7 Games to Play If You Like Dark Souls
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FromSoftware, creator of Dark Souls, won the hearts of gamers with its series of unrelentingly difficult games. The studio also won the attention of other developers, as the Dark Souls games have spawned their own subgenre that fans have affectionately labeled “Souls-likes.” Each Souls-like game differs in its own way, but each retains a sense of difficulty through methodical combat, resource management, and environmental awareness of traps and enemy ambushes.
Credit: Focus Home Interactive
The Surge (2017; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
The Surge is the latest game by the same studio that made Lords of the Fallen, and it borrows just as directly from the Souls series as that game did in 2014. But whereas Lords of the Fallen was an easier, loot-centric Souls-like, The Surge is much more unforgiving and takes place in a very different setting. The game ditches high fantasy for a future tech world with exosuits that give people superhuman abilities.
Combat operates very much like it does in Souls games, complete with a stamina meter, but now you can target body parts to cleave off crafting materials for upgrading your own exosuit. Enemies pull no punches; they’re capable of putting down players with ease. The Surge may be the closest thing to Dark Souls outside of FromSoftware's own games.
Credit: Deck 13
Salt and Sanctuary (2016; PC, Mac, PS4, PS Vita)
Salt and Sanctuary is like a 2D take on Dark Souls, featuring a similar stamina system and a wide array of weaponry with differing move sets. You make your way between checkpoints known as Sanctuaries and collect a resource similar to souls, called “Salt,” that lets you level up and learn new magic skills.
The game hews particularly close to Dark Souls by also allowing players to leave messages behind for others to read. The story borrows equally from Bloodborne and Game of Thrones, with a Cthulhu-themed adversary and a plot of warring religious factions vying for dominance.
Credit: SKA Studios
Nioh (2017; PS4)
Nioh takes the typical Souls-like combat and adds several layers to it, demanding a lot of attention to things like stamina regeneration and attack windows. To succeed in Nioh, players will need to replenish their stamina, or “Ki,” with timed button presses to keep up an attack combo. Nioh stresses offense in this way, avoiding the sometimes slow and defensive combat of Dark Souls by adding mechanics that reward sustained attacks.
Nioh also diverges by choosing an Eastern fantasy setting over a Western one, featuring demon-like yokai in feudal Japan and a host of Japanese weaponry, like samurai swords and chain-hook kusarigama weapons.
Credit: Team Ninija
Lords of the Fallen (2014; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Lords of the Fallen features very faithful Souls-like combat, with character and weapon classes that funnel players into one of several gameplay styles. The stamina and magic systems should be very familiar, but Lords of the Fallen focuses more on loot collection than Dark Souls does. The game offers loot chest rewards for completing areas, similar to the Diablo series.
Lords of the Fallen also mixes things up with its risk/reward system, which adds a multiplier to your experience points if you go longer without using a save point. Combat is less demanding, giving players access to very powerful skills and armor, so players who are looking for a more casual action game should check this out.
Credit: CI Games
Bound by Flame (2014; PC, PS4, Xbox 360)
Bound By Flame is truthfully a Western RPG, with a robust fantasy world full of lore and a morality system that monitors your decisions. But fans of the strategic third-person combat found in Dark Souls should find something to like here. While it’s not controlled by a stamina system, combat still requires a keen eye for enemy attack patterns, as you’ll often find yourself in situations where you deal far less damage to enemies than they deal to you.
Bound By Flame may have more in common with games such as The Witcher, but a brutal uphill climb in combat and the inclusion of RPG mechanics, like stat growth and character classes, should be in the wheelhouse of most Souls fans.
Credit: Focus Home Interactive
Titan Souls (2015; PC, Mac, PS4, PS Vita)
Titan Souls boils down the mechanics of a Souls-like to a one-hit/one-kill scenario between you and a large roster of bosses, with no fights or exploration in between. You’re armed only with a bow and a single arrow. When pulling back the arrow to fire or calling the arrow back to you from anywhere on the screen, you’ll need to stand still and commit to those actions, leaving you wide open to attack. Learning the right time to act will be the key to victory.
Every boss dies in one hit — and so do you — but being able to hit their weak point is no easy task. While speed runners may make it look easy, Titan Souls should prove a harrowing time for any Dark Souls vet.
Credit: Devolver Digital
Exanima (2015; PC)
Exanima is an early-access title that takes all of the environmental awareness and combat discipline needed in Dark Souls, and fits it onto a very different control scheme. In this 3D top-down game, your character will always move to face the position of your mouse cursor. Attacking with the cursor positioned to an enemy’s left flank will make you attack from that direction, while holding the cursor over the enemy will allow you to block incoming attacks.
The combat has an incredible sense of momentum, owing to the physics-based animations that give combat a gritty realism. Right now, the game lacks a story, but what’s there is a very methodical and rewarding dungeon crawler.
Credit: Bare Mettle Entertainment
Andrew Melcon is a freelance writer who specializes in covering games and gaming hardware. He's tackled everything from PC game controllers to Pokémon and PUBG and his work has appeared on sites including Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, Laptop Mag, and more.