The lost souls of Lordran
To play Dark Souls is to seek victory in a land defined by failure. Lordran, the game’s fictional kingdom, is dying. The once-great gods have abandoned their bastions, fleeing a world in desperate need of a savior. Every crumbling city stands as a sad reminder of what could have been; echoes of progress all but forgotten. A plague of undeath curses those who remain, reducing their existence to a cycle of death, rebirth, and slowly hollowing souls. Everyone who travels to Lordran is doomed to meet a cruel fate, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.
Dark Souls has a surprisingly deep cast. They’re a sad lot. Each character players encounter is dying, broken, or in the midst of a crisis. But despite the dire circumstances of their existence, these wayward adventurers are brimming with personality. They are warriors, healers, and scholars — people who would be destined for greatness in any other kingdom. In Lordran, however, they’re doomed. Through a combination of oblique storytelling and nihilistic inevitability, Dark Souls‘ characters are among the most interesting NPCs in recent memory.
It’s high time someone ranked them.
61. Petrus of Thorolund:
Petrus ruins what is otherwise one of the most memorable moments in Dark Souls. After escaping the Undead Asylum and arriving at Firelink Shrine in the claws of a giant crow, the Chosen Undead’s first steps on Lordran soil are tentative and filled with mystery. This is a land of unknowns, a place that the gods have forgotten. But all that magic and momentum is ruined when players inevitably bump into Petrus of Thorolund, a dopey cleric with what is quite possibly the most punchable face in video game history. Anything seems possible in Lordran, but Petrus’ pageboy haircut is too awful to believe.
60. Kingseeker Frampt:
This serpentine noodle is critical to Dark Souls‘ story. He’s also an abomination. Destructoid’s Co-Editor-in-Chief Jordan Devore summed up Frampt’s existence eloquently:
Some monstrosities are better left snoring for all eternity.
Pinwheel functions more as a cautionary tale than anything else. Pinwheel is arguably the easiest boss in Dark Souls, best seen as a hollowed husk more interested in researching necromancy than combat. The masks that adorn its face — a Father, Mother, and Child — imply a cruel fate comes to those who seek power.
58. Vince of Thorolund:
Another cleric, another ugly mug. It’s safe to assume that there are no decent barbers in Thorolund.
57. Nico of Thorolund:
Nico’s only redeeming quality is that his helmet obscures what’s undoubtedly another atrocious hairdo. He and Vince seem to be close; maybe they found love in Lordran.
56. Rhea of Thorolund:
There’s tragedy at the heart of Rhea’s story, but her greatest crime is associating with the Thorolund goof troop.
55. Rickert of Vinheim:
Most of Lordran’s blacksmiths are great. Rickert, however, sucks. He’s content to be locked up for an eternity, and that’s fine because he’s utterly useless.
54. Griggs of Vinheim:
Griggs is boring. He’s outclassed by his mentor in every imaginable way, from spell selection to hat size.
53. Paladin Leeroy:
This guy is so close to greatness. His massive hammer, Grant, is an intimidating weapon and his Sanctus shield looks rad. But the fact that he’s a walking Leeroy Jenkins reference kills his placement on the list.
52. Darkstalker Kaathe:
Darkstalker Kaathe is the inverse of Kingseeker Frampt, which is excellent. But the fact that Kaathe and Frampt are likely two serpents sharing the same body means this slippery dude kind of sucks too.
Eingyi is an egg-bearing chump who is happy to serve one of Dark Souls‘ most beloved characters. He’d place higher if he weren’t so gross looking.
50. Prince Ricard:
There are a handful of Dark Souls characters defined exclusively by their mediocrity. Ricard is one of them, an undead noble whose deft rapier stabs are ultimately forgettable.
49. Seath the Scaleless:
Controversial opinion: Seath sucks, looks dumb, and is a complete and utter nerd.
48. The Four Kings:
The Four Kings have a twisted, vaguely metallic look and they hang out in the unending darkness of The Abyss. That’s cool. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that more than four kings spawn during their boss fight. What’s with that?
47. Dusk of Oolacile:
Dusk’s presence in Lordran signals the start of Dark Souls’ excellent Artorias of the Abyss expansion. Past that, she’s a confused time traveler who is relatively bland compared to most characters.
46. Knight Kirk:
Kirk, Knight of Thorns, is like a middle school bully. He comes out of nowhere and assaults you with apparent glee. And like dealing with a bully, the only thing worse than potentially getting your ass kicked is knowing that underneath his prickly exterior is a sad kid who just wants attention.
45. Maneater Mildred:
There’s something to be said about a person who’s willing to strip off their clothes, put a bag on their head, and run through a poisonous swamp just to hack people apart with a machete. Mildred scares me, but I’m impressed with her commitment.
