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Ranking Fromsoftware ‘Souls’ Games

Now that the dust has settled on Elden Ring, we’ve been thinking about how it compares to FromSoftware’s other recent games. That in turn led us here, a definitive ranking of all the “Souls” games developed by the people who made the genre what it is today. These games are so important to so many people (myself included), and they deserve special attention.

We’re well aware that FromSoftware were making games before the release of Demon’s Souls, but for this list, we’re sticking to the high-difficulty, action RPGs that put them on the map. This one’s probably going to get contentious quickly, so strap yourself in. To be clear, all these games are masterpieces in their own right, but there can only be one winner.

As far as my credentials go, I have beaten every game on this list multiple times, and even 100%-ed one of them. I am by no means a speedrunner or someone who plays the game at soul level one, but I think I have enough of a history with these games to give them a fair assessment. With that out of the way, let’s get to it.

7. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

The least great of a great series
Image Credit: FromSoftware

I get the impression that Sekiro is something of a marmite game for Souls fans, that is to say, they either love it or they hate it. As you can probably tell, I lean towards the latter. It is different, and there is nothing wrong with trying something new, but it wasn’t clicking for me. I wasn’t getting what I normally get from a Souls game. The combat was as exhilarating as ever, but something didn’t sit right.

Most of that was due to the lack of RPG elements. There is a correct way to play Sekiro, and if you don’t like it then you can hop on the next train to Lordran. If you don’t learn how to parry properly, then you will not make it to the end credits. There’s also no rolling and no stamina bar. I’ll say it again, there’s nothing wrong with changing things up, it just didn’t work for me.

There isn’t enough RPG stuff, and the stealth elements are a little lacklustre. The AI doesn’t feel like it was designed to handle the player being discreet. I get that it isn’t a full-on stealth game, but games that try to have things both ways rarely work for me. The sneaky bits can’t help but feel tacked on, or not worth the effort.

On a more positive note, the game is absolutely gorgeous, packed with personality, and the Shinobi prosthetics are a brilliant addition. Offhand tools and other items so often feel like an afterthought, but here they enhance gameplay in meaningful ways. The grappling hook also adds a nice verticality. But despite all that, Sekiro can’t get off the bottom of this list.

6. Dark Souls Iii

A knowing swan song
Image Credit: Bandai Namco

A list like this is always going to ruffle a few feathers, and that ruffling most likely starts now. I doubt many people will have Dark Souls 3 this low on their personal lists, but the more I look back on it, the less inclined I am to place it above other games we’ll get to later. I know some of you have already beaten your ploughshares into swords and are storming the castle gates as we speak, but let me try and explain.

As the final game in the Dark Souls trilogy, there’s something very knowing and “nudge nudge, wink wink” about Dark Souls 3. There’s nothing wrong with it really, but it feels more like a greatest hits album than an exciting new work. Characters, locations, and enemies all reappear with varying degrees of blatancy. Anor Londo, The Demon Ruins, and “Siegward” of Catarina (among others) are all back for one last performance. Nostalgia is thick on the ground.

It was also at this point in the series that I realised I was getting sick of running around huge gothic cathedrals and poison swamps. Admittedly, it probably isn’t fair to criticise Dark Souls 3 objectively for feeling too familiar, but when held up against other FromSoftware titles, it just doesn’t have the same impact.

Just like with Sekiro however, the combat, exploration, and worldbuilding are all up to the usual standard, In fact, I think I’d go as far as saying that Dark Souls 3 is the best playing of its trilogy. The faster pace and smoother animations are a joy. Ultimately though, I just can’t get past the sense that we’ve been here before. A great game, brought down by circumstance.

5. Demon’s Souls

The Souls ancestor
Image Credit: Bandai Namco

It’s amazing how much Demon’s Souls got right. For the first attempt at such an ambitious concept, it’s incredible how many of its ideas remained part of the series’ DNA for so long. Miyazaki clearly had a vision, which he realised remarkably well. Demon’s Souls was unlike anything else on the market at the time but found an audience regardless. That in itself is worth celebrating.

The focus on community cooperation, combat fundamentals, and of course, reclaiming lost souls are all elements of Demon’s Souls design that have remained largely untouched for the last 13 years. Even the recent remake only had to make one or two small tweaks to bring the game up to modern standards.

