Realm of the Mad God: NES-level graphics and modern MMO compulsion loops

On Play This Thing! (my favorite games-review site), Greg Costikyan reviews "Realm of the Mad God," a strange blend of vintage graphics and contemporary, MMO-inspired gameplay.

Realm of the Mad God takes the compulsion loop of a conventional MMO and boils it down to its essential nutrient broth, eschewing all the frippery and getting down to what such games are all about: Kill, loot, level-up, kill some more.

With NES-level pixellated graphics, frenetic top-down shooter play with WASD movement, and permadeath, it feels like a game from another era, yet informed by the tropes and techniques we've come to expected in dikuMUD-likes; games from another era are not, obviously, browser-games and massively multiplayer. It's a game that might have been developed in 1985, if we had an Internet in 1985.

Realm of the Mad God


  1. No. NO. NO!!! Do not play this game. It is stupid and you will waste hours building up a character, only to have him die because you are stupider than the game. My pillow is completely crusted with salt from my tears at night.

    FYI – it is a Rogue-like – so when you die, you die. All gear is gone. There is no money system for you to sell old loot (though there is a thriving market dealing in stat potions as a form of currency).

    1.  At least you don’t have other players on Ventrilo yelling “What are you, retarded!?” every time you die.

      1. lol, people only yell at you when you die if you complain about dieing.  Also, to be fair, most of the players are 12 year old idiots.  Expect them to act as such and be happy they have almost no ability to harm you.

    2. Yes, sometimes the game kills you.  Should have nexused.

      There is absolutely a ‘money system’ though, or at least a barter system advanced enough to act as one.  But yes, dying has consequences. Finally.

  2. I sank a few hours into this yesterday. I love the way it handles groups. If you want a group, you just find some other players and follow them around. There’s no experience penalty, no formal grouping mechanics. You just play instead of wasting time trying to find a healer and a tank.

  3. Created an account just to comment here–this game is FANTASTIC.  Pure bullet-dodging action coupled with perma-death and loot-grabbing.  In other words, it truly tests your gaming skills, and deathhas legit consequences.

    This is the only game I’ve ever literally thrown something (my headphones) in rage upon dying. Yet, I keep coming back for more.

  4. Some games are light, fun repasts, like a cup of fruit salad. Popcap games, for example.

    Others are mighty, meaty feasts, great whompin’ chunks of meat and potatoes, garnished wonderfully. See Bethesda games.

    This game?

    This game is the gaming equivalent of filling a bucket full of Nerds candy, and then trying to pour it down your throat. Tiny bits of brightly coloured fun, flying as fast as possible down your gullet. And then you choke on it, and die, and come back for more, over and over again.

  5. Is it still designed around running trains?  That was always brilliant and you could get near enough near level-cap in an hour and half to make the looting and perma-death  really exciting.  When I played (close to a year ago?) it was extremely difficult to intentionally organize one however.  But the ridiculous chaos and people going “Choo Choo!” — hilarious and exhilarating.

    1. It’s a quick way of leveling, but with any skill it only takes like 45 minutes to do it without a train.  Then another 40+ hours of collecting potions with mules to actually max.

      They’ve added a ton of new content.  New dungeons, Oryx 2/wine cellar, Pharoah’s Tomb, etc.

  6. I was playing this a few months ago, and sank about a week into four classes. I guess I gave up because I wasn’t sure what I was doing.

    I think I might give this another go, but I’d like to have some friends get on this and maybe a joystick (wasd kills my hand)

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