A console Roguelike is a Roguelike game that can be played on a video game console without installing a Linux distribution such as Xbox Linux or PS2 Linux on the device. Nearly all such games are commercial in nature, although the recent surge in homebrew software consoles has led to creations such as the Wii ports of Powder and Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.
Since the majority of consoles do not feature support for a mouse or keyboard, the complexity of the games is usually considerably reduced compared to those developed for computer systems. Game design aspects often held to be conventional among computer Roguelikes, such as character creation, are often streamlined or eliminated entirely.
The overwhelming majority of console Roguelikes are created by Japanese developers, with Chunsoft being easily the most notable and influential creator of them.
A note on obtaining these games: You may be able to find console games on Ebay. Before buying a Japanese game, ask around to make sure it will work with your game system and local television standard.
Most console systems can be emulated by more powerful hardware, although the accuracy and ease of emulation varies between the console emulated, the system emulating, the emulator used and the software being emulated. A general rule of thumb is that the generation of console hardware which debuted most recently will be difficult if not impossible to emulate, the generation before it can usually be emulated with a very powerful computer system, and console generations before that are usually quite easy to emulate unless you have a very old computer (or the system targeted for emulation is obscure and poorly documented). Emulators which mimic cartridge-based consoles (such as all Nintendo hardware before the Gamecube) use ROMs, the common term for the Read-Only Memory images dumped from the cartridges themselves. Most CD-based emulators can work with either the original discs or various CD image formats, such as ISOs.
Consoles (and handhelds) released after 2000 also tend to be able to run emulators for systems notably less powerful than them, but almost always require the user to perform some form of modification on the hardware (usually warranty-voiding) or use some sort of potentially illicit device (such as a flash RAM cartridge). Some "legal" emulation exists, usually through collections of old games or download services, but those generally are not relevant to this article.
The most important note to make about emulation, however, is that obtaining commercially-released games via the internet is illegal, at least in most places you're likely to read this article. Some homebrew or "liberated" (commercial made freeware) games exist, but despite what you may read, it is generally illegal to obtain console/handheld games from the internet, even if you own them already (in the US, at least, any backups you own should have been made by you). Admittedly, you usually won't get caught and the rare legal action is usually against a site that hosts them (or those who create hardware which allows consoles and handhelds to play pirated software), but you are warned nonetheless.
List of console Roguelikes by platform in what appears to be an inexplicable chronological order
Sega Master System
- Dragon Crystal - Released in 199x, later ported to the Game Gear in 199x. Developed internally by Sega. Anything else the internet tells you won't stick if you throw it at the wall. However, unless you're Strong Bad/Stinkoman or Megaman(2) 199x is not a year that occurs on any recognized calendar.
Sega Genesis / Mega Drive
- Fatal Labyrinth - Developed internally by Sega, and in many ways a direct follow-up to the Dragon Crystal.
- Toejam and Earl - Published by Sega, it's the world's funkiest Roguelike. Features random items and levels, experience levels and ranks, and permadeath. (Just think of the extra lives as Amulets of Life Saving. :-P)
SNES / Super Famicom
- Torneko no Daibouken: Fushigi no Dungeon - Released in 1993. First game in Chunsoft's Mystery Dungeon series. A spin-off of Enix's Dragon Quest series, which employees who later formed Chunsoft worked on. A translation patch exists which will make the game fully playable in English, though some minor formatting errors exist.
- Fushigi no Dungeon 2: Fuurai no Shiren - Released in 1995, and Chunsoft's first entry in what would be their most famous original property. A translation patch exists which makes the game fully playable in English. Later ported with improvements to the Nintendo DS. A modified version of the game broken up into serial form was later broadcast via the Satellaview peripheral.
- Milandra - Released in 1997 and developed by ASCII and some other guys I'll look up later. Somewhat similar in form to Mystery Dungeon games, but with an emphasis on party members and eating strange mushrooms.
