The Dark Souls series are among the most influential video game series ever released. With the advent of the new Demon’s Souls Remake, we’re gonna dive in and tell you of 16 games that are frustratingly hard like Dark Souls.
What Is Dark Souls?
The Dark Souls series are games developed by FromSoftware and directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki. The game series is both revered and notorious for its punishing gameplay and tough bosses, often times to the frustration of some of its player base. However, this style of game does add in some delicious rewards for those who are both stubborn and skilled enough to brave its challenges. Due to this, the games developed a following of gamers that relish and thrive in the challenge of the games.
The games from the Dark Souls franchise are revered as some of the best RPGs of all time.
What Is Souls-Like and What Is Its Influence in the Gaming World?
Souls-Like is a term coined by the gaming community to describe titles that share similarities with the Dark Souls franchise. Games that are similar to Dark Souls in terms of gameplay, enemy design, whatever. If it has some bit of similarity to Dark Souls, it’s probably a Souls-Like.
However, the label tends to be misused nowadays due to the term being made synonymous with insane difficulty. This claim is utterly absurd since there’s a lot more nuance to the term that people should pay attention to.
16 Games Like Dark Souls
The OG Souls Game and the one that started it all. Demon’s Souls was the first game in a long, LONG series of games that Hidetaka Miyazaki would head and pioneer on FromSoftware. It’s here that a lot of the core mechanics of the Souls gameplay is made for other games to follow and improve on. From the unforgiving combat mechanics to the obscure lore found in items, all of the things that made the Souls games so great were prototyped in Demon’s Souls.
The story of Demon’s Souls is also a prototype of the obscure storytelling that Miyazaki will implement in his later works. You, the player, is tasked with lulling the Old One back to sleep, ending the attack of the Demons on the people of the world once and for all. To complete this quest, you travel to the land of Boletaria, the kingdom that rediscovered the Soul Arts (the game’s magic system) and unleashed the Mist that would cover the whole kingdom and, eventually, the world.
Of course, some things are unique to Demon’s Souls as well. From the White and Black World Tendencies to the boss fights that would shape the way the series handles them today, Demon’s Souls is a gem that people missed out on a decade ago. Fans shouldn’t worry too much, though: a remake is supposed to come out for the PS5 in part thanks to Bluepoint Games.
Of course, the two games that FromSoftware made would be at the top of the list. Bloodborne is a departure from the high fantasy vibes that the Dark Souls series has in favor of a Victorian setting as well as a few other things that we’ll talk more in this entry. Story-wise, you went to the city of Yharnam due to an incurable disease.
You went there in search of the healing blood. Unfortunately, the whole place is currently in the Night of the Hunt, and you’ve been drafted to search for Paleblood. Thus, the game begins with your typical Souls formula of vague themes and storytelling, which is great for lore hunters.
The game does go from Bram Stoker to Lovecraft pretty quickly, though, as you’ll go from fighting werewolves to seeing multi-armed monstrosities hanging in the gothic skyscrapers if your Insight is high enough. Some enemies are completely different in terms of their attacks as well as what they look like. You’ll be hearing off-key singing, too, and a crying baby will haunt you everywhere you go.
Lastly, there are almost no shields in the game, and your sidearm is replaced with lots of guns. This is because Bloodborne emphasizes a hit-fast, hit-hard gameplay. And while this might throw some Souls veterans off, you’ll have to adjust your play style accordingly.
This is a deviation from constantly keeping your shield up to block damage. Instead, you’ll have to constantly weave in between enemy attacks, find and create your openings, and then kill them. It’s a satisfying thing to parry your foe’s attack with a well-timed shot and then driving your hand up their bodies to rip out their intestines. It’s a great feeling.
Check out Bloodborne today to play one of the best PS4 exclusives of all time.
