The 12 Best Games Set Underground

Image credit: Steam

Full disclaimer: At first, I was not entirely sure about writing this.

Personally, I respect the fact that there is a ridiculously wide spectrum of game types and premises in the video gaming world, and sometimes, the itch that one needs to be scratched can only be reached with a very specific type of game.

But I just think it’s a strange type of specific.

However, apparently, a large-enough number of you have been combing the internet for games set in underground locations (also called subterranean games by the nerds). Large enough, at least, to get the attention of the keyword gods and spur me into doing some research about the topic.

It turned out to be pretty interesting research, so thank you. As a reward, I’m presenting the results to you as concisely as possible. This is a guide to twelve of the best games set underground across several gaming platforms. Enjoy!

Undertale

Undertale is a 2D RPG that was developed and published by Toby Fox in 2015. The game is available on Windows PCs, Linux, PS Vita, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and the Xbox One. Of the lot, the Xbox One release is the most recent, published in 2021.

Right from the get-go, it’s fairly obvious that an indie studio designed this game. It’s not the most graphically advanced game, so Undertale‘s charms do not lie in that department.

However, this is an RPG like no other in the way that elements of different genres are blended in.

The main character is a young child that has fallen into an underground area of some sort – a place that turns out to be beneath the surface of the Earth (don’t ask me how, because I don’t know either).

Your task is to help the character find a way back to the surface, but the process is not easy or straightforward – it never is.

There is a magical barrier separating the underground from the surface, and there are several monsters along the way too. Some of them have clearly not heard about the code against harming children because they’ll attack you with no provocation.

The combat system here introduces another element of gameplay popularly called “bullet-hell”. You have to navigate the stream of bullets aimed at you by enemies, and you can often choose to attack back or spare them.

The story in Undertale is very well written, and the extra element of dialogue and choices that impact outcomes provide an extra layer of depth to what is, at first glance, a pretty basic 2D RPG.

Steamworld Dig 2

Steamworld Dig 2 is the 2017 sequel to 2013’s Steamworld Dig, a 2D platform action-adventure game developed and published by Image and Form Games.

The game is available on several platforms, including the Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux, and Mac PCs, PS Vita and PS4, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox One, and Stadia.

I should mention that it is absolutely worth playing the first game as well, but I have not included it here to avoid repetitive content.

Speaking of Steamworld Dig 2, the name of the game already hints at one of the activities that you’ll be doing – digging.

Steamworld Dig 1 had a protagonist named Rusty – a robot, in fact. In the sequel, Rusty has gone missing and the new main character, Dorothy sets off to find her friend and ally.

The bulk of the game is set underground, although there are instances of regular platforming and above-ground exploration. Armed with an ax and a lantern from the start, you have to carve out a path for yourself and keep digging until you reach the point marked “X” on the map.

You’ll pick up valuable materials along the way, and you can sell these above the surface to be able to upgrade your equipment and dig faster.

You can complete Steamworld Dig 2 by only playing through a quarter of the entire thing, so it is completely up to you how long you want the game to last.

It could be as short as five hours for a quick playthrough, or as long as fifteen hours for full completion.

Spelunky 2

Spelunky 2 is considered to be one of the best roguelike games on PS5 and the Nintendo Switch, and for good reason. The game was developed by Mossmouth and BlitWorks and was published by the latter in 2020.

Spelunky 2 is also available on Windows PCs, the Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X/S. It serves as the sequel to the first iteration which was first released in 2008 – a pretty long wait.

While the roguelike element of play is important, this is a 2D platformer at its core. The main character is a girl called Ana who is the daughter of the protagonist in Spelunky 1.

Ana is on a mission to the moon to find her missing parents, and she must traverse caves filled with monsters and traps to get to her destination.

I’d imagine someone trying to get to the moon would need a space rocket or something that travels upward to get there, so it’s a bit strange that she’s moving underground through caves instead but, I’ll allow it.

As Ana, you must try to gather as much loot as you can while battling these enemies and trying to find your way through the caves.

Each time she dies, you lose everything you’ve gathered and have to restart the game. It can be maddening depending on how much progress you’ve made.

If you’re looking for the best games set underground that allow you to play online with friends in co-op or competitive modes, then Spelunky 2 is a good shout.

Deep Rock Galactic

More caves, more digging, more crawling creatures, and more treasure. Deep Rock Galactic is as underground as it gets, and it enjoys the added benefit of being one of the best fps games on PS5.

The game was developed by Ghost Ship Games and initially published by Coffee Stain Publishing in 2020 for Microsoft Windows and the Xbox One. Two years later, PlayStation versions for the PS4 and PS5 were released.

Like Spelunky 2, Deep Rock Galactic is another solid option if you’re looking for the best games set underground that allow you to play in multiplayer mode. In this case, you only play in co-op because the premise is centered around a team of characters.

These characters are actually pretty interesting though. They are space dwarves assigned to various missions including mining materials, killing enemies, stealing alien eggs, and retrieving equipment on an underground planet called Hoxxes IV.

