There’s something that is inherently exciting about the best deck building games. These games blend together elements many gamers grew up with as they played with Pokemon Cards, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Magic with a number of other mechanics. Many are roguelikes. This helps make every run surprising and unexpected.
There are always thrilling moments when you finally get that card you were looking for in a run or from a new pack. Sometimes, the stars might align and you’re able to build your dream deck that lets you completely slaughter the enemy.
Deck building games initially gained popularity as physical deck builders with games like Dominion, Thunderstone, and the Marvel deck building game Legendary. That popularity, like all great things, spread to the world of video games. Dominion eventually made the jump digitally and played very similarly to its physical counterpart.
Deck building video games became popularized in 2017 with the release of Mega Crit Games’ hit Slay the Spire, though it was Dream Quest in 2014 that more or less created the genre in video games. Slay the Spire would go on to lay the groundwork for deck building games to often feature roguelike elements.
The best deck building games use the randomness roguelikes offer to keep gamers entranced and coming back for more. These games create a loop that can be hard to escape. For those that don’t fall under the roguelike umbrella, most find success with a combination of an intriguing concept and a well-known IP.
Here’s our round-up of some of the best deck building games you can play now.
Across the Obelisk – PC, Macos, Linux
Across the Obelisk is currently in early access, but players already love it. Because of the nature of roguelike deck building games, a lot of testing is required to insure the randomness isn’t broken. Across the Obelisk stands out with its party based system and the option to play co-op with friends.
Like many other games on our list, it relies on a procedurally generated system for much of its content. A single game might take you three to four hours, but you’ll be able to pause and come back. Keep an eye on this game, as we think it’ll be a big hit when it releases fully.
Ascension – Ios, Android, PC, Macos
Ascension is from Stone Blade Entertainment, which is headed up by professional Magic: The Gathering player Justin Gary. It’s very much a love letter to the genre and feels a lot like a tabletop deck building game.
It features over 600 cards all with unique and beautiful artwork. It also features a ton of expansions. All of those add in exciting cards and ways to build your deck to your play style.
You can play alone or with friends to try and beat the Fallen One.
Dicey Dungeons – Ios, Android, PC, Macos, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Are you feeling lucky? Dicey Dungeons is a charming take on the genre with a gameshow backdrop. The game’s adventurers have been turned into dice, and each have their own unique playstyles. It can be challenging at times depending on the classes you choose.
The game’s use of dice really helps it stand out in the field of deck building games. In order to play your cards, though, you’ll need to roll the dice and meet the requirements. This extra layer of chance paired with the already fun roguelike mechanics makes it one of the best deck building games.
Dominion – PC
Dominon was the very first physical deck building game and paved the way for pretty much everything on this list. The digital version is currently in early access but features much of what original fans knew and loved.
Dominion is set during medieval times and is all about control. Your goal is to claim new land for your kingdom. Each turn, you will draw card and build up your deck against opponents and try to earn enough victory points to win.
It’s simpler in concept compared to some more recent games, but still addictive in its own way.
Dream Quest – Ios, Android, PC, Macos
While Slay the Spire popularized the genre, Dream Quest was the very first roguelike deck builder. In it, you choose one of thirteen classes to play in shorter 30-minute sessions. If the longer runs of games like Griftlands or Across the Obelisk make you nervous, Dream Quest packs a lot of fun in its shorter sessions.
Dream Quests’ 13 classes add a lot of variety to the game as you adventure through it over and over. The game boasts over 50 hours of play to see, unlock, and do everything.
The game was also made by one person – Peter Whalen, which makes the game all the more impressive.
Eternal Card Game – Ios, Android, PC, Macos, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
While many deck building games inhabit a fantasy landscape, Eternal Card Game uses a Weird West fantasy setting for its world. It blends together spells and gunplay into one wild package. It’s also free-to-play, and while you can pay for things, it’s truly easy to create fantastic decks without spending a dime.
There are a number of modes to explore. Depending on how you want or like to play, there’s probably something for you. There are tournaments with cash prizes, PVE campaigns, and even a draft mode that lets you build a deck on the fly from cards passed by other players.
Griftlands – PC, Macos, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Ios, Android
Griftlands is one of the most narrative-driven deck building games on the list. If you’re a fan of all things sci-fi, Griftlands is full of alien creatures and planets. It features three characters with different narratives to explore.
What makes Griftlands most unique is that its deck building controls pretty much everything in the game.
In battles, you will use cards to heal, attack, and defend. These cards can be leveled up. As can the cards you’ll use in conversations. In Griftlands, you’ll try to win arguments and convince others that to believe you or do your bidding by using card to turn the tide of conversations.
If a sci-fi landscape and unique deck building appeal to you, check out Griftlands.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game – Xbox One, Android, Playstation 4, Ios, PC
The Witcher is one of the best games out there (and also one of our favorite open world games). The card game, Gwent, was first featured in the Witcher books and eventually debuted in The Witcher 3. It’s now a fully realized deck building game with references to many creatures, spells, and more from the Witcher universe.
Gwent is one of a few deck building games that has a sizeable presence in the esports arena. If you’re looking to enjoy it, you don’t have to get that serious. There is a casual mode if you’re looking to dip into something a little more accessible.
Hearthstone – Android, Macos, Ios, PC
There are many deck building games that pull from already popular franchises. Hearthstone might be one of the best deck building games for the pure fact its source material is so rich. Hearthstone does a great job at balancing adventure modes, ranked play, and casual modes.
