Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a fun game with excellent combat and an infamous difficulty curve, so it stands to reason that there’s lots of content about it online. There are a whole bunch of guides and showcase videos that do great work to explain which tools and techs are useful.
There are playthroughs and reaction videos and lore explainers and conspiracy theories and Dark Souls comparisons and lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Those are all great, but here is a video answering an incredibly important question I had: What happens if you blow a magic whistle that makes animals go nuts in the middle of a group of samurai warrior monkeys?
Because it can be overwhelming to parse all the video content out there, I decided to share some of the best Sekiro videos I’ve found. These videos do the work not only of explaining the game but also of giving you a feel for the experience of playing it: What people love, what’s causing all the rage around it, the stuff you might not get just from watching a playthrough. How far can you push the combat? What do all the story-related breadcrumbs make up? If you stay on YouTube long enough, you basically start to find answers to questions you didn’t even realise you had about what’s really possible in the game. Here are some of those questions and answers in some of the best Sekiro videos you can find online. Spoilers ahead.
The most obvious draw of Sekiro is the combat, and there are great videos showing the system’s more interesting wrinkles. The game is a gauntlet of stealth action and fast-paced, in-your-face swordfighting. On a first playthrough, while players are still getting into the rhythm, it’s highly likely they’ll rely on stealth to avoid direct confrontations.
That often involves making your way through stretches of enemy encampment, but it’s particularly fun when there’s a midboss. Here’s an example of how the game plays with that stealth action applied to miniboss Juzou the Drunkard. You can take out some of his lackeys and then lure him away to take him out.
Bonus: There’s a samurai waiting to bust Juzou’s shit up standing in the shadows near the fight. You can hear him dramatically and badassily shouting, “Hear me! My name is Nogami Gensai!” in the above video. He’s a big help if you manage the situation well, but if any enemies get too close, or if you talk to him, he’ll ignore whatever you have planned and run into the middle of everything waving his sword and announcing himself. That is both less than ideal and hilarious, as you can see at the 0:50 mark of this video.
The actual combat can be tricky to master, which quickly caused players to find ways to cheese bosses. But when it comes together the right way with aggressive attacking and parrying, the combat in Sekiro looks like anything you might see in the best-choreographed action films. Below is a compilation of every major boss fight in the game — spoilers, obviously.
What’s special here is that the player uses an aggressive mix of sword attacks and shinobi prosthetics that makes crystal clear the idea that you have to overwhelm your opponents to succeed, rather than, say, running in circles and poking at them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It looks pretty freaking cool, and if you’re playing, there are some useful and creative strategies.
By the same YouTuber, here’s a pretty hilarious followup video, also a showcase of boss fights, that is at once a demonstration of several game mods and an absolute cheese-fest when it comes to the fights. Titled “The FILTHIEST and Most STYLISH Boss Guide,” the player goes through and deliberately uses the absolute cheapest strategies he can think of while wearing, for example, Genichiro’s outfit during the Genichiro fight and an Akatsuki robe while fighting fellow ninja Owl. It’s pretty hilarious, given the mods and the way he fought in the previous video.
Then there are speedruns, which feature techniques like swimming through the air and luring a boss into riding his horse off of a cliff. As players continue to break the game and find newer, better strategies, watching the runs get faster and faster is a blast.
The current Any% world record for beating the game with the quicker-to-achieve bad ending is less than 25 minutes — and there are even quicker ones that just haven’t been verified as of this writing, like this one.
Of course, actually learning the intricacies of Sekiro is a notoriously rough process. But for spectators with a strong sense of schadenfreude, it’s a source of endless amusement. Most gamers aren’t too thrilled the first time they get surprise divebombed by a ninja on the roof of Ashina Castle, for example.
And that’s to say nothing of their reaction when they finally beat the Guardian Ape for the first time, celebrating next to its “dead” body when suddenly…
A hilarious detail is that, like I had when I did this, they’d exhausted their healing resources thinking they were done. I feel for them!
As players run around trying not to die and probably failing, there are bits of lore scattered all over the place, and piecing them together is an absolute joy. If you’re curious about the main story, it’s definitely worth checking out a video of the game’s cutscenes. This one doesn’t intersperse gameplay for added context like some do, but the story is straightforward enough that it gives a solid sense of what happens without veering way too long.
Because the game is largely open to you past a certain point, the order you find these supplementary story elements in can shift, making the story feel a little like a puzzle.
One of the most satisfying examples is the lore around the mysterious Fountainhead Palace, an otherworldly endgame location and the source of the immortality everyone is squabbling over.
There are a bunch of lore videos around the Palace that are good for the armchair conspiracist or your standard egghead. Here’s one explaining the lore behind its inhabitants, who sometimes interact peaceably with the mortal world but also, apparently, lure unsuspecting humans to their death or a lifetime of servitude. It’s wildly messed up and totally on-brand for the dark themes of the game.
What makes this particularly interesting are hints dropped by the time you get there. Long before you get to the Fountainhead Palace where the nobles dwell, you fight this odd fellow, a noble himself. He’s the first one you’ll actually see, and the game doesn’t go far to explain why you’re fighting a weird, glowy, tentacled blue dude in an illusionary forest who doesn’t really defend himself very well.
You only find out much later, through another sidequest, that there’s an entire village of humans trying to turn themselves into these nobles… and succeeding.
Then there are the alcohol conversations. Speaking with characters Emma, Isshin, or the Sculptor over drinks provides the player with extra history about the cast of the game. The cast is already incredibly charming — at one point, Isshin gives you sake, which you can immediately regift to him. He’ll make fun of you for it and then proceed to take it to the head. Here’s one of those sets of conversations, in which a drunken Isshin reveals important historical context for the game but also that your dad, a terrifying and physically gigantic ninja, was a lightweight and would get drunk from one sip of sake. It adds so much to an intentionally bare-bones narrative.
Another neat story touch involves the seedy merchant Anayama, who mentions that he met you in the past. In a “memory” of that past, you can actually run into him… and also kill him. If you do, he’s no longer there in the future to sell you stuff.
Since it’s at first unclear to the player whether they’re in a memory or actually travelled back in time, it can actually serve as the first hint that going into the past can have a real impact on the story, and in fact, one of the endings requires you to retrieve an item from the past and bring it into the future. This, too, is totally missable (and in fact kind of stupid to do).
In all, Sekiro’s world is full of a lot of things worth making videos about and is likely to keep generating great stuff to watch on YouTube and elsewhere. There’s so much that goes beyond the standard hack-and-slash sneaky ninja magic, and it’s worth your while to dig even deeper into it. The boss strategies are disparate and compelling, the lore is satisfying and feels worth your time to find, and you’re given lots of great ways to blow off some steam as you struggle and die and rage quit and start again. I’ve shown a batch of videos I think are worth watching.
There’s so much of Sekiro to see if you haven’t played or even if you have — so go ahead, spoil yourself.