The gameplay is player vs. environment, so your character and the rest of the team of dwarves have to work together to complete these missions while keeping the creepy crawlies in those underground caves at bay.

There are four playable classes for each dwarf: Engineer, Gunner, Driller, and Scout. This bit of information is important because it determines the path of progression and experience that the player can follow, and what the player needs to achieve to gain promotion across levels.

Deep Rock Galactic is a quirky but fun and intense first-person shooter that is easily recommendable to any average gamer. It’s a really solid body of work, especially when you consider the fact that this is Ghost Ship Games‘ first effort.

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is the brainchild of studio Team Cherry, which developed and published the game in 2017. It was initially only available for Windows and macOS PCs that year but arrived on the Nintendo Switch, the PS4, and the Xbox One in 2018.

The game is a 2D action-adventure Metroidvania set in a fictional underground kingdom called Hallownest. Hallownest is a fallen kingdom that is plagued by a supernatural disease, and it is this kingdom that the protagonist of the game explores.

Said protagonist is a nameless warrior known as The Knight. The warrior has near limitless access to the ridiculously expansive world of Hallownest, and the developers are clearly intentional about not holding your hand and leading you here – you have to find your own sense of direction.

For a change, not every creature in this game is out to get you. There are numerous bug-like characters, some cute and some with a downright disturbing appearance.

As you explore each one of the several underground locations, you will learn to distinguish between enemies and friends, and you will also get better at facing off against bosses.

It does help that progression helps you to unlock new abilities too, so your character gets better as the game gets tougher.

As confirmed by Team Cherry, everywhere in this game is underground, so be ready for a lot of darkness even in places that initially appear to be the “surface”.

If you’ve actually searched for and are reading this article, it’s probably exactly what you want anyway.

GTFO

GTFO was developed and published by the Swedish studio, 10 Chambers in 2021. It is an FPS action adventure with survival-horror elements built on the Unity engine for Microsoft Windows PCs.

The premise of this game is pretty interesting. You’re one of four prisoners held against your will by a character known as the Warden. The Warden is basically your taskmaster throughout the game, giving objectives to you and the rest of the “team”.

These objectives are carried out in an underground facility that has a story of its own. It is built on the “Chicxulub Crater”, which is a massive crater that was formed 66 million years before the period that the game is set in.

The crater was formed as a result of the same asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs, and the powers that be have taken to building the underground complex in it for the purpose of unscrupulous activities that your character has now been dragged into.

GTFO is a multiplayer game, so it is up to you and your friends to work together as a team to strategize and complete given objectives successfully.

This is particularly important because there are several creepy monsters in the facility that you’ll have to defeat, and limited resources for the team to share.

Considering the fact that GTFO was initially released on Early Access in 2019, its success post-full release is evidence of the fact that taking feedback from early access reviews and implementing it into your game is a near-surefire way to build something that your target audience appreciates.

This is definitely one of the best games set underground, and it is also one of the best horror games on Steam.

Metro Redux

The Metro series is a favorite among fans of the first-person shooter genre.

The first two games in the series, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light were developed by 4A Games and published by Deep Silver in 2010 and 2013 respectively.

Then, a remastered collection of both games, dubbed Metro Redux was published in 2014 for the PS4, Xbox One, and PCs.

Both games are set underground in a post-apocalyptic Russia, precisely somewhere in the metro tunnels of Moscow following a nuclear war that wiped out a substantial number of the population.

In Metro 2033, the main character is Artyom, a man whose main objective is to protect his home station from the known and unknown dangers in and around the Metro. These dangers include regular hostile humans and mutant enemies that are victims of exposure to nuclear radiation.

Your character is armed with protective and offensive gear in the form of gas masks and firearms, and you’ll definitely be needing both if you’re to survive any bout of exploration in underground Russia.

Artyom is also the main character in Metro: Last Light, the sequel. Here, his mission is to find the “Dark Ones” in the metro system, but the rest of the premise and the types of enemies that you have to face are similar.

Apart from the visual and performance enhancements of both games in Metro Redux, Metro: Last Light also boasts improvements in the gameplay mechanics of the first game. One of the most significant is the addition of weapon customization options.

So far, most of the best games set underground have been 2D titles, but Metro Redux offers a nice change of pace to that with its pleasant 3D rendition of underground Russia in ruins.

Scanner Sombre

I’m a big fan of games that try to do something away from the norm in some way, so my first glance at Scanner Sombre had me thinking “That’s definitely something I’d play”.

If you’re like me in that respect, then you might as well put paid on this review, add the game to your catalog and move on to the next recommendation. If not, allow me to attempt to convince you.

Scanner Sombre was developed and published by Introversion Software in 2017, and the game is available for macOS and Windows PCs.

It features a single-player exploration experience with a very distinct art style that serves as a key selling point in my opinion (just look at that beautiful screenshot).

The game is played from a first-person perspective, which really adds to the immersion that the developers are clearly hoping to achieve with the lighting and color templates.

Your character wakes up in a tent in an underground cave, and you have to find your way around this cave to get back to the surface.

