From Software’s Souls games have spiked in popularity after the new release of Elden Ring. Many are diving in while others have beaten the game and would like to know where to start. Here is our ranking of every Souls game, and note that the list will only include actual From Software games and not Souls-like games.
10. Dark Souls 2
Dark Souls 2 is notorious for being far below the bar that Miyazaki set, and that is most likely due to the fact that he had not touched the base game. The original game before the release of Scholar had many glaring issues between enemies, enemy placement, summoning friends, and more. It is by far the worst game to release in the franchise.
One of the biggest issues that players suffered through was the original summoning system. Summoning players was based on “soul memory”, which based being able to summon a friend on the amount of souls (currency) earned and spent in game. This system made playing with your friends an absolute nightmare, and most ended up playing with random players.
Exploration was incredibly boring and the game felt more linear. Many areas were actually blocked off like Drangleic Castle, leaving build progression to take longer for the weapons you want and making players compromise for less. Players are forced down linear paths toward the major bosses and fight a ton of random enemies with cheesy environment kills and boring mini bosses before being able to get to end game.
Another issue was that some friends found the game to be too easy due to the lack of enemies and their rubber banding. Enemies were scarce and would only track players for a short period of time before reverting to their original placement. Bosses were also incredibly boring aside from the poor atmosphere and story. They added so many more bosses than they needed to and most of them were easy or half baked in design. A lot of the bosses that were meant to be difficult were mostly just janky. Notorious fights we loved in the first game or even Demon Souls often were filled with enemies and one major area boss that fit the story and theme. For example, Quelagg lived below Blight Town which was a poison filled swamp filled with flies and evil fire breathing lizards, and Gravelord Nito resided in the Catacombs which was filled with pinwheels and skeleton soldiers. DS2 did the exact opposite and it felt randomized with no area theme to follow.
Overall the game is quite boring compared to the tradition Miyazaki souls experience. However, a redeeming quality brought to the table is the multiplayer experience when it comes to PVP. Not only were we introduced to dual wielding but classes were fairly well balanced, and we finally got Power Stancing. So while the PVE side is lacking, many players can still be found enjoying fighting to the death via invasion or dueling.
9. Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin
This rerelease feels a hell of a lot better compared to the first game, and had some major, yet much needed changes to the game. It also included some of the best DLC content thanks to our beloved Miyazaki working on it.
Soul memory was finally in a sense changed so players have control over it and can matchmake more easily. All players were able to pick their soul memory, but sadly they still did not have the match making system we know today with password capability. However, it was no better than the original Dark Souls and Demon Souls system with no password setting.
Enemies felt better in this game since they changed enemy placement and added more mobs, as well as add the Forlorn which slightly differ than invasion NPCS. We sadly still were stuck with the same bosses that were designed horribly, even the most disappointing final boss Nashandra, but we at least got some of the best DLC content in souls history. Crown of the Ivory King felt like we dived back into the real feel of Dark Souls with great atmosphere, music, and one of the top five strongest bosses in Souls history known as the Burnt Ivory King. I mean to this day he is still wrecking players around the world.
If we had more of the DLC content in the base game, while keeping the upgrades in combat and PVP, this game could have made its way to a higher ranking in the souls community. However, you have to suffer through the base game in order to get there, which is incredibly disappointing.
8. Demon’s Souls
Demon Souls could have been placed higher, but sadly the game did not age well and to be honest I think its safe to say the game needed more play testing. This beautiful classic was extremely janky, however it did have pretty fun PVP.
For its time the game really introduced the staple of souls mechanics, such as locking on and swapping between enemies. Using a shield or the signature dodge roll led to the memes and gameplay we love today. Sorcery usage because interchangeable and the stat management seemed to be refreshing. Demon Souls laid the groundwork for Souls and Souls-like games. Its weird to think of one of the more niche and difficult franchises has now risen to the top of popular combat mechanics in ARPGs. In addition, we got some of the coolest innovative PVP for the games time.