There are, of course, ways that more recent games have changed for the better. Omnidirectional rolling (which the remake did have) for a start. Demon’s Souls only allowed rolling in the four cardinal directions and it’s difficult to go back to now. Upgrading weapons is also more of a pain than it needs to be, and the world isn’t as sprawling or interconnected as it would be in later games.

The big problem though is the boss design. While there are a handful of great ones, like Flamelurker, the majority phone it in a little. Too many of them are puzzle or gimmick fights (looking at you Dragon God) and none of them really have more than one stage. They’re not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but they don’t reach the heights we know FromSoftware are capable of.

4. Dark Souls Ii

The odd one out but I love it anyway
Image Credit: Bandai Namco

Yes yes, I know. Dark Souls 2 wasn’t developed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, and in many ways, it shows. The levels are weirdly disjointed, it often feels more unfair than challenging, and some of the bosses are downright dreadful. Dark Souls 2 is widely considered one of the lesser FromSoftware games, but I have to disagree. Call me crazy, but I think there’s a lot to like.

Majula is one of my favorite hub areas of any game. The way the small cliffside settlement grows as the game progresses is fascinating. It also contains some of my favorite NPCs, such as Maughlin the Armourer and Cale the Cartographer. The world at large is also brimming with personality and is one of the most visually varied of all the Souls games. The Dragon Aerie is breathtaking, and the Forest of Fallen Giants is a great opening area.

Dark Souls 2 also contains several ideas I wish FromSoftware had developed further. The bonfire ascetics are a clever addition, and new game plus actually significantly changes several encounters. I don’t know why this hasn’t been done since. There is also a huge (almost Elden Ring-like) variety of weapons and playstyles.

It’s a shame then that Dark Souls 2 so often resorts to ganks and enemies with ludicrous amounts of health in a feeble attempt to live up to the series’ reputation for difficulty. Bosses like Throne Watcher and Defender and Ancient Dragon are real low points. However, there is a variety and charm to Dark Souls 2 that I find irresistible. Flame me all you like, but this is where I think it deserves to be.

3. Dark Souls

The Souls game icon
Image Credit: Bandai Namco

Just like with Demon’s Souls, it’s amazing how well (most) of Dark Souls holds up. It’s still a top-quality action RPG and its legacy is almost inescapable. It is undeniably one of the most influential games of its era. Miyazaki and his team took what worked in Demon’s Souls and polished it to a mirror shine, simultaneously making just enough changes to bring everything together.

What really set Dark Souls apart from its predecessor was the level design. The sprawling, interconnected, Metroidvania-inspired world of Lordran remains one of the best-realized settings in all of gaming. There are enough secrets, things to discover, and eureka moments out there that exploring is satisfying in its own right. Few games manage the same feat.

The boss fights aren’t as mechanically complex as they would go on to be, and one or two feel a little half-baked, but many of the rest are truly iconic. Ornstein and Smough, Knight Artorias, and Black Dragon Kalameet are among the best FromSoftware has to offer.

It has to be said though, the game really goes off the rails in its latter stages. I don’t know what ran out if it was time, money, or passion, but there is a serious nosedive in quality. Bosses are recycled, and areas like Lost Izalith are utterly miserable experiences. It might be the most important game on this list, but it’s not quite the best.

2. Elden Ring

Almost took the top spot
Image Credit: Bandai Namco

The latest, but not quite greatest FromSoftware offering absolutely raises the bar for the kind of game it is, but I can’t bring myself to call it the best Souls game ever made. Vast, stunningly beautiful, and bursting at the seams with interesting characters, lore, and locations. This is the game our very own Ammar Kachwala called “a flex on the entire gaming industry“.

Unlike other open-world games, almost everything feels handcrafted. There are no icons on the map that fill you in on exactly what will happen once you reach a certain point. Encounters and discoveries all feel totally organic. This feeling is enhanced further by the way NPCs with their own agendas move around the map. The Lands Between are the star of the show, and they more than live up to the billing.

It’s surprisingly rare for open-world games to feel big. I know that sounds silly considering the sheer size of most of the current crop, but think about it. Games like FarCry or Days Gone might be dozens or hundreds of square miles across, but they often feel like the same two or three square miles copy-pasted over and over again. No matter where you are, you’re fighting the same bandits and liberating the same camps. Elden Ring simply doesn’t work that way and is better for it.

