lose a level 1 character to a gnome with a wand of death, so what? NEEREEXT!

      If you’re on the way back up with the Amulet and see that gnome, by then you should have more things identified, more equipment, more ways to mitigate the risk.

      You can see the same in some of the less box-ticking but more spirit-following likelikelikes, like FTL. The progression is not just being more powerful from “levelling up”, but by broadening your ability to cope with situations and mitigate your weaknesses.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        So rather than levelling up, it’s more sort of levelling sideways?

  7. genoforprez says:

    I’m sick of the roguelike fad. Can we move on to the next fad yet?

    • Detocroix says:

      I’d say that can we finally go back to the actual roguelike fad and go back to calling all those non-roguelikes, that are called as roguelikes, as “ARCADE GAMES” like they used to be (and should be!) called.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Yeah that would be fun. I think we can go a lot further with mainstream-ified roguelikes than just Dungeon of Dredmor. There are probably a couple others, but I can’t think of them.

        • Detocroix says:

          I agree. Dungeons of Dredmor is a perfect example of a very true roguelike that is made accessible and playable :)

    • Vacuity729 says:

      How about DOTAlikes? Some people say they’re going to be extremely popular any day now, but I’m not sure they’ll ever catch on myself.

      • fabronaut says:

        the funniest part of that whole phenomenon is that… well, I got into playing Dota 2 via a friend.

        the time investment required for such a game means that it’s unlikely as hell that I’ll even try another one like it.

        why would I? my steam “time played” counter is at 1800 hrs, which is a frankly ludicrous amount of time.

        I have an absurd number of games I could play, but there’s only so many hours in a day. I can’t even consider trying other variations on what is already a pretty darn polished product. it’s far too likely to be a waste of my time, which I could simply use to play Dota if I’m looking to scratch that itch.

        I would almost expect that there would be less interest in trying to compete with a highly successful product with a stranglehold on its genre. fighting over a market that’s already got a lot of traction and relative lock-in seems like a pretty hefty gamble in most cases.

    • Captain Narol says:

      If only we could get a wave of CK-like, that would be something !

    • ButteringSundays says:

      I don’t think that it’s fair to describe a play style that’s existed since 1980 as a ‘fad’.

      Besides, you can always choose not to play roguelikes, you’re not somehow losing out by them existing – there’s not some finite amount of games production you’re battling against.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Sure it’s existed, but it hasn’t been in vogue for most of that time. Same goes with survival games – it was only three years ago that a handful of people were lamenting the lack of games about struggling to survive, now they’ve become so fashionable you can barely turn your head without knocking over a pile of the bloody things.

    • Babymech says:

      To be honest, I think this fad will probably die out pretty soon, but the the industry isn’t going to stop – it’ll start over with something new. Only it won’t be completely different it’ll be recognizably the same as the previous fad, but some elements will change, so consumers will still get surprised. Then that fad will die and something new will begin, but hopefully we will learn a little bit from each attempt and maybe weather the next fad a little more successfully. What were we talking about again?

    • Distec says:

      Procedurally-Generated Zombie Survival Roguelike w/ Milsim Tactical M4s (Unlockable/Preorder Bonus of Gold-Plated Microtransaction Skins)

      When such a game is released, the industry will somehow cancel itself out and we’ll go back to playing Pong, starting anew.

    • geldonyetich says:

      The bad news for you is that procedural generation is here to stay. It’s simply too powerful, too useful, and too promising to ever leave gane developers’ toolboxes.

      The good news for you is you’re not really sick of procedural generation. You’re sick of it being done poorly, implemented as slipshod shorthand for content producers who are enticed by how it can bulk the size of the game, but have little vision for how procdural content can have an actual meaningful context.

      • April March says:

        The second bad news is that, since procedural generation is indeed powerful and allows bad devs to hide poor level design, bad procedural generation is also here to stay. The best we can hope for is that it stops being touted as a feature.

        • syndrome says:

          The third bad news is that everybody will eventually cut themselves while peeling their favorite fruit with that goddamn knife — the most disasterous of inventions — at least once in their lifetime.

          I can’t get over that one.

        • geldonyetich says:

          There’s no sense in complaining about a tool in the game developers’ toolbox because some people use it poorly. It’s like saying all oil paintings are bad because a 4-year-old got their hands on some oil paint once and you were not impressed with the resulting stick figure.

  8. Babymech says:

    I would play a more’em’up, but I’d probably secretly long for a most’em’up.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Forget more’em’ups, give me a S’more’em’up!

  9. qrter says:

    I will be very disappointed if one of the possible results isn’t ‘rougelike’.

  10. Jetsetlemming says:

    One of the elements they judge on in that checklist really confuses me: “Hacking and Slashing”. That’s extremely vague. If a Roguelike game is all hammers and staves, or ranged, etc, is that less roguelike? Is Dragon Age more roguelike for its slashing-based combat options? The game it makes me think of first and foremost is DoomRL, which has all the Roguelike elements you could want, but also the combat is ranged, because the weapons are guns. I don’t think that makes it Roguelikelike. It’s just a variation, that might reasonably exist between games in the same genre. Stuff like “Procedural maps” and “Very limited narrative” are far more fundamental, imo.

    • syndrome says:

      You really shouldn’t take such nomenclature literally. Especially if we’re talking about roguelikes. Of course it is a term that describes a particular mindset and overall expectation of the genre, not de facto course of the action.

      link to

      Notice that Diablo (as a franchise) is the more recent example of that general concept, and the ranged weapons and spells are presupposed and anticipated alongside those that literally represent the hacking and slashing type.

    • spectone says:

      Hacking and Slashing just means all encounters are resolved by combat. That is you cannot talk your way out or bribe etc.

  11. Jetsetlemming says:

    Also weird that there’s no “After you get to the end of the dungeon you have to return to the start to escape with the MacGuffin” check box

  12. Monggerel says:

    “video games” is technically four words, because the phrase is colloquial shorthand for “video games are art”

  13. geldonyetich says:

    Yesterday we lost, “Role-playing game” to everything with progression into it.

    Today, we’ll lose “Roguelike” to everything with elements of procedural generation.

    Sorry, purists. That’s the English language for you.

    • April March says:

      Man, next you’ll tell me ‘decimated’ isn’t being used according to its original meaning in the English language, ‘being charged a 10% tax to the King of England’.

      • Premium User Badge

        ooshp says:

        Actually the modern usage of ‘decimated’ is an abbreviation of ‘decimatedlikelike’ which means ‘annihilated’. So the masses are using it correctly.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Don’t fall for it, folks. This one is wily.

      • Captain Narol says:

        The original meaning of “decimated” comes from the Roman Army.

        That was a punishment exercized on troops who had misbehaved by making them execute one man out of ten.

        link to

        • Babymech says:

          Thanks, I was really confused there for a second. Next, could you look up the word joke? People use it all the time, but I don’t know… seems fishy to me.

  14. Kitsunin says:

    Personally, I don’t call them “Roguelike-likes” I call them “Roguebetters”. Since most of the games which leave the cruddy conventions Rogue created end up being far better than true “Roguelikes”.

  15. משוגע־סאָפֿע says:

    & where’s ‘kafé-break roguelike’?
    fortunately, there’s no confusion about
    Listen to issue #112 for an interview w/ mr KISIELEWICZ
    link to

  16. fish99 says:

    We should just re-categorize all games as either Rogue or not-Rogue.

  17. Turkey says:

    The whole roguelike kerfuffle reminds me of every nerdy, music genre argument I’ve ever seen on the internet.

    It always ends in some insane flowchart on imgur or something.