The first game, Demon's Souls, was released exclusively on the PlayStation 3 in Japan on February 5th, 2009 while published by Sony. Despite no plans to be released outside of Japan, it picked up positive reception and quickly became a cult curiosity of the west partially due to being import-friendly. This led to it being published in the North American and PAL regions in October 2009 and June 2010, respectively with Atlus and Bandai Namco handling distribution.
Following this, Bandai Namco partnered with FromSoftware on Dark Souls which was a spiritual successor to Demon Souls. Due to the franchise being owned by a third party IP, the games were released on a range of platforms starting with the PS3 and Xbox 360 in October 2011. A fan petition led to the Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition on PC a year later with Artorias of the Abyss, a DLC pack being included prior to the consoles having the option to purchase it.
The original Dark Souls largely put the series and FromSoftware on the radar for the broader gaming community due to the strong marketing, compelling DLC and a vast range of platforms due to include the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC with a Remastered edition in 2018.
In 2014, Dark Souls II was released on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. The game featured more content across the board than either previous Souls game, including more levels, bosses, weapons, and spells. Three DLC packs were released throughout 2014.
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is a re-release of Dark Souls II that was released in 2015 in two varieties: an 'old-gen' version for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC (DirectX 9), which packages in all of the DLC and includes some small game enhancements, and a 'new-gen' version for PS4, Xbox One, and PC (DirectX 11), which includes everything that the old-gen version does as well as a more technically advanced game engine and new enemy placement throughout the game.
Dark Souls III, the series' most recent installment, was released in Japan on March 24, 2016, and had a worldwide release on April 12, 2016.
In his Giant Bomb interview, creator Hidetaka Miyazaki mentioned the influence of several classic manga on his game designs for the Souls series, including Saint Seiya, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Berserk.
Among video games, Miyazaki cited the influence of the early Dragon Quest games, and particularly the influence of Ico, on the Souls series. The series was also influenced by FromSoftware's own King's Field series.
The success of Demon's Souls as a PlayStation 3 exclusive title led to Bloodborne on the PS4 in 2015, a spiritual successor with the same director as Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and eventually Dark Souls 3. Due to the development team and director being shared, some consider Bloodborne to be part of the Souls "family" in the same way that Demon's Souls is included despite a different rights holder to the Dark Souls titles.
Otherwise, the Souls series have had a strong influence on a number of action RPG titles and the video game industry in general. Developers of games such as The Witcher 2, Destiny and Alienation have cited the Souls games as influences. The innovative asynchronous online multiplayer of the Souls series also influenced games such as Journey and the development of the PlayStation 4.
Some games have cited Dark Souls as a specific holistic inspiration, such as Lords of the Fallen and Salt and Sanctuary leading to terms including "Soulslike".