With the help of an augmented reality headset and a LIDAR scanner that you find somewhere in the cave, you can illuminate the otherwise dark cave with bright, colored dots as you make your way across.

As you progress, you can unlock upgrades to the scanner and it will provide more details useful for finding your way around. At the same time, steady progress will come with bits and pieces of the protagonist’s memory, and by the time you remember everything, the game ends.

I’m being deliberately vague this way to avoid spoilers because the story progression is important to enjoying the game, but this is definitely one to put a pin in if you’re looking for games set underground.

The Longing

The Longing is a point-and-click adventure game from Studio Seufz. The game was published by Application Systems Heidelberg for Windows, Linux, and macOS PCs in 2020, and a Nintendo Switch version was also released a year later.

The main character is a creature simply known as the “Shade”. The Shade has one main mission in the game, which is to awaken its sleeping king after a period of 400 days. It sounds pretty drab, but there is quite a bit more to do than just waiting around.

As the game is set underground, there are many caves for you to explore while you wait for the time to pass. You can gather resources from these bouts of exploration and use them to “pimp” your home, and you can also do other time-wasting stuff such as drawing or reading.

The better furnished the Shade’s home is, the quicker time passes, so the game kind of eggs you on to actively participate and explore the environment in that way. If you decide to sit and do nothing, then you technically can still beat the game after 400 days have passed, but what’s the point of that?

For a casual gamer that just wants an idle experience, The Longing is one of the best games set underground that can offer it to you.

Torchlight 2

Torchlight 2 is the 2012 sequel to 2009’s Torchlight, an action role-playing dungeon crawler developed and published by Runic Games.

This sequel was originally released only for Windows PCs, but it has since been made available for Linux, Nintendo Switch, the Xbox One, and the PS4. The three console versions were published in 2019, seven years after the initial launch.

There is a third iteration of the game too, dubbed Torchlight 3 and published in 2020, but I have chosen this second installment because it received much better reviews from critics and gamers.

However, if you end up enjoying the game, then it might be worth playing the earlier and newer versions.

Torchlight 2 can be played in single-player or multiplayer mode, and you can even make tweaks to the game by yourself due to its support for modding. That’s assuming you’re skilled to do so, of course.

The multiplayer mode is co-op and supports up to 6 players at a time, so you won’t be bored exploring alone.

The game is set in a fantasy world where the city of Torchlight has been destroyed by a character known as the Alchemist.

The main character then has to find a way across randomly generated dungeons to find a cure to insanity, a sickness that has plagued him since the destruction of his town.

Typical of a dungeon crawler, there are many monsters to fight, hidden crevices to explore, and a lot of loot to plunder. You can customize your character, combine gear to make them more powerful, and the game even includes pets!

If all of that sounds right up your alley, then Torchlight 2 is worth playing.

UnderRail

Underrail is an indie RPG from the stables of Stygian Software. The game was published for Microsoft Windows PCs in 2015, three years after its release in Early Access. If you’re familiar with Fallout, then you have a decent idea of what this game is like.

That said, I hope you’re not tired of the post-apocalyptic tropes yet because there’s more here.

Underrail is set in a post-apocalyptic underground world sometime in the future. The Earth’s surface has become uninhabitable, so what’s left of humans can only be found in the Underrail metro network, not too dissimilar to the idea of the first two Metro games.

Your character is a member of one of the stations of Underrail, and it’s clear from the start that the developers want you to “mold” the game as much as possible.

Firstly, your character starts off as a blank slate, so you can develop him/her however you want. Then, there is quite a bit of dialogue with NPCs inhabiting the world, and this is where the meat of the story is.

Your character is caught in the cross-web of competing factions in the metro network. To make things worse, there is a lot of competition for scarce resources in harsh underground conditions, and surviving all of this is the main point of the game.

Crypt of the Necrodancer

Crypt of the NecroDancer was developed and published by Canadian studio Brace Yourself Games for Windows, Linux, and OS X PCs in 2015, but has since seen PS4, PS Vita, iOS, Xbox One, Android, and Nintendo Switch versions published.

COTN is not your typical dungeon-crawling roguelike. It’s a roguelike rhythm video game, which is a combination of roguelike dungeon exploration with beat-matching rhythm elements.

The game is played from a top-down 2D perspective, and you control one of several characters that set out to explore procedurally generated levels in the underground dungeon that it is set in.

That character is called Cadence, and she is the daughter of a missing treasure hunter. On a mission to find her father, Cadence falls into the crypt of the NecroDancer and this is where the game begins.

You may use either a keyboard, gamepad, or dance pad to control the character, depending on your preference and the gaming platform you’re using.

She can only make a move if the action is performed in tune with the beat of the music, so you need to learn to time those moves. When you kill an enemy, they’ll drop coins which can be used to buy items from shops within the dungeon and upgrade your inventory.

Whenever the player dies, you start over in the game’s lobby area, but you lose any items that you’ve earned up till that point (excluding diamonds).

COTN is considered to be one of the best roguelike games on Steam, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for the best games set in underground locations.

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