We live in the age of comparison. Call of Duty versus Battlefield, 1080p versus 720p, Big Mac versus Whopper. Any way you spin it, you'll have one side comparing products to their beloved brand. Nowadays, it's almost impossible for a difficult game to come out and not have the "It's the Dark Souls of…" statement thrown around. If anything, From Software and Namco Bandai should be extremely happy about this.
However comparing various games to Dark Souls can mean a few different things. Whether it's the difficulty, the hidden layers of story elements or even if the game's very dark in nature.
Here are 10 games that can be, and even have been, categorized as the Dark Souls of their genre.
Super Hexagon – The Dark Souls of mobile games
It's not often that a mobile game makes me want to throw my phone as hard as possible in hopes to see its screen shatter in thousands of tiny bits across my wall, but low and behold, Super Hexagon has accomplished this.
Simple in theory, the game tasks you to move a tiny triangle either left and right as you try to avoid psychedelic hexagonal shapes. Sounds simple, right? Wrong! This game will push your hand/eye coordination to its limit. You may think you've accomplished something by surviving more than 30 seconds on the first difficulty, but there are two more standard difficulties and three more Hyper difficulties.
Despite my frustration, it's a brilliantly designed game, and one that should live on everyone's phone. Even grandma's.
Bit.Trip Runner – The Dark Souls of runner games
The Bit.Trip series combine two of my favorite things: retro graphics with awesome chiptune music. Runner did this in a clever way where every move you made was to the beat. Whether you were jumping over projectiles, sliding under obstacles or kicking down a wall, it all ended up syncing perfectly to the music.
But boy was Bit.Trip Runner hard. The first world was relatively easy, but the game just amped up the difficulty from there. Even after all these years, I still can't beat the last set of levels. And yet I keep coming back for more. Runner 2 definitely made the game more accessible by offering multiple difficulties, and even though it was one of my personal favorites of last year, I still recommend the first for the challenge.
Spelunky – The Dark Souls of roguelike platformers
It was a toss up between Spelunky and Rogue Legacy, but after a bit of deliberation, it was clear that Spelunky clearly offered a more Dark Souls-like experience.
Like Dark Souls, progressing in Spelunky means you just keep replaying the game over and over. The more you die, the more you learn. Oh that different colored snake just killed you? Now you know its attack pattern and can deal with it when you inevitably encounter it again. What makes Spelunky even more challenging is the fact that its levels are always random, meaning that learning the layout is completely pointless. Character progress is also never saved, meaning all those upgrades you bought on your last playthrough can disappear. All of this masochistic nature is hidden behind Spelunky's adorable aesthetics, luring you in under false pretenses.
Yeah, this game's a badass.
ZombiU – The Dark Souls of FPS/survival games
Nintendo consoles haven't really had many mature games aside from a select few, (yes, I know about BMX XXX) and those that they did have weren't exclusive to their consoles. With that in mind, it was pretty shocking when the Wii U launch had a zombie survival game that was actually pretty terrifying — not to mention hard as nails.
ZombiU tasked players with surviving on the streets of London, while receiving guidance from a person on the radio. Story elements were rather scarce, which brought a nice parallel to Dark Souls. Still, in the end, it was all about ZombiU's unrelenting difficulty. Players had to scavenge in order to survive. Ammo was always scarce, and therefore melee weapons were recommended. Oh, and if you died, your character progress did too, and you respawned as a completely different person.
Also, players could leave messages for others using spray paint, which worked identically to Dark Souls' message mechanic.
Path of Exile – The Dark Souls of Action RPGs
Dark and dreary environment? Check. Minimal story elements that can be discovered through sidequests? Check. Crazy and unrelenting difficulty? Well, maybe when you unlocked it.
For Path of Exile, it was more about the tone and lore than it was about its actual gameplay styles or crazy difficulty. I mean just look at the Witch's description:
They laughed at her. They pointed fingers, pulled their children away and whispered in the streets. They burned her home and drove her from the village. She got even. Flame, shadow, disease and frost. These are the tools of the mighty witch and she wields them with a reckless power she can barely control.
That is some dark stuff.
One look at Path of Exile and most should agree that it looks like Dark Souls from a top down perspective.
Dragon's Dogma – The Dark Souls of fantasy RPGs
While it was never confirmed that Dragon's Dogma was Capcom's answer to Dark Souls, it's hard to deny there are parallels. Aside from the obvious similarities in setting and the use of mythical beasts like Chimeras and dragons, Dragon's Dogma had a bit of a difficulty curve to get used to, and boss fights were no joke.
Sure, Dragon's Dogma focused on having a party made up of other NPCs while Dark Souls relished in making the player feel alone and helpless, but most Dragon's Dogma players who have prior experience with Dark Souls might agree that the two have more in common than is first apparent.
Shin Megami Tensei IV – The Dark Souls of SMT games
Much like Spelunky, Shin Megami Tensei IV expects you to die in order to learn, and in that degree, it's exactly like Dark Souls. Both Dark Souls and SMT IV don't offer any hand-holding, and expect players to learn various mechanics on their own. You can unexpectedly die in both games, forcing you to rethink your strategies, even though the mechanics of both games are entirely different.
SMT IV also doesn't overtly go into detail about its lore, nor has it a kind of crazy storyline that's told throughout the game. Like Dark Souls, the story is there if players dig deep enough to find it.
Long Live the Queen – The Dark Souls of social sims
OK, I admit that this one eluded me completely, and had it not been for the internet declaring this to be so, I would have never made a connection between the two. If there is one thing Dark Souls is pretty good at, it's throwing curveballs. See that lowly knight standing in that hallway? He can one-shot you. Planning on ascending these stairs? Prepare to be crushed by a giant rolling rock (not the beer). Long Live the Queen works in the exact same way, only in a visual novel sort of way.
See, LLTQ is all about choice and consequence. You're constantly trying to improve your young Queen by having her learn valuable skills that could be helpful in various scenarios, and especially for unforeseen circumstances. You could be attending a royal birthday party, only to be ambushed and left to fend for yourself. Hope you studied up in medicine and healing. Therefore like Dark Souls, it's all about being prepared for whatever is thrown at you at any given time.
Super Meat Boy – The Dark Souls of platformers
I know what you're thinking. Super Meat Boy came out before Dark Souls did, so to even call this game the Dark Souls of platforming would be a huge disservice. But hear me out, it makes complete sense.
Super Meat Boy challenged players to complete bite sized but increasingly hard levels, usually not lasting more than a few seconds, If you failed, you tried again, much like the Dark Souls mentality. The levels got more and more devious as you progressed, making each victory even sweeter. Remember that feeling when you finally beat Seath the Scaleless? It's that except on a much more frequent, and smaller scale.
The game also had a few boss fights which were relatively tough, considering our meaty hero's lack of survivability.
If you're still not convinced, let's call Super Meat Boy the Demon's Souls of platformers. Happy?
With Dark Souls II being out in just two months, that means we'll have the Dark Souls of sequels in our hands. Praise the sun indeed.