The Souls series has slash, cast, and rolled its way into many a gamer's hearts. Its drab, gothic setting, clever environments, and enemy designs, combined with the rush you get after finally slaying that boss that you fought for the 97th time, all blend into one powerful gaming high. Put on a pedestal in the gaming community since hipsters started singing the praises of Demon's Souls as the superior experience (even though they never played it), the Souls series is one of the most well-known franchises in gaming today. But, I'm here to tell you that there are better options.
Stop casting Homing Soulmass and hear me out for a minute. The Souls series is good, excellent even. But I believe that its reputation has shadowed its shortcomings, and in effect, the games that actually do the whole Souls thing better than Souls ever did. I know this may come as a shock to some of our readers; after all, we do live in a culture where worshipping media franchises makes up 50% of our existence. But you're wrong if you think the Souls series does it best and I have 15 reasons why.
15 Hyper Light Drifter
If Dark Souls and Zelda: A Link To The Past had a top down baby; it would be Hyper Light Drifter. The action is fast and brutal, bosses are menacing, and life is cheap. Gamers control the Drifter, a mysteriously sick, caped warrior who has to cut his way through the enemies of a beautiful pixelated world.
The game borrows from the Souls series quite a bit. The combat is up close and personal and dodging and parrying play a big part in keeping the Drifter alive. The game features a gorgeous art style and an excellent soundtrack that reminds you of the golden years of gaming on the SNES. The game is a nice break from the Souls series aesthetically, while tastefully implementing the touches that make the series so great.
14 Severance: Blade Of Darkness
The grandfather of the Souls series, being released eight years prior to Demon’s Souls, you could really call the Souls series a copycat of Severance: Blade Of Darkness. Some elements that are so memorable about the Souls series are ripped directly from Severance. Bridges suspended over pits with swinging obstacles, overpowered enemies that require precise dodging to overcome, items that get used in real time — The list goes on.
Sure, your health doesn’t drain as quickly, there isn’t as much loot, and the combat is a bit clunky compared to the polished feel of the Souls series. But there is no denying the fact that the Souls series borrowed some of its best elements from a PC game from 2001.
13 Lords Of The Fallen
One of the most well-known Souls clones, Lords Of The Fallen is like Souls if Souls had a story that you had to play through. There are dialogue options, NPCs that can be interacted with (past the point of just pestering them until they say something different), and the world's lore doesn’t need to be picked out of obscure item descriptions and pieced together by gamers.
The combat is primarily the same as the Souls series, if not a bit slower; you still roll and slash your way around enemies that are able to wreck you with a few simple swipes. Although some would point out the fact that Lords Of The Fallen isn’t as deep as the Souls series. Still, the addition of a comprehensible story makes it a bit better in some gamers' eyes.
12 Shrouded In Sanity
A top-down, pixelated hack n’ slash, Shrouded In Sanity borrows a lot of elements from the Souls series, as well as Bloodborne. The game centers on intense close quarters combat that requires artful dodging and parrying to survive. The game borrows the use of a gun, as well as healing with blood vials — both mainstays of Bloodborne. Essentially, it is an effective and fun amalgam of both games.
Even though the game is aesthetically different, it shares the Souls formula of brutal, bloody combat, an open-world full of secrets and enemies, and a high body count. It also borrows the stamina meter and health bar to the point where it looks copy and pasted from the Souls series. When it comes to a top-down clone, Shrouded In Sanity is unbeatable — even by the Souls games themselves.
11 Salt and Sanctuary
If Dark Souls somehow found its way onto a Super Nintendo, you get Salt and Sanctuary. Taking the roll of a stowaway marooned on a mysterious island after the ship is attacked my marauders and must make their way through hordes of enemies. There are over 600 items to use, combat is fierce and calculated, and death is a constant companion.
The game shamelessly borrows from the Souls series and does it well; weapons change combat drastically with in-depth move sets, magic can be cast for casuals, and a shield can be used if you feel like being a fatty and turtling around the island. This is the platformer that Souls fanatics have always dreamed of. The same punishing learning curve with beautiful hand drawn graphics and lore buried deep in the foggiest corners of the game world.
10 Kings Field/Shadow Tower
FromSoftware’s original IP for the original Playstation, the Kings Field series and its sister series Shadow Tower can be traced back to being the roots of the Souls franchise. A first-person, adventure RPG, the Souls games mirror the formula established in FromSoftwares first foray into the fantasy genre.
Magic is cumbersome and leaves users open to attack, enemies are challenging, and death is near constant. The game also does little to explain its deeper systems and nuances, much like the Souls games. FromSoftware definitely lifted its original formula and pasted it onto a shiny, third-person game. For any gamer that wants to play a first person Souls game, look no further than Kings Field and Shadow Tower.
9 Davyria: Heroes Of Eternity
A cell shaded, top down combo of Souls and Diablo. Again, the stamina meter rears its limiting head, restricting player attack to well-timed blows as opposed to a barrage of button mashing. Enemies are placed strategically by the developers to force gamers to think instead of rushing in, sword swinging. Davyria: Heroes Of Eternity also conjures up memories of the excellent Diablo series, as chests are raided, enemies are toppled in bloody heaps, and loot is abundant.
If Souls players want a little break from the intense, grim atmosphere of their beloved series, Davyria is a good place to start. For those worried about missing out on rolling around the environment like a sentient bowling ball, don’t worry; the game features a rolling dodge feature that will serve even the most demanding Souls player’s appetite.
8 The Surge
Stepping away from the castles and gloom of the Souls series, The Surge is a cyberpunk Souls clone. The environments are colorful playgrounds of scrap metal and machinery, enemies are robotic nuisances, and a stamina meter dictates combat. The game features a leveling system through the use of “Tech Scrap,” basically the souls part of the Souls series that allow players to level up whatever facet of their character that they’d like.
The game also uses an implant system that grants the protagonist different abilities and quirks; making it a bit more in depth than veterans of the Souls series are used to. The game also has a revolutionary feature called “jumping,” it allows your character to reach different places by moving vertically as opposed to just sluggishly running in circles.
7 Soul Sacrifice
The progeny of the Souls series and Devil May Cry, Soul Sacrifice is a button mashing Souls clone. The atmosphere is gothic and dark, and enemies are quick, difficult, and disturbing. The combat is furious and personal, with combos sending enemies flying and skittering in every direction. Bosses are also massive, queuing visions of some of the Souls series more memorable enemies.
Soul Sacrifice also utilizes a system where you can save or sacrifice enemies, leveling up your life or your attack respectively. The games main weapons are the protagonist’s hands that can transform into different forms and weapons. The combat is a bit more bouncy than normal Souls titles, making the combat more of a button mashing good time than a calculated slog.
6 Monster Hunter Series
One of the better-known “killing incredibly giant monster” games, the success of the Monster Hunter series has spanned multiple console generations over the last 13 years. A practice in the art of menu navigation, the Monster Hunter series can be tedious to play, to say the least.
In spite of its steep learning curve and labyrinthine menu systems, it does have one thing that it does better than any of the entries in the Souls series: combat. Instead of the clunky swinging and poking that Souls fans have become accustomed to, Monster Hunter’s combat just seems to carry a little more gravity. You can really feel your hits against giant beasts, instead of meagerly chipping away at their heels.
5 Inferno Climber
One of the most literal Souls clones I’ve ever seen, Inferno Climber starts out with the same character creation screen, even offering a “Nameless One” option similar to the Soul’s “Deprived” class. The game then throws you into a boss battle where you get your ass positively handed to you, and you reanimate in a grave, where the game truly starts.
The only main difference between a true Souls game and Inferno Climber is the graphical style: the game is outlandishly cartoonish. Not that it takes away from the experience at all; the cartoony style is actually quite endearing. Another neat addition is the need to pick a new class every time you die, meaning that your play style can’t be seeded entirely in one field. This little addition makes it a tad bit more interesting than your run of the mill Souls game.
4 Titan Souls
Titan Souls takes the main gameplay principal that made the Souls series stand out so much to gamers and bases its entire experience off of it. The whole game is a series of bosses that require trial and error. One may be a gelatinous cube that requires an arrow at the exact moment that it’s vulnerable, another a pair of disembodied hands that chase the player as they try to score a shot to bring down the head controlling them. The game is a massive puzzle of trial and error and can be incredibly difficult.
It also drops players into a mysterious world full of overgrown ruins and maze-like forests…sound familiar? Even though the graphical style and perspective are different from a traditional Souls game, it still takes its motivating force and does it better than the source material ever could.
3 Dragon’s Dogma
Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma is an overlooked gem. All the trademarks of a Souls game are there: different weapons and fighting styles, a giant open world to explore at your own peril, and giant enemies to best when you least expect it. But Dragon’s Dogma does it better.
Larger enemies can be scaled and attacked while riding on their backs, reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus. A day and night cycle drastically ramps up the difficulty when the sun goes downThe Visit. The game also allows you to travel with an NPC controlled team, but this doesn’t divert from the difficulty at all. In fact, I think it makes battles more epic as your team scrambles around the base of a giant monster’s feet while you stab it repeatedly in the head. And it’s still disturbingly easy for a pack of lesser enemies to wipe your team out if you’re not careful.
If Dark Souls teleported out of its crumbling, medieval-influenced drabness and into 1600’s Japan, you get Nioh. Developed by the infamous Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive fame, Nioh follows a lone western samurai freeing Japan from the grip of Oni, basically Japanese demons, that plague the land due to constant warfare. The game is largely Souls influenced, enemies are fierce, with most able to rend you with a few simple swipes, and combat is satisfying.
There is a ton of gear to collect, enemies to slay, and ladders to kick down. As opposed to the Souls games, fighting with a particular style of weapon in Nioh will level up your ability with it. It’s also largely mission based, with plenty of side quests and optional tasks to keep you occupied. If you want a Souls game with a little bit more structure, look no further than Nioh.
While some of you are already grabbing your pitchforks and rounding up around the giant bonfire, say what you will: Bloodborne is not a Souls game. It’s actually a lot better than a Souls game. Taking influence from H.P. Lovecraft, Bloodborne takes the Souls formula and throws it into a fantasy Victorian setting, making combat an offensive affair and keeping players on their toes with some of the most ludicrously freighting enemies ever seen in a video game.
Veterans of the Souls series may find themselves struggling for purchase at first as enemies relentlessly attack and overwhelm the unassuming new player who must learn to discard their shield (the game even makes fun of you for thinking of using one), and adapt to speedily circling enemies to score a hit. If you love Souls, but you want a better game, Bloodborne takes the throne easily.