The best dungeon crawl games can provide hours and hours of entertainment. From exciting adventures and challenging quests to detailed artwork and high fantasy, these games are wildly popular for a host of reasons.
Gloomhaven exploded on the scene in 2017, and it hasn’t slowed down since. It has all the elements that make dungeon crawler board games so beloved.
But this fantastic game is expensive, complex, and not for just anyone. There are several things to consider. Fortunately, I’ve broken down the features, pros, and cons of the best dungeon crawler games.
Which of these dungeon crawlers will have you coming back for more? Keep reading to find out.
- 1 At a Glance
- 2 Best Dungeon Crawler Board Games
- 2.1 Gloomhaven: Best Overall
- 2.2 Mice & Mystics: Best Dungeon Crawl for Families
- 2.3 Descent Legends of the Dark: Best App-Driven Game
- 2.4 Warhammer Quest: Best “Not a Board Game” Dungeon Crawler
- 2.5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shadows of the Past: Best TV-Based Dungeon Crawl
- 2.6 Star Wars Imperial Assault: Best for Star Wars Fans
- 2.7 Hero Quest: Overall Runner-Up
- 2.8 Thunderstone Quest: Best Deck-Builder
- 2.9 One Deck Dungeon: Best for One Player
- 2.10 The Quest Kids: Best for Young Children
- 3 Best Dungeon Crawl Board Games: Wrap Up
At a Glance
Why do we love dungeon crawler games? Here are some things to consider when deciding between the best dungeon crawl board games:
Unlike the cut-throat competition that characterizes many board games, a dungeon crawl board game typically includes cooperation. Players must work together as a team to complete quests. Some dungeon crawlers are also partially cooperative, where one player is the villain and the others are opposing heroes.
Gloomhaven and Descent: Legends of the Dark are excellent examples of cooperative games. If you aren’t sure how much you want to co-operate, Hero Quest is only semi-cooperative. Perhaps worth a try?
Role-playing games, or RPGs, have a dedicated following in the gamer world. The best dungeon crawl board games usually include an element of role-playing. Players must assume a character and act out these roles within the narrative.
I recommend Gloomhaven and Star Wars: Imperial Assault if you are looking for role-playing games.
Instead of completing an entire game in one sitting, dungeon crawl games are typically played out over a series of gaming sessions. Within the game, players have a series of mission to complete a campaign. Players might complete one mission during each gaming session.
This type of play allows players to fully immerse themselves in the storyline and level-up, adding excitement and drama to the game.
I love Gloomhaven’s campaigns as well as the number of scenarios it has. For younger players and families, Mice and Mystics is a good campaign-driven game.
I don’t know about you, but “office cubicle crawling” does not sound like a fun Friday night. Dungeon crawlers are generally set in a fictitious world of high-fantasy to add a layer of fun. Sometimes these settings are more sci-fi in nature, whereas others have a medieval storybook feel. Think Tolkein or Lucas.
Gloomhaven, again, excels in this area with a wondrous fantasy world. Hero Quest also has a rich fantasy scenario.
Watch as this reviewer describes what makes a good dungeon crawler:
Best Dungeon Crawler Board Games
Gloomhaven: Best Overall
Playing Time: 30 minutes per player
Gloomhaven has all the elements of the best dungeon crawl board games. From exciting adventures and formidable quests to cooperative play and an immersive fantasy world, this game has it all.
Gloomhaven features Euro-inspired tactical combat. Players take on the role of wandering adventurer, with their own special abilities and skillsets. They must work together to clear out dark dungeons and forgotten ruins.
As players progress through multiple scenarios, they can enhance their abilities with treasure and experience. They can also discover new locations within a persistent and changing world.
Ideally, this game is played over multiple sessions. After each scenario, players must decide how the story will continue, allowing them to choose their own adventures.
While this game features a legacy setting, it’s great because it doesn’t require the same play group each time. However, many buyers recommended using the same group, if possible, for maximum enjoyment.
Within a campaign, there are multiple ways to level up. Unlock new characters, increase the town’s prosperity, and access additional items to help you on your adventure.
Not feeling like a campaign? There are over 95 scenarios, so you won’t run out of experiences.
The box is a behemoth, coming in at a whopping 20 pounds! But honestly, the box has to be big to store all the pieces.
Gloomhaven comes with 18 plastic minis, over 1700 cards, map tiles, rule book, sealed envelopes, stickers, cardboard pieces, and an in-box insert to organize it all. You’ll need a huge table to spread out.
And if you’re into painting miniatures? Knock yourself out. The miniatures come unpainted.
Customers absolutely loved Gloomhaven. They said it was one of the best board games they’d played.
