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Major Roguelike
Developer The NetHack DevTeam
Theme fantasy
Influences Hack
Released 1987
Updated 8 December 2003
Licensing copyleft source, freeware
P. Language C
Platforms Amiga, Atari, Linux, Mac, Msdos, OS/2, Windows, Windows CE
Interface ASCII, Keyboard, Graphical tiles
Game Length 8+ hours
(According to, fastest ascension was in 2:31:13)
Official site of NetHack

NetHack is a major roguelike in which the player must fight his way down through the Dungeons of Doom, and then the underworld (Gehennom), retrieve the Amulet of Yendor, fight his way back up to surface, and give the Amulet to his god. It is the most popular of all Hacklike games, and quite possibly the most popular of all roguelike games.

NetHack underwent active development for nearly 15 years. However, it has not been updated much within the past decade, leading some independent developers to create forks to continue where the DevTeam left off. Many of these forks are still active.


Notable features of NetHack include:

  • The dungeon levels are persistent, so there is a finite supply of monsters and items, and if a particular level is difficult you must find a way to deal with it or circumvent it.
  • Monsters can use the items that you use, so if a lowly kobold finds that Wand of Death before you do, you're in trouble.
  • There are lots of curious monsters and items, which can interact in numerous ways for surprising (and sometimes humorous) results.
  • There is no ready supply of Scrolls of Identify, and you start out not even knowing which scroll is the Scroll of Identify, so you have to develop tactics for identifying all of the items that you collect.
  • The game will keep track for you various "conducts", so that if you're challenging yourself with various restrictions you can be sure that you haven't accidentally violated any of them. Various challenges include pacifist (never killing a monster yourself), illiterate (never reading scrolls or spellbooks), and even foodless (surviving without ever eating any food).

Plot overview

WARNING: This section contains "Plot" spoilers (as opposed to spoilers about tactics, items, or monsters).

Dungeons of Doom

You start out on dungeon level 1 of the Dungeons of Doom with a pet kitten or little dog (or pony, for knights). Most classes start out with no food, some monsters leave poisonous corpses, and your pet kitten or dog will eat anything that's non-vegetarian (ponies, naturally, eat only vegan food) if it can get to it before you do; this means that newbies often die of starvation.

Gnomish Mines

A few levels below the first level there is a branch in the dungeons, leading to the Gnomish Mines. The Gnomish Mines consist of irregularly shaped open spaces instead of rooms, with random walls, and twisting passages; they are inhabited mainly by gnomes and dwarves. Halfway to the bottom of the mines is Mine Town, which has shops and a temple with a priest and an altar. At the bottom of the mines is a special level, which can be one of several types. Each contains a guaranteed luckstone and other gems.

The Oracle

Some levels down from the Mines branch is the Oracle, who will give you minor hints for a small fee, and big hints for a large fee.


On the level below the Oracle is a branch leading to the Sokoban levels. On each level is a series of open pits, and to get over and past the pits you have to push boulders into them, thus filling them up. The boulders are set in a pattern, and you have to move them in a particular sequence or the boulders will become stuck. At the end of the final level, there is a guaranteed item, with a 1/2 chance of being an Amulet of Reflection and a 1/2 chance of being a Bag of Holding. Additionally, each level contains one random ring, one random wand, and lots of food.

Home Quest

Six or seven levels past the Oracle is a portal which will take you back to your homeland, where your mentor/leader will set you the task of killing a Quest Nemesis; the nemesis and the nature of the quest is different for each character class. However, each nemesis guards the Bell of Opening in addition to the nominal object of the quest.

Medusa's Island

A ways below the Home Quest portal level is a special level with Medusa.


One or more maze levels often follows Medusa's Island. Every maze that exists will contain a minotaur.


Several levels below the Medusa level, or even directly below, is the Castle level. The castle is filled with monsters and soldiers, and holds the only non-magical way to descend into the underworld. It also contains a guaranteed Wand of Wishing.

Underworld (Gehennom)

The underworld is a series of mazes, interspersed with special levels which are the homes to various demon lords.

Valley of the Dead

A trapdoor in the Castle leads to the Valley of the Dead. This level contains graveyards, a temple of Moloch, and the entrance to the underworld proper.

Vlad's Tower

A branch from the underworld leads to Vlad's Tower, a series of small levels, at the top of which is Vlad the Impaler. He holds the Candelabrum of Invocation.

The Wizard's Tower

The tower of the Wizard of Yendor is not a dungeon branch, but rather is embedded in the center of three underworld levels. The outer walls of the tower are impassable, and the tower can't be entered via teleportation, so it must be entered via a special entrance. The Wizard holds the Book of the Dead, and will come back to life at semi-random intervals if you kill him.

The Sanctum of Moloch

Once at the very bottom of the underworld, you must perform a special action with Bell, Book and Candle which will open the entrance to the Sanctum of Moloch. The High Priest of Moloch has the Amulet of Yendor, and you must kill him in order to retrieve it.

The escape from the dungeons

Once you have the Amulet, you must go back up through all the levels of the underworld and the Dungeons of Doom, and then take the up-staircase on level 1.

The elemental planes

After leaving level 1, you will have to pass through the four elemental planes. Each plane has a portal which leads to the next one, and the last plane has a portal to the Astral Plane.

The Astral Plane

On the Astral Plane are three different altars to three different gods of your character's pantheon. You must find your god's altar and sacrifice the Amulet there. At this point, you are elevated to a demigod and win the game.

Handheld versions

There are several handheld ports of NetHack at various levels of completeness or stability:

NetHack for Android-powered devices

NetHack for the Nintendo DS

Note, all ports described below run directly on the hardware, and do not require DSLinux.

There are at least two known ports of NetHack to the Nintendo DS. The first, ported by Stuart Pernsteiner (aka "Wosret"), entitled NetHack for the Nintendo DS, is a fairly traditional port of NetHack to the Nintendo DS. The game makes extensive use of subpixel fonts in order to render the full Nethack screen on a single DS display. For control, the game provides an on-screen keyboard, as well as a flexible keybinding system.

The second, ported by Brett Kosinski, entited NetHackDS, was built using Stuart's work as a base, while taking a very different approach to user interface and control. This port makes more extensive use of both screens, using the upper screen for status and informational messages, while rendering the game map to the lower display, and using the touchscreen and joypad for movement, menu item selection, and so forth. Meanwhile, the on-screen keyboard is used only when absolutely necessary (eg, item naming, wishing, etc). Additionally, unlike NetHack for the Nintendo DS, this port makes use of unscaled text/graphics, instead making use of a viewport which renders only a subset of the level on the bottom screen.

For more information on how to run homebrew games on your DS, see Wikipedia:Nintendo DS homebrew.

NetHack for Psion

1998, updated 2004, Duncan Booth.

NetHack for the PSP

VirtuaMUnstaz, IveGotThePawa, 2006. Visit the official webpage and scroll down for screenshots.

This port was discussed in a podcast.

NetHack for Symbian

2004, Petteri Kangaslampi. This is partly based on NetHack for Psion. The game's webpage says, "The port is currently in progress, and while the game itself is fully playable, many problems may still remain."

NetHack for Windows CE

NetHack for Sharp Zaurus

External links