Another FromSoftware game, Sekiro is essentially a Souls Game through and through. The spirit is perfectly captured from the utterly difficult fights where even a normal enemy can kill you, the unforgiving gameplay with rewarding benefits, all the way to the lore hidden in items. There are just a few departures from the Souls-Like norm, one of these departures is the fact that you’re playing as a predetermined character.
You’re playing as the Wolf, a loyal shinobi to your master Lord Kuro who is kidnapped by the Ashina Clan due to his Divine Bloodline. He can effectively grant people immortality through coming back to life over and over. Your job as his shinobi is to rescue him and do his bidding.
You do rescue him not even halfway through the game and you can finish a playthrough without even going through a lot of Boss fights as a result. Still, Sekiro’s story is one that you have to play through multiple times to understand. This feature is great because the combat is satisfying and the bosses are great to fight against.
Gameplay-wise, Sekiro takes a different path from Souls. Other than playing only a single character, you don’t have a stamina bar to manage. Instead, you get a Posture Bar that increases the more you block enemy attacks and take damage. However, your enemies, including the bosses, also have posture bars to fill.
Filling those bars makes the enemies vulnerable for a quick kill, though having yours filled will do the same with you as well. To make it more balanced though, bosses have multiple HP bars that you have to go through that will replenish their HP and Posture every time you complete a finisher.
So don’t fret if you’re thinking whittling posture and stabbing them is the end for a boss oh no. In addition to the bosses, there are also Mini-Bosses that will provide a small challenge here and there in various areas of the game. These are very great to do so since they give useful improvements to your character.
Check out the Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Collector’s Edition to get the 2019 game of the year and well-crafted collectibles.
Nioh is essentially the OG Samurai Souls before Sekiro came out. What makes it unique are a few extra twists here and there to make it more interesting and playable. Like Sekiro, you play a predetermined character. This time by the name of William, who went to the land of the Rising Sun to chase after Edward Kelly who stole his Guardian Spirit Saoirse.
Nioh sets itself apart from your typical Souls-likes through the use of their Stance Mechanic. Each weapon you can get has four stances that you can change on the fly. Each of these stances then has several corresponding attack animations that you can use. It might sound a bit complicated, but think of it as the styles from Devil May Cry and you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Other than that, the game is devilishly hard, so expect to die often.
A hallmark of the Souls-like formula that a LOT of people are used to now. You also can use Guardian Spirits in battle as well as granting you passive effects. Bosses are also pretty challenging, though some tend to be a bit repetitive. All in all, Nioh is a game that can scratch your Souls-like itch.
Check out Nioh on Amazon to enjoy one of the best games like Dark Souls available.
The prequel to the first Nioh game is not that much of a departure from their old formula, and the gameplay is still bloody satisfying. The game was released in relative silence on March 13, 2020, but the game still got some great reviews. There’s not much to talk about gameplay-wise here due to the similarities that it has with the first game.
One big difference is that you can create your own character. Another big change is how you can now use more weapon types compared to the first offering.
Here’s the kicker: this isn’t just any prequel as it eventually ties up to the events leading to the first game. All in all, the game is very cool in terms of combat and boss fights. If you’re a fan of Nioh, you’re almost certain to want to get this game.
Check out Nioh 2 on Amazon today to experience one of the best Souls-like games of all time.
Now, this is a surprise title that received widespread acclaim. Star Wars is a beloved franchise, and Respawn knocked it out of the park when they released Jedi Fallen Order. This is a great title with a heavy emphasis on blocking, deflecting, Force powers, lightsaber combat, and platforming segments. They take some things from the Souls formula like the respawning enemies, gameplay, and progression, among others.
You play as Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan who didn’t complete his training before Order 66. Cal was forced to masquerade as a scrapper and hide his Force Powers. He managed to do this for a few years before he was exposed after saving a friend. He had to make a quick escape, joining the crew of the Mantis in the process. It is then up to them to find a Holocron containing all the Force-sensitive children in the known Galaxy to keep it out of the Empire’s hands, all while being hounded by the Empire’s Inquisitors.
