15 Best Soulslike Games Ever

In certain respects, the modern era of gaming has been defined by the rise of the Soulslike genre. The Soulslike genre, like the FPS and Open-World genres before it, originated from the aspirations of its day and a protest against numerous industry conventions. Of course, some Soulslike games are just better than others, just like in other great gaming genres.

However, before we do it, let’s clarify what a Souslike game is. The precise definition of a Soulslike game is up for debate, however the majority of games in the genre have some combination of these design components:

– A focus on difficulty

A system of checkpoints where adversaries reappear

– Role-playing components that provide chances for character development

Encouraging player death to gain experience with the controls and environment

– Indirect details about gameplay mechanics and story aspects

– Combat methods that emphasise learning the movement and attack patterns of the opposition

Although not all of those components have to be present for a game to be included on this list, the games that are on it usually highlight three or more of those attributes. Though several also feature aspects of other genres (mostly Metroidvania and roguelike games), in the end, each game feels more like a Soulslike game than anything else. Naturally, Souslike games tend to have a vibe to them that you get when you play them rather than being something that is clear-cut and unequivocally defined.

Oh, and for this list, I’m using the guideline of “one entry per franchise.” Granted, that’s mainly to prevent one specific developer from controlling the genre they developed.

15. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Jedi: Fallen Order’s somewhat more personal, Metroidvania-like aspects are something I truly adore, but Survivor is deserving of praise for being one of those rare sequels that grows while keeping and enhancing the majority of the essential elements of the first game.

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Even with its bigger footprint and all the amenities that come with it, Survivor’s most Soulslike aspects are frequently its biggest assets. Although the usually meticulous Soulslike fighting system works perfectly for lightsaber-based action, Survivor’s encounters have a distinct Star Wars flavour to them because of their fluidity and whimsy. Similarly, the navigation systems, while at times overly dependent on setpiece gimmicks a la Uncharted, eventually add to the excitement of the trek between checkpoints and milestone events.

14. Death’s Door

Death’s Door is essentially a follow-up (and loose sequel) to developer Acid Nerves’ excellent Titan Souls, but it’s obvious that the team didn’t stay too long on familiar territory. For that reason, Death’s Door may be the most intriguing fusion of classic Legend of Zelda concepts and Souls-like gameplay that we’ve yet encountered.

Similar to the greatest vintage Legend of Zelda titles, Death’s Door places a strong emphasis on navigating your surroundings, solving puzzles, and utilising all of your resources—most often, your own cunning—to get past a variety of obstacles. But what actually makes this such a unique experience is how the game employs basic Soulslike ideas to convey the excitement and peril of those locations you have to visit all the time.

13. Mortal Shell

Given that there hasn’t really been much of an advancement in the Soulslike genre, Mortal Shell is an intriguing aspect of that growth. During an era when game companies were attempting to innovate with Souslikes, Mortal Shell took a more conservative approach, focusing on more straightforward concepts and a tad slower combat style reminiscent of the first Dark Souls game. However, rather than failing in spite of its familiarities, Mortal Shell succeeds mostly because of them.

The heavy fighting mechanisms in Mortal Shell make you truly feel the impact of every hit and force you to continuously think of tactics (such employing its special “hardened” system to block an impending blow to your body) that are usually not stressed in more recent Soulslike titles. More crucially, Cold Symmetry, the game’s developer, was able to experiment with different takes on timeless Soulslike concepts thanks to Mortal Shell’s essentially sound core mechanisms. I really enjoy how this game makes you use a variety of objects to figure out what they do, and I also really enjoy how it makes use of a creative “shell” character structure to get around the relatively small amount of guns and stuff it has.

12. Hellpoint

First of all, I must admit that I was tempted to dedicate the entire essay to praising Hellpoint’s masterful use of artistic inspirations and atmosphere. In essence, Hellpoint is a sci-fi horror game, but it also has aspects of dark fantasy that are uncommon in that genre. The ambiance of this game has a gothic quality to it that is typically unexpected but always feels surprisingly suitable. In a bizarre way, it reminds me of Event Horizon, if that makes any sense.

But Hellpoint is much more than just a fashionable face. Instead of waiting for an opening to strike, its amazing fighting system pushes you to parry the majority of incoming blows and launch a deadly counterattack. In addition, Hellpoint has one of the most intriguing collections of ranged weapons I’ve seen in a Souls-like game. What makes this game unique for this kind of experience is that you can enhance a lot of those weapons just by using them.

11. Ashen

Ashen could be the most unexpected game on this list, despite the fact that it initially seems to be a fairly generic Souls-like experience.

The familiar, gloomy world of Ashen eventually reveals a startling amount of beauty that is simply waiting to be found. Its weapon system forces you to weigh the frequently subtle advantages and disadvantages of what at first glance seems to be a limited selection of gear. Above notably, Ashen highlights a “drop-in” multiplayer system that is nearly Journey-like and has a spiritual resemblance to the co-op elements of Dark Souls. However, it is used in a way that perfectly fits with the game’s themes of optimism in unexpected places. The finest Soulslike games ought to aim to be the kind that reward you for taking the risk of delving further into the game.

