Demon’s Souls (the spiritual successor to the King’s Field series of PlayStation games), was released in Japan on the 5th February 2009, the US on the 6th October 2009 and then finally in Europe and Australia regions in June of 2010.
This is where the open-world nature and the third-person combat system was altered from the first-person perspective of the King’s Field series, along with the ability to do good or evil acts (turning areas into white or black ‘tendency’). This in turn opened up new routes, bosses and weapons. They also introduced the really cool ability to leave messages for other players to find, read (and rate if it was helpful) if you play online; as well as invade other’s worlds as phantom.
It also has the series’ high difficulty level of challenge, so if you’ve yet to play Demon’s Souls, then it’s highly recommended (even more so as Dark Souls 2 certainly has some very similar aspects to Demon’s Souls that aren’t in Dark Souls 1).
There was an outcry when the in-game servers (needed to run the world tendency changes and online aspects, such as messages) were meant to be turned off.
But the publisher Namco listened and the game even went onto the PlayStation 3’s PS+ service extending the game’s life immeasurably (and at the time of writing in March 2013 the game’s servers are still running strong).
Dark Souls 1
Believe it or not; Dark Souls isn’t a direct sequel to Demon’s Souls (who’s rights are owned by Sony). It’s more of a spiritual successor in the guide of a new franchise (but still playing off of the ‘Souls’ naming convention).
It retains the vast majority of the mechanics made popular in Demon’s Souls and then adds its own masochistic extras into the mix. Multiplayer was a much bigger aspect with players able to invade each other’s world and fight to the death (for additional souls and humanity) or even help each other in co-op against the level’s boss.
It’s also got an immense amount of lore that is very subtle and well hidden so has had many players piecing their version of the story together for the last few years.
The optional DLC (or included DLC if you bought the appropriately-titled ‘Prepare to Die’ PC version), known as Artorias of the Abyss, stayed true to the mysteriousness of the series by not even giving players any real help on how to even access the new areas, bosses and weapons in the DLC pack!
It was also the first title in the series to be released as a multi-format title appearing on the Xbox 360 (and then later again on the PC).
Dark Souls 2
Released in March 2013, Dark Souls 2 isn’t a direct story-sequel to the original either (even though it’s set in a different part of the game’s world). It carries on many of the previous game’s mechanics and adds in a few more to surprise veterans of the series and also make it a little bit more accessible for people who perhaps thought the previous games were a bit too punishing in difficulty.