All in all, if you wish to go and be a Jedi that slashes stormtroopers, deflects blaster shots, and uses the Force to accomplish incredible feats, then Jedi Fallen Order is for you.
Check out Jedi Fallen Order on Amazon to experience the best recently released Star Wars video game.
Dead Cells is more roguelike than Souls-like, but there are still a few similarities that give it the distinction. This is mostly on the punishing gameplay that scales with player progression. The sidescrolling gameplay is more reminiscent of Metroidvania games.
Dead Cells has you play as an amorphous slime that takes possession of a dead body. You have to fight your way through various enemies to defeat the Ruler of the Kingdom you’re in.
The gameplay is where the fun begins. Due to the various weapons, abilities, and utility items that you’ll get along the way, you can have a TON of variety on how you want to tackle your enemies. From speedy blades to bludgeoning hammers, fast-firing bows, bombs, and more, you won’t run out of things to kill your enemies with.
Check out Dead Cells on Amazon to play one of the best titles for the Switch.
Surge and the sequel Surge 2 would be Dark Souls if it was set in the Future. Taking inspiration with the combat and gameplay while adding in some twists of their own, the Surge series is a fun romp to be had.
One of the things that set Surge 2 from other Souls-likes is the use of their Scrapping Mechanic. This is when you, the player, specifically target parts of your enemies to destroy them. You can then equip these items for your use, boosting your stats and giving you some extra abilities in the process.
Graphics-wise, the game has some pretty great setpieces and cool-looking enemies. However, they tend to get pretty repetitive and dull once you see more of them. And lastly, even if you can get a lot of cool items and weapons for builds, the replayability of the game suffers due to repetitive combat as well as the mediocre boss fights. Still, The Surge 2 is a game that you can add to your wish list.
Check out The Surge 2 on Amazon to experience a futuristic Souls-like game.
Quite possibly one of the most faithful indie games to the Souls formula, Salt and Sanctuary takes place on an island. Before that though, your character was transporting a princess towards a neighboring kingdom through sea routes to get married for an alliance. Unfortunately, you were attacked by pirates and an enormous sea monster, stranding you to the nearby island which has its share of mysteries.
Gameplay-wise, its similar to Dark Souls only that it comes in a side-scrolling, Metroidvania format. It’s also the most faithful to the formula compared to the other games of its type as well. With each of your characters having the ability to multiclass and equip different types of weaponry if their stats are high enough, you always have the option of changing up your play style halfway through the game.
Graphics-wise, the game has a distinct palate from the visual perspective. The game is usually on browns, blacks, whites, and grays with a lesser variation of color. This is to instill the hopelessness of the situation to the players. Any splash of color you can see is on the various covenants that you undertake as well as on bosses with unique abilities. And while we’re at it, let’s talk about the bosses.
The bosses in this game are distinct and difficult without ample preparation: you will die if you’re going in half-cocked. And just because you have higher levels doesn’t mean you’re safe, either. One wrong step and your character is dead. Careful positioning, dodging, and blocking are essential to defeat them.
All in all, Salt and Sanctuary is a game that stays faithful to the classic Souls gameplay while still adding some extra things for people to enjoy.
Check out Salt and Sanctuary today to play a challenging yet rewarding video game.
We have another Metroidvania/Souls-Like combo on this list. Blasphemous is basically Dark Souls if it had some more religious imagery as well as some pretty difficult platforming added to it.
The game amps up the creepy vibe through the use of graphics. From desolate landscapes to unnerving cathedrals, you’re going to want to never let your guard down or else you will die. In addition to the graphics, there’s also the level design: this can range from awesome to mind-bogglingly difficult due to platforming segments.
The game punishes you for messing up and kill you if you slip during a crucial jump or miss an important roll. All in all, the game is difficult and unforgiving like a good Souls game. And even if there’s not much customization to be had with your character, it’s still enough to make it on this list.
