Dark Souls

Common Sense Media says

Bloody RPG gives new meaning to hardcore game difficulty.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

This game glamorizes brutal fantasy violence. However, unlike many games, it does not make combat seem like a breeze. Only through extraordinary tenacity will players work their way through its difficult dungeons. Through the proper lens it could be viewed as an unusual way of teaching perseverance.

Positive role models

The game’s hero is a speechless warrior who battles to lift a curse of the undead from the land while searching for souls. However, his (or her) only means of accomplishing this task is through vicious, gory, deadly battle.

Ease of play

You won’t find a harder game on a console. The game’s raison d'être is to provide a punishingly difficult adventure only the most tenacious of players will be willing to see through to its end. As the game’s tag line states, players should prepare to die. A lot. And lose all of their progress and experience each time.


Players spend virtually all of their time fighting enemies both human and fantastical with swords, axes, pikes, bows and arrows, throwing knives, and magic. Blood spatters with every hit, dead and burning bodies litter the ground. One boss battle sees players decapitate a mythical creature.


A mostly naked semi-human female enemy relies on her long hair to cover her exposed breasts.   

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Minor privacy concerns. Players can play cooperatively or antagonistically in each other’s worlds, but that communication is limited to basic body gestures and pre-formed messages that players can scrawl on the floor. Open communication is not allowed.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Dark Souls is a violent and bloody action role-playing game that is designed to be extremely difficult, even for veteran gamers. Players use melee weapons and magic in their fight against human and fantasy creatures. Blood flies through the air and stains the ground, and one female enemy nearly reveals her exposed bosoms, which are covered only by hair. Even if the player is of an age to safely experience this game’s mature themes, they may not be prepared for its punishing level of challenge, which guarantees hundreds of player character deaths and frequent loss of progress. This is not a game for beginners. Parents should note that players can play cooperatively or antagonistically in each other’s worlds, but that communication is limited to basic body gestures and pre-formed messages that players can scrawl on the floor. Open communication is not allowed.

Parents say

Kids say

What's it about?

DARK SOULS, a spiritual successor to 2009’s Demon’s Souls, is an action role-playing game that sees players exploring a demon-infested land of the undead in an attempt to retrieve their lost souls. Its realistic melee combat is bloody and gory, and requires players to make clever use of scarce artifacts that can restore health or allow players to engage ghostly specters. Other collectible items allow players to travel online between game worlds to help -- or face off against -- other human-controlled characters. Regardless of whether you journey alone or with other players, the experience is persistently, unforgivingly difficult. This game was designed to put the skill and tenacity of the most hardcore gamers to the test, guaranteeing frequent player character death accompanied by a loss of nearly all progress. Not only is it not designed for children and beginner gamers, it’s not intended for adults or veteran players unwilling to suffer one abject defeat after another.

Is it any good?


Games have slowly but surely been getting easier and easier. Tutorials, onscreen instructions, frequent save points, regenerating health, forgiving enemies -- these elements have gradually become the norm in most games over the last two decades. And Dark Souls has none of them. You must discover how to do everything on your own. You lose virtually all of your progress whenever you die. Health regeneration is highly limited. And, most importantly, your enemies tend to be of the fiendishly, cruelly difficult variety. Every encounter is a nail-biting slice of combat that could easily leave you dead, with all of the character-growing souls you have harvested lost -- unless you can work your way back to the place you died without dying along the way.

It’s not a bad game, and it’s not bad game design. This is exactly the experience Dark Souls’ makers intended. They’re after a segment of gamers who, in this age of player-success-served-up-on-a-platter, pine for challenge. It’s bliss for those who happen to be in this group. If you’re not among them, best skip this one lest you saddle yourself with the expense of replacing the TV into which you are bound to throw your controller.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about video game difficulty. Why do you play games? Simply to have fun? To experience a story? To challenge yourself? If a game is too hard, does it cease to be entertaining? Or do you feel a greater sense of satisfaction once you’ve achieved your goal?

  • Families can also discuss violence in games. Does video game violence ever make you uneasy? Can ultra-realistic games prove unsettling?

