Complete List of Berserk Influences on Souls Games
When Hidetaka Miyazaki was a child, he discovered the delight of reading fantasy books in the form of adventure games and manga. One of these books is a dark fantasy manga titled Berserk.
Berserk has a profound impact on the Souls games, including character, monster, and environmental designs, and story, lore, and themes.
Background and Insight
When the Berserk series began to be serialized in 1989, Hidetaka Miyazaki was 15 years old. It is an age in Japan where you can expect a male reader to transition from reading Shonen manga (the heroic, fighting, adventure mangas) to Seinen manga (the dark, grim, more mature mangas).
Berserk is a dark fantasy that grabbed the imagination of the young Miyazaki. Later on, in his interviews, Miyazaki always refers to Berserk when asked what books he keeps on his shelves.
Miyazaki: First, you would see the manga shelf, containing Devilman and Berserk at the top. The adjacent bookshelf is filled with tabletop role-playing game rulebooks, with RuneQuest in front, together with the board game Dragon Pass. Another shelf is filled with novels, classics of fantasy and science fiction, highlighting George R. R. Martin's titles A Song of Ice and Fire and Fevre Dream.
Knowll Insight: Miyazaki also publicly confirmed taking inspiration from Berserk. However, fans have observed a large number of unconfirmed influences present on the Souls games.
Below is the most comprehensive list of unconfirmed Berserk influences on the Souls games that you can find online. To aid you in discovering the location of these scenes in the manga, the volume, chapter, and context of the screenshot is also included.
In addition, you can also see for each entry a verdict section, where we share if the inspiration is either:
- Beyond Doubt
- High Possibility
Conclusion on the Influences
While collecting the list of influences from the Berserk manga, I was considering the question of why Miyazaki did it. Why did he allow his Souls games to reflect the influence of Berserk, when he could have altered or hidden them? Is it a question of lacking creativity or running out of ideas? Is it a question of laziness?
My conclusion is that in all of the Berserk inspirations that Miyazaki allowed in the Souls games, he was not copying, but instead, he was paying homage.
To prove my point, consider this screenshot - it is an actual cover for Miyazaki's highest-selling third Dark Souls game.
Cover of Dark Souls III - Fire Fades Edition
Scene from Berserk - Volume 7, Chapter: Prepared for Death
This is the ultimate proof that Miyazaki is not copying, and is, instead, paying homage. There are many ways he could have changed that cover. He could have removed Gael or changed his position, and the game would still be the same as before. But he allowed it because he is paying homage to Berserk.
If you did not know that this cover is paying homage to Berserk, there is nothing lost in your experience or appreciation of the game. But if you knew that Gael's pose is Guts' resting pose after killing a hundred enemy soldiers while protecting Casca, leading to his legend as "The Hundred Man Slayer," then you would have felt it. The delight that Miyazaki calls as "the joy of discovering hidden beauty."
Stats on Influences
To answer the question of "Which Souls game has the most Berserk influences?", we have the stats below:
- Demon's Souls - 9 Total, 7 Beyond Doubt and 2 Similar
- Dark Souls - 15 Total, 14 Beyond Doubt and 1 Similar
- Bloodborne - 8 Total, 8 Beyond Doubt
- Dark Souls III - 17 Total, 14 Beyond Doubt and 3 High Possibility
- Sekiro - 3 Total, 3 Beyond Doubt
- Elden Ring - 1 Total, 1 Similar
Demon's Souls has the third-highest number of Berserk references, having 9 in total. We are showing below the main highlight of these references, the massive ultra-great sword made available to the game, Dragon Bone Smasher. It was said to be created for the sole purpose of killing Dragons.
Of course, we know to which item in Berserk this refers to, it is in the name itself of the weapon, the Dragon Slayer Sword. Even the descriptions are very similar. A truly fine homage in the first Souls game.
Dark Souls has the second-highest number of Berserk references among all Souls games, having 15 in total. It is tied with Dark Souls III, on the number of Beyond Doubt, with 14 in total.
We are highlighting below the pose of Artorias in the cover of the DLC Artorias of the Abyss. Among all Berserk references, this is truly one of the most beautiful and most undeniably Berserk influenced. It is also one where Miyazaki could not have done it, but he still did, for the delight of those who know.
If you didn't know that this is a reference to the Vol 28 cover of the Berserk manga, it would not affect your enjoyment of the DLC.
Bloodborne has the fourth-highest number of Berserk references among all Souls games, having 8 in total. However, all of these eight references are Beyond Doubt.
We are highlighting below the Hunter's Mark, which is a reference to Berserk's Brand of Sacrifice. Together with Artorias pose, this is one of the most beautiful and subtle homages to Berserk.
Again, Miyazaki could have used any symbol and just called it a day, like what he did with the Caryll Rune symbols. But he did it, for those who know.
Dark Souls III has the highest number of Berserk references among all Souls games, having 17 in total. It is tied with the original Dark Souls, on the number of Beyond Doubt, with 14 in total.
Dark Souls III has a lot of truly beautiful and subtle homages to Berserk, but we selected the Sulyvahn Beast because this one is 100% undeniable. It is as if Kentaro Miura, the creator of Berserk, went to FromSoftware's office and asked Miyazaki to create a 100% replica of the Beast of Darkness. It is the perfect recreation of the 2D drawing in 3D - the hair, the mouth, the body, everything.
Again, Miyazaki could have avoided comparisons and accusations of plagiarism or lazy copying. Miyazaki is beyond that. He could have easily made this into a different monster, and nothing would have changed in the game or on the experience of the players. But homage is homage. For those who know.
Sekiro has the lowest number of Berserk references among all Souls games, having only 3 in total. However, it has the most subtle and yet most profound reference among all Souls games. It will not be evident initially, but once you see it, there is no turning back.
We are highlighting below the journey and relationship between Owl and Wolf, which has a similar structure to the journey and relationship between Gambino and Guts.
As Elden Ring is not yet released, we could only rely on the trailer to identify any Berserk references. And so far, it does not disappoint. We have identified the similarity between that of Farnese and the winged-helmed character in the trailer.
We expect more Berserk references once the full game is released. In fact, we anticipate that this might contain the highest number of Berserk references, knowing that Elden Ring is the biggest and most ambitious game of Miyazaki.