Revisiting the Soul of FromSoftware
Delving into old favorites
Gaming is my favourite hobby, one I like to think I’m pretty good at, actually – which is why I started playing the Souls series to begin with.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the tales of how girls aren’t as respected in the gaming community, but naively I never believed the stereotypes to be true. Until I went to college and tried to mingle with other like-minded people, that was. At the time I was pretty big on Zelda and Animal Crossing, and that fact had the boys laughing at me. ‘So you’ve never played a real video game?’ they would scoff, ‘Bet you couldn’t make it past the first boss in Dark Souls 3.’
Stubborn as I am, I decided to give it a go and promptly got my ass handed to me. But I wasn’t about to prove those boys right – I wanted to be as respected in my hobby as they were, so I pushed through until I was victorious.
And that’s how the obsession began.
Now FromSoftware has a few entries in my Top Ten favourite games of all time, and I’m counting down the days and budgeting my spending down to the penny so that I can afford Elden Ring on release. I’ve rewatched the trailer more times than I probably should have, and to fill my spare time, I’ve been obsessively replaying nearly every game in FromSoft’s catalogue.
So, what’s a better way to celebrate a game release than to reflect on its predecessors? Here's my personal ranking of the best FromSoftware games as of January 2022. This list is based on nothing but personal opinion, so please do keep that in mind if you happen to disagree with me. I’d love to hear which game makes your number one spot!
5: Dark Souls II
Now, I must confess, I’ve never beaten Dark Souls II. I just don’t have any desire to. This was the only game that Hidetaka Miyazaki wasn’t directly involved in and honestly, it shows. It feels clunkier than the other games; the punishments for failure outweigh the rewards of victory. Perhaps one day I’ll go back and finally beat it, but right now, it’s not a game that I feel excited to play.
The Emerald Herald is cute, though.
4: Dark Souls
Ah, a classic. For many, this was their first introduction to the beauty of what beating a truly challenging game is like. I wish I had played it on its release. Revisiting it after playing Dark Souls III did feel like a bit of a step back – the controls weren’t as responsive and everything was a bit too slow for my liking at first. It didn’t take me long to get into the groove, though, and I adored every second.
Well, mostly. Blight Town can get bent.
The aesthetics of this game cannot be beaten. My gothic, morbid little heart sang as I traversed the streets of Yharnam, with its Lovecraft-inspired corruption and amalgamation of spine-tingling horrors. This game oozes madness in a way the other games cannot compete with. One of my favourite parts was piecing together the story through NPC dialogue and item descriptions. I really tried to sink my teeth into the lore of this game, though, like many others, I relied on the excellence of VaatiVidya to really put it all together.
I often listen to this game's soundtrack whilst I’m writing (I’m listening to it right now, in fact). There’s just something about it that really gets me in the zone. A lot of my writing inspiration comes from games such as these, and any excuse to tie my two favourite hobbies together is one to which I will forever cling.
Bloodtinge build until the end!
2: Dark Souls III
They often say you remember your first love for the rest of your life. That’s how I feel about Dark Souls III. The game that started this rapidly growing obsession, the hours I spent raging, feeling hopeless, only to become victorious – the euphoria, the triumph!
This was the first game I ever actively went out of my way to platinum – mostly out of spite, as mentioned previously – but as I entered every new cycle of New Game+, I never tired of fighting the same bosses over and over. Every ending intrigued me, each run added a new layer of lore that further enticed me.
This game also features one of my favourite bosses of all time: The Dancer of the Boreal Valley. The fluidity of the movement, the unnatural aesthetic, the music – I had my summon sign outside of that arena for an embarrassingly long time, just so that I could relive it again and again. And of course, I used the armour afterwards, too.
Replaying Dark Souls III feels like revisiting an old friend – a strange, twisted, violent friend, but a friend nonetheless.
1: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Perhaps it’s because I’ve only recently played it for the first time, or perhaps it’s because it’s the most narratively focused of the lot, but there’s no denying that at this very moment, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is my favourite FromSoftware game.
This game played with my emotions. The pain of doing the Shura ending, the struggle against immortality, the gorgeous boss designs, The Demon of Hatred.
Without a doubt, this is a polished game. It forces veteran players to unlearn everything they know about Souls-like combat in order to take on the role of the shinobi – hiding in the shadows, planning your attacks to take out your enemies one by one, undetected. I’m currently on my fourth playthrough and Isshin the Sword Saint is still giving me trouble.
I hope there is a Sekiro II on the horizon, in the same way, I’ve been hoping for a Bloodborne II for years. Such a day will probably never come, but if it does, you can bet I’ll be first in line to preorder a copy (and I very rarely preorder games – far too much disappointment in the past.)
But something is missing...
Some of you may have noticed that Demon’s Souls isn’t on the list. There isn’t a particular reason as to why – I’ve just never played it. I’ve heard many good things about it and will probably pick up a copy one day, but for the time being it remains the only souls-like game that I haven’t played. Sorry to disappoint any Demon’s Souls fans!
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