What is a dungeon crawler?

Read our definition.


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Why do we feel the need to explain the term dungeon crawler? Well, back in the heyday of games like The Bard's Tale, Wizardry and Dungeon Master there were no real-time free movement games. This was of course due to technical limitations. At that time almost all games with first person exploration were grid-based and commonly referred to as dungeon crawlers. During the mid to late 90's we saw a rapid increase in first-person games with real-time and smooth movement. The term dungeon crawler was slowly but surely adopted by this new genre of games, resulting in people being understandably confused.

Below is a list of criteria which has to be met for us to call it a dungeon crawler (in the original meaning) and to allow it being added to the main database.

Classic and modern

  • The game may be on any platform and any hardware, even legacy one. Virtual consoles and browser based are also allowed.
  • The game must be complete and officially released either commercially, Early Access, shareware or freeware etc. No tech-demos or unfinished projects allowed in the main database, but they will later be found in a secondary projects database.
  • The age of the game has no relevance.
  • The language in the game has no relevance.


  • The game must have first-person exploration at all times. Exceptions are point to point overworld map movement or town screens.
  • Combat may be separate to the exploring. Isometric, JRPG-style and top-down combat styles are allowed.
  • Minigames or short interactive segments which are not first-person movement are allowed provided they are not the primary part of the game.
  • The game must have explorable locations. It doesn't have to be a dungeon in the traditional sense. It can be urban environments, outdoors, spaceship interiors, planetary surfaces etc. Whichever environment the game has it must be viewed and explored in first-person and in the spirit of classic dungeon crawlers such as Dungeon Master, Captive, Might & Magic III - Isles of Terra and Lands of Lore.


  • The game must have instant step movement on a grid. Smooth transition between grid squares is allowed.
  • The game must have 90 degree turns in the cardinal directions, North, East, South, West. Smooth transition between 90 degree angles is allowed. Mouse-look is also allowed.
  • Games which let you turn 90 degrees up and down are also allowed.

Dungeon crawler

  • The game must at the very least have some basic stats. (Minimum a single health/power bar)
  • The game must have at least one character, or the abstraction of a character or persona.
  • The game must have a death/perish condition, or some other end-of-game mechanic.
  • The game must have at least one way to affect character stat(s). Examples are potions, items with bonuses, food, water etc.
  • The game must have combat or a similar mechanic for determining outcome of certain situations and events. (Adventure puzzle solving is not sufficient. Example: Vision)
  • Any theme is allowed.

Note: This definition is the subjective opinion of dungeoncrawlers.org and may not correlate with other peoples idea of a dungeon crawler.

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