Have you played… Hades?
Much more than a roguelite
Wielding the almighty Heart-Seeking Bow, Coronacht, I weave with godlike alacrity between the attacks of my foes, line up the shot, release at just the right moment, and - pop! - they dissolve with a sigh back into the underworld from whence they came. I'm clearing out rooms in record-breaking time, and it's a good thing too, because the infernal contract I signed with my father, Lord Hades, means if I spend too long in any particular region of the underworld then there will be swift and painful consequences.
And then I dash into another flame-filled area of Asphodel, and I'm halted in my tracks. Any notion of haste falls out of my mind. Because there is Eurydice in her chambers, singing her beautiful, haunting song. And, like every other time I've come across this particular room in Hades, I stay still and listen until the song is over before continuing in my quest to escape. I don't want her to think I'm being rude, after all.
That's what Supergiant Games have done with Hades. They've long-since earned their place at the very top of the list of developers whose games I will forever buy and play on day one, but even I was blown away at their ability to inject a hack-and-slash roguelite, of all things, with just as much character, wit, beauty, charm, imagination, and emotion as any of their more linear and conspicuously story-driven games. Just like Pyre, Transistor, and Bastion, I care about the characters in Hades. It kind of makes me glad they're all already dead, because there's no chance of them being ripped away from me... Right? RIGHT?!
That extra Supergiant-ness is what makes Hades the best roguelite I've ever played. But even without all of that, without the stellar soundtrack, the layers upon layers of unintrusive worldbuilding and character arcs, the unbelievable handcrafted art of Jen Zee permeating every moment of your journey - it would still be one of the most enjoyable games I played in 2019. Everything is slick and fast-paced, and there's so much content in the different weapons, the enemies, the regions of the underworld, the boons you receive from other gods, the upgrades for said weapons... I bought Hades over a year ago and I still play it pretty regularly. I'm at the point of beating the game with almost every run, and yet it still routinely surprises me with the offerings and adversaries it plonks along my path each time I venture out into the ever-shifting underworld in search of-- actually, I won't spoil it. That's for you to discover.