Souls games are some of the most fascinating titles of all time (Image via FromSoftware, PlayStation)

All Souls games ranked, from Demon's Souls to Elden Ring

FromSoftware has become one of the most influential developers in the modern gaming landscape with its Souls games that have unique design and storytelling approach.

Its games rarely follow mainstream game design archetypes that have saturated the current gaming market. Where most modern AAA titles rely on hand-holding and on-the-face storytelling, FromSoftware relies on subtlety for both storytelling and gameplay systems.

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FromSoftware is known for pioneering the Soulslike genre with its Dark Souls games, which are unanimously considered one of the harshest yet rewarding gaming experiences. The developer's design philosophy is simple: create a game world that rewards curiosity and perseverance.

Yes, Souls games are tough, however, they are never unfair, and that's exactly why players easily gravitate towards them despite their notorious difficulty.

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FromSoftware believes players are smart enough to figure out the gameplay and narrative intricacies of the titles without it having to bombard them with pop-ups and objective markers every step of the way.

From the humble beginning of the series with Demon's Souls to the 2022's best-selling open-world behemoth Elden Ring, Souls games have come a long way since their inception.

Although every single entry in the series is a masterpiece in its own right, everyone has their own best and worst picks from the seven amazing Souls titles. Here is a ranked list of all the Souls games developed by FromSoftware.

Note: This article is subjective and reflects the author's opinions.


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FromSoftware's Souls games, ranked from worst to best

7) Demon's Souls

The game that started it all, but also the most cubersome title from FromSoftware's catalog of Souls games. Demon's Souls was initially a failing project that, with the help of Hidetaka Miyazaki himself, saw the light of day.

Although initially disliked by players due to its lack of accessibility and relentless difficulty, Demon's Souls grew into a cult classic over time. It garnered players who cherished the game's vague storytelling and challenging combat encounters.

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Demon's Soul's, as the very first Souls title, got a lot of things right like world design, atmosphere, player freedom, and gameplay diversity. However, it relied heavily on needless difficulty spikes in some late game zones that can often frustrate players.

The game also relied too much on gimmick boss fights like the Storm King, Dragon God and Tower Knight to name a few, which felt like wasted potential for a good boss fight, and turned down the experience by a couple of notches.

Demon's Souls is by no means a bad game, far from it, but it isn't as refined as the later entries in the series, which is completely understandable.


6) Dark Souls 2

Dark Souls 2 is the only Souls title developed by FromSoftware that was not directly overseen by Hidetaka Miyazaki, and it really shows. With this game, FromSoftware wanted to reinvent the magic of the first offering, which was heralded as one of the best games of the seventh console generation.

However, in pursuit of reinventing the series, the developers somewhat fumbled in retaining the true essence of the Souls games.

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Dark Souls 2 bought some really cool ideas to the table that were implemented in FromSoftware's future titles like the power-stancing mechanic. However, it also bought a plethora of additions that were fundamentally flawed and massively hampered the entire experience.

The Dark Souls titles are not about mindless difficulty; instead, they're about presenting a tough but fair challenge to players without overwhelming them. Dark Souls 2 made some really questionable decisions with its game design that were, at times, against the tenets of the Souls experience.

For instance, the game added an extra attribute which players needed to invest levels into, called "adaptibility," essentially invincibility frames between animations that allowed players a buffer for their dodges.

Another major design flaw was the removal of respawning enemies to detract players from farming souls. Let's not forget the lack of interconnected levels and over-reliance on warping to new zones, which heavily de-emphasized exploration in the game.

Despite all its shortcomings, Dark Souls 2 is still a great experience, one that should not be missed by players. Yes, it might not be a good follow-up to the original Dark Souls, but it's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination.

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The game features some really incredible boss fights, especially in its DLCs, like Fume Knight, Sir Alonne, Smelter Demon, etc., which are some of the best bosses in the series' history. The power-stancing mechanic was also a great addition, which was later reintroduced in Elden Ring.