The reason this game is more towards the bottom is that the PS3 original version aged poorly, and some of the boss fights are extremely janky. Adjudicator is a prime example of not being play tested in the original, since you have three levels of nope to try and hit him and not fall to your death or die from the deadly tongue. The hitboxes were insane, and this is the case with a lot of the bosses that we all love and remember and suffer in nightmares from. It also did not help that rolling was limited to four directions.
Storage management was and remains a nightmare, especially if players wanted to stock up on overpowered healing grass. It would take up so much of the inventory that players would have to pick and choose to avoid fat rolling. This is a huge part of the game not aging well. People were already thrown off at the time since item weight and over-encumbering was a western RPG trait.
Graphics should not make or break a game but between this and the loose camera exploration and combat feel centuries old. The camera and odd hit boxes make travel and dodging seem completely off due to old design and limitations from back in the day. If you think about it, the game is already twelve years old. The textures and detail we see in the old game feel extremely outdated which is why the remaster felt as if it were a whole new game.
World Tendency was brutal for new players, especially given that the game was innovative for its time. White Tendency made the game easier if you died less, while if players died a lot they were punished with Black Tendency which added insanely hard enemies and increased the overall difficulty.
7. Dark Souls
Dark Souls will forever remain in my heart as the best Souls game in history, however if I am to remain unbiased there are quite a few reasons this game is not at the top of the franchise list. While the story telling felt incredible, and the exploration left the most freedom of choosing your path (obviously before Elden Ring), there were quite a few major issues with gameplay, multiplayer, and weapon breaking. Dark Souls is also not for the feint of heart, for it carries on the tradition of extreme brutality and difficulty compared to some of the other entries.
What this game does best compared to some of the other entries, is that most places are not barred off. While it can be extremely frustrating for new players to wander into an area you may not be ready for, it pushes the experience of venturing to other areas allowing players to build on their problem solving capabilities. In addition, veterans can utilize this freedom to get the builds they want in new game plus or new character builds. The original game created a sort of magic as you discovered new locations and hidden bosses or covenants. It also created a sense of accomplishment despite the pain you may have went through.
Some character builds were fairly overpowered, such as pyromancy since this was a class that did not use mana for casting but rather had a number of casts they could use. This is the best starting class for new players, but it overall has the best starting stats, and if you went dexterity you could also hit like a train depending on weapon. Dexterity increases your cast speed exponentially. Most enemies are also extremely weak to fire, but even in PVP Pyro Dex stands as one of the best classes and broken.
The weapon durability system was another huge issue with the game, and also makes it extremely outdated. Players are constantly in need of repair boxes and powder, especially when you get to Anor Londo. Anor Londo is notorious for small hallways, and in the original game you could not return to the main area of the game. Players were without a blacksmith until they reached giant bro, and weapon durability would deplete majorly when hitting objects and hallways compared to enemies.
Bosses varied between amazing design to pure jank, making some experiences amazing and others frustrating or disappointing. It did not help that end game felt a bit rushed, but players got to experience some of the best content for Souls history. Some amazing boss fights were Great Wolf Sif (the goodest boy) and Artorias in the Abysswalker DLC. This game had some amazing lore and heart breaking fights as you had to take down some of the most powerful enemies. However, other fights felt very disappointed or just plain unbalanced. Capra Demon was pure luck to beat since you immediately could be one shotted by the two dogs waiting to jump you before engaging the actual fight. Bed of Chaos also felt near impossible without ranged capabilities since the floor broke under you as you were mauled by branch tentacles that blocked the way to hit the cores you needed to hit to kill each side. Yet other bosses were a complete joke, like Pinwheel who you hacked away in seconds or even the final boss Gwyn (Lord of being Parried). So while some fights felt memorable others felt like they took away from the experience.
The biggest frustration for the original Dark Souls is the matchmaking system was awful. This was a time before being able to set passwords, so when playing with friends you would basically agree on a place and pray there were no other signs. It was pure luck to try and play with friends, making this game one of the worst for coop play.
