We finally know when we’ll get our hands on Elden Ring, the upcoming collaboration between Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin and From Software, the studio behind the Dark Souls. But there’s still a while to wait until Elden Ring releases on January 21, 2022.
In the meantime, you might be looking for some games to fill the void. Fortunately, there are plenty of dark fantasy games around, both from FromSoftware and other developers, which are in a similar vein to Elden Ring. So we’ve put together a list of some of the best, which have either been chosen for their stylistic similarities, Norse mythology elements or for simply providing a vibrant fantasy world.
Read on for the best games to play while you’re waiting for Elden Ring.
The Dark Souls series
The first game, and the following two entries, are kind of a given. If you really want to get to grips with the kind of atmosphere, challenge level and environments that Elden Ring is likely to offer, then look no further than developer FromSoftware’s critically-acclaimed Dark Souls series.
The Dark Souls trilogy sees players battling through a series of interconnected dark, medieval fantasy environments, taking on dragons, phantoms, demons and many more horrors.
While Elden Ring will offer a more open world than Dark Souls – and some other key differences – it does bear a striking resemblance visually to the lauded series. What’s more, it sounds like Elden Ring will feature some Dark Souls-like boss battles, so it’s worth getting as much practice in as you can before taking on FromSoftware’s next challenge.
Elden Ring is being touted as the “evolution of Dark Souls”, so if you haven’t played the games in the series before, or want a refresher on what to expect, then this is a good place to start.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Elden Ring looks to take inspiration from Norse mythology, a topic which has gained quite a bit of media popularity in recent years. So if you’re looking for another dark fantasy-style action adventure, with Norse and Celtic influences, then look no further than Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
While Hellblade’s execution differs largely to that of FromSoftware’s previous titles, and likely from Elden Ring, it does see protagonist Senua taking on some of Norse mythology’s’ most hostile figures in an effort to make her way to Helheim.
Hellblade is a dark tale, with an even darker atmosphere, and will scratch the itch of those who wish to venture into a gloomy world filled with enemies derived from true myth – with lorestones scattered throughout the world tells stories of Norse legends. The combat’s a little different from the Dark Souls games, but it offers its own challenges to get to grips with.
Another one made by FromSoftware, Bloodborne’s environment differs a fair bit from that of Dark Souls. While keeping within the dark fantasy vein, Bloodborne is more Gothic-leaning, set in a Victorian-era inspired by the likes of HP Lovecraft.
Bloodborne features as much detailed exploration as Dark Souls did, offering a large, interconnected world to investigate – with plenty of unsettling, supernatural enemies to take on. Bloodborne’s network of corridors and open spaces sounds like it will have nothing on the size of Elden Ring’s map, but it offers a great insight into how FromSoftware builds its worlds – though Elden Ring won’t have any friendly NPCs, unlike Bloodborne. Bloodborne could also provide an insight into how Elden Ring’s multiplayer will work (it’s a mix of invasions and summoning allies), though we expect it will differ somewhat.
Like Dark Souls, Bloodborne’s lore is embedded in every detail of the world, gradually building up a full picture of the nightmare unfurling around you. With George R.R. Martin writing the overarching mythos for Elden Ring, we imagine it’ll have a slightly different flavor than the worlds of previous FromSoftware titles
Shadow of the Colossus
A moody, desolate open-world? Check. Hulking beasts that require patience and skill to defeat? Check. Good-boy buddy vibes from a companion horse? Check. Shadow of the Colossus is almost certain to play very differently to Elden Ring, but the feeling it gives off appears very similar.
Just as Elden Ring will have you uncovering the mysteries of its map as you traverse its traps and evade or hunt its gigantic beasts, so too did Shadow of the Colossus present a world rife with mystery, magic, and a fair dose of sadness too. Its mix of monsters and mystical ruins seems a good fit as a pre-Elden Ring appetiser.
Demon’s Souls (2020)
This is our final FromSoftware offering, we promise. The remake of Demon’s Souls was actually made by Bluepoint Games in collaboration with Sony, rather than with From’s oversight – but this does give us an idea of just how good the studio’s worlds can look on next-gen consoles.
Demon’s Souls on PS5 boasts an incredibly detailed world, with the ability to run at 60fps in Performance Mode or 4K at 30fps in Cinematic Mode. This action RPG also has a Photo Mode, DualSense support and a beautiful orchestral score.
