5 best indie souls-likes to play after completing Elden Ring

A look at some of the best souls-like indie games out there (Image via Motion Twin and Steam)
A look at some of the best souls-like indie games out there (Image via Motion Twin and Steam)

The term “souls-like” is attributed to games like Elden Ring, which are heavily inspired by the mechanics of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls games. The best of these souls-like offerings are the ones that experiment with the core mechanics of Dark Souls in unique and interesting ways.

Elden Ring is the latest and probably the greatest of games in the souls-like category.

Developed by the pioneers of the genre themselves, Elden Ring, since launch, has been played and enjoyed by millions of players worldwide. Some are regulars of the souls-like genre, while others are entirely new to the FromSoftware formula of games.

Elden Ring revolutionized the souls-like genre with its new and improved gameplay systems and a genuinely intriguing narrative. It’s only obvious that gamers will feel empty and itching for more after completing the game.

Though it’s tough for any other title to surpass what Elden Ring can provide, a few games aim to do so to varying degrees of success, especially in the indie landscape.


Five indie souls-likes that Elden Ring fans will like delving into

1) Hollow Knight

What are the things essential to a good souls-like? Epic boss battles with an intricately detailed and punishing but rewarding level design. Hollow Knight revels in both these aspects, with boss fights that rival the best of the bosses in Elden Ring and a level design that is metroidvania at its finest.

All this is backed by a melancholy soundtrack and a very charming hand-drawn 2D art style.

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The combat in Hollow Knight is reminiscent of games such as Elden Ring, as it demands quick reflexes and timing of attacks and dodges. The controls are snappy, with options for close-range melee combat and long-range attacks with spells.

In typical dark souls fashion, the story is drip-fed to users via NPC interactions across the vast interconnected levels of Hollownest.

The game embraces the non-linear gameplay design to give players complete freedom to explore and progress at their own pace without relegating them to a fixed path.

Hollow Knight also offers several endgame activities like collectible hunting, a horde mode like colosseum, and a few well-hidden quests. There’s also the “Steel Soul’ which essentially is a permadeath game mode that unlocks for gamers upon defeating the final boss.

And if that’s not enough, there are also four DLC expansions adding new bosses, quests, enemies, soundtracks, and more. It has more than enough content to keep users engaged while waiting for Hollow Knight: Silksong.


2) Blasphemous

Blasphemous is one of the most visually arresting souls-like metroidvanias out there. Though the game places a heavier emphasis on its metroidvania and platforming aspects, the punishing difficulty and meaty combat system show Dark Souls’ influence.

Like games of the souls-like genre, the combat in Blasphemous requires learning enemies’ attack patterns and parry and dodge timings.

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However, the stand-out feature of Blasphemous is its aesthetic design heavily based on Roman and Spanish culture. The title mixes elements from religion and folklore, creating a mysterious and terrifying atmosphere that unfolds as players explore the world of Cvstodia.

The game is very reminiscent of FromSoftware’s Elden Ring and Bloodborne, with its horrifyingly grotesque enemies, a visceral combat system, and a world with numerous secrets to uncover.

It is endlessly replayable given its metroidvania nature, and apart from that, there are also three expansions released for free that add new bosses and story quests. There also is a new game+ for gamers to experience the horrors of Cvstodia while keeping all items and abilities earned in their previous playthrough.


3) Salt and Sanctuary

Announced way back in 2014, Salt and Sanctuary has been out for more than half a decade but only recently surged in popularity. It is essentially Dark Souls but in 2D.

The game beautifully combines the souls-like mechanics with platforming in metroidvania without either of these aspects overpowering the other.

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The title features a very tightly knit and punishing combat system that users can tackle using the various weapons or spells à la Elden Ring. The build customization is at the forefront of Salt and Sanctuary.

Much like in Elden Ring and Dark Souls, they are free to choose a starting class and mold it according to their playstyle. The game provides endless combinations of skills and attributes, which can be reallocated at any time.

Add to that the platforming that is heavily inspired by the old Castlevania titles, Salt and Sanctuary is quintessential 2D souls-like for fans of both Dark Souls and metroidvanias.

Salt and Sanctuary is the perfect example of the flexibility of the souls formula that can be adapted into different games without compromising its core ideas of a challenging but fair gameplay experience.


4) Ashen

Ashen is a very interesting and unique souls-like experience. The game is presented in a third-person perspective and in a muted, cel-shaded art style.

It places a greater emphasis on exploration and world-building over combat. That is not to say the latter here is terrible, but it’s not the game’s primary focus.

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Like Elden Ring, Ashen sees users explore its vast open world, searching for valuable resources, weapons, and crafting materials. All this is done while fighting various hostile lifeforms roaming the lands.

Unlike Dark Souls, character growth in Ashen is primarily governed by the equipment and weapons rather than player stats.

With its muted color palette, Ashen instills a feeling of isolation better than any other game. Even the briefest encounters with an NPC here feel like a joyous occasion.

The title embraces the idea of companionship and togetherness as the story unfolds, with gamers getting help from NPCs in various environmental obstacles and solving puzzles. It’s something truly unique in a genre where isolation and loneliness are the driving factors.


5) Dead Cells

Looking for a 2D platformer with relentlessly brutal combat, tough as nail bosses, and a massive arsenal of weapons? Well, Dead Cells is just that game.

Released in early access for Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2017, it quickly garnered praise for its rewarding and addicting gameplay loop. And with its full release a year later, it quickly became one of the most well-received souls-like rogue-lite indie games.

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The action in Dead Cells is non-stop, and the only breathing room players get are the intense platforming sections. The gameplay loop will seem familiar to those coming fresh from Elden Ring.

Users take on the role of an unnamed, undead immortal prisoner and try to survive the harsh lands of the game’s world. Ring any bell? Every death will cost them everything they have earned, and gamers will need to start afresh.

Dead Cells, being a rogue-lite, is devoid of checkpoints, as every time the player dies, the level layout changes.

Dead Cells’ narrative is minimalistic as the game’s primary focus is its combat and procedurally generated levels. Whatever story is there, it’s conveyed to users via hidden texts in-game and vague NPC dialogues.

Dead Cells is a challenging experience, and gamers are supposed to kill, die, learn, and repeat. Like any other souls-like, it demands them to learn and master its combat systems to progress.

Yes, the learning curve can sometimes be very steep, and individuals may feel frustrated on dying for the 30th time at the first boss. But overcoming such unfathomable odds is the draw for the souls-likes.o

Overcoming such challenges can often be more fulfilling than completing an entire game. Dead Cells is filled to the brim with such challenging scenarios to test the players’ mettle at every step.

Note: This list is entirely based on the author’s personal opinion.