6. Dark Souls Remastered
One of the best changes to happen to the original game was this remaster. Not only did we received the DLC included, but there were some much needed changes brought to the game from performance, to multiplayer, and overall gameplay changes. I must say, playing one of my favorite all time games at 60 frames per second upscaled to 4K was an amazing experience that I never knew I needed.
First and foremost, they finally upgraded the multiplayer capabilities which was much needed. Players can summon up to six players which is amazing, with of course a dried finger. Matchmaking was finally added and it is the same system as Dark Souls 3. In addition, defeating invading phantoms actually now restores Estus which is amazing. Red phantoms can also no longer see white soap stone signs, preventing getting an unwanted summon and being ahniallated.
Another great bonus was some minor yet amazing changes to the game such as being able to change your covenant at any bonfire, and the added fire next to our beloved Vamos. Items can now also be used in quantities instead of one at a time which was incredibly frustrating. Players are also no longer stuck at Anor Londo and can return. So rather than potentially being stuck as a new player with a broken weapon, you can run back to the main area and repair or purchase needed items.
The reason this was not moved higher is the fact that we still had no real changes to the game that were major aside from the multiplayer changes. Weapon durability is still a nightmare, some of the bosses are just as janky or disappointing. If some boss balancing had been adjusted, or the weapon durability was not as severe, it would have probably jumped the game up a few spots
5. Demon’s Souls Remake
This was another amazing remaster (basically a remake but not confirmed by the developer and still listed as a remaster?) that was much needed for the fans since the original game was outdated. A major overhaul was done and the game basically was remade from the ground up. New music, new rerecorded dialogue, a new UI, and other huge upgrades were added to the game. Even the graphics and areas felt completely redone with beautiful fresh coat of 4K beauty. We also were spoiled with shorter load times, which felt hardly noticeable on the power house that is the PS5.
A big change was inventory management which helps with becoming over encumbered. Players can now move all their unnecessary grass and items from the menu to avoid carrying too much. Players are now limited in how much they can carry since item weight was also added to the various grasses you could pick up.
In addition to the new badass animations with combat, I absolutely loved that omnidirectional rolling was adding to the game. It paired well with the tighter camera to fix some of the awkward animations and hitboxes that made demon souls difficult to master. The new gameplay felt crisper, cleaning, and overall much more enjoyable to play in both PVE and PVP. Especially since all of the areas feel completely refreshing and visually stunning compared to the original game.
Unfortunately it is still the same game as before in the sense of boss fights and wild bosses. The world tendency is just as cruel as before, and punishes players based on death count. Many of the newer players or less skilled will suffer immensely at the hands of black tendency from high death count. Bosses like the Adjudicator and Penetrator will still completely destroy you with some kind of jank while other bosses like Old King Allant and Leechmonger will disappoint you. Magic builds are just as OP as ever (Royal) too making balancing for classes a bit off putting.
Sekiro is a storytelling masterpiece that captures the beauty of an ancient Japan and all of its lore. This staggering beauty provides incredible exploration, astonishing gameplay, and provides a beautiful narrative which is why it is no wonder the game one 2019 GOTY.
The best part about the game was the world and lore, paired with beautiful storytelling. Aside from finding every new area from temples and caves to forests and shrines absolutely captivating, the overall design of every environment was filled with rewarding items. Essentially, exploration was extremely rewarding whether you found needed items for side quests or ninja tools, or you may stumble upon a hidden boss that will kill all of your progress. This is matches with an amazing soundtrack that completes the aesthetic of one of the best ARPGs in history.
Another amazing feature of the game is that enemy designs and boss designs often felt authentic. The game has a bit of a learning curve when it comes to combat, but enemies are actually a fun obstacle to grind for levels. Every enemy also has variations that force players into planning their path after death, such as bandits at the Estate ranging from your standard katana and axe wielders to a variety of ranged users between fire, poison, and standard. Ninjas, Loneshadows, and Assassins all had a particular fighting style that forced you to change your approach, as well as the Senpou Temple monks. Every new environment had enemies laid out strategically creating a unique learning curve to proceed through the game, and no placement felt random.
