I'd recommend the Dark Souls games. I've only played through the first 2 games (and Demon's Souls on PS3, which Dark Souls is kind of a spiritual continuation of), and don't know a lot about the plot of the 3rd game (I'm waiting for a more agreeable price on the 3rd game with all DLC included). But here's my take on the series:
These games are probably most well-known for their difficulty. The developers know this all too well: The first game's PC release is subtitled as the Prepare to Die Edition. And while they are, or can be, very difficult at times, in my opinion, that's not the main draw to the games. I'd say that the lore is the best thing about the games. (And the level design, especially of DS1, is really amazing!)
A quick note about the difficulty: The game allows different playstyles which can affect the difficulty. Generally speaking, ranged or magic use is "easier" than melee combat. But if you find something that just seems impossibly difficult, then that is probably the game giving you a hint that you should not be there yet or you're doing something wrong. For example, if you are finding it impossibly difficult because the area is too dark to see anything, that should be a clue to find a light source (torch, lantern, magic spell, etc.) you can use to improve visibility. This video explains it well:
Now onto the story:Kinda vague lore spoilers ahead.
I don't know how to explain it, but the story that is told--piece by piece, clue by clue--is probably one of the most defeatist, depressing, Sisyphean, nihilistic stories I've ever come across. Put quite simply, there are no happy endings in Dark Souls. And this is true for you as the player as well as for essentially every NPC you encounter or hear about. All odds are stacked against you, guaranteeing that ultimately, the "antagonist" of the story (the curse, or the flame, depending on how you look at it) will have its desired outcome. And yet, you and many others persist in trying to overcome the curse.
There's something beautifully melancholy about the sheer willpower behind mankind's persistent struggle to overcome hardship and trials, all in an effort to bring about a better life for themselves and those they care about. Even if, or especially when, it seems (or is!) utterly hopeless.
The lore is amazing. And tragic. And though virtually everybody in the lore eventually succumbs to the curse, becoming Hollow, there's also something that feels almost triumphant about the valor and persistence exemplified by many of the characters. Solaire
, and Lucatiel
are obvious favorites.
And again, like the game itself, where much of it is optional and easily missed (if not outright deviously hidden from the player), much of this story is only hinted at and has to be puzzled out, piece by piece. A lot of the lore is told or hinted at through items you find. When you pick up an item, read its description as soon as it is safe to do so. Think about what it is, where you found it, why it would be there, and what that could mean about the world you're in.End of spoilers
If the idea of playing through it all yourself doesn't appeal to you, but you're curious about the story, then I'd recommend a few YouTube channels for you:
For a Let's Play-esque playthrough with incredibly deep discussion of the lore throughout almost every stage of the game, see EpicNameBro's channel.Dark Souls 1 Playthrough & LoreDark Souls 2 Playthrough & Lore
For short videos on the lore of specific characters or events, see VaatiVidya's channel, specifically the "Prepare to Cry" videos
. That said, some of the lore might not be as meaningful without the context of encountering the characters yourself in the game. Also, he doesn't go into the lore of every character, so there's a lot missing. One thing to keep in mind about the lore videos is that because the story is mostly only hinted at, much of it is speculation and left up to the reader/player to interpret. And some of the information presented in these videos turned out to be wrong according to the canon that came in later games.Dark Souls 1 LoreDark Souls 2 Lore
I didn't link videos to Dark Souls 3 content because I haven't personally watched it yet (trying to avoid spoilers until I play through it).
Buy Dark Souls, git gud, and praise the sun! \[T]/Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
is $20 (for some reason it isn't discounted in this sale).Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
(which contains all the DLC) is currently $12 (70% off).Dark Souls III: Deluxe Edition
(which contains all the DLC) is currently $42.50 (50% off).