“Action role-playing games set in a dark fantasy setting with difficult battle mechanics, check points being located far apart from each other“, or, shortly, souls-like games. This sub-genre has got a large enough group of fans to establish this relatively new term. It’s become a source of inspiration to large studios as well as indie developers, which brought us even more exciting titles to try out. Who’d be against that?
This is the Part Two of our top souls-like games. If you haven’t seen part one, you can read it here.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Release Date: 15 November 2019
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Nothing beats Star Wars. This third-person action-adventure is made of and dipped in Star Wars atmosphere, which was carefully and meticulously recreated. Jedi: Fallen Order has souls-like fighting mechanics with a mix of blasters, the force and familiar music, which immerse you into the galaxy far far away even during the toughest battles. Apart from epic fights, the gameplay offers Tomb Raider-like exploration, giving new dimension to Star Wars games.
For a true souls-like game experience, turn up the difficulty level to Jedi Master or above. But if you prefer staying in your comfort zone, the original plot will not keep you bored. Fallen Order makes a valuable addition to Star Wars lore, because through the journey of Padawan Cal Kestis, the topic of the Great Jedi Purge survivors is being expanded. And just like that, we have a beautiful, story-driven, single-player game from EA. No one expected that. 😲
Release Date: 7 December 2018
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
This action RPG inherited a lot from Dark Souls, but nonetheless tries its best to differentiate. The developer, A44, delivers a captivating fairy tale about the pursuit of light in the world full of darkness. The minimalist 3D art style accurately maintains the tone of the story as you go through beautifully-designed locations. Ashen also offers the co-op mode or an AI companion, which comes pretty handy with the bosses that summon a bunch of minions..
The similarities with the Dark Souls are most apparent during the combats. You face identical controls, you have to watch out for stamina or face harsh consequences. As this is an indie souls-like game, there are some limitations that water down the soulness for some players, in particular scarce selection of weapons and character customisation (no Ashen Fashion is a missed opportunity). Nonetheless, Ashen still manages to deliver a decent souls-like experience in its own style.
Release Date: 10 September, 2019
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation4, Nintendo Switch
It’s hard to walk past this side-scrolling action platformer, because even the trailer gives goosebumps. Blashphemous promises a memorable experience with dark religious narrative in core and retro gore coating. The pixel graphics are in no way limiting the game's ability to surprise. The movements feel smooth and natural, and the attention to the details is insane. Everything, from the design of locations and bosses to the killing animations, is an embodiment of a nightmarish violence compared only to Spanish Inquisition. And that’s a compliment.
Just because it's a metroidvania game, do not rely on standard hack-and-slash tactics. The environment and enemies with their surprise attacks are unforgiving to the rush decision. Lack of patience and methodical approach guarantees you a fast death. But for those who’re prepared to play by Dark Souls rules are guaranteed to enjoy this bloody festival of violence in the gothic, angsty setting.
Salt and Sanctuary
Release Date: 15 March, 2016
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch
At first it’s shocking to see your specially designed, charming character walking around a dark, depressing setting and killing enemies in bloody matter. Then, you quickly realise the essence: this indie game is a love ode to Dark Souls in metroidvania format, which effectively evokes nostalgia in some, but irritates other players with numerous apparent similarities.
Ska Studios implements some pleasant surprises in order to differentiate. You’ll enjoy a vast variety of customisation as you can choose everything from the appearance and weapon to nationality and class. The familiar souls-like atmosphere reached, thanks to the beautiful art style. Overall, it’s a solid, successful 2D adaptation of FromSoftware’s best seller, with its signature mechanics and atmosphere. Prescribed to scratch severe Dark Souls itch.
Release Date: 24 February 2017
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Wii U
Hollow Knight proved to everyone once and for all that you don’t need AAA funds and graphics to craft a totally unique souls-like experience. Team Cherry delivered an indie game masterpiece by combining platformer mechanics, souls-like difficult battles and map exploration in the best traditions of metroidvania. To finish this formula up, everything is sprinkled with charmingly dark fantasy, with its signature hand-drawn 2D art design and varied soundtracks.
Each ingredient in this hotpot is well thought through and made with love, thus delivering one of the best adventure experiences of the decade. In addition, Hollow Knight has three endings, giving you an opportunity to explore this magical world and take on the challenge again. Considering how much Hollow Knight offers to the players, even the full price feels like a bargain.