Anyone who’s into gaming has heard of the Dark Souls series. It’s the franchise that the name is synonymous with difficulty, and has spawned a subgenre of games called Souls-likes. With their reputation for toughness, it can be imposing for a beginner to choose their first Souls-like. After all, not all games are created equal, and even within this challenging genre, some games are more friendly to new players than others.
Finding the best Souls-like for beginners is no easy task. None of the games we’ve selected could be thought of as “easy.” When you play through them, you’ll die often. However, we believe this list represents the Souls-likes that do the best job preparing the player for the journey and are the easiest to transition to for those familiar with traditional action RPGs.
Bloodborne isn’t any more relaxed than the Dark Souls series, but it does get you started on the right foot. All too often in Dark Souls, players find themselves playing cautiously and become overreliant on the shield. This leads to frustration when playing Souls-likes because many of them don’t offer the option to equip a shield.
By starting your Souls-like career with the fast-paced, offense-oriented Bloodborne, you’ll immediately form good habits that’ll equip you to deal with any game in the genre. Shields are practically useless in the game, so you’ll become very good at staying on the attack. Additionally, Bloodborne is very dodge and parry-oriented when it comes to defense, and many Souls-like games emulate this.
This game is basically anime Bloodborne, but it has enough unique elements to set itself apart from its peers. It’s one of the easier Souls-likes, and unlike many games in the genre, it doesn’t hide its story in cryptic clues and conversations. It sometimes borders on the absurd because of its overuse of large-breasted, scantily-clad anime girls. Still, at its core, it’s a very solid Souls-like.
Of particular interest with Code Vein are the Blood Codes. You can customize your character by obtaining and equiping these, and they give you “Gifts,” which act as spells and abilities. This gives Code Vein a heightened emphasis on skills as compared to the Dark Souls series, and gives character building a twist not often seen in the genre.
Monster Hunter World isn’t a Souls-like in the traditional sense. In some ways, it’s the exact opposite of From Software’s iconic series. It has hubs, tons of NPCs, and lacks the foreboding atmosphere that is a trademark of the genre. However, it’s very similar in the aspect that matters most: combat.
Monster Hunter World pits you against gigantic creatures, each harder than the last. The combat is very similar in nature to that found in Souls-likes. It’s unforgiving, nuanced, and some fights can take 10-15 minutes or more to conquer. You’ll die, but you’ll learn from your mistakes and figure out your foe’s patterns and weaknesses. Monster Hunter World is an excellent primer to Souls-like combat that also has a ton of unique features that make it worth playing.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the original Dark Souls is a great place to start your journey through the genre. The combat is slower and at times clunkier than newer Souls-likes, but it’s the game that all of the type spawned from.
The world design in Dark Souls is still top-notch, and it’s aged remarkably well since its 2011 release. The recently release remaster fixed many issues the game had and brings it up to 60 fps and 4K. It’s foreboding and unforgiving, but you can take on any Souls-like if you can conquer the original.
This 2D Metroidvania takes plenty of cues from the Dark Souls series. It’s undeniably oppressive, and its world is filled with sinners and sorrow. It also tells its story cryptically through item descriptions and odd encounters with NPCs.
The combat is similar but more forgiving than that found in Dark Souls. You’ll have to dodge and parry more than your average 2D RPG, and enemies can be unforgiving. However, things never get quite as frustrating as they can in a Souls-like due to its limited plane. Blasphemous is an excellent game if you’re looking for a Metroidvania with teeth, and the art style is worth the ride alone.