44. Elizabeth the Mushroom:
Elizabeth gets points for being a giant talking mushroom, but she pales in comparison to the adorable — and surprisingly deadly — fun guys in Darkroot Garden.
43. Quelana of Izalith:
As far as pyromancers go, Quelana’s a pro. In fact, she’s considered the mother of the fiery art. Despite her impressive resume, Quelana is the black sheep of her family. It’s not because she’s into starting fires, though. Quelana’s an outcast specifically because she’s the only member of her clan that isn’t fucked up in some horrible way. Way to kill the curve, firestarter.
42. Undead Poison Merchant:
Here’s some lore speculation: This poison-slinging merchant is crushing on her male counterpart big time, but he’s in love with someone else. And so, she waits for an eternity, selling knives and sewer moss as a clever way of keeping an eye on her unrequited love without seeming too obvious.
41. Undead Burg Merchant:
This dude’s a nutter. He has some weapons to sell, sure, but his singular obsession with Yulia — who or whatever that actually is — dominates his thoughts. Maybe it’s his uchigatana. Perhaps it’s his favorite bucket. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the long-forgotten name of a beautiful lady from nearby he once knew…
40. Princess Gwynevere:
Gwynevere isn’t really in the game. The larger-than-life woman players encounter is actually an illusion. But even still, Gwynevere’s remembered by players as one of Dark Souls‘ biggest, uh, assets.
39. Blacksmith Vamos:
After trudging through the Catacombs, it’s nice to meet a skeleton that isn’t hell-bent on murdering you. Vamos is a collection of bones who knows his way around a forge. His defining trait is his skeletal beard, which looks as though it’s assembled from finger bones. That’s as impressive as it is macabre.
38. Sieglinde of Catarina:
One of the hardest parts of growing up is watching your parents start to lose a step or two. Sieglinde spends all of her time in Lordran chasing down her father in an effort to get him to just, like, slow down for a minute. She’s a great daughter, but an otherwise one-note character.
37. Witch Beatrice:
Although she gets little screen time, Witch Beatrice is rad as hell. She fully commits to her namesake, wearing a haunting dress awash in deep purples with a gnarled wooden catalyst in hand. Beatrice is a summonable character who can hurl spells at the Moonlight Butterfly and Four Kings bosses, and while her presence is welcome, it also leaves you wanting more.
36. Ceaseless Discharge:
Ceaseless Discharge places this high specifically because his name is one of the grossest possible combinations of words in the English language.
35. King Jeremiah:
At a certain point, Dark Souls players realize fashion is more important than form. Jeremiah understands this, and his bulbous crown works as both an homage to Demon’s Souls and an absurd look that’d fit in at the Met Gala.
A fat cat with the gift of gab. What’s not to love?
33. Anastacia of Astora:
Anastacia is maimed, tongueless, and trapped. Her existence is a cruel reminder that keeping the age of fire going comes at a very steep cost. Despite never uttering a single word, her presence is sorely missed should players allow certain events to transpire.
32. Knight Lautrec of Carim:
Lautrec is a dick. An absolute madman. A terror in gold-plated armor. But for as annoying as his actions over the course of Dark Souls are, it’s hard to completely despise him because he looks so damn cool.
31. Marvelous Chester:
This guy is a grinning hunter ripped from another world. He’s basically a Bloodborne cosplayer, and because Bloodborne is so good, Chester places higher than he has any real right to.
I hate Patches. I hate him so goddamn much. But I’m also terrified of him. Spending countless hours in his signature squatting pose must have toned his body to Adonis-like proportions.
29. Crestfallen Merchant:
Look at this stoic motherfucker. Just look at him and tell me you’re not impressed.
28. Crossbreed Priscilla:
As her name implies, Priscilla the offspring of a dragon and a god. She’s another character with an unfortunate backstory. Gwyn feared her power so much that he locked her inside of a painting to keep his realm safe from Priscilla’s destructive potential. Priscilla, however, isn’t outwardly hostile. In fact, she’s rather sweet. She’s trapped, but utterly pleasant, content to be left alone with the other castaways in the Painted World.
Ingward’s spooky as hell, and while not a specter himself, he spends all of his time with ghosts. He’s notable not only for his wraith-like mask and striking red robes but also for his role in flooding New Londo. Flooding an entire city is dangerous work, but what’s even more impressive is how quickly Ingward gives away the key to the floodgates he spent untold years watching if you ask him nicely.
26. Lord’s Blade Ciaran:
Ciaran’s a skilled assassin with an eye for fashion. She appears in Oolacile to pay respects at her former companion’s final resting place and is so upset at losing a partner that she’s willing to leave her weapons behind in exchange for a fleeting memory. Ciaran’s one of many Dark Souls characters who deserve more direct attention; she’s a mysterious woman who lets her blades do the talking when push comes to stab.
