“Should you be stranded on an island alone, and you encounter a djinni granting but a single wish, the game of Nethack would be your best choice ... or perhaps a blessed wand of teleportation.”

About Nethack

Download it for free from nethack.org.

Screen capture of a nethack game in the Sokoban level

Breaking the mold of most games which rely on lots of flashy graphics with little substance, Nethack is perhaps the most remarkable game ever despite the almost total lack of surface glitter. Nethack is the ultimate decendant of a long line of text-based action adventure games; including the grandfather of them all, Rogue. Nethack is completely free and has been developed as an Open Source project, starting way before Linux was ever dreamed up. It has been in continuous developement for almost 20 years and is guided by a core set of developers affectionately called the “devteam”. Today it's official home is nethack.org.

“...perhaps the most remarkable game ever despite the almost total lack of surface glitter”

So you may ask, how can a simple text game be all that good. The answer is simple; the substance of the game is absurdly detailed and complete. Even after many years of playing you'll still be discovering new things about the game. The game also drives your imagination rather than shoving glitsy 3d images down your eyeballs. You can get so absorbed in this game that after a while you'll actually shudder when you turn the corner and see that black capital ‘D’ standing there.

Another screen capture of a nethack game

The basic idea of the game is to take your character underground into the depths of the caverns and mines below in search of the legendary Amulet of Yendor, which if you bring back and give to your god you'll be granted the gift of immortallity to become a demigod yourself (called “ascending”). Of course you start out rather weak and unexperienced, but as you go deeper and deeper you'll hone your skills and powers. But beware, the dangers increase too. And what makes this game so different is that if you die, you're dead, for good. You can't just start a new life or start the level again. So be sure that before you go pet that ‘d’ (a dog), that you didn't mistake it for a ‘D’ (a dragon). Nethack is turn-based though, so you'll get as much time as you want to contemplate your next move.

No two Nethack games are the same, the entire voyage is randomly generated. And there are hundreds of different kinds of creatures and beings and hundreds of kinds of objects to be found. Magic and spells abound, secrets are there to be found, the gods are there to help you out or punish you, and no matter what you think up, the devteam has probably already thought of it first. There has never been and probably never will be another game as imaginatively detailed and complete as Nethack, graphics or not. Best of all, you can download Nethack and start playing right now as it is compltely free. I have not yet ascended, but I did come very close once.

You can take a small tour of the game and follow me through the Sokoban puzzel levels. Also be sure to check out my best game ever, as well as a small collection of hints and spoilers that I've assembled.

Explore Nethack further

Other Nethack resources