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.
Publisher: Bandai Namco / Developer: FromSoftware
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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Publisher: Annapurna Interactive / Developer: A44 Games
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.
Publisher: Ska Studios / Developer: Ska Studios
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?
Publisher: Binary Haze Interactive / Developer: Binary Haze Interactive
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.
Publisher: Devolver Digital / Developer: Acid Nerve
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.
Publisher: The Game Bakers / Developer: The Game Bakers
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.
Publisher: Neopopcorn / Developer: Neopopcorn
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.
Publisher: Abylight Studios / Developer: Heart Machine
Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition is probably the least Soulslike entry on this list, but its similarity to FromSoftware’s series comes not just from its similar approach to combat — it extends to the non-linear nature of its game world, full of obscurely hidden paths, shortcuts and hidden areas. It’s a world full of danger, make no mistake, but you can tackle these challenges as you see fit thanks to the open nature of its map — which gives it a very Soulslike feel.
Filled with tough bosses, secrets and upgrades, this indie gem a brilliantly merciless adventure to enjoy if it has somehow passed you by over the years.
Publisher: Team Cherry / Developer: Team Cherry
Another indie darling, Hollow Knight presents a beautiful 2D world, tactile combat and impressive bevy of secrets constantly drag you in for more. It’s one of the best games on Switch eShop; a big, beautiful, foreboding Metroidvania that’s absolutely thick with detail and elements that will strike a chord with any Dark Souls fan.
From its punchy combat system to its charming art and sound design, this is one of the finest games ever made, let alone 2D Soulslikes.
Publisher: Motion Twin / Developer: Motion Twin
A run-based roguelite, Dead Cells is a masterclass in design, mixing together nonstop intense action sequences, gorgeous vistas, and an addictive loop of unlocks and rewards into a beautiful experience. While the world is procedurally generated every run, the exacting skill-based combat and bosses here are sure to appeal to any Souls fan willing to play in 2D.
There’s dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of content available here, and it’s remarkable how fresh Dead Cells can stay through all those hours — it’s a must-buy.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Available on Switch as part of the Nintendo Switch Online NES library, the original NES sequel to The Legend of Zelda is a tough, unforgiving game and one which you can easily argue influenced FromSoftware’s approach to Demon’s Souls and the series it spawned.
This game felt so different to the first that many people bounced off it back in the day. It’s only in recent years — thanks largely to the Souls-led renaissance of games that present a stiff challenge and refuse to massage players’ egos by letting unforced errors go unpunished — that Zelda II: The Adventure of Link has gotten something of a critical reappraisal. These days anyone can finish the game thanks to save states and rewinds, and if that’s what it takes to be able to spend enough time with Zelda II to let it get under your skin, we’re all for it. In many ways, Dark Souls feels like what Zelda might have become had Nintendo taken a different path, rather than returning to the original game’s top-down overworld style with A Link to the Past.
If Dark Souls and some of the other games above have tempered you enough to withstand harsh challenges, it might well be the perfect time to revisit and finally conquer Zelda II.
Publisher: Team17 / Developer: The Game Kitchen
Blasphemous is a beautifully crafted Soulslike/Metroidvania action game set in a delightfully unhinged, deliriously gory world filled with well-designed enemies, satisfyingly meaty combat and some truly memorable and grotesque boss battles. Platforming sections are uniformly well-crafted and the whole thing comes together to create one of the most visually arresting and solidly enjoyable action titles currently available on Switch.
Spanish developer The Game Kitchen created a nightmare world in Cvstodia, one that will truly test your combat and platforming skills and leave you begging for more come that final bloody battle.
There are plenty of games which fit the category but simply aren’t good enough to recommend on Switch — games like Animus: Harbinger, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption, Fall of Light, or Hellpoint, for instance.
And then there are games that we simply haven’t sampled ourselves — things like Eldest Souls. Let us know below if you think we’ve missed out a worthy Soulslike game on Switch, or if you’re horrified and disgusted we’ve written for Soulslike rather than Souls-like a whole bunch of times.
This article is one of our Switch Essentials guides which cover a wide variety of genres, including the Best Switch FPS Games, the Best Switch RPGs, the Best Switch Games For Kids, the Best Switch Couch Co-Op Games and the Best Switch Fitness and Exercise Games. We can also help out hunting down the Best Switch Horror Games, the Best Switch Racing Games, the Best Switch Action-RPGs, the Best Nintendo Switch Roguelikes, Roguelites and Run-Based Games, the Best Free Switch Games, and even Games to Play After You’ve Finished Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Whatever your favourite genre, we’ve got you covered: Strategy Games, Metroidvanias, Puzzle Games, Party Games, Online Multiplayer Games, Local Wireless Multiplayer Games, Shmups, Visual Novels, Fighting Games, Hidden Gems, 2D Platformers, 3D Platformers, Run and Gun Games, Sports Games, Beat ‘Em Ups, Chill Games, Family Games, Retro-Inspired Games, Short Games, Card Games and Deck-builders, Flight Sim and Space Combat, Point and Click Adventure Games, and the Best Switch Exclusives, as well as Every Arcade Archives Game, Every ACA Neo Geo Game, Every SEGA AGES Game On Switch, and the Best Switch Collections And Compilations.
If you’re looking for the best Switch games regardless of genre, our reader-voted selection of the Best Nintendo Switch Games should help you out, and you can also find the Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. And finally, if you’re interested in other Nintendo consoles and retro games, check out the Best Game Boy Games, Best Nintendo DS Games, Best Nintendo 3DS Games, Best SNES Games, Best N64 Games, Best GameCube Games, and Best Wii Games, as well as Every Nintendo Switch Online NES Game and Every Nintendo Switch Online SNES Game.