Every FromSoftware SoulsBorne DLC Rated

FromSoftware has finally announced the first DLC expansion for Elden Ring, Shadow of the Erdtree.

While we only know that the new expansion is officially in development, FromSoftware has a history of releasing significant expansions that are rich with both new areas and bosses as well as new story content. They are often essentially mini-sequels to the base game that usually wrap up the game’s story and hide the true ending.

With this in mind, we ranked all previous FromSoftware DLC for Dark Souls and Bloodborne and revisited the expansions from a studio that has arguably done DLC better than anyone else. Check below for our ranked list of FromSoftware DLC.

Spoilers for Dark Souls and Bloodborne DLC below.

The Crown of the Sunken King.  Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

The Crown of the Sunken King. Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

7-6.) Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King and Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Sunken King

As a Dark Souls 2 apologist, my main criticism with the Dark Souls sequel comes down to balance issues. While Dark Souls 2 would end up pioneering some of the open world elements of the game that we would later see in Elden Ring (Dark Souls 2 co-director Yui Tanimura would go on to direct Elden Ring alongside Hidetaka Miyazaki), Dark Souls 2 Souls 2 also felt confusingly difficult in a way that was neither fun nor particularly rewarding.

The DLC for Dark Souls 2 suffers from the same problem, and actually adds some of the most frustrating areas in the entire Dark Souls series, which are as boring as they are narratively fascinating. Whether it’s Shulva, an underground city built to worship a poisonous dragon, but also has incredibly annoying platforming and hidden switches. To Brume Tower, a beautiful fortress guarded by several game-modifying enemies called Ashen Idols.

While I personally preferred the darker aesthetic of Sunken King, which takes place in a series of Mesoamerican-inspired pyramids in a sprawling underground realm, both DLCs seem to take the most pleasure from seeing just how annoying a Souls area can be.

Along with Crown of the Ivory King, Crown of the Sunken King and Crown of the Old Iron King make up the Lost Crown trilogy for Dark Souls 2, and the first two DLCs are placed at the bottom of the rankings for the same reason why Dark Souls 2 is often remembered less better than the other two games in the trilogy.

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<p class=Ashes of Ariandel. Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

5.) Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel

Ashes of Ariandel, the first of two Dark Souls 3 DLCs, revisits the concept of painted worlds first introduced in Dark Souls 1.

While The Ringed City sets the stage for the final act of the Dark Souls trilogy, the first DLC takes place in a relatively small and sparse world. The Snowfield area is simply a large open field populated by tough warrior enemies, and while gorgeous, it feels mostly optional, but has a great twist on a fan-favorite boss fight from Dark Souls 1.

The real heart of the DLC doesn’t emerge until you meet Sir Vilhelm and Sister Friede at the cathedral. FromSoftware looks to make up for the DLC’s lack of enemy variety by setting an exciting, three-phase boss battle within the chapel walls. The only other area is a PvP arena behind a very cool boss fight, set in an area that almost feels like an homage to the final fight in Metal Gear Solid 3.

One note, when players finally meet Sir Vilhelm, he delivers a scathing metacritique to the player accusing the player of having to “dig up every secret” even if it ends up destroying the world. The idea that the inhabitants of the Dark Souls world know that making it through the game only means certain doom for both the world and its inhabitants seems to be the main theme of both the Dark Souls 3 DLC, and a delightful bit of meta-storytelling.

Crown of the Ivory King.  Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

Crown of the Ivory King. Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

4.) Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Ivory King

The final DLC in the Dark Souls 2 DLC trilogy differs from the previous two in terms of both what it adds to the Dark Souls story and having a fantastic final boss fight.

While the Sunken King and Old Iron King DLC ​​used new mechanics to primarily increase difficulty, the Ivory King DLC ​​feels like a full-fledged location thanks to the frozen kingdom of Eleum Loyce.

From the moment you enter Eleum Loyce, every challenge that prevents you from progressing is tied to the tragic story of Alsanna and the Burnt Ivory King. Its main gameplay twist, which involves rescuing several imprisoned knights of Eleum Loyce, builds towards one of the most unique boss fights in the series that takes the concept of fighting multiple bosses at once and turns it on its head so that the player uses a small army to take wearing the main enemy.

While they’re at the bottom of our list, the Lost Crown Trilogy was still an ambitious series of DLC that added a proper narrative thread that bridges the events of Dark Souls 1 and 2. Manus, the main boss of the first Dark Souls DLC, throws a large shadow over the events of Dark Souls 2 and its expansions. While the disjointed nature of Dark Souls 2 ultimately backfires, the idea that the Dark Souls universe is made up of countless realms and cultures, across so many different eras and times, is probably Dark Souls 2’s greatest contribution to the series as a whole.

