What is the best Soulsborne game?
FromSoftware’s Soulsborne games have been some of the most important and impactful of the last decade. Beginning with the genre-defining Demon’s Souls in 2009, From’s creative takes on game design and atmospheric world-building would go on to spawn Dark Souls, Bloodborne and, 2019 game of the year, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
With the PS5 remake of Demon’s Souls right around the corner, it seems like as good a time as any to take a look back at these revolutionary games. So, once again, into the fray. Watch for invaders as we rank all six of FromSoftware’s Soulsborne games below.
Our Definitive Ranking of the Soulsborne Games
6. Dark Souls II
Though there are no outright bad games in From’s repertoire, Dark Souls II generally finds itself at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the Soulsborne series. The only game of the six to not be directed by From visionary Hidataka Miyazaki, Dark Souls II seems to lack the spark of inspiration that makes the rest of its ilk age like wine.
Even with some truly awful bosses and a couple of extremely frustrating areas to explore, however, Dark Souls II is still well worth the time of any souls-like aficionado. Introducing the new torch mechanic and packing in some incredible DLC in its Scholar of the First Sin collection, Dark Souls II might be the weakest Soulsborne but it’s still a very solid game in its own right.
5. Demon’s Souls
Being one of the best games on the PlayStation 3, and the game that started the whole Soulsborne craze, perhaps it seems a bit unfair to have Demon’s Souls so low. What accounts for this placement, though, is the fact that subsequent titles (especially Dark Souls and Bloodborne) would improve so dramatically upon the formula of their progenitor as to render it nearly obsolete.
Still, even with its flawed magic and healing systems, Demon’s Souls is one hell of a game. Establishing the atmospheric world-building and often tragic character arcs for which From’s modern suite of games would be known, the original Souls is a significant and important keystone for the last two generations of gaming.
4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Before we continue, we oughta offer the small caveat that all 4 of the remaining games here are basically 10/10 classics. While some fans will say that Sekiro is FromSoftware’s greatest triumph yet, for the rest of the series it ostensibly comes down to personal preference.
With that out of the way, we can get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice such an incredible experience. From the whip-crack speed of combat to the importance of parrying, to the fact that death isn’t always the end of your fight, Sekiro changed the Dark Souls formula up more than any other game in this collection.
It’s also arguably From’s hardest game to date. With three of the hardest bosses in souls-like history, Sekiro is not for the faint of heart. An absolutely brutal tour de force of triumph and damnation, Shadows Die Twice handily earns its place as the 2019 game of the year.
3. Dark Souls III
Being the finale for the Dark Souls series, Dark Souls III arrives firing on all cylinders and never quits. In terms of the traditional Soulsborne formula, this trilogy defining triumph is the ultimate amalgamation of what FromSoftware had learned from the four previous titles in the series. The world is expertly designed, the boss battles are incredible, and the combat has never felt better.
It also introduced far more horror elements than the series had been previously known for. Hot off the heels of the Gothic Bloodborne, Dark Souls III features more ghoulish, tormented and monstrous creations than ever.
Ultimately, though, it is Dark Souls III‘s tributes, call-backs and elaborations on the games that preceded it that makes this entry so memorable and enjoyable. Filled with enough Easter eggs to make an anthropomorphic bunny jealous, Dark Souls III is a loving, cross-universal declaration of what this series has meant to so many fans.
The first significant diversion from the medieval fantasy setting of Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne took the Soulsborne games into a brutal Victorian horror realm, populated with Lovecraftian horrors and eldritch creations.
Werewolves, vampires, witches and other cosmic entities are the things that you will hunt (and be hunted by) as a hunter seeking a cure in the tattered city of Yharnam. With a new focus on action and very little use for blocking or parrying, Bloodborne took some bold risks for FromSoftware, which they were encouraged to make by a deal signed exclusively with Sony.
Still one of, if not the, best exclusive on the PS4, Bloodborne serves up trick weapons, epic horror landscapes, and some of the most disturbing and disquieting enemy design ever. It’s a true masterpiece.
1. Dark Souls
There’s nothing quite like a game that does everything right with an already impressive blueprint. Like Super Metroid or A Link to the Past, Dark Souls emerged as a pitch-perfect sequel by capitalizing on the strengths of its predecessor and fixing the things that were wrong with it, to begin with.
From its expanding puzzle box of an open world to its wonderful use of background storytelling, to its top tier boss and enemy design, Dark Souls remains the top of the heap for both the Soulsborne franchises and genre of souls-likes in general.
A titanic achievement in game development and world-building, Dark Souls popularized the formula enough to give birth to said genre, while also laying down a perfect framework for what these games would be from now on.
It also created a renaissance of retro style difficulty, competitive spirit, and a community of obsessives who have passionately followed the works of FromSoftware and Hidetaka Miyazaki ever since. There are few games so beloved, and even fewer so deserving. Dark Souls is an all-time classic.