The good, the dead, and the ugly: our favorite Dark Souls enemies

We look back at the entire series' most horrifying, challenging, and poignant monsters.

The Dark Souls series features every monster and tragic knight under the sun. And the moon. And the dark moon. They’re all there, from undead attack dogs to unspeakable horrors even Lovecraft would wince at. 

The most successful of the bunch are designed to tell a story, make us uncomfortable, test our combat skills in interesting ways, or are there to purely mess with our habits. With the trilogy nearly capped (still waiting on that final DLC expansion) we decided to take a stab at sifting through every creature in the Dark Souls series to highlight the best and discuss what makes them so memorable. 

Crow Demons 

Source: Dark Souls Wiki

Appears in: Dark Souls 

The Painted World of Ariamis is enough of an odd surprise to make everything it’s hiding inherently interesting, but the Crow Demons stand apart from the exploding undead and Priscilla's invisible boss encounter. They’re a gaunt monster, assembled from the torso and legs of a typical undead with the warped wings and head of a crow. In the fiction, they’re said to be servants of Velka, the Goddess of Sin. She’s described as a rogue god and some fans theorize she might be the Furtive Pygmy, which—let’s not go on a lore dive. Just know that these monsters apparently twisted their own limbs as a sign of devotion to Velka, and their place in the Painted World, and possible connection to one of the most important characters in the Dark Souls lore makes them feel like significant characters rather than your monster of the week.

Mushroom People

Appears in: Dark Souls

Listen, it’s a huge mushroom person. Imagine someone murdered a Pixar character then reanimated them with the devil’s magic and this is what you get. They hit extremely hard and take quite a bit to go down despite their soft, huggable appearance. First found in the Darkroot Garden, these sad mushroom frenemies imply a forest utopia long gone, where even nature’s cutest creatures are forced to get aggressive. 

Crystal Lizard 

Source: Dark Souls Wiki

Appears in: Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls’ carrot on a stick, the Crystal Lizard is a concise example of habit conditioning to screw with player expectations. First of all, it’s shiny, emits a twinkling sound, and rewards you with valuable upgrade materials. But they skitter away quickly, and later on, often lead you directly into dangerous enemy mobs or off cliffsides. From knows we’re tempted to pick up coins in a busy street, and they use our base desires against us with grace.

Mimics

Appears in: Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Dark Souls 3 

It would be a huge mistake to not include one of Dark Souls’ most iconic enemies across every game, the Mimic. As an enemy, it’s successful because it subverts how we’ve been trained to open every chest in all games without hesitation. They’re a signal for reward, which we’ve no doubt earned. Playing games is hard work. But the first time a Mimic chews your top half off, Dark Souls gets its thesis across quickly. No place is safe. It’s a sly joke that never gets old, greed and desire endowed with a huge tongue and sharp teeth. 

Undead Aberration 

Source: Dark Souls 2 Wiki

Appears in: Dark Souls 2

These suckers don’t only look nasty, but you encounter them mostly by surprise hiding just below the surface of shallow waters in the dark, cavernous space of Sinner’s Rise. They’re also a good example of a malformed enemy that isn’t impossible to read—I’m looking at you Pus of Man. From does good body horror, but sometimes it means the enemy attacks won’t telegraph clearly. With lumbering sweeping motions, the Undead Aberration only feels unfair the first few times they surprise you. From there, it’s (mostly) a fair fight. 

Mounted Overseer 

Appears in: Dark Souls 2

Honestly, I just love the way these massive piggyback-men look. In the poisonous industrial hellscape of the Harvest Valley, they’re a lovely bit of set dressing. An enslaved, tortured giant carrying around a man wearing a creepy mask says a lot about the history and culture of Harvest Valley, even if it’s not explicit. I get the impression the land was stripped of its resources, and the ruling class used the wealth and power from their efforts to forcefully enlist the help of others. It’s a sad story, and not a particularly novel one, but rendered in From’s dark, detailed artstyle, the Mounted Overseer carries more weight than expected. 

Ogre 

Source: Dark Souls Wiki

Appears in: Dark Souls 2 

You can take on an Ogre in the first minute of Dark Souls 2. Just take a left in that first clearing, and the big oaf will be there, ready to trip and roll over you if you’re willing. While the ogre isn’t a particularly noteworthy enemy in its design, the fact that a powerful mid-game enemy is available to fight from the get-go sets a precedent for the rest of the game. You’re going to hit some difficulty walls, and the only thing in the way is your skill. It’s possible to ignore that ogre completely, to come back when you’ve leveled enough. But persistent players will stick around, willing to chip away at its health just to sate their curiosity. 

