Dark Souls



Bloody RPG gives new meaning to hardcore game difficulty.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

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

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.

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

This review of Dark Souls was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

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

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 4, 11, and 13 year old Written bybig_bad_dad August 22, 2013

Hard does not mean inappropriate for kids.

I have used this site for a very long time, but become incredibly frustrated after reading the last parent reviews for this game. So such that I created an account just to post. This game has NO talking, so language is not an issue, it also has NO sex, there is 1 monster that is half spider/half women that might be considered topless however the monster has long hair and nothing is ever exposed, no nipples, nothing sexual at all. Trust me when I say that your kids see more skin during Budweiser ads on TV. Now on to the violence, first this game is complete fantasy, its is not a shooter, and does not attempt to be realistic, you are fighting mythical creatures and knights. The game does have blood, but it is not realistic and does not attempt to be realistic. And to add to it all, there is an option to disable blood entirely. I consider myself incredibly strict when it comes to media with my kids, this happens to be the ONLY M rated game we own. This game should not have been rated M, even with the blood enabled this game is less violent than most T rated games (especially shooters), and there is absolutely no bad language or "suggestive" content. I am annoyed that people seem say "this game is hard and not for kids" what does a games difficulty have to do with it being appropriate? I personally prefer that my 11 year learn a little bit about persistence and having to learn how to play a game. I would say any kid who wants to play this game and is willing to stick with it over the age of 10 should be able to play it. There is nothing any more violent in the game than what kids see in Harry Potter or Star Wars if the blood is disabled. To give you an idea of where I stand, I have no problem with my 11 year old playing this game, and I don't let him play games like Halo, or Uncharted, War Hawk, or Call of Duty. I would love to hear a real explanation of "not for kids" that doesn't include "its really hard" I would also like to add that something is seriously wrong when the parent reviews on this site show Mass Effect 3 as appropriate or kids 13-15 when it has an incredible amount of cursing including the F word, sexual themes and scenes including potentially same sex relationships, crazy amounts of gore and killing, and then we label a mild fantasy game as "Not for Kids" Sounds a little off to me.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
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
Parent of a 13, 15, and 16 year old Written byJonathan_Bailey June 4, 2014

No more violent than Lord of the Rings

My 16 year old son plays Dark Souls, and really enjoys it. My 13 year old son knew a lot about it, and wanted to play it. I had my 16 year old play the game while I watched. It was quite violent, but nothing my son hadn't seen before in media such as Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. My 16 year old then told me that there was even an option to turn off the blood in the game, which was my biggest issue. After witnessing the game like this, I wondered why it wasn't rated Teen. I asked my son about how much nudity there was, and he said there was barely any. He showed me a video of the boss battle that apparently contained nudity, and it was a spider demon, with hair covering her exposed breasts. I let my younger son play this game, and he claims to enjoy it very much, even though I hear him shout in anger frequently.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide