How to [Learn to] Play Rogue

I have been playing a lot of Rogue clones lately. Since the original Rogue is all ASCII and keyboard controlled, it’s a bit hard to just jump in and play. I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the Roguelike games I played as I gradually learned to play.  If you’ve never played Rogue before, and you’d like to try it, this list should be a good starting point.  It will start you with full mouse control and work all the way towards full keyboard control.

Info About Rogue

  • Rogue is a dungeon crawler game.  Your general goal is to collect gold and items and defeat monsters as you descend the floors of the Dungeon of Doom.  The ultimate goal was originally to find the Amulet of Yendor.
  • Rogue was created in the early 80s.  Check out the wiki if you want to read about it.
  • Rogue is turn-based, which is usually synonymous with slow in the gaming world.  With Rogue, though, once you are used to the keyboard commands it can play really fast.
  • There are a ton of Rogue clones, termed “roguelike” games.  I built a timeline of the more famous ones here.
  • You get one life.  When you die, you have to start from the beginning.
  • Most roguelikes are free, and a lot of them are open source.


  • Take your time.  Rogue is turn based.  You have as much time as you want to make your next move.
  • Watch your health.  Run away if you are in a fight that isn’t looking good.

What To Play

I recommend playing the following games in the order presented.  Rogue by itself is a bit overwhelming for those who are used to Window interfaces, but the following list will get you started in familiar territory.

1. Desktop Dungeons (graphical, mouse only)

Desktop Dungeons is the first roguelike I played that held my attention for more than a few minutes.  It is very easy to play but it has a surprising amount of depth.  Note that it is still a work in progress.  Here’s why it’s a great introduction to Rogue:

  • It’s all mouse controlled.
  • A single game runs about 10 minutes.
  • It’s got a graphical interface.
  • You can only play the easier classes when you start. As you master them, harder ones will open up.

2. Rogue for iPhone (free, graphical/ASCII, touch-based) — [optional, but very useful]

This title is for iPhone, so it has a touch-based interface.  It has ASCII graphics in landscape mode, and graphics in portrait mode. What’s useful about it is the fact that the touch-based interface involves drawing “glyphs” in a 3×3 grid on the screen.  The glyphs are similar to the letter command that is commonly used on the keyboard.  It’s a great introduction to the keyboard commands, without forcing you to use a keyboard.

There is a nice help button that gets you into the list of commands pretty easily, so all the glyphs are pretty quick to pick up.

I also played Rogue Touch ($2.99) for iPhone, but it doesn’t help with keyboard commands so much.  It’s just for fun.

3. Castlevania Roguelike (free, graphical, keyboard only)

Castlevania Roguelike is an adaptation of Castlevania as a rogue game.  It’s graphical, and includes music and audio from Castlevania games.  Very cool if you’re a fan.  This is the first Roguelike on the list that is all keyboard commands, but the graphics and menus soften the learning curve a good bit.  You can press F1 to get a list of commands.

There are multiple classes in this game.  The easier ones to play are the Renegade and the Knight.  The trick to surviving is to take your time.  Most of the time I die because I played too fast and didn’t think.  It also helps to have a numpad so you can walk and jump diagonally without having to remap the keys.

4. Anything you want!

At this point you should be very familiar with the keyboard command for Roguelikes.  You should be able to pick-up-and-play just about any Roguelike out there.


If you need help finding some Roguelike, here’s some links:

Roguebasin – a nice wiki for all things Rogue.  I found this list of faves useful.

My Rogue Timeline – Highlight some of the older, more famous Roguelikes.

Chaos Forge – home of Doom RL and some others.


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