What do you need to play before Elden Ring?

Elden Ring
Elden Ring (Image credit: Windows Central)

Elden Ring is here, bringing plenty of new features to FromSoftware's well-established formulae. While many players have already jumped aboard and taken the plunge into the gaming abyss that is Elden Ring's open world, some might be a bit more cautious, wondering whether now is finally the right time to check out the older games in FromSoftware's catalogue. After all, garnering some experience with these types of games can help better prepare you for the latest challenges.

As such, we've selected the games that introduce features or skills you'll find useful for Elden Ring. We've placed them in ascending order, from least relevent to most relevant.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Source: Activision (Image credit: Source: Activision)

OK, bear with us here. At first glance, you might think that the 2019 title Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has the least amount of anything in common with other "Soulslike" FromSoftware games, and in a lot of ways you'd be right. The combat is rhythm-based, focused almost entirely on parrying and blocking instead of using a shield or rolling. But there's no denying that playing Sekiro can better prepare you for Elden Ring.

For starters, Sekiro introduced the concept of stealth, at least in a meaningful fashion. In past FromSoftware games, stealth was limited to spells making less noise and hoping you could get a backstab in against an enemy. Elden Ring retains this stealth, and while the icons make it less overt, using the open world to your advantage and stealthily cutting foes down remains an applicable strategy. Sekiro also added jumping, something that's also retained in Elden Ring, even if it's with far less grace and nimble footwork.

There's also something to be said for the difficulty factor. While you're definitely jumping straight into the deep end of Miyazaki's lifeguard-free pool, it's certainly a good test of how much difficulty you're willing to tolerate. Subjectivity abounds, but Sekiro is generally considered the hardest of FromSoftware's more recent games, so if you are OK with that, Elden Ring shouldn't be too jarring.

Dark Souls 2

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

The second and arguably least loved of the Dark Souls games, Dark Souls 2 nonetheless will help prepare newcomers for Elden Ring in a lot of ways, both good and bad. For the bad, Dark Souls 2 has a bit of jank. All FromSoftware games (like most video games in general) will have some level of nonsense, but Dark Souls 2 takes the unfortunate crown here. This will provide an excellent litmus test for BS.

While Elden Ring is an incredibly well-designed game, the simple nature of it being open world means that it's impossible for there to be no jank at all. If you can put up with what the realm of Drangleic in Dark Souls 2 has to offer, you'll be more than OK in the Lands Between of Elden Ring.

Moving on to the good, Dark Souls 2 actually introduced numerous features that would finally return in Elden Ring. While nowhere near the level of the original pitch, Dark Souls 2 has some truly dark areas that require a torch to effectively navigate, making the player choose between visibility and the safety of a shield or the damage of an additional weapon.

Additionally, this is the game that made duel-wielding possible in an effective manner, while also adding "Powerstancing," or rather, a subset of additional moves when duel-wielding different kinds of weapons, as long as you had the required stats. All three of these features return in Elden Ring, so you'll be familiar if you've already gone through Dark Souls 2.

Oh, and it has the best cover armor set. Faraam for life.

Dark Souls 3

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

We've talked about features, but if you need pure experience and familiarity, there's no denying that Dark Souls 3 is by far the best choice. While it lacks the open-world nature and the ability to summon a horse, Dark Souls 3 is easily the closest game to Elden Ring in terms of how it actually plays. The combat, player movement, and even enemy attack patterns are very, very similar.

The magic system uses FP points instead of the limited use system of Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, while the Weapon Arts system would evolve into Elden Ring's Ashes of War. Dark Souls 3 even introduced the ability to balance your flasks chargers between restoring health and magic. Dark Souls 3 also stopped punishing the player with a loss of humanity for dying, offering instead the ability to use Embers to power up. All of these features would be retained and iterated on in Elden Ring.

So if you want the most experience heading into Elden Ring, make sure to see the Fires Fade in Dark Souls 3.

Have fun!

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

We really want to stress that these are suggestions, not some hard-set rules. There's nothing wrong with checking out FromSoftware's other games, such as the Demon's Souls PS5 remake, the gothic world of Bloodborne, or even the original Dark Souls. Every game has some unique hook that ensures it has enduring fans. FromSoftware makes some of the best RPGs around, so you'll find your groove as you explore.

We also want to stress that you don't need to play something before jumping into Elden Ring. Sure, it'll help, but Elden Ring has blown up in popularity for a reason, as between the horseback riding and open world, it's by far the most approachable game FromSoftware has developed. No matter where you choose to start, the community welcomes you!

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.