Hades came out in 2020, and if not for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it may have been my game of the year. New Horizons was a cultural phenomenon that was exactly what people needed at exactly the right time, and Hades wasn’t that exactly, but it was a landmark roguelite game, maybe one of the best ever.

It’s hard to know where to begin a conversation about Hades, because it does so many things so well. There is customizability before you start the run and during the run. The music is phenomenal. There is a story that has more words than The Iliad and The Odyssey combined.

Okay, so let’s start with the story. Honestly, I do think it is one of the most revolutionary things about Hades. While most roguelikes and roguelites have a very basic story, more focused on addictive, one-more-run gameplay, Hades’ story is engrossing enough to keep you playing long after you beat it for the first time.

On top of the heaping mounds of dialogue throughout the game, the dialogue is programmed to be tailored to your experience using a complex system explained well in this video by People Make Games:

Essentially, characters will react to what you do with a keen eye for specifics. It’s not uncommon for a god to react with something like “I see you’ve talked to [x character] recently with [x weapon] which reminds me of [x upgrade] I gave you last we spoke,” or something else like that with incredible specificity. As the video explains, the game is keen to reward you with new dialogue for specific conditions, like getting to the final boss with no boons. Dialogue also has a priority system, where characters will prioritize the most important thing to tell you, giving a sense that the plot is always moving in major ways. I’ve beat the game several times now, and there are several major plot elements that are still being revealed to me each time I play.

It’s also worth mentioning that the roguelite elements are embedded into the story. The story is simple: you’re a god trying to escape the underworld. However, the way that the story is played out makes it unique. You are very much expected to die a lot. When you die, you wash up back at the house of Hades and chat with everyone living there before you start your next run. A character named Hypnos will actually have a sarcastic comment about each way you die.

Chatting with all the characters in the house of Hades is a major element of moving the story. But you also don’t have to do this. You can absolutely just skip the story and jump into another run. At the same time, Hades has such a compelling story and interesting characters that the dialogue becomes as interesting as the gameplay in certain moments, and there’s something addictive about progressing the story, even when you are continually failing the run.

And that’s just the story elements. The gameplay itself would be already engaging enough even without the great story; it really is a triumph, opening fresh possibilities for what developers can do with a roguelite.

One thing that makes roguelites fun is making builds, and Hades excels in the build-making department. Maybe you’ll combine a bunch of critical damage to pump your crit damage numbers into the thousands. Maybe you’ll use a build where taking damage causes your enemies to also take damage and then beat the boss without touching the controller. The possibilities are endless.

Combine that with the bonuses you get from the Mirror of Night, and there are even more possibilities to work with. And then you also have six weapons to choose from, each having four aspects that can further customize the run right from the start. And after you beat the game, you have the Pact of Punishment, where you can make the run harder for more rewards. I’ve put hundreds of hours into this game, and I’m still finding new goals and new ways to play.

On top of that, the game is filled with all of these little moments that add to the character of the game. Moments like fighting the shopkeeper Charon if you steal from him. Or the classic moment of finding Euridice for the first time.


And then there’s the amazing soundtrack (which I talked about it in my five favorite game soundtracks article). Basically, the composition nails each moment. While you’re fighting, the soundtrack builds and includes guitar and synths in a more dramatic composition, but when the room is cleared, the soundtrack breaks down to just a simple beat or bass line. And the composition sounds like a mix of something modern and rocky with something ancient, with use of old instruments like the bouzouki.

Apart from battling/non battling versions of songs, there are remixes of songs in other contexts as well. There are three versions of the song Good Riddance, each with its own tone. Going back to shopkeeper Charon, there’s the regular shop theme as well as the remix for the battle.

I think roguelites and roguelikes have gotten more attention specifically because of Hades, and I think that there is going to be a lot of expansion in the genre because of all the things that this game did right. It certainly got me invested in the genre, and this series of “Lucas Tries Roguelites” articles might not exist without it.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x