You are here. So: Can losing be fun?
Or why would you search for Games like Dwarf Fortress?
Because fans of Dwarf Fortress seem to think so…?
Ask fans of Dwarf Fortress, the famously-hard online game where you lead a small band of dwarves and manage every aspect of their lives as you build and defend their fortress.
The game has no end point, so every fortress will fail – sooner or later.
Dwarf Fortress fans have coined “Losing is Fun” as their unofficial slogan.
The learning curve is steep, but hey – so is Sisyphus’ famous hill.
And like Sisyphus, when the inevitable moment of defeat gets to you in Dwarf Fortress, you’re left with the excruciating yet exciting feeling of being “so close”.
And if you are looking for more games like Dwarf Fortress, you might consider giving these games a try.
PCPH’s list of Games like Dwarf Fortress
By far one of the most popular Dwarf Fortress-esque games out there, RimWorld takes those world- and community-building aspects and transports them into outer space.
Rather than a band of dwarves, you control three colonists who have crash landed on a “brave new world,” and you must help them survive by hunting, healing, foraging, building, and – ahem -, “increasing” their population.
From a gameplay standpoint, that’s because playing a world-building game with only three characters might get a little boring, and so, to quote Shakespeare, “The world must be peopled!”
What’s more, relationship management does play a significant role in both games.
Strip away the graphics (which are more detailed here than in Dwarf Fortress’s minimalist text-and-blocks-based style) and you have a game that emphasizes the importance of the individual to the community and vice versa.
Dwarves can get drunk, get angry, vie for power, and form and break bonds in Dwarf Fortress.
In RimWorld, it’s much the same, as you manage conflicting professional, personal, and romantic relationships while battling the elements and defending against alien beasts.
Another part of what makes RimWorld and Dwarf Fortress so beloved among their fans is their roguelike AI, which allows for procedurally generated environments and gameplay.
Or in layman’s terms: Instead of a preplanned script, these games follow a more improvisational tone.
Meaning the basic scenario and rules don’t change. But the enemies you face and the environment you explore do and will be different each time.
This gives these games a great deal of replay value, since you’re not rehashing the same old rooms and enemy arrangements, but rather, facing a new experience each time.
RimWorld was developed by Tynan Sylvester and Ludeon Studios, is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and is available for download online for as little as $9.
2. First Feudal
If you like Dwarf Fortress and RimWorld, chances are you’ll like First Feudal.
If you searched the recommended games on RimWorld’s Steam page a while ago, First Feudal was on top.
While that honor now goes to another game we’ll talk about, Oxygen Not Included, First Feudal is still cast in the community- and world-building mold of those other games.
Where RimWorld takes a more omniscient approach to its characters by way of a narrator, First Feudal gives you a bit more of a direct role in the lives of your feudal town.
If you love building towns in RPGs, chances are you’ll love this game.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its flaws. The AI isn’t always as fast and smooth as it is in other games on this list.
…A problem when the main thrust of the game centers on being so involved in the lives of your villagers. But it doesn’t imbue them with enough “brains” to make them very “involving.”
So the villagers aren’t as smart or unique and thus don’t offer the same depth of attachment which you may feel in “shipping” your spaceship survivors in RimWorld.
Still, First Feudal is still in development, so if you’re looking for fun lightweight RPG town builder, and don’t mind managing a village full of “village idiots” for now, it’s available via Early Access on Steam.
Swap out those dwarves for gnomes – totally different, right?
The history of pop culture gnome-based “gnockoffs” isn’t great (See: Gnomeo and Juliet).
But Gnomoria retains the sandbox open world feel of Dwarf Fortress while upping the graphics and scaling back the difficulty.
If you’re looking for a game that’s like Dwarf Fortress but simpler, shallower, more accessible, and with SNES-style graphics, Gnomoria might be right for you.
It’s available for a low price on Steam, although you should bear in mind that the game received no update in years. And that likely won’t change any time soon. So…so what you see is what you get.
4. King Under the Mountain
Sticking with the medieval theme, King Under the Mountain gives us the feudal setting of First Feudal while letting you play as dwarves (fortress not included).
Well, you can play as either humans or orcs, and the Kickstarter for this game promises a “simulation-based settlement-building strategy/management game” which is, like Dwarf Fortress evolving while you play.
Everything is moddable
Among the other promises that King Under the Mountain makes are for dungeons, dragons (because those two have never been combined into a game before), and world-building adventure in a setting where “everything is moddable” and you have “multiple ways to play.”