25. Chaos Witch Quelaag:
Another child of Izalith, Quelaag’s current form is that of a bare-chested woman growing out of a horrifying spider’s sternum. She’s imposing, fast, and probably responsible for awakening a new kink among Dark Souls players.
24. Dark Sun Gwyndolin:
Gywndolin is the leader of the Darkmoon Blades and the last remaining god in Anor Londo. He’s the youngest child of Gwyn and spends his time lording over his father’s ceremonial tomb. Although his kin’s association with light and fire is well documented, Gwyndolin’s penchant for magic and moon-based powers make him one of the game’s most complex and memorable characters.
This daughter of Izalith is the saddest member of a cursed family. The Fair Lady, or Quelaan as many prefer to call her, is part spider, just like Quelaag. But unlike her sister, who seems to thrive in her newfound form, Quelaan is in a state of constant suffering. When the Chosen Undead first encounters this Fire Keeper, she’s dying a slow and painful death, blind and immobile. Players can speak with her by wearing a special ring and aid her recovery by sacrificing hard-earned humanity. It’s worth it mostly for the satisfaction of knowing that you helped save one of the game’s purest souls.
22. Oswald of Carim:
Oswald looks like he only smokes clove cigarettes. He’s a grown-up goth who prefers to keep track of Lordran’s sinners from a dark corner of the Undead Parish’s bell tower while listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees.
21. Giant Blacksmith:
This towering tradesman spends all of his time hammering away at equipment he could never hope to use. His pleasant personality and mellow demeanor are a welcome salve to the cruelties of life in Lordran.
20. Shiva of the East:
Shiva could get by on style alone. His armor echoes his Eastern origins, equal parts practical and elegant. When push comes to shove, Shiva’s no slouch with a blade either. As the leader of the Forest Hunters, Shiva prides himself on his ability to topple intruders with precise strikes and deadly efficiency.
19. Gravelord Nito:
Out of all of Dark Souls‘ bosses, no one conveys the game’s “prepare to die” mantra better than Nito. The lord of the dead is a massive, moving collection of skeletal remains that have combined as the personification of Death itself. Nito’s capable of causing death and illness from his cozy sarcophagus in the Tomb of the Giants, which is a true testament to his power.
18. Laurentius of the Great Swamp:
Of all the characters that come to inhabit Firelink Shrine, Laurentius is easily the most endearing. Sure, he dresses like a hobo and considers a nasty swamp his ideal environment, but unlike Shrek, Laurentius is the kind of person you’d want to get a beer with.
17. Crestfallen Warrior:
The Crestfallen Warrior is the first person the Chosen Undead encounters after fleeing from the Undead Asylum. He’s melodramatic and dour but still manages to share information about the world with some dark, witty humor.
16. Darkmoon Knightess:
Throughout the Dark Souls games, Fire Keepers tend to be broken, often-disfigured characters. While the Darkmoon Knightess is no different, she’s more proactive than her peers. Covered in brass armor to hide her “ghastly” form, the Knightess watches over Anor Londo’s main bonfire with a blade at her side.
15. Executioner Smough:
This impossibly-large man once served as Anor Londo’s heavy-hitting executioner. He’s massive, imposing, and known for his yucky little tendency to cannibalize his victims. Smough is one-half of Dark Souls’ dream team, and while he plays second fiddle to Gwyn’s knights, defeating his companion before tackling the executioner gives Smough an opportunity for a twisted bit of revenge.
14. Dragon Slayer Ornstein:
If Smough’s hulking figure is his defining trait, Ornstein’s high-energy acrobatics are a necessary counterweight. He zips around Anor Londo like a gymnast with undiagnosed ADHD, thrusting his lightning-infused spear with shocking precision. The other half of the Dark Souls‘ dynamic duo, Ornstein is what happens when your hyperactive friend starts weapons training.
13. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder:
Gwyn’s legacy is a world permanently marred by tragedy. His tireless pursuit of a continued age of fire is the direct cause of so much pain. By the time players reach him at the Kiln of the First Flame, the Lord of Cinder stands over a smoldering flame, the result of his life’s work literally dying before his eyes. The fight against Gwyn is a poignant culmination to the Chosen Undead’s journey. It lacks the bombast of other boss fights, instead reveling in a haunting melancholy that’s made all the more memorable by the game’s best piece of music.
*Author’s Note: I can’t listen to his theme without instantly tearing up.
12. Hawkeye Gough:
Hawkeye Gough can’t see. At some point, a thick resin coated the archer’s helmet, which leads the giant to think that he’s blind. Gough’s a retired knight who chooses to spend his remaining days whittling wood carvings infused with his booming voice. While that’s extremely chill in its own right, Gough’s legacy is elevated to new heights by his ability to shoot a dragon out of the sky without even seeing it in flight. That’s legendary.
