5 Horror Rogue-Type Games to Check Out During Steam’s Going Rogue Sale
There is quite a bit of argument about what a roguelike is, or what a rogue-lite is, or even what Rogue is. Rogue – for the curious – was a 1980 dungeon crawler that featured a randomized dungeon every time you entered, and permadeath. In my opinion, rogue-likes are games with a randomized layout and permadeath. Rogue-lites are games with randomized dungeons and a more forgiving death and progression system. It’s all very confusing, so I propose a new name: Rogue-types. One banner under which all -likes and -lites can gather under. No longer will we be corrected by persnickety rogue-enjoyers. Either way, Steam is having a rogue-type sale, and I want to highlight 5 excellent horror – or horror-adjacent- rogue-types for you to check out.
5. Dead Cells
Dead Cells is a current obsession. After many years of owning it on the PC, I bought a copy for my Switch during PAX directly from the Motion Twin booth. I’ve rekindled my love affair with Dead Cells in its more portable form, and whether you play it on PC or Switch, you’re going to have a good time. A 2D, side-scrolling rogue-type, Dead Cells sees you playing as an unnamed prisoner, cruelly executed for some crime or another. The execution doesn’t take, and after you’ve been beheaded, you notice that your head has been replaced with a glowing bit of green sludge and energy containing an eyeball. Ignore that…condition, and fight your way through the castle dungeon, ramparts, prison, cemetery, and tons of other varied areas.
Dead Cells boasts an impressive array of enemy types, weapons, and strategies that allow you to customize your playstyle in hundreds of different ways to fit your preference. Each area is a glorious smorgasbord of pixel art perfection. You could get lost staring at the artistry that’s gone into the level design – if you had time to stop, that is. The combat is unforgiving, fast, and brutish. You’ve got to keep your wits about you whether you’ve chosen to be a stoic long-distance archer or an up-close-and-person brawler. There are no easy outs in Dead Cells. It’s pure rogue-type perfection. Though you may suffer an inglorious and quick death, the items that you unlock persist as drops in your future runs, meaning that you’ll never be truly outgunned.
Dead Cells was originally released in 2017, and has seen constant updates all the way until, well, now. There is a new update out now adding an entirely new area, enemies, items, and weapons. The team has heard the people out there that want a more forgiving rogue-type experience, and an upcoming update will be adding a full slew of accessibility options to make Dead Cells a rogue-type for every type. You can pick it up HERE.
4. Have a Nice Death
I recently reviewed Have a Nice Death. I could point you towards that review and say, “there. There it is. Read it.” and not have to write anything here, but that would be a disservice to one of the newest entries into the pantheon of rogue-type classics. Have a Nice Death sees you playing as Death. Capital “D” Death. Scourge of the underworld, the voice on the wind, overworked corporate manager- wait. What? Death, frustrated with the day-in, day-out of reaping souls, turns his trade into big business, complete with employees. Eons pass and your employees start slacking. It’s up to you to remind that what Death is like. The combat is fluid and fast, like a rogue-type should be. The art style is reminiscent of something like Arcane, and has a wonderful painterly sheen put on it.
The most interesting thing about Have a Nice Death is that it’s a tad bit more punishing than your standard rogue-type. Items and upgrades to Death’s trusty scythe do not persist after death, and you’ll be knocked back down to the plain ol’ starting scythe at the beginning of each run. Thankfully, the runs are tightly contained and can be completed fairly quickly depending on your level of skill. Have a Nice Death is currently in early access, so expect to see some changes as it passes through its development growing pains. You can pick it up HERE.
Ok, so Infernax is not quite a rogue-type. It’s actually more of a punishing old-school platformer. The reason I’m including it on this list is because it’s on sale right now for the Going Rogue sale. I can’t say enough good things about Infernax. I’ve actually beaten it 8 times currently. In one playthrough, you can get a satisfying story out of Infernax, but it really starts to shine in subsequent playthroughs. For your first time through, though, all you have to know is that Infernax plays like the classic platformers of yesteryear. The challenging, limited lives, precision jumps, almost unfair enemies, games of yesteryear. You play as Duke Alcedor, returning to their homeland after a long time out conquering or adventuring. The land has been overrun by devils and ghouls, and it’s up to you to cleanse the land (or help the evil).
Infernax features moral choices that actually matter and change the course of the game. There are 5 different endings just based on what level of evil/good/neutral you are. Each of these choices features different things to do in the game, and you won’t see the entire spread without multiply playthroughs. Thankfully, Infernax is an absolute blast to play, and brings some very modern sensibilities -along with a heaping helping of gore- to the 2D platformer arena. If that sounds like your jam, you can pick it up HERE.
2. Dead Estate
Dead Estate is hard. I mean hard. I wrote about how it forced me to learn to embrace the curve. In doing so, I built up an appreciation for this isometric rogue-type shooter. The difficulty comes mainly in the fact that when you die, you’re dead. That seems obvious, but it’s the truth. Dead Estate has some of the most punishing death conditions in a modern rogue-type. Once you die, you start all over from the beginning. Nothing carries through. It’s just you, the character you select, and multiple floors of zombies and other hellish miscreations. Thankfully, you can get a leg up by getting good. It sounds like obvious advice, but I didn’t start fully enjoying Dead Estate until I got good, embraced the deaths, and learned the mechanics.
There is no hand-holding, just loads of guns and your wits. The game runs fairly short once you learn how to break it over your knee, but beating it isn’t simple. To get to the point where I was conquering floors without getting touched and pulling off miraculous grenade launcher shots was a journey. A journey fraught with peril and almost breaking my keyboard. If that sounds like something you’d want to do, you can pick it up HERE.
1. Draft of Darkness
Draft of Darkness is a weird beast. When I looked at all the rogue-type games I played this year, I kept bouncing back towards it. It’s a card-based, grid-based, isometric dungeon crawler. The dungeons are apartment buildings, abandoned streets, and other urban places where zombies have taken over. The card system keeps the game feeling fresh, and the points you gather through your playthroughs can be used for new cards. The deckbuilding and customization aspect made runs always feel fresh, with different combat and support options to experiment with to synthesize the perfect playstyle. My perfect character dual-wielded flashlights and used flashlight-based attacks and defense to fight my way through the hordes. My ideal build is definitely not going to be your ideal build – or maybe it is?- but Draft of Darkness gives you the freedom to decide how you want to play.
For that reason, and that reason alone it’s worth your time. Nevermind the fact that it has this grimy, almost PS1 aesthetic, and some fantastic monster design. If you’re down for something spooky, out of the ordinary, and compelling, you can pick it up right HERE.