Dark Souls Would Be an Odd Fit for Nintendo Switch

Would you want to play Dark Souls on a long flight? Maybe not.

Opinion by Kat Bailey, .

As we all wait for Nintendo to finally just announce their next Direct already, the drumbeat for one rumor in particular continues to get louder: Dark Souls for the Nintendo Switch.

Rumors that Dark Souls will be making the journey to the Switch have been circulating since early December, when reports emerged that it would be announced during Bandai Namco's then-forthcoming event (it was actually Soul Calibur VI). Now there are whispers that it will be unveiled in a rumored Nintendo Direct.

On the face of it, that would be pretty cool. Dark Souls is one of the best games ever, and pretty much everything is better on the Switch. Except... Dark Souls might not actually be a good fit for the Switch.

Dark Souls' Online Functionality Doesn't Mesh Well With Portability

A simple test of whether a game works on the Switch is to ask yourself, "Would this be fun to play on a long flight?" That question becomes complicated if heavy online functionality is in play.

Online play is a heavy part of Dark Souls' overall appeal. The cryptic messages, blood trails, and sudden invasions from other players instantly set Demon's Souls apart in 2009, and large communities have grown up around these features since. It's hard to be a Sunbro—a colloquial term for players who assist other players with killing bosses—when you can't go online.

It's still quite possible to enjoy Dark Souls even without its online features, of course. But it doesn't feel quite the same without it. With Demon's Souls set to go offline for good next month, players are mourning the death of a very particular kind of experience. And unfortunately for Dark Souls on the Switch, true portability will likely mean sacrificing that same sort of experience, making it difficult to play it the way it's meant to be played when on the road.

Dark Souls' brooding atmosphere would be an odd fit for the Switch.

Dark Souls' Foreboding Atmosphere Wouldn't Necessarily Translate in Handheld Mode

One of Dark Souls' great pleasures is the sense of tension and fear that it generates. With death lying around every corner, it's easy to feel tense—especially if you've never played before.

Playing in handheld mode wouldn't kill that sense of atmosphere, but it would diminish it somewhat. Even with the Switch's relatively large screen and a nice pair of headphones, it wouldn't be quite the same. It would feel smaller.

That would go for Dark Souls' famous boss battles as well. Every boss in Dark Souls is meant to make you feel tiny and feeble in some way. Ornstein and Smough are classic examples, but there's also Sif—the wolf that carries a giant sword in its mouth, the Capra Demon and his dogs, and many, many more. They all stand out in our memories because they are larger than life, even if Dark Souls players have now gotten so good that they can literally take them down with DK Bongo Drums.

Some games you just want to play on a big screen to fully appreciate their grandeur. Dark Souls is one of those games. It makes it easier to appreciate its intricate architecture, brilliant level design, and overall sense of scope.

Of course, the beauty of the Switch is that you can just plug your tablet into the dock and play on your TV. But portability is one of the Switch's main hooks; and in that regard, Dark Souls might not translate.

Would you want to fight Ornstein and Smough on handheld?

There's Still a Place for Dark Souls on the Switch

None of this is to say that Dark Souls will fail on the Switch. It isn't FIFA or anything.

If Dark Souls for the Switch turns out to be real, I would expect it to appeal to the handful of curious bystanders who have yet to take the plunge in the series. It would also likely benefit from a light graphical bump and other improvements, as was the case with LA Noire. It wouldn't be an ideal fit for handheld mode, but plenty of Switch owners would make do.

The real appeal of a Switch port, of course, is the opportunity to play Dark Souls on a modern console. Hard as it is to believe, the original Dark Souls has yet to be remastered for the PS4 or Xbox One. The best version you can find right now is on PC. Should Dark Souls make its way to the Switch, it would be a nice little console revival for a seven-year-old game, not to mention another feather in the cap of one of the fastest selling consoles in history.

Still, I'll admit that the prospect of portable Dark Souls doesn't quite fill me with excitment. The controls feel like they'd be just a smidge awkward on the tablet, the screen a bit too small, the online hooks a bit too limiting. It's the kind of game you want to give your full attention, not the one you want to play over a cup of coffee while listening to a podcast.