11. Andre of Astora:
This strapping chap is the number one reason millennials are choosing to enroll in trade schools rather than formal education. He’s a barrel-chested blacksmith with a bitchin’ ponytail who is as even-tempered as the products he produces.
10. Sif, the Great Grey Wolf:
Sif is loyal to a fault. She’s an old wolf who has survived countless battles and played a part in some of the most critical moments in Lordran’s history. Despite all that she’s seen and done, Sif remains loyal to her former master and spends every waking moment guarding over his gravesite. Sif doesn’t want to fight the Chosen Undead. She only wants to make sure her master’s final resting place is left in peace. Squaring off against her is utterly heartbreaking.
9. Big Hat Logan:
Big Hat Logan is the patron saint of social anxiety. He’s a powerful sorcerer so consumed by a thirst for arcane knowledge that he, Logan, chose to wear a big ole’ hat to avoid the lingering stares of random passersby. Like so many brilliant minds, Logan seems to lack common sense, as evidenced by his uncanny ability to be captured multiple times.
8. Domhnall of Zema:
In a world where everyone is cursed, dying, and going insane, Domhnall remains chipper. He’s a merchant who always manages to get his hands on exotic armors without trying too hard. His signature greeting, “Aye, siwmae,” is as iconic as his eclectic getup, and Lordran’s a better place with him in it.
7. Oscar of Astora:
Although Oscar makes it all of three minutes into Dark Souls before he meets his end, he’s arguably the most helpful character in the entire game. The noble knight manages to free the Chosen Undead, inform the player’s journey, and pass on his Estus Flask before taking his final breath. Oscar does so much with so little screen time that fighting his hollowed husk later in the game almost feels like a crime.
6. Knight Artorias:
The myth of Artorias is just as impressive as Artorias the video game boss, and that’s saying something. Artorias is the kind of warrior that’s spoken about in hushed, reverent tones. The Abyss’s call addles Artorias’s mind, and a recent battle has shattered his arm by the time players encounter him in Oolacile. But despite his condition, he’s still prepared to fight the Chosen Undead with his nondominant hand, a touch that’s effective for conveying his combat prowess and hammering home just how much his faithful companion, Sif, means to him. That’s the sign of an excellent pet owner.
5. Havel the Rock:
Havel’s an undeniable badass. His armor is made from giant pieces of rock, and his preferred weapon is a tooth ripped from the maw of a dragon. While Havel is best known as Lordran’s most accomplished — and deadly — doorman, uncovering his gear in Anor Londo reveals his more secretive side. Along with his armor, weapon, and greatshield, Havel also once possessed a wooden club infused with Occult power, an element capable of harming even the gods. Havel was so confident that he was prepared to kill Lordran’s gods with a wooden stick. Respect.
4. Siegmeyer of Catarina:
The big boy. The absentminded adventurer. The Onion Knight. Siegmeyer is the Dark Souls’ beating heart. Upon first meeting Siegmeyer, he’s perched outside of Sen’s Fortress, defeated by its locked gate. He comes across like a plump version of Eeyore at first but following him through Lordran reveals a warrior driven by a reckless streak. Quick to throw himself into danger and pleasant to have a chat with, Seigmeyer is like a cool uncle that shows up every few months when his wife “accidentally” changes the locks again.
3. Solaire of Astora:
No video game has a more entertaining mascot character than Solaire. He’s the Billy Hatcher of Dark Souls, a plucky hero who is as charming as he is efficient. Everything out of Solaire’s mouth is pure gold; his persistent desire to help, his “Praise the Sun” catchphrase, and his sincere wish to be as “grossly incandescent” as the sun are bright moments in a gloomy game. He’s a glorious bastard who understands the importance of helping a friend in need. We could all learn a lesson from Solaire.
2. Iron Knight Tarkus:
Tarkus is the definition of an Absolute Unit. He’s bulk personified, an indomitable mass of black steel and grit. Tarkus can be summoned exactly once in Dark Souls, but he understands a strong first impression is all that you need. If summoned, it’s entirely possible Iron Knight Tarkus will take on the boss of Sen’s Fortress solo. He’s a tank. A fixer. The kind of guy you can count on to get shit done. Just don’t ask him to clean your rafters, he’s kind of clumsy.
1. The Chill Hollow in New Londo:
This Hollow is the single best part of Dark Souls. He’s undead and absolutely loving it. He’s content to spend an eternity laying languidly above the ruins of New Londo, blissfully unaware of the chaos that surrounds him. He doesn’t fight. He doesn’t even acknowledge your presence. Instead, he just stares off into the distance, dreamily pondering anything and nothing all at once.