When I was asked to compile a ranking of soulslike games based on difficulty, I started to contemplate how to effectively blend a subjective selection with an objective approach to the selected titles. In the end, though, it wouldn't make much sense. A universal rule states that the most difficult game of this type is the one that is our first contact with the genre.
In my case, it would be the original Demon's Souls, which (spoiler alert) is reflected in that title's high position in the following list. It's been arranged from the subjectively easiest game to the most difficult. I realize that everyone has different experiences and evaluates games in different ways, so I'd love to see your suggestions in the comments.
A word of explanation before we jump in – selecting the titles for the list, we deliberately omitted two-dimensional productions (such as Blasphemous and Salt & Sanctuary), which, due to different perspective, would be even more difficult to classify against the more traditional representatives of the genre.
What exactly are soulslike games?
The term was coined around the release of the first Dark Souls and it's huge wave of popularity that followed, though in fact its beginning is marked by the release of Demon's Souls. An offshoot of action-RPGs, these games are characterized by a third-person perspective and an all-around high level of difficulty expressed in the strength of enemies that can kill the protagonist with a single hit, traitorous environments, and opaque lore. Additionally, you can't save the game at any time, and the loss of the "currency" that allows for leveling up can be permanent, which forces a very careful approach to the game.
OCTOBER 2023 UPDATE
In October 2023, we added a few new soulslike games to the lineup.
20. Remnant: From the Ashes
- Release date: August 20, 2019
- Platforms: PC, PS4, XOne
- Developer: Gunfire Games
- Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Remnant: From the Ashes was quite a loud release at one time, portraying the game as a silent hit that took the soulslike formula and attempted to replace swords and axes with firearms. I played the game a bit later, when the dust had already settled, and the Gunfire Games' production wasn't really that impressive for me.
Remnant: From the Ashes is likely the easiest soulslike production you can try. Since the game's focused on firearms, it's possible to avoid most direct clashes. The learning curve is steeper at the very beginning, but the game soon becomes much less challenging – not to mention the co-op, which completely trivializes it.
- More about Remnant: From the Ashes
19. Remnant II
- Release date: July 25, 2023
- Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
- Developer: Gunfire Games
- Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
When I first created the list two years ago, I placed the first installment of the Remnant series at the very beginning. This clearly indicated that we were dealing with the easiest titles on the list. A sequel was released this year, which brought many positive changes. However, I wouldn't say that these changes made Remnant II significantly more challenging than its predecessor.
Several new archetypes have been added, allowing you to utilize two simultaneously. This introduces greater freedom and diversity when building your character, but it may decrease the difficulty level as our character becomes more powerful. And this isn't changed by the final boss either, who is the only one capable of making our blood boil. That's probably not enough to consider the game exceptionally difficult, right?
- More about Remnant II
- Release date: March 24, 2015
- Platform: PS4
- Developer: FromSoftware / Sony Japan Studios
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Well, if this list concerned the best soulslike games, Bloodborne complete with The Old Hunter expansion would be in the very top three. When it comes to difficulty, though, it's the easiest From Software production in my opinion, largely due to systems rewarding offensive fighting style and general technical polish that makes mastering combat mechanics less haphazard. The fact that the game is less crude than older Dark Souls installments is a major factor contributing to its position on the list.
Now, we mentioned the game in combo with The Old Hunters DLC, as it increases the level of challenge according to many folks, but again – I personally saw no particular challenge there neither. Inspired by randomly-generated locations and the dungeon crawler genre, the expansion brought some freshness and divided a community that had been arguing about difficulty levels since launch. See for yourself who's right.
- More about Bloodborne