|Publisher(s)||Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|First release||Dark Souls|
September 22, 2011
|Latest release||Dark Souls: Remastered|
May 24, 2018
Dark Souls[a] is a series of action role-playing games created by Hidetaka Miyazaki of FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The series began with the release of Dark Souls in 2011 and has seen two sequels, Dark Souls II (2014) and Dark Souls III (2016). Other FromSoftware games, including Demon's Souls, King's Field, Bloodborne, Sekiro, and Elden Ring, share several related concepts and are commonly grouped together as Soulslikes.
Dark Souls has received critical acclaim, with the first game often cited as one of the greatest in video games. The series has been both praised and criticized for its high level of difficulty. By 2021, the series had shipped nearly 30 million copies.
The games take place within a dark, medieval fantasy setting, where the player's character fights against knights, dragons, phantoms, demons, and other monstrous or supernatural entities. The accretion, loss, and recovery of souls is central to the narrative and gameplay of Dark Souls games. These games are linked through their setting and an overarching cyclic narrative centering around fire, and are linked through common themes and elements, including interactions with phantoms and battles with demons. At the end of each game, characters may reignite the "first flame" or allow it to fade, recurring a choice others have made before.
The Dark Souls games are played in a third-person perspective, and focus on exploring interconnected environments while fighting enemies with weapons and magic. Players battle bosses to progress through the story, while interacting with non-playable characters. The protagonist of each Dark Souls game can have a varying gender, appearance, name, and starting class via character creation. Players can choose between classes, including knights, barbarians, thieves, and mages. Each class has its own starting equipment and abilities that can be tailored to the player's experience and choices as they progress. The player gains souls from gameplay battles which act as both experience points to level up and as currency to buy items. Souls gained are usually proportional to the difficulty of fighting certain enemies; the more difficult an enemy, the more souls the player will gain.
One of the core mechanics of the series is that it uses death to teach players how to react in hostile environments, encouraging repetition, learning from past mistakes, and prior experience as a means of overcoming its difficulty. Upon losing all of their health points and dying, players lose their Souls and are teleported back to a bonfire where they last rested, which serves as a checkpoint. One chance is given for the player to recover their lost Souls in the form of a bloodstain, which is placed at or around where they last died. If the player dies again before reaching their bloodstain, the Souls are permanently gone. As most enemies are respawned following player death, or if the player should rest at a bonfire, the player has the opportunity to regain more Souls by repeated combat encounters. The bonfire is a type of campfire in the action role-playing game Dark Souls and its sequels that functions as a checkpoint for the player character's progress, as well as reviving most enemies that the player previously killed. Later in the game, and in Dark Souls II and III, they function as warp points. Another core aspect of the series is its dependency on endurance in battle. Performing attacks, blocking, or dodging consume stamina, which otherwise quickly restores if the player stands still or just walks around. Certain moves cannot be executed if the player lacks a certain amount of stamina, making them vulnerable to attack. Players must balance their rate of attacks against defensive moves and brief periods of rest to survive more difficult encounters.
Online interaction in the Dark Souls is integrated into the single-player experience. Throughout levels, players can briefly see the actions of other players as ghosts in the same area that may show hidden passages or switches. When a player dies, a bloodstain can be left in other players' game world that when activated can show a ghost playing out their final moments, indicating how that person died and potentially helping the player avoid the same fate in advance. Players can leave messages on the ground that can either help other players by providing hints and warnings or harm them by leaving false hints. Players can also engage in both player versus player combat and cooperative gameplay using invasion or summoning mechanics.
|2014||Dark Souls II|
|2016||Dark Souls III|
|2018||Dark Souls: Remastered|
Dark Souls is the first game in the series; it is considered a spiritual successor to Demon's Souls (2009). FromSoftware wanted to develop a sequel to Demon's Souls, but Sony's ownership of the intellectual property prevented them from doing so on other platforms. It was released in 2011 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In 2012, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition was released for Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, featuring the base game and the Artorias of the Abyss downloadable content. The game takes place in the fictional kingdom of Lordran. Players assume the role of a cursed human character who sets out to discover the fate of undead humans like themselves. The plot of Dark Souls is primarily told through environmental details, in-game item flavor text, and dialogue with non-playable characters (NPCs). Players must piece together clues in order to understand the story, rather than being told the story through more traditional means, such as through cutscenes. Dark Souls and its predecessor Demon's Souls garnered recognition due to the series' high level of difficulty. A version featuring some graphical and gameplay enhancements, Dark Souls: Remastered, was released in May 2018.
Dark Souls II
Unlike the previous two games, director Hidetaka Miyazaki did not reprise his role as he was busy directing Bloodborne, although he was still involved in supervision. It was released in 2014 for Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. In 2015, an updated version featuring The Lost Crowns downloadable content was released for Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, under the title Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin - with the latter two platforms receiving retail releases. The game takes place in the kingdom of Drangleic, where the player must find a cure for the undead curse. Although set in the same universe as the previous game, there is no direct story connection to Dark Souls.
Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III was released in 2016 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The gameplay is paced faster than previous Souls installments, which was attributed in part to the gameplay of Bloodborne. The game takes place in the kingdom of Lothric, where the player must end the cycle of linking the Flame. In 2017, the complete version containing the base game and both expansions (Ashes of Ariendel and The Ringed City) was released, under the title Dark Souls III: The Fire Fades Edition. Dark Souls III was both critically and commercially successful, with critics calling it a worthy and fitting conclusion to the series. It sold over 10 million copies by 2020, making it the fastest-selling game in Bandai Namco's history at the time (until it was overtaken by Elden Ring). In 2015, Miyazaki said that Dark Souls III would likely be the last of the series, with FromSoftware choosing to move onto new games of unrelated IPs in the future.
A comic book by Titan Comics based on the series debuted alongside the release of Dark Souls III in 2016. A Kickstarter campaign for a licensed board game by Steamforged Games, Dark Souls – The Board Game, was also announced around the same time. The campaign was funded within the first three minutes of its launch and was released in April 2017.
In February 2017, music from the series composed by Motoi Sakuraba was performed by a live orchestra at the Salle Pleyel concert hall in Paris. In September of that year, a limited edition vinyl box set containing the soundtracks of all three games was released in Europe. In Japan, a box set containing the enhanced versions of all three games for the PlayStation 4, the soundtracks for each, bookends, artwork prints, and dictionaries detailing every in-game item was released on May 24, 2018.
Released in 2009 for the PlayStation 3, Demon's Souls is considered the spiritual predecessor to the Dark Souls series. It has also been described as a spiritual successor to the King's Field series of games, while at the same time being described as a separate entity "guided by differing core game design concepts." It also drew inspiration from video games such as Ico, The Legend of Zelda, and FromSoftware's Otogi: Myth of Demons, as well as manga such as Berserk, Saint Seiya and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.[translation verification needed]
Unlike its successors, Demon's Souls uses a central hub system known as the "Nexus" where players can level up, repair equipment, or buy certain items, before venturing into one of the five connected worlds. The "World Tendency" feature is also exclusive to Demon's Souls, where the difficulty of exploring a world is dependent on how many bosses have been killed, and how the player dies. The gameplay involves a character-creation system and emphasizes gathering loot through combat with enemies in a non-linear series of varied locations. It had an online multiplayer system integrated into single-player, in which players could leave messages and warnings for other players' worlds, as well as join other players to assist and/or kill them. The multiplayer servers were shut down in early 2018 due to inactivity.
In February 2016, Bandai Namco Entertainment partnered with American retailer GameStop to release Slashy Souls, a free-to-play mobile endless runner, to promote Dark Souls III. The game was presented in a pixel art style, and shares the series' level of difficulty. The game was met with highly negative critical reception, with reviewers such as Chris Carter of Destructoid and Jim Sterling both giving the game a 1/10.
The Dark Souls series has been met with critical acclaim. The first Dark Souls has been cited to be among the greatest video games of all time, Dark Souls II also received critical acclaim upon release. Before release, Dark Souls III was one of the most anticipated games of 2016, and also received critical acclaim upon release.
The "bloodstain" gameplay mechanic has been given praise by critics. David Craddock of Shacknews called them one of the core tenets of the series. He stated that the harshest punishment one can receive in a Souls game is "not dying once, but twice." GamesRadar+ called bloodstains, in combination with Demon Souls's message system, "a graceful, elegant way of letting players guide each other without the need for words", and said that "rarely has the price of failure been balanced on such a precarious knife edge" as being forced to retrieve one's bloodstain. The series inspired a social media app for iOS and Android called Soapstone, which uses a similar online messaging system used in the series adapted for the real world, using GPS to determine a user's location and bringing up a list of cryptic messages posted by other users in the area.
The bonfire concept was similarly praised. Matthew Elliott of GamesRadar+ called bonfires a powerful symbol of relief, and "a meaty cocktail of progress, exhaustion and joy", and that, while other games evoke emotions with their save points, no other game does so as effectively. Vice called the Bonfire a "mark of genius" that "reinvented the save point" and allowed the player to reflect on their progress.
The Dark Souls series had shipped 29.34 million copies outside of Japan as of March 2021[update]. Dark Souls III broke sales records upon release, selling over three million copies worldwide by May 2016 and was Bandai Namco's fastest-selling game until being surpassed by Elden Ring in 2022.
The Soulslike genre was inspired by common features of the series, resulting in many games using similar mechanics. Other FromSoftware games directed by Miyazaki, such as Demon's Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Elden Ring, share many of the same concepts of Souls and are often associated with the series and grouped under the "Soulsborne" label.
