Embarking on a perilous journey through the intricate landscapes of the Dark Souls series is not for the faint of heart. Renowned for their challenging gameplay, punishing enemies, and intricate level designs, these games have earned a reputation for pushing players to their limits. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of Dark Souls and rank the games based on their difficulty, providing insights into what makes each installment a unique test of skill and perseverance.
The Hardest Dark Souls Games
- Dark Souls
- Dark Souls II
- Dark Souls III
- Mortal Shell
- Demon’s Souls
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- Elden Ring
- Hollow Knight
- The Surge 2
- Salt and Sanctuary
- Remnant: From The Ashes
The game that started it all, Dark Souls, introduced players to the unforgiving realm of Lordran. Known for its interconnected world, brutal bosses, and lack of hand-holding, Dark Souls set the standard for the series. From the treacherous Undead Burg to the infamous Ornstein and Smough battle, this installment laid the foundation for the challenging experiences that followed.
Dark Souls is in the middle of FromSoftware’s difficulty scale. Unlike games such as Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3, Elden Ring does not include many features that help reduce the difficulty of the game. In this game, which is considered an indirect sequel to Demon Souls, the health of dead players is not halved when they are born.
Instead, when characters drop their XP, players temporarily lose their ability to summon. This game, which is the pioneer of a new genre, is considered difficult and worth playing by the players.
Dark Souls II
Dark Souls II, often considered the black sheep of the series, introduced subtle changes to the formula. With a focus on adaptability and a diverse array of environments, it presented a unique set of challenges. The Scholar of the First Sin edition elevated the difficulty by remixing enemy placements and adding new surprises, making it a distinct experience within the Dark Souls universe.
Considered the most difficult of the Dark Souls trilogy, Dark Souls II is the only FromSoftware Souls game not directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki.
This sequel, which is often criticized for its lack of creativity and is considered the least popular game in the series, challenges players due to the excessive damage of the bosses.
Another feature that increases the difficulty in Dark Souls II is that the player’s maximum health decreases slightly every time he dies. In this sense, among FromSoftware’s modern Soulslikes, Dark Souls 2 is the most challenging.
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Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III brought the series to a breathtaking conclusion, delivering a visually stunning and challenging adventure. With faster-paced combat and relentless foes, players faced new threats like the relentless Abyss Watchers and the towering Nameless King. The Ringed City DLC, regarded as one of the toughest Dark Souls expansions, added a fitting final challenge to the series.
FromSoftware must have learned many lessons from its previous games because Dark Souls III was a game that required more tempo than other games and offered new ways of approaching combat.
In this sense, Dark Souls III offers a smoother experience by accelerating the slow and methodical combat system of previous games. Let’s not forget to say that the boss battles are quite ordinary compared to other games. Still, it is one of the hardest dark souls games you should definitely give a try.
Bloodborne offers gamers a unique experience with its Gothic-Victorian environment. While its DLC, The Old Hunters, is considered one of the most difficult in the gaming world, the original version of the game is among the hardest Dark Souls games on our list.
Bloodborne has a different gameplay style than most of FromSoftware’s Souls games. Combat encourages an aggressive playstyle by giving players the opportunity to regain lost health. However, it would be difficult to say that it is a game that can appeal to everyone.
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Mortal Shell has a difficulty level similar to the Souls games. Your enemies are brutal, the environments are dangerous, and death may be waiting around every corner.
The game offers you a number of different characters, and each of these characters has different abilities and play styles. At the same time, the game’s combat mechanics follow the legacy of the Souls games.
Calculation and timing-based combat requires you to think about your every move and make strategic decisions. Players generally find the game easier than the Dark Souls series.
Before the Dark Souls series gained global acclaim, Demon’s Souls set the stage for FromSoftware’s punishing design philosophy. While not a direct entry in the Dark Souls franchise, Demon’s Souls features brutal combat, ruthless bosses, and a dark fantasy world that served as a precursor to the challenges that awaited players in later titles.
Demon’s Souls has a dark fantasy atmosphere that takes players on a journey through a devastated world in the kingdom of Boletaria.
As if the Souls games weren’t difficult enough, Demon’s Souls ups the difficulty even further by halving players’ maximum HP upon death.
To get back the lost health, players need to reach the next checkpoint. At the same time, the “boss” battles in the game are also unforgettable.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, released by FromSoftware in 2019, left its mark on the gaming world by offering an experience outside of the Souls series.
This game took a different approach from traditional Souls games, eliminating the leveling mechanics and focusing on providing players with an immersive samurai fantasy.
Sekiro’s difficulty and gameplay differed markedly from other Souls games. In addition, Sekiro has a magnificent visuality and atmosphere.
