Dark Souls is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time, with aspects from From Software’s 2011 masterpiece appearing in a wide range of action and role-playing titles.
A game that contains these qualities, or the majority of them, is referred to as a Souls-like, and we’ve compiled a list of eight of the best Souls-like games if you’re looking for some punishment. We’ve omitted From Software’s games from consideration due to the word “like” in the name, including all Souls titles, Bloodborne, Sekiro, and Elden Ring.
The Surge 2
The Surge 2, Deck13’s third Souls-like game, finally saw the studio hit its stride. The Surge 2 nails the feeling of discovery that From Software is known for, and it makes sensible improvements to the gear system by eliminating the requirement to become “proficient” to boost different weapon kinds’ damage.
It also keeps the fantastic targeted-dismemberment system from the first game, allowing you to concentrate on doing more damage to an enemy or removing a crucial armour component to increase your loadout.
Code Vein is an anime-inspired Souls-like with a lot of combat versatility. It’s ideal for fans of Dark Souls who want to forsake the dark fantasy for full-on gothic vampire nonsense. There’s a ridiculously large array of weapons to choose from, just like in the Souls series, and you’ll be swinging them while also depending on vampiric powers to take out the game’s most difficult adversaries.
For the most part, the difficulty isn’t quite as extreme as in the Souls series, but there are a few important times where you’ll have to grit your teeth, memorize a boss’s every strike, and demonstrate genuine vampiric might.
The burst counter was a key addition to Team Ninja’s second stab (and slash) at the Souls system, which didn’t make any major alterations from the original game. Using this ability during boss battles allows you to stay on the offensive all the time, dealing crushing strikes and slicing through defences like butter.
Enemies, however, are exceedingly powerful, including some of the toughest bosses in any Souls-like, and there are a plethora of weapons to try out, just as there were in the first Nioh. From dual-wielded katanas to massive great axes, there’s something for everyone, and discovering your “new favorite” is a never-ending process.
Ashen is an interesting Souls-like in that it’s just as inspired by From Software’s worldbuilding as it is by its structure. It’s an understated and evocative Souls-like that won’t take you 100 hours to complete. The bleak, chilly terrain seems to want you to leave, and your foes are more than prepared to help you do so. Despite a few insane difficulty spikes and an absence of some of the classic locations of a Souls game, Ashen is well worth playing. It’s also accessible on almost every platform, including Nintendo Switch, so you can have your butt kicked on the toilet before getting your butt kicked on the couch again.
Salt & Sanctuary, one of the first games to adapt the Dark Souls formula to 2D, captured the game’s inspiration’s dark, uninviting tone while using a vastly different art style. This isn’t just a pixel art version of Dark Souls; it’s a cartoony version that looks like it could have been a Flash cartoon from 2002–in a good way.
Salt and Sanctuary is one of the best Souls-likes ever developed, full of secrets and extremely challenging bosses, and despite some difficulty spikes even From Software would question, it’s one of the best Souls-likes ever made. That’s particularly astounding given that the majority of the game was built by just a few people.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a startling Souls-like game that defies the norms of the sub-genre more than some of the other games on this list. It demonstrates how adaptable both Star Wars and the Souls-like can be. The game, which takes place shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith, includes a gradual evolution of your force powers as you acquire new techniques and lightsaber configurations. Dodging, parrying, and counter-attacking are common in battles, and the game’s moderate difficulty compared to Dark Souls makes it a fantastic entry point.
After incorporating some Souls aspects into the underwhelming Darksiders 3, Gunfire Games went in the opposite direction with Remnant: From The Ashes. Remnant: From The Ashes is primarily a third-person shooter that incorporates randomly generated aspects and cooperative multiplayer, though it is also fully playable as a single-player game.
Nature-themed adversaries, many of whom cause massive damage, make it a difficult game to master, especially if you’re used to the “dodge, attack, dodge” formula of other Souls-likes. Even still, the structure will be quite recognizable to you, with many concealed nooks and corners that are frequently crowded with adversaries.
Blasphemous is a creepy 2D side-scrolling spin on the Souls-like that involves harsh opponents and even more terrible platforming sequences. One wrong move might cost you all of the resources you’ll need to level up, yet the combos you’ll master along the way will come in handy in some of the toughest situations.
There’s also a pick-and-choose upgrade system for increasing skills and stats via equipped items, allowing you to customize your character’s playstyle. It’s not quite the same level of freedom as Elden Ring or a game like Nioh 2, but it does make repeat plays incredibly appealing.