Hades has consistently been a hit, from its tenure as an early access title on the Epic Games Store, to its full release adding it to the Nintendo Switch. Supergiant's taste for what games look, sound, and feel like have done wonders for what is essentially an action roguelike. But every building block adds something special to this familiar formula, making it stand out among its many peers. But Hades isn't the first game in this space to have larger ambitions beyond "die a lot until you win." With that being said, I've compiled a list here of games old and recent, that I feel have the same kind of ambition, or similar gameplay elements. If Hades has been your first foray into this genre space, here are X games I personally, highly reccommend, and I bet you'll like at least one, if not more.
Children of Morta
Roguelites don’t always carry the kind of storytelling weight Hades does. And even fewer actually succeed like Hades does. Children of Morta is a fascinating attempt at a similar style, using the run-based play as more of a framework for its story, while not overtly punishing the player for messing up. There are upgrades, skills you set to designated buttons, and a growing cast of playable characters that all have their distinct style. There’s also an element of base-building, with the family’s home being your base of operations and source of upgrades.
Rogue Legacy 2
If I were to place Rogue Legacy on this list, it would largely be because of its persistent progression mechanics. If your favorite part of Hades was the Mirror of Night, just imagine a Mirror of Night the size of a castle. But Rogue Legacy 2 also introduces different weapons/playstyles, making it more similar to Hades as a result. Rogue Legacy 2 also does a good job making the “Traits” system more interested and nuanced, including giving you incentives for taking on risks.
If you loved the way Hades uses your growing list of failures to drive the story forward, you need to figure out how to get a hold of Baroque, stat. The original was a first-person, 32-bit mystery for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation that never left Japan. But Baroque was revisited for the PlayStation 2 and wii, and partially transformed into a brutal, roguelike action game.
The story is delivered in a way a brooding Japanese horror game can, in tiny, confusing pieces. But the more you play, and die, and play again, the more you uncover and begin to piece together Baroque’s madness. This is the unfriendliest game on this list, and also the hardest to get a physical copy of, but it’s one of the most rewarding in terms of getting a return on your suffering.
Dark Cloud and its sequel are gorgeous, scrappy PS2 games from Level-5, the eventual studio behind Dragon Quest VIII and Ni no Kuni. Both games are available on PS4 through Sony’s extremely brief and disappointing venture into re-releasing PS2 games with trophies and stuff. The second is a lot more polished than the first, but the first has a lot more of a Hades-like structure. This time you’re rescuing an entire village from an evil djinn, restoring it one person, piece of property, and dungeon at a time. Your weapons will break, you’ll die of thirst, and you’ll be murdered by a bat at least once. But if you can push through you’ll get a story full of character.
Mystery Dungeon is extremely my jam, and it’s so difficult to only recommend one of them here. And I don’t like to double-up on lists like this. But I will recommend a few. If you want to ease in, Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy or Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX are excellent entry points with persistent leveling, ramping challenges and IP fanservice out the wazoo. If you’re already someone with a Hades win under your belt though, you should definitely check out one of the available Shiren the Wanderer titles (there’s one coming to Switch!) or the very first game in the series, Torneko no Daibouken. These games will chew you up and spit you out, but they also offer little bits of high level progress and various little storytelling nuggets even as you fail. These are more satisfying in a long term sense, I think.
There are also a few options for Mystery Dungeon-like games that are basically just copies of the play style but not officially branded Mystery Dungeon joints from Spike Chunsoft. Nippon Ichi Software has nailed this genre several times, the highlights being ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman and Void Terrarium. ZHP is just wacky as hell with all kinds of over the top systems to play with, while Void Terrarium is a more somber story that brings in a virtual pet-like structure for Big Plot Reasons Just Play This Game Please.
Romancing SaGa 2
So, this recommendation is for the Final Fantasy dorks that also vibe with roguelikes. It’s a specific audience, more so than even the Chocobo game. The SaGa series, which shares DNA with Final Fantasy (especially the second one), usually shows up as turn-based JRPGs with super dense and purposefully obtuse progression systems. Bundled up with unforgiving difficulty, entire chunks of missable story and potential unwinnable game states, you get Romancing SaGa 2. This game is majestically hateful towards anyone who underestimates its cruelty.
But it rules. And it’s secretly a roguelite. How is Final Fantasy’s more pretentious cousin a roguelike? Romancing SaGa 2 is all about a world-ending threat that no one group of heroes can defeat. This is a multigenerational effort, with the king/queen of an empire passing his or her legacy (and stats, and skills) down to their heirs. If you die, that’s it - some of your power is transferred to the next generation, but you’ve beefed that specific time period permanently. And eventually, you get cut off. Regardless of where you are (with some rest available), you’ll eventually come down to the last of the bloodline, and your last chance to win.
In-between are all sorts of adventures, as the emperor encounters strange events all around the world on their quest to recruit powerful supporters. And depending on choices you make (sometimes without realizing you’re making a choice), those individual stories (and sometimes the world state) will change, often with multiple outcomes or events. This is a Super Famicom game, by the way. But you can play it now on modern platforms, and it introduces a new feature that allows you to end the game prematurely, but pass a similar amount of progress over as if your emperor died. It’s an emergency button, but also adds to the fun of building your characters while alleviating the stress.
Breath of Fire 5/Dragon Quarter
I’m no coward, and I’m staking that claim by including this here video game. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter was ultimately the death of that series, as it was such a departure for a popular JRPG series. The world wasn’t quite ready for mass market roguelikes at the time, especially one from a big developer like Capcom, for a series that was largely seen as a major Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest competitor.
This game is a super off-kilter roguelite, with systems that are even hard to explain for a genre enthusiast like myself. Part of that is because of their weird, jargony names though. Long story short, your ultimate goal is to climb to the top of an underground, post-apocalyptic bunker. As Ryu, you gain the ability to turn into a dragon, but that makes a certain meter go up. If you let it fill all the way, that’s it - game’s over. But similarly to Romancing SaGa 2, you can use an in-game feature to restart, which increases another number, which helps you progress and see more of the story. It’s wild, purists hate it, but it’s secretly an awesome game that was ahead of its time.
That’s my list! Roguelikes and roguelites are a big deal in gaming today, and Hades feels like a new bar set by years of exploring the genre, trying new things, and Early Access development. But these kinds of games have been around forever, most of them coming out of Japan after PC gaming left games like Rogue and Wizardry behind. But with Hades’ distinct, powerful merger of roguelike gameplay beats and its drip-fed storytelling, it’s hard to find examples with similar vibes. These are games I feel capture that ambition the most.
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