Roguelikes seem to be a lost love amongst most modern gamers. "Give me simplicity!" they cry, "Give me pretty pictures!", "Let me play without reading a manual or memorizing commands!". Well, while they sit in the corner and play FarmVille, we'll settle down with our deliciously intriguing dungeon crawling RPGs of yore. Even though the glory days of Nethack are gone, the roguelike is alive and very well today, and there are a number of great projects that aim to bridge the gap between fans and non-fans so that everyone can enjoy the deep satisfaction of exploring the unknown.
Brogue (Mac/Win/Linux, ~1MB, free) - A roguelike that peels away layers of complexity without pulling off an ounce of the meat of the game. Brogue's biggest feature is its shallow learning curve. You don't need to know that "Q" allows you to drink a potion or what that wandering "D" represents. Instead, Brogue informs you of your surroundings automatically, even going so far as allowing you to use the mouse to move around. And to use items, one or two keys will do, a menu allowing you to choose which objects to quaff/read/equip. The rest is all about exploration with some combat that gets gradually more challenging as you continue. Loads of items to find, and some surprisingly tasty flavor text fills out the ASCII world you inhabit. And even though the visuals are just colored text, you'll be amazed how beautiful the world looks.
LEDom (Windows, 2.5MB, free) - How's this for simplicity: you're controlling a light on an LED board! Even simpler than the other roguelikes featured, LEDom is just about running through passageways, defeating red dots and collecting equipment in the form of flashing dots. Clear the floor, find the exit, and you're on to a more challenging level of the dungeon. A handy outline of your character shows you which parts are armored, and the music makes sure you never take the game too seriously.
Smart Kobold (Windows/Linux, 4MB, free) - Less of a traditional roguelike than the above, Smart Kobold spins more of a tale than your usual dungeon crawler. You are an adventurer looking for gold to repay some of your debts. Kobolds are rumored to keep valuable metals in their caves, so you decide to head in and investigate. Full of bravado, you start your quest with nothing, knowing you could defeat swarms of those beasts with your bare hands. It's not like the kobolds are... smart, right? Well, we'll see how your assumptions pan out once you start exploring the caves...
Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!