- Furai no Shiren 2 - Released in 2000. One of the few RPGs on the N64.
- Azure Dreams - Later "reincarnated" on the Game Boy Color.
- Torneko: The Last Hope - Released in 1999, developed by Chunsoft and Matrix Software. The second Chunsoft Torneko game and the first Mystery Dungeon game to be released outside of Japan (generating very poor reviews from frustrated and bewildered American magazines). Later ported to Game Boy Advance.
- Chocobo no Fushigina Dungeon - Released in 1997, developed by Square Co. and TOSE and overseen by the president of Chunsoft. Later adapted to the WonderSwan in 1999.
- Chocobo's Dungeon 2 - Released in 1998, Square and TOSE again, brought to the US a year later.
- Fuurai no Shiren Gaiden: Onnakenshi Asuka Kenzan - Released in 2002, with assistance(?) by Sega. Later ported to Windows.
- Dragon Quest Characters: Daib??ken 3: Fushigi no Dungeon - Released in 2002, developed by Chunsoft and Matrix Software. Third game in the series. Later "ported" to Game Boy Advance (using the engine and assets of the port of the second game).
- Dragon Quest Yangus - Released in 2006 and developed by Cavia. Another Dragon Quest-Spinoff, this time featuring Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII. As would be expected, it is very similar in concept to the Torneko games.
- The Nightmare of Druaga - Released in 2004 and developed by Arika, Chunsoft and Matrix Software. It combines the characters and mythology behind Namco's "The Tower of Druaga" series with the Roguelike structure of Chunsoft's Mysterious Dungeon series.
- Rogue Hearts Dungeon - Released in 2007, developed by Compile Heart. An adaptation of the original Rogue, apparently directed by the person responsible for creating the Japanese version of it.
- Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon - Released in 2008, developed by h.a.n.d.. Was later adapted to the Nintendo DS.
- Furai no Shiren 3 - Released in 2008. Atlus has plans to bring it to the US in 2010.
The Influence of Roguelikes on Japanese Console RPG's
Due to the popularity of the Mystery Dungeon games in Japan, it should come as no surprise that some Japanese-developed Console RPG's have certain Roguelike features, usually in the form of minigames or side-quests.
- Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals developed by Natsume for the Super Famicom/SuperNES contains a Roguelike minigame called the Ancient Cave. Upon entering the Ancient Cave, the player will start at level 1 of a randomly generated dungeon, using only the items and character levels attained in the dungeon in order to descend further into its depths. A small number of these items are available upon exiting the dungeon and resuming the game's overarching main quest. Unlike a typical Roguelike, the game is decidedly multi-modal inasmuch as combat takes place upon a separate screen used for combat throughout the rest of the game.
- The Disgaea series of Tactical RPG's, developed by Nippon Ichi feature a recurring side-quest with several features derived from true Roguelikes. In the The Item World the player can choose to descend into a randomly-generated 100-level dungeon contained within any of the game's items. The player's goal is to advance to the deepest level and subdue the Item God who resides within. The terrain, enemy types and items found in each Item World are completely different. In true Roguelike fashion, one is highly unlikely to accomplish this on their first attempt, and multiple deaths are inevitable. As with many console Roguelikes, gameplay is multi-modal. Also in line with Roguelike gameplay, one must use a fair amount of strategy and adaptive thinking to succeed, though this is done using the interface of a Tactical RPG rather than that of more traditional Roguelikes such as Nethack and ADOM.
- Dark Cloud and Dark Cloud 2, developed by Level-5 feature randomly-generated dungeons and content throughout both games. Like most non-Roguelikes with Roguelike features, this game does not feature permadeath or save scumming. Also in sharp contrast to true Roguelikes, it is an action RPG and therefore combat is not handled on a step-and-turn-based process.
- the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance sections on the List of handheld Roguelikes. It should be possible to play those games on a GameCube using the Game Boy Player accessory made by Nintendo.