For today's list of games, we are going down, down into the dark rat-infested depths of the world. And what are we going to do when we get there? Well, we're going to crawl, crawl and then crawl some more, all the time entombed in some of the most dingy, dank and downright devilish dungeons casual gamers have had the misfortune to find themselves.
Yes, we have for you some of the best dungeon crawlers you can play for free on the web. These games might not have the depth or infuriating unfairness of classics of the genre like NetHack and the brilliant Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (downloadable here) but that is probably a good thing. NetHack and DCSS will absorb your whole life. These games on the other hand should each only take an afternoon or two at most to complete. Happy crawling!
1 Monster's Den
Had you asked me when I started compiling this list which game I would likely put at the top, I would have said Monster's Den. And after reviewing all the contenders for the number one spot, my initial hunch proved correct. Since its launch a couple of years ago, Monster's Den has become one of the most revered Flash RPGs of all time. It is easy to see why. The game presses all the right RPG buttons: a whole host of weapons, party-based game-play, a good variety of enemies and tons and tons of dungeons. Play Monster's Den here.
2 The Enchanted Cave
What makes a good game? Some will say brilliant graphics. Others will point to a captivating storyline. Others still may cite innovative game play. The Enchanted Cave - a dungeon crawler inspired by the legendary classic NetHack - does not score particularly well in any of these areas. And yet it is undoubtably a good game. It has that ineffable quality - possessed only by a few games - that allows it to draw you in without you noticing.
You know the kind of game we are talking about. You start playing the game in the early evening and the next thing you know it is five in the morning and you've got to go to work in a couple of hours. If you're worried about your career or need a good night's sleep, stay away from this game. Others can play the game here.
One can't help but admire Grapefrukt for their chutzpah. The Swedish game studio has taken one of the most complicated game genres - RPG - and in a stroke reduced it to the complexity of a child's toy. The company's new game Glorg is arguably the easiest to play RPG ever made, requiring the use of just one button. The simple control mechanism might limit the game-play compared with fully-fledged RPGs but Glorg still manages to be an intriguing and addictive game. And one that anyone with a finger or more can play. You can get your fix of Glorg here.
4 Dragon Age Journeys
Based on Bioware's 2009 console and PC blockbuster Dragon's Age: Origin, Dragon Age Journeys is undoubtedly one of the best looking Flash RPGs out there. It is also blessed with a deep story-line (as you would expect from Bioware), highly customisable heros and a whole host of cool skill progressions. Plus, no small amount of dungeon crawling. Might have appeared higher in the list but no support for keyboard controls. Why? Play Dragon Age Journeys here.
5 Arkandian Crusade
Arkandian Legends: Crusade is a turn-based RPG from developer Undefined. You may recognise the name Undefined. This is the developer responsible for the hugely popular Protector series of tower defence games. But this is a far more ambitious game than Undefined's previous efforts - it is one of the longest casual RPGs you will find on the web, featuring no less than 60 story quests.
Arkandian is likely to appeal to fans of old-style RPGs who love nothing more than an evening of relentless exploration and grinding. Play Arkandian Crusade here.
6 Dungeon Developer
Malaysian developer Nerdook is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Flash game creators of all time. He is the guy responsible for great genre-busting games such as Demons took my Daughter and Monster Slayers (one of our Games of the Year 2010). He has also made a dungeon crawler but, typical of Nerdook, he has added a big twist.
In Dungeon Developer, you don't play as a chivalrous adventurer on a quest to rid the world of an evil dragon. Nor do you take on the role of the evil dragon dead set on stopping said adventurer. No, instead you play the dungeon itself. By dropping coins and special items, and creating corridors, you lead the adventurer to the dragon, equipping him with the weapons and armour he will need to defeat the dragon along the way. What a genius idea. Play the game here.
7 Hack Slash Crawl
It is fair to say that this is not the most complicated game on this list. While NetHack and Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup require you to master a veritable keyboard of commands, Hack Slash Crawl can be played just using your mouse.
You click to move where you want to go. You click to open treasure chests and you click to fight monsters. Can't get more simple than that. Whether the simplicity is a virtue or a sin will probably depend on what mood you are in. If you want nothing more than a fun distraction, then Hack Slash Crawl will be perfect for you. Play it here. On the other hand, if you are looking for something with a bit of complexity and challenge, you may want to give it a miss.
8 Flagstaff Chapter 1
Okay, the authors of this game are not going to win any awards for the plot. It is typical cliched RPG fare. Four heroes - a wizard, a knight, a ranger and a priestess - are summoned to the Royal Castle. The king sends them on a quest to clear his dungeon of a skeleton infestation.
Yawn. But on the positive side, the game's graphics are cute, each character in your team has multiple upgrade paths and the game world is computer generated, meaning it is different each time you play. In short, Flagstaff Chapter 1 is a solid dungeon crawler that won't set the world alight. But, at the same time, it is unlikely to disappoint. Play it here.
9 Great Dungeon in the Sky
This is more of an action game than your average dungeon crawler but it still has plenty to offer fans of the genre. Perhaps its most impressive feature is the sheer number of characters you can play as, from the standard archer, warrior and mage to more esoteric fare such as paladin, druid and buccaneer. You start off with 32 different characters available but as you progress through the game, you can unlock many more, each boasting a beautifully crafted retro pixel-graphic design. Great Dungeon in the Sky can be played here.
Fontanero is one of the best clones of that legendary game NetHack that we have seen, and it is done entirely in HTML5. Developed for A List Apart's 10k competition, the game replaces the ascii characters of the original Nethack with clean illustrative icons.
This makes the game not only much better looking than NetHack (fans of the original may disagree!) but also much easier to play. The monsters, potions and other items littered around the game actually look like what they are meant to be (well, some of them, anyway). Fontanero can be played here.
As usual, if you think we have missed any great games from this list, please tell us all about them in the comments section below.