Check out Blasphemous today to enjoy a challenging and nostalgic game.
LET IT DIE is an interesting title. Its basically what happens if you take the graphics and humor of No More Heroes and turn it into a Souls-like. Made by Suda51, LET IT DIE sends you to the Tower of Barbs where you have to climb it to discover what is lying at the top. Along the way, Mr. Death will be your guide and send you some interesting tidbits along the way. You’ll also encounter other individuals who are on the same journey as yourself.
The game is Free to Play and is, above all else, actually pretty compelling. Though due to its F2P nature, there are some microtransactions in the game which might turn off some players. However, there’s no real reason to do so unless you’re planning on speeding through the game. All in all, you can complete the game in 90 to 100 hours without even needing to go and buy something to boost yourself. It’s up to you if you want to, though.
Check out LET IT DIE today to experience a very unique game.
Bandai takes a crack into the Souls-like style gameplay in Code Veinm, and boy did they go for it hard. Set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future that was decimated by a disaster, you play as one of the many humans transformed into a Revenant (basically a vampire that feeds on blood or blood beads).
You go through the game as a member of Vein, a group of Revenants dedicated to protecting whatever remains of humanity from the Lost, Revenants who gave into their bloodlust or didn’t consume any blood beads or blood and turned into unthinking, bloodthirsty maniacs. You will also have to look out against other Revenants who are not as well-meaning as your group while figuring out the memories that you’ve lost.
Now, let’s discuss the AI companion you go along with. For one, it makes the game a wee bit easy for the player due to some actions that they would do. They sometimes take the enemy’s attention, allowing you to heal yourself. They’re another person dealing damage to the enemy. If you screw up and die, your companion will heal you at the cost of their health. Do note that this will bring them to the brink of death sometimes and will get them killed unless you do the same.
The game punishes you if you screw up like that big time. For some players, this is a welcome addition and helps those who aren’t good at Souls-like games. For others, it’s an unnecessary crutch. Still, the AI companions are optional and you can go through the game without them, so it’s just a moot point for some people.
The game is visually stunning, the character models look great and have a ton of builds that players can try out. This is helped with their Blood Code system. Each Blood Code having unique skills and abilities that you can unlock and use even if you’re using another Blood Code. Mixing and matching Blood Code abilities is the name of the game, giving you extra stats, skills, and passives for you to make your perfect build.
If you’re looking for some good old’ anime-style action RPG with a great story, then Code Vein is for you.
Check out Code Vein today to experience a unique take on the Souls formula.
Quite possibly the best Metroidvania/Souls-like fusion that you’ll ever see in any console. Hollow Knight has you play as the Knight. A bug Knight coming from a long journey, as he comes to the kingdom of Hallownest only to see it infested with a virulent orange disease that drives other bugs mad. Your job is to go through Hallownest, find out the cause of the infection, and destroy it once and for all. Of course, you’ll find other bugs along the way, with them helping you in your quest or being obstacles that you have to defeat as bosses or mooks.
Your only primary weapon in the game is your nail. That’s it. However, you can also get several special spells and abilities that will help you in your quest. The Spells that you can get might be a bit small, but they have some pretty devastating effects on your enemies. In addition to spells, you can look for three Swordmasters who will teach you special attacks that you can use for your weapon.
The abilities you get are useful to traversing the world, while special charms give you extra boosts and can stack well with other charms to amplify spells and abilities. In short, you got quite a bit of build variety with just a few things that the game shows you, and this makes Hollow Knight an utter joy to play.
Check out Hollow Knight on Amazon today to experience one of the best games from the last decade.
Remnant: From the Ashes succeeds in adding in a bold new take on the established Dark Souls formula, and it does so right from the start with its third-person shooter gameplay.
Yes, you heard us right: third-person shooter. On a Souls-like Game.
