A Soulslike (also spelled Souls-like) is a subgenre of action role-playing games known for high levels of difficulty and emphasis on environmental storytelling, typically in a dark fantasy setting. It had its origin in Demon's Souls and the Dark Souls series by FromSoftware, the themes and mechanics of which directly inspired several other games. Soulslike games developed by FromSoftware themselves have been specifically referred to as Soulsborne games, a portmanteau of Souls and Bloodborne. The "Soulslike" name has been adopted by a number of critics and developers. However, there have also been questions whether it is a true genre or a collection of shared mechanics.

While the description is typically applied to action role-playing games, the core concepts of high difficulty, repeated character death driving player knowledge and mastery of the game world, sparsity of save points, and giving information to the player through indirect, environmental storytelling are sometimes seen in games of very different genres, the mechanics of which are sometimes described as Soulslike.


Soulslike games typically have a high level of difficulty where repeated player character death is expected and incorporated as part of the gameplay and also losing all progress if certain checkpoints have not been reached. Soulslike games usually have means to permanently improve the player character's abilities as to be able to progress further, often by a type of currency that can be earned and spent, but may be lost or abandoned between deaths if not appropriately managed, similar to the souls in the Souls series.[1][2][3] The need for repeated playthroughs can be viewed as a type of self-improvement for the player, either through gradual improvement of their character, or improving their own skills and strategies within the game.[4]

Salt and Sanctuary developer James Silva said Soulslike games provided "deliberate and meaningful exploration" of the entire game, including the game world, character improvement, and combat, through learning by repeated failures.[5] Combat in Soulslike games may also be methodical, requiring the player to monitor stamina to avoid overexertion of their character,[2] and often is based on "animation priority" actions that prevent the player from cancelling movement until the animation has been played out, leaving them vulnerable to enemy attacks.[4] Souls and its related games developed by FromSoftware include multiplayer features such as the ability to write messages that can be seen and rated by other players, apparitions of other players, blood stains that allow viewing of other players' deaths, invasion of other players' worlds, and summoning of other players to one's own world for assistance.[citation needed]


A player character in Dark Souls using a bonfire

Many Soulslike games include the concept of a bonfire which acts as a checkpoint. As introduced in Dark Souls, bonfires are small campfires of bones marked by a coiled sword, but may be contextualized differently in other games.[6][7]

Activating a bonfire sets it as a respawn point for the player character should they die. They can also be used to restore health and magic as well as remove status effects, but these resting actions revive most enemies within the game world. Some bonfires can be used to level up and perform other actions such as repairing weapons. Players can also generally warp or fast travel between all bonfires discovered in the game world.

Bonfires were designed by Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki, saying that they were the single addition he was most excited about in the transition from Demon's Souls to its sequel. Serving as both a recovery and respawn point, Bonfires were designed to be a "powerful" aspect of gameplay and a place where players could gather together to share experiences and emotionally communicate. It was also designed to be a "place of warmth", and one of the few "heartwarming" locations in the game's world, expressing the feeling of dark fantasy that he was trying to create.[8]

Since the introduction of the bonfires in Dark Souls, many games have adopted similar progression mechanics; serving either as a reset, leveling, or traveling beacon in games.[9] This mechanic provides a means to avoid an outright failure state, where the player must restart the game completely and lose all progress, while still providing a risk-and-reward system to make the game challenging to the player.[10]

Common themes

Soulslike games are commonly defined by their dark fantasy setting and lack of overt storytelling, as well as their deep worldbuilding, with a captivating world being cited as key to spark players' desire to explore.[11] Players are meant to discover bits and pieces of the game's lore over time via environmental storytelling, item descriptions and cryptic dialogue, piecing it together themselves to increase the game's sense of mystery. Despite their dark themes, the settings of Soulslikes sometimes feature elements of comic relief, such as unexpected interactions (e.g. petting a cat), humorous reactions from non-player characters, peculiar outfits and weapons, and unusual, often slapstick means of death, such as being eaten by a Mimic.[12]


The Soulslike genre had its genesis in Demon's Souls (2009), developed by FromSoftware and directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki. It introduced the core tenets that would be followed by the Dark Souls series, such as the combat, death mechanics, multiplayer, storytelling, and dark fantasy setting. Dark Souls was released as a spiritual successor in 2011. Games considered to be Soulsborne include Bloodborne,[13][14][15] Demon's Souls, the Dark Souls series, and Elden Ring.[16][17][18] Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, also directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, is sometimes considered a Soulsborne game due to its similar design and shared mechanics, but differs in its setting and role-playing elements.

