In dungeon crawlers, you explore dungeons, defeat enemies, avoid traps, and collect loot; they are the earliest examples of computer RPGs.
This genre was born on computers, not consoles or arcades. Game creators such as Richard Garriott tried to translate their Dungeons & Dragons passions into computers. That's how early games such as Akalabeth: World of Doom, Wizardry, and Dunjonquest: Temple of Apshai were born. They were primarily text-based, as there was no need for spectacular graphics. It is a dungeon, after all.
The golden age of dungeon crawlers started with Dungeon Master on the Atari ST and the legendary Eye of the Beholder for Amiga and PC. Those games adopted a view of the world in a portion of the screen. The perspective was first person, in a pseudo-3D. Movements were limited to four directions and 90° rotation. Many other games used the same mechanics, including the popular Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos and Black Crypt.
Everything changed with Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, the first game to introduce proper 3D technology to RPG games. After that, 3D became the standard.
As technology improved, RPG mechanics became increasingly complex and no longer solely based on dungeons. Modern RPGs are no longer called dungeon crawlers, which remain a great classic of retro games.