ASCII art + permadeath: The history of roguelike games

Appreciate the game that inspired the genre and its name: Rogue.

Roguelike games have grown in popularity over the 40 years the genre has existed, even though they implement ideas that might seem anathema to popular gaming: extreme randomness, ASCII graphics, permadeath, enormous complexity, and more. Yet these days, you can just about sneeze and hit something that has at least been influenced by roguelikes.

And so, in the spirit of game genre histories past—we’ve done real-time strategy, city builders, first-person shooters, simulation games, graphic adventures, kart racers, and open-world games—let’s take a look back at how we got here and what it all means. We’ll tour the roguelike evolutionary tree, starting from Rogue itself and progressing all the way to modern games with “roguelike elements.”

But first, let’s try to answer one key question.

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