Elden Ring hits the highest notes the Souls Games have ever managed, but it’s also a little bit flabby in places. The crafting system feels unnecessary, and (just like Dark Souls) the game’s second half feels unbalanced. There’s a sudden difficulty spike that doesn’t feel warranted. I also wasn’t a fan of how some bosses would appear over and over again. These are minor quibbles though. Elden Ring is a landmark title that will be talked about for years.

1. Bloodborne

The best Souls game ever made
Image Credit: Sony

Here we have it. The only game on this list I have 100% completed. I am by no means a trophy hunter, I just couldn’t stop playing Bloodborne. I believe that a Souls game is, first and foremost, an action RPG. That being the case, I have to put forward Bloodborne as the fullest realization of FromSoftware’s vision.

Unlike Elden Ring, Bloodborne doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it. The combat is fast and precise, the boss designs are outstanding, and the world is as brilliantly dark, twisted, and mysterious. The genuinely creepy, Lovecraftian setting and plot are mysterious, savage and utterly unique. Gehrman and Gascoigne’s story arcs in particular stand out as two of the most tragic and sensitive of any Souls game.

The rally mechanic, whereby you can regain lost health by immediately striking an enemy, is a genius addition that lends combat, a desperate, frenzied edge. Bloodborne’s trick weapons are also a delight. They expand your character’s move set in ways we haven’t really seen before or since. The threaded cane, which transforms into a whip is one of my favorites.

Bloodborne has an interconnected world, just the right amount of RPG elements, and the best combat system in the series. It also has the best bosses. Ludwig The Holy Blade, The Orphan of Kos, and Father Gascoigne are all absolutely peerless. As far as I’m concerned, Bloodborne has yet to be topped.

Did Dark Souls 2 make it too high? Should Elden Ring have taken the top spot? Have I got Sekiro completely wrong? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Written by Robert Webb

34 Comments

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  1. (tradotta dall’italiano) If you wanted to make an honest list, you should have watched other people’s videos as well.
    I find it impossible to put sekiro so low, and the choice to use as an excuse “it’s too difficult” really bothers me
    Do you keep talking about “feeling”, just because the character doesn’t have 200 hats and t-shirts is not to be played?
    And let’s not talk about where you put ds2, the souls borne game with the worst combat system and hitbox in the series, not to mention the poor mobility and non-existent life points
    Sekiro at least had an exploration mode that led the player not to have to get upset if he died in an area with the bonfire at 200 m
    I’ll seem repetitive, but I just can’t help but understand how sekiro is the worst, combat system is fastastic, fun and the only one that manages to put you on a par with a boss (something never seen in any soulslike where instead you have to roll and hit), beautiful locations And an incredible story with several endings…And an incredible story with several endings….

    • It’s an “honest” list because his saying it’s his opinion, with no clear objectivity. He’s made that pretty clear. Why does he have to see other videos for that? About Sekiro, he didn’t criticize anything of what you’re whining about now. On the contrary, he praised many things and made clear he’s not saying it’s bad, it just didn’t click for him. I could go on and on, or you could start to pay attention to what you read.

    • Your right, it’s impossible to put sekirei at the bottom, and to have anything other than ds2 at the bottom. It’s like you made this list without playing them and just put it there so I’m going to do you a favor and just say you did it for click bait.

  2. Except for a mixup in the top 3 this is also excactly what my order would be. For the excact same reasons!
    I like your list and the writing.

  3. O likes your list, It os your opinião after ALL, i don’t desagree with anything. But yes, i think you had sekiro wrong, someone had to get the bottom of the list and its ok, but i really think that, If you disliked sekiro, maybe tou haven’t had the same experiência as mine, a great game indeed. I would put DarkSouls 1 in my first, but i haven’t played Bloodborne yet, and yes i like DarkSouls 2 Just like you kakakak, i don’t know why people hate him so much, Aldria os onde of my favorite npcs in the franchise.

    • Como foi bom ver essa lista nesta ordem. Sekiro está no devido lugar. Bloodborne apesar de não ser meu favorito concordo em estar na primeira colocação. Visão honesta de quem já jogou todos. Muito bom. Platinei todos, menos Sekiro, DS1, DS2 joguei muitas vezes, DS3 e Bloodborne nem tanto, já Elder Ring não consegui jogar duas vezes. Sekiro foi uma decepção para mim. Desconexo do mundo souls em vários sentidos. Insatisfatório. Não me adaptei nem um pouco. Desisti depois de tentar por varias vezes uma progressão, foi muito frustrante. Nenhum jogo até ele me fez desistir, ele foi o único. Se tivesse uma mídia física com certeza tocaria fogo.