The boss often always fit the theme and added a major level of frustration depending on the fight. To kill any area boss or mini boss, the player had to land a killing blow up to three times (usually just twice but two major bosses require three). The fights could be entirely misleading or just plain exhausting after obtaining the win. The True Corrupted Monk and Guardian Ape were prime examples of wanting to cry, but of course proved to be rewarding and a great learning experience. Other fights were insanely fun to learn, like Genchiro and the Owl since they created an exhilarating feeling with their one on one duels.
Gameplay was amazing, but also could feel repetitive at times. The stealth aspect added a great level of strategy, as well as all of the unique ninja tools, but overall the playstyle remained the same with the sword depending on your path. Parrying could end up redundant at times making the combat feel repetition based. Thankfully the bosses forced players into using various tools which generated a mix up to the gameplay. However, we also saw a lot of bosses come back adding more repetition. Many of these fights actually have more than one, such as Genchiro, the Owl, Corrupted Monk, and Guardian Ape. The fights change in little ways and prove to be more challenging later on, but it is annoying to see them again in the first place. Especially fighting Seven Ashina Spears a second time with his friend, a samurai general. In addition, there is no PVP in this game so many veterans looking for a fight will only experience the story. In addition, you cannot summon help but will find some NPCs to aid you on the way.
What kept this game from rising to the top is that while its a masterpiece, it is not friendly for new Souls players. Not only does the gameplay deviate from the norm, but it is brutal for beginners with no experience. The difficulty spike compared to normal ARPGs is a major jump right from the start of the game and is unappealing to many casual players. This is a game to jump into after dipping your toes into some more authentic Souls games like DS3.
Bloodborne is a far cry away from your tradition Souls game, just like Sekiro, but more so in a horror setting. This game was heavily based off of Call of Cthulu lore when it came to the overall world design and enemies. It is by far the most unique of the franchise, and another brutal masterpiece waiting to test your patience and skill.
What is so extraordinary about Bloodborne is the depth of the lore and plot line of the game. The whole adventure feels as if the player is back in a Call of Cthulu campaign. Playing as a Hunter that embarks on a horrifying adventure through the Gothic city of Yharnam, and fighting the unimaginable is an intense experience but also very rewarding. Between the items, cut scenes, and objectives there is so much to discover in the mythos of the game. The world is also massive and beautiful, with an engaging environment that rewards and punishes exploration.
Enemies are incredibly petrifying since they range from fast hunting dogs to grotesque Bloodlickers and Trolls. Bosses also vary between Great Ones that are elite entities that seem like Cosmic Gods, such as Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos or even Rom a magical freaking spider. Other Boss fights consist of horrors like the Cleric Beast and even corrupted hunters like Gherman and Gascoigne. Boss fights are a huge strongpoint for the game since they are all unique in design but provide a measure of difficulty that is enjoyable.
Each fight feels vastly different requiring a mix up of strategies depending on your build like any souls game, but the gameplay adds a major twist. Rather than the slower paced combat of Dark Souls, this game is as fast as Sekiro and like Sekiro has no shields. Instead, players carry a gun to actually parry monsters giving off extreme steam punk vibes. Its a fairly innovative concept that proved to be entertaining. Weapons for the main hand ranged from heavy weapons like the Boom Hammer to fast dexterity weapons like the Chikage and Rakuyo. There were of course added stats like Poison and Arcane depending on build. Like Souls games, the weapons scaled on stats but they also had unique and more futuristic abilities. For example, the Chikage is one of the best weapons, but also damages you and turns into a two handed blood sword. Rakuyo turns into dual blades but do not scale with Bloodtinge like the Chikage, but scales with Arcane and Skill. The weapon animations are very detailed and satisfying to watch. Especially when you go for the humor and run the Whirling Saw which is literally a long-handed mace with a buzz saw at the end. Needless to say, weapons and builds were another big plus that adds to the ranking for this entry.