Just be prepared. Gloomhaven is definitely an investment, both in terms of time and money. If you’re willing to pay for the game and learn the complicated rules, you’ll have an epic adventure awaiting you.
- Legacy, campaign-driven
- Cooperative gameplay
- High replayability
- Grouping can be flexible
- Huge number of game pieces
- Takes a while to learn & set up
Mice & Mystics: Best Dungeon Crawl for Families
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes
If a storybook adventure dungeon crawl board game appeals to you, you can’t beat Mice & Mystics. This game is great for younger players and adults, alike.
In Mice & Mystics, mice are actually heroes that have been cursed by an evil queen. They must race through the castle to warn the king, all while facing countless adversaries like rats, spiders, cockroaches, and the castle’s formidable house cat.
This cute story-driven game is one of the best games to introduce the world of dungeon crawlers, but it does take some time to learn.
One reviewer recommended reading the rules ahead of playing with the family to avoid frustrated, bored kids. There is also an instructional video to help.
The pieces are of good quality, but there are many. They come unpainted, so if you enjoy painting minis, that’s a plus.
In comparison to other children’s games, Mice & Mystics is pricey. But in contrast to other dungeon crawl board games, this one is a steal.
If you want a dungeon crawler board game that the whole family can enjoy Mice & Mystics fits the bill.
- Great for families
- Vivid artwork
- Blends strategy and luck
- Immersive story campaign
- Complex rules
- A lot of pieces
Descent Legends of the Dark: Best App-Driven Game
Playing Time: 3-4 hours
Descent: Legends of the Dark, published by Fantasy Flight Games, is a follow-up to Descent Road to Legends board game. The Descent franchise is a series of dungeon crawlers set in the realm of Terrinoth.
Legends of the Dark is fully cooperative, so the players must work together as they progress through the story. But unlike other installments in the series, this one is app-driven.
The free companion app is intuitive and controls how the monsters respond to the players’ actions. The app takes on the role of the Overlord and functions like a dungeon master, shaping the story as play continues.
Legends of the Dark has 14 different quests that can provide 50-65 hours of play. Customers loved the high replayability and the top-quality minis. Several people did recommend casting the app to a TV, so everyone can see the screen during play.
This is one of the pricier dungeon crawl games on the list, but Descent has a loyal following for a reason. This dungeon crawl board game will provide loads of adventure and fun.
- High-quality components
- Great replayability
- Fully cooperative
- App-driven game management
Warhammer Quest: Best “Not a Board Game” Dungeon Crawler
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
From Fantasy Flight Games comes Warhammer Quest, an adventure card game. While this is technically not a board game, it’s on my list because it features a lot of elements common to dungeon crawler board games.
In Warhammer Quest, players assume the roles of Old World heroes in a desperate fight for your lives. Together, you explore menacing dungeons to battle ghouls, goblins, trolls, and other various monsters.
Players can discover treasures and explore locations as they fight monsters and help their fellow heroes along the way. You can play a five-mission narrative campaign or a “delve” campaign that’s more randomized with no story or progression.
Customers liked the easy setup and the compact format. This game is flexible enough to work for solo or multiple players. They complimented the artwork and quality of the cards.
But some of the rules were unclear, and buyers felt that it was unnecessarily complicated. A few mentioned that some of the cards are small and more difficult to hold, maneuver.
If you like the Warhammer setting or futuristic sci-fi, you’ll likely enjoy the thematic touches of this card game. And if you like games that don’t require painting minis? This is also a good one for you.
But have some wiggle room in the budget. Just because there is no board or minis doesn’t means this game is inexpensive. It still costs a pretty penny.
- Doesn’t require painting minis
- Easy set up
- Excellent artwork
- Compact, portable
- Good for solo play
- Expensive for a card game
- Some rules unclear
- Some cards are quite small
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shadows of the Past: Best TV-Based Dungeon Crawl
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes
Cowabunga! The nostalgia is strong with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past. This dungeon crawler board game (or should I say, sewer-crawler?) comes in a container that resembles a pizza box.
Like other dungeon crawl board games, Shadows of the Past requires teamwork. The Ninja Turtles must work together to defend the streets of New York City from Shredder and the Foot Clan.
One villain player (Shredder) takes on the Nija Turtles in a series of missions. Level-ups are available, as well as guest appearances from fan favorites like Casey Jones and Alopex.
The game features scenario-driven adventures that lead players from the rooftops to the sewers. Designed by Kevin Wilson with input from co-creator Kevin Eastment, Tom Waltz, and Bobby Curnow, this game is destined to delight TMNT fans.
