I absolutely bloody love From Software. I adore the studio, and I can’t get enough of the video games they put out, because they’re almost always absolute masterpieces that combine inspired design choices with vast worlds and intensely challenging gameplay.
At the same time, I can’t help but think my life might have been better if From Software had never come into it. In many ways it’s kind of like the girl I dated when I was 16, in that the experience of it shaped me and made me a better human, but also left with deep emotional scars that sometimes cause me to openly weep and stare off into the middle distance for hours at a time while Blink 182’s I Miss You plays in my head.
I’m okay now (I promise).
With that in mind, I thought I’d rank every Soulsborne game, plus the recently-released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice based on how many times they made me cry – be that out of rage, frustration, or even joy.
To be clear, this is not a definitive list of which games in the series I believe to be best, but a personal examination of my relationship to these games and their impact on my admittedly fragile emotional stability.
I mention this now because I recently put together a piece ranking the starter Pokemon which I thought I’d made clear was not to be taken seriously, but resulted in numerous internet commentators calling for my resignation. So there’s my disclaimer. Don’t take this crap too seriously. Please.
Who am I kidding, people definitely still will.
Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin
Dark Souls 2 is kind of like Marmite, in that it tastes really awful and anyone who says they like it has no idea what they’re talking about. But how many times did this divisive sequel make me cry?
Once. As soon as I realised Dark Souls II wasn’t going to deliver me that same incredible feeling of discovery that the first game gave me with its sprawling, interconnected world, I cried out in pain. I was inconsolable for hours. My wife pretended to understand, but I knew she didn’t get it.
I struggled on with the game to the very end, but it just wasn’t the same experience I’d fallen in love with. The victories, and even the defeats, left me feeling nothing. For that reason I award Dark Souls II the lowest possible score of one cry out of five.
I confess that Demon’s Souls is probably the From Software game I’ve spent the least time with, and as such it has had less chance to claim my salty eye droplets over the years than its brethren.
I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but I spent the entirety of my first (and to be fair, only) playthrough of this game as a melee class, which meant when I finally got to a boss called The Penetrator (a knight with a massive sword and a name like a porn star), I got slapped down harder than an egg on the back of a senator’s head.
Between The Penetrator and another particularly nasty SOB called the Flamelurker, Demon’s Souls had me on the emotional ropes more than a few times. There were plenty of other moments, I’m sure, but those are the douchebags that stand out.
I award Demon’s Souls two cries out of five, and will likely never return to it to let it see me cry again.
Dark Souls 3
There are so many parts of Dark Souls 3 that reduced me to an actual puddle on the floor. Seriously, the last game in the trilogy (for now) is riddled with some utterly ridiculous difficulty spikes that left me pleading to any God who would listen for mercy. None came.
You can spend vast chunks of Dark Souls 3 having a great time. There are challenges, to be sure, but nothing that feels particularly insurmountable. Every now and again though, you’ll run into some piece of crap like the Abyss Watchers or Lothric and Lorian and will want to tear your hair out and eat it in frustration.
I honest to God nearly gave up on Dark Souls 3 because the Abyss Watchers represent one of the most ridiculously high skill checks in any game I have ever played. It seriously comes out of nowhere, and I award this third game in the series a respectable three cries out of five for its crimes against my mental state.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Look, I really love the latest From Software game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. In my review, I said the game was a punishingly difficult GOTY contender that is easily among the studio’s best work.
But there’s no getting around the fact that if Sekiro had a face, I would punch it. The game’s opening hours are genuinely, brutally hard – at least I found them to be so as someone who has poured countless hours into Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
See, if you attempt to play Sekiro like another Souls game, From Software punish you for it. Hard. I got stuck on one early boss for at least a couple of hours before I realised I didn’t have the item I needed to make it easier for myself. When I realised this I sobbed.
Sekiro has many lessons to teach, and is not nice about teaching them. Kind of like a primary school teacher who’s already in their notice and couldn’t give a toss whether or not you “get” fractions yet. This samurai adventure gets four cries out of five for the pain it caused me.
Bloodborne is by far my favourite of these games thanks to its gorgeous, interconnected world and aggressive combat systems. But when I think back on this Gothic horror, all I can really remember is that my nerves were pretty much constantly shot.
As I crept through what is undoubtedly the scariest game From Software has ever made, I was always on the verge of tears and/or soiling myself. Every corner concealed a new Eldritch abomination that was ready and willing to leap from the shadows and accost me as I screamed in horror, unable to fight back out of sheer terror.
Finding a new lantern to rest at and being granted a moment’s respite was always grounds for a mini breakdown. I’d go outside, maybe smoke a cigarette, steel myself for what was to come, and inevitably lose my effing mind when I ran head first into a horrific monster that would obviously wipe me out in a few hits.
I still have nightmares about Bloodborne. Five cries out of five.
Here’s a list of things in the original Dark Souls that either made me cry or made want to weep from frustration. Blighttown. Those GOD DAMN Anor Londo archers. Smough and Ornstein. Blighttown. Lost Izalith. The Bed Of Chaos. The Tomb of Giants. Those dogs that help the Capra Demon rip you apart as soon as you enter the fight.
I really bloody hate Blighttown, okay? Although now that I think about it, Lost Izalith is probably worse. That entire place feels like an unfinished mess. In a way, it reminds me of me.
Don’t get me wrong, I do genuinely adore Dark Souls, and there were so many moments of elation. Beating Smough and Ornstein for the first time, for example, resulted in me emitting an inhuman squeal of joy that my wife would later go on to describe as “grounds for divorce.”
Leaving Blighttown and realising I would never have to go back was also a huge moment, as was any time I made my way out of a particularly tough area and back to the relative safety of the Firelink Shrine. Truly, Dark Souls is a game of delirious highs and dangerous lows.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster that I was never fully prepared for, and for that reason I award it the highest possible score of infinity cries out of five.