I love the Dark Souls franchise, FromSoftware are one of my favourite developers, and I have sunk hours upon hours into their games. So understand when I tell you it has been extremely difficult to rank these games and put them into some kind of order; it has almost been like choosing between children… each one similar but unique in their own ways as well.
But only one can be the best, so I undertook the task of choosing my favourite child for your amusement. This list only includes those from the “Dark Souls” series, so no Demon Souls, Bloodborne, or Sekiro will be found. This therefore sees only the big three ordered by objective quality, to discover which one is truly the best experience.
3. Dark Souls 2
I think no one will be surprised that this one ends up in last place. Dark Souls 2 has always been the ugly middle child of the franchise and most would agree it’s the worst entry in the series.
This is mostly due to a lack of direction from series lead director Miyazaki, who was busy with Bloodborne during the Darks Souls 2 development. While the gameplay is still generally excellent, besides some poorly designed bosses, the rest of the game’s qualities suffered and don’t live up to the first game.
The worldbuilding, enemy and character design, writing, and almost everything else fails to seem cohesive, almost as if multiple artists with varied visions took different parts of the game. It just felt weird; an odd world with strange characters that never delivered a complete and believable place.
The level design especially was not well received either. Many areas like the Iron Keep, felt too gameish and did not have the same “exploring through a ruined world” feel that the orginal did. While it’s still a wonderful time – any Dark Souls experience is – it does not reach the same heights of either its predecessor or its sequel.
2. Dark Souls
The first Darks Souls changed the gaming landscape when it came out, and while Demon Souls was the true originator it never reached the same widespread appeal that Dark Souls did.
Dark Souls had an excellently designed and layered open world, epic and engaging bosses, and well measured difficulty that was brutal but fair. For many this is the game that made them fall in love with FromSoftware. It improved on almost every aspect of Demon Souls, making it just that little more forgiving with the inclusion of the iconic bonfires, creating a much more enjoyable but equally difficult challenge. It was a huge cult success, setting the stage for the industry to have a resurgence of difficult and gameplay focused experiences.
So what has made me put it at number two? Well it suffers in some areas. The final boss, Gwyn, never lives up to the rest of the game, the Demon Ruin and the Izalith boss are poorly designed, and the closing hours feel rushed.
While it’s still a game that everyone should go back and play just for understanding its impact, it does not reach the dizzying heights that the final game in the series does.
1. Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 was an unbelievable send off to the franchise, one that saw Miyazaki and the team took everything that they learned from every game previously to create a simply sublime experience.
It’s almost like a greatest hits from the previous games, creating a compelling tale of a world reaching its end, making the player journey through new areas and altered places from the series past. The level design is almost always excellent too, while the pacing is fantastic, and the setting feels totally realized.
Featuring some absolutely epic and creative bosses like hundred men Abyss Watchers to the flying dragon mounted Nameless King, it’ll be a struggle to up the combat in this game too. It’s deep and complex with a huge variety of weapons and spells to choose from, and incorporated everything that has been learnt from what was gleaned in the past seven years, giving the player the biggest and most realized skill set yet.
Starting from the shocking opening boss all the way to the epic emotional fight at the conclusion, everything in Dark Souls 3 shines with polish and experience. In fact, I think it stands as the best in the illustrious series and one of the best ends to any franchise that the industry has ever seen. Miyazaki truly ended on a high note with this one.
But what do you think? Is this how you’d order the main segments of the Dark Souls franchise? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.