Every Soulsborne DLC before Shadow of the Erdtree Ranked

Written by Vince Abella

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is upon us. Elden Ring’s expansion pack filled with new bosses, storylines and areas is on its way, with fans (myself included) eagerly anticipating its drop. Most of the recent FromSoftware games have had DLC released for it, and while they vary in overall quality and consistency in some places, sometimes they improve so much on their base games that they become essential to the experience. Some are definitely better than others, as can be seen in this ranking of all the Soulsborne DLCs from worst to best. 

7. Crown of the Ivory King

The titular boss has some of the best spectacle in any Souls-adjacent title, with the feeling of it being a truly historic battle going unmatched for the time. Unfortunately, the rest of the DLC doesn’t quite hold up to the final boss. Aava itself is fine as an opener, with a decently interesting gimmick with regards to its invisibility, but its moveset is nothing to really write home about. The area’s snowy gimmick also shakes things up significantly and is one of the game’s best environments. Unfortunately, this is all sabotaged by the Frigid Outskirts, unanimously regarded by anyone who has played it as the worst area in FromSoftware history with unfun enemies, poor visibility and a terrible boss at the end. 


Poor level design is all around, with horrendous runbacks to areas abound. This being the final DLC that Dark Souls 2 would get unfortunately leaves it with a whimper instead of a bang, and even then, the aforementioned titular king isn’t perfect. Having to fight and go through the knights again and wait for him gets tedious, and it gets repetitive having to wade through them each time you die to the rather challenging boss. The area is also filled with some frustrating, unfun enemies and ganks, with the rolling ice enemies being particularly infuriating, and a few particular areas with a disgustingly unfair amount of enemies. The lore is great, and the aesthetic and concept is nice, but it is one of the worst things FromSoftware has delivered in recent memory. 

6. Crown of the Sunken King

Dark Souls II’s first DLC may not have areas as bad as the second DLC, but its bosses are some of the most disappointing. Elana and the (not so lovingly called) Gank Squad featuring three NPC bosses are very frustrating. Elana serves as a slightly improved version of the base final boss, but features what might be one of the worst gimmicks a boss has ever had. In the middle of her boss battle, she can summon skeletons or pigs if you’re lucky, but like what I and many others have experienced, she can ruin everything by summoning Velstadt, one of the game’s harder bosses, and even if you beat him, she can just summon him again. 


The unaffectionately titled Gank squad features a medium, heavy and light build set of bosses, and it is easily one of the worst things to come out of an already unfair game. Dark Souls II’s obsession with ganks and multiple enemies in one area shines particularly in this boss, with an arena that makes avoiding the enemies tedious and frustrating, with water in the way of your character on the lower level in addition to enemies making the already bad gank somehow worse. The run back to them is also very infuriating, a common trope among the DLC’s optional bosses.


Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon is easily the best of these bosses. If you’re unlucky, he has a tendency to fly around before you can land a hit like the Guardian Dragon boss in the base game. The design is amazing with a rather interesting gimmick with hitting him affecting your weapon’s durability, and the boss has some rather fun segments. Being hit by a fireball that you just know you dodged can be frustrating, but overall, this dragon boss isn’t the worst in the series, and it’s a great deal of fun when he’s grounded.


The level design also features some interesting tricks, with ghost enemies that you need to destroy the original bodies first before you can actually hit them, and a very cool visual aesthetic. It’s not the worst DLC to come out of the game, but it sure comes close.

5. Crown of the Old Iron King

The second Dark Souls II DLC is the best among the trio, but not by too much. It only really ranks this far above the other two because of the really high quality of two out of the three bosses, though the area design still leaves a lot to be desired. Sir Alonne and Fume Knight are the two undeniable best bosses in the entire game, including the base title but even then, they aren’t without faults.


The tower where you spend the entirety of the DLC in is a very interesting visual spectacle, but the enemies residing within it are some of the most infuriating. Having to destroy Ashen Idols to make your life easier isn’t so easy when you have half a dozen enemies chasing you, and unfortunately, that happens a lot in this area.


