Dark Souls is one of the most influential video games of all time, with From Software’s 2011 masterpiece finding its elements used in a wide variety of other action and role-playing games. Those that use many of the same mechanics, listed below, are collectively known as Souls-likes:
- Unlockable checkpoints (bonfires)
- Currency (souls) dropped at death
- An interconnected world with locked doors and shortcuts
- Respawn enemies on death or rest
A game containing these elements, or the majority of them, shares enough in common with the Dark Souls series to be considered a Souls-like game, and we’ve rounded up eight of the best Souls-like games if you fancy ‘a punishment . Due to the “like” in the name, we have excluded From Software’s own games, including all Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro and Elden Ring games. Speaking of From Software’s latest masterpiece, be sure to check out our roundup of the best games like Elden Ring play after visiting the Lands Between.
Deck13’s third Souls-like game, The Surge 2 finally saw the developer take off. With a hugely creative world connected via freight elevators and other mechanical infrastructure, The Surge 2 absolutely nails that sense of discovery that From Software does so well, and it smartly improves the gear system by eliminating the need to be “competent” to improve the damage of different types of weapons. It also retains the excellent targeted dismemberment system from the first game, letting you focus on doing extra damage to an enemy or removing a key armor component so you can improve your own loadout.
An anime-inspired Souls with a ton of flexibility in its combat, Code Vein is perfect for anyone who loves Dark Souls but wants to ditch the dark fantasy for complete Gothic vampire nonsense. Like in the Souls series, there’s a ridiculously large selection of weapons to choose from, which you’ll use while relying on vampiric abilities to defeat the game’s toughest enemies. Souls series, for the most part, though there are a few key moments where you’ll have to cringe, memorize every boss attack, and show off some real vampiric power.
Team Ninja’s second hack (and slash) to the Souls formula didn’t make huge changes from the original game, but one addition was hugely important: the burst counter. By using this ability during boss fights, you are able to constantly stay on the offensive, deliver punishing blows, and cut through defenses like they’re butter. The enemies, meanwhile, are also extremely powerful, including some of the toughest bosses in all of Souls-like, and just like in the first Nioh, there are a ton of weapons to try out. Everything from dual-wielding katanas to massive big axes are available, and finding your “new favorite” is an almost constant process. You can grab Nioh 2 on PS4 or PS5 as part of The Nioh Collection, a compilation of both Nioh games with PS5 performance upgrades.
An understated, atmospheric Souls that won’t take you 100 hours to complete, Ashen is an interesting Souls in that it’s clearly as inspired by From Software’s world-building as it is its structure. The cold, desolate landscape feels like it wants you faded away, and enemies are more than willing to hasten your exit. Although it lacks some of the memorable locations of a Souls game and has some ridiculous difficulty spikes, Ashen is absolutely worth playing. It’s also available on virtually every platform, including the Nintendo Switch, so you can get your ass kicked on the toilet before you start getting your ass kicked on the couch again.
One of the first games to take the Dark Souls formula and bring it to 2D, Salt and Sanctuary nailed the dark, uninviting tone of its inspiration, but did so via a radically different art style. It’s not just a pixel art version of Dark Souls, but rather a cartoony version that looks like it could have been a Flash cartoon from 2002 – and we mean that in a good way. It’s full of extremely difficult secrets and bosses, and while it occasionally features difficulty spikes that even From Software would question, Salt and Sanctuary is one of the best Souls-likes ever made. This is especially impressive considering that the majority of the game was created by just a few people.
A somewhat surprising Souls-like game that plays with the rules of the subgenre a little less than some of the other games on this list, Star Was Jedi: Fallen Order proves just how versatile Star Wars and Souls-like can be. Set right after the events of Revenge of the Sith, the game features steady progression of your Force powers as you unlock new attacks and lightsaber configurations. Battles often consist of dodging, parrying and counter-attacking, and its relatively low difficulty compared to Dark Souls makes it a great entry point.
After injecting Souls elements into the undercooked Darksiders 3, Gunfire Games took a radically different approach with Remnant: From The Ashes. Focused primarily on third-person shooters, Remnant: From The Ashes uses procedurally generated elements and cooperative multiplayer, though it’s also fully playable as a single-player experience. Nature-themed enemies, many of which deal incredible damage, make this quite a challenge, especially if you’re used to the “dodge, attack, dodge” routine of other souls. Still, you’ll find the structure very familiar, with plenty of hidden nooks and crannies that are also often filled with enemies.
Blasphemous, a disturbing side-scrolling 2D take on the Souls style that features brutal enemies and even more brutal platforming sections, isn’t kidding. One wrong move and you might love all the resources you need to level up, though the combos you’ll learn along the way will help you through some of the tougher times. There’s also a choice leveling system to improve abilities and stats through equipped items, allowing you to create a character that determines how you play. It’s certainly not the same level of freedom you’d get in Elden Ring or a game like Nioh 2, but it does make repeat play very appealing.