The 5 Best Challenge Runs to Try in ‘Dark Souls Remastered’

Jeremy Ray
Games Xbox
Games Xbox PC Gaming PlayStation

This won’t come as a shock to any Souls veteran, but Dark Souls Remastered gets easy after you put enough hours into it. The usual media narrative of “ha ha it’s so brutally hard” doesn’t ring true to those who’ve learned its systems. Enter the Dark Souls challenge runs.

Much like the original, Dark Souls Remastered is entirely breakable — in all the right ways. With some choice limitations, you can create some very interesting theorycrafting problems to solve. In Dark Souls, challenge runs are a great way to feel like you’re rediscovering the game all over again.

Drake Sword Balder Knight kill
No more Drake Sword making the early game easy

Some of the best challenge runs are no longer available if you haven’t already got the Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition on PC, because they come from mods. We even received an awesome mod just recently which gives you interesting debuffs for every boss you defeat. Check out LobosJr taking it on here.

That’s kind of a shame, but here are some great and interesting ways to make Dark Souls Remastered more challenging and fun for yourself. No mods necessary.

1. No Shield, Melee Only, No Summons

We’re starting basic. This is a challenge run that will teach you valuable skills for future challenge runs.

This run is great for learning how to properly roll. Since you can go through the main game with a heavy armour build, focused on blocking and poise, the lack of a shield here will force you to use Dark Souls Remastered‘s greatest gift: those invincibility frames on your roll.

Solaire hollow
But I'd feel naked without my shield!

And while it doesn’t explicitly force you to, it’s also a great time to learn how to parry. Certain enemies become vastly easier once you’ve overcome this hurdle. Havel becomes trivial, as do Silver Knights and Black Knights.

Going melee only without summons just makes sure you’re not going to cheese anything. Use your roll, Luke. Switch off your targeting computer and use your roll.

2. The Onebro Challenge Run

This is definitely one of our favourite challenge runs in Dark Souls, and we’ll probably be running it again in Dark Souls Remastered. The only rule here is you start as Pyromancer (the only level 1 class), and you can’t level up.

There’s no better challenge run to prove that Dark Souls Remastered is about skill. We’ve come across many who treat Dark Souls like a Final Fantasy game, thinking the answer to a tough fight is to go away and grind for a while. That won’t help you much in a Soulsborne.

Not only does beating the game as a level 1 require great technical play, each boss fight becomes its own theorycrafting challenge. You have to formulate a plan, crunch some numbers, and then execute that plan. That’s a true action RPG right there. This is a great new challenge for those who want to rediscover the game.

Laurentius of the Great Swamp pyromancy flame
Learn what you can from Laurentius to start with

A few tips, if we may.

We won’t tell you how to live your life, but accepted wisdom is the Reinforced Club is the best weapon to go with here. It suits your stats, you can modify it with elements, and it has some bonus bleed damage. If that’s not your cup o’ Estus, remember you can wield higher Strength weapons by two-handing them.

There are also two elements that don’t scale with stats: fire and lightning. Fire tends to do well against undead enemies (lucky there are a lot of those, eh?), while lightning does well against armoured enemies like Silver Knights or Smough.

Reinforced Club weapon
The Reinforced Club. Come for the stat requirements, stay for the bleed.

Pyromancy follows this rule as well. You don’t need special items to upgrade your pyromancy flame — just souls. You don’t need stats for Great Combustion to do great damage, either. But there are limited casts.

That means when you take on tanky bosses like Manus, even after all your Great Combustion and Black Flame casts, you’re still going to have to score some hits with your club. Good luck!

3. The One-Shot Boss Challenge

This is a super fun challenge popularised by Vageta, in which you have to earn the right to level up by defeating bosses in as few hits as possible. If you kill a boss in one hit, you get two points. If you kill a boss in two hits, you get one point. Each point allows you to level up one time.

Other than that, it’s fairly open-ended and you’re free to theorycraft to your heart’s content. You also get a point for one-shotting a miniboss, although the definition of a “miniboss” is a bit loose.

This one is a Dark Souls Remastered theorycrafting dream come true. There are so many interesting problems to solve, and you have to keep an eye on the endgame. You might have a great pyromancy strategy, but what happens when you go up against Quelaag, immune to fire?

There are obvious edge cases, such as Smough & Ornstein, in which you can’t win the whole fight with one shot. Vageta goes through the rules for these in the above video, but you’re free to tackle it in the way you think is fair and fun.

Without spoiling too much of the theorycrafting fun, there are some amazing quirks when spells and items are combined. Our favourite is the Red Tearstone Ring, which multiplies damage when you’re at extremely low health, and Power Within, a sizeable buff that constantly drains your health.

Plunging attack Taurus Demon
Vageta uses a plunging attack to kill the Taurus Demon in one hit

Using both of these (and others) combined, you only have a window of 20 seconds before you either heal, or Power Within kills you. Having so much depend on a few seconds makes the fight incredibly tense.

It’s just one interesting dynamic in this challenge run. And it’s worth all the work when you add those one-shot kills to your highlight reel.

4. The ‘Ooh Shiny!’ Challenge Run

Use what you see! If you see a shiny item, equip it. If you spot a chest with armour in it, put it on. Everything that enters your view in this run, you have to use.

Popularised by LobosJr, this run essentially requires you to put a lot of investment into Strength and Dexterity. You’re picking up weapons that won’t be upgraded the entire game, and relying on their base scaling attributes. It’s hard, and it’s a bit of silly fun at the same time.

Naked Dark Souls katana challenge run
LobosJr has to use every item he sees

An additional interesting element comes from knowing where items are and deliberately avoiding them. Keeping the camera pointed away from an item you know will screw you up is a funny way to play.

You can give yourself some concessions if you want, but the pure way to play this is, if it’s shiny, you equip it. Saw a sorcerer’s catalyst and don’t have any spells or Intelligence? Oopsie. Boss dropped a rare hammer that requires 50 Strength to use? Oh dear.

If you pick up something that completely screws you up, you have to go find another item to replace it with.

5. Honour Duels Challenge Run

Are you ready to play perfectly?

This run applies PvP etiquette to boss fights. Specifically, you can’t heal unless your opponent does. For the most part, that means no heals at all. But in the case of Smough or Ornstein coming back with full health, you’re allowed to as well.

While seemingly very hard at first, you may actually want to provide some additional limitations for this one. Mainly because it’s possible to do so much damage through sorcery and other means.

Ornstein Smough boss fight
Yeah, good luck with Ornstein & Smough.

Bonus: Create Your Own

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from creating your own challenge. Everything above was started by Souls players just having a think about how they could make their favourite game more fun. After so many years, you have people doing level 1 runs of NG+7 with no rolling/blocking/parrying/sprinting.

If you’re at a loss for interesting runs, why not randomly generate one?

Once you open it up to NG+, a whole new slew of options become available. The Calamity Ring run is popular, which just doubles all of the damage you take. Cosplay runs are also fun, donning the gear of famous Lordran adventurers like Tarkus or Logan. Bonus points for playing in their style, as well.

We hope there’s enough there to get you thinking about how to play this amazing game in different, interesting ways. We’re not sure what the mod situation will be like post release for Dark Souls Remastered, but even in its original form, this is the game that keeps on giving.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.
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