Vanilla Dark Souls 2 multiplayer servers are controversially shutting down on Xbox and PlayStation after 10 years, and man am I bummed

Dark Souls 2
(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

What you need to know

  • Developer FromSoftware has announced that on March 31, 2024, the Xbox 360 and PS3 servers for the original version of Dark Souls 2 will shut down at 5 a.m. PT / 8 a.m. ET.
  • This will effectively remove all multiplayer from this edition of the game on consoles, forcing Xbox and PlayStation players to either buy the PC version of the game or get the Scholar of the First Sin version of Dark Souls 2 on a newer console if they want to continue playing online.
  • Scholar of the First Sin was a rather controversial "Director's Cut" 2015 rerelease of Dark Souls 2 that made significant changes to enemy and item placements. These adjustments have always been divisive, with many either loving or hating them.
  • Vanilla Dark Souls 2 is still available for digital purchase on Xbox 360 through the Xbox Marketplace, and you can find used copies of the game for both Xbox 360 and PS3 for cheap.

After a decade of jolly cooperation, tense invasions, PvP duels, and other multiplayer shenanigans in FromSoftware's 2014 follow-up to the original Dark Souls, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 servers for Dark Souls 2 are being shut down permanently on March 31, 2024. On that day, they'll come down at 5 a.m. PT / 8 a.m. ET.

The Elden Ring developer announced the closure in a post from the official Dark Souls account on X (formerly Twitter), noting that both the PC version and the Scholar of the First Sin edition of Dark Souls 2 that's available to play on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, and PS4 will be unaffected by the shutdown.

"The Dark Souls 2 PS3 and Xbox 360 servers will shut down on March 31, 2024. A message stating that online play is disabled will be displayed. Offline play will still be possible. PC, PS4 & Xbox One servers will not be affected," wrote the studio. "Thank you to those who have played since launch ... Thank you for your comprehension and support."

Once the servers come down, you won't be able to connect to other players for co-op play or PvP activities. It also won't be possible to read other people's messages or see how they previously died by viewing "bloodstain" phantoms, either. 10 years of multiplayer history are effectively being erased here, and to play Dark Souls 2 online moving forward, you'll either need to purchase a copy of it on PC or get the Scholar of the First Sin version on a newer Xbox or PlayStation system.

Invasion PvP is one of the activities that will no longer be possible after the servers are shuttered. (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

While everyone understands that it's been a decade since the game's launch and that all multiplayer servers are destined to inevitably go offline once they're no longer worth the cost of maintaining them, this shutdown is more controversial than most. Once it comes to pass next year, it will be impossible to experience vanilla Dark Souls 2 online on anything other than a PC. And while playing Scholar of the First Sin (SotFS) is a solution, there are several valid reasons why many players don't consider it a good one.

You see, while Dark Souls 2: SotFS is often thought of as just a 2015 rerelease with slightly improved graphics and all the game's DLC that was meant to bring it to newer systems, it also features many significant changes to Dark Souls 2's enemy and item placements. It's more of a "Director's Cut" than a Dark Souls Remastered-style modernization — and its adjustments have always been rather divisive.

SotFS adds more enemy and NPC invader spawns to the map and spreads them out a bit, while simultaneously removing a few encounters from the base game that most players found frustrating to an unfair degree. Overall, the changes seem to have been made to make Drangleic more consistently engaging and challenging to adventure through, but after playing through both versions of the game several times, I've come to regard SotFS as a mixed bag. Some of its alterations are fantastic (thank the heavens for the removal of that statue ambush in Drangleic Castle), but others are infuriating (Iron Keep makes me want to tear my hair out, as do the frequent NPC invasions), and ultimately, it doesn't feel like "the definitive edition of Dark Souls 2." It just feels different.

Dark Souls 2 co-op on console will only be playable for the next three months. (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Though I prefer gaming on my PC and have always played Dark Souls 2 that way, I'm incredibly sad that console players will no longer be able to experience the vanilla game online after the upcoming server shutdown. It'll remain playable offline, at least, but for many, FromSoftware's multiplayer features are a big part of what makes Dark Souls special. There's something wonderfully communal about stumbling your way through these notoriously tough action RPGs with guidance and help from others, both in the form of messages and phantoms from those that came before, as well as the players you summon to fight at your side.

The good news is that there's still a good three months to do an online playthrough of the original Dark Souls 2 on Xbox 360 or PS3, and I expect the servers to be more active than they've been in a long time during that period. Many console players will likely return to say goodbye to a version of one of the best Xbox games they'll soon no longer be able to play with others, which should mean plenty of opportunities for co-op and PvP. Vanilla Dark Souls 2 and its DLC is still available for the Xbox 360 digitally through the Xbox Marketplace, and you can find used copies of it for both Xbox 360 and PS3 on marketplace sites like eBay. Alternatively, you could pick up the PC version on Steam, which isn't having its servers closed; any modern computer shouldn't have trouble running the game.

There's also the aforementioned Scholar of the First Sin, which is the version you'll need if you want to play on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, or PS4 (it's available on Steam, too). Though the changes it makes are contentious, it's the edition of the game that has the most active multiplayer community.

Notably, the original version of Dark Souls 2 isn't the only FromSoftware game that's losing online functionality in 2024. The servers for Armored Core: Verdict Day, the 2013 predecessor to this year's critically acclaimed Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, are also closing on March 31. Unlike Dark Souls 2, there is no version of Verdict Day on PC.

Dark Souls 2

Dark Souls 2

The Xbox 360 version of vanilla Dark Souls 2 is still available digitally for $20 on the Xbox Marketplace. You can also buy all three of its DLC expansions on its store page for $25, or purchase them separately for $10 each. 

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin | $19.99now $18.75 at Amazon (Xbox)

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin | was $19.99 now $18.75 at Amazon (Xbox)

This 2015 rerelease of Dark Souls 2 includes all of its DLC and brings it to modern Xbox and PlayStation systems. However, it also makes huge and divisive changes to the game's enemy and item layout. Love it or hate it, though, it'll be the only way to play DS2 online on consoles after March 31.

Also at: Amazon (PS4, $22.99) | GMG (Steam, $39.99)

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

  • wojtek
    Online games are ... there should be a law that after company decides to turn off the servers they should release the server so community could deploy it on their own... 🙄