Other notable Soulslike games include Lords of the Fallen (2014),[19][20] Titan Souls (2015),[21] DarkMaus (2016),[22] Salt and Sanctuary (2016),[19][23] the Nioh series,[19][24] The Surge series,[19][25] Darksiders III (2018),[19] Ashen (2018),[19] Dark Devotion (2019),[26] Remnant: From the Ashes (2019) and Remnant 2 (2023),[19][27] Code Vein (2019),[19][28] Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019) and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (2023),[19][29] Hellpoint (2020),[30] Mortal Shell (2020),[19][31] Chronos: Before the Ashes (2020),[32] Thymesia (2022), Steelrising (2022), Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (2022),[33] Lies of P (2023),[34] Lords of the Fallen (2023), Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty (2023), Another Crab's Treasure (2024), and Black Myth: Wukong (2024).

Other games outside of the genre cited to have been influenced by the Souls series include The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2011),[35] Journey (2012),[36] Shovel Knight (2014),[37][38] Destiny (2014),[39] The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015),[40] God of War (2018),[41] Assassin's Creed Odyssey (2018),[42] Dead Cells (2018),[5] Death's Gambit (2018),[43] and Blasphemous (2019).[44] Similar death mechanics are used in Nier: Automata (2017),[45] Hollow Knight (2017),[2] and Fear & Hunger (2018).[46]


Interviews with developers of Soulslike games revealed that they all thought of being classified as part of the genre as a positive thing that functioned as a useful description for players. However, some believed that it could be misleading, causing players to expect certain things and be disappointed when a game does not have them. An example of this was players being disappointed that Remnant: From the Ashes was primarily a shooter, despite being characterized as a Soulslike.[12]

Austin Wood of PC Gamer criticized the Soulslike label, saying that treating Souls games as a template "misleads" players into believing that various games classified as such are similar to Souls when they are really different. He called the Soulslike label, along with the Metroidvania and roguelike labels, "jargon" that "ignores what makes [the games] unique".[11] Mark Brown of Game Maker's Toolkit also decried the Soulslikes as overly restrictive, forcing games to fall into a certain template and preventing their design from advancing. In responding to this argument, Bruno Dias of Vice disagreed, saying that Brown's comparison of Soulslikes with roguelikes was not apt because roguelikes were a hobbyist pursuit for a long time. He also said that Soulslikes did not need to advance yet as they did not have a marketability problem.[47]


