This article is spoiler-free.
When writing my DIHU? for Demon’s Souls, I got to a point where I figured giving some perspective on my feelings and experience with From Software’s Soulsekiroborne series (my god, I don’t even want to imagine what we’re gonna call it when Elden Ring drops) felt necessary. So, I decided to create a new series that I’m calling “Games Ranked”. Without further ado, here’s my ranking of the series based on my own personal enjoyment:
- Demon’s Souls
- Dark Souls III
- Dark Souls
- Dark Souls 2
?. Sekiro (only played about halfway)
Before anyone jumps down my throat, understand that this ranking is really splitting hairs. I love every game in the series almost equally. Check out my reasoning below if you’re curious. Again, this is my personal ranking – if I had to attempt to list the series in terms of “objective” quality that an alien might understand, it’d probably look something like this:
- Dark Souls 3
- Dark Souls
- Demon’s Souls
- Dark Souls 2
But, this is my personal ranking of the series. Here’s why.
?. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
So, yeah – despite being a huge fan of the series (and yes, I include Sekiro), I only got through about half of Sekiro before I had to put it down. Not because it’s bad by any means, but because, given how busy I was (and have continued to be) when the game came out, I just couldn’t finish the game because it was so damn hard. Call me a bad gamer, whatever, but this game was really freaking hard. I think it’s generally considered the most difficult game in the series by fans.
I loved the gameplay, I loved the world, and it hit all the spots the rest of the Souls-series hits in all the right ways while being immensely unique on its own. But, I have to say, it’s one of the most difficult gaming experiences I’ve ever had. If I had issues with bosses in the previous games, I could rely on the crutch of asking friends or other players for help, but Sekiro, notably, has no online component. I actually like that idea a lot (I’m not a big multiplayer guy), but it made an already incredibly difficult game that much harder.
Given my lack of time, I just couldn’t invest the time needed to beat the game, so I had to put it down shortly after purchasing it. Even looking at guides and attempting to cheese harder bosses wasn’t enough to help. Someday, when time permits, I want to play through the game, but that likely won’t happen anytime soon. If I absolutely had to, I’d probably put my experience with the game either above or below Demon’s Souls, but without fully playing it, I’m not comfortable definitively placing it anywhere.
5. Dark Souls II
I utterly adore Dark Souls II. It’s probably the game in the series I’ve played through most, in fact; there was a time shortly after its release where it was basically the only game I played. Admittedly, and this might be counter to what a lot of people get out of the series, a lot of it has to do with how easy the game is. There are a few incredibly hard bosses, especially in the DLC, but as a whole, the game’s just easier than the rest of the series.
Despite my love for it, it is probably my least favorite in the series at this point, mostly for the criticisms that we’ve all heard. Its main faults are definitely the bosses and the level design. But, even as the weakest in the series, there’s a lot to like. It’s an 8.5 in a series of 9’s or 9.5’s out of 10. Still, the weakest aspects of Dark Souls II outrival its genre competitors. Next to Demon’s Souls, it’s the “comfiest” gameplay experience I have relative to the rest of the series. It’s a game that I can put on, expect a reasonable challenge, and enjoy most all aspects of. But, compared to the strengths of the rest of the series, it sits at the bottom of my list.
4. Dark Souls
Here’s the big one. The alpha. The Big Kahuna. It’s practically sacrilege not to slap this and Bloodborne in the top 2 of any ranking. So why do I rank it so low? First, some context.
As I said in my look back at Demon’s Souls, I was a late adopter of Dark Souls. I beat it well after I beat Dark Souls II and Bloodborne. When the game came out, I was busy playing through Demon’s Souls four or five times that I just sort of skipped it. Frankly, I missed the hype.
Now, when I picked it up finally, I, of course, loved the game for all of the reasons everyone else does. It features arguably the best level design, some of the best art direction, and boss battles and enemies that far surpass the black sheep that is its sequel. But, for reasons I’ll go into in a bit, I get more personal enjoyment out of other entries in the series. That’s it, really. I have virtually nothing negative to say about the game that others haven’t already gone into.
3. Dark Souls III
I think Dark Souls III gets way too much flak. If the series were Beatles albums, it’d certainly be the White Album. Or maybe 1. It’s a smorgasbord of greatest hits content, certainly, but I genuinely don’t see why that would be a detriment in this case. Dark Souls is a fantastic video game and more than deserves the reputation it has, but, having played through both in the last couple of years, III just takes the cake for me between the two.
Despite being an apparent b-team effort by From, I don’t think that results in a lack of quality. The maps, enemies, and bosses are all top-notch in this installment. The team took everything they learned from the previous three games and, I feel, perfected them in this installment. It certainly didn’t do anything new, which is a very valid criticism. Regardless, it tightens every loose screw and polishes every botched surface, resulting in, almost coldly, the most consistently quality experience in the series.
2. Demon’s Souls
Ah, Demon’s Souls. You always remember your first.
While I can’t make any claim that Demon’s is the objectively best game in the series (see my second list at the top of this article for my approximation of that), I still think it’s an incredibly well-made game in its own right. It has some issues, many of which were ironed out as the series went along, but they’re relatively minor, resulting in an experience that, as I made clear in my recent revisit of the game, is nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the series.
The Souls games, including Demon’s here, are a marker of consistency that’s nearly unparalleled in the world of video games. You could play through the entire series sans Demon’s, pick up Demon’s, and feel entirely right at home.
Something about Demon’s distinct worlds and bosses keeps bringing me back like almost no other game in the series can. Admittedly, it’s probably because it’s the first game in the series I played. I can never undo that bias. But, it’s a great game that I think fans of the series should definitely seek out. You can get a used PS3 and Demon’s Souls for like $100 at GameStop. Treat it like you’re paying $100 to play another game in the Souls series – a hardcore fan shouldn’t waste another minute to do so!
Does this even warrant any explanation? This is From Software at their fromest – er, finest. I could gush all day, but really, there’s not a single game in the series that tops any of its attributes (aside from the framerate, but that’s another discussion). It has the best levels, the best combat, the best art direction… it’s just the best. I hate to be so blunt, but it’s the truth.
At over four years old, it has proven that its legs will hold as the generations go by. Its a console seller among console sellers, to the point where I have no doubt Sony will unleash a PlayStation 5 version at or near launch (likely fixing the pesky framerate). This website is called Does It Hold Up, but I can’t see myself ever touching Bloodborne – I don’t think I’ll ever need to. Its visuals and gameplay will stand the test of time, with the only question being accessibility.
It’s not the Souls-series game I’ve played the most (not by a long shot), but it’s certainly the one that has stuck with me most. It’s one of my favorite video games of all-time and is, by far, my favorite game in this series.
There you have it! My personal ranking of the Souls-ish series. How would you rank the series? How am I wrong about the things that I like? Let me know in the comments!
PS: If III is the White Album, Demon’s is Rubber Soul, I is Revolver, II is Let It Be, Bloodborne is Sgt. Pepper, and Sekiro is Abbey Road – and Yellow Submarine goes to Lords of the Fallen.