Souls like is a subgenre of Role-playing games. These games generally have common elements similar to souls-borne series such as high difficulty, high risk combat, a stamina bar, challenging bosses etc. The genre was born a few years ago after the popularity of FromSoftware’s Souls-borne series.
Souls-Borne series: This series was developed by a Japanese studio named “FromSoftware”. It mainly consists of 5 games (excluding remasters), These games were heavily inspired by a 1997 anime named “Berserk”.
Demon Souls: Released back in 2009 as a PS3 exclusive, Demon’s Souls takes place in the kingdom of Boletaria. In ancient times, due to the misuse of magic known as the Soul Arts, Boletaria was attacked by a being called the Old One. The world was nearly consumed by the magical “Deep Fog” and the soul-eating demons it created.
Dark Souls: Released in 2011 dark souls was the spiritual successor of demon souls, It was set a world which was affected by undead curse where people resurrects after their death and lost their mind due to the ending of the Age of Fire. Dark Souls employed minimalist storytelling to convey its plot and lore, historical events of the game were left to player’s interpretation.
Dark Souls 2: Dark souls 2 was released 2 years after the first game, although it was set in the same universe there was no connection between the game and its prequel. Dark Souls 2 has over 30 bosses (which are the highest in the souls-borne series) that are ready to steal the Bearer of the Curse’s souls again and again.
Dark Souls 3: Dark souls 3 was the final instalment of the dark souls franchise giving a fitting end to the trilogy as the director of the game was already confirmed there won’t be any new dark souls game except remasters and if there will be, it won’t happen within next five years, this game also had the most difficult boss the entire series named “The Nameless King”.
Souls-like games: After the success of the Souls series many developers around the world started developing and publishing challenging games similar to the Souls borne series, although there are so many games in this genre, it is not possible to include all of them, so here are the some of the best souls-like games.
Lords of the fallen: It was highly influenced by the first 2 dark souls in the terms of combat and allows players to play any one of the 3 classes, like any other souls-like game, it punished players who rushed the combat without any strategy.
Ashen: Unlike the Dark Souls franchise, Ashen offers less of a challenge to players. Completing quests, which are called “Journeys,” are the form of progression in this title. In Ashen, bosses are easy to manipulate, and enemies can be passed with ease. The game doesn’t do a good job of offering a challenge, but it’s a good introduction to the genre.
Hellpoint: Released last year, Hellpoint is an in-depth souls-like RPG, set in a distant future, on-board a space station, lifeless, dark, and full of unholy mysteries. You will have to go through the dark unknown of this space station, figure out what has happened, and discover the purpose for which you were created.
The Surge: surge is a dark souls set in a sci-fi world where a catastrophic event has knocked you out during the first day on the job, you wake up equipped with a heavy-grade exoskeleton, in a destroyed section of the complex. Robots gone crazy, insane augmented co-workers rogue AI and everything wants you dead.
Code Vein: In simple words Code Vein is just the Anime version of the soul’s series. Code Vein takes place in a post-apocalyptic city .The land was decimated by an entity known as the Queen. You play as a revenant, one of many warriors who had a BOR parasite implanted in order to kill the Queen during the end of the world. It’s pretty much a Souls-like game but with anime aesthetics and storytelling.
Nioh: On the surface, Nioh may look like yet another Souls-like game, but when you take some time to dive into the rabbit hole though (and unlock some skills in the game’s skill tree) you’ll find more than enough gameplay mechanics to make Nioh its own game. Especially if you enjoy a challenge, Nioh is by far one of the best (if not the best) samurai games and one of the best souls-like games. When it comes to weaponry and swordplay this game succeeds with flying colours.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: Developed by the creators of the Souls borne series not to mention winner of game of the year at Gameawards 2019 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice lets you play as the “one-armed wolf”, a disgraced and disfigured warrior rescued from the brink of death. Bound to protect a young lord who is the descendant of an ancient bloodline, you become the target of many vicious enemies, including the dangerous Ashina clan. When the young lord is captured, nothing will stop you on a perilous quest to regain your honour, not even death itself. Sekiro is easily a masterpiece and is probably the most successful souls-like game ever.
What makes souls borne and souls-like games special:
Shortcuts: All of the games mentioned here use maze-like level designs that loop back on themselves. Normally providing a shortcut that once opened will remain open for the remainder of that particular play through, and they do not get reset by using bonfires.
Bonfires: They are called by different names in different games. But they all essentially do the same thing. It is a reset, where you refill your health, you can level up your character and most importantly all mob enemies are respawned. For example, Nioh has shrines, Blood borne has lamps and The Surge has medbays, but they all basically perform the same function.
Stamina: Stamina decides the amount of actions your character can perform, including sprinting and swinging a weapon. For each action you take, a portion of your stamina is consumed before slowly regenerating.
That Feeling: This is probably the most important thing which makes this genre special, the Feeling which you get every time you beat a boss, enter a new area, find a new bonfire etc. is unique, it makes you realize how hard you tried to find that entrance, how many times you died to beat the boss or even how many time you tried to jump across the platforms, every time you succeed you feel that satisfaction and then the satisfaction goes away because you realized that you are not even halfway through the game.