FromSoftware has made many, many games before 2009’s Demon’s Souls and the 2011 spiritual successor Dark Souls, but for the majority of gamers, this series was their first exposure to the developer. Since then, the series has grown and expanded to the point where it has become something of its own genre dubbed Souls-likes. Gamers fell in love with the new, brutal game design these Souls games provided, and although FromSoftware has been able to pump out one of these games almost every two years or so, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the hunger for more experiences like Dark Souls.
- What is a Souls-like?
- Nioh 2 (PS4, PS5)
- The Surge 2 (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC)
- Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC)
- Salt and Sanctuary (Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC)
- Hollow Knight (Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC)
- Titan Souls (PS4, PS5)
- Blasphemous (Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC)
- Remnant: From the Ashes (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC)
- Ashen (Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC)
- Death’s Gambit (PS4, PS5, PC)
Each game on this list will have something familiar to fans of Dark Souls, but also puts its own unique spin on the genre to make it stand out as more than just a simple clone. If you’ve played the series to death and are looking for a new challenge, check out these picks for the best games like Dark Souls.
What makes a game a Souls-like isn’t set in stone. There are a few elements that most will have, but it is something easier to know when you see it rather than define with words. Almost all of them will be punishing (at least more than a traditional game), have exploration elements, cause you to lose something upon death, and have intense boss fights, RPG elements, and more. What it is not is just a game that is difficult, as many seem to think. The main point is that a Souls-like is challenging but fair.
For the purposes of this list, we will only be including games that were not developed by FromSoftware. If you’re a Dark Souls fan, then you likely already know about Bloodborne, Sekiro, and the new Demon’s Souls remake anyway.
Fans of Dark Souls were very outspoken about their desire for a Souls-like game featuring samurai and ninja. FromSoftware would eventually grant that wish with 2019’s Sekiro, but not before Team Ninja beat it to the punch with the first Nioh in 2017. The sequel, Nioh 2, makes this list for simply being an all-around improvement on the solid foundation the first game set up.
Aside from the change of location from a fictional medieval Western setting to a (mostly) historical Eastern one, Nioh 2 coupled the nuanced combat of Dark Souls with a deep loot system. Weapon and armor drops come far more often and are much more important to improving your character in Nioh than a traditional Souls game. Add in the stance system, skill trees, and living weapon abilities and you get a game at least on par with the best official Souls game. It also forgoes the interconnected world and instead allows you to pick specific missions to take on with different objectives and difficulties. These higher-level systems make Nioh 2 a lot more approachable in terms of knowing what to do and how to get better, but without sacrificing the moment-to-moment challenge of facing off against even normal enemies, let alone the bosses.
While this the second Surge game, it is actually developer Deck 13’s third attempt at a Souls-like game. The first game, Lords of the Fallen, was one of the first big-budget attempts to join in on the Souls formula. While that game had one or two things to make it stand out, it ultimately felt like a watered-down, and worse-controlling, rip-off of Dark Souls. With The Surge and its sequel, we got our first taste of what a sci-fi Dark Souls could be, and it turned out to be fantastic.
Aside from future tech, The Surge 2 allows you to target specific enemy body parts to do more damage, and perform moves to cut off limbs to take their weapons and armor for yourself. Blocking is also directional, meaning you need to do more than just hold a block to avoid damage. Scrap, this game’s version of souls, can also be banked at safe points to be used later. The only common criticism that comes up against The Surge 2 is that the boss fights aren’t quite up to par, but there’s a lot of great content here to sink your teeth into.
Of all the franchises to get a Souls-like game, we doubt many would predict it would be Star Wars, and even less that it would turn out good. Respawn Entertainment, which had only made first-person shooters up until this point, gave us something we didn’t even know we wanted in Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. Of all the games on this list, this one probably strays the furthest from a strict Souls-like, but not far enough to disqualify it. If anything, it just adds more elements, like puzzles, platforming, and Metroidvania-style progression, rather than taking anything away.
The game is also one of the few Souls-likes to actually allow you to choose a difficulty level, making it one of the most accessible games in the genre for newcomers. You still need to be on your toes in every combat encounter, and enemies will still respawn at every meditation circle, which is also where you level up and unlock new Force powers. The story is also the most direct, which isn’t much of a surprise considering it does still have to be a Star Wars game, but again just adds to the game’s strengths. Some bugs and glitches did keep it from being as smooth of an experience as it should have been, but Fallen Order doubles as not only one of the best Star Wars games we’ve gotten in recent years, but also a fantastic entry point to Souls-like games.
Read our full Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order review
One of the first 2D games to adopt the Souls-like formula was the hit indie title Salt and Sanctuary. Obviously, the main diversion here from Dark Souls is the perspective, but otherwise, it is about as faithful to the formula as you can get. After becoming shipwrecked on an island, you take control of your character to explore the sprawling land, find and equip new weapons, and fight monstrous foes while managing your health and stamina. Because it takes place on a 2D plane, learning how to properly space your character and read boss attacks is even more important than ever.
The tone is just as dark and depressing as any of the Dark Souls games. It might look a little rough around the edges graphically, but that ends up working in the game’s favor when portraying the hideous and uncanny creatures you will go up against.
Our second indie darling Souls-like is the incredible Hollow Knight. Mixing equal parts Dark Souls and Metroidvania, Hollow Knight strikes the perfect balance of rewarding exploration through unlocking new abilities and overcoming intense boss battles. You only have your one weapon here, the nail, and a handful of spells to complete your cryptic quest. That boils down the Souls-like experience into a test of pure skill and perseverance over any challenges since there’s no way to exploit any weaknesses.