10. The Surge 2

The Surge from 2017 is alright. A sci-fi game that resembled Souls had some intriguing concepts, but it was obvious that the developer was having trouble coming up with something unique or even notable. The Surge 2, which comes out in 2019—realizes the potential of its predecessor while also accomplishing a great deal more than I ever imagined The Surge could.

Combat is the main (and most entertaining) aspect of The Surge 2, as it is in many of the titles on this list. The limb-based targeting mechanism of The Surge 2 is redesigned in a way that makes it even more engaging to research, comprehend, and eventually dissect foes in order to obtain resources and ensure your own life. The story and style of the game aren’t the best in this genre, but it’s consistently astonishing how vast chunks of its world are connected, which highlights those Metroidvania qualities that several Soulslike titles have been downplaying over time.

9. Remnant 2

Remanant 2, although challenging the boundaries of the nebulous Soulslike definition upon which this entire essay is based, may be one of the best examples yet of how even fundamental Soulslike notions are showing more games new and better ways to accomplish things.

Never fall for its third-person ruses. Remnant 2 offers the unique shooter experience that truly forces you to carefully evaluate the benefits and repercussions of your battle options. It does this by utilising Soulslike elements such as combat evasion, “bonfire-like” checkpoints, and trial-and-error type difficulty. The experience delivers the kind of narrative twists, puzzles, sidequests, and sophisticated character-building notions that you’d definitely never expect to see in a game like this, all supported by an amazing combat system. Few contemporary action games even approach the kind of attention to detail that Remnant 2 did, despite the fact that many attempt to include simplified versions of more complex ideas.

8. Blasphemous

Blasphemous, if nothing else, is among the spookiest, goriest, and scariest 2D games I have ever had the, well, let’s say, “pleasure” of playing. Try as hard as you might, but it will be difficult to find a game that manages to extract more terror from an ostensibly straightforward (but utterly stunning) pixel art aesthetic.

The gory graphics of Blasphemous quickly show to be the spiritual foundation of its outstanding gameplay. Blasphemous has the platforming, puzzles, and navigational components you might anticipate from a more conventional 2D Metroidvania game, but what sets it apart from previous games is its Souls-like action, which gives the otherwise unmemorable encounters a sense of substance and enjoyment. Reaching that crucial checkpoint and momentarily rekindling hope that you might survive another blind dive into a dark corner of this game’s harsh universe is the only thing better than finding a really well-animated finishing move.

7. Nioh 2

For me, as a longtime admirer of Souslike, Nioh from 2017 was a true “light bulb” moment. It was a game that effectively demonstrated how creators were distilling the Soulslike subgenre to its most fundamental components, creating a core robust enough to sustain their own ideas. Nioh believes that this concept entails a crazy kind of samurai-style combat that could only originate from Team Ninja’s incredibly bizarre imaginations. It was the first action game from Team Ninja in a long time that felt deserving of the difficulties and well-thought-out mechanisms that formerly characterised the Ninja Gaiden series.

In general, Nioh 2 is a superior version of that encounter. Similar to how many Soulslike games gradually assume the player will grasp their core mechanics, Nioh 2’s creators made the obvious assumption that you would have at least a passing familiarity with the first game. Because of their faith, they were able to create a more ambitious—and, yes, frequently more difficult—game that presents you with an almost unprecedented number of difficulties and demands that you give every encounter everything you’ve got. It is just as deep and rewarding as any other Souslike game available.

6. Salt And Sanctuary

when I have stated throughout this list, I believe that when the genre develops into its own entity, there is a natural synergy that exists between Soulslike games and some 2D gaming experiences (most notably, Metroidvania titles). However, early Souslike games were just reworking classic vintage game ideas for a more contemporary age that had begun to grow weary of them. Salt and Sanctuary (2016), on the other hand, took things a step back by utilising those new Souslike ideas to improve the fundamental 2D experiences.

It was by no means the first game of its sort to do so, and it was most definitely not the last. Still, I believe it’s fair to say that Salt and Sanctuary is still the greatest 2D Souls-like game. Salt and Sanctuary interweaves the threads that unite those two periods of game design by introducing Soulslike character creation, equipment, navigation, and penalty elements into a maze-like Metroidvania experience where progression is usually tied to skills. Its incredibly depressing visual style is the icing on top of one of the most fulfilling experiences this essentially fulfilling genre has to offer.

5. Demon’s Souls (2020)

The rise of the Soulslike genre did, very rightly, prompt many to give Demon’s Souls another chance, even though there are reasons why Dark Souls became a bigger breakthrough hit than Demon’s Souls (more on those reasons in a moment). Though there were undoubtedly some less-than-ideal aspects of that 2009 title’s ageing. Frequently, its greatest disadvantage was its relative scarcity. The game looked like it was only going to work with PS3 hardware for a while.

