The term “Soulslike” became its own sub-genre following the release of From Software’s legendary action RPG, Dark Souls. Soulslike games tend to encompass some or several mechanics seen in Dark Souls, often with unique spins on them. These ten represent some of the finest you’ll find in the admittedly small sub-genre, but they’re well worth playing after you’re done with Elden Ring.
We will refrain from mentioning any game directly from From Software’s Souls games, which includes Demon’s Souls and the Dark Souls trilogy. However, the games that have largely been inspired by the Souls games will be mentioned below. They’re not in any particular order either.
Hollow Knight has always been heatedly debated about whether or not it leans more towards a Metroidvania (which the Soulslike sub-genre is influenced by) or a Soulslike. However, there’s no denying that it lifts some inspiration from Dark Souls not only in its brutal difficulty at times, but mechanically too. If you die, you lose all your currency until you can pick it up again at the place you died. Couple that with the emphasis on piecing together fractured lore and exciting boss battles, and you’ve got yourself easily one of the finest games of the Soulslike sub-genre.
While its sequel arguably did a few things better, the original transported players out of a medieval fantasy realm and into the future with exoskeletons, machines, and over-reliance on technology and robots. The Surge separates itself from the Souls games by allowing players to target specific body parts on enemies for attacks. The stamina-based combat also leans heavily into Soulslike territory. It’s a little flashier and more concerned with stylish bullet-time executions over any real substance, but The Surge is still worth playing if you’re itching for machines to go with your challenge.
Remnant: From the Ashes
Speaking of transporting players away from the medieval fantasy setting, Remnant: From the Ashes from Gunfire Games pits players against an interdimensional threat called the Root. Survivors left on Earth’s post-apocalyptic wasteland must fend for themselves. Rather than simply having melee combat, Remnant delivers third-person shooting to separate it from the pack. You can upgrade your weapons as you find materials throughout the world, incentivizing you to explore. At its core, it’s certainly a Soulslike experience, but Remnant does just enough to keep things familiar yet fresh all at once.
Blasphemous can be described in one very simple way: 2D Souls. The Kickstarter success story went on to become one of 2019’s most unforgiving indie games, but not without gaining some fame (or infamy) along the way. The game’s old-school side-scrolling gameplay is accentuated by increasingly difficult challenges and a focus on studying enemies closely in order to look for openings to deal damage. It’s a back-and-forth game of chicken most of the time, but Blasphemous works thanks to its outstanding visual style, boss battles and interconnected levels. It’s not an expensive pick-up either, so treat yourself.
Salt and Sanctuary
Speaking of 2D Souls games, we’ve finally come to Salt and Sanctuary. Ska Studios’ unsuspecting 2016 side-scroller managed to turn a lot of heads thanks to its horror-fueled visuals, intricately designed and connected dungeons, and homage to its clear influences. However, it’s also a bit of a Frankenstein monster, fusing several styles into one original package that can’t simply be labelled as a Dark Souls or Castlevania clone. There’s a lot to love and a lot to loathe about Salt and Sanctuary, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the best Soulslike indie games on the market. We can’t wait for its sequel, Salt and Sacrifice.
Mortal Shell is such a Soulslike at heart, that it might as well be a spiritual successor to Dark Souls. The grim, dark fantasy visuals are quite reminiscent of From Software’s Souls games, and the gameplay loop makes the touch-and-go flow of combat feel oddly familiar. Yet, it still manages to carve its own identity thanks to some key differentiations. Players are husks who possess the titular shells that grant them specific abilities, gear and playstyles. Battling bosses straight off of heavy metal album covers is just another part of Mortal Shell‘s brilliance. If you’re a fan of the Souls games and Elden Ring, this should be high up on your playlist.
We’re finally talking about Anime Souls, Bandai Namco’s Code Vein. Unlike Mortal Shell which wears its inspiration on its sleeve, Code Vein seems almost shameless in what its “influences” are and what it rips from (hello, Anor Londo?). Nonetheless, Code Vein is still a remarkably entertaining Soulslike through and through, complete with the same brutally challenging boss battles and encounters. The game doesn’t have the same intricate level design of the Souls games, but it one-ups the combat by making it far more stylish in the way only an anime game can. Code Vein won’t blow you away, but it will easily scratch that Souls itch.
Team Ninja’s Nioh series is easily some of the best Soulslike games in the entire sub-genre, and perhaps of all action RPGs. While the first game was essential in establishing the series as a serious contender to Dark Souls, its sequel elevates the RPG elements and build varieties to new highs. The result is one of the most complex RPGs I’ve ever played in terms of build possibilities for your character, as well as marvellously creative boss fights. Nioh 2 is a true sequel in every sense of the word, building upon the first while cleaning up its shortcomings. Best of all, you don’t really need to play the first Nioh to get adjusted to its sequel, but anywhere you start is good as long as you give Nioh a shot.
In terms of striking visuals, Ashen holds a very special place on this list. Its core gameplay loop is familiar if you’ve played literally any kind of Souls game: stamina management in combat, collecting precious items, and lore delivered vaguely through in-game text and dialogue. It’s all pretty standard – until it clicks. Ashen isn’t necessarily trying to be something wholly unique, but rather something that feels familiar yet a lot more simplistic. It’s true that Ashen isn’t nearly as notoriously challenging as other entries on this list, but that’s what makes it such a fantastic Soulslike to try out. There are some truly formidable or tedious sections (Seat of the Matriach… oh dear), but it never beats you into submission. Ashen draws your curiosity with its premise but locks your attention on its beautiful story.
How could we not include Bloodborne on this list? Yes, it’s technically a From Software-developed game but a Soulslike, it absolutely is. The gothic Victorian action-RPG really needs no explanation at this point. Fans still regard it as From Software’s best game (though that might change after Elden Ring), while it’s often heralded as a must-play PS4 exclusive. Bloodborne took the blueprints of Dark Souls and kept the essentials while rewriting the book on everything else. The gameplay is faster and more aggressive, enemies are more aggressive, and the oppressive atmosphere is more aggressive. You get it, the game is out for your blood – quite literally, in fact.
Elden Ring is now available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.