Dark Souls, released in 2011 by FromSoftware, was such a hit it even spawned the term "Soulslike" for games that could deliver the same challenge, combat, and sense of exploration. This list of games like Dark Souls celebrates those tough but tested titles, just in case you've worked your way through Dark Souls and its sequels, and are looking for something new.
Available On: PC, Xbox One
Annapurna and A44’s Ashen is arthouse Dark Souls, an inspired spin on the style with eclectic art direction. It’s passive, Journey-esque co-op systems and evocative combat make for a delightfully difficult game that still feels like a breather from the oppression of what we know as Souls. Sure, it’s a little too derivative at times, but if it was going to imitate any game closely, you can’t really go wrong with Dark Souls baked-to-perfection systems. This choice is for player’s who are looking for something as close to the original as possible or those who perhaps want to experience a hard-fought hero’s journey over the course of around 15 to 20 hours, not 40 or 50. Enemy combat A.I is consistently clever, as are the character designs and biodiversity of the ominous open world. The expanding settlement is also a clever spin on the firelink formula that should keep you coming back for more.
Available On: PC, PS4
Before Shinobi Souls was made cool by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, we had Nioh, it’s punishing precursor. This is another souls-like that adapts a lot of lessons from Miyazaki’s work but puts enough meaningful spin on them to keep you interested. Developed by Koei Tecmo, the game is set in the Warring States period where you play as an Irish samurai known as William who rocks up in Japan ready to take down some phantoms. The variety of authentic Japanese weapons is delightful, as well as its nods to historical events if you’re Sengoku savvy. It also has a cool system with Ki Pulse where you can replenish your stamina mid-battle. It feels about as good as performing an active reload in Gears of War, which is saying something.
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One
What if we put Dark Souls in space? That must have been one of the roundtable questions when Deck13 was coming up with The Surge. Following on from its middling success with Lords of the Fallen, The Surge provided what was missing: an inspired setting and a suite of mechanics that fit the environment. You play as Warren, a wheelchair-bound man who takes part in a botched experiment with an exoskeleton and is let loose in a decrepit dystopian facility full of evil robots and drones. There’s even a sequel on the way if you fall in love with the dazzling environment. Whilst it wasn’t universally loved when it first came out and does feel a bit more clunky than the other, more tightly-controlled games in this list, there is still really nothing like it if you really want a change of scene: its oppressive world is a great success.
Available On: PS3 / PS5
The game that started it all has had a jaw-dropping PS5 makeover, which will make it a treat for first-timers and veterans alike. Set in the kingdom of Boletaria, the main difference between this first Souls games and its successors is the Nexus, which acts as the game's central hub.
Its ideas were refreshing and revolutionary at the time, and it's so cool to see From playing around with what would become such an iconic genre. It’s a worthwhile history lesson if you consider yourself a Souls fan. Just watch out for Old King Allant’s grab, ok?
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
A surprise smash hit that dropped in late 2018, Motion Twin’s Dead Cells is a mix of Roguelike and Metroidvania that opts to graft some of the Souls ethos to colour its world. Expect to die a whole lot in this game and be punished for it, and spend the rest of your time learning enemy move sets. If you’d like to see how the combat of Souls works in a different dimension with some genius iterations, Dead Cells could be the refreshing change you need. You play as a parasite who inhabits a cadaver, exploring a labyrinth full of dangerous foes and cheeky secrets. The combat is lightning fast and brutally punishing, but gorgeous to look at with its fluid and vibrant animations. Whilst the story is a bit lacklustre, it’s not the main focus and the exploration does make up for it. Well worth a punt if you’re burnt out on the 3D perspective of Dark Souls.
Available on: PC, PS4, PS Vita,
A deeply inventive game that wears its influence on its sleeve, Titan Souls is a delightful little indie Souls-like from Manchester developers Acid Nerve. Constantly inventive, Titan Souls focuses on the beauty of souls-like boss battles - it’s one epic boss rush game that keeps the adrenaline pumping with each new challenge. Its simple combat system offers up a sole arrow for use in battle, which really doubles down on the tension as you’re dashing and weaving from each titan’s attacks. This tricky top-down title is worth a look-in if you want your reflexes tested, but also your grey matter. Figuring out the trick behind each boss battle often relies on your brain as well as your coordination, which results in some powerful eureka moment that will fill you full of endorphins.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Put down your axe and pick up a samurai sword to take on From Software’s latest, a wildly different take on the Souls formula. Dark Souls fans can leave their muscle memory at the door as the game introduces the controversial but deeply satisfying Posture System, which threatens to turn any veteran series fan into mulch. It follows the same hard but fair rules as it’s predecessors, offering up some of the most rewarding gameplay in all of the Souls series, if you can hack it, that is. Despite being quite a marmite game, it’s still absolutely worth pushing through the pain to experience a powerful narrative and some of the best boss fights of all time. Sekiro makes you pick on someone your own size, resulting in death-defying bouts that ensure you’ll be hearing your heartbeat when you triumph or falter.
Salt and Sanctuary
Available on:: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita
Salt and Sanctuary was one of the first games to take on the Souls formula in a different setting and really succeed, and the game has become a cult indie hit because of it. Developed by Ska Studios, the team behind the excellent Xbox Live Arcade series The Dishwasher, the game is hand-drawn Dark Souls mixed with a good dose of Castlevania, finished off with asynchronous multiplayer features and tight combat. With wonderful cartoon art direction and a morbid, brooding world full of all kinds of evil creatures, this is an inspired homage that is brimming with passion and challenge for veterans and series newcomers alike. It’s a bit too derivative in places, but like with Ashen, they couldn’t have picked a better target to iterate on.
Available on:: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
A game that practically received a dual launch after it first dropped on PC in 2017 and then home consoles a year later, Hollow Knight was a strong contender for game of the year on both occasions, which speaks for itself. Lending from Dark Souls in its boss battles, soul reclamation and hard but fair combat, Hollow Knight innovates everywhere else to provide a sense of discovery unmatched by its peers. Hollow Knight nails the breadcrumb storytelling that made Dark Souls such an atmospheric homerun and is set in Hallownest, a kingdom full of malicious creatures inspired by insects. It’s a vast, ruthless world that is a delight to get lost in… that is until you fall prey to it's rogue’s gallery of inspired creepy crawlies. Come for the rewarding combat and upgrades but stay for the underdog story which has captured the imagination of fans worldwide. Beat it and you can look out for the hotly anticipated sequel, Silksong, which is well on the way.
Available On: PS4
Dark Souls defined the rules of an entire genre until Bloodborne came along and broke the rickety wheel. Doing away with shields and the muddy pace of some battles, From Software’s Lovecraftian epic injected the secret Souls formula with pace, forcing players into high-intensity engagements amid a gothic world, Miyazaki’s most grim offering yet. Despite the incredible switch in combat, perhaps Bloodborne is most recommended for Dark Souls fans due to its return to form in level design following the original game’s sequels. And of course, we must mention it’s narrative, which offers up plenty of memorable twists and turns and unbelievable locations to explore, the likes of which you would never expect when you first set foot in Yharnam. An unforgettable adventure that should be on any Dark Souls fans bucket list, Bloodborne will frustrate and delight those who can bare its madness in equal measure.