Of course, the fact we’re linking to a Kickstarter here should tell you that this game is still in its development stages as well.
That said, it has been updating regularly, so if you like what you see, you can order an early copy of the game.
If you’re more into building cities than fortresses, you want to look into Banished, which features a group of exiles looking for a place to build a new city and rebuild their lives.
A world-building game with a bit more of a desperation bent, this one might be for you. To start, you only have your settlers with a cart and the clothes on their backs.
How far can you build them up from those bleak and humble beginnings?
In the short-term, you do anything and everything you can to survive. And only then you find the time to turn your thoughts to long-term sustainability.
Or your exiles’ new city prove to be only an all too brief reprieve.
Hunting, trading, farming, city-building, and civilization-building are all core mechanics. So much so that [it may be closer in some respects to Civilization] than Dwarf Fortress.
If you’re ready to start city-building, you can purchase Banished for Windows on Steam.
6. Prison Architect
While Banished may have bleak beginnings, all these games are about a group trying to survive and grow.
From a small band to a flourishing town, city, village, colony, or kingdom.
That’s different in Prison Architect. Here you are building a prison.
This is definitely the biggest deviation from the Dwarf Fortress formula on this list.
Prison Architect shares the building aspect of Dwarf Fortress insofar as the two games both involve building and housing people.
But in Prison Architect you’re building a modern-day prison to house maximum security prisoners.
hat’s hardly the kind of optimistic, progress-encouraging bent that we see in other games of this genre.
Still, as they say, “Variety is the spice of life,” and the threat of prison breaks and the havoc that angry prisoners can cause spices up the experience.
What’s more, Prison Architect offers the widest variety of platforms on which to play, being available for download on Windows, iPad, Android, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
There is a lot of overlap between the games on this list.
Whether you view that as creative inbreeding, a variation on a common theme, or anything between, Civitatem is a game that could fall in line with either side.
It has quite a bit in common with First Feudal and Banished, but doesn’t have a graphic appearance to distinguish itself in the way that other games on this list can.
What’s more, as with Banished, you begin in a bleak position, tasked with helping a small band of desperate settlers rebuild, and you are forced to brave the seasons and elements with very little starting help.
It’s a game that promises to feature exploration while promising on its Steam Early Access page to be “a medieval city builder.”
That Early Access page, as with First Feudal, is an sign that you’re looking at a work in progress.
So yes, Civitatem is still in its infancy, and we’ll see if it develops more distinctiveness as it comes to maturity.
8. Oxygen Not Included
As mentioned above, if you search for RimWorld-like games on Steam, as of the writing of this article, the game leading that list is Oxygen Not Included.
As in RimWorld, you are stranded in outer space, though it’s an asteroid colony this time instead of an alien planet.
Where RimWorld has a more serious tone, Oxygen Not Included comes in a more comedic, cartoonish approach, which is on full display on the game’s Steam page.
That’s a welcomed addition to a list that features so many games where players start in a bleak situation and a grim tone.
After all, because you’re fighting to survive in the outermost reaches of space doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a laugh, right?
It definitely makes Klei Entertainment’s community-building and survival simulator stand out.
On the Steam page, you can download Oxygen Not Included for some bucks.
And if you really like the game, there is an add-on bundle offering extra scenarios and goodies.
As demonstrated with Oxygen Not Included, sometimes the aesthetics a game offers can elevate it above normal fare.
That’s the case here.
With Stonehearth, you’re left with the same medieval setting and blend of city-building and survive-at-all-costs ethos which permeates many of the other games on this list.
If you like the idea of crafting in a cute Lego brick-esque setting, you can download Stonehearth on Steam with an additional DLC package available as well.
10. Judgement: Apocalypse Survival Simulation
With so many world-building simulators and survival-based games on this list, why not put the two together into one trend-chasing title?
As the name implies, in Judgement: Apocalypse Survival Simulator, you’re in charge of three people who have survived the apocalypse and would like to keep surviving, thank you very much.
The only problem is that’s a bit problematic in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where demonic forces are out to get you.
Compared to other games on this list, the AI for the characters is reasonably smart, so at least it isn’t a hellish experience ordering your campers around when all Hell breaks loose.
You can take a crack at surviving Suncrash’s apocalyptic simulator on Steam with plenty of additional add-ons.
So what are your favorite Games like Dwarf Fortress?
Whether or not you think “Losing is Fun,” if you’re looking for survival and world-simulator challenges, these games, like Dwarf Fortress, are worth one Sisyphean session of gameplay after another.
Why don’t you tell us below…?
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