Game details

Platforms:Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Namco Bandai
Release date:October 4, 2011
Genre:Role Playing
Topics:Magic and fantasy
ESRB rating:M for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Violence (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

This review of Dark Souls was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byColin A. October 4, 2011

Even harder than its predecessor, absolutely not for kids/faint of heart

Dark souls is an incredible, fun, deep, rewarding game if you are the right person. If not, it will prove to be cruel, overly-punishing, hopeless torment. The difficulty level is turned all the way up to 11 in this game, and will probably be remembered as the hardest game this year. If you or your child is easily angered from death/failure in games, than this is absolutely not for you/them. Regardless of the gamer's skill, it is almost a guaranteeing that they will die constantly from clever, brutal enemies, devious traps, and knights wielding giant hammers. Onto the content: Violence: Very brutal, blood spurts all around with plenty of disturbing, gory imagery. It is very realistic, and there are an incredibly high amount of ways to die other than "stabbed to death by sword." If the player is easily freighted by unexpected deaths, like being charred to a crisp by a dragon or being devoured by a living treasure chest, one should think twice before playing. Sexual content: The ESRB rating is for "partial nudity," and this much is true. One of the boss fights displays a woman whose breasts are only covered by her long hair. Additionally, she has the torso of a giant spider beast. Other than that there is the occasional cleavage from a lady-character or shirtless guy, nothing one wouldn't see in a PG-13 movie. Privacy: A small issue, but an issue none the less. In the game's online function one can team up or attack other players in their own game-worlds. The only thing truly displayed is one's online screen name, thus allowing one to send messages to the account. Be sure to have a talk with your children to not give out any personal information before you let them play, though most evil-type players you meet online are only interested in killing your character and what they can gain from doing such. Message: As an additional point, the game has a very dark, hopeless, and off-and-on spiritual tone to it. Some players may find this very inviting and engaging to enter the game experience with such a strong emotional overset, where as other players could be disturbed emotionally from the constant stress on death and decay in the game environments. This game and its predecessor (Demon's Souls) are both well-known in the gaming world for having the ability to infringe on the gamer's mental well-being after extended playtime, however the amount that it does, and the intensity of its effect is reliant solely on the gamer themselves. This can be a good thing if the player commits themselves to the game to beat it, as the payoff and victory stand to be one of the most-satisfying victories in modern gaming. It would be a bad thing, of course, if the player is easily influenced by feelings up to the point that it would change their attitude from playing the game. As a final note, Dark Souls is good if you like to be challenged, and to learn from your mistakes. The game is never unfair, only strict. One can think of it as a teacher, aiding the player to learn more and more about how to combat each enemy and situation as time, (and deaths) pass by. Simply stated: Enjoy challenge=good Hate challenge=bad Do some serious thinking before you let your children under 15 or so play.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 17 years old Written byWhatYouNeedToKnow October 30, 2011

What You Need To Know

Hello all! Back again to review another big name title! Dark souls! Whats it about? Its about an undead soldier who is "chosen" to save all the undead. Disturbing imagery - Its a pretty dark word full of demons and dragons. Some of the bosses are quite interesting looking. I wouldnt say disturbing more like "ew". One of the bosses is a partially naked lady, her hair covers the area of interest. Also one of the NPC's has verrryyy large....Ahem... while they are completely covered they are most definitely noticeable. Personally i think it is ridiculous how parents will let their kids play super violent games but if mildly suggestive clothing is in a game its an automatic NO. The thing parents have to realize is YOUR KIDS HAVE SEEN WORSE! Sorry for ranting. Violence - The game lets you use a variable arsenal of weapons all do different types of damage. Blood in this game is not noticeable enough to make a difference, it appears as a thin red cloud around the enemy. There is no gore, or hacking of limbs. There is also no option to turn it off. Difficulty - Alright, this is the ONLY reason i wouldnt suggest this game to younger players. It is extremely difficult! fighting enemies is tough and requires alot of thought and can prove to difficult for younger less patient kids. I have played over 50hrs and im not even a quarter of the way through it. So if you have a kid who doesn't like to die or extreme difficulty then stay clear of this game for now. Educational value - It teaches you how to think. How do i kill this boss? What armor is best for my character? It really makes the player think logically and feel out new enemies to find the best strategy. It really makes you think, one mistake can lead to HUGE repercussions. Personally i think its a life lesson one mistake can have bad repercussions. Over all i think its a great game! I certainly have had a lot of fun with it. It is extremely hard though and i would take this into consideration before buying. :) Hope this helped!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Too much violence
Parent Written byCuddly1984 December 15, 2011

Excellent description Colin A. Definately not for kids in my opinion.

I agree with Colin A. Definately not for kids, as far as describing the aspects of the game that make it such, Colin A. gives a great answer for that. I would also say "know your child", make sure they are mature enough to understand the game play, and game contents.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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