Overall, Dark Souls 2 is a mixed bag, but it's still a good title for players to enjoy.


5) Dark Souls

The original Dark Souls is the Souls game that brought developer FromSoftware into the limelight. It was built of the strong foundations of the developers' previous work, Demon's Souls, with many refinements done to the core gameplay and narrative formula to create a cohesive and much more enjoyable title for players.

Although combat and gameplay systems remain roughly the same as Demon's Souls, the level design is one aspect of the game that got massively overhauled.

It was built on the idea of a highly interconnected world that would encourage players to explore the game's many interesting levels and discover hidden paths, shortcuts, and bonfires.

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The inteconnectivity of the original Dark Souls remains unmatched by any other game to this day, and only FromSoftware's own titles have come somewhat close to matching the immaculate level design of the game.

The feeling of awe and excitement upon discovering the elevator that connects Undead Berg and Firelink Shrine is something no player can ever forget. The game's intelligent use of its checkpoint placement is really genius and shows the talent and dedication of the developers in creating an unforgettable experience for players.

Dark Souls set a benchmark for future Souls games with its world design and immaculate combat and gameplay systems.


4) Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls 3 is the true continuation of the original game in the series, which takes inspiration from both the Dark Souls titles before it and also the spin-off PlayStation exclusive title Bloodborne.

It features some returning locations from the original game like Anor Londo, which not only serves as a connecting thread between the two games in the series but also acts as the final homage to the series' roots.

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Dark Souls 3's combat and gameplay systems were massively overhauled to support a more fast-paced and aggressive playstyle.

Taking cues from Bloodborne, it heavily encourages players to adopt a faster and more agile playstyle. This is because most bosses in the game are relentless and often string multiple attacks before giving players time to land a few hits of their own.

The series' finale is one that is masterfully crafted with some of the best bosses ever created in all of gaming. The boss design of Dark Souls 3 is the game's highlight, with some of the most memorable bosses being the Nameless King, Pontiff Sulyvahn, Abyss Watchers, and the Twin Princes: Lorian and Lothric.

The game also received two great expansions that acted as the epilogue to the series, capping it off on a thunderous note with bosses like Darkeater Midir, Sister Friede and Slave Knight Gael.

Dark Souls 3 is everything players wanted from the series' finale and more, which truly cemented it as one of the best Souls games in FromSoftware's history.


3) Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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Sekiro is the farthest departure from the Souls games that FromSoftware had ever created, but still retained the core mechanics of the series — albeit in a completely different setting and a massively overhauled combat system.

For Sekiro, FromSoftware ditched the midieval fantasy setting of its previous titles in favor of a Sengoku-era Japanese setting.

The game also saw FromSoftware ditch the traditional unnamed custom protagonist for a fully voiced, pre-defined protagonist named Wolf or Sekiro. It is a quintessential example of the developers' ability to create new and unique experiences without deviating from their core design philosophy.

Sekiro's gameplay was also recreated from the ground-up, ditching the traditional leveling system that had been governing the players' progression developers' previous Souls games.

Instead, it introduced a skill system that allows players to unlock new combat skills, both passive and active, as they progress through the game.

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Sekiro also forgoes multiple weapon categories of Dark Souls and instead grants players only a Katana for their entire journey.

However, the game still retains the series' penchant for experiementation with a prosthetic tool that allows players to use different combat tools like an axe, poison blade or even a flamethrower. However, this comes at the cost of a perishable resource called Spirit Emblems.

The combat in Sekiro is more akin to a rhythmic title than the traditional Souls games, where players must synchronize their every attack, deflect and counterattack according to the enemy's moves. It also removes the stamina meter, which allows players to adapt to the aggressive playstyle of Sekiro.

