While I typically prefer to play a roguelike or roguelite game properly seated and with a controller in hand, I can’t deny that the genre is uniquely compatible with mobile platforms. Part of the appeal of mobile games is that you can pick them up, play them for a few minutes, then quickly put them away and go do something else, and with how frequently you get killed in most roguelikes, there’s no shortage of stopping and starting.
Before we get to the meat and potatoes here, what exactly makes for the best mobile roguelikes? Just like console roguelikes, it should be deceptively dense, with a simple gameplay loop hiding hours upon hours of potential content. It should also be easy to control with a small touchscreen, since more frantic games don’t lend themselves super well to that kind of control scheme.
Naturally, these are just my takes, and while I like to think I’m an authority, I’m certainly not a be-all-end-all master. That said, I’m pretty sure I know when I’m having fun, and the best mobile roguelikes never fail to make those little lights in my brain flick on, as I’m sure they will for you as well.
Here are the best mobile roguelikes
There’s a whole wealth of treasure down the well, so strap on your blasty boots and take a plunge. Downwell’s simple controls and verticality-centric design, unsurprisingly, lends itself extremely well to the vertical displays of a smartphone or tablet. It is a little loud though, what with your boots constantly firing bullets, so you might want to turn the volume down if you’re playing in a public place.
The Legend of Bum-Bo
From the creators of The Binding of Isaac, The Legend of Bum-Bo trades strategic running and gunning for match-four puzzle gameplay. By matching the various pieces of trash, you obtain attacks and abilities to take out the various smelly horrors that stand between Bum-Bo and his precious coin. Don’t expect a cakewalk, though; much like Isaac, this game ain’t gonna hold your hand.
Slay the Spire
While not originally a mobile game, Slay the Spire made the jump to Android and iOS earlier this year. Card games like Hearthstone maintain massive playerbases on mobile platforms, so it stands to reason that a card-based roguelike like Slay the Spire would take to the platform like a duck to water. Assemble a deck of weapons and actions to take on a procession of monsters as you ascend the mysterious Spire.
You ever watch an old 90s cartoon, and when characters played a video game it was just a bunch of blocky models on hexagons? If Hoplite is any indication, it turns out a game like that is actually kind of awesome. Hoplite is an extremely simple game, having you guide a Spartan warrior through the depths of the underworld. While you can only move a single hexagon at first, shrines give you new abilities like spells and ranged attacks, turning Hoplite into a constantly-evolving game of chess.
Dead Cells is a title that many gamers already own on Steam, and may be hesitant to try out on mobile, but it’s surprisingly awesome. If you are looking for a roguelike with unlockable items and progression, this one’s for you. Dead Cells is relaxing but still provides a challenging and refreshing experience in every session. There is a ton of content in the game, and you don’t have to worry about annoying ads or daily quests to stress you out. Not to mention, the game saves your progress, so if you have to put down your phone mid-run, it’s not a big deal. Easily one of the best mobile roguelikes on the market.
When it comes to roguelikes, you can never go wrong with the classic, Diablo-style dungeon crawler, and it doesn’t get much more dungeon crawly than Sproggiwood. Randomized floors, crafty foes, and an absolutely adorable story and art style inspired by Finnish myths and legends. You’ll have a big ol’ smile on your face the whole way through, even when you get your teeth knocked out and have to start over!
Shattered Pixel Dungeon
If you’re hankering for a diet roguelike experience to take on the go with you, Shattered Pixel Dungeon is sure to satisfy. The deceptively simple pixel graphics hide an impressive array of randomized dungeon layouts, over 150 items to pick up, and four character classes that can evolve and respec into mightier warriors! And don’t worry, this is a game by dungeon crawler fans for dungeon crawler fans; no paywalls, no ads, no loot boxes. Just dungeoneering for its own sake, and isn’t that just beautiful?
Shattered Pixel Dungeon is available on Google Play.
I know I said before that frantic, bullet-riddled roguelikes are difficult to pull off on a mobile platform? Note how I didn’t say “impossible.” That’s because, thanks to its intuitive controls and auto-aiming system, Soul Knight is a working man’s bullet hell game. Dodge the hail of bullets and take up arms with over 270 unique weapons, ranging from alien tech to magic staves. It doesn’t have to make sense as long as it’s fun!
If I had a nickel for every roguelike I’d played involving murderous produce, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened more than once. The second fruit-fighting roguelike in my life is Juicy Realm, in which you take on an empire of malevolent fruits, exploring their territory and cannibalizing their resources to build up your own capabilities. If you’re frightened of fruit, don’t worry! You can take up to three friends with you!
Cardinal Quest 2
For those of you that have enjoyed the classic games in the Ultima series (pre-Ultima VIII, preferably), Cardinal Quest 2 will feel familiar, though the firm, roguelike boot on your neck perhaps a bit less so. Build up your character into one of seven different classes, decking them out with a surprisingly in-depth armor and experience system, as you wipe out monsters in old-school grid-based combat.
Dungeon of the Endless
Something I’ve learned from playing a lot of roguelikes is that you can set one pretty much anywhere and it’ll work just fine. If you’re tired of brick and stone oubliettes, take it to the stars and defend your downed ship in Dungeon of the Endless. Create a team of lovable rogues, each with their own quirks and perks, set up defenses around your ship’s core, and delve into the endless dungeon beneath the crash site. Hope you’re good at multitasking!
No matter how many generations of games and cartoons go by, one of the best premises for a story will always be “warriors from different times and cultures assemble for a big punch up.” That’s the name of the game in Otherworld Legends, in which you control a team of multidimensional warriors pummeling foes from all corners of reality. While it’s technically a dungeon crawler on paper, the precise, punchy controls bring it closer in line with a classic side-scrolling beat ‘em up, aided by the incredibly detailed pixel art layered over 3D backgrounds. It’s a meeting of old school and new school, as well as dimensions!
That’s all we got for now, but we’ve got plenty of more mobile game lists for you to check out. Give our best mobile MOBA games a browse, or maybe gacha games are more your speed. Either way, you’re bound to find some hidden gems.