Sekiro holding up his sword to fight in Sekiro
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Every Soulsborne Game, Ranked from Worst to Best

The Souls games are a series of masterpieces all but unequaled in modern gaming. Here is our official ranking.

Every game in the community-named Soulsborne series is a modern classic. They’re games that defined or redefined what a quality product can be and even the least of them still stand heads above most other popular titles. However, there is still a hierarchy among FromSoftware games in the Souls franchise, and that’s what we’re discussing here.

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Every Souls Game Ranked

Before we get started, a quick disclaimer. I’m including Bloodborne, Elden Ring, and Sekiro in this list, even though both Elden Ring and Sekiro are outside the purview, and Sekiro is very much its own beast. For the sake of completeness and to avoid the horrid portmanteau of Soulsbornekiro Ring, mostly. Let’s get started.

7. Dark Souls 2

An undead reaching Majula in Dark Souls 2
Image via FromSoftware

Don’t get me wrong. I love Dark Souls 2 for all its flaws and jank, and I think its PvP is probably the best in the series. However, its narrative, combat, and boss fights all pale in comparison to other entries on this list. The few standouts are locked behind the DLC, and even then, every expansion has one of the worst fights in the game. There’s also an entire zone in the third DLC that no one likes— and I do mean no one.

That said, there are so many interesting ideas and experiments in Dark Souls 2 that it’s hard to hate it, even if it’s a meme to do so. I have so many good memories of this game, and even Hidetaka Miyazaki himself seems to as well, saying in recent interviews that without this game, Elden Ring would have been a very different beast. The implication is the lessons learned in DS2 allowed From’s best selling game to succeed, and I would hate to have experienced some of the worst of Dark Souls 2‘s offenses in my journey through the Lands Between. I’m looking at you elevator that goes straight through lava.

6. Demon’s Souls

The Vanguard Demon in Demon's Souls
Image via PlayStation

Demon’s Souls is a rough-cut gem, a game that acts as a blueprint for the entire Souls-like subgenre. As the first game to ever step into any of the now well-trod ground, it’s covered in rough edges. The bosses are relatively uninteresting, mechanically, especially compared to later entries in the series. Its weapon selection, world design, and NPC interactions are also products of a time gone by. And while they’re all still fantastic, they’re also far more opaque than in later games.

I do think every Souls fan should play Demon’s Souls if they have a chance because it’s a vital piece of the history of our medium. It eschewed a lot of traditional game design tropes that other games made popular back in 2009, removing clear quest markers, explaining few mechanics, and relying on player tenacity and community cooperation to unravel its mysteries. Demon’s Souls also started the series trend of having tremendous respect for its player’s skill, because you can master every boss in the game and beat them at any level and with any setup.

5. Dark Souls 3

A Champion of Ash fighting a knight in Dark Souls 3
Image via FromSoftware

I think Dark Souls 3‘s greatest sin is not evolving the formula Dark Souls established and Dark Souls 2 tried to improve. Instead, it chose to create a much more linear experience with good but not fantastic level design, a selection of good bosses amid a pool of average ones, and more fanservice than was probably necessary. I would be remiss not to mention that the highs of Dark Souls 3 are some of the highest in the series, and the Ringed City DLC is one of the best FromSoftware has ever produced.

My main hangup with DS3 is how it disregarded the level design from the first part of Dark Souls, which folded back in on itself and instead focused on the linear progression of its latter portion. A lot of the bosses feel like filler or are generally more annoying than fun to fight. That includes some of the story bosses, who I can’t stand to this day. The final bosses of the main game and both DLCs remain some of my favorites, though.

4. Dark Souls

An undead archer in the Undead Burg in Dark Souls
Image via FromSoftware

When it comes to the first Dark Souls, I don’t know if there’s been a more influential game to come out of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation besides maybe Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Dark Souls took everything that worked about Demon’s Souls and cranked it up to 11. There were more and better bosses. The lore and story were more cohesive, deeper, and easier to grasp. The level design was revolutionary, so much so that few other developers have been able to equal it in quality, even so many years later. Most of all, it felt amazing to play, with more satisfying moments per minute than almost any game on the market when it was released and most of the time after.

That doesn’t mean I can forgive its latter half, however. It’s obviously rushed, has probably the worst bosses in the game one after the other, and none of the levels are fun to traverse. The fact you can trivialize the final boss — otherwise an amazing fight — only adds to the disappointment. FromSoftware would have similar issues with most of their games going forward, with even the likes of Elden Ring seeing their final sections suffer from tons of head-scratching design decisions.

3. Elden Ring

margit the fell omen in elden ring
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Elden Ring might not be the best game in FromSoftware’s library, but it is by far the most successful and most enjoyable to play. For me, anyhow. Putting the Souls formula into a massive open world seems like a recipe for disaster, but by dividing the Lands Between into distinct zones and creating easily identifiable boundaries, the player is never at a loss for where they are or what they might face there. That Elden Ring also has some amazing boss fights and set pieces, as well as downright legendary moments, certainly helps.

There are two things that keep Elden Ring from taking a higher position for me. First is its narrative. The world was originally written by George R.R. Martin, and FromSoftware used his initial vision as a guidepost for the rest of the story. And sure, they added a lot of their trademark touches to it, but it lacks a certain nuance in games they write entirely themselves. The second problem is a common one: The back end of the game is much weaker than the front. There’s a massive, wondrous world when you appear in Limgrave at the start. Then you get to the end of Elden Ring, and it gets incredibly linear; the bosses aren’t as enjoyable to fight, and everything is generally lower quality.

Tie for 1st. Sekiro

Wolf facing off against Genichiro Ashina in Sekiro
Screenshot by GameSkinny

I honestly can’t pick a favorite between Sekiro and Bloodborne, but I’m putting Sekiro a bit lower on the tied-for-first track simply because it exists outside the normal Souls context. More action game than RPG and singular in its design, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice demands different things of its players than any of the Soulsborne games. There are few ways of bypassing the game’s many challenging encounters. The only way out is through, and if you can’t master a particular fight and, more importantly, the deflect mechanic, Sekiro won’t give you any way to progress.

For me, that dedication to a particular mechanic ensured Sekiro has by far the best boss fights in FromSoftware history. The developers knew, within a very limited set of parameters, exactly what their players would be capable of. Rather than having to design for hundreds of potential setups, they could focus on only a few. That Sekiro also has the best traversal and world design (in my opinion) only solidifies its place for me.

Tie for 1st. Bloodborne

A hunter fighting a werewolf in Bloodborne
Image via FromSoftware

Bloodborne was a revelation when it released. It threw away the Souls series reliance on shields and more passive play, favoring instead an aggressive, in-your face style of combat. It’s gothic setting, multi-faceted Trick Weapon system, and eventual devolution into Lovecraftian eldrich horror sealed the deal. If you include the Old Hunters DLC (which you totally should), Bloodborne has the most consistent quality curve in the Soulsborne series.

My complaints with the game are few, mainly having to do with some of the game’s boss fights. Some are less interesting than others, and there are a scarce few that are more annoying than fun. However, the quality of the combat and the better fights far outweigh any issues I might otherwise have. Oh, and the level design is fantastic throughout, as is the music, and the atmosphere. Bloodborne is, and has always been, the high water mark that FromSoftware has to meet, and even in its other games’ best parts, it might only reach an everyday moment from Bloodborne.


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Author
John Schutt
John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.