  4. I think you prefer easier from software games. The only one you did 100% is considered to be the easiest for highly aggressive players. From software games originally grabbed attention for being difficult. They didn’t even plan on success in the west with their games in the beginning. Demon souls should be higher and so should sekiro, ds2 and Bloodborne should be lower. Bloodborne is an amazing game, but i only had an average amount of difficulty once i understand the mechanics and when to use rally. Demon Souls forced you to think about how to draw enemies. Dark Souls forced you to try to remember enemy placement and general behavior. Bloodborne was kinda slash and shoot. This is all personal opinion though, as kalameet killed me many more times than any boss or mini boss from Bloodborne and it did well to teach you when to look for more opportunity and evaluate the game itself.

    • Fromsoftware need to stop playing and go ahead and make a bloodborne2.. hands down it’s the best game in the series.. I know fromsoftware doesn’t like making sequels to games.. quit being stubborn darn it and just make Bloodborne 2.. Sekiro should at least been number 2 or 3 my opinion

  5. I Just jumped in The Souls Train after The elden ring sucess. Im playing in The release order. I’ve Just finished The original demons souls and started tô play dark souls. Demons souls stand n.1. Let’s see after a few months.

  6. Sekiro is too different, it’s the worst.

    Bloodborne is very different, but it’s the best.

    Mk.

  7. Your two least favourite games are my two favourite and that just shows how these games can appeal to all different types of gamers.

  8. 7. Sekiro
    6. Demons’ Souls
    5. Dark Souls 3
    4. Dark Souls
    3. Bloodborne
    2. Dark Souls 2
    1. Elden Ring

    Most of my opinions matches yours, with only the ranking being different. I place DS2 much higher than others, because I enjoyed the game enough to Platinum 3 times over 3 different consoles.

    I do believe ER is the best overall, but some aspects of the previous games can outshine it from time to time.

  9. Good choices. I also favour BB and Demons. The other Souls seemed kinda more of the same.

    And Sekiro seemed not interesting for me after a while. Somewhat detached.

    I have yet to play Elden Ring.

  10. This is absolutely the worst list of ranking souls games I’ve ever read, congratulations.

    Most of the reasons you give to support your thesis are ridiculous and make no sense, especially when talking about Sekiro.

    I agree on number 1, by the way.

  11. Silly reviewer, you put the two best games at the bottom of your list! I would almost think it’s completely backwards if it wasn’t for Bloodborne deserving a top 3 spot.

    Not sure about Elden Ring. In some areas, it’s the best game in the series, and possibly one of the best ever. But my God, the bosses in that game are terrible. They were really designed with mimic tear in mind and it shows. You either summon it and make the fights so easy they’re unenjoyable or deal with their 8 move 360 insane tracking ranged one shotting combos yourself, which makes them unenjoyably hard. Unfortunately, since boss fights are what I usually enjoy the most, I don’t think I would even put it in my top 3.

  12. I like this list. The only thing I would change is probably the placement of sekiro and DS1. Making a From Soft list is always difficult, but personally I had more trouble with Dark Soul 1 than with 2. Whoever says Dark Souls 2 is the worst for “sluggish combat” probably has never played Dark Souls 1 at release. I haven’t had a worse experience than the horrible PC port we got back then. We didn’t even have a list of key bindings so if you didn’t have a Xbox controller back then you had to find out everything on your own. I had friends who did their first run without dodging because they didn’t know you could. I did mine without blocking and jumping for the same reason.

      • Someone’s salty that Sekiro isn’t considered the best. Honestly it shouldn’t be on this list it isn’t a dark souls game its different. It’s good in its own aspects but nowhere near as good as any of the DS games. I’m constantly hearing things about DS and nothing about sekiro since release since it isn’t the best.

  13. great list, dks3 is easily the worst dark souls game and I’m glad someone is actually calling that out

  14. This is a very biased ranking system as Elden Ring is way better than Bloodborne in my opinion and how is DS2 better than Demon’s Souls and DS3?

    Bullshit ranking if you ask me!!!

  15. Haven’t played Sekiro and Elden Ring yet, but I have the same ranking on your list otherwise aside from swapping ds1 with Bloodborne. I also enjoyed ds2 and didn’t enjoy ds3 as much as others did. Demon Souls was too easy imo.

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