games / Columns

The Top 8 Dungeon Crawler Games

March 22, 2022 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Diablo III 3 Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about dungeon crawler games, or at least games where dungeons are a big part of them. The main reason for this column is because I keep playing Lost Ark and it just will not stop, so that’s obviously on this list. I don’t have a ton of criteria for this list overall, just games that either take place in a dungeon or dungeons are a bit part of the overall gameplay loop. Let’s begin:

#8: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 1

So, sue me, I kind of like this game. It’s a very naked Diablo clone, but I just enjoyed playing it. The combat was mostly fine, it had good voice acting and nice music and your skills could synergize in interesting ways. The biggest problem(s) are that some maps are entirely too big and enemies can get clustered around which can cause non-stop enemy swarms in spots. Still, just slaying monsters with Van Helsing and his ghost-lady friend Katarina is alright.

#7: Divinity: Original Sin 2

Original Sin 2 kind of stretches the definition here, but I’ll go with it. It’s basically a RPG mixed with a strategy game, since you have RPG mechanics like talking to people and doing side quests, but combat is nominally played from a turn-based strategy game. However, you can use spells/abilities anywhere, so if you spot an enemy before-hand, you can get the drop on them and do some early damage. OS2 is on here because, believe me, there are plenty of dungeons, caves and other dangerous areas for you to explore and to get loot in.

#6: Cadence of Hyrule

I get that Crypt of the Necrodancer has (obviously) more of a dungeon vibe, but I appreciate Cadence a lot more, overall. It really is a perfect mixture of the rhythmic gameplay of Necro mixed with the open-world, yet familiar Legend of Zelda mechanics. Even if you discount the Necro part of the equation though and just turn this into a rogue-lite Zelda game, which you can do, the game is still brilliant. Superb music, the combat is varied but familiar, and it follows the Zelda formula close enough but to also throw in some twists along the way. I’d love it if there was a sequel to this game at some point.

#5: Binding of Isaac (Series)

For Isaac I’m just going with the series, since there’s been a few different releases of it. Isaac features some elements as other games on this list, like randomized dungeons, random weapons and so on but the amount of randomness in Isaac is really impressive. Once you get to some of the later releases, there are hundreds of items that can be randomized drops which can lead to thousands of different combinations. There’s not really a “gear” list, per se, but there are obvious bad items vs. good items for you to try and acquire. Plus, there are multiple branching paths in the dungeons, in whether or not you want to get to heaven, hell, or somewhere in between.

#4: Hades

Hades might be higher on this list, if it just had more actual biomes to explore. With there only being four, it can become a bit monotonous at times. I just think there aren’t a lot of actual secrets for you to uncover and doing the conversational unlock system can take a lot of runs. Still, Hades plays amazingly well, all the weapons feel different so you really have to adjust your play style accordingly. Using the fist weapon is obviously different from the sword, which is different from the bow and arrow. More than that, the god boons you get can change things up as well. Shooting arrows that can generate electricity is very cool, let’s be real.

#3: Torchlight 1

A lot of people enjoy the improvements that Torchlight 2 has, and while I did enjoy the levels more, I found Torchlight 1 to just be a more enjoyable game. I enjoyed going deeper and deeper into the mines underneath Torchlight to stop the evil guy from destroying the world. I found that Torchlight 1 had the best class structure with just basically warrior, mage, and archer so it allowed me to focus on what I like playing in these games, which is a mage. The pet was also a brilliant addition, giving you an extra inventory space and sending the pet back to town to sell all your junk, which helped keep the action going.

#2: Diablo 3

Diablo 2 is generally considered the best one but having just played it very recently with the Resurrected edition, it hasn’t aged well. Granted, I didn’t play it back in the day, so I don’t have any fond memories of it, but dealing with the inventory, belt system and numbers of potions you get is madness and something they should have fixed. Diablo 3, by contrast, is a fairly elegant game. You only get one portion but it’s an infinite use item, on a cool down. There aren’t any town portal or identify scrolls because you can do both actions yourself, identify from the menu and teleport back to base whenever you want. I generally disliked my time with D2 but D3, even with its numerous stumbling blocks at launch, has evolved into one of the best dungeon crawlers ever.

#1: Lost Ark

While Diablo 3 is one of the best ones, to me, Lost Ark is the best one. The combat is simply unmatched for this type of dungeon crawler, while it might technically be a MMO, the combat always feels responsive and quick. There are a lot of classes for you to try and figure out what you like, if you want to hang back, sing songs and buff people, you are more than welcome to do so. Even aside from the multitude of dungeons and raids you can partake in, some of my favorite things to do are the treasure maps, where you find the locations of secret, one-off dungeons for you to explore and kill the boss in, for a lot of loot. To quote Omar Little, “You come at the king, you best not miss”. Well, Lost Ark came for Diablo, hit it, and is now the new king for dungeon crawler games.

For comments, list your favorite dungeon crawler games and why.

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