This game would have been perfect, but it suffered from a few flaws that kept it lower on the list. One of the biggest issues is new players will suffer through a harder beginning like Sekiro. Many on of the enemies have a lot of health and starts are low meaning your damage output is low, making your progress off to a slower start. Summoning friends will help, but usually your progression takes longer since steam rolling through is a lot more punishable in this game verses the other Souls games. It also does not help that warping is annoying, since you cannot warp from lamp to lamp and have to go back to the Hunter’s Dream every time. Keep in mind too that he load times are horrible for the game, making progress exhausting faster than that of another game in the franchise.
While the combat is really cool and inspiring, it also has a high floor high ceiling effect for even veteran players. If you think about it, we all got used to the sword and shield before the game launched or ditched the shield all together. Now we have a gun to parry and a unique weapon set that greatly differs from the weapon set in the Dark Souls games. So while the combat is one of the best parts, its also a double edge sword for new players and existing players learning the game.
2. Dark Souls 3
I honestly wanted to place Dark Souls 3 as the best game, since it is the best and most balanced starting point for new players. The reason behind why it is the best place to start is the fact that it plays like all of the traditional games, but is more balanced and play tested. The multiplayer worked off the back and phenomenally, PVP arenas ran beautifully aside from some stat balancing issues (looking at you poise), and there was way less jank and more pure skill checks. However, there is a reason behind it not being the top game in the franchise.
Dark Souls 3 features amazing level design with little to no cheap environment kills (looking at you DS2), and every setting felt beautiful. Between the gorgeous ruins of revisiting Anor Londo, the distressing dungeons of Irithyll, and the brutality of running through the Ringed City every environment felt crisp, detailed, and rewarding to explore. While the game felt a tad more linear than the first, it flowed in such a way that undergoing the adventure felt enjoyable as we discovered each new location. The atmosphere also had the Miyazaki touch so it honestly felt like reliving the first game in a sense, but continuing the story and crying as we see what becomes of Lodran, though some argue Lothric is Lodran in the future, or that the worlds are colliding since they are transitory. This paired well with the depressing tale of forcing the Lords of Cinder to abandon their wants and return to their thrones so you can choose between relinking the flame or being rebellious.
The combat only improved with this entry, and feels smoother than DS1 and DS2, but also keeps building improvements with additions like mana rather than limiting uses to magic. Now players had Estus and Ashen Flasks, and could freely manage the number carried between the two. This added an element of difficulty but also balance to caster builds, especially since we had less items to heal with and the items like Blessings were not normal enemy drops. Combat felt a little faster compared to the last to games which also felt like the cherry on top of the improved combat system.
Weapon upgrades are easier in this game since the crafting materials are more accessible than the previous games. Titanite is abundant between looting chests and killing enemies, so maxing out a weapon is smoother than ever. Obviously slabs will still be harder to obtain, but it will not feel like a nightmare to find them. Unfortunately, while we have some of the same weapons we know and love, and some new ones, many weapons feature a unique ability known as the Weapon Art which is either over powered, or a complete bust. Dragon Slayer Great Axe is a great example of one shotting invaders if your build is right, as well as the weapon art for the Ringed Knight Paired Great Swords (banned for a minute in PVP). Perseverance and Shield Break were also some very popular but exploitable weapon arts for PVP. Many other weapon arts are pretty useless, like Great Scythe, since they were too slow to end up viable in PVP or PVE.
Covenant grinded is a nightmare in DS3, mostly due to the fact that it was rewarding but the drop rates were insanely low for vertebrae and even tongues or dregs. You could spend days trying to max out a covenant due to a drop rate as low as three percent, and the reason behind maxing was usually for the achievement hunters like myself who wanted to one hundred percent the game, or for the sorceries and items. Some Covenants offered great rewards like Blue Sentinals with the Darkmoon Ring and Blade, or Warriors of Sunlight with the Sacred Oath Miracle and Great Lightning Spear. Others offered nothing like Way of the Blue, or just some vertebrae shackles like Mound Makers.
