Five Indie Games for Souls Lovers

Five Indie Games for Souls Lovers

Last updated on July 16th, 2017

With the widespread availability of video game development software and the enormous popularity of several celebrity titles, indie gaming seems to have entered a golden age. And in the wake of games like the Souls series – Dark Souls, in particular – many indie developers have embraced the bone-crushing difficulty and epic adventuring fans like me have come to love. Like undead knights gearing up to battle the Hellkite Dragon, indies are eager to offer the unique and difficult experiences most major studios simply cannot.

So, to celebrate 2014’s E3 event (where many of these will be showing) and the indie developer movement, here’s a short list of up-and-coming titles I’m sure would appeal to any Souls fanatic. The wait until new Souls content and Bloodborne (formerly known as “Project Beast”) news is long and dark, but these games will surely keep your bonfire kindled once they are released.

 

Bored with Dark Souls? Can’t wait for Bloodborne? Check out these indies.

[Update 2017] You can find more souls-like coverage by following our updated news on Salt and Sanctuary, Blasphemous, Hellpoint, Eitr, Immortal Planet and Lucah.

 

Hyper Light Drifter

After developer Heart Machine unveiled its KickStarter several months ago, it was immediately clear that Hyper Light Drifter was poised to become something special in the realm of independent video games: a deep, unique adventure steeped in lore and difficulty. Its beautiful trailer – featuring gorgeous 8-bit visuals, lightning-quick gameplay, and atmosphere to spare – spread like wild fire and it wasn’t long before this indie darling obliterated its fundraising goals. But why is it at the top of this list?

Hyper Light Drifter puts you in the well-worn boots of a sword-wielding, hooded drifter exploring the fantastic ruins of a desolated world packed with mystery and deadly enemies. If that description alone doesn’t sound like a familiar and appealing premise, you might be in the wrong place. Promising epic battles, a slew of armaments, and a near endless dungeons to explore, Hyper Light Drifter sees satisfying fun in the challenge of its dangerous world, much like the Souls games before it. And although its vibrant 8-bit color palette is light-years away from the gloomy solitude we know and love, darkness beckons us to explore the forgotten depths of Hyper Light Drifter all the same, sometime later this year.

Below

Drawing a tremendous amount of inspiration from the 2D Zelda games that also inspired the Souls series, Below is a top-down dungeon crawler in the classic NES tradition. Developed by Capybara Games, the game tasks the player with the adventurous exploration of enormous, unforgiving environments filled with traps and enemies. Armed with little more than a sword and lantern, the game’s made even more difficult by rogue-like mechanics that could mean instantaneous death as punishment for relatively minor mistakes. Sounds fun, right?

Out of all the games on this list, this one is perhaps the most overwhelming in its scope. Much like the Souls games, players in Below are made to feel tiny in the face of the challenges before them. As if the vicious enemies weren’t enough, the bird’s eye view, tilt-focus and minimalist design aesthetic combine to drive home the point that your hero is largely insignificant; only by the breadth of your adventure and sharpness of your skill can you leave a lasting mark on the world of Below. Dungeons and enemies abound, as do beautiful landscapes, polished mechanics, and an engaging soundtrack. A release date is yet to be announced.

Shovel Knight

One of the things players love most about the Souls series – whether they realize it or not – is the games’ implicit design. They are designed in such a way that you learn as you play; you do not need to be told where to go and what to do in order to make progress. The result is that players are encouraged to develop their skills and become incrementally more powerful, leading to a more rewarding experience. The fun new indie Shovel Knight, influenced by equal parts Mega Man and Dark Souls, features this concept in spades (see what I did there?).

Developed by Yacht Club Games, Shovel Knight casts the player as the titular “shovel knight,” tasked with the infiltration of a treacherous castle and the annihilation of its murderous inhabitants. In addition to the trademark shovel weapon, the knight is able to collect a variety of tools, powers, and treasures, some of which are only available via the discovery of hidden passages and secret chambers. And though the game appears to be a simple adventure platformer, a ton of challenging content is promised in the final build, slated for release this June. With its retro 2D, 8-bit style, tight controls, and classic chiptune music, Shovel Knight is poised to become a critical and popular darling.

