Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Best Dungeon Crawlers of All Time?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 11, 2016

Underworld_Level_7IGN writers Jared Petty and Chloi Rad dare a task that I don’t think I’d be willing to tackle.. naming the top ten dungeon-crawlers of *ALL TIME*. I say I wouldn’t dare because I don’t think I could narrow my list down to the top ten, let alone attempt to order them. I’d argue with myself over every decision, long before anyone else argues with me.

And you know there’s no doubt this is the kind of thing that invites arguments. Even the definition might draw some nitpicking. Not all RPGs are Dungeon Crawlers (most are not), and not all Dungeon Crawlers are RPGs (but most are, if you count Roguelikes as RPGs, which I do).

However, there are some titles here that I would probably see in my own personal top 10. Wizardry, Ultima Underworld, and Nethack would be shoo-ins. I haven’t played enough Angband to really judge (although I understand it was based on / inspired by Moria, which I loved, way back when).  Diablo 2… maybe. Torchlight 2 probably wouldn’t make my top ten, but maybe by top 20 or 25.  I haven’t played the Etrian Odyssey or Mystery Dungeon series, so I really can’t say.

mm_XeenI think something from Might & Magic would probably make its way into my top 10… probably World of Xeen, which even today is something of a staggering accomplishment. Granted, that has lots of outdoor adventuring too, but so does Torchlight 2 and Diablo 2. The emphasis is more on the “labyrinthine environment” than whether or not it takes place underground.

Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon was my favorite of that series, which took the Dungeon Master gameplay and mixed it with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules for what was really an amazing time.  The Gold Box series… even going back recently and playing some of those, they hold up well. Technologically, not so much, but dang they are still fun. I’m not sure which would be my choice.  Pool of Radiance I remember loving the most, but they really refined things (and hadn’t gotten stale yet) with Curse of the Azure Bonds. I didn’t play all of them (yet), so there may be a better one on the list. (I had a heck of a lot of fun with Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures – AKA FRUA – too).

LoG2_ss4The Legend of Grimrock 2
and Might & Magic X: Legacy are pretty awesome recent entries. I doubt they’d be all-time top 10 candidates, but they’d rank highly. The Bards Tale 1 occupies a very fond dungeon-crawling spot in my memory, but I can’t really say it was all that worthy. It may rank higher in my mind from nostalgia more than anything else.

There are some other RPGs that I might rank more highly, but I don’t know if I’d label them “Dungeon Crawlers.” And you’ll notice that I don’t have any console games on the list. Yeah, I’ve played a couple that might count, but none that are great.

Being who I am, of course, the Frayed Knights series would be up there. But I’m terribly biased. And there are only a tiny handful of us for whom that is currently a “series” and not a single title. Dang, I can’t wait to get that second one out.

So what’s your take?

IGN: The Top 10 Dungeon Crawlers of All Time

Filed Under: General - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • McTeddy said,

    My take? You need to play Etrian Odyssey.

    I’ve actually been playing alot of Japanese dungeon crawls in recent years and I dare say they have a better handle on wizardry style RPGs than western devs do now.

    Etrian Odyssey is really neat because it’s the best blend of Casual/Masochism I’ve ever played. It’s fast, easy to learn but requires tactics to overcome real challenges.

    Megami Tensei is another series that tops my list, Specifically Nocturne. Imagine Pokemon with demons. What I love about this series is the skewed sense of good/evil. It’s a dark world and there’s nothing wrong with adapting.

    From there, I’d agree on Gold Box and probably world Of xeen. Diablo 2 is a game that I personally hate (Loot Spam) but deserves a high place on the list.

    As for the Dungeon Master/ Eye of the beholder thing I’d leave you to judge. I’m not really fond of the real time Dungeon Crawls and besides, I’d be more likely to pick one of the Lands of Lore games.

    You know, it’s weird that I can speak volumes about this genre because if it wasn’t for you and the readers here I’d never have learned to enjoy them.

    Thanks everyone!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Etrian Odyssey would require hardware I do not possess, so as much as I’d like to tackle it, it ain’t happening super-soon.

    I recently started playing The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians. Haven’t gotten too far into it yet, but I’m pleased with it so far. It adds real-time-with-pause to the Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder / Legend of Grimrock style mix, so you actually have an opportunity to apply some tactics to the fight beyond what Scorpia used to call the “Eye of the Beholder Two-Step”

  • Mark said,

    I think System Shock 1 (remembering from my playthrough over 20 years ago), would qualify as a dungeon crawl. Glad it is finally being updated. I think the dungeon crawls aspects of U5 were great too (though would have been better with more loot). Also, I would like to leave a spot open, hoping that someday the people that own the rights to D&D will develop a 3D Dark Messiah of M&M- open world style romp through the Underdark. That would be awesome

  • lakerz said,

    Just for nostalgia sake, I would say

    Dungeon Master
    Bard’s Tale 1-3
    Ultima 4-7 (not necessarily a dungeon crawl I realize)

    All played an important part in my formative (young) gaming years.