Similarly to Gwent, Hearthstone has (an even bigger) presence in the world of esports. It’s easily accessible to players of all skills levels, though. It does allow for microtransactions, but there is plenty of fun to be had without spending any money. Perhaps Blizzard’s new mobile game, Warcraft Arclight, can reach the same popularity as Hearthstone
Inscryption – PC
Inscryption scared up audiences late in 2021 and ended up on many game of the year lists. It was perhaps one of the most satisfying surprises of the year for good reason. There are few deck building games that use horror, but Inscryption blends together horror, cards, and roguelike elements perfectly.
The game uses a found footage mechanic to tell its story and features a number of escape-room elements. If you’re into horror and deck building games, Inscryption fits the bill perfectly. There’s also surprise after surprise in its narrative, so be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Legends of Runeterra – Android, PC, Ios
There have been a number of hugely popular game franchises that have come out with card-based side games. Legends of Runeterra is League of Legends’ answer to fill the niche. The game contains characters from the popular MOBA game League of Legends.
What helps Legends of Runeterra stand apart as a deck building game is its handle on combat. Each round, the game allows a different player to attack or defend. This helps add a balance and rhythm to the game that’s different from many. The game is also free to play, and it doesn’t prey on its players to try and weasel money out of them.
Library of Ruina – Xbox One, PC
Library of Ruina is bonkers, weird, and one of the most underrated and best deck building games out there.
Ruina contains many typical deck building pieces, but as a whole, it sets itself apart from games like Slay the Spire. For one, it’s much more like a traditional, turn-based RPG.
The game also does a great job at making you think carefully about how you structure your deck and party. The further you get into Library of Ruina, the more careful and thoughtful you’ll need to be.
There’s also some great risk/reward play if you’re into taking chances.
Loop Hero – PC, Macos, Nintendo Switch
Loop Hero, like Inscryption, was another sleeper hit on 2021. It’s easily one of the most unique and best deck building games on the list. It features several classes to unlock as your hero traverses an endless loop in a destroyed world.
As you move around the game’s map, you’ll collect different terrain cards that let you build the world back up. These cards let you construct giant mountains, villages, and swamps. Depending on placement, different monsters may spawn or your character can get buffed. It’s up to you to rebuild the world again once and for all.
Magic: The Gathering Arena – Android, Macos, Ios, PC
Magic: The Gathering has been around for a long time. A digital version of one of the best deck building games was fully released in 2019. It follows the same rules as the physical card game. If you’ve never played, it has a great tutorial.
One of the best parts of the game is the card art, and the digital version doesn’t skimp on it. It also includes a number of special effects for various attacks. These help make the experience even more immersive than the physical version.
Monster Train – Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
In Monster Train, it is up to you to protect your train’s pyre from going out. To do so, you’ll choose a primary clan and supporting clan. From there, you’ll get access to the primary’s champion and cards from both. Your champion will lead you into battle against hordes of monsters who are trying to top you.
Monster Train stands out for its verticality. Each battle has you defending on three tiers of the train to try and stop the enemies. You’ll build a deck from cards you’ll acquire on your route.
Be mindful of what you add and keep an eye out for Artifacts to buff your run, too! Each one can be unique depending on the choices you make.
One Step From Eden – Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Macos
One Step from Eden combines a nostalgic art style with deck building, real-time action, and rougelike elements. It is one of few deck building games that also allow co-op. Your goal is to reach Eden. To do so, you’ll use spells, abilities, and unique weapons to defeat your foes.
You’ll earn access to nine different playable characters to explore the game’s procedurally generated worlds. As you play, you’ll unlock hundreds of cards. It also features bullet hell like gameplay, which adds an even bigger spin to an already unique take on the deck builder.
Pokemon Trading Card Game Online – Web Browser, PC, Android, Macos,
Pokemon cards continue to be incredibly popular. There are streams dedicated to unboxing backs of cards while streamers search for specific cards. For those who care less about that aspect, the digital version of the Pokemon trading card game offers up the fun of battling without all those pesky physical cards.
Pokemon Cards, unlike many deck building games, has no roguelike elements. Instead, you’re just battling opponents to see who comes out on top. The newly released digital version of the Pokemon Trading Card Game is also free to play!
Slay the Spire – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Ios, Android
Slay the Spire burst onto the scene in 2017. Several years after its release, it’s still finding new fans. It’s fairly easy to learn and straightforward in its presentation, but it can be hard to master.
With four classes total to learn, there’s a variety of ways to play. One of the best is the daily challenge mode which throws you into a game with modded rules and a modded deck
Slay the Spire also lets you see what your enemies intend to do each turn, which helps with planning. After winning a battle, you’re able to choose cards to add to your deck. Like many deck building games, though, you’ll want to be selective. There are lots of modifiers to unlock as you beat the game multiple times.
Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars – PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
As a fan of JRPGs, Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is an incredibly appealing deck building game. It’s essentially a JRPG that uses deck building to tell its story. While its on the shorter side, it is incredibly unique. The entire gameworld is made of cards – from places to people.
While it is a deck builder, it plays much more like a classic JRPG with turn-based combat. Your typical things are present – healing, attacks, buffs, and debuffs. If you’ve ever wanted a game that merged these two unique game genres, give Voice of Cards a try.
Yamafuda! 2ND Station – PC, Macos
There isn’t a lot of cuteness going on in deck building games, but Yamafuda! Second Station has it in spades.
Deck building rougelikes are almost always full of adventure and instill a sense of excitement and nerves. Yamafuda! instead takes players on a quiet hike that tests your endurance.
As you hike the steep mountain path, you’ll need to use cards to zig-zag or march to keep your health up. The steeper the path, the lower your health falls.
You can also eat snacks to replenish your energy. As you hike, you collect stones that can be used to craft gear to make the hike easier. Will you make it to the peak of the mountain?
That’s our list! Did we miss any of the best deck building games that you love to play? Leave us a comment so we can keep adding new and exciting games.