Best soulslike games - get good with these challenging gems

Screenshot from action RPG soulslike Lies of P
(Image credit: Neowiz)

The best soulslike games are unique beasts within the action RPG space. Offering a high amount of challenge and reward in equal measure, soulslikes can be intimidating, but provide an unparalleled level of satisfaction for conquering their often massive levels and even massive-r bosses.

The best soulslike games follow in the footsteps of developer FromSoftware. The Japanese outfit kicked off the challenging subgenre with 2009’s Demon’s Souls and continued to impress with masterpieces like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and, of course, Elden Ring. It’s a type of game that’s ripe for experimentation and various inspired settings, which is exactly what the following games in our list have done so successfully, taking FromSoftware’s original ideas and running with them.

Soulslikes typically follow a very similar game flow. You’ll make your way through a variety of (often interconnected) locales, slaying enemies and looting valuable weapons and items as your reward for exploration. Bookending each is usually a boss fight that’ll really put your learned skills to the test. Dying in soulslikes will typically set you back to the last checkpoint you reached, deprived of your currency, and with all enemies respawned, so their level of challenge is largely on the higher end.

And while that sounds frustrating, the very best soulslike games are remarkably captivating. They encourage you to sharpen your skills or consider alternate routes if you’re struggling. But best of all, massive communities gather around these games, eager to share stories of their playthroughs and help others to the other side of particularly demanding encounters. The best soulslike games are as engaging as they are collaborative, and we’ve rounded up the cream of the crop in our list below.

Best soulslike games 2023

Code Vein

(Image credit: Code Vein)

7. Code Vein

Anime-inspired soulslike with a moreish grimdark setting
Why we love it

Code Vein's superb character creator and gorgeous anime aesthetic make it well worth checking out, especially as it's one you may have missed when it launched in 2019.

Bandai Namco entered the soulslike chat in 2019 with Code Vein, a lavishly grim anime-inspired game that is completely underrated. Code Vein brought some pretty unique mechanics to the table for its time, including the freedom to swap between several varied classes, and the Blood Code system which allows players to unlock and master various perks and abilities.

Speaking of fashion, Code Vein also has one of the most robust and impressive character creation processes across all the best soulslike games. You might think it’d be somewhat limited given the anime aesthetic, but this simply isn’t the case. There are tons of face shapes, hairstyles, and fully customizable accessories to help you create a shonen hero or heroine of your very own, and it’s a huge reason I like to revisit Code Vein years after its initial release.

It certainly isn’t perfect, though, lacking the stellar level design the subgenre is known for, and featuring some truly wild difficulty spikes that’ll have you reeling. Some forced story sequences may also grate if you’re not into its overtly anime stylings. However, it’s still a game well worth checking out as it’s a soulslike that may have passed you by. And if you do enjoy it, consider checking out the excellent Scarlet Nexus, a more combat-heavy character action game made by the same team. 

Battling a giant basilisk as the Yokai in Nioh 2

(Image credit: Team Ninja)

6. Nioh 2

Sengoku period yokai slaying
Why we love it

Nioh 2 prioritizes slick, fast-paced combat above all else. It's incredibly tough, but those willing to persist will find a marvelously rewarding experience and a metric ton of content.

The Nioh series represented Team Ninja’s first attempt at the soulslike format, and its approach was polished to a fine art in Nioh 2. It's got arguably the best combat out of any game in the best soulslike conversation, more closely resembling something like Ninja Gaiden than the measured sword-and-board pace of a more traditional entry among the best soulslike games.

Shields are simply not a thing in Nioh 2. Instead, you’ll have a range of fantastic weapon types to choose from. There are standard katanas, of course, but even more appealing are weapons like the long-ranged kusarigama (essentially a sickle on a chain) and the terrifyingly powerful switchglaive. And yes, that is as cool as it sounds.

Nioh 2 may have some of the best combat, then, but the game does make you work for it. It’s a punishingly difficult title even by the subgenre’s standards, with no shortage of bosses feeling like they’d be late-game encounters in a FromSoftware game. It can be rough, but pushing through Nioh 2’s hardest challenges is easily one of the most elating feelings in all of gaming.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

(Image credit: Koei Tecmo)

5. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

A soulslike set in Ancient China
Why we love it

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty shaves some of the edge off of Nioh 2's difficulty, balancing that offset with much-improved level design and more straightforward character building.

Team Ninja’s Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty builds on what the developer accomplished with Nioh 2, providing slick, fast-paced combat with some notable improvements including a superbly satisfying parry mechanic and a new Morale system that powers you up the more you explore a stage, encouraging exploration and risking dangerous encounters with mini-bosses throughout.

For those dipping a toe into the best soulslike games for the first time, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an ideal one to start with. While the challenge is there (especially so on the unlockable higher difficulty levels), its early game provides a very accessible difficulty curve with just a couple of notable boss roadblocks. Your first playthrough of Wo Long is much more forgiving than any other game on this list, and plentiful checkpoints mean that failure will never set you back very far. 

A party faces off against a monster

(Image credit: Gunfire Games)

4. Remnant 2

A rootin' tootin' shootin' soulsike
Why we love it

Remnant 2's slower pace and focus on ranged combat is a refreshing change in the subgenre. Its varied settings are also very inspired; you'll never quite know what you're going to jump into next.

Remnant 2 takes a decidedly different approach to combat from most of the best soulslike games. It’s heavily based around ranged weapons like assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols. This makes for a pretty drastic change of pace compared to the up-close-and-personal approach of most other soulslike games. But it’s one that works wonders, nonetheless.

Remnant 2 is a dimension-hopping adventure that’ll see you travel to some pretty wondrous and varied locations. One of the first is a desolate alien wasteland, strewn with all manner of sci-fi buildings and gadgetry. Another is quite Bloodborne-esque and sees you trudging through cobbled city streets amidst a maddened, bestial populace.