 

Ghost Song

Described by its creator, Matt White, as “Dark Souls meets Metroid,” Ghost Song, like all the games on this list, is big on atmosphere. Borrowing its well-honed gameplay mechanics from Metroid, the crash-landed protagonist is forced to explore a mysterious planet riddled with tunnels, caverns, and ruins. Does doom or hope wait in the dark depths of Ghost Song? The game won’t make it easy to find out. Expect to uncover the types of hidden paths, secrets, and lore Souls-lovers like myself are always ready and willing to commit to memory.

Amid Ghost Song’s complex setting, strange and challenging encounters with a myriad of creatures and characters await. Some are willing to aid you in your quest, while others will try their best to stop you. Perhaps more than any game here, Ghost Song is determined to make the player feel utterly alone in battle and exploration; a goal aided by excellent writing and voice acting. Sure, you may encounter similarly lost souls along the way, but like many characters in the Souls series, they serve only to reinforce your desperate isolation as the darkness closes in. Ghost Song was recently approved on Steam Greenlight for release online sometime later this year.

Perish

Out of the games on the list, Perish is perhaps the most obviously similar to a Souls game. Embracing the brutal difficulty of the Souls series, Perish is a rogue-like action fantasy game where every death at the hands of unforgiving enemies is permanent. No matter your progress, one false step and you’re doomed. According to its creator and programmer, Anthony Richard, Perish’s design and mechanics are heavily inspired by the Souls games and after watching the trailer, it’s immediately apparent the game wears its influences on its sleeve.

Programmed in Unity, its visuals are deceptively beautiful, hiding a dangerous world beneath its earthy, polished surface. In addition to exploring the environment, players can unlock new classes, abilities, and weapons, and as it gains notoriety, new features are bound to be added. With nothing but love behind its production, Perish is a passion project that deserves your attention. A release date is yet to be announced.

 

[Update 2017] You can find more souls-like coverage by following our updated news on Salt and Sanctuary, Blasphemous, Hellpoint, Eitr, Immortal Planet and Lucah.

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Devin is a geek culture enthusiast of the highest order and the writer and narrator of the A Knight Adrift dark fantasy adventure podcast. His many interests include cooking for his wife, head-butting his cat, and obsessing over Dark Souls. He is currently working up the nerve to develop a video game, but it might be a while.

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5 comments on “Five Indie Games for Souls Lovers”

  1. Avatar JohnnyHarpoon says:

    I really like the look of Hyper Light Drifter. Granted, it’s kind of the only one to extensively tease a bunch of combat, but it just looks like a good time with a familiar yet unique style.

    Perish looks potentially cool, but the trailer was a little boring. Obviously, I’m sure it gets pretty intense if it’s fashioned after Souls, and from what they show it looks like the combat could be interesting, but it just remains a little too mysterious for me to be hyper enthusiastic about it. I’ll keep my ear to the ground, though.

    Ghost Song looks fun and was probably the second-most intriguing to me, but from what I saw, I kind of question why I shouldn’t just go pop in Metroid itself. Still, I’ll definitely keep an eye on it.

    Below looks a little too artsy for my tastes. Again, maybe it’s just the trailer not displaying much combat, but it seems like it’s perspective is waaay far away, which I imagine they use to intentionally drive home a point/feeling, but for me just looks unengaging.

    Finally, Shovel Knight looks fun, but I just can’t get over the shovel thing. I don’t wanna play as a dude with a shovel. I’m probably even not being fair about it, but I just don’t.

    Anyway, thanks for this. Some interesting entries that I’m sure will make me wish I had a Vita for sure.

  2. Avatar aknightadrift says:

    First: Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. You are excellent, kind sir!

    Second: Surprisingly, I agree with many of your assessments. I got in on the ground floor of Hyper Light Drifter when there were only a few backers because of how incredible it looked, and to watch it explode with backers and potential has just been awesome. I couldn’t be more excited for that game – I’m in love with everything about it.

