Two knights face off against each other in "Dark Souls 3"
(FromSoftware)

All the ‘Souls’ Games Ranked by Difficulty, From Painful to Downright Masochistic

Do get off on hanging out with unpleasant family members on Thanksgiving? Do want to suffer more than a bisexual gamer trying to choose a partner in Baldur’s Gate 3? Do want to rage? To hurt? To screamcry into the void? You sound like a Dark Souls player.

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I see you: Seeking suffering. Desirous of difficulty. You want to be tested. And tested you shall be. For your masochistic pleasure, here is a ranking of FromSoftware’s Souls games from easiest to hardest. You’re gonna want to start at the bottom, I’m sure.

7. Elden Ring

A warrior holding a glowing sword faces off against a towering giant with a halberd in "Elden Ring"
(FromSoftware)

Don’t get me wrong, Elden Ring is still a b*tch of a game. We’re basically comparing which kind of knife it hurts to be stabbed the most with on this list. Getting stabbed, no matter knife, hurts like a mother****. However, getting stabbed by a machete is going to hurt way worse than a steak knife. I think?

Anyone who has fought Melania, Blade of Miquella knows what I mean. The game’s saving grace is the open-world environment and the inclusion of a mount that allows you to cheese past tough enemies if you need a break. Not only that, but the game’s vast amount of equipment and skills allow you to create a build that perfectly suits your playstyle. Beaten by a boss? Come back with completely new equipment and f*ck him up.

6. Dark Souls 3

Two knights face off against each other in "Dark Souls 3"
(FromSoftware)

Dark Souls 3 is the pinnacle of the trilogy, the game where the brutal combat that made the game famous became buttersmooth. It’s still hard, but at least you aren’t fighting against the gameplay mechanics. DS3’s combat is less punishing than other entries on this list due to its fluidity. The other saving grace of the game is the sheer amount of options you are given to defeat foes. Big stupid hammers. Lightning-fast swords. Roll and shoot bows. Plus a plethora of spells allow you to tailor the game’s combat to your strengths.

5. Dark Souls

A knight faces off against an armored giant in "Dark Souls"
(FromSoftware)

Dark Souls is nasty. Just mean. While players were first exposed to FromSoftware’s game design cruelty with Demon’s Souls, the first of the Dark Souls trilogy had a few tricks up its sleeve. I’ll never forget my rage when I had just finished fighting my way through skeletons in Undead Burg, only to be annihilated by some dead guys who pushed a barrel at me. While the game still gives you multiple different play styles to choose from, the game’s rough-around-the-edges mechanics don’t do the player any favors.

4. Bloodborne

The Moon Presence lurks in the moonlight in "Bloodborne"
(FromSoftware)

Bloodborne is agony. Beautiful agony. There’s really only one way to play: melee. Unlike Elden Ring and the Souls trilogy, there are limited options when it comes to ranged combat. Hell, the game doesn’t even give you a shield to hold up against foes. The game rewards aggressive, visceral combat. The best defense is a good offense. The game’s healing mechanic is also more difficult than other games, as you are able to best replenish your own life by mercilessly attacking things rather than by falling back and chugging Estus. High-risk, high-reward parry-style combatants will be less daunted by the game’s combat than your sword-and-board or ranged build users. If you fall into the latter category of gamer … good luck.

3. Dark Souls 2

A knight faces off against undead soldiers in "Dark Souls 2"
(FromSoftware)

Dark Souls 2 is downright punishing when it comes to death. Upon dying, your character’s maximum health is reduced, and the only way to fix yourself is by finding increasingly rare items called Human Effigies. Unlike other Souls games, where dying is a frustrating but necessary component to progress further, Dark Souls 2 makes the game even harder every time you die. It’s frustrating to no end. Not only that, the games environments are out to get you. Random bottomless pits behind doors. Gangs of monks hiding in the corner of the room waiting to gank you. One hit kill exploding mummies that launch themselves at you. The odds are not in your favor. The only way I got through the game was through a ranged build. I just dodged and shot arrows at things until they died. Barely made it out with my souls in tact.

2. Demon’s Souls (Remake)

A lone knight stands against a towering armored giant in "Demon's Souls"
(FromSoftware)

If you thought death was bad in Dark Souls 2, Demon’s Souls is downright infernal. In their mercy, FromSoftware decided to populate the levels of Dark Souls with bonfires, checkpoints that allow you to periodically save your progress as you make your way through a level. Demon’s Souls does away with all of that. The only way to progress through a level is to defeat the area’s boss. If you die, it’s back to the beginning with you. Not only that, but death in Demon’s Souls causes your maximum health to be cut in half. Why are you doing this to us FromSoftware? Haven’t we suffered enough?

1. Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice

A samurai leaps at a tall demon weilding a naginata in "Sekiro - Shadows Die Twice"
(FromSoftware)

Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice is the apex of difficulty. Only the strongest, the most aggressive, and the most skillful will survive. Unlike the other games in the series, Sekiro doesn’t give you a lot of options when it comes to play style. Ranged attacks? Nope. Spells? Lol. Shields? Please stop. All you have is your sword. And you better know how to use it. Sekiro‘s posture-based combat rewards players who can expertly read an opponent’s moves and then parry them. You can cheese your way through all of the Souls games without ever once pulling off a successful parry. Trust me, I’ve done it. Sekiro? You better get your practice in now. Essentially, Sekiro forces you into Bloodborne-style vicious combat with even fewer tools in your arsenal. Oh, you wanna summon some friends to help you defeat a boss? Not an option. Sekiro provides you with no shortcuts.

If you want to defeat a boss, you better memorize its attack patterns or die trying. However, players who persist in Sekiro’s trials and tribulations will be rewarded with razor-honed skills. Cutting through foes in any of the other Souls games turns into a cakewalk.

(featured image: FromSoftware)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.