Video games always had a penchant for punishing players - then 'Dark Souls' came along in 2011.

The likes of 'Battletoads' and 'Contra' caused an entire generation of gamers to prematurely bald from stress, but 'Dark Souls' took the mantle for a new era and defined a generation in the process.

After the release of 'Dark Souls' in 2011, developers scrambled to implement the mechanics that made the game so ubiquitous.

The parry and stamina management mechanic has shown up everywhere from 'Ghost Of Tsushima' to 'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order'.

Rogue-like mechanics where players die over and over again were the main driving points of our favourite games of 2021, 'Returnal' and 'Deathloop'.

Environmental storytelling, perfected in 'Dark Souls', was replicated in 'Inside' and 'Outer Wilds'.

And yet, no game has ever managed to do all these things better than 'Dark Souls'.

Some games have come mighty close, but 'Dark Souls' is an incredibly well-oiled machine.

Trying to transplant just one element from 'Dark Souls' and transferring it into another game isn't enough.

'Dark Souls' is the complete package, and needs all parts to function.

The game turned 10 years old last year, and frankly, it is the game that defined the 2010's.

Git Gud

If ‘Dark Souls’ is known for one thing, it’s the crushing difficulty.

‘Dark Souls’ can, and will, turn you into mincemeat at the slightest provocation.

The game is crushingly difficult, you will invent made-up swear words in the heat of battle, the majority of the game is spent walking on eggshells, and yet it is the most engrossing title of the 2010s.

2011 was a landmark years for games, with titles such as 'Skyrim', 'Portal 2', 'Batman: Arkham City', and 'Minecraft' hitting shelves, but out of all the games released in 2011, 'Dark Souls' is a class apart.

In physics, there is a simple and effective example used to explain quantum mechanics.

If you throw a tennis ball against a wall long enough, eventually, the ball will break through the wall.

In ‘Dark Souls’, you are that tennis ball.

The feeling when the wall breaks down is a thrill that can’t be replicated in any other form of entertainment, and the endorphin release when you finally crack ‘Dark Souls’ remains second to none.

Two of our favourite games of 2021 played with the idea of dying over and over again as a central mechanic, and they have 'Dark Souls' to thank for making the idea hip and fresh again.

Get used to seeing this. A lot.

Combat in 'Dark Souls' is hypnotic.

The very best game rewires your brain just a little bit, and 'Dark Souls' does it brilliantly.

You come to anticipate every step of your enemy, know exactly when to parry, exactly how to manage your stamina, and go in for the killer blow.

Every so often, it's up to a Japanese game developer to remind us how it's done.

'Silent Hill 2' rewrote the rule book on horror in video games.

'Silent Hill 2' took a note from the Japanese style of horror seen in the likes of 'Ringu'; make the entire thing psychological and oppressive, then drop in the big scare when the audience is at its most vulnerable.

This Japanese philosophy also applies to 'Dark Souls'.

Japanese game design is markedly different to western game development, and this is evident in 'Dark Souls'.

In typical western triple-AAA titles, players are railroaded along a linear path and players are given the illusion of choice and agency.

In 'Dark Souls', it is entirely possible to miss a large part of the game's content because players were meant to find that out for themselves.

A golden rule of any form of fiction is "show, don't tell," and 'Dark Souls' nails this.

On your first playthrough, players may entirely miss and fail to grasp what is going on in the game world.

In any other game, this would be something critics would slap a game down for, but 'Dark Souls' earns it.

'Dark Souls' isn't a game that wants to impress players, players have to impress 'Dark Souls'.

Praise The Sun!

I Got Soul, But I'm Not A Soldier

The confidence the game projects is unlike anything a game has done before or since.

'Dark Souls' relishes dispatching of you and makes no apologies for it, so when players eventually get into the swing of things and master the game, it feels like a true achievement.

The struggle to get back to full health and having your health restored is a unique kind of tension that only video games can provide, and 'Dark Souls' is the champion of this.

Players are encouraged to be brave and solider on, because the only way players can return to full health is by beating powerful enemies.

'Dark Souls' never lets players get comfortable for one minute, and it constantly generates momentum for players; it's the games subtle way of telling you to keep going.

The moment in 'Dark Souls' when you realise you're on the game's wavelength is a level of satisfaction that very few forms of entertainment can deliver.

In our review of 'Demon's Souls' for the PlayStation 5, we noted "beating bosses is where 'Demon's Souls' lives and reigns, in those moments of teeth-grinding frustration and - rarely, too rarely - joyous victory."

Games made after 2011 are indebted to 'Dark Souls' in some way.

Be it the parrying combat style becoming du jour for most third-person action games, monstrous difficulty coming into vogue again or simply letting players discover the world on their own terms, 'Dark Souls' is unquestionably the most influential game of the HD era.

The crying shame of the game is that it can only be experienced for the first time once.