Some games define themselves with an immersive story experience, some with the array of characters they endear to you, some with the wide arsenal it provides you.
A die-hard fan of Dark Souls would tell you that their game fits snugly into "All of the above."
Though while it pulls them all off to aplomb, there's something that stands above other features of the game in the eyes of the fans – a feature that truly defines the merciless, grinding experience you'll endure and the growth as a player you'll experience whilst playing Dark Souls.
From giant wolves to giant...um, giants, Dark Souls 1 and 2 both have their share of memorable and unique encounters. But which amongst them define the games the best?
It should be noted that this list only includes bosses from the base games of Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 – meaning no DLC.
You'd be hard-pressed thinking up a Dark Souls list that didn't include this man – the final boss of the first installment – disgraced former head-honcho of Anor Londo and fallen Lord, Gwyn.
Though many would pose that Gwyn's encounter lacks a difficulty that was apparent throughout the rest of the game, it downright oozes an atmosphere that stalwart fans of the series have come to love.
The dingy, dimly-lit room, the dilapidated feeling that was clear in previous areas of the game – the eerily tranquil melody playing as you enter the room and find the previously great and powerful Lord of Cinder hunched over a flickering bonfire attempting to find some meager warmth.
Parrying made this battle something of a triviality, but it's as memorable as it can be in just about every other way.
Dark Souls has it's fair share of secrets – things that evoke the imagination of fans, sending them into a frenzy theorizing about the true nature of the thing happening before them. A prime example of this is the Ancient Dragon.
Fans have much debated who the dragon actually is – is it the residential Lord of the Manor, Aldia? A genuine Ancient Dragon? A malformed Giant? Whatever it is, when you start fighting, it doesn't seem to care about whether you understand the true nature of its existence or not. It just wants to burn you to a cinder.
Both the unforgiving difficulty and the shrouded nature of the Dragon's existence make it a boss that typifies certain aspects of the games.
Shock value certainly has it's place in the Souls games – sometimes the most meticulously crafted storylines and intricately weaved tales can't evoke the reaction a good old surprise can.
Imagine the following situation, if you will.
You've just battled through a sewer level – and yes, there were giant rats – and you wander into a large, open room. Anybody who's ever seen a boss room before knows this is a boss room, but what will you find?
A giant rat? A gianter rat? The GIANTEST rat?
As you quiz yourself, an adorable alligator pops his head up on the far side of the room. Relief flows over you, this shouldn't be so bad, right?
Then the rest of the giant beast rises from across the horizon and reveals that that alligator turns out it's just the control center for a giant dragon with more teeth than you have hairs on the back of your neck standing up.
Dark Souls knows how to tell an elaborate story just as well as it likes to give you a sudden fright – the latter is on full display with the introduction of the Gaping Dragon.
Side characters are an undervalued commodity in many games. They can provide a fresh take on the world around you, give it a unique shading or offer up insight into their personal story.
Though many games don't use their bit-players to the extent of their thematic potential, with guys running around like Seigmeyer and Solaire, Dark Souls does – oh, and who could forget everyone's favourite puppy dog, Sif?
Sif provided a small window of insight into upcoming DLC before it was even released or ANNOUNCED. Waiting by his old master's grave for anyone to intrude upon it's peacefulness and ready to use his sword on anyone that did – that's right, a wolf swinging a sword around in his mouth, it is as awesome and terrifying as it sounds.
If you were to go back to Sif after aiding him in the DLC – wherein you were sent back in time to an abyss-dominated Oolacile – his introductory cutscene changes him from being defensive to seemingly reluctant to do battle with his previous saviour.
Sif's encounter was given a heart-wrenching new tinge of a faithful companion waiting by his lost friend's resting place – and perfectly typifies how masterfully From Software handle their plethora of side characters.
Difficulty. Arguably the thing that popularized Dark Souls in the first place and made it such a cult success. Sometimes frustrating but always (mostly) fair, what boss better demonstrates this difficulty than the Darklurker?
Though it doesn't seem such a chore initially, that all changes when it splits in two and the battle takes on a whole new face. Casually weaving between the magical attacks of one winged monster turns into frantically dodging between the combined onslaught of two, hoping for an opening to get a few safe hits off before retreating to very short-lived safety.
Ornstein and Smough, the Four Kings, both of these battles put Dark Souls difficulty at the forefront just as much – though the way skill is emphasized with the Darklurker, the way that there's no distinct way to "cheese" him despite good old player ability and getting good at the fight. That's what puts him wings and shoulders above any other boss when it comes to giving the player one doozy of a showdown.