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Play OverviewPlay Overview

Dwarf Fortress (2006) is a longstanding strategy game set in a fantasy world where you control a group of dwarves wanting to construct a wealthy fortress. It's unusual not only for it's text-based appearance but for it's expansive scope, and intricately modelled characters, psychology, politics, landscape, creatures, minerals and vegetation.

You select a location in the randomly generated map to start building with your seven dwarves and then get to work digging into the mountain to establish a successful colony, combat threats like goblin invasions, generate wealth and generally take care of the dwarves. You work to both thrive and survive, but if your entire colony is defeated you have to start again.

You designate tasks to your dwarves, matching both ability and personality: stone-working, woodworking, metalworking, farming, and crafting. As you add specific areas and workshops to your fortress other activities can be assigned that further your survival and standing in the game: leather-working, butchery, clothes-making, gem cutting, glassmaking, and pottery. And of course, you need to be able to defend yourself with metal industry that produces weapons and armour for the military as well as traps for defence.

Even more unusual is that each of your dwarf's mental and physical attributes are unique and tracked. Not only physical appearance, like hair and facial features but abilities, individual preferences and desires also play a part and influence their relationships and willingness to work with others in the colony.

Although there are newer versions that offer graphical representations of the world and the dwarves, the game is known for its lack of realism that used text-characters to show what was happening. For example, a dwarf is a coloured, bearded smiley-like character and various other letters represent animals.

The result is a unique and fascinated open-ended game where you decide how to manage your colony and advance your standing. Beyond the simple visuals, it's deeply complex with various challenges and threats similar in style to Minecraft.

Our examiner, Andy Robertson, first checked Dwarf Fortress 3 years ago. It was re-examined by Jo Robertson and updated 14 months ago.
Too complex for your family? There are lots of games similar to Dwarf Fortress. Here are some easier younger-rated games:

Play StylePlay Style

This is an Adventure, Simulation and Strategy game with Brain Game, Collecting, Fighting, Role-Play, Sequencing, Traversal and World Building elements. This is a single-player game.

You can play this game in the following styles:


Play Time: This game will take between 60 hours and 100 hours to complete. This is a huge game that can take players to invest hundreds of hours in a single run. Those that fall in love with the game will likely play it many times.

Age RatingsAge Ratings

Content Rating

This game has not yet been rated, but we anticipate it is likely to be rated PEGI 7.

The develop describes the content as follows. "Dwarf Fortress contains textual descriptions of violence, and static 2D sprites that may have violent ends. Alcohol consumption is required for a dwarven fortress to run smoothly, as described in text. Dwarves can experience mental anguish, and in extreme cases this can lead to them taking their own lives or the lives of others."

Skill Level

11+ year-olds usually have the required skill to enjoy this game. You need to be able to deal with a high level of complexity and a huge number of options to progress well with the game. Younger players may have fun dealing with some of the systems, but to get the most out of the game you need good skills in forward planning, making good decisions under pressure and visualising creative solutions to challenges.


Dwarf Fortress usually costs £0 to £24.99. 

Dwarf Fortress

Steam StoreSALE PC £24.99 £22.49 until 22/06/2024
Steam Store PC Free
This game is free to play. There are no additional in-game purchases, loot boxes, adverts or subscription costs.

DetailsGame Details

Release Date: 08/08/2006, updated in 2022

Price: Free

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Players: 1

Genres: Adventure, Simulation, Strategy (Brain Game, Collecting, Fighting, Role-Play, Sequencing, Traversal and World Building)

Accessibility: 0 features documented (Tweet Developer )

Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid, Open World and Pixels

Developer: Bay 12 Games (@Bay12Games)

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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