Hello, gentle readers. Are you looking for a quick and easy list of recommendations for a particular genre of games? I’m hoping to help you out with these semi-regular rankings, carefully compiled and presented for your enjoyment. The topic this time around is the dungeon RPG genre, an admittedly weird label that requires additional explanation. I would love to call these dungeon crawlers, but that genre label gets messy and means different things to different people. What we’re looking for here is the sub-genre of RPGs that follows in the footsteps of Wizardry, Might & Magic, Dungeon Master, and so on. These involve first-person exploration and are usually turn-based in nature. There aren’t as many of them on iOS as you might expect! Nevertheless, there are definitely a handful you’ll want to check out. Please note: this is not the final word, and your list can be (and probably is) different.
One caveat: I’m only including games that include 64-bit support at the time of writing. The deadline for 32-bit apps has long passed, so this list wouldn’t be terribly useful if I included those. These lists usually have ten games on them, but the sparsity of games in this category that still function on modern devices means I couldn’t quite reach that number. As usual, I’ll only allow one entry per series. It’s not a huge issue here, I suppose. Rather than go through the headache of trying to rank them in a particular order, I’m just going to list them alphabetically.
The Bard’s Tale
The Bard's Tale, $2.99 Wait just a hot minute, I hear you say. You said games like Wizardry, but this is the silly action-RPG spin-off! Okay, yes. The main game is indeed not fit for our criteria, however enjoyable it may be. But the iOS version of The Bard’s Tale also includes the original three Bard’s Tale games, and while it’s not the optimal way to play them, it’s hard to argue with three classics in one app. These were some of the most popular dungeon RPGs back in the 1980s, and while there are definitely some bones to pick with them, there is still plenty to love here.
The Deep Paths
The Deep Paths, $3.99 Developer Steve Jarman has been putting dungeon RPGs on iOS for quite some time now. His latest, The Deep Paths, has some excellent puzzles and dungeon design that make it worth checking out for fans of the genre. The controls can be a little bit tough to deal with at times, and combat isn’t as deep as it could be, but this is still an enjoyable adventure in spite of its issues. Don’t forget to pack the graph paper for this one, as the dungeon is fairly large and complex in its construction.
Dungeoneers Quest, $0.99 This is an interesting entry. Typically, dungeon RPGs pride themselves on their carefully-crafted designs and puzzles. Dungeoneers Quest is a little different, though. The dungeon is always procedurally generated each time you enter, and it’s also bereft of any designed puzzles. This game is really about building your party, going as far as you dare, using the spoils to improve your party, and heading back down again. It’s a more streamlined experience than some of the games on this list, and while it’s got plenty of areas that could be improved, it’s good for a dive now and then.
Legend of Grimrock
Legend of Grimrock, $4.99 These lists aren’t really about picking one particular favorite child in the bunch, but… well, you know. The Legend of Grimrock is an amazing homage to Dungeon Master, with fantastic dungeon designs, exciting quasi-real time combat, and great puzzles. It’s a little cramped on the iPhone, but still workable. If you’re playing on an iPad, this is one of the biggest no-brainer purchases around. There’s no sign yet of a mobile version of the sequel, but this one should scratch your dungeon-crawling itch nicely for quite some time.
Mazes of Karradash 2
Mazes of Karradash 2, $0.99 The original Mazes of Karradash aimed to marry a first-person dungeon crawler with a roguelike sensibility. It worked to a certain extent, but for the sequel the developer opted to drop some of the random elements, making for a more memorable experience all around. The sequel is still very much focused around the idea of disposable heroes and unlocking perks and improvements that help your next hero get a little farther, but this time around the dungeons are hand-designed and filled with puzzles and boss encounters. Both games are honestly worth checking out, but I like this one a little better than the first.
The Quest, $7.99 Okay, this one is cheating a little. You’ll spend far more time outside of dungeons than inside of them in The Quest, but I feel like it still hits all the right spots for fans of this sub-genre. Simply put, if you like RPGs, own a mobile device, and don’t own The Quest, you’re doing it wrong. Roll up a character and head out into a huge world full of danger, loot, quests, and monsters. If the dozens of hours of gameplay in the main game isn’t enough for you, there are also a bunch of expansions to keep you questing for ages.
7 Mages, Free If you really like tough puzzles in your dungeon RPGs, 7 Mages is the game for you. This is a surprisingly full-featured game that mostly throws back to 90s CRPGs while adding a few modern conveniences. The story set-up uses the framework of the classic Kurosawa film The Seven Samurai, and the setting feels just different enough to give the game a feeling of its own. The ability to split up your party not only makes for some interesting puzzle possibilities, it also gives the battles a strategic feel that is missing from many other games in this sub-genre.
Silversword, $2.99 With the obvious exception of The Bard’s Tale, most of the games on this list play around with the dungeon RPG concept a little bit, giving them a different feel to the classic staples of the sub-genre. If you’re looking for something that plays a tune a little closer to the originals that you remember, Silversword has you covered. It takes a lot of cues from the original Bard’s Tale games but adds in plenty of useful features and naturally features its own original world and story. It doesn’t mess with the core concept too much, but is a quality RPG in its own right.
Again, this is just my personal list. If something you really love is missing, it’s possible I forgot it or that I’ve ruled it out as a dungeon RPG for one arbitrary reason or another. That said, if you want to make the case for anything in particular, please leave it in the comments below. There’s a good chance I’ll be revisiting this list in the future to update it now and then. Which ranking would you like to see next? Let us know that in the comments below as well. Thanks for reading!