Blended with the atmosphere of Japan’s Sengoku period, the game draws players in with its detailed environments and eye-catching views. This atmosphere encourages players to explore and dive into this world, despite the game’s difficulties.
The most important feature that distinguishes Elden Ring, which has been talked about since the day it was released, from other Souls games is its meticulously prepared open world. The fact that Elden Ring is not the hardest dark souls game on the list is due to a number of innovations.
For example, fire camp checkpoints are more frequent and conveniently placed, so players aren’t too far away from their XP drops when they die. Still, we can say that Elden Ring offers a very challenging experience, especially for beginners.
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Hollow Knight stands as a pinnacle in the realm of Metroidvania games, earning its reputation as arguably the best in the genre over the last decade. It seamlessly incorporates elements reminiscent of the Souls-like experience, featuring a formidable level of difficulty, a plethora of challenging boss encounters, and a game-saving mechanic akin to the bonfire system found in Dark Souls.
At the heart of Hollow Knight’s excellence lies its exceptional combat system, which undergoes a captivating evolution. Starting with rudimentary moves, players progressively unlock the ability to slash, dash, and bounce their way to victory. The strategic depth of the combat adds a layer of mastery, rewarding players for honing their skills as they traverse the beautifully crafted world.
The narrative woven into Hollow Knight bears the unmistakable influence of the Dark Souls series. Players embark on a poignant journey through a once-great kingdom now fallen into disrepair, echoing the atmospheric storytelling and intricate lore characteristic of Dark Souls games. As players navigate the hauntingly atmospheric landscapes, the parallels with Dark Souls become evident, creating an immersive experience that resonates with fans of challenging and richly textured game worlds.
The Surge 2
The distinctive futuristic backdrop and the engaging dismemberment mechanics of The Surge truly set the game apart, delivering a unique and enjoyable experience. Notably, the robust dodge mechanic empowered the main character with an impressive lateral leap, enhancing the agility and dynamism of the gameplay. The inclusion of unique weapons further contributed to the game’s strong identity, offering players a diverse and compelling arsenal.
While The Surge had its share of issues, the sequel, The Surge 2, addressed and improved upon nearly every facet of the original game. These enhancements, although resulting in a somewhat easier gameplay experience compared to its predecessor, proved beneficial. Notably, the adjustments addressed the occasional difficulty spikes present in the first game, leading to a more balanced and refined overall experience. The Surge 2 successfully built upon the foundation laid by its predecessor, delivering an enhanced and polished iteration of the futuristic, dismemberment-focused action RPG.
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Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary, one of the hardest dark souls games, stands as a formidable 2D platformer that seamlessly melds fluid combat mechanics with captivating exploration, resulting in an unforgettable gaming experience.
At the heart of the game lies its exceptional weapon system, boasting a vast array of over 600 weapons and spells that players can discover, craft, and upgrade. This diversity empowers players to confront enemies and formidable bosses in a manner of their choosing, adding a layer of strategic depth to the gameplay.
Unapologetically embracing its Dark Souls inspiration, Salt and Sanctuary artfully translates the renowned elements of the series into a compelling two-dimensional realm. The game immerses players in a bleak atmosphere, accompanied by grotesque enemy designs and a challenging difficulty level.
While the journey may be fraught with numerous deaths, the inherent challenge aligns perfectly with the essence of souls-like games, making every triumph all the more satisfying. Salt and Sanctuary, with its richly crafted world and homage to the Souls series, stands as a testament to the genre’s enduring appeal.
Remnant: From The Ashes
Remnant: From the Ashes is a gripping third-person action shooter that sets itself apart with a unique blend of challenging gameplay, dynamic environments, and cooperative multiplayer elements. Developed by Gunfire Games, this title introduces players to a post-apocalyptic world overrun by otherworldly creatures known as the Root.
One of the game’s distinctive features is its procedurally generated worlds, ensuring that each playthrough offers a fresh and unpredictable experience. This adds an extra layer of challenge as players navigate through diverse landscapes, from desolate cityscapes to lush forests, all while facing hordes of formidable enemies. The adaptive nature of the game keeps players on their toes, promoting strategic thinking and adaptability.
Each Dark Souls game offers a punishing yet rewarding journey through dark and atmospheric worlds, testing the mettle of even the most seasoned gamers. Whether facing the relentless onslaught of foes in Dark Souls, conquering the epic battles of Dark Souls III, deciphering the enigma of Dark Souls II, or braving the origins in Demon’s Souls, players can find a unique and challenging experience in every installment of this iconic series. Embrace the difficulty, learn from defeat, and savor the triumphs that come with conquering the hardest Dark Souls games.