Combat and variety go hand-in-hand to make Remnant 2 a very different, very memorable experience. The game is perfectly playable solo, but strongly encourages co-op play with up to three players with its procedural level generation and repeatable dungeons. 

Lords of the Fallen

(Image credit: CI Games)

3. Lords of the Fallen

A rebooted soulslike with an innovative mechanic
Why we love it

The lantern mechanic in Lords of the Fallen greatly enhances its level design and immersion. Being able to traverse into Umbral at any time is a risky proposition, but one that's often hugely rewarding.

A reboot/sequel to the oft-forgotten 2014 soulslike of the same name, 2023’s Lords of the Fallen is practically night and day in terms of quality. Like its predecessor, the game still bears a relatively slow pace that encourages you to be aware of your surroundings, but it’s nowhere near as trudging; your character no longer feels like they’re wading through treacle while they jog around.

However, Lords of the Fallen brings an innovative mechanic to the subgenre by way of its twin-world system. The realms of Axiom and Umbral are layered upon one another, with the latter invisible to the naked eye. By making use of your lantern, the world of Umbral is revealed to you, and you can use it to temporarily access platforms and passageways hidden away in Umbral. Or, alternatively, you can elect to traverse over to Umbral entirely to fight more dangerous foes and garner even more valuable items.

Lords of the Fallen also approaches player death in an incredibly smart way. Perishing in Axiom doesn’t mean an end to your run. Instead, you’ll respawn in Umbral and have a chance to make your way back to the living world. This more forgiving failure state makes Lords of the Fallen quite a strong candidate for your first soulslike game if you’ve yet to jump into the subgenre proper. 

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment)

2. Elden Ring

The best 'official' soulslike
Why we love it

It's the culmination of FromSoftware's design philosophy since the late 2000s. A deeply involving open world and incredibly polished game design make Elden Ring an absolute must-play.

We are cheating a bit here, as Elden Ring is a game developed by FromSoftware, making it a ‘soulsborne’ (a collection of FromSoftware-developed titles that includes the Souls series as well as Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice) rather than a soulslike. That said, we’d be remiss not to include what is arguably the most welcoming and polished product the subgenre has to offer.

Elden Ring’s big innovation is a truly open world, The Lands Between, which players can freely explore at their own pace. There are a handful of bottlenecks in the form of massive dungeons and bosses, of course, but the map is designed in such a way that particularly curious players can bypass these simply by straying long enough from the critical path.

Elden Ring is by no means an easy game, but it’s that encouragement of exploration that makes it all the more accessible. Struggling with a boss? You can always explore the surrounding environs to strengthen your character and potentially find some sweet new weapons, armor, and spells. The opposite is also true; if you fancy testing your mettle in a tougher area, the interconnected world means more dangerous locales can be reached right from the start of the game. 

Screenshot from action RPG soulslike Lies of P

(Image credit: Neowiz)

1. Lies of P

The best soulslike
Why we love it

Lies of P proves that soulslikes developed by other studios can reach the quality of a FromSoftware game. A gorgeously grim setting and intense, parry-focused combat make Lies of P an essential play for Soulslike fans.

Lies of P has a premise that admittedly sounds a little ridiculous at first. A soulslike game inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, it’s a concept that works surprisingly well, adapting the iconic story with its own uniquely bleak flavor. Lies of P sees you navigate the city of Krat - and its various landmarks such as a factory and an opera house - amidst the Puppet Frenzy; a malady that’s causing the city’s puppets to go haywire and slaughter the population.

Lies of P is one of the more linear entries on this list, with levels occurring one after another in a strictly straightforward manner of progression. However, each individual level is dense with nooks and crannies hiding away valuable weapons, items, lore, and sidequests.

The combat in Lies of P is similarly brilliant. You’re able to mix and match your weapon’s blade and hilt to change up its overall speed, moveset and special attacks. This allows for a huge variety of builds. Fighting enemies also heavily relies on a parry mechanic which negates damage and causes them to stagger, opening them up for a big damage payout. It’s certainly a divisive mechanic and the strict timing required alone makes this one of the harder soulslike games out there. But it’s well worth pushing through the roadblocks Lies of P presents in order to fully experience one of the best games of 2023

Best soulslike games: FAQs

Lords of the Fallen

(Image credit: CI Games)

What is the best soulslike game?

If you can only play one game on this list, then we'd recommend it to be Lies of P above all else. Neowiz and Round8 Studio nailed the execution of its debut soulslike, so much so that it comes shockingly close to the quality of a FromSoftware-developed title.

What is the best FromSoftware Souls game?

If you want to keep it official, FromSoftware's Soulsborne catalog now includes several games dating back to 2009. Among them, we naturally recommend Elden Ring, but also suggest that Dark Souls Remastered and Bloodborne are well worth checking out, too. However, the latter has quite limited availability, as it's only available on PS4 and PS5 via backward compatibility.

How we made our best soulslike games list

There's only one FromSoftware game in our best soulslike games list. That's because the term 'soulslike' alludes to titles not created by the subgenre's originator. As such, we endeavored to include games that successfully scratch that Soulsborne itch.

I've played each game in this list to completion at least once, with a total playtime spanning hundreds of hours. For many, this also encapsulates New Game Plus runs and higher difficulty levels equipped with improved and upgraded weapons, armor and accessories.

While most may not reach the high level of polish or carefully considered design, many of the games here offer quality experiences that have something FromSoftware's games don't. Whether that be an enticing mechanic or various styles and narrative theming, we've made sure to include soulslike games that are still more than worth your time and money.

For more excellent titles, consider checking out our guides to the best PS5 games and best Xbox Series X games.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.