10 Best Soulslike Games From Software

10 Best Soulslike Games That Aren’t From Software

To say that From Software has been an inspirational institution would be a gross understatement. Not only have they developed one of the most recognisable gaming franchises of all time but they have also given rise to an entirely new sub-genre of games – Soulslikes. While From Software has produced an impressive lineup of incredible games, there are other developers who are also producing excellent Soulslike titles that you should consider. Here are the 10 best Soulslike games not made by From Software.

For those unfamiliar, a “Soulslike game” is one that takes core ideas from titles such as Dark Souls and uses that as the foundation for its gameplay. Typically, these elements include the trademark “difficulty” of Souls games and environmental storytelling, often showcased in a dark fantasy setting (although not always). New developers have been adding their unique spins to the From Software formula, and while not every developer quite hits the mark, there are some out there who have done a phenomenal job.

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Note: these are not ranked in any particular order – please leave your pitchforks and torches at the door.

10 Best Soulslike Games That Aren’t From Software

Lies of P

Kicking this list off with a bang is the recently released Lies of P, which has affectionately become known as Pinnochio Bloodborne – and for good reason. Set in a dark, twisted fantasy world based on Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinnochio, you play as the titular marionette, fighting through a broken city in the Belle Epoque.

Its comparison to the widely beloved Bloodborne is much deserved because Lies of P includes much of the same environmental layout as Bloodborne (without the grotesque primordial flesh monsters strewn about the place). Not only are the streets narrow and confined in the way an industrialist-era city would be but there is a wide range of branching paths for you to go off and explore. These paths almost always converge back to the main area, looping back on themselves, while still feeling natural to the world of Lies of P

Developer Neowiz and Round8 Studio also expanded their world vertically, placing as much emphasis on the rooftops as on the ground. Pathways, combat and so many ladders are scattered about, making the world feel bigger while still capturing the condensed feeling of a 19th-century European city. 

One unique feature of Lies of P that has been really enjoyable to experiment with is the weapons dis/assembly mechanism, whereby each weapon in the game comprises a handle and a blade. Each of these has its own unique traits and you can customise your weapons to suit your particular play style. For example, you could add a greatsword blade to a blunt handle, shifting how you handle the weapon and how it scales according to your traits. 

There are so many distinctive, yet familiar, aspects of this game that make it one of the best Soulslikes that we have seen (in my opinion, at least). The world is beautiful, the story is dark and edgy, almost depressing (in a good way), and the mechanics of the entire game make it hard to put the controller down. It helps that it fills the Bloodborne sequel void as well. 

Star Wars Jedi

Respawn Entertainment, the developers behind the beloved Titanfall games, stunned the world when they released Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in 2019. The studio had been primarily focused on FPS titles, with founders Jason West and Vince Zampella even creating the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise as Infinity Ward beforehand, so the leap to a third-person action-adventure title was concerning.

While not technically classified as Soulslike, Respawn were never bashful about taking inspiration from the Elden Ring developer. The combination of challenging gameplay, exploration and mechanically varying bosses and mini-bosses gave Fallen Order the moniker of “Star Wars Dark Souls”

Of course, there were other signature features, such as intricate levels that looped back on each other with a host of shortcuts, and meditation spots that served as the game’s version of “bonfires”, where you (and enemies) would respawn. Progression and the storytelling were a little more linear than other Soulslikes but that doesn’t take away from its impressive gameplay and Souls-borne fun.

Mortal Shell

Mortal Shell was developed by Cold Symmetry and published by Playstack in 2020 and offers a Soulslike experience that I like to think is what Dark Souls could have been in an alternate universe. This deep action RPG featured a fantastic story element that doubled as a gameplay mechanic in that you were a humanoid being that could inhabit “shells” of other warriors. 

This mechanic replaced the traditional equipment system that would typically determine your build in a Soulslike; some shells were tanky while others were agile, and there are those in-between. It was up to you, though, to discover these shells in order to use them, just as you would find gear in other titles. Moreso, this also acted as a sort of “last life” perk, where if you would lose all your HP in a battle, you were knocked out of that shell. 

If you managed to return to the shell before you were hit again, your health was replenished and you could live to fight on. However, if you were hit outside of your shell, you died. Other signature mechanics were all present but the “shell mechanic” made this an unforgettable Soulslike experience that I really want to see more of. 