Just like Dark Souls you have a number of healing charges that take time to perform, you can only save at specific checkpoints, and you lose all your currency upon death. If you make it back to where you died, you can recover your lost treasure if you manage to defeat a shadowy version of yourself. Wrap it all up in a creepy, yet gorgeous, hand-drawn art style that invites you to explore every nook and cranny, plus a mystery that never gives too much away, and you get one of the best indie games of all time. We can only hope the upcoming sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong, lives up to the high expectations this game left us with.
Where Hollow Knight was massive, Titan Souls shows restraint. Rather than try to emulate the entire Souls-like experience, Titan Souls focuses hard on one single aspect: The boss fights. If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, this game took clear inspiration from Shadow of the Colossus as well as Dark Souls. Created in just a few days, this game was made following the theme of “you only get one.” That applies to how many hits you can take, how many arrows you have, and also how many hits the bosses can take.
The open world only serves as a respite between each of the 19 boss encounters, each of which will test you in different ways. Your only options in a fight are movement, dodge rolling, shooting your arrow, and recalling it. The latter two force you to stand still, meaning you need to know you’re safe or risk losing your life. Like Shadow, every boss is almost a puzzle you need to solve. Victory and defeat come fast, but landing that perfect shot to take down a titan feels just as good as tackling the hardest Dark Souls boss.
If you were to describe Hollow Knight and Blasphemous only using gameplay terms, they might sound like the same game. Both are a mixture of Souls and Metroidvania games, feature one primary weapon, spells, abilities for combat and traversal, similar checkpoint and death mechanics, and more. What sets the two apart are the art style and story. Blasphemous is a pixel art game with gruesome and disturbing cutscenes that are some of the most brutal we’ve seen.
In fact, everything in this game is brutal, including the combat, exploration, and especially the bosses. Even items are dripping in the grotesque, such as your healing potion being the Bile Flask. What makes this game such a unique experience is that the Spanish dev team, The Game Kitchen, layered so much religious inspiration into the game. It is technically set in the fictional land of Cvstodia, but the Christian imagery and iconography are clear as day. Don’t sleep on this one just because it sounds somewhat generic on the surface, because there’s something very special waiting for you with Blasphemous.
Just looking at an image of Remnant: From the Ashes will probably cause most people to think it’s a typical third-person shooter, perhaps with survival horror elements. The fact that there is a third-person-shooter Souls-like at all, let alone a pretty great one, is surprising enough to most. Remnant utilizes randomized zones to bolster its somewhat limited scope, at least compared to more high-budget titles, but manages to remain compelling thanks to a strong core gameplay loop.
Just like Dark Souls, you will move through areas, killing enemies, looting items, and eventually facing bosses that require you to learn and exploit their attack patterns — only using guns instead of swords. Guns, as well as an increased emphasis on co-op compared to most other Souls-likes, may make this game seem like it will be easier than the others on this list, but that’s far from the truth. Death comes at you fast, and the enemies and bosses you fight were tuned to counter your ranged attacks. This game is much more than just adding a gun to Dark Souls and calling it a day.
Another more traditional Souls-like, Ashen is a simple tale of your character just trying to find a home in a world without a sun. You’re dropped into an open world populated with both NPCs offering quests and other players you can choose to team up with or battle. In terms of combat, there’s almost nothing to differentiate it from the system you know and love from Dark Souls. Even the controls are almost identical. You have a range of weapons to find, equip, and upgrade, a dodge roll to get out of trouble, a central hub called Vagrant’s Rest you can build up with NPCs, and a Crimson Gourd to drink from to heal.
Again, this might make Ashen sound like a shameless copy and paste of Dark Souls, only with different names for things, but it does carve out its own identity through art style and world design. Sure, there are dark, foreboding dungeons to dive into, but also bright and wide-open vistas that give you a nice reprieve. That’s not to say you won’t be in constant danger, of course. This is a fairly quick adventure, but a perfect hit of that well-crafted Dark Souls experience.
If you combined the amazing pixel art style of a game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Dead Cells, which also has its fair share of Souls-like mechanics, combined them with the hand-crafted world design of a Dark Souls game, and cranked up the action, you might have an idea of what Death’s Gambit is. You play as a knight who is put into servitude of Death and must travel through the world of Siradon to hunt down the guardians and steal their souls.
The basics of combat are simple and familiar. You can attack, use Soul Energy to use unique weapon abilities, dodge, block, and parry. The setting sits somewhere in between Dark Souls and Bloodborne, with traditional Eastern trappings like knights and dragons, but also more gothic and monstrous creatures. The gameplay, as hinted at, also leans a little heavier toward Bloodborne. You’re quicker than in a normal Souls-like, as are enemies, so you’ll need to be more on your toes than you might expect. The twist on death here, where you don’t drop your currency but instead one of your healing charges, is particularly brutal since you lose one for each death until you either retrieve them or pay Shards (XP) at a checkpoint.
- Praise the dark lord, Metal: Hellsinger adds official mod support
- Best Xbox One deals and bundles for October 2022
- The best Xbox Series X and Series S deals for October 2022
- Best Xbox Live Gold deals for October 2022
- PlayStation VR2: release date, launch games, price, and more