This side-scrolling action roguelike posits that anyone who delves into a dungeon full of monsters is more than a little unhinged. Red Rogue's heroine feels like the most monstrous thing in the game's randomly generated levels. It's the way she and her minion calmly despatch imps: blood spurting across the otherwise monochrome rooms. That feeling can easily slip into overconfidence. Whether it's forgetting to scan for traps or making a poor deal with a chaos god, careless decisions are quickly punished.
I understand your inclination to skip this because of its title. It would be a mistake though, because Skrillex Quest is a well made Zelda homage with an eerily warped theme. The game is set inside a NES cartridge that has been corrupted by a piece of dust. A simple matter of blowing on it for those on the outside, but for the characters in the game it's a more involved quest to rescue the ghost of a princess for... reasons.
The game takes place across a series of distinct stages, each full of glitched cubes that infest their rooms and need defeating to progress. You're against the clock, so you'll have to be quick to fully explore every area before being plunged deeper into the broken world.
Kingdom of Loathing
Scratch all the layers of polish and visual fluff away from your favourite RPG, and you'll find Kingdom of Loathing underneath. You create a stick-man hero and spend daily adventuring points to raid sketched-out dungeons, kill strange monsters and level up. Your actions resolve instantly, so this is a game about making decisions rather than honing twitch skills. An irreverent sense of humour keeps the grind from getting boring. Be a Disco Bandit! Fight Sinister Fudge Wizards with your Disco Ball! It's a winning formula.
The Nightmare Cooperative
The Nightmare Cooperative doesn't involve a hellish encounter with an overzealous manager of a UK supermarket—it's a turn-based roguelike, like even FIFA will probably be in a couple of years' time. The twist here is that it's a four-player roguelike where you control the entire quartet yourself. Every time you move—once you've rescued your three chums, at least—your three chums move along with you, attacking or avoiding or collecting stuff too, providing there's something adjacent to attack, avoid or pick up. TNC is as much a puzzle game as a roguelike, then, particularly when you take the characters' teensy number of hit points into consideration. Special attention must also be paid to the sound design, which manages to conjure a surprisingly evocative sense of place.
A Dark Room
The Candy Box-inspired A Dark Room is another sorta-text-adventure that starts off small—incredibly small—and soon unfolds into something far greater. It begins in a dark room, and with a fire, but pretty soon you're taking care of a whole village. It's a game with a great sense of mystery and satisfying micromanagement, but on a technical level I particularly like the timed decision boxes, which make A Dark Room feel far less static than a lot of text-based titles.
Wayward has all the traits of a roguelike—randomly generated levels and permanently dying characters—but instead of battling through a dungeon, you're fighting for survival. You're more likely to die from hunger than from monsters, although there are plenty of those as well.
It hides a lot of depth behind its top down 16-bit graphics. You begin washed up on a beach, carrying nothing. From there you must chop trees, mine rocks and use the assorted items they give to craft tools. So far, so Minecraft, but Wayward goes further in the amount of detail to its systems.
Seedling is a top-down RPG adventure with plenty of nods to old Zelda games. You play as an unspecified creation of the Oracle, who charges you with the collection of a seed. That's about as far as the plot goes. The rest of the game has you exploring dungeons, killing enemies, collecting items, then using them to unlock the way to new dungeons, enemies and items.
This isn't so much a recommendation as it is a warning. As of writing, I have 432.3 million cookies, and I'm producing more at a rate of 3.01 million per second.
In the beginning, you follow Cookie Clicker's instructive title and click the giant cookie on the screen. Doing so bakes a single cookie. Click fourteen more times, and you'll have made enough to afford a Cursor, which automatically clicks every ten seconds. Get this far and you're already in trouble. If Cookie Clicker had microtransactions, it would be a weaponized strike against wallets. Instead, it's merely a worryingly addictive time waster.
I've now hit 20 billion—enough cookies to genetically enhance my workforce of grannies and buy an antimatter condenser. Send help.
Candy Box 2
The first Candy Box used the incremental waiting period enforced by the most exploitative free-to-play games, but hung something silly around it. Candies slowly ticked in, and new features were slowly unlocked, but then there were quests and riddles and as many jokes as you could fit into an HTML page full of ASCII.
This time, you're quickly given access to a full world map, and it's there that you'll spend the majority of the game. You can visit villages, slay camels, explore a 3D cavern, and talk to a squirrel, all in the name of candy collection.
One Tap Quest
There are not enough superlatives to describe One Tap Quest, a deceptively simple but smartly designed RPG where your only input is a single click, right at the beginning of the game. The trick lies in when and where you apply this click. There are two stages. The first is a procedurally generated smorgasbord of enemies and power-ups; as in Desktop Dungeons or Half-Minute Hero, you have to direct the hero towards weaker enemies first in order to increase their prowess for the next.
If all goes to plan – and remember, this is a plan you initiate with a single tap – your behatted warrior will level up on a few slimes, then snakes, then bandits and so on, while bagging a better weapon and other power-ups along the way. If they manage to make it past the fearsome dragons at the top of the screen, they'll engage in a seemingly stat-based boss battle, and eventually be eliminated if they haven't been sufficiently toughened up.
You'll spend most of One Tap Quest waiting and praying that the roving enemies will either cross your path or narrowly miss your hero. It's excellent design, and with the layout being procedurally generated, you won't mind instantly restarting in order to try for a better score.
Dragon Age: The Last Court
The combined Dragon Age games must, at this point, comprise hundreds of thousands of words of dialogue, diaries and codex entries. Failbetter Games – the creators of Fallen London and Sunless Sea – have just added many, many more to that total. Made in partnership with Bioware, The Last Court is a text-based adventure designed to bridge the gap between Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It does this through the tale of a disgraced Orlesian town, and its ruler's attempt to win back its favour.
Who that ruler is depends on your initial choices. There are two possible archetypes – the hunter and the scholar. The hunter is an expert on tracking and hunting; the scholar on books and intrigue. Whatever the choice, you'll need to raise your town's Dignity, Freedom and Prosperity, while simultaneously curbing the threat of revolution, and of invasion from outsiders or other, darker forces.
I pick the scholar, and am tasked with raising the town's profile. Right now, this means preparing for the arrival of the Empress. Through the completion of missions, I can collect secrets to impress the Orlesian ruler – marking our town as an invaluable ally. Through this process I've already met several returning characters from past Dragon Age games.
What I don't yet know is how the story will conclude. Progress through The Last Court is made by drawing cards, and each new set of three costs an action point. Each card is tied to an event, which can be solved in multiple ways depending on your current resources. Once exhausted, action points must recharge – which they do at a rate of one every twenty minutes.
You can spend real money to instantly restock your actions, but it rarely feels necessary. The Last Court is designed to be played slowly – spending a few minutes each day building resources and accepting missions. Experienced like that it makes an entertaining albeit unessential addition to Dragon Age's already massive story.