When Demon's Souls first emerged on the gaming scene in 2009, it quickly acquired a devoted following in the West, despite Sony initially refusing to publish it in those regions. Bandai Namco and Atlus stepped in to bring FromSoftware's sleeper hit to Europe and the US, igniting the flame that would give birth to the Soulslike/Soulsborne sub-genre. Since then, numerous studios have tried their hand at putting their own twist on this genre, resulting in a plethora of games that demand recognition. In this article, we embark on a journey to unearth these hidden gems and shine a light on the overlooked titles that deserve a spot in the Soulslike hall of fame.
Let's start with a nod to the pioneers of the 2D Soulslike sub-genre. Before 2D Soulslikes became as abundant as they are today, Salt and Sanctuary had already mastered the art. Every enemy in this game possessed the power to end your life if you weren't careful, and a sense of trepidation permeated every area. While the combat becomes more manageable with practice, the intricate paths and convoluted routes of Salt and Sanctuary will leave you both bewildered and running in circles.
Now, onto a game that deserves more recognition than it has received: Blasphemous. While it has garnered a loyal fanbase and received acclaim from critics and players alike, we firmly believe that this title is one of the best Soulslikes ever created. Its combat system and level design are outstanding, like many others in this list, but it goes the extra mile with its art. Blasphemous weaves a tapestry of beauty and repulsion, leaving an indelible mark on your mind.
Enter The Last Faith, a game that draws inspiration from Blasphemous while infusing its unique flair. Prepare to be captivated by its visually stunning experience and challenged by its demanding gameplay. With its diverse array of weapons, meticulously crafted levels, and imaginatively designed enemies and NPCs, The Last Faith beckons you into its dark, gothic atmosphere, reminiscent of Bloodborne. If you found joy in playing Blasphemous, venturing into The Last Faith is a highly recommended endeavor, though be prepared for a journey that may involve several deaths along the way.
Now, let's take a brief detour into the world of Final Fantasy with Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Developed by the same studio behind the Nioh series, this action RPG blends Devil May Cry-style action with the Dark Souls formula. It serves as a prequel to the very first Final Fantasy game, offering a delightful mix of nostalgia, fanservice, and challenging combat that will satisfy any modern Soulslike enthusiast.
Next on our list is Hellpoint, an indie-developed Soulslike that initially went under the radar due to some unfortunate game-breaking bugs. But fear not, the developers at Cradle Games have diligently worked to provide a smoother experience. Hellpoint combines science fiction, horror, and fantasy into a foreboding and intriguing world reminiscent of Dead Space. Prepare yourself for heart-pounding moments that may even make you jump out of your seat.
While not the grandest or most celebrated Soulslike experience, Thymesia still manages to stand out as a compelling choice for fans of the genre who have exhausted all other options. It offers a familiar world design, combat mechanics, and UI, enveloping you in a hauntingly oppressive world. Undeniably beautiful, Thymesia presents formidable bosses and a condensed Soulslike experience that is sure to satisfy your craving for challenge and exploration.
Moving on, we delve into the near-apocalyptic science fiction realm of The Surge. Developed by the creators of Lords of the Fallen, this Soulslike delivers an excellent sense of level design and world-building that will appease any Souls series aficionado. However, it's the combat system that steals the spotlight in The Surge. Its weighty, impactful, and brutal nature allows for limb-targeted attacks and finishers that dismantle opponents piece by piece. The Surge's fighting system is a testament to its ferocity, rivaling even the Souls series in terms of sheer brutality.
Lastly, we come to Ashen, a game that draws heavily from the Soulslike formula but distinguishes itself through its gradual and ominous storytelling. As you delve deeper into the game, the story unveils itself, enticing you to explore its world and conquer its challenges. While the visuals may not reach the same heights as FromSoftware's masterpieces, they add a unique flavor to the experience, immersing you in Ashen's atmospheric and enigmatic world.
And there you have it, a collection of hidden gems within the Soulslike realm that deserve more recognition. From the 2D mastery of Salt and Sanctuary to the artistic brilliance of Blasphemous, and the apocalyptic adventures of Hellpoint and The Surge, these are the games that offer a fresh take on the Soulslike genre. So, fellow gamers, if you're looking for a new Soulslike experience that goes beyond the mainstream titles, dive into these underrated gems and discover the hidden wonders that await. Prepare to be challenged, immersed, and captivated by these lesser-known treasures of the Soulslike realm.