A roguelike game is characterized by turn-based dungeon crawling gameplay and simplistic graphics, often drawing dungeons and their inhabitants using only ASCII characters. The term comes from the first game of the type, called Rogue.
A typical feature of roguelikes are that they are very unforgiving, and death lurks around every corner and is swift and violent. Very often they also do not allow you to reload a saved game. Once your character dies, death is permanent.
While most classic roguelikes are fantasy-based, often around Lord of the Rings or some other literary series, others are based on more exotic settings, like the Doom Roguelike and Animeband, a variant of Angband with an anime theme.
- http://roguelikedevelopment.org/ - Learn about development of roguelike games.
- BALROG (via web.archive.org) - Large chronological list of roguelikes.