15 Best Souls-Likes You Should Play

Time to die, and then cry. Over and over again.

Sekiro
Sekiro

It takes an incredible game to jump-start an entire genre, and Dark Souls is just such a game. The spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls reignited gamers’ retro passions for a game that could totally kick their asses and keep them coming back for more.

So much so that the Souls-like genre was born, and hardcore gamers found even more ways to get their asses kicked. Yes, you will find few lists of games as punishing as this one, but if you didn’t come here to get punished then you’re reading the wrong article.

However, if you’re still here, and you’ve got the stones for challenges that go beyond the pale, read on for our list of the 15 best Souls-likes we’ve ever played.

 

15. Lords of the Fallen

Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the Fallen

Developer: CI Games/Deck 13
Publisher: CI Games

Maybe the first 3D Souls-like out of the gate (aside from the Souls games themselves, of course) Lords of the Fallen had the advantage of entering into a rather sparse subgenre upon its time of release.

Alas, this early worm philosophy is one of its only redeeming features. A middling game by almost all accounts, Lords of the Fallen isn’t exactly bad, just a bit too dull. While the lore heavy world and character customization options were bright spots, they weren’t bright enough to obscure the shadows of an otherwise spotty effort.

Deck13 would try again with The Surge a couple of years later, with much greater success, rendering Lords of the Fallen a mostly failed experiment at best.

 

14. Nioh

Nioh
Nioh

Developer: Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Koei Tecmo/SIE

One of the earlier proper 3D Souls-likes out of the gate was Nioh, an eastern tale of samurai and demons battling it out for control of Japan. Unfortunately, this one comes up a slice short of its inspiration.

While the general feel of combat was solid and the levels were often well-designed, the mission structure of the game made it feel much more sporadic than your average souls-like. Further, basic design flaws, like the inability to run up a sloped surface for example, made the game feel awkward on a rudimentary level.

Nioh might still be worth your while if you really dig this genre, but with the advent of the far superior Sekiro, there seems to be little reason to revisit this one.

 

13. Titan Souls

Titan Souls
Titan Souls

Developer: Acid Nerve
Publisher: Devolver Digital

Some of the best games begin with a very simple conceit and elaborate on themselves from there. Titan Souls is one such game.

Centered around the idea of a single shot bow and arrow as your only means of offense, Titan Souls sends you into a world of increasingly crushing difficulty, forcing you to adapt with only this menial means of achieving success.

While novel, the experience of playing Titan Souls can grow grating over the course of your journey, so only invest in this one if you’ve got an excess of patience.

 

12. Rain World

Rain World
Rain World

Developer: Videocult
Publisher: Adult Swim Games

Certainly one of the weirdest games to earn the distinction of Souls-like, Rain World is absolutely unlike anything you’ve ever played.

Casting you as a strange alien creature exploring a dilapidated and dangerous planet, Rain World is a game more about survival than triumph. Still, the general feel of the game and its intense, unforgiving difficulty just barely earns it the distinction of a souls-like.

An odd little gem, this one definitely isn’t for everyone. Those who happen to jive with its endearing flavor, however, will find a real one of a kind game here.

 

11. Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight

Developer: Team Cherry
Publisher: Team Cherry

I’m sure this placement is going to be a bit of a scandal, given that a lot of folks have called this the greatest metroidvania of all time. Alas not every game can connect with every critic, hence this placement.

Hollow Knight certainly isn’t a bad game though. Far from it, this game is a lot of fun and it has just enough of that brutal difficulty and dust-covered lore to eke its way into the realm of Souls-likes.

A game with a lot of depth hiding beneath its cartoonish veneer, Hollow Knight is a tough adventure that also happens to be oozing with charm and personality.

 

10. Blasphemous

Blasphemous
Blasphemous

Developer: The Game Kitchen
Publisher: Team17

Dark religious overtones have colored the lore of many a Souls-like, but there are none that are as horrifically dark as Blasphemous. Essentially a blood-drenched romp through the most macabre elements of Christianity and Catholicism, Blasphemous has enough endless suffering at its heart to make a knight of The Crusades blush.

Outside of the look and feel of the game, however, Blasphemous can actually be a lot of fun. The sharp, responsive controls and tons of unlockables give the game plenty of meat to chew your way through.

Expect to grind your teeth on some gristle along the way, though, as this one can kill you in a hurry. None of God’s mercy here, one false move and you are toast in Blasphemous.

 

9. The Surge

The Surge PS4 Review
The Surge

Developer: Deck13
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

When proposing or designing a Souls-like, the most obvious question a developer will be asked is what defines their game when compared to others in the genre. For The Surge, this defining element is its sci-fi setting.

Set in a near future where cybernetic upgrades allow humans to overcome any disability and even improve upon their bodies, The Surge sends you into a dangerous, desolate world where a virus is driving robots, androids and cyborgs mad.

With a bit of Dead Space influence to boot, this limb-chopping adventure is just the thing for folks who want something a little more divergent than your average Souls-like.

 

8. Dead Cells

Dead Cells
Dead Cells

Developer: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin

Crossing a Souls-like with a rogue-like may not be the most obvious route for a game in this genre, but Dead Cells makes a compelling case for the experiment with one of the best rogue-likes in years.