Demon’s Souls was brought into the current era by Bluepoint Games’ amazing PS5 remake, which also managed to make it competitive with the finest Soulslike games published after Demon’s Souls was created. Although Bluepoint is rightfully credited for completely revamping Demon’s Souls’ visuals—this is still one of the most visually stunning PS5 games—it’s the numerous little tweaks and improvements that add up to make this one of the greatest video game remakes ever. Demons Souls from 2020 manages to retain the raw ambition that first made the first game so remarkable while being noticeably more playable than its predecessor.

4. Sekiro

The first FromSoftware game on this list is also very distinct from the rest of the studio’s Souslike experiences, maybe due to inspiration from other studios’ attempts to distil the Soulslike genre to its core and explore new avenues. Sekiro’s focus on posture, stealth, and skill did, in fact, take a lot of genre aficionados by surprise, leading some to declare this to be the hardest Soulslike game to date.

Perhaps it is, but what sets Sekiro apart from the rest of the FromSoftware library and puts it beyond a lot of the competitors is the experience’s purity. Sekiro’s combat allows for some variety, but it primarily requires you to become proficient in a particular way of playing. If Sekiro didn’t include some of the smoothest and most gratifying melee gameplay found in any modern action game, that would be frustrating. FromSoftware appears to have been given licence to create some of the most challenging and rewarding boss fights in a genre full with outstanding instances of that timeless idea because of that concentrated style of play.

3. Dark Souls

Even though it’s not the originator of this list, many people were introduced to Soulslike experiences through Dark Souls. You may argue that it remains the best even after all these years.

Demon’s Souls’ more disjointed structure was changed in Dark Souls to include a Metroidvania-style system of interconnected sections, which quickly became one of the most engaging design components of many Soulslike experiences to come. That arrangement made sense since it let players feel more a part of the complex and well-designed universe that FromSoftware had created. Most importantly, it encouraged players to take detours and seek alternate, less obvious routes, allowing FromSoftware to delve deeper into the exploration of new ways to torture gamers.

But what still strikes me most about Dark Souls after all these years is how well it executes almost everything. Although other Soulslike games have developed and taken the genre in new areas, Dark Souls is still one of the best representations of the core elements that make this genre so unique and groundbreaking. These elements include its beautifully ambiguous narrative, its tight combat, and those legendary boss fights.

2. Bloodborne

Bloodborne’s almost legendary popularity in the present era can be partly ascribed to its peculiar PS4 exclusivity (remake when?), but the truth is that not many Souls-like games in recent memory have captivated players’ imaginations as much as Bloodborne has.

Bloodborne’s departures from FromSoftware’s earlier efforts immediately set it apart for Soulslike fans. Bloodborne provided a high-risk/high-reward combat system that encouraged players to be more aggressive than they had in previous Souslike games by prioritising counters and dodges over defence and powerful attacks. Fans of the genre usually enjoyed the skill test, but new players usually enjoyed the speedier style of play. Bloodborne’s other gameplay advancements, such its nearly roguelike Chalice Dungeons and redesigned weapon and gear systems, received equally high praise.

However, Bloodborne’s terror is largely responsible for its genius. Although horror was a minor theme in Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne fully embraced the genre—Lovecraftian and Gothic horror, in particular—in a way that truly elevated the game to the status of one of the best horror games of the past several decades. It is a magnificent feat of design and functionality that leaves a void in your heart that very few games could ever hope to fill.

1. Elden Ring

It seems as though the Soulslike genre is reaching a peculiar type of zenith with our 2022 game of the year. In a way, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls stood in opposition to some business strategies that had gained traction in the years preceding their publication. Despite the waves they created, some people would always disregard them as niche titles because of their outsider status. As for masochistic experiences like doing and dying again, how could they rival contemporary blockbusters like the biggest and best open-world games?

Some of the fundamental Soulslike ideas were transformed into a vast open environment by FromSoftware, which effectively confirmed some of the theories that fans of the genre had previously held. Most importantly, they told those who were apprehensive and doubtful that these kinds of games were never about punishment but rather about being rewarded for your courage, resourcefulness, and determination. The rewards system was made even more appealing when it was integrated into an exquisitely designed open world, where almost every area on the map may potentially hold amazing discoveries or terrifying perils. Such untamed adventure had never been found in many open-world games, and it was derived from many of the same elements that had long made Soulslike games so much more than its widely held misconceptions.

However, discussing Elden Ring’s victories only in relation to individuals who had previously rejected this genre is detrimental. Thanks to Elden Ring’s creative achievements, gamers worldwide may now enjoy not just a unique gaming experience, but also a game that will probably influence future blockbuster game development in a positive way.

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