Ice Stallion 

Source: Dark Souls Wiki

Appears in: Dark Souls 2

If you know me, I’m a big fan of horses, and if a horse is made of ice then they’re guaranteed to be extremely cool. Ice Stallions look awesome, but they’re a god damn nuisance. Just like real horses. Found in the Frigid Outskirts, they’re tough enough to fight one-on-one. But in a blizzard and two or three at a time? Rough. It’s their difficulty that makes them endearing though, and learning to navigate their attacks and locations throughout the snowy maze becomes second nature soon enough. That small stretch is defined by the clear arc between meeting the Ice Stallions for the first time and feeling immeasurably unprepared to clearing the area with ease with enough iteration and patience. Break the horses, don’t let the horses break you. 

Jailers 

Appears in: Dark Souls 3

The Irithyll Dungeon is already pretty creepy, what with its low green glow and walking maggot corpses, but the Jailers and their surprise health-drain ability are the highlight—or lowlight, if we’re sticking with the dreary mood here. Step in their sightline and your health bar will shrink without warning. It’s a cryptic mechanical one-off in a game with otherwise clear rules and the health shrinkage will make you wonder whether you’ve been in the pool or not, but you’ll never find out. They’re wielding a hot branding iron with the same peace symbol found in the Crucifixion Woods, and wearing clothes that betray their status as prison guards. Loose robes flow to the floor and trail behind them, and a plain metallic mask covers their face. Not cool (very cool). 

Deep Accursed 

Appears in: Dark Souls 3

I love the Deep Accursed, even if they only appear twice in all of Dark Souls 3. They’re a mess of huge lanky arms with multiple joints, hair, and bones that don’t have an obvious origin within the Dark Souls lore. They’re of the ‘deep’ at least, which is a strange, dark realm Aldrich is fascinated with, but we don’t get too much detail on what it is and what lives there, besides this monstrosity. It’s big, quick, and can do curse damage, so they’re not easy to take on (unless you cheese them through a door), but once they’re dead they’re dead. They’re difficult and creepy, sure, but they’re most interesting as an indication of what the next Dark Souls DLC, or perhaps the next entry in the series—which we may or may not get—will look like. If they cycle of renewal ends and the deep seizes power, what will the universe of Dark Souls look like? There will be limbs, that much we know. 

Lycanthrope 

Source: Dark Souls Wiki

Appears in: Dark Souls 3

Encountering your first Lycanthrope in an otherwise placid, lazy swamp can be a pretty startling experience. Their appearance betrays their agility—despite being literally crucified on a peace-sign-looking cross in the, well, Crucifixion Woods, they’re able to sprint, leap, and slash faster than any enemy in the game so far. They’re tortured and transformed, no longer quite human, and their aggressive animalistic nature makes them one of the most intimidating enemies in the series. Protip: save yourself some trouble and leave that one locked up in the Irithyll Dungeon. 

Cathedral Knight 

Source: Dark Souls 3 Wiki

Appears in: Dark Souls 3

My favorite Dark Souls enemies to fight are always humanoids, especially knights. We’re on fairly even footing, meaning they’re not a tangle of limbs and teeth I have to decipher. I can expect some swings, sidesteps, and a few flourishes, but nothing too far removed from what I’m capable of. Cathedral Knights embody this, but with a bulkier stature any single mistake can doom you, especially if they’ve buffed their weapons. I think my favorite encounter is in the rafters of the Cathedral of the Deep, where there’s almost no space to properly dodge their attacks or flank without falling to your death. It recontextualizes a threat you might have already mastered by setting the encounter on a tightrope of sorts. It’s endearing bullshit.

Corvian Knight

Appears in: Dark Souls 3

The Corvians are the highlight of a pretty bland DLC expansion, but their small pocket in a snowy expanse tells a bigger story than some entire areas in the main game. As Forlorn, they’re a sad people relocated from the dilapidating ‘real’ world and into the smaller, colder rotting realm of Ariandel. The Corvian Knights have forsaken their old gods to serve Friede who presides over the painted realm, and in doing so, have betrayed their people. They’ll tear through their own kind thanks to the newfound strength and ornate armors from Friede, which makes them a faster and more vicious threat than most. They’re a fun, desperate fight each time.