It comes with unpainted minis, two versions of the turtles, quest books that resemble comics, and more. Shadows of the Past includes “the Works,” so it includes the Kickstarter pack and the expansions.
This game has a lot of positives, but it just may not appeal to people who are TMNT fans. It’s also expensive, so be prepared to have some flexibility in the budget.
Still, if you’re a hardcore fan of dungeon crawl board games and TMNT, this could be worth the investment.
- High quality minis
- Includes expansions
- Two versions of turtles
- May not appeal to non-TMNT fans
Star Wars Imperial Assault: Best for Star Wars Fans
Playing Time: 1-2 hours
A dungeon crawler board game set in the Star Wars Universe is an unusual combination, but that’s exactly what you get with Imperial Assault. This strategy-based board game takes place in the middle of the Galactic Civil War, after the destruction of the Death Star.
One player controls the Imperial forces. This villain faces off with the Rebel Alliance, consisting of 1-4 players. The Rebel players work together to defeat the Empire.
There is a campaign game mode that contains over 30 missions to provide hours of play.
However, Imperial Assault also features a skirmish mode for head-t0-head combat between players. These games move more quickly and are more competitive, for those who prefer that. Having two different fighting styles makes this board game appeal to a broader audience.
Buyers said this was a good game and enjoyed playing it. It may not have the best cinematic experience, but the good news is that you only need an interest in sci-fi to enjoy the game. You don’ necessarily have to be a big Star Wars fan.
There are a lot of board game pieces, and it was too much for some. The miniatures are unpainted, which was a positive for some people. Others didn’t want to spend energy painting them.
Also, be prepared to “dungeon crawl” through the rule book. It’s complicated, and some felt it was vague in some spots.
But once you get through the setup and initial learning, gameplay is fun and exciting. This is the perfect game for fans of Star Wars and dungeon crawl board games.
- Flexible game modes
- High replay value
- High-quality pieces
- Vague instructions
- A lot of moving pieces
Hero Quest: Overall Runner-Up
Playing Time: 90 minutes
From Avalon Hill comes Hero Quest, an immersive adventure game and fantasy dungeon crawler. In this fantastic game, players must work together to battle monsters and complete epic quests.
Veteran gamers may have played the original version by Milton Bradley, which came out in 1989 (1990 in the U.S.). In 2020, Hasbro bought the rights to Hero Quest, and subsidiary Avalon Hill published a second edition in 2021.
This game is set in the Realm. One player takes the role of Zargon, the evil game master. The other players choose one of four heroes: barbarian, dwarf, elf, or wizard. Together, these heroes embark on a dangerous quest to defeat the forces of evil.
To become champions of the Realm, players must complete 14 quests. These heroes must avoid Zargon’s traps, battle fierce monsters, and go up against Zargon’s minions as they cautiously move through a labyrinth of dark dungeons.
The game pieces have certainly undergone a makeover since the original game. Furniture pieces no longer have any cardboard elements and are strictly plastic.
The cards feature more detailed artwork, and the miniatures are slightly larger with round bases instead of square ones. There are also storage trays to help organize the 70+ minis.
Hero Quest works best with 2-5 players, but one reviewer recommended using the companion app to play as Zargon for single players. This can also work if you have a group where no one wants to play as Zargon.
This game features the best of dungeon crawl board games: a fantasy world, cooperative play, an immersive story campaign, and battles with all the monsters.
Buyers had rave reviews for Hero Quest. They love that the game mechanics and features of the second edition were left as undisturbed as possible from the original version. They enjoyed the campaigns, the artwork, the immersive story, and the replayability.
In fact, the only two complaints had nothing to do with the game itself. Some people said their boxes were damaged during the shipping process, and others felt the game was too expensive.
Be sure to only purchase a new game from a reputable seller. And for the price? Well, Hero Quest is an investment, but it will provide hours upon hours of entertainment for you and your gamer friends.
And for those who get bored with the original quests? Don’t forget about the expansion packs that are available, as well.
- Quality artwork and minis
- Close to original, with important upgrades
- High replayability
- Expanison packs available
- Some boxes damaged during shipping
Thunderstone Quest: Best Deck-Builder
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes
Thunderstone Quest, designed by Mike Elliott, is a dungeon crawler deck-building game. Explore the dungeon, fight monsters, collect treasure, complete side quests, join Guilds, and more in this fantasy game.
Thunderstone Quest brings new play modes to the table. The game tells specific story with a series of pre-set dungeon tiles, monsters, heroes and support cards. Each scenario comes with a series of adventures and a story booklet that guides players as they progress through the game.
