When Demon's Souls was first released back in 2009, FromSoftware inadvertently created a whole new genre of video games—one that's still going strong now, more than a decade later.
This genre of Soulslike games, named after the series that spawned it, is characterized by brutal difficulty, steep punishments for failure, and subtle environmental worldbuilding.
Yet, while FromSoftware started the trend and is the best-known developer of these types of games, they're far from the only ones who have embraced it over the years.
Other studios have explored what makes these games so endearing and innovated with some really great results.
Here are our picks for the best Soulslike games of all time, no matter which platform, and why they're so spectacular.
7. Code Vein
Marketed as the "anime version of Dark Souls," Code Vein delivers on that premise with challenging hack-and-slash combat, a dark world to explore, and interesting characters to meet along the way.
The formula here is a bit too close to that of Dark Souls for it to feel truly unique or unexpected, but the combat is tight and the visuals are stunning, so you'll find a lot to love about Code Vein if you liked the original Souls.
You'll need to experiment with different weapons and playstyles to overcome all of the challenges in this game.
6. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Unlike many Soulslike games, there's no grinding for more health or experience in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Instead, you have to continue your journey by mastering the various controls.
Because of this, it's a controversial entry among fans of the Soulslike genre, with it being surprisingly difficult even for the most hardened players. Still, the environment is brilliant and there are some truly unique bosses.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is one of the most difficult games on this list, so expect many hours of frustration on your road to mastering the combat mechanics. The payoff is worth it if you stick it through, and it's one of the more divergent entries from traditional Soulslike games.
Sifu is vastly different from most Soulslike games, yet it still manages to capture the magic of what makes FromSoftware titles so popular.
Playing as a martial artist on a quest for revenge, you fight your way through swarms of enemies. But there's a twist: with every death, your character ages several years. Those years bring you experience, allowing you to unleash more powerful attacks at the cost of your overall health.
Of course, if you die too many times, you'll be unable to respawn—that's game over. This brilliant mechanic stands out from other Soulslike games in a great way, but some find it cruel for the game to limit how many attempts you can have, given the genre's reputation for brutality.
4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
There's a lot of chaos in most battles in the Star Wars universe, but Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order focuses that action into a tight, Soulslike package that delivers something unique to the franchise.
All the usual Force powers are here, which help you to wear down your enemy's stun meter over time with carefully timed strikes and parries. You must advance slowly, keeping an eye out for both hidden secrets in the environment and ambushes of enemies waiting just out of sight.
There's taut tension in every moment of this game, but that makes it one of the best Star Wars video games of all time. Your time in a galaxy far, far away has never felt like this before.
3. Nioh 2
Team Ninja (the creators of Ninja Gaiden 2) put together what's often considered the best Soulslike game that wasn't developed by FromSoftware.
Set in ancient Japan, Nioh 2 is incredibly difficult with an unforgiving combat system that places it way up there on any list of most challenging video games of the modern age. But it's also surprisingly rewarding in how its story and world unfold before the player.
The smallest mistake will send you back to a previous checkpoint and you'll lose all progress made since that checkpoint. If you want a game that's ruthlessly hard, Nioh 2 is here to deliver.
Many fans consider Bloodborne to be the best Soulslike game of all time, and it has a reasonable claim on that title.
The world is sparse and dangerous with eldritch horrors looming behind every corner. It leans more heavily into the horror elements that have been present in FromSoftware games since the beginning, resulting in an environment that's darker and unforgettable.
Bloodborne is also shorter than most Soulslike games, which is arguably a point in its favor. The entire experience is tightly paced, and the overall game is one of the best from the PlayStation 4 era.
1. Elden Ring
You knew this was coming, right? The phenomenal Elden Ring is, without a doubt, the most refined Soulslike experience of all time.
Everything that FromSoftware learned over the previous 13 years came together to shape this perfectly designed and executed game.
From its expansive world that feels both barren yet full of things to discover, to some of the most interesting boss fights we've seen in years, Elden Ring has everything you'd expect from a Soulslike game—and more.
Every corner you turn in Elden Ring comes with something new and unexpected. It's the pinnacle of Soulslike game design and implementation, making it a must-play for anyone who enjoys the genre.