Some of the bosses were amazing in design, while others were a massive disappointment. I loved the challenging fights like the Lothric Princes and Oceiros that made me tear up a bit, or even getting my skull beat in by Pontiff a few times. However, the fights that were really disappointing made me feel like it was not a souls game at times. I mean, come on I knew the first fight would probably be easy which Gundyr was, but Highlord Wolnir was flat out stupid. At least the fights with the cheeses offer a normal way to fight, such as Yhorm and the Ancient Wyvern. Pontiff is literally just hacking away at his bracelets as he occasionally arm sweeps or uses magic. I will say that most of the boss fights are at least memorable and incredible in design, making this actually a strong point for the game.
1. Elden Ring
Elden Ring is by far the best overall game in terms of gameplay, exploration incentive, and content. While some areas need improvement, the fact that the game performed as strongly as it did surprised me with how massive the world is and how huge the player base is. While the game is not the best starting point for those who want to explore other games, it does offer a good start to how combat works in souls games and is easier for new players to adapt to.
It was a very tough choice between this and DS3, mostly due to the fact that DS3 is better when it comes to stat balancing and game balancing in general. Most of the enemies deal insane damage like we saw in bloodborne, and the average player should use no less than 40 vigor in their build. This leads to the huge controversy of what the levels will be for PVP, since the skill caps are higher and there is a lot of more content in the game to explore which leads to a higher average level at end game. If you think about it in tradition Dark Souls and even Bloodborne, many do not hit PVP level until mid way through NG+ since most finish around 60-80 depending on skill and how much they explore. In Elden Ring, the average level people are finish break 100. Many speculate that PVP will stay 125, however as of now many pools range from 125-150. This helps balance the massive need for vigor at the very least, and those strictly PVE who do not care for going above and beyond will have room to work with. So even though vigor is off setting many builds early on, the late game makes up for it since there is so much content to explore in the game.
While the story telling is not as strong as other games, it still has a lot of lore to offer and the Lands Between has so much to offer. Every area is packed with ruins, mini dungeons, and area bosses to find so many items and even side quests. Bosses can feel cheap sometimes, but many are incredible in design and challenge. The best part is, while players are dumping months into the game due to how large it is and how many areas are still to this day being discovered, its easy to avoid being overwhelmed. This is the first of the franchise to use the open world formula, meaning if you are struggling in one area you can go off and do something else without feeling stuck. That makes this the easiest for new players to the gameplay to adjust and find accomplishment. Though DS3 is the better starting point, Elden Ring is the most inviting.
PVP is the weakest link for the game right now due to balancing issues, exploits, and game breaking hacks. Some weapons need major nerfing, and blood and magic builds are running the show. Blood is extremely broken at the moment, and wrecking players across the board while others are exploiting builds that damage you by simply touching you. PVE is in the same boat depending on your build, mainly faith builds, since all of the bosses late game are literally faith. Balancing is the biggest offender to playing the game right now, but at least the developers are taking it seriously and constantly patching the game.
Mounted combat is another reason that the game rose to the top, for its the first time we are seeing it and it changes fights entirely. Riding Torrent also opens up so many new method and strategies to your arsenal, giving you more options on how you want to experience the fight. In addition magic has never been so versatile and better. We have so many more incantations that can act as support, self defense, and pure damage. Erdtree Heal is an amazing example for players that want to set up their faith build to assist in multiplayer combat, and acts as a huge AOE heal that can change the fight entirely. We are also seeing many AOE buffs like Barrier of Gold that increases the parties magic defense. Many incantations also have various types, such as Black Flame abilities, Dragon abilities, and Crucible abilities. Sorceries also have a lot of variety between Cold sorceries that deal frost damage, gravity sorceries, or even glintstone sorceries which act as some of the best in the game. Casting has never felt better and so diverse despite the meta. Many players are utilizing this for PVE and playing through with so many different options.
Elden Ring has so much to cover, so many options in terms of gameplay and combat, and so much time for improvement that it is easily the best Souls game out right now. The game is much more welcoming for new players, and in a way easier due to the open world formula. While there are much needed balancing adjustments and PVP is in a questionable state, it has to much to offer for the average gamer and even souls player.
Veteran gamer, tech nerd, comic addict, anime lover, and just your average introverted weeb.