As with the other games on this list, it’s worth trying Demon’s Souls to get to grips with FromSoftware’s offerings, but we mainly recommend it because it’s the best indication of how Elden Ring will perform on PS5 and Xbox Series X – with some of these features and modes hopefully making their way to Elden Ring. If nothing else, it’s the nicest-looking version of this type of game you’ll find anywhere right now.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War
Some might think it’s sacrilege to include games inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium in this list. But Tolkien and George R.R. Martin are considered two of the best fantasy writers of all time, even if the tone of their work varies wildly, so we make no apologies. If you’re into dark fantasy games generally, you should check out the Middle-Earth games.
Neither Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor nor Shadow or War focus on Bilbo Baggins or that troublesome ring. Instead, the games take place between The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, and focuses on Talion, a Gondorian Ranger, who teams up with the wraith of an Elf Lord to avenge their loved ones. They’re more Assassin’s Creed-like open world games than Souls-like dungeon crawlers, but the superficial similarities in art style should impress anyone who’s excited about Elden Ring.
The Middle-Earth games tap into the overarching lore of Tolkien’s work, offering a familiar setting, but developer Monolith fleshes this lore out with one of the best combat systems in modern gaming: the Nemesis system. The Nemesis system is an AI-controlled system that sees each Orc you kill being replaced by one of lower rank, while those that manage to kill you are rewarded with a promotion and an ability to sense your weaknesses. It’s an extremely dynamic system that makes Middle-Earth’s Orc army almost a living and breathing entity – and often a bit of a pain to deal with.
Hollow Knight is quietly one of the best Soulslike games around, making it a perfect game to play while waiting for Elden Ring. Hollow Knight boasts a dark, atmospheric world, brooding enemies and strategic boss fights, making this indie platformer a much more challenging experience than you might expect. But, like many Soulslike games, that feeling when you finally take down a tough boss is euphoric.
Nioh is one of myriad titles that takes Souls-style combat, of creeping through haunted-seeming locations and battling tough monsters with an emphasis on stamina management, and transports the gameplay – this time to the Sengoku period of Japan (well, a magical realism take on it).
This isn’t just a Dark Souls clone though, as there are some features which really transform the Soulsian mechanics. There’s a much bigger focus on looting gear and swapping out your equipment, From Software’s typical open world is swapped out for a linear experience, and different ‘stances’ let you choose the speed of play – this latter trait makes Nioh’s combat much quicker.
This game came out when Dark Souls titles were still in their ‘slow, tactical gameplay’ phase but with Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3, From Software has introduced much faster fighting into its titles, and according to Elden Ring interviews, that game will be even quicker-paced. So of all the Soulsian games not developed by FromSoftware, this could be the most similar to the upcoming one.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series
Want to remind yourself why George R.R. Martin is one of the best fantasy authors around? Then it’s worth playing the Telltale Games’ episodic Game of Thrones series. Sure, Martin didn’t write the dialogue in the episodes, but he did create the entire world on which the game is based – so it’s a must-play for those who want to soak themselves in more Game of Thrones lore before moving on to Martin’s next project.
Like all Telltale games, don’t expect a whole lot of action in this one, it’s primarily narrative-driven with your choices affecting how the story plays out. It can be a bit slow at times but the intertwining of various iconic character’s stories and the ability to cuss out Ramsay Snow pretty much makes up for that.
Of all the Souls-like games on the market, arguably the most similar to that text-book is actually a mobile game: Pascal’s Wager (well, it’s also available on Steam, but launched first on phones).
Pascal’s Wager borrows heavily from From Software’s playbook, both in terms of combat (dodging and rolling, knowing when to strike and when to back away, and managing stamina as you fight and explore creepy towns) and tone (you’re in a mysterious semi-inhabited land, you need to maintain your sanity, everything has a strong Victorian-Gothic character).
It’s perhaps not the best Souls-clone on the market, and it doesn’t add anything to the established formula like Deck 13’s games or the Nioh series did, but the fact you’re playing a detailed 3D game on your mobile balances that out. Plus, compared to some other titles, it’s not brought up in conversations surrounding Dark Souls or Elden Ring too much, so there’s a good chance it flew under your radar.