So while I have no doubt Dark Souls will be a success if it becomes a reality on the Switch, I also believe it will serve to highlight the friction between its main hook—portability—and the online and setpiece-heavy nature of modern triple-A. But hey, there's always docked mode, right?

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Comments 24

  • Avatar for riderkicker #1 riderkicker 2 months ago
    They'd have to tone down a lot of things to get Dark Souls running on the Switch, but at least the problems are not as close as original Skyrim. I think it'll be fine, but Nintendo has to do something about the Wifi connection, or force owners to buy a USB to Ethernet adapter. Probably better to stick with Docked mode considering many people have broken their controllers in a fit of rage.Edited January 2018 by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #2 NiceGuyNeon 2 months ago
    I wouldn't play Dark Souls on Switch, but that's not because it's on Switch, or because handheld play isn't ideal or whatever: it's because Dark Souls is my most-played Steam game, and I haven't played any of its sequels so... you know, I'd probably just go for one of those: though the mood hasn't exactly struck.

    But if I hadn't played Dark Souls, I'd be all about it on Switch. It's up there on the list of games that are up there. It's Breath of the Wild levels of good. What I'd like more than a port of Dark Souls though would be a new From game that's more than a 10 second teaser, and for it to be on Switch instead of a port of Dark Souls, but that also doesn't seem too likely at the moment. So, port it up I guess.
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #3 chaoticBeat 2 months ago
  • Avatar for link6616 #4 link6616 2 months ago
    Based on all the videos of people desperate to run Dark souls on the GPD Win, I've got to assume it's appealing.

    Honestly though, skyrim is probably the biggest reason I don't need souls on a handheld. Skyrim is already too dark, requiring me to disable auto brightness for a hope of seeing in dungeons (with the aid of a torch too of course). Dark souls that atmosphere really is key.
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #5 DrCorndog 2 months ago
    I've had Dark Souls dormant in my Steam account for a out two years now. Still need to play it.Edited January 2018 by DrCorndog
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  • Avatar for wingzero98 #6 wingzero98 2 months ago
    I'd buy in a heartbeat.
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #7 chaoticBeat 2 months ago
    @DrCorndog Dark Souls takes some adjusting to but if you make it past what feels like a sheer cliff of an intro, I promise that the summit is worth it.

    A little grinding and acquiring the Drake sword early go a long way.
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  • Avatar for daverhodus #8 daverhodus 2 months ago
    I haven't taken my Switch out of the dock. So it would make sense for me. I also haven't played the original Dark Souls. So a new version made for Switch would be nice.Edited 2 times. Last edited January 2018 by daverhodus
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #9 MetManMas 2 months ago
    Honestly, I'd be more interested in a Dark Souls for PS4 and Xbox One* than I would a Switch port. Not to say that I wouldn't like to play it portably, but I know the game's really at its best on a TV and online.

    More than that though, I'd like to have Demon's Souls on PS4. I know the chances of that are probably slim 'cuz porting PS3 exclusives to other platforms is a challenge 'cuz of the console's architecture and that there are too many cooks in the kitchen (the game was published by three different companies in different regions), but it would be nice to not have it stuck on PS3 forever.

    * Technically Dark Souls is on Xbox One via backwards compatibility, but a proper Xbone version would run a whole lot better.
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  • Avatar for themblan #10 themblan 2 months ago
    Dark Souls is perfect for lying on the bed and relaxing.Edited January 2018 by themblan
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #11 NiceGuyNeon 2 months ago
    @chaoticBeat totally@DrCorndog the first time I played Dark Souls I played for two hours, didn't get it, and just gave up without even reaching the first real boss. I don't know why, but about 2 years later I got this urge to try it again and it clicked and I played it over and over again.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #12 VotesForCows 2 months ago
    @MetManMas I'm with you there, would be lovely to see Demon's Souls ported to any modern console. Still very few people who've played it.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #13 MetManMas 2 months ago
    @NiceGuyNeon For me, the point where Dark Souls really clicked was the forest area. Especially after unlocking the sealed door.
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #14 mouse-clicker 2 months ago
    So the thing about the Switch is it's not just a portable, it's also a home console. So why should every game that comes out on the system have to be something you'd enjoy playing portably?

    More along that same line, not everything played in portable mode on the Switch is played on a long flight, or while traveling at all. Most of the time I've spent playing my Switch in portable mode has been on the couch with the television 10 feet away, because I don't want to monopolize the TV. Traditional AAA experiences are great in this setting.