The storytelling was much more traditional Soulslike, letting the environment tell you its tale, and the worlds were mixed between green, foggy swamps to large onyx Gothic cathedrals that seemed almost futuristic. Almost straight out of a Souls game were the bosses, mainly in that most of them left you thinking “wtf was that!?”. It is sad that Mortal Shell has kind of faded into the annals of history because it really is a fantastic game.

Thymesia

Thymesia is a more recent Soulslike game, developed by OverBorder Studio, and published by Team17 in August 2022. Set in a plague-ridden world with a unique “plague weapon mechanic”, you play as a mysterious character dressed as a plague doctor. It features a pretty cryptic storyline, told primarily through lore scattered throughout the world.

The combat system felt quite unique and required you to think on the fly, making for some pretty interesting combat encounters where you had to be adaptable on the spot, in order to efficiently dispatch enemies. The plague weapon system allowed you to use enemies’ weapons against them which not only meant that combat was engaging but there were some cases where it was necessary. 

There is an emphasis on exploration and the world is delightful in a morbid and dark way. Venturing into little nooks and crannies could bring you face-to-face with nameless drones or a brutal mini-boss that you were not expecting which made exploration thrilling and unpredictable. Unfortunately, much like Mortal Shell, Thymesia was another game that was too easily forgotten, perhaps due to the sudden surge of Soulslike titles pouring out, or because of its incredibly short playtime. If you get a chance to check this out (it is available as part of PS Plus for you PlayStation fans out there), it is worth sinking the 6 or so hours into.

Steelrising

Another title that seemingly came and went, Steelrising was developed by Spiders (Greedfall), and published by Nacon (yes, the hardware manufacturer), in September 2022. Similar to Lies of P, you play as an independent marionette fighting against the automaton army of King Louis XVI, who is terrorising the city of Paris. 

A surprising departure from Spiders’ usual game, Steelrising offers a fresh storyline, incredible visuals and a vibrant world. The setting of 18th-century Paris, art style and lore clues are all amazing, which is a strong suit of any Spiders video game. The historical fantasy setting of France was pretty fun to explore and run through, so those with an adventurous heart should definitely consider jumping in.

Unfortunately, as with Spiders’ games, the combat does take some getting used to. Off the bat, Steelrising is not as challenging as a Souls-borne title, and there is an “assist” mode that you can toggle to remove most of the challenge if you are just interested in the story. Personally, I thought that this was a great accessibility feature that was certainly not required or pushed in my face, but it is a fantastic way for those looking to slowly dip their toes into the waters of Soulslike games. 

The Surge

Fans of The Technomancer will enjoy this futuristic Soulslike developed by Deck13 and published by Focus Home Interactive in 2017. The first title stumbled a little, with some interesting concepts but it was the sequel The Surge 2 that really showcased Deck13’s potential. Based in a sci-fi world, your priority is to explore and survive the fictional city of Jericho.

The Surge certainly focuses more on its combat and gameplay than its story. This is not to say that its story is forgettable but it might feel somewhat lacklustre for those who prioritise story over everything else. It also focuses on a loot-based reward system, where you need to break off certain parts of enemies in order to find or craft upgrades for your own character. 

While not a direct association, From Software’s recent title Armoured Core VI: Fires of Rubicon has a similar upgrade system where you can swap out various parts of your mech to make it stronger (although, you didn’t need to focus on breaking the corresponding part on enemies). This upgrade mechanic gave combat a different edge and made for some interesting weapon combinations, allowing for a pretty personalised playthrough.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty was developed by Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo earlier this year. It is set in a fantasy version of historical China, particularly in the Later Han Dynasty of the Three Kingdoms, where you play as a nameless militia soldier fighting for survival. As with other Team Ninja titles, the world is absolutely beautiful and diverse, which makes exploration an absolute blast. 

Along the way, you get to face off against historical figures from the same period such as Zhao Yun, Lu Bu, Zhang Liang, and Liu Bei, all with their own fantasy twists. The strength of Team Ninja shows in the various stages that the game takes place in, all of them real-world locations that were significant during the Later Han Dynasty, steeped in the mysteries of the game’s setting. 

The combat is incredibly satisfying, especially if you can perfect your parry timing, offering an intensely fast-paced combat system. Combat is made all the more engaging thanks to the different forms or stances you can use to defeat enemies, with some enemies only being susceptible to one specific form. 

