Spelunky, Derek Yu’s randomly-generating, perma-death wielding spelunking indie game adventure, is out on Xbox Live Arcade today. It’s magnificent for a whole host of reasons which we will get into over the coming week, and you should absolutely download it tonight and get, er, stuck in.

But Spelunky isn’t the first downloadable wonder in which you burrow your way through the earth’s crust. This has been a fascination for video games since 1984’s Boulder Dash (or 1982’s Dig Dug – as Hookshot Inc. reader Trevor May pointed out over Twitter), calloused avatars blitzing their way through mud, clay and stone in search of adventure and peril.

Here are a handful of Hookshot’s favourite dig ’em ups, with reasons why.

Mr Driller – XBLA

The vast majority of games task you with working your way out of the depths of some cavernous problem. In Mr Driller, by contrast, you start out happy, safe and warm on the earth’s surface. Then, somewhat inexplicably, the klaxon sounds and you begin burrowing your way downwards towards the earth’s crust, risking life and limb as you one-button tap your way into danger. Why? Beacuse you are Mr Driller of course!

The dig sound effect makes this the game equivalent of popping bubble wrap, a benefit that probably won’t offset the traumatic flashbacks if you happen to be a Peruvian miner.

Dwarf Fortress – PC/ Mac

The fortress of understanding that surrounds Tarn Adams rogue-like cum city builder is somewhat impenetrable. But for those armed with an FAQ and a steely sense of determination, Dwarf Fortress (full title: Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress – bonus points for the semi-colon chain combo) is irresistible.

At the start of the game you’re given a land (realised in the stark beauty of ASCII graphics) and seven dwarves to fill it with holes. Then, square by square, you begin to hollow out an underground fortress, placing workshops, bedrooms and dining rooms a you interior design your dark domain. It’s complicated, somewhat inscrutable and demands a great deal of effort before it reveals its most precious jewels. But for those who dig deep enough, there’s nothing else like it.

Cave Story – PC/ WiiWare

Technically you’re not digging in Cave Story, but you certainly enjoy the benefits of someone else’s cave-hollowing efforts (not least those of creator Daisuke Amaya, who took 5 years to hollow out the underground network of tunnels through which you adventure).

Cave Story, available on WiiWare and DSiWare, is one of contemporary indie gaming’s formative titles, a Japanese underground platformer with a surprisingly engaging storyline about rabbits and doctors and flowers and slaves.

Minecraft – PC/ Mac/ XBLA/ iOS/ Android

Largely unsuccessful LEGO clone.