Whether it wanted to or not, developer From Software started a gaming revolution. Many games hold player's hands through the entire adventure, but From completely rejects that design style. The Souls series reintroduces players to truly challenging worlds, forces them discover their games' intricacies with little to no help, and punishes carelessness swiftly and sharply. And we love every bit of it.
This new (but actually pretty old) design philosophy got plenty of other game developers to follow suit. Now we have a whole swath of games (already released and several more upcoming) that scratch the Dark Souls itch while providing different ways for us to get our gaming egos ground into a fine, feathery dust. If you're looking for a new spin on the Dark Souls formula, these 9 games are ready to dish out your daily serving of punishment.
It's the game that started it all, and yet, it technically isn't a Dark Souls game - which is why you see it on this list. Demon's Souls laid the groundwork for the entire Dark Souls series; everything from the unforgiving world design to the cryptic storytelling and initially bizarre online player interaction is there. You've got the medieval environments, armor, and weapons if you enjoy the fantasy setting. Plus, there are some fascinating characters to encounter (if you can find them), and best of all, you will finally get the many references to Demon's Souls From Software has dropped into the Dark Souls series. If you're looking for more Darks Souls, don't skip out on Demon's Souls.
If Bloodborne's cthulhu monsters and top hats deterred you from exploring its grim and fascinating world, you need to put all of those Dark Souls traditionalist feelings aside. From Software's move from the medieval fantasy setting of Dark Souls to Bloodborne's arguably cooler, more stylistic version of From's masochistic adventure is an excellent departure from the Souls gameplay style - while keeping everything feeling familiar. Instead of combating undead knights and dragons with swords, shields, and heavy armor, players take on lycan horrors and mutated beasts with transforming trick weapons while wearing tattered trench coats. Bloodborne favors faster combat and maneuverability over turtling behind metal shields, forcing some Dark Souls veterans to adopt new tactics. And if you're looking for a veiled story with mysterious side characters and a plot that makes little sense (unless you really dig for it), Bloodborne's got that, too.
Lords of the Fallen
It's immediately apparent that developer CI Games took the gameplay and world design of the Souls series and implanted them directly into their game the moment you step into Lords of the Fallen’s dark and gloomy castle corridors. You travel the interconnected world slowly and deliberately avoiding traps, studying enemy attack patterns, and collecting various, increasingly powerful weapons and items in order to stop a demonic army from destroying humanity. All of the Dark Souls tropes are there plus Lords of the Fallen arguably has a more impressive visual aesthetic flaunting heroes and enemies in massive suits of armor and wielding even larger weapons. But what makes Lords stand out is its more character-driven hero story, having you follow a single named character rather than creating a hero of your own.
Salt and Sanctuary
Ska Studios are eminent formalists. Its Xbox 360 games like The Dishwasher and Charlie Murder took the brawling, platforming and sidescrolling perspective of '80s/'90s classics and reimagined them through the lens of scratchy, gothy art. Salt & Sanctuary, its latest and first game for PlayStation 4, keeps the studio's signature art style while taking on a whole new type of game. Explicitly mimicking the structure and character building systems from Dark Souls, Salt & Sanctuary perfectly translates From Software's famously brutal series to a sidescroller. If you're the type of person that looks at Dark Souls or Bloodborne and thinks, "Boy, I'd like that a whole lot more if it played like Castlevania!" then Ska Studios has made your game.
Pull back Dark Souls' camera to an isometric perspective, give the game pixel graphics, and make the hero a Viking shieldmaiden and you get Eitr. The upcoming game makes every enemy encounter a tactical endeavor, drops story details in item descriptions, and has really, really difficult bosses to defeat. It's like Dark Souls, alright. Surviving Eitr's undead skeleton-infested world requires you to study your enemies and manage your combat abilities effectively - whether that means swapping your sword and shield for better damage-dealing dual axes or igniting your weapons in sizzling lightning bolts.
The upcoming indie game Necropolis is unmistakably a Dark Souls clone, but it doesn't quite take itself as seriously. For one thing, the artstyle creates a world that is more abstract and colorful and even has you facing off against giant shark-like monsters, but there's also some tongue in cheek humor in there, too. You might pick up a scroll called "That Sure is a Magic Scroll" which your character is unable to read because magic words are hard to read, apparently. Despite its goofiness, Necropolis will chew you up and spit you out if you don't navigate its world carefully, and it's a roguelike, so death is permanent. Yeah, prepare to cry.
Hyper Light Drifter
You'll never know what to expect when you enter Hyper Light Drifter's neon, cyberpunk, Mayan ruin-like environments. The entire world is a mix of natural and technological elements all highlighted with colorful, vibrant landscapes that contrast the somber musical tones and often gruesome visual themes. Hyper Light Drifter combines the gameplay of Dark Souls, Zelda, and Ninja Gaiden, bringing lightning-fast reactionary combat, puzzle-solving exploration, and hair-pulling difficulty all into one adventure. You can't go wrong with that.
Castle in the Darkness
If you grew up playing gruelingly tough NES games like Zelda 2, Castlevania, and Blaster Master, then you're at least somewhat ready for Castle in the Darkness. Beyond the demanding (but fair) difficulty, inventive boss designs, and endearing pixel art, this stellar indie also mimics the brilliant world design of Dark Souls. Each new region feels completely distinct from the last, jam-packed with secret item caches and convenient shortcuts to suss out, provided you're not actively slashing your sword against swarms of 8-bit enemies. The action and exploration are top-notch, but just like Dark Souls, you should prepare to die. A lot.
Originally announced in 2004 as a PlayStation 3 title, Nioh (formerly known as Oni and Ni-Oh) is based on a script from legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Don't recognize the name? His film Seven Samurai was remade in 1960 as a Western called The Magnificent Seven. Partly due to its ties with the film industry, Nioh is more story-oriented than the Dark Souls games, as it follows a blond-haired samurai named William through feudal-era Japan. The setting means fewer undead monstrosities and more bandits - with demons popping up only rarely - but it also means a more technical playstyle, where you have to carefully manage your Ki and weapon stance. It's also a bit more brutal than Dark Souls, as even low-level foes can cut you down in a single slice if you're not paying attention. If the Onimusha series and Dark Souls had a baby, it would be Nioh.