The popular action RPG series from developer FromSoftware, Dark Souls has won the studio international acclaim and success on account of its punishing difficulty, rewarding combat, and compelling RPG mechanics. But it’s not just the gameplay that makes Dark Souls so beloved as a series: the games have an excellent sense of aesthetics, imparting each title with an impressive, gloomy atmosphere that perfectly complements the dark tone and brutal challenge.
It isn’t entirely surprising, then, that Dark Souls draws a lot of its aesthetic inspiration from similarly dark fantasy anime classics, namely titles like Berserk and Record of Lodoss War, but there is also a number of anime out there with similar themes that Dark Souls fans will want to check out. These shows are either dark fantasy experiences that match the doom and gloom of Souls, or standouts in the more general fantasy genre that are also worth watching.
10 Legend Of Legendary Heroes
Although the title might be off-putting to some, Legend of Legendary Heroes or “Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu” is a competent high-fantasy story about magic users, swordsmen, and kingdoms struggling for dominance. In an effort to restore peace and honor to the Empire of Roland, magician Ryner Lute must undertake a quest to find lost heroic relics of unfathomable power.
If searching for artifacts to aid in a quest to restore glory to a once-great kingdom sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s essentially the plot of Dark Souls as well. Although the protagonist Ryner doesn’t ever have to link the fire, there are some story beats that will seem familiar to those who have played Dark Souls.
Although it might not be as intense in terms of content, violence, or moody atmosphere as some of the other entries on this list, Slayers is still important viewing for fans of Dark Souls, or of fantasy in general, because it’s among the classics of the genre that anime has to offer. When vivacious adventurer, Lina Inverse, chances upon a magic artifact of substantial power, hijinks ensue.
Although it lacks the grim atmosphere that makes Dark Souls what it is, there’s enough here for fans of RPGs, or fantasy, in general, to have a great time, especially since the show features a likable cast of characters, some well-constructed jokes, and an easy-to-digest episodic formula, making it perfect for casual viewing.
8 Attack On Titan
As one of anime’s preeminent “dark fantasy” franchises of the last 10 years, Attack On Titan has a lot to offer that fans of Dark Souls might gravitate to. Featuring a grim atmosphere, nightmarish monsters in the form of the menacing titans, and plenty of violence, these elements are sure to make Dark Souls players feel right at home.
Furthermore, the show is impressive in its own right and is massively popular for some compelling reasons. The setting and themes are instantly engaging, and the numerous unpredictable plot twists keep things interesting along the way.
7 Shingeki No Bahamut: Genesis
A swashbuckling tale of thieves, bounty hunters, and ancient dragons, Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis is a thrilling fantasy adventure story involving unlikely heroes thrust into a quest that might determine the fate of the world. The main cast is what really makes the anime shine through here and the protagonists are instantly charming and a joy to watch throughout.
Although the earlier parts of Bahamut have a good bit more levity to them than the average Dark Souls run, this is a story that deals with the awakening of ancient dragons, which should sound immediately familiar to anybody who’s made it through to the end of the game.
6 Goblin Slayer
Goblin Slayer made waves in the anime community back in 2018 on account of its, perhaps unsurprisingly, unflinching and outright brutal approach towards slaying goblins. Featuring a masked protagonist driven by the singular overriding purpose of killing more goblins, Goblin Slayer happily delivers healthy doses of brutal fantasy action.
Goblin Slayer itself takes heavy inspiration from classic RPGs, leading many fans to compare the show’s cast to a D&D party, which is sure to appeal to fans of Dark Souls looking for some crunchy RPG-styled combat. The show can also venture rapidly into very dark territory, which goes well with the similarly bleak atmosphere of Dark Souls.
5 Akame Ga Kill!
Akame Ga Kill! is certainly not for the faint of heart, and especially not recommended for those who find themselves getting a little too attached to characters a little too fast. This is a show that doesn’t like to pull punches when it comes to character deaths, and there’s little in the way of plot armor to keep fan favorites alive.
Although the show can sometimes come across as excessively transgressional at points, feeling more like something that lives up to the classic “edgy anime” moniker than anything else, there is a legitimate sense of danger and foreboding that gives the show a grim atmosphere. And after all, what could be more Dark Souls than an unforgiving atmosphere set in an unpleasant fantasy setting?
4 Arslan Senki
Although Arslan Senki is, at its core, a fantasy story, it’s mostly interested in leaning heavily into the shifting military and political balances between the many factions contending for power in the anime’s setting. Fans with an appetite for mysterious power brokers, complex loyalties, and shifting factional relationships will definitely want to check this one out.
The story follows Arslan, prince of the Kingdom of Pars, after a disastrous battle expels him from his country and his throne. Combining fantasy adventure with war drama, Arslan Senki grounds its setting exceptionally well, and fans of Dark Souls will be attracted to its straight-to-the-point approach to fantasy.
Claymore is a 2007 anime developed from a manga that ran from 2001 to 2014, set in a world where monsters called “youma” roam the countryside, instilling terror in the villagers of the land. To combat these monsters, there are beings called “Claymores” – human-youma hybrids created for the specific purpose of exterminating any youma they encounter.
The story follows a Claymore named Clare and her human companion Raki as they travel the world, battling demons along the way. The straightforward excitement of fighting demonic beings with excessively large swords is sure to stir the heart of any true Dark Souls fan, making this one worth checking out.
2 Record Of Lodoss War
One of anime’s preeminent high fantasy offerings, Record of Lodoss War is a 13-episode series from 1990 that hits every note a fan might expect of a lofty sword and sorcery story. Those with a love for Lord of the Rings, or any fantasy in general, owe it to themselves to watch this one because it’s got the works: magic, wizards, monsters, and warriors.
The story follows a party of adventurers on a quest to save their kingdom from certain ruin at the hands of an evil sorcerer. Although the atmosphere of the show is a little loftier, and perhaps “traditional fantasy” compared to the moodier themes of Dark Souls, Lodoss delivers so well in the fantasy adventure department that it becomes a must-watch.
Without a doubt, the greatest influence on Dark Souls from the world of anime and manga is Berserk, the long-running dark fantasy manga (with several anime adaptations) from author and artist Kentarou Miura. Berserk practically wrote the book on the general tone and aesthetics that make Dark Souls so compelling.
While Berserk is critically acclaimed and hugely popular, it does have something of a complicated relationship to its anime adaptations, to say nothing of the manga’s production schedule. And although the 1997 anime is generally well regarded, subsequent adaptations have been met with less enthusiasm on account of their frequently less-than-stellar production values.
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