Dark Souls 3 Challenge Run Ideas: The Ultimate List

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For some, Dark Souls isn’t hard enough.

For the player that really wants to push their limits or mix up their playthroughs, there’s challenge runs.

Now there’s no in-built feature for challenges in DS3, outside of some mods for PC, so you’ll have to have some restraint to not cheat.

But if you manage to complete some of these extremely hard playthroughs legitimately you’ll have infinite bragging rights and every Dark Souls nerds respect!

Today we’re going to take a look at some of the most common/hardest challenge runs, as well as a few of the underground ones to give you some ideas!


Use What You See

Use What You See from Dark Souls 3

This is a pretty unheard of one popularised by content creator/streamer Lobos Jr., among others.

I’m kicking off the list with UWYS because it’s especially great for players who have taken some time away from the game, and forgotten the exact locations of items.

It’s exactly what it says on the tin – you see an item, you equip it.

This wouldn’t be too bad, but can lead to some extremely tough situations where you’re stuck with a weapon you don’t meet the stat requirements for!

If you want to go truly crazy, you can use this in conjunction with a randomizer mod on PC, and have some very unique experiences.


Bow Only

Bow Only Dark Souls 3 screenshot

Next up is bow only, which is a run I’m currently doing myself as of writing this, and I’m having a blast with it!

Bows are a pretty overlooked aspect of the game for most, so structuring your whole playstyle around them is completely out of the comfort zone of most players.

The challenge here is not just dealing with bows low base damage, but also ammo management, aiming, and attack timings!

The complete lack of crowd-control bows have make bosses like the once-easy deacons of the deep one of the hardest bosses in the entire game!


No Healing (No Estus)

No Healing (No Estus) in DS3

No healing runs are some of the most nail-biting you can do, while still keeping things reasonably achievable.

These playthroughs call for the use of really out-there items, like the ring of the evil eye, sun princess ring, pontiff’s left eye, blessed-infused weapons – there’s a surprising number of ways to passively gain HP!

Typically these runs only disallow estus use, but if you want to push the boat out even more, you can add to the challenge by not allowing healing miracles – or for a real hard one, no HP regen – only healing at bonfires!


Spell Only

Spell Only Dark Souls 3

Similar to the bow-only list, spell only is what it says – only allowing the use of the schools of magic.

Typically, runners of this challenge will pick just one magic type, leading to pyro-only, sorcery-only, and miracle-only playthroughs.

This means no weapons, only casting spells via catalysts, which is especially hard thanks to estus management and access to certain magics in the early-game being very limited!

Despite this, spell only playthroughs remain one of the more popular challenges, as it doesn’t deviate too far from a standard int/faith playthrough, and adds an extra layer of difficulty while remaining extremely fun!


Double Ring

Double Ring from Dark Souls 3

Mentioned in our top rings to try list, this challenge calls for the use of 2 rings – the skull ring and the calamity ring.

The skull ring increases enemy aggression and causes them to prioritize you over any other target, and the calamity ring causes you to take double damage!

The difficulty here is self-explanatory, but what might not be immediately obvious is the fact that this will half your available ring slots, and makes your build that much more limited.

Thanks to the calamity ring being acquired in the archdragon peak, it’s recommended to try this for a NG+ playthrough, which will add even more difficulty thanks to the up-scaled enemies!

For bonus points, go for as high as a NG as possible, to really stack the challenge.


Fat Roll (No Vitality)

Fat Roll (No Vitality) in DS3

It’s often pointed out that FromSoftware was really influenced by Bloodborne when making Dark Souls 3, as armor and blocking is pretty useless when compared to simply rolling out of harm’s way.

Well this run is to counter that. You must fat roll, at all times.

This is achieved by having an equip load between 70% and 99%, which is easy if you throw on some heavy armor or never level vitality.

The result is a run more akin to the original Dark Souls – with an emphasis on blocking, poise, and armor.

The real challenge here, aside from being essentially unable to dodge an attack, is managing your stamina, as blocking takes huge chunks in DS3 and you may find yourself staggered often!

You’ll need tons of points in endurance, as well as stacking as much stamina regen as you can, to get through this playthrough!


Shield Only

Shield Only Dark Souls 3

The best defense, after all, is a good offense.

Shield-only runs are just on the cusp of the turning point where challenges become truly brutal.

The premise is simple – from the start of the game, 2-hand your shield. That’s it. But it’s not so simple.

Their absolutely pitiful range and damage leaves much to be desired, because, outside of a very select few, no shield was ever meant to be a weapon.

Sure, you can parry! But before you get too excited – shields don’t have a riposte, so you can take off your hornet ring right now.

If you really want a hard time and are a rampant masochist, give it a try!


Consumable Only

Consumable Only in DS3

And now we’ve gone beyond the horizon of ‘fun’ and hit the down-right impossible.

Consumable only runs are, as I’m sure you can imagine, truly unforgiving.

On top of the long item animations and low damage, you’ll have to contend with the items high soul cost from vendors, and the item stack limit!

To overcome this challenge players use some truly bizarre strats, such as farming enemies for souls using environmental deaths and dropping stacks of items just outside of boss fog gates.

No matter how you cut it, this one separates the men from the boys, and I only recommend it for the most hardcore Dark Souls fans out there.


Soul Level 1

Soul Level 1 Dark Souls 3

SL 1 runs have been infamous since even the earliest days of the original Dark Souls.

The premise – play as deprived. And you cannot level up. Ever.

Not only does this challenge limit the weapons you can use to a select few, but it puts a huge cap on your HP, stamina, and equip load.

You’ll be one-shot by pretty much everything from beyond the early game, and you’ll have to execute perfect boss fights with flawless dodging and attacking, all the while dealing a fingernail of damage per hit.

For this run, raw infused weapons will be your best friend, and you’ll have to rely heavily on DPS boosters like the morion blade and red tearstone ring where you can.

If you decide to give it a go, strap in for a long one, with boss fights alone taking tens of minutes per attempt, only for you to be one-shot by a gentle breeze.


No Hit

No Hit from Dark Souls 3

Here it is, the king of all Dark Souls achievements.

Beating the entire game – without taking damage.

Precious few have been able to beat the game like this, and those that do have inhuman talent, possessing photographic knowledge of every bosses movepool and attack openings.

It takes the patience of a saint to do, because if you take even a single point of damage, you have to restart the entire game.

And be honest with yourself – how long have you gone in Dark Souls 3 without taking a point of damage? Tanking a tiny hit to continue attacking? Being caught out by a surprise second enemy? Poison in Farron swamp?

Don’t try this. I cannot recommend it less. But if you do – I wish you the best of luck. You’re braver than me.

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Tom ‘Cyresto’ Humphries

A game animator by trade, Tom’s insight into the game development world gives him a strong appreciation for the art form that is video games. Kicking off at the age of 3 with Spyro: Year of the Dragon on the PS1, Tom’s tastes in games has hardened over the 19 years he’s spent playing them. He now lives for the challenge that titles such as Monster Hunter, Dark Souls, Dead Cells, and many more offer him. Enjoying nothing more than a session of number-crunching game data and another platinum trophy on his PlayStation account, Tom is dedicated to leaving no stone unturned in even the most brutal of gaming content.