Not only do you need to think on your feet and react to your enemy’s movements, but you also have to adapt your fighting style to various encounters. At first, it can be challenging, especially if you are used to playing Soulslikes with a specific type of character build but it is incredibly satisfying to defeat an enemy using a style that you are not a master in. A great world, dramatic storytelling and characters, and satisfying gameplay; Wo Long should definitely be on your playlist.

The Nioh Collection

Sticking with Team Ninja, The Nioh Collection comprises both Nioh and Nioh 2 and while you don’t have to play both, there is no reason why you shouldn’t. In the first, you play as an Irish samurai named William in 17th-century Japan – a spin on the tale of William Adams, a sailor who arrived in Japan in the 1600s, gaining favour with the Tokugawa Shogunate. 

The second title sees you create your own character and features a much more action-packed storyline, with a heavier focus on the mysticism of the yokai featured in the first game. Nioh 2 acts as both a sequel and a prequel to the original instalment, and both feature Team Ninja’s trademark stance-switching for its combat.

Now, it must also be said that Nioh is considered one of the most gruelling Soulslikes out there, even trumping From Software titles in terms of difficulty. While that will defer from person to person, one reason could be that Nioh focuses more on using various fighting stances for its combat, whereas Souls-bornes allow players some flexibility in their overall build. 

However, there is no denying that the world of 17th-century Japan that is featured in Team Ninja’s epic is absolutely stunning, exploration is rewarding, and combat – while brutally challenging – is equally as satisfying when you get it right. Enemy designs are also incredible and hauntingly beautiful in some cases, to the point where I embraced and celebrated death.

Code Vein

Known by some as “anime Dark Souls”, Code Vein was developed and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment in 2019. Your custom character wakes up in an apocalyptic world, as an undead “revenant”, teaming up with an AI partner – or multiplayer co-op – in a “story-driven connected dungeon experience”. 

Code Vein’s unique weapon and combat abilities system all stem around what are known as Blood Codes – essentially these are skill sets that are meant to complement whichever build type you typically enjoy playing in Soulslike games. There are numerous Blood Codes, all with their own unique pros and cons but this innovative class system makes Code Vein stand out amongst other titles. 

The environments also encourage exploration, unravelling a world filled with characters who are besotted over blood. What was quite interesting was because of the anime art style, I would often make the mistake of diminishing the looming threat around most corners – much to my surprise when I would be attacked and subsequently humbled, by the most basic of enemies. 

Code Vein is definitely one of the more unique Soulslikes that you can play, with its beautiful art style, anime setting, intense combat, and rather emotional story.

Remnant: From the Ashes

Jokingly classified as “Dark Souls with guns”, Remnant: From the Ashes was developed by Gunfire Games (the same developer behind the Darksiders series) and published by Perfect World Entertainment in 2019. Remnant manages to accomplish what others have failed to do, combining shooting with Soulslike mechanics. 

The result is a third-person shooter that offers challenging combat, gritty exploration, and a dark fantasy world with tonnes of mystery for you to uncover. Remnant also encourages you to create your unique builds as you advance and amplify your weapons to face tougher enemies and bosses.

Gunfire Games succeeds in keeping the combat engaging and tough while preventing enemies from feeling like bullet sponges – a fine line that is so easily stepped over. Remnant always manages to feel like a mechanically diverse experience, forcing you to learn, adapt, and calculate each encounter. 

Bonus: Lords of the Fallen

Lords of the Fallen is technically still due to release at the time of writing but is being developed by HexWorks and published by CI Games, releasing in October 2023. A successor to the 2014 video game of the same name, it promises an intense action-adventure title set in a Nordic-inspired dark fantasy world. 

If the first iteration is anything to go by, this sequel promises an even grander adventure through a vast, interconnected, gritty world filled with gothic influences from characters to the environments. You play as a fabled Dark Crusader tasked with conquering the Demon God, Adyr – a cruel, tyrannical ruler who has been defeated once before, and whose resurrection draws near.

There are two separate worlds featured in Lords of the Fallen, namely Umbral and Axiom; a land of the dead and a land of the living, that you must adventure through to achieve your goal. Hexworks upcoming title will feature “colossal boss battles, fast challenging combat, thrilling character encounters, and deep, immersive storytelling.”

Make sure you also check out our list of all From Software Soulslike games ranked from worst to best.

editor
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