You take control of one of the few remaining humans and take on the ‘The Root.” The Root is a gestalt hive mind race resembling tree-like creatures that come from another dimension. In addition to the third-person shooter gameplay, all the levels and worlds are procedurally generated.
All four planets (or zones, whatever you call them) are randomized when you make a new game and character. You explore different dungeons, roads, bosses, and see different NPC encounters and sequences. These make for a pretty wild ride. All this work on the world design keeps playthroughs fresh and interesting and allows players to experience areas differently on another playthrough. This mechanic is a refreshing take on the Souls-like formula and gameplay.
Check out Remnant today to experience one of the more unique games like Dark Souls.
Trim down Dark Souls until only the tight gameplay and the bosses are left and you get Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption. This game sets you as a Knight attempting to defeat embodiments of the Seven Deadly Sins, all while trimming down parts of your kit like your max HP, stamina, spells, and more. A short and sweet game that emphasizes the seven bosses and some of the tightest and smoothest gameplay experiences that you’ll ever see. Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption is a hidden gem.
Check out Sinner today and challenge yourself by playing this game.
Lords of the Fallen is what we’d like to call Souls-like in name only, though it does share some similarities for us to include it on this list. Gameplay-wise, it plays like Dark Souls, but the deaths aren’t as punishing and enemies aren’t inclined to shank you every five seconds.
It’s more focused on trying to combine arcade fun and Souls-like into a game that didn’t earn it any favors with gamers. The graphics are great and the enemies look cool. However, the clunky controls and wobbly camera angles are big drawbacks. Still, if you’re looking for an action-oriented Souls experience, this is a game you might want to get.
Check out Lords of the Fallen to play one of the first games like Dark Souls.
Future Soulslike Games
FromSoftware is creating a new IP by the name of Elden Ring. Shown on E3 2019, the new IP was revealed to be in the works since 2017 right after the last Dark Souls 3 DLC’s were released to the public. This project has renowned writer George R.R. Martin as the creator of the game’s lore.
As of right now, little is known about the new game due to how tight-lipped FromSoftware is with new info. We might not be seeing any new Elden Ring News anytime soon, but the thing we do know is that it would be massive in scale compared to previous FromSoftware works. It will also allow players to create their characters, a staple in the Souls series for a while now.
Mortal Shell is an interesting Souls-like game. It puts a lot of emphasis on swordplay and defense, compared to your usual Souls-like title. The enemy design is also among the unique ones. Players have the ability to choose between several unique classes, and the hardening mechanic serves as a Hard Defense and Counter mechanic. Mortal Shell is promising to be an interesting take on the Souls formula. Release dates are late 2020 under the Epic Games Store and early 2021 for Steam.
How Can a Game Be Categorized as a Game Like Dark Souls?
A game can be categorized as a Souls-like game through a few things:
In terms of game design, Souls games are unique in that they’re extremely punishing but have great rewards for people who play it like it should be played. This means the careful reading of enemy patterns and attacks, striking at the right time, dodging or parrying their response to your attack, and attacking them in turn are required to win over your opponent. It’s like chess if chess is you against a veritable horde of enemies that want to kill you.
Practically a cornerstone of the Souls franchise is their hard as all hell bosses. These ain’t the typical bosses that you can find in other games; they are there to challenge you and force you to properly use the skills that you’ve picked up and turn your character into bits and pieces. They’re a vital part of the Souls games’ popularity and are difficult to defeat if you’re not prepared.
Now this one isn’t as important as the first two, but it’s still something to consider. All Souls titles tend to hide their lore in obscure pieces. Some are on item descriptions, maybe on an NPC dialogue, or the dialogue during a difficult boss fight. It could also be written on a tree right in the middle of nowhere.
Lore in a Souls-like is a never-ending treasure hunt. If you’re hunting for lore, then great. If not but you’re still interested in the story, you might want to check a guide. Or you might want to check the many lore channels related to them on YouTube.