A dungeon crawler is a game genre where players navigate their way through a dungeon and usually slay monsters and collect treasure. The genre began as a subset of pen and paper fantasy role-playing games, but it quickly expanded into video games, board games, card games, and pretty much every other format, and the setting was expanded to science fiction, horror, and many others. Although there is a lot of overlap with RPGs, dungeon crawlers generally put low emphasis on story and character development and focus more on combat and navigation.
Video game dungeon crawlers typically use a first person or top-down perspective, and, because they usually take place in a subterranean dungeon, they often feature elements of the maze genre as well. Popular video game dungeon crawlers include Rogue, Nethack, Wizardy series, early games in the Ultima series, The Bard's Tale series, the Gauntlet series, and many others.
One of the very first dungeon crawlers I can remember playing was the original Dungeons & Dragons when I was around 5 or 6-years-old, and my family and neighborhood friends played it more-or-less like a dungeon crawler where we had to kill all the monsters we could find from our collection of toys. A few years later, I remember playing the first couple games from the Gauntlet series and I always loved the satisfaction of clearing out each subsequent dungeon. I remained a fan of the genre through the 8 and 16-bit eras, but, as more impressive games were being made, I stopped finding the genre rewarding. Every now and then I becoming briefly interested in the genre again with games like Diablo and Caveblazers.
Dungeon crawling began with table top and pen and paper role-playing games in the early 1970s with games like Dungeons & Dragons (1974) and computer programmers quickly adopted them into video games like The Dungeon (1975). These games were especially popular throughout the 1980s because they are relatively easy to make and could fit within the confines of early 8-bit hardware. The more impressive hardware of the 1990s allowed for more complex games, and players began to expect more than just killing monsters in a dungeon, and the genre evolved to more complex RPG stories. However, new games are still being created in the genre.
|Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Second Edition||1989-??-??||TSR|
|Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon||1991-??-??||Westwood Associates|
|HeroQuest||1989-??-??||Milton Bradley, Games Workshop|
|Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos||1993-??-??||Westwood Studios|
|Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen||1991-??-??||New World Computing|
|Might and Magic: Darkside of Xeen||1991-??-??||New World Computing|
|Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra||1991-??-??||New World Computing|
|Swords of Glass||1987-06-10||Unknown|
|Wizardry: Bane of the Cosmic Forge||1990-??-??||Sir-Tech|
|Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant||1992-??-??||Sir-Tech|