5 best roguelite games of 2021

There have been numerous commendable roguelite releases in 2021 (Image via Sportskeeda)
There have been numerous commendable roguelite releases in 2021 (Image via Sportskeeda)

The roguelite genre is likely the most diverse breeding ground for innovative gameplay ideas.

This scope of innovation comes from roguelites' designated focus on core gameplay and replayability. The principle of the more hardcore roguelike genre makes defeat in these games a necessary part of the progression. However, their flexibility to go against the grain over the roguelike archetype, also allow roguelites, like Hades, the scope to weave a cohesive narrative into it.

2021 was an overall prolific year for the roguelite genre. On one hand, some community darlings like Gunfire and Curse of The Dead Gods went into full release from an early access phase. On the other hand, there have also been many new releases and the inception of their budding communities thereof.

Best roguelite games released in 2021

The following list tries to capture the 5 most polished and innovative attempts to reinvent the wheel of a genre that has, admittedly, begun to become tired and crowded with new entries.

2021’s best roguelites

  • Inscryption
  • Tainted Grail Conquest
  • Returnal
  • Darkest Dungeon 2
  • Loop Hero

5) Inscryption

  • Developer/Publisher: Daniel Mullins Games, Devolver Digital
  • Platform: Microsoft Windows
  • Release Date: October 19, 2021

Roguelite deckbuilders on Steam have become a trendwagon that churns out dime-a-dozen entries every other day. In a niche crawling with Slay the Spire knockoffs, Inscryption is a breath of fresh air. Its perspective initially reminds players of Hand of Fate, in what appears to be a reimplementation of grid-based card battling in an eerily unique setting.

The game's distinctive aesthetic identity also translates to a unique take on card-battling with a simple but solid foundation. Most importantly, its surprise turns come not from its typical roguelite powerups or debuffs, but from well-implemented bosses and plot twists.

4) Tainted Grail: Conquest

  • Developer/Publisher: Awaken Realms Digital
  • Platform: Microsoft Windows
  • Release Date: May 27, 2021

The world of Tainted Grail, including its art direction, is reminiscent of Path of Exile. The exploration takes a page out of GGG's playbook. The players, selectable from a vast swath of classes, venture out of the hive area into the world to either perish or get strong enough to defeat bosses. Where its turn-based battle really shines is not its class implementation or Wyrdness mechanics, but the sheer scale of its vertical progression.

3) Returnal

  • Developer/ Publisher: Housemarque, Sony
  • Platform:PlayStation 5
  • Release date: April 30, 2021

Stranded on Planet Atropos, Returnal's protagonist soon realizes its action roguelite Groundhog Day scenario. In short, Returnal is a spin on the Risk of Rain 2 gameplay. Instead of Risk of Rain 2's aplomb and fancy style, Returnal shines in a tighter shooting experience that focuses on experimenting with its many weapons and exciting upgrades that the player picks up on the run.

2) Darkest Dungeon 2

  • Developer/Publisher: Red Hook Studios
  • Platform: Microsoft Windows
  • Release Date: October 26, 2021

Darkest Dungeon, released in 2016, soon won roguelite fans over with its definitive Gothic atmosphere and superb voice-acting narration. Darkest Dungeon 2, surprising many, managed to improve and switch things up enough to outgrow the original game's shadow.

Juxtaposed on a 3D cart ride beset with dangers and treasure, it still retains much of the original's dungeon crawling intricacies. Darkest Dungeon 2 is currently in early access and available on Epic Games Launcher. The full release date is still tentative.

1) Loop Hero

  • Developer/Publisher: Four Quarters, Devolver Digital
  • Platform: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch
  • Release Date: March 4, 2021

Loop Hero, from a cursory glance, seems the closest to the original roguelike formula out of the roguelites mentioned here. In terms of aestheticism, it recalls the Dwarf Fortress of yore with a minimalistic, 8-bit overhead map and arcade chiptune music. In reality, it is the most unique roguelites on this list.

Loop Hero's battles are automated. Instead, the player input comes in terms of refilling the empty terrain around the looping path. The battle victories reward players with terrain tiles, and each type of tile - mountains, villages, woods, and the like - grants unique bonuses and demerits.

Note: The article reflects the views of the writer.

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Edited by R. Elahi
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