Best Roguelike 2020: Spelunky 2

Spelunky 2 is our Best Roguelike for 2020.
(Image credit: Mossmouth)

PC Gamer's Best Roguelike of 2020 award goes to—what else?—Spelunky 2. We'll be updating our GOTY 2020 hub with new awards and personal picks throughout December.

Evan Lahti: Olde Spelunky, our 2013 GOTY, was a clever proc-gen platformer that along with other roguelikes helped usher in the era of "Difficulty is Good." But seven years later, the indie hit's legacy might be the daring, creative player feats it inspired: the eggplant run (escorting a useless eggplant all the way through to the end of the game), the no-gold run, a speedrun of Hell itself. What's special about Spelunky 2, then, is how much the game's lead designer Derek Yu drew on the legendary achievements of the Spelunky community as inspiration for this sequel. The eggplant, for example, is no longer just an item: it's a path to reach a sprawling, secret level that contains the sacred lore of the eggplant god. NPCs are no longer cardboard cutouts, they're part of the exponentially deeper web of secrets, and helping them can produce unexpected help later in your run.

Spelunky remains PC gaming's Mario, a platformer built on pleasant, slippery physics that drips with the things that make our platform unique: self-created goals, intricacy, depth, and a rich community of hyper-enthusiasts to admire.

Rich Stanton: I almost think of Spelunky 2 as an old-fashioned sequel, a 2020 game from the 1990s, when a platformer's sequel would be simply more of the same, but better. This was the right approach for following up a roguelike that was already as near-as-dammit perfect. 

Spelunky 2 knows this won't be the first time for any of its players, so has dastardly moles purpose-built to interrupt thinking time, a jungle with spiked walls and bear traps to snap-off careless explorers, and the extra temptation of the ghost jar. 

That fragile jar embodies my personal Spelunking motto: get rich or die trying. You often have to choose between carrying it to the exit, or a companion (money vs health). It's easily smashed, so you're even more terrified of getting hit than usual, and completely neuters offensive options. The money's irresistible; but one slip can end your run. Spelunky 2 is all about making choices, and dealing with the consequences, up until you make the choice that kills you. Reaching out to grab the ghost jar, you feel that in microcosm.  

Emma Matthews: It's clear that Spelunky 2 has been designed for those who fell in love with the original first and foremost. This sequel makes no apologies for being incredibly challenging, so when you eventually hit those end credits, you'll feel as though you've truly achieved something. 

While it's fun to explore new areas like Volcana, Tide Pool, and Neo Babylon much later on, it feels especially rewarding to return to areas like the Ice Caves and the Temple of Anubis. These familiar worlds contain similar secrets to their previous iterations, and this is something that Spelunky fans will be able to pick out and appreciate. However, these zones have also been fleshed out to give us new puzzles to solve. And, of course, more enemies to blame when you inevitably die. 

One of the things I most enjoyed about Spelunky was how you could take these wild detours as you battled your way to the end of each level. There were hidden items, and an entirely different path through some levels that you could easily miss. Once again, Spelunky 2 rewards you for being curious, and it's just as fun to learn these intricate new routes, uncover different secrets, and challenge yourself just to see if you can jump through all these new hoops to reach the true ending.  

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.