Elden Ring is the most hotly anticipated game of 2022. It’s the next massive game from acclaimed developer FromSoftware, creators of the Soulslike genre, and the game already looks like it’s brutal fun. That said, its release is still over a week away. As such, some players might be getting a bit anxious and want to scratch that Soulslike itch prior to Elden Ring‘s launch.
Those who just can’t wait to play Elden Ring — or those who are just looking for similar games to enjoy alongside it — should check out these titles. They’ll all give players a tough, but enjoyable, time.
Released earlier this month, Sifu is an intense action game with a unique hook. Every time the player dies in Sifu, they will age. Players become a little stronger with each death, but also have less health to work with until they die by aging over 80. Sifu rewards dedication and memorization as players are forced to learn the right combos and routes through levels if they want to beat each level’s boss before dying of old age. Fans of FromSoftware games will appreciate how Sifu encourages players to get better through harsh punishment for failure. This game can be quite frustrating at first, but once players learn the right strategies it becomes immensely rewarding.
Digital Trends loved Sifu, giving it four and a half stars. “Sifu‘s punishing loop and intense combat are nothing short of brilliant,” Otto Kratky’s review asserts. “It’s one of those rare titles that doesn’t just want players to do their best; it demands it instead. Falling short of that requirement means the entire experience is going to be that much harder until you start doing better. For a majority of people, that’s not going to translate to a fun gameplay experience, but it perfectly serves the game’s themes.”
Sifu will definitely give Elden Ring a run for its money as the toughest game of February 2022. It’s available now on the Epic Games Store, PS4, and PS5.
For those that don’t want to replay FromSoftware’s originals but want something that hits all of the same notes nearly as well, I recommend Mortal Shell. It’s a shameless Dark Souls clone, but it makes up for it by introducing some surprisingly solid twists on the Soulslike formula. Players possess the “mortal shells” of dead warriors the gain access to the weapons and abilities Dark Souls players normally associate with certain classes. Players can also harden themselves at any time, even mid-attack.
These small tweaks to the formula add a ton of depth, as players can find and upgrade the shells that work best for them in any situation. The hardening mechanic also means Mortal Shell feels a little more aggressive to play than traditional Dark Souls as players will constantly assess when they should harden or tank and attack for maximum effect. The game is available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. It’s currently included with Xbox Game Pass.
Skul: The Hero Slayer is more of a roguelike — a genre where one must replay the adventure from the start when they die — rather than a Soulslike. Still, those who like games that reward a player’s mastery of mechanics will like the punishing roguelike gameplay loop of Skul: The Hero Slayer. It also flips the script of most fantasy adventures as players control a character who’d typically be considered the bad guy. The Hero of Caerleon and Imperial Army unexpectedly attack the Demon King and his forces after a truce, so players take control of a skeleton that can equip different skulls to gain different abilities.
Playing as the villains is a fun change of pace, and the constant skull-switching is reminiscent of class-building in Soulslikes or shell-switching in Mortal Shell. Skul: The Hero Slayer is a tough game where the smallest enemies can give the player just as tough of a time as gigantic bosses if the player isn’t attacking or dodging at the right time. Fans of Soulslikes, roguelikes, and pixel art should still get a kick out of this game on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. It’s currently included on Xbox Game Pass.
The newly released Infernax is a 2D game that draws inspiration from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and the Castlevania series. Players control a knight on a quest to free his homeland from a curse. It’s a bloody retro action game full of skeletons, dungeons, and lots of pixelated blood.
While it may not look like a Soulslike, it has a few surprising similarities. For one, players gain experience points that can be spent on stat upgrades by killing monsters. However, they lose all that experience if they don’t bank it at a save point, similar to how bonfires work in games like Dark Souls. It’s also full of creepy, gothic monsters that fans of the Souls series will love. Since it can be knocked out in a handful of hours, it’s the perfect indie for fans who want to prepare for Elden Ring‘s general vibe in a game with some similar (but more low stakes) risk-reward. Infernax is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It’s available as part of Xbox Game Pass as well. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
It’s not as tough as any of the other games on this list, but Death’s Door is still one of the best indie games of 2021. It follows a crow who collects the souls of giant bosses in order to unlock the titular gateway. Despite the involvement of Souls, Death’s Doors is structured like a Metroidvania and plays more like Hades or The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. Still, its world captures the eerie vibe that makes many of FromSoftware’s games so enthralling and is much more accessible than the other games on this list because of its lower difficulty.
Digital Trends really enjoyed the game, awarding it four and a half stars. “Death’s Door presents players with an endlessly interlocking fantastical world filled with secrets, exhilarating boss fights, and a grim tale that managed to get more than a few laughs out of me,” Otto Kratky writes. “In between all of this is a simple yet thrilling combat system that once again proves that the right developer can do a lot with some simple tools.” Death’s Door is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch. It is included in Xbox Game Pass.
Players who picked a PS5 up for Elden Ring should check out this FromSoftware classic if they haven’t already. Bluepoint Studios, which is now owned by Sony, remade the first Souls game from the ground up exclusively for the PS5. Alongside Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Horizon Forbidden West, Demon’s Souls is one of the best showcases of what the PS5 can do. Its dour, medieval world is realized in gruesome detail, with impressive lighting and visuals adding even more to the atmosphere that FromSoftware is so good at crafting.
For the most part, the gameplay of Demon’s Souls remains relatively untouched, so the experience should play out exactly as you remember it. It will remind players of why they love this kind of game before they experience what may very well be FromSoftware’s magnum opus. Really, players can’t go wrong by replaying another of FromSoftware’s games ahead of Elden Ring, but PS5 owners will get the most out of trying Demon’s Souls as a primer.
Elden Ring launches on February 25 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
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