    Perish is being developed by one guy and it just got funded via IndieGoGo, so it still has a long way to go and it’s a little tough to judge how the final product will turn out. Things may get hectic and crazy, especially once he starts incorporating bosses. Below I wasn’t totally sold on myself for a while for the same reason – it was looking a little too artsy and pretentious. Especially after they released a four-minute "trailer" in which literally nothing happened except clouds went by and music played. To be honest, I had completely written it off, much to the annoyance of many of my friends who also follow indies. But, after seeing some gameplay and the better trailer, I have to say I’m intrigued. From a story-telling standpoint, making the player feel minuscule in the face of the world is really appealing to me. Sure, it’s very Zelda, but that’s not exactly a knock against it.

    I know A LOT of people are excited for Shovel Knight, myself included, but it also took me a while to get over the somewhat "gimicky" shovel-as-weapon thing. It’s just supposed to be quirky and fun, so I can’t really hold that against it. Regardless, all reports indicate it has extremely tight gameplay and level design in the classic vein of Mega Man and Castlevania, which really is enough for me.

    Ghost Song… Man, it does look like Metroid, but the one-man developer has put so much love into this and it is so clearly a perfect marriage of Metroid and Dark Souls that I can’t help but be excited about it. My wife actually made the same comment about the similarity to Metroid, but then I just pointed out to her that it’s perfect, because she can enjoy her Metroid-goodness while I enjoy my Dark Souls-goodness. A match made in heaven! Or game space. Or whatever. I’ll definitely be picking it up when it drops.

    Anyway, thanks again for commenting and sharing your thoughts! I’m hoping we can continue to expand the videogame conversation on the site to include all sorts of games, including indies like these, so keep your eyes peeled for reviews in the future! 🙂

    :cheers: :00020:

  3. Avatar the_feist says:

    I also suggest Rogue Legacy & Magicite. Both are perma death Rouge-likes. Magicite uses a lot of crafting, too. both are a ton of fun!

  4. Avatar JohnnyHarpoon says:

    No problem, man! I’m really glad somebody is talking about games like these on here.

    I didn’t realize Perish was so early in development, so that explains the limited trailer. Still, the seeming kind of slowness of the combat is what really intrigues me and feels unique about it, at least from the limited bit we got.

    Conceptually, I like what Below is doing, and in the end it really depends on how the game plays. Still, I think about something like Demon’s/Dark Souls, which evokes that same feeling of being small/insignificant in the wake of a giant world with giant bosses, but has never sacrificed the perspective and control of general 3rd person games (Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, even the Grand Theft Autos have the same left stick walk/right stick camera setup). As I said, in the end it all depends on how the game plays…but from that trailer, it feels like the perspective could have been used more as a tool and less as a permanent, potentially player-hampering game mechanic for the sake of making a statement. Still, only time will tell.

    Shovel Knight I know I’ll never be able to get over. This is admittedly a more personal issue than a true criticism, but I just see no reason to make the main character a knight if he uses a shovel. By that same token, there’s really no reason a plumber should have the ability to throw fireballs, but for whatever reason I’m fine with that. I just don’t feel like a knight with a shovel is going to immerse me into a game.

    And yeah, in terms of Ghost Song, I love the idea conceptually. It’s really awesome, period. From the extended gameplay, though, I just question what is going to be different at the end of my experience, that I should play GS as opposed to just going back to Metroid. Perish and Below can rightfully be compared to Zelda, but I can see that there will also be inherent differences in the way the game works. I’m on the fence as to whether or not Ghost Song will do that.

    Anyway, they are all incredibly interesting and I’m really happy to have learned about all of them – I merely enjoy engaging in critical discussion, so these are my first impressions. Thanks for writing this!

  5. Avatar DMPDesign says:

    Starting a new RPG akin to Dark Souls and its predecessor – King’s Field. Game is called Dark Destiny. [advertising removed]


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