There’s one specific room where you have an Ashen Idol and a lot of big, damaging enemies, and a gate that you have to unlock. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, but because you don’t have invincibility in Dark Souls 2, you can’t rely on that to protect you and help you progress. Explosive barrels are available, but it’s too difficult to manipulate them in the right position to have them be of use. 


Crown of the Old Iron King is also host to the third worst runback in FromSoftware history, with the lead up to Blue Smelter Demon having enemies that will slow you down as ranged enemies pelt you with big arrows. The boss being really difficult doesn’t help in the slightest. Poor enemy placement is the #1 enemy in Dark Souls 2, and here, it’s the quantity of them that’s so bad.


Sir Alonne and Fume Knight have their own little quirks. Having to save up materials to destroy the Ashen Idols around Fume Knight’s arena to make him weaker can backfire if you haven’t managed resources well enough, but the fight itself is amazing, being an amazing duel with a decent arena. 


Sir Alonne on the other hand could be the better of the two, if it weren’t for his runback. If the Smelter Demon had a bad one, then Alonne has an even worse one, so much so that the amount of enemies you have to go through that deal all kinds of damage actively makes the boss worse because of how unavoidable they are. It’s a shame because his design and moveset is very impressive, with a very nice looking arena.

4. Ashes of Ariandel

Dark Souls 3’s first DLC is a massive step up from the three behind it, and its only real weakness is its short length. There’s not a whole lot of meat to chew off here, but what there is happens to be some of the best things to come out of any Soulsborne. The boss and environment you deal with are some of the most engaging, and it does feel like an essential part of the overall experience.


Sister Friede is our one and only mandatory boss, who is later joined by Father Ariandel. Their design and boss fight is absolutely spectacular, being a shockingly long brawl that was a blast to fight through. Three long phases make up this encounter, and they are all very exciting and distinct, with Friede’s ability to go invisible, reminiscent of Priscilla from Dark Souls 1 but a tiny bit easier to deal with, being something incredibly challenging but ultimately rewarding to deal with.


Champion’s Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf unfortunately don’t hold up so well as the DLC’s special optional boss. Having a gank fight that ends with many wolves on you isn’t quite so fun, and while it is doable, it is a very forgettable match that leaves absolutely no lasting impression.


New enemies populate the area, with the Millwood Knights being imposing in the early area of the DLC. The snowy location provides a nice backdrop to them, and the ways to proceed are numerous enough that you feel that you have options. Corvian Knights are some of the best enemies in the game, with an interesting moveset accompanied by an initially shocking design that is very different from the area surrounding them.

3. The Ringed City

Dark Souls 3 closed out the trilogy with one of the greatest bangs ever. It definitely wasn’t smooth sailing all the way through with some annoying areas and enemies, but it certainly made up for it with some bosses that rank among the greatest of all time. What it lacks in overall consistency, it more than makes up in highlights.


Darkeater Midir and Slave Knight Gael have been talked about to death for very good reason, with them serving as difficult bosses and highlights of the overall experience. Midir is quite possibly the greatest dragon boss that FromSoftware has made, with great attack patterns that take time to learn. Gael isn’t quite as difficult, but makes up for it in pure raw emotion and spectacle. Both are contenders for being the best boss of the entire trilogy, but the same can’t be said about the others.


Demon in Pain & Demon from Below are the best of the other bosses, being the rare gank fight that is actually exciting and fun to play. Their environments and movesets compliment each other very well, and definitely leave a very good impression, with the final Demon Prince being very cool in concept.


Halflight, Spear of the Church is very bland unfortunately. He serves as another boss that can be a human player, a type that the games never quite excelled at, and while his design is pretty alright, it’s overall a very unremarkable boss.


The enemy placement can be quite cruel at times. Angels are some of the many new enemies you could find, and they’re the most annoying with their ranged attacks especially in really tough areas. A certain stairwell that has multiple Harald Knights is particularly frustrating given how easily they can gang up on you.