Like most rogue-likes, Dead Cells has a life-death-rebirth cycle at the center of its adventure, with the occasional permanent upgrade making life a smidge easier. Like most Souls-likes, it’s blisteringly hard and punishes your every mistake with brutal finality.

A truly difficult game to finish, Dead Cells is well worth the time to surmount for fans of the both genres. Just be sure and put the coffee on, this one’s going to take you a while.

 

7. Demon’s Souls

Demon's Souls
Demon’s Souls

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Bandai Namco

Again, this placement may be a bit divisive, but bear with me here. Yes, Demon’s Souls is the grandfather of a genre and the first Souls-like ever created but because of that it has some of the most glaring flaws in its gameplay as well.

While Dark Souls would offer estus flasks to replace the collectible healing plants, Demon’s Souls forces players to relentlessly grind for them. Further, the hub and level set up is not nearly as engaging as the unravelling, open exploration style of world design that would come into play after this entry.

Still, even with these small caveats, Demon’s Souls is worth going back to all of these years later, and a long rumored remake may even offer a tantalizing new possibility of introducing this cult classic to a whole new generation.

 

6. Dark Souls II

Dark Souls 2
Dark Souls 2

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Bandai Namco

The sequel to one of the best and most influential games of our time had a lot to live up to when it arrived. Unfortunately, Dark Souls II falls short of the pedigree of its forebear, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your while.

Developed by a FromSoftware B team while the A team was working on Bloodborne, Dark Souls II may be lacking a bit of that certain something, a Miyazaki flavor, if you will. However, if you give it the time investment it deserves, you’ll still find a rich and rewarding experience at the heart of this game.

With some cool lore, much of it seemingly drawn from a cut area in Demon’s Souls, and improvements like the torch system, Dark Souls II is a meaningful and engaging game, even if it is a step
down from other games in the series.

 

5. Salt and Sanctuary

Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary

Developer: Ska Studios
Publisher: Ska Studios

One of the first to the trough when it came to adapting the Dark Souls formula to another setting, Salt and Sanctuary made quite an impression when it rolled out in early 2016.

Like Dark Souls crossed with a 2D metroidvania, Salt and Sanctuary manages to offer the best of both worlds. It offers the same tight combat and perfect world-building for which its forebears are known while also unlocking new abilities throughout that change how you play and unlock new pathways.

Still the best 2D Souls-like for our money, Salt and Sanctuary was developed by a mere two people, which is no mean feat when you consider the depth and structure at play here.

 

4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro
Sekiro

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Activision

Nioh may have beaten FromSoftware to this particular setting for a souls-like, but I’ll be damned if From didn’t eat their lunch anyway.

The perfect meld of the samurai influence with From’s pedigree for precision combat, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice changed up the formula just enough to give it new life and keep things fresh and exciting.

The ability to use Wolf’s prosthesis to swing across cliffs or hide in trees gave the game a stealth element that no previous souls-like had provided, and the story at the core of the game is maybe the best FromSoftware has ever spun.

 

3. Dark Souls III

Dark souls 3
Dark souls 3

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Bandai Namco

The end of an era, Dark Souls III arrived a year after Bloodborne and carried with it a lot of expectation. After the sort of letdown that Dark Souls II provided, Dark Souls III had some slack to pick up, and with raves coming in from every direction for Bloodborne, the bar had never been set higher.

Fortunately, Dark Souls III manages to deliver on these great expectations. Offering a journey that crosses time space, melding and folding worlds together like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Dark Souls III is the ultimate love letter to this franchise and all the joy and pain it’s brought fans over the years.

With drips from Bloodborne’s horror influence spattered about and the tightest combat of any Souls game yet, Dark Souls III sent the series off in style, and for that we are eternally grateful.

 

2. Bloodborne

Bloodborne aggressive
Bloodborne

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: SIE

The first spin-off of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series saw a significant change of tone. While Dark Souls was always rather, well, dark, Bloodborne added a thick coat of blood and cosmic horror to that darkness.

Set in a time most akin to Victorian London and filled to the brim with Lovecraftian madness, Bloodborne is a hyper tense tour de force that sees players firing guns at attacking werewolves and slicing vampires to pieces with trick weapons.

It’s also one of the best games (many would argue the best) that FromSoftware has sent out to the masses over their long history. Alas, there’s only one game that can challenge it for that title.

 

1. Dark Souls

Dark Souls Remastered
Dark Souls

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Bandai Namco

It’s not every game that can jump start a genre overnight, and with that in mind, it should be no surprise to see Dark Souls at the top of this list. The ultimate Souls-like is naturally the game for which the genre was named.

An endlessly replayable game of triumph and tribulation, Dark Souls’ excellent world design filled with fiendish creatures and terrifying bosses is a masterclass in seamless precision. The way each area folds back in on itself, opening up secret pathways to other areas, old and new, means players are always in for a little surprise as they explore.

Furthermore, the dense lore of Dark Souls laid the groundwork for a feeling that would permeate not just this series, but the majority of Souls-likes. Truly an all time classic and one of the greatest games ever made, the care and quality at the heart of Dark Souls cannot be overstated.

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