When Dark Souls launched back in 2011, it ushered in a new era of lore-filled and inscrutable combat-focused games that gave players the freedom to follow their own path and play style, but steadfastly refused to 'go easy' on them. Every encounter in FromSoftware's series, no matter how minor, has the potential to end in tears; if you blunder in mindlessly mashing buttons, you will be punished.
What defines a 'Soulslike', though? It's not just difficulty, although that's a part of it. Games that exhibit Dark Souls-style elements demand concentration and intent if you want to overcome the challenges they present. They can be 3D or 2D (side-on or top-down), but they typically include exacting combat against unforgiving enemies, large boss fights, the loss of reclaimable 'essence' or similar currency on death, and the freedom to explore different areas of the map, with your skill often being the only gate to progress down a specific path. Bonfires — or equivalent 'safe' zones that offer respite and restoration — are another key part of the Souls experience; that tension of risk vs. reward while inching through an enemy-filled environment on just a sliver of health, desperately hoping to find a bonfire around the next corner.
For the list below we've stuck to games which feature as many of those elements as possible, although several incorporate other systems and styles, or not-quite-all of the facets described above. Some inclusions are primarily associated with another genre (Metroidvania or roguelike, for example) but they feature Soulslike gameplay in some capacity. They might not fit the Souls mould perfectly, but everything below has a Soulslike flavour to a greater or lesser degree.
As with any sub-genre definition (again, see Metroidvania), there will be debate both healthy and circuitous over whether a given title qualifies for the category of Soulslike — which is fine. You may not totally agree with the list below, but rest assured that if you enjoy Dark Souls, you'll almost certainly enjoy these games thanks to shared ideas, elements and systems.
So, let's take a look — in no particular order — at the games on Switch that'll force you to git gud or go home.
Ah yes — the Dark Souls of Dark Souls, if we're not mistaken.
Dark Souls: Remastered is a faithful remaster of a touchstone in video game design that improves overall performance of the original release while preserving all of the character traits that made it such a memorable experience. While it’s no less forgiving — and its menus are a little fiddly — this slick Nintendo Switch iteration offers an excellent way to experience Lordran’s ultra-challenging odyssey in true handheld form.
Plus, it's got Solaire of Astora amiibo compatibility that you won't find in any other version of the game. Praise the Sun, indeed.
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Ashen doesn't try to hide the fact that it's a Souls clone through-and-through. However, where many before it unwisely try to out-do FromSoftware in terms of difficulty or obtuse systems and lore, A44 has taken its game in a more refreshing, community-focused direction. This is a slightly more relaxed take on a Souls-like; it gets you into its action and gameplay rhythms quickly, isn't interested in punishing you particularly unduly and doesn't outstay its welcome. Its story and setting are enchanting and the sense of togetherness and companionship that it creates as its plot unfolds sets it apart in a genre much better known for relentless loneliness and isolation.
All told, Salt and Sanctuary is just about what you’d expect it to be: it’s more or less a 2D Dark Souls, but with a little more emphasis on less. Salt and Sanctuary does an admirable job of hitting all the right beats that it needs to provide a challenging and fun action adventure that will no doubt provide a solid bang for your buck, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to stand on its own two legs; this is a game that can only thrive on the scraps generated by the overwhelming popularity of a much better game series. Therefore, we’d give this one a recommendation to Dark Souls aficionados who just can't get enough — those who’ve never been interested won’t find much new here to entice them.
Mind you, you're reading the wrong list if you're not interested in Dark Souls, hmm?
Not only does the combat in Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights take cues from Dark Souls, but the way the story is drip-fed via notes and environmental storytelling is very similar to the FromSoftware classic.
A very fine Metroidvania, Ender Lilies boasts excellent visuals throughout, with bursts of colour lighting up the otherwise dreary kingdom, and a wonderful soundtrack that we guarantee will live rent-free in your head for hours. All of this is held together by strong gameplay, with a particular focus on customisable load-outs via the spirit abilities. It’s a tough game at times, and minor frame rate dips hold it back from true greatness, but it's an experience you’ll be glad you stuck with.
Death's Door is nothing less than a modern classic, utilizing old gameplay ideas in a new setting to make for a short and sweet experience you won’t want to miss. The snappy combat, rewarding exploration, and relaxing music will stick with you once you've finished, and while it may not have anything 'new' to offer, Death’s Door is so high quality that you’ll hardly have time to think about it's lack of innovation. Developer Acid Nerve crafted an experience that’s absolutely worth your time and money of any fans of Zelda or Soulslike games.
With a focus on boss fights, Furi presents a series of daunting challenges which are capable of turning all but the most committed of player into a gibbering wreck. It's a deceptively clever game that combines shooter and and beat-'em-up mechanics, all wrapped up in a stylish anime-influenced shell. It's not for everyone, with numerous difficulty spikes and an over-reliance on repetition. But it's refreshing to see a game rewards patient observation and persistence, as well as mastery of a carefully calibrated control system. While it's lacking several elements of a Souls game, it still feels very much of that ilk.
3000th Duel is a highly enjoyable Metroidvania that some would argue borrows a bit too much from Dark Souls. With engaging combat bolstered by lots of unlockable weapons, a decent progression system, and some truly memorable boss fights, it can stand proud amongst the many examples of the genre currently available on Switch, even if it doesn't quite do enough to feel truly unique.
Still, if you loved FromSoftware's Souls series and fancy some more of the same — albeit a very specific slice of the same — you could do a lot worse.