Fortunately, the game has one of the best knight enemies in any of the studio’s titles. The Ringed Knights have a very engaging moveset and are fun to fight unlike some of the other enemies you face. Their design goes so well with the general appearance of the crumbling area you find yourself in. 

2. Artorias of the Abyss

The series’ first ever DLC knocks it out of the park with pretty much every aspect. Environments present in the DLC are very interesting from both a lore and visual standpoint, with the bosses all being really great, with the titular Artorias being a series highlight. 


There’s just a lot of great stuff to be found. Going down into the depths of the area really brings about a certain feeling like you don’t belong in it, that you’re venturing into a land beyond humanity. Enemy designs fit the area, being far removed from humanity, and some being actual large Humanities. 


All four bosses are amazing in their own right, with the opening Sanctuary Guardian setting the stage well for a difficult, yet rewarding experience. It says a lot that for being the weakest, it is still an amazing opening fight. The forest area that follows is a bit familiar, but it works for what it is trying to be. The enemies though aren’t so exciting here.


Black Dragon Kalameet is the big optional boss of the DLC, and the battle against him is quite possibly the second hardest in the game. Manus, Father of the Abyss is easily the hardest in the entirety of Dark Souls 1, with his long, powerful and damaging combos being difficult to deal with. Their difficulty makes it all the more satisfying when you do end up beating them, and being able to get Sif to support you against Manus is great. 


The star of the show without a doubt is the tragic figure we’ve heard so much about. Artorias is a damaged figure, with a broken arm hampering his fighting abilities. His arena is great, his battle is spectacular, with moves that make things really feel like a back and forth between two very capable warriors. 


Artorias of the Abyss is easily the most consistent in terms of boss quality, but there is still one more DLC that, while not as consistent, has by far the best level design mixed with lore, with two of the best bosses in the series yet again.

1. The Old Hunters

On paper, this shouldn’t be the best. The Living Failures are indeed a failure of boss design, Laurence is a divisive and polarizing boss, and some of the areas can be really difficult. But the sheer amount of content put into this DLC is astounding, with areas that add so much depth and personality to the game, with two bosses that rank among some of the absolute hardest of all time. A bunch of new, fan favorite weapons being added here further enhance the overall already impressive experience. 


The Hunters are some of the best enemies in any FromSoftware title, with a very engaging and exciting moveset to deal with, all made better with generally great designs. The Fishing Hamlet features many infamously terrifying enemies, with a certain strong weapon hidden behind a very difficult gank fight. 


Laurence is a character long alluded to in the game’s lore, and his fight is monstrous. Sure, he does take a form very similar to a boss from the base game, but his area-of-effect attacks and absolutely chaotic and frantic second phase keep him fresh and challenging. 


When The Old Hunters shines, it is some of the most fun anyone could have playing this kind of title. The Research Hall is host to some of the most unsettling enemies and lore, and while the Living Failures are a disappointing boss, they at least provide spectacle with one really cool looking attack. 


Lady Maria and Orphan of Kos are the last two bosses and are some of the most difficult in the studio’s history. Perfectly timed shots to parry these two are crucial to survival, with Lady Maria having a wonderful flow to her attacks, and Orphan of Kos is a frantic scramble for survival against a truly Lovecraftian terror.  Both are easily some of the best fights in the entire studio’s history, but the best still hasn’t been talked about. 


It’s not my personal favorite, as that wiuld go to Orphan of Kos. But undeniably, the most important fight in the game from a lore standpoint is against Luwdig. His lore is saddening, and the boss fight that accompanies him is one of the best of all time. His utilization of quite possibly the most famous weapon in the franchise brings with it an amount of depth unprecedented for such a fight, and battling him is absolutely necessary to experience this game at its best. 


It might not knock every boss out of the park, but when it works, it absolutely works. Strong level design that is dense and filled with more content than one could imagine makes this DLC an absolute necessity to properly appreciate what Bloodborne has to offer. Whatever shortcomings it has matter little to its overall accomplishments as an extensive and vital expansion to a modern classic.

About the author

Vince Abella

Leave a Comment