  1. ^ Prescott, Shaun (April 11, 2019). "The best Souls-like games on PC". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on July 14, 2019. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "The Best Soulslike Games". IGN. 11 February 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  3. ^ Stuart, Keith (October 11, 2021). "Dungeon crawler or looter shooter? Nine video game genres explained". The Guardian. Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Kunzelman, Cameron (2020). "Chapter 10: How we deal with dark souls". In de Souza e Silva, Adriana; Glover-Rijkse, Ragan (eds.). Hybrid Play: Crossing Boundaries in Game Design, Players Identities and Play Spaces. Taylor & Francis. p. 58. ISBN 9781000042351.
  5. ^ a b Wood, Austin (22 February 2022). "What the hell is a Souls-like? Game devs break down FromSoftware's accidental genre". GamesRadar. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  6. ^ Biggerstaff, Charlie (2022-04-12). "Elden Ring Sites Of Grace: All Grace locations in Elden Ring". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2023-02-22.
  7. ^ Madsen, Hayes (2020-08-19). "Everything Dark Souls & Code Vein Have In Common". ScreenRant. Retrieved 2023-03-23.
  8. ^ Shuman, Sid (2011-02-04). "Dark Souls Q&A: Variety is the Spice of Death". Souls Lore. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  9. ^ Coscia, Trevor (2021-08-28). "What Makes a Game a Soulslike?". CBR. Retrieved 2022-12-01.
  10. ^ Cameron, Phill (April 9, 2015). "Cheating Death: Accommodating player failure and recovery". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on September 28, 2019. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Wood, Austin (2017-08-19). "The 'Souls-like' label needs to die". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  12. ^ a b O'Donoghue, Niall (2020-11-16). "Finding the Soul of Soulslikes - the devs riffing on the genre". VG247. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  13. ^ Yu, Jeffrey (18 June 2021). "5 Soulsborne Games That Are More Like Bloodborne Than Dark Souls". Game Rant. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  14. ^ McKeand (10 June 2018). "Sekiro: Shadows die Twice is a new Soulslike developed by FromSoftware". VG247. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  15. ^ "Elden Ring is out now: Everything to know about Miyazaki's new souls-like". The Indian Express. 25 February 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  16. ^ Wildgoose, David (7 March 2022). "Painfully Difficult: From Software's 30+ Year Journey From PS1 to Elden Ring". IGN. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  17. ^ Giusao, Jason (February 25, 2022). "Elden Ring Is My First Soulsborne Game, And I'm Obsessed With It". Game Informer. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  18. ^ Bitner, Jon (March 25, 2022). "What Is A "Soulsborne" Game?". How-To Geek. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Best Soulslike Games". IGN. 11 February 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  20. ^ Purchase, Robert (September 23, 2014). "ideo: Playing a new boss battle in Lords of the Fallen". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on September 13, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  21. ^ Breault, Chris (February 24, 2014). "How Do You Make An RPG After Dark Souls?". Kill Screen. Archived from the original on March 21, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  22. ^ Steighner, Mark (4 February 2016). "Review: DarkMaus". Hardcore Gamer. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  23. ^ Klepek, Patrick (18 March 2016). "Salt And Sanctuary Is An Excellent 2D Dark Souls". Kotaku. Archived from the original on June 1, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  24. ^ Espileni, Matt (January 21, 2017). "Nioh Is A Brutal Return To Form For Ninja Gaiden Developer". IGN. Archived from the original on March 20, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  25. ^ Donnelley, Joe (May 16, 2017). "The Surge has 'Souls-like' combat but is best approached 'from a Bloodborne state of mind'". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on May 19, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  26. ^ Worrall, William (17 May 2019). "Dark Devotion Review". TechRaptor. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  27. ^ Grayson, Nathan (27 August 2019). "Remnant: From The Ashes, As Told By Steam Reviews". Kotaku. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  28. ^ Saed, Sharif (May 2, 2017). "The first trailer for Code Vein proves this is the Vampire Souls we thought we're getting". VG247. Archived from the original on May 5, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  29. ^ "'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order' Director Explains 'Zelda' Influences, Game's Difficulty". The Hollywood Reporter. June 8, 2019. Archived from the original on June 29, 2019. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  30. ^ Walker, Ian (29 April 2020). "Hellpoint Is A Souls-Like With Some Cool New Ideas". Kotaku. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  31. ^ Nunneley, Stephany (March 4, 2021). "Souls-like Mortal Shell has sold over 500,000 units since release last summer". VG247. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  32. ^ Thorn, Ed (7 December 2020). "Chronos: Before The Ashes review". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  33. ^ Carvalho, Jared (14 March 2022). "Stanger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin's Job System Could Redefine the Soulslike Character Build Formula". Game Rant. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  34. ^ Argüello, Diego (13 September 2023). "Lies of P carves a singular space out of the Soulsborne genre". Polygon.
  35. ^ "CD Projekt wants The Witcher 2 to be polished and mature". 3 April 2011.
  36. ^ "How Demon's Souls Inspired Journey's Gentle Social Systems". 10 March 2022.
  37. ^ Breault, Chris (February 24, 2014). "How Do You Make An RPG After Dark Souls?". Kill Screen. Archived from the original on March 21, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  38. ^ Williams, Mike (May 24, 2014), Game Dev Recipes: Shovel Knight, USgamer, archived from the original on May 25, 2014, retrieved May 26, 2014
  39. ^ Slabaugh, Brett (December 18, 2013). "Destiny Inspired by Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, Bungie Says". The Escapist. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  40. ^ Purchese, Robert (28 November 2013). "The Witcher 3: What is a next-gen RPG?". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 11 June 2017.
  41. ^ ""It Has to Be Personal" Says 'God of War' Creative Director Cory Barlog". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 1, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  42. ^ "How Assassin's Creed Odyssey Is Switching Up Combat". CINEMABLEND. August 6, 2018. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  43. ^ "An attempt to remix Dark Souls and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that never finds its footing". IGN. August 24, 2018. Retrieved 2023-03-07.
  44. ^ louisbrierley (2017-07-31). "[INTERVIEW] BLASPHEMOUS & The Game Kitchen | HEAVY Magazine". heavymag.com.au. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  45. ^ "Nier: Automata's Androids are like Dark Souls bloodstains, next livestream on Feb 23". PCGamesN. Archived from the original on February 22, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  46. ^ Brunetti, Gus (2023-05-16). "Why Dark Souls Fans Will Love Indie Dungeon Crawler Fear & Hunger's Storytelling". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2023-06-08. Essentially, Fear & Hunger's approach to difficulty mirrors the Soulsborne games where failure is a lesson and not a punishment.
  47. ^ Dias, Bruno (2017-07-12). "Making Souls-Like A Genre Might Actually End Up Hurting it". www.vice.com. Retrieved 2022-02-13.