In 2009, developer FromSoftware released a little game called Demon’s Souls on the PlayStation 3. Calling back to a bygone era of challenging adventure games, it was exceptionally unforgiving but rich with imagination. While it was a bit obtuse at times, the experience was enthralling enough to catch the attention of gamers, leading to decent success. Over the past 10 years, FromSoftware has crafted a new legacy off the back of Demon’s Souls, creating the action sub-genre simply commonly referred to as “Souls-like”. While some of the earlier attempts by FromSoftware had expected issues, many of the modern Souls-like games are refined masterpieces, making it hard to pick favorites.
Today, we’re tackling the tough task of listing off our top 5 Souls-like games, including the recent favorite, Elden Ring. Since the enjoyment of Souls-like games is so subjective, we’re listing our picks in no particular order. Simply put, if you want to try out one of the best Souls-like games but you’re not sure where to start, any of these 5 titles will be a great choice.
The Top 5 Souls-Like Games
1. Dark Souls Remastered
What better place to start than the game that really kicked the Souls-like genre into existence? First and foremost, apart from some graphical improvements, the remastered version of Dark Souls doesn’t make many overarching changes to the original game. That’s a good thing though, as the first Dark Souls has a much different feel than the later Souls-like games that were released. Set during the second Age of Fire in the land of Lordran, Dark Souls offers an engrossing experience that leaves most of its narrative to be inferred. Playing as a cursed soul left to rot in an asylum, you take on a quest to recover four precious Lord Souls and prevent the oncoming Age of Dark.
Dark Souls took everything that made Demon’s Souls influential and further refined it, providing an adventure that was equally difficult and awe-inspiring. Armed with your choice of weaponry, including swords, axes, maces, and even magic, the game tasks you with defeating dangerous enemies and brutal bosses with very little room for error. Even now, 11 years after it was released, Dark Souls Remastered contains some of the most iconic bosses of any Souls-like game. While it can be a bit slower paced than its modern counterparts, Dark Souls Remastered is absolutely one of the top 5 Souls-like games.
2. Elden Ring
Elden Ring is the newest game created by FromSoftware, and is arguably the most accessible and content-rich title of them all. If you’ve never played a Souls-like game before and you’re trying to find a good place to jump in, Elden Ring is easily the best choice. The game takes place in the vast fantasy world of the Lands Between, where you control a once-banished warrior known as a Tarnished. Following an epic war that has sent the world into disrepair, the Tarnished must hunt down the scattered Great Runes in an effort to revive the kingdom and become the Elden Lord. Considering that the Lands Between and its lore was written by esteemed fantasy author George R.R. Martin, it’s no surprise that Elden Ring boasts one of the strongest stories of any Souls-like game.
When compared to other Souls-like games, Elden Ring provides an experience that feels more akin to Dark Souls than anything else, but spread out in a world that encourages free-roam exploration over everything else. The game is littered with optional content, including extra dungeons, bonus bosses, and secret quests to complete. Each new area is more visually stunning than the last, giving you the motivation to clear the toughest of bosses and see what awaits beyond them. Much like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it’s easy to get lost in the world of Elden Ring for dozens of hours without stopping.
3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
While most of the other Souls-like games are set in dark, fantastical worlds, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice trades gothic architecture in favor of 17th century Japan. Playing as the nimble and deadly shinobi Wolf, you must battle against invading forces to save your master and cleanse the world of war. Although Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is similar to Dark Souls in many ways, the overall experience is much faster, encouraging players to be aggressive and tactical.
This push for quick combat is reinforced through a handful of new mechanics introduced in the game, including the posture meter, a grappling hook tool, and the ability to resurrect Wolf upon death. Whereas other Souls-like games usually involve chipping away at enemies until they eventually succumb to their wounds, Sekiro is all about blasting away at bosses with your sword while quickly blocking and parrying their attacks. Stealth also feels better and more rewarding than ever before, so players who prefer sneaking over rushing won’t feel left out.
If Dark Souls was the game that firmly established the Souls-like genre, Bloodborne is the game that kicked it into full gear. Stepping away from some of the fantastical elements of their previous games, FromSoftware offered a dark and violent world full of supernatural creatures that was a delight to explore. Set in the crumbling city of Yharnam, you play as a traveler who arrives looking for a cure, only to discover a much more terrible disease. As the Night of the Hunt descends onto Yharnam, you’ll have to fight against an assortment of beastly baddies and eldritch beings as you uncover the mysteries within.
In addition to its horror-drenched environments and satisfying creature design, Bloodborne took the Souls-like genre to the next level with a combat system that rewarded offensive play. Armed with a variety of melee weapons, many with multiple forms to wield, you’ll chop your way through werewolves, gargoyles, and some vividly terrifying beasts that defy description. From the very moment gamers got their hands on Bloodborne, they’ve been begging for a sequel, so it only makes sense that this fantastic title would grace our list of the top 5 Souls-like games.
5. Dark Souls III
With the success of Bloodborne firmly established, FromSoftware chose to adopt its faster combat style to the core Dark Souls franchise in Dark Souls III. Set in the Kingdom of Lothric as another Age of Fire dwindles, you play as the Ashen One, a powerful warrior who is tasked with rekindling the First Flame to stop another Age of Dark from overtaking the land. To do so, the player must hunt down and resurrect the legendary Lords of Cinder to uphold their oath.
Out of the original three Dark Souls games, Dark Souls III is arguably the most divisive, as some fans disliked the switch to faster combat. However, the rest of the game is notably similar to its predecessors, featuring similar combat systems with very few changes or new mechanics. Like many other Souls-like games, your enjoyment of Dark Souls III depends on your preference in combat, as magic is much weaker than melee and battles require faster reflexes. That said, we think that Dark Souls III feels amazing to play, which earns it the final spot on our list of the top 5 Souls-like games.