The series has also been cited as an influence on several PlayStation Network features, including asynchronous messaging, social networking, and video sharing, as well as for the television show Stranger Things.
- "How FromSoft took the action-RPG to a new level by putting faith in Dark Souls' players". gamesradar. Archived from the original on February 22, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
- VanOrd, Kevin (October 3, 2011). "Dark Souls Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 26, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Kollar, Philip (March 11, 2014). "Dark Souls 2 Review: not the end". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on July 5, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Teti, John (November 13, 2011). "Retrospective: King's Field". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Matulef, Jeffrey (October 3, 2014). "Demon's Souls still feels fresher than its "Dark" successors". Eurogamer. dx.net. Archived from the original on April 26, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
- Jin Ha Lee; Clarke, Rachel Ivy; Sacchi, Simone; Jett, Jacob (2014). "Relationships among video games: Existing standards and new definitions". Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 51 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1002/meet.2014.14505101035.
- Moriarty, Colin (May 11, 2011). "Dark Souls Release Date Revealed". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Onyett, Charles (May 31, 2012). "New Dark Souls Content Coming to Consoles". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on August 21, 2019. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Houghton, David. (March 5, 2014). "Why Dark Souls is the friendliest, most benevolent game of its generation" Archived June 29, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. GamesRadar. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
- Harrison, William. (October 10, 2011). "Dark Souls isn’t hard, gamers are just stupid and impatient" Archived June 29, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. Venture Beat. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
- North, Dale (October 5, 2009). "Non-review: Why I couldn't finish Demon's Souls". Destructoid. Destructoid. Archived from the original on September 12, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- Saed, Sherif (January 11, 2018). "Dark Souls Remastered announced for PC, PS4, Xbox One with 4K and 60fps". VG247. Archived from the original on January 14, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
- "Dark Souls 2 a direct sequel to first title, may not make 2013". VG247. December 15, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
- Matulef, Jeffrey (January 29, 2013). "Miyazaki won't be directly involved in Dark Souls 2, doesn't want too many sequels". EuroGamer. Archived from the original on August 27, 2015. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (March 6, 2014). "Dark Souls 2 PC release date confirmed". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Pitcher, Jenna (December 29, 2014). "Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin Director Reveals New Details". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- mikemcwhertor (November 25, 2014). "Dark Souls 2 coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2015". Polygon. Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- Gifford, Kevin (December 19, 2012). "Dark Souls 2 developer: If Dark Souls was set in the North Pole, this one would be in the South Pole". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on July 7, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- McWhertor, Michael (June 15, 2015). "Dark Souls 3 confirmed, coming early 2016". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Mahardy, Mike. "Dark Souls III is Faster, Smoother, and More Fluid Than its Predecessors". Gamespot. Archived from the original on September 19, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Dark Souls 3's combat is faster in a post-Bloodborne world". Polygon. July 20, 2015. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
- Talbot, Carrie. "Dark Souls 3 sales hits the ten million mark – and the series tops 27 million". PCGamesN. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
- Porter, Matt (April 18, 2016). "Dark Souls 3 Is Bandai Namco's Fastest-Selling Game Ever". IGN. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
- Bankhurst, Adam (March 16, 2022). "Elden Ring Has Already Sold 12 Million Copies Worldwide". IGN. Archived from the original on March 16, 2022. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
- Hussain, Tamoor. "Dark Souls 3 Interview: "It Wouldn't Be Right to Continue Creating Souls"". GameSpot. Archived from the original on November 22, 2015. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
- Schedeen, Jesse (January 19, 2016). "DARK SOULS COMIC BOOK COMING IN APRIL 2016". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on January 20, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Prescott, Shaun (April 8, 2016). "The Dark Souls series is getting a board game". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on April 11, 2016. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
- Klepek, Patrick (April 19, 2016). "Crowdfunded Dark Souls Board Game Raises $200,000 In Less Than Two Hours". Kotaku. Archived from the original on April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
- Makuch, Eddie. "Dark Souls Board Game Funded in 3 Minutes". GameSpot. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- Osborn, Alex (December 20, 2016). "Dark Souls to Be Featured in Bandai Namco's Orchestral Concert in Europe". IGN. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
- Hussain, Tamoor. "See The Dark Souls Series' Super Limited Vinyl Soundtrack Collection". GameSpot. Archived from the original on September 12, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
- Barnett, Brian (January 11, 2018). "Dark Souls Trilogy Box Set Announced for Japan". IGN. Archived from the original on January 11, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
- "Atlus Officially Announces Demon's Souls for North America". IGN. Ziff Davis. July 6, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Matulef, Jeffrey (April 7, 2015). "Bloodborne director reveals his favourite boss from the "Souls" series". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on February 18, 2018. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