    Just adding "there's always docked mode" to the end of the piece kind of misses the point that, for a lot of people, the Switch is ONLY docked. Docked mode is not an afterthought, it's half of the intent of the system. And when it's docked, it's just like any other console. I also fully believe that the Switch is showing that it's pretty amazing having traditional AAA games on something that can be portable.

    I'm just really confused why a whole article was written about this.
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  • Avatar for RushDawg #15 RushDawg 2 months ago
    Your "you can't play online on a long plane ride" argument doesn't hold water Kat. By you logic, Splatoon 2 and Rocket League would both be bad fit for the Switch, since those games are based around online multiplayer.Edited January 2018 by RushDawg
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  • Avatar for SingingBrakeman #16 SingingBrakeman 2 months ago
    This is well-thought-out, though I'd respectfully disagree. With regard to a significant online component, other games on Switch already accommodate this (and indeed are more heavily dependent on the internet than Dark Souls): Mario Kart 8, ARMS, Rocket League, Bomberman, Puyo Puyo Tetris and Splatoon 2 all rely on an internet connection for their most compelling gameplay. With regard to a pervasive sense of dread, I would point to the efficacy of the Resident Evil Revelations ports; these handle horror quite well, whether docked or handheld. With regard to a sense of scale and grandeur, Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 demonstrate that the Switch has the ability to convey massive environments without losing a sense of intimacy and detail.

    Much of the success for a Dark Souls port would come down to performance. I'm not yet convinced that the Switch could pull off a great version of this classic game, but I could easily be convinced - I certainly wouldn't preorder, but would pick it up ASAP once the reviews came out.
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  • Avatar for SingingBrakeman #17 SingingBrakeman 2 months ago
    @NiceGuyNeon Agreed. I'd be more excited for a new game, especially one made from the ground up for the Switch's strengths and limitations, though I'll happily pick up Dark Souls again. I haven't played the original since playing it three times in 2011-2012, so I'm overdue for revisiting it :)
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #18 Nuclear-Vomit 2 months ago
    Imagine the local co-op possibilities! If they would only allow an easier way to co-op rather than random glowing words on the ground.
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  • Avatar for Electryon #19 Electryon 2 months ago
    To me the whole worthiness argument of Dark Souls on the Switch is if it gets optimized correctly. Because the console versions of Dark Souls are damn near broken in not just Blighttown, but New Londo and literally ANY time a major particle effect is on screen. For as great as the game it, the optimization is a abject failure, and it's only through the efforts of modders allowing control over the graphical settings that the PC version is stable. If it's just another port where I'm watching a slide-show in Blighttown or getting 10 fps while underneath Sif, don't even bother.
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  • Avatar for Electryon #20 Electryon 2 months ago
    @mouse-clicker I disagree,I almost never dock the system,and though some games look better docked (Xenoblade) some do not (Skyrim).
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #21 Modern-Clix 2 months ago
    @riderkicker they wouldn’t really need to tone anything down. In fact, I expect it to run better because the PS3 version after a certain point just started to get chug. If it doesn’t run much better then I’ll be disappointed. As for the online, that can work as always. The online component is great but if I’m in a long card ride, I’ll five that up to play on the go. A great thing to do if they can implant it would be to download latest server stats when offline so that you can see messages and ghosts at the very least.
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #22 mattcom26 2 months ago
    Nintendo will make it happen with the promise of game-changing motion controls!
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  • Avatar for shurn #23 shurn 2 months ago
    Deleted January 2018 by shurn
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  • Avatar for shurn #24 shurn 2 months ago
    I disagree. Would buy and play again on switch. Would not miss online elements one bit ( always offline ) port two as well and I might actually play all the way through.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #25 Thusian 2 months ago
    @mouse-clicker Preach, I mostly play portable game systems because of the, I don't want to monopolize the TV thing. Also I have limited free time so even when by myself I often try to maximize my free time by having a show run in the background while I play a game so yes I use handheld mode a lot, no I don't go on long flights or use public transit often.

    For my money the only time I dock the Switch is when I am going to play a game with someone else, and if you're doing anything different you seem like an Alien to me.
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