Fans are making the Zelda and Pokemon roguelikes that Nintendo won't

The Legend of Zelda
(Image credit: Nintendo)

A pair of recently released romhacks turn the original NES Legend of Zelda game and the Game Boy Advance game Pokemon Emerald into full-fledged roguelikes.

To clarify, Pokemon Emerald Rogue has been available since August, and it's since received a ton of praise from fans, a good deal of social media buzz, and a number of patches with a staggering amount of fixes (detailed on the project's Discord channel). The Legend of Zelda roguelike was released just this month and hasn't had a bunch of updates, so it's possible it's less polished than the Pokemon Emerald roguelike, although the few reviews available are all very positive.

Regardless, both romhacks take classic Nintendo games and turn them into roguelikes, complete with randomized, procedurally generated levels and items, progressively more challenging enemies, and permadeath. "Ever wondered what Pokemon might look like as a Roguelike?" Pokemon Emerald Rogue creator Pokabbie asks on the romhack's download page. "Pokemon Emerald Rogue is my take on it!"

"Venture through a randomized, ever-changing dungeon with progressive difficulty the further you go," says creator arnpoly of The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Dungeon romhack. "Collect classic items and upgrades, and battle familiar foes throughout your journey. Every playthrough is different. Ganon is lurking deep within the dungeon, but beware, for if you perish, you’ll have to start all over from the beginning. Are you up to the challenge?"

Pokemon Emerald randomizes your route, encounters, and items based on your progress each run. Eventually, you'll run into a random gym leader with a procedurally generated Poketeam based on their assigned type. The further you go, the more difficult trainers you'll encounter, and if you manage to make it to the champion and win the fight, you'll complete your run. 

When you die or complete a run, you go back to a hub area where you can buy permanent items and catch new starter Pokemon to use in the next run, so like most roguelikes, you can bolster your defenses at home base after each run.
You can also unlock additional buildings and NPCs in the hub area as you go, which is another detail that should make this ambitious romhack feel like the true blue Pokemon roguelike that Nintendo probably won't ever make.

The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Dungeon also sounds impressively fleshed out. Same as Pokemon Emerald Rogue, it features procedurally generated dungeons, items, and enemies, as well as new abilities for items that weren't in the original game. "Only the most intrepid explorers will uncover further mysteries the Ancient Dungeon has to offer," teases the description.

There may not be a roguelike among them, but these are the best Pokemon games and the best Zelda games you can play right now.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.