This game is competitive, unlike most dungeon crawlers, but one reviewer said it didn’t feel even slightly cut-throat. It’s almost like parallel play, with a final score at the end.
As players acquire treasure and battle monsters, they search for Guardian Keys. There are a total of six keys, but when you find the fourth key, the game is over.
At that point, you count each player’s victory points, which are based on the value of the cards each player bought and their experience. The player with the most points is the winner.
This game’s replayability is tremendous. Between all the card decks of monsters, spells, items, and weapons, the possibilities go on and on.
Customers did say that set up is a beast. There are mounds of cards to organize and set up, and the game includes a lot of boards and pieces for a deck-builder. But once you get started, the gameplay moves along at a nice pace.
Some were disappointed in the campaign mode. They said the story didn’t really add anything to the experience. In spite of that, however, they said it was fun to play. They liked the artwork and thematic touches.
- High replayability
- Good artwork
- Story/campaign are lacking
- Not a cooperative game
- Set up takes a while
One Deck Dungeon: Best for One Player
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
One Deck Dungeon is If three’s a crowd, that’s no problem. One Deck Dungeon can be played solo or with two players. The nice thing, though, is that you can extend it to four players by combining two sets.
In this dungeon crawl board game, players choose one of five heroes (Warrior, Mage, Archer, Rogue and Paladin ) to delve into one of five dangerous dungeons. Players kick down doors and fight monsters by rolling dice.
With each successful encounter, players earn loot, which will make them more powerful. However, the deeper you delve, the stronger your opponents become. At the bottom of the dungeon is the fierce boss.
One Deck Dungeon blends strategy with luck. Players defeat monsters by rolling dice but then must decide which loot to take and which battles to fight.
Customers said this game was a challenge. Reviews said you essentially have to solve puzzles as you play. There is a campaign mode that allows your character to grow over time. This can be helpful when tackling the more difficult dungeons.
They did say there is a slight learning curve to the game. But once the game starts, it’s relatively quick gameplay. Customers did say to expect longer playing time as you’re figuring out the rules.
Some people felt like the rules were too complicated, and others thought they were a little vague in areas. But most said that the game is fun and easy to play once you get your feet under you.
Buyers liked the efficiency of the game. First of all, the game is portable and doesn’t take up a ton of table space. It’s a great pick for game night with one or two of your friends.
Secondly, the cards are easy to use and have multiple purposes, so you don’t have sprawling decks of playing cards. Fewer cards makes set-up quick and easy.
Lastly, the game is highly affordable. Several people raved that you get a lot for your money with One Deck Dungeon.
If you like fighting monsters, leveling up, and dice rolls, this is the game for you. If you’re drawn to a rich storyline and games meant for 4+ people? One Deck Dungeon isn’t it.
- Quick gameplay
- One-player option
- Portable, easy set up
- Somewhat complicated rules
- Not story-driven
The Quest Kids: Best for Young Children
Playing Time: 30 minutes
The Quest Kids is a great introduction to dungeon crawler board games for young children.
This fantasy board game is semi-cooperative and is designed to teach kids generosity and kindness. The Quest Kids is simple to learn and easy to play, making it suited for young gamers.
In this board game, players take on the role of one of the Quest Kid heroes to explore a magical cave to find treasure, ward off monsters, complete quests, and find special items while helping friends.
There is a single winner, but players get rewarded for helping out other players during play. The monsters (“bad guys”) can be defeated with special abilities.
The adorable miniatures are larger to accommodate small hands. Plus, the colorful artwork is creative and appeals to young children. The velvet treasure bag to hold the colorful, chunky gems is a nice touch.
Parents enjoyed playing this fantasy game with their children. They said their kids were able to understand the rules quickly and loved collecting treasure along the way.
There is a fair bit of luck to this game, which allows younger players to win without extra “help” from an older player. There is also an expansion available, the Trials of Tolk the Wise, for those who want an additional challenge.
The only two complaints were the price (it’s expensive for a children’s game) and the board. The game board is colorful and double-sided, but the maps are identical. Some wished they had put a different map on the back to add variation.
- Quick gameplay
- Great for younger players
- Colorful artwork, large game pieces
- Easy rules
- Teaches cooperation
- Has expansions available
- Not challenging for adults
- Double-sided board has identical sides
Best Dungeon Crawl Board Games: Wrap Up
Which one is the best dungeon crawler board game? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for, but my top recommendation is Gloomhaven. It’s simply of the best dungeon crawl board games on the market, in my opinion.
But it’s also complicated and pricey. So you may prefer one of the other games on the list. Whichever you choose, you’ll be sure to be the star of your next game night.