The ringed city.  Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

The ringed city. Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

3.) Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City

Dark Souls 3 is on a mission to end the events that started in the first game. The second DLC, The Ringed City, is intended to act as the penultimate chapter of the Dark Souls trilogy, with the player venturing into the Ringed City, the Pygmy Lords realm first revealed in Dark Souls 1.

The Ringed City ranks up there with some of the best cities introduced in the Souls series. The walls of the kingdom can be seen caving in on themselves as if sucked into a vortex, possibly a reference to Junji Ito’s tragic city in Uzumaki.

The enemies that roam the city are both dynamic to fight and striking in their design, like the angels of death who literally guard the sky and rain down hellfire, or the judges who summon the spirits of armies to defend the city. Then, when the player finally travels deeper into the walls and beyond time and space, they will encounter one of the best sword-to-sword enemies in the game, both of which are a remix of one of Dark Souls’ best DLC bosses, Artorias of the Abyss.

The real gems hidden in The Ringed City DLC are how it converges the long-standing stories of the Dark Souls series. There are factions that cling to the cult of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, and as in Ashes of Ariandel, The Ringed City is home to one of the game’s great NPCs who will test the player for all their ambitions. As a bookend to the series, The Ringed City is a triumph and as narratively straightforward as you can get in the Dark Souls series.

Artorias of the Abyss.  Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

Artorias of the Abyss. Credits: FromSoftware, Namco Bandai

2.) Dark Souls: Artorias of the Abyss

The first DLC released in the Souls series, Artorias of the Abyss, would introduce the template for all Souls DLC. When FromSoftware integrated the DLC content directly into the base game, adding a hidden portal that players need to find to access the DLC, it opened up a world of possibilities for the Souls franchise. Suddenly, every new Dark Souls game hid a path to a potential new area and questlines that would later be introduced via an expansion DLC.

Everything else, like a difficult doorman boss, dedicated PvP area, would continue to be FromSoftware staples. And of course, one of the best (and most tragic) boss fights in the entire series is tucked away in the expansion. The new area Oolacile also introduced Manus, Father of the Abyss, whose influence would extend throughout the series until Dark Souls 3.

With Artorias of the Abyss, FromSoftware showed that it wasn’t just releasing DLC ​​to extend the shelf life of the games. The DLC expansions in Dark Souls are transformative, wrapping up important storylines while flexing the studio’s world-building muscles. The boss fights are also almost always some of the best in the series or at least the hardest.

The old hunters.  Credit: FromSoftware, SIE

The old hunters. Credit: FromSoftware, SIE

1.) Bloodborne: The Old Hunters

In the Cathedral Ward, past the tombstones, an ancient abomination will transport you to The Hunter’s Nightmare, a symbol of FromSoftware’s ambitious achievement that is Bloodborne.

The Old Hunters DLC is a perfect three-part piece that takes the hunter through a true Lovecraftian nightmare that grows more sinister the deeper players go. The Hunter’s Nightmare begins as if it were just another new parish to explore. But once players get past Ludwig, they’ll find Bloodborne’s darkest secrets hidden in the Old Hunters DLC.

The Astral Tower, a research facility used for human experimentation, is one of the most disturbing sources of knowledge FromSoftware has ever created, culminating in a boss battle against the truly unforgettable Lady Maria. A dueling style boss that FromSoftware really loves to add to their DLC expansions.

As Hunters gets past her, FromSoftware puts to rest any question that it’s a Lovecraftian horror game by directly adapting Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” The fishing village from Lovecraft’s famous short story is recreated here. Wading through the oppressive fog and rain, the maze-like village, with the terrifying moon hanging low, too low, overhead, Fishing Hamlet is a little nightmare come true.

The Old Hunters DLC takes Bloodborne and distills it to its most perfect form. Even if only The Old Hunters DLC was released, Bloodborne would still be considered a masterpiece, but because – like all FromSoftware DLC – it builds on top of such a solid foundation, it completes a game that already started on all cylinders and shows that when FromSoftware is released and expanded, it is not optional content, but important.

We’ll have to wait and see what FromSoftware does with the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, but with such a rich pedigree of expansions already under its belt, the bar is certainly high for the first Elden Ring expansion.

Matt TM Kim is IGN’s Senior Features Editor. You can reach him @laloftd.

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