We are one week out from Elden Ring, a game that at one point was in doubt would ever release at all. This latest FromSoftware title, which builds on the formula popularized by the developer itself—now colloquially referred to as the Soulslike—expands on their previous games by taking more of an open-world approach to its design. This epic dark fantasy game is set in a new world created together by Hidetaka Miyazaki, the mind behind the Dark Souls games, and George R.R. Martin of A Song of Ice and Fire fame.
If you’re completely new to this genre of tough-as-nails, lock-and-key, action RPGs, there are a handful of other games in the space you should get your feet wet in first. Or perhaps you just can’t hold out another few days and need to get a taste now. Here are a handful of games you should check out.
Dark Souls Remastered | $20-$46
If you’ve never experienced a FromSoftware game, there is no better place to start than Dark Souls. Originally released in 2011, Dark Souls has been remastered with better fidelity and framerate in 2018 for the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Known for its world-building and difficult encounters, Dark Souls rewards patience by having the player focus on capitalizing on enemy patterns. While far from impossible, there is a reason why “The Dark Souls of [Blank],” has reached meme status to describe difficult games of other genres.
Bloodborne | $23
Following the success of the first two Dark Souls games, FromSoftware switched from dark fantasy to gothic horror. In Bloodborne, you’ll journey your way through deranged mobs and nightmarish creatures with a unique arsenal of weaponry including guns and cleavers. Bloodborne twists the Dark Souls formula which encourages precise dodge rolling and keeping your distance with a new combat system that rewards aggressive playstyles. When you take damage, you’ll be able to regain some of your health by executing one or several attacks on an enemy within 5 seconds after being hit.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice | $48-$49
Jumping settings once more, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice takes place in a brutal 1500s Japan as a deadly ninja blending stealth, vertical traversal, and visceral one-on-one combat. Over the course of the game, you’ll swap out your prosthetic arm for one kitted with new upgrades such as a spring-loaded and a spiraling spear. FromSoftware tweaked its combat once more, having you work toward weakening your enemies’ posture. Find an opening then administer your killing blow.
Nioh Collection | $40
FromSoft isn’t the only party in town. It may have popularized and even been responsible for the namesake of the Soulslike, but you’d be remiss to ignore other games in the genre coming out of studios like Team Ninja. Best known for the Ninja Gaiden series, Team Ninja has released two action RPGs in the style of a Soulsborne—Nioh and Nioh 2. And let me tell you ... they are TOUGH. If you’re willing to give it a shot, you can pick up both games on PS5 in the Nioh Collection.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order | $26-$28
Maybe not what you were expecting on this list, but Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order checks a lot of the same boxes as Dark Souls: Open level design with interconnected paths, rest areas to regain your health and save progress, and a death system that drops your XP where you died requiring you to retrieve it. The events of the story take place following Order 66 at the end of Revenge of the Sith. You are a Jedi Padawan on the run who happens to look and sound exactly like Ian Gallagher from Shameless.