Soulsborne players have since the dawn of the series sought a way to pause the game in real time, and the answer has always eluded them. This is likely tied in some ways to the series' approach to multiplayer, wherein players are often at risk of being invaded by another human player at any moment. Another reason may be the series' commitment to putting players in difficult situations — the game becomes much easier if one can swap out their loadouts on the fly.
Elden Ring may be the first exception to this approach. Its start menu may not pause the action, but a cheeky trick appears to do the job in a pinch. Here's how to pause Elden Ring.
Pausing Elden Ring Using the 'Menu Explanation'
Soulsborne YouTuber Iron Pineapple has discovered that it is possible to pause any NPC enemies in Elden Ring by navigating to your inventory, opening the 'Help' menu, and selecting the 'Menu Explanation' option. This will freeze any surrounding enemies in their tracks, giving you time to collect yourself or handle some other pressing real-world matter.
Of course, the pause dissipates as soon as you close the 'Menu Explanation' screen. This means the pause can't be used to re-tool equipment, and it leaves a window in which, while you close the rest of the menus, enemies can move and attack and you can only jog around. Dodging isn't possible until you've completely disentangled yourself from the menus.