Braving the Dark: Ten of the Best Souls-Like Games That Capture the Essence of Challenge
'Souls-like' is a term often used to describe games that draw heavy inspiration from the iconic Dark Souls series. Known for their challenging gameplay, intricate lore, and atmospheric world design, these games not only test players’ skills but also their resolve. This article delves into the ten best Souls-like games, each offering a unique spin on the classic formula.
1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From the same masterminds behind Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice presents a fresh and innovative approach to the genre. The game trades in traditional RPG elements for a more skill-based combat system centered around precision parrying. Couple that with a profound Japanese mythology-inspired narrative and beautifully rendered environments, Sekiro offers a challenging yet satisfying Souls-like experience.
Developed by Team Ninja, Nioh takes players into a daemon-infested feudal Japan. The game is steeped in actual Japanese history and folklore, differentiating its world-building from other games in its category. The combat is intricate, allowing players to adjust stances mid-battle, providing a deep and dynamic fighting system. If you’re a samurai enthusiast who loves punishing gameplay, Nioh stands out as a fascinating Souls-like title.
3. Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight takes the mechanics of Souls-like games and places them in a charming yet haunting hand-drawn Metroidvania world teeming with bug-like creatures. Players progress through interconnected areas, discovering secrets and battling challenging bosses. What distinguishes Hollow Knight is its merging of dark, Souls-like narrative elements with an emotionally resonant world, making it a must-play game for fans of the genre.
4. The Surge
The Surge gives a sci-fi makeover to the dark fantasy aesthetics usually associated with Souls-like games. Set in an industrial facility gone awry, players utilize exoskeletons and high-tech weaponry instead of traditional swords and shields. With its limb-targeting dynamic combat system and environmental storytelling, The Surge provides a unique dystopian sci-fi twist to the Souls-like genre.
An artistic masterpiece, Blasphemous portrays its spiritual struggle using a blend of gothic pixel art and transfixing macabre designs. The game lets players traverse through a nightmare world where religion and bloodshed meet. With its rich lore, inspired world-building, and challenging platforming sections, Blasphemous offers a twisted journey that rewards exploration and persistence.
6. Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary creatively adapts the Souls-like formula into a 2D platformer. The game weighs heavily on risk and reward, constantly pushing the player’s limits as they explore a treacherous and haunting island overrun by eldritch horrors. Despite its 2D orientation, Salt and Sanctuary successfully translate the oppressively atmospheric and challenging nature of Souls-like games into its design.
7. Mortal Shell
Released in 2020, Mortal Shell has already carved its niche in the Souls-like genre. It introduces an innovative 'shell' system where players can inhabit the bodies of fallen warriors, each owning distinct skills and abilities. This feature, combined with a reactive combat system and well-executed lore, makes Mortal Shell a substantial offering in the Souls-like games spectrum.
If you love Souls-like games and cooperative play, Ashen is a game worth checking out. Ashen emphasizes its multiplayer aspect allowing you to journey with a partner through a bleak and sorrow-drenched world filled with nightmares. Ashen's stylistic alterations and cooperative elements ensure a refreshing experience for fans of the genre.
9. Code Vein
Mixing anime-inspired aesthetics with the harsh brutality of Souls-like games, Code Vein creates an intriguing juxtaposition. The game focuses heavily on storytelling, more so than most Souls-like games, offering a journey through a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by vampires. The unique ‘blood code’ system enhances customization, making it a standout title in the genre.
10. Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the Fallen is a game that veers close to the Dark Souls formula. Equipped with heavily-armored warriors, labyrinthine dungeons, and monstrous bosses, it shows a more high-fantasy take on the genre. While it might not bring many new elements to the table, its polished mechanics and engaging combat make it a game worthy of its genre.
All these games carry the shared essence of the Souls-like genre while imbuing their distinctive elements. Whether it’s the precision-based combat of Sekiro or the dystopian dread of The Surge, each game provides a challenging yet rewarding experience bound to satisfy fans of Dark Souls and beyond.