The removal of the stamina bar is compensated with a posture system, which is shared by players as well as the enemies in the game. Players can break an enemy's posture with well-timed attacks, deflets, and mikiri counters, which instantly opens them up for a deathblow.

Enemies can also break players' posture, which has a massive wind-up animation that leaves players vulnerable to attacks.

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The game, due to its reliance on a single weapon combat and skills, requires players to practice and learn the intricacies of Sekiro's combat in order to overcome the challenges in the title. The bosses in Sekiro, although these are some of the toughest encounters in FromSoftware's history, are never unfair.

Sekiro, on the surface, might not feel unlike the Souls games, but it is one, through and through. This might be due to the game's uncompromising difficulty, respawning enemies or the checkpoint and central hub system that is very reminiscent of the Dark Souls series.

Apart from a fixed protagonist and a much more vibrant setting, the only difference is Sekiro's stellar combat, which is undoubtedly the best system in any video game to date.


2) Elden Ring

Elden Ring is the amalgamation of all the Souls games that FromSoftware has previously worked on. It is the perfect mashup of all the good aspects of these games, added with a host of new mechanics and a huge open world which truly is revolutionary for both the Soulslike as well as the open-world genre.

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Elden Ring is FromSoftware's first foray into the open world and it has basically nailed the true essence of the genre by giving players full freedom to explore basically any part of the map that they like from the get-go.

The vastness of the world is accentuated by the countless dungeons and hidden areas that are littered across the map. This adds depth to the world while giving players more reason to explore.

The game's combat system is nothing new, it's essentially Dark Souls 3's combat system, but even more refined. The weapon skills are much more prominent than they used to be in previous Souls games. Players are even allowed to switch skills on certain weapons, which adds even more options for customization.

Despite being an open world, Elden Ring fully retains the core tenets of the Souls games. This is especially shown with challenging enemies and bosses, and a cryptic but very engaging narrative that is explained through the developers' signature subtle storytelling techniques using environments and item descriptions.

Elden Ring is the natural evolution of the Souls games with a vast interconnected open world, and a plethora of combat and build options. Despite its massive scope, the game is very comfortable in hiding huge chunks of the map from players, which makes their discovery in repeat playthroughs a really gratifying experience.

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1) Bloodborne

Bloodborne is the best interpretation of Souls games by a large margin. The title oozes excellence with atmosphere, something that is never let up throughout the entire journey through the streets, cathedrals and depths of Yharnam.

Bloodborne is Souls games perfected. It is a concoction that mixes traditional Soulslike elements that players are familiar with and translates them into a nightmarish world filled with gothic architecture and otherworldly creatures.

Bloodborne's world is its own character. In most Souls games the world is just a setting, a vessel for players to make their journey from an unnamed undead to a Lord.

However, the world here is the personification of players' insight as they delve deeper into the nightmares of Yharnam's blood-soaked streets. It evokes a sense of wonder and mystery moreso than any other title by FromSoftware.

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Apart from the thought-provoking world design, the game's combat is also one its highlights. The title somewhat retains the multiple weapons' system from Dark Souls, but gives it a cool twist with "transforming weapons."

It allows players to transform their weapons into either a completely different weapon with distinct movesets à la Kirkhammer, Whirligig Saw, etc., or extend the previous weapons' reach, adding new moves to it like in the Saw Cleaver.

Transforming weapons is a very interesting mechanic that allows players to master two distinct playstyles with just one weapon.

There are also some castic tools which allow players to use special abilities at the cost of Silver Bullets, like the Augur of Ebrietas. The game also features guns, which unlike traditional shooters, are used to parry enemy attacks.

Bloodborne is one of the most inventive takes on the Souls games' formula without taking away key aspects of the series that fans have come to love and appreciate.

The title retains the series' uncompromising challenge with some really good bosses, some of whom are bound to leave lasting impressions on players either due to their difficulty or their nightmarish presentation — mostly due to the latter.

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Edited by
Abu Amjad Khan
 
 
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