- Kollar, Phil. "Demon's Souls Director Discusses Difficulty, Sequels, And More". Gameinformer. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
- Mielke, James. "'Dark Souls' Creator Miyazaki on 'Zelda,' Sequels and Starting Out". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
- Simon Parkin (March 31, 2015). "Bloodborne creator Hidetaka Miyazaki: 'I didn't have a dream. I wasn't ambitious'". the Guardian. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- Bloodborne Creator Describes Influences and Game Design History Archived February 13, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, IGN
- Zeller, Mike (May 2, 2019). "Why Dark Souls Owes a Debt to its Forgotten Older Sibling Otogi". USgamer. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
- "Dark Souls Design Works Translation: Weapons and Equipment Part 1/2". giantbomb.com. Archived from the original on May 22, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "Dark Souls 3: Das komplette Gamescom-Interview mit Schöpfer Hidetaka Miyazaki". PC Games (in German). August 12, 2015. Archived from the original on June 23, 2019. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- Kollar, Philip (February 27, 2016). "Slashy Souls: a first look at Namco's new Dark Souls-inspired mobile game". Polygon. Archived from the original on February 29, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
- Matulef, Jeffrey (February 29, 2016). "Dark Souls 3's promotional mobile game Slashy Souls is terrible". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on May 29, 2018. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
- Carter, Chris (February 28, 2016). "Review: Slashy Souls". Destructoid. Archived from the original on March 10, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- Sterling, Jim. "Slashy Souls Review – Dark Holes". thejimquisition.com. Archived from the original on June 5, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- "The 100 best games ever". GamesRadar. February 25, 2015. Archived from the original on January 20, 2017. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
- Breault, Chris (February 24, 2014). "How Do You Make An RPG After Dark Souls?". Kill Screen. Archived from the original on March 21, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
- "The most anticipated games of 2016". GamesRadar. Futurepic. Archived from the original on February 7, 2016. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
- "Kotaku UK's Most Anticipated Games of 2016". Kotaku. January 7, 2016. Archived from the original on January 10, 2016. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
- Guerrero, Agustin (January 8, 2016). "Screen Rant's 30 Most Anticipated Video Games of 2016". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
- Rad, Chloi (April 4, 2016). "Dark Souls 3 Review". IGN. Archived from the original on April 4, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
- Davenport, James (April 4, 2016). "Dark Souls III Review". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
- "The DNA of Dark Souls: the challenge and death". Shacknews. Archived from the original on February 22, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
- "How Demon's Souls became one of PlayStation's toughest yet most rewarding challenges". gamesradar. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
- Klepek, Patrick (April 16, 2015). "App Lets You Leave Cryptic Bloodborne Messages In Real Life". Kotaku. Archived from the original on April 27, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
- "Why I Love: bonfires in Dark Souls". gamesradar. Archived from the original on February 21, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
- "An Ode to the Dark Souls Bonfire". Vice. November 5, 2015. Archived from the original on February 21, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
- "Fact Book 2021" (PDF). Bandai Namco Group. 2021. p. 3. Retrieved October 2, 2021.
- Makuch, Eddie. "Dark Souls 3 Breaks Sales Records". GameSpot. Archived from the original on April 21, 2016. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
- Potter, Matt (April 18, 2016). "Dark Souls 3 Is Bandai Namco's Fastest Selling Game Ever". IGN. Archived from the original on April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
- Kollar, Philip (June 11, 2014). "Bloodborne is not Dark Souls; here's how it should set itself apart". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on May 6, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
- "E3 2014: The Similarities and Differences Between Bloodborne and Dark Souls". GameSpot. Archived from the original on July 9, 2015. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- McWhertor, Michael (October 2, 2018). "Dark Souls' creator on what sets Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice apart". Polygon. Archived from the original on February 21, 2019. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- Krabbe, Esra (June 21, 2019). "Elden Ring Is an Evolution of Dark Souls Says Creator – E3 2019". IGN. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
- Saltzman, Mitchell (January 5, 2018). "8 PlayStation Games That Need to be Remade or Remastered". IGN. Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
- Dayus, Oscar. "E3 2018 - Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Is Not Part Of The Soulsborne Series, From Software Says". GameSpot. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
- Harris, Iain. "Soulsborne fans think Elden Ring is based on Celtic folklore". PCGamesN. Archived from the original on June 23, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
- McWhertor, Michael (March 21, 2019). "Streamer pulls off five-game, no-hit 'Soulsborne' run, right before Sekiro launch". Polygon. Archived from the original on April 21, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
- Kain, Erik (November 22, 2013). "'Dark Souls' Inspired The Design Of Sony's PlayStation 4". Forbes. Archived from the original on October 5, 2018. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
- Tilly, Chris (August 26, 2016). "How Silent Hill, Dark Souls and The Last of Us Influenced Stranger Things". IGN. Archived from the original on October 14, 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2018.