Eleven years after the release of From Software’s Dark Souls (and in the same year that the company elden ring blew all of this series’ rewardingly hostile design ideas into a massive and immersive open world), the franchise’s DNA has been well and truly diffused into the gaming corpus. There are hints of this everywhere you look in the hobby soulsbe it in an embrace of the series’ signature slower combat, a direct copy of the beloved risk/reward mechanic – or just a willingness to gleefully kick players straight in the teeth from time to time.
However, it is nowhere souls‘ Dominance more apparent than in the ultimate hallmark of a new breed of games coming to the scene: A clumsy, dopey piece of nomenclature that contorts the name of a dominant title in the genre into an adjectival form. And while the From-derived “Soulslike” isn’t as awkward a portmanteau as *shudder* Metroidvania, it also doesn’t tell you much about what you’re getting when copycats try to play in that space. After all, Dark Souls and its ilk are really, if you want to get pedantic, just action RPGs with some definite design principles revolving around combat, exploration, and storytelling. Labeling a game “Soulslike” simply suggests that some, all, or even very few of those ideas and aesthetics were imported into the new material.
Nevertheless: an ever denser pack. That’s why we offer this little guide where we explore the games that best do it justice Dark Souls‘ Legacy (without actually, you know, being made by the people who made it Dark Souls; hopefully nobody has to tell you to go play bloodborne). We’re sticking to a fairly narrow, albeit still arbitrary, definition of “soulslike” here—except, for example, for Team Cherry’s Masterful Hollow Knight, on the grounds that it doesn’t play similar to Dark Souls, despite everything, it captures a similar sense of a dying world – and instead focuses on four games trying to take on the masters in their own fields. And because none of these copycats will strike everyone Metric, we’ve split our picks based on which aspects of the Souls formula each game best fulfills, and added a few “What to Play Next” entries if you’re still looking for a deeper dive.