Whether you love them or hate them bosses are an integral part of many genres of video games. There are many different ways to make a boss fight entertaining, climatic atmosphere, dramatic music, stunning visual effects or even just straight up difficulty (I’m looking at you Dark Souls.) In order to celebrate the art of boss battles, I have out together a list of the top ten boss battles from games that I have played. These are not necessarily the most challenging bosses that I have faced (although some are), but many are included in the list for their sense of drama, narrative qualities, visuals or, in some cases, out and out hilarity. Obviously, there will be many great boss battles from games I have not played that I can’t include in this list, but if you have any that you think rival or beat the ones in my list then let me know so I can give them a go!
10. Taurus Demon (Dark Souls)
As most of you know, this game is terrifying and unforgiving in equal measure, the slightest mistake resulting in swift death. This is doubly so at the beginning of the game when you are just getting used to the controls and the combat system and just the kind of combat technique that Dark Souls requires in order to be successful. So you fight your way through the first level (of sorts) dying many times until finally you reach the pinnacle of the keep with a bridge leading to sweet, sweet freedom. NO! Out pops a huge demon boss ready to smash your face in. And smash your face in he does. This boss fight is terrifying for those just starting out in the game. Not only is your foe huge and powerful, but the confined space makes it so hard to stay out of its way. The damn thing is as wide as the bridge and there is nowhere to run. Suffice to say on my first run through I died several times to this. It really is a hard boss considering how close to the start of the game it is. Very few gaming experiences will equal the triumph of defeating this boss though. You really do feel like a hero.
9. Trevelyan (Goldeneye)
Trevelyan himself is not that hard to face down, but when combined with the rest of the level on the hardest difficulty, this can be a real pain. Trevelyan essentially runs around the cradle as his endlessly spawning minions shoot the crap out of you. They wear armour. They re-spawn. Their guns are powerful. It is actually all too easy to run out of ammo just trying to get near enough to Trevelyan to wear him down. Eventually, (assuming you live that long) he makes a break for the final showdown at the base of the level. There is a pretty good chance you will get shot in the back by minions on one of the narrow sections were dodging is impossible and distance makes no difference to enemy accuracy. Still, once you have him cornered its a simple enough task to shoot him off the satellite to his painful death. Unless your foolish enough to try and use the ladder to get to him. Then you die 100% of the time as one hit will see you off the edge. Beware.
8. Krauser (Resident Evil 4)
This is one of my favourite games of all time, and Krauser is just a pretty entertaining, hilarious friend turned enemy. This battle is not especially difficult, but it is a lot of fun. The first encounter is done entirely through cut-scenes and quick time events, which at the time was very innovative, and is incredibly tense, one wrong move seeing Leon stabbed viciously to death. The dialogue between these two former friends is great and full of emotion. The second encounter sees Krauser morph into a powerful and quick mutant with a huge claw. Going toe-to-toe with Krauser at this point is great, using quick time events and doges to avoid his powerful strikes before catching him off guard and putting a few rounds into him. His attack patterns are varied and quick enough to catch you off guard many times. This is by far one of my favourite parts of this game.
7. Fyrus the Fire Demon (Twilight Princess)
I think that this game is underrated generally, the visuals are great, the music is fantastic and the dungeon design is some of the best that I have seen. Yet people seem to have a real downer on this game and I can’t understand why. Sure it doesn’t have the same charm as Ocarina or the absorbing weirdness of Majora’s Mask, but it is still a well designed and entertaining game. The dungeons are fantastic and the bosses are very well done. My favourite though is the Fire Temple boss. A huge, possessed Goron elder this boss just looks so menacing and beautiful that it really deserves a place in this list. It also has more than a whiff of a Balrog about it which for me only adds to the overall awesomeness of this boss fight.
6. Mr Patch (Banjo Tooie)
If i had to try and list my top 5 favourite video games ever, this game would almost certainly make the cut. I love it that much. Its one of the best adventure platformer games out there. The boss fights are all good, but I have chosen the fight with Mr Patch as the best of them. The witty dialogue between our heroes and a self-important, smug inflatable dinosaur is hilarious and there is something inherently fun about flying around inside a big top circus tent shooting egg grenades at a dinosaur. There is also a certain degree of satisfaction in watching the boss slowly deflating to a humorous paaarrrp noise before exploding.
5. The Bounty Hunters (Metroid Prime 3 Corruption)
This game is brilliant but, way, way too short. That being said the boss battles are beautifully designed, a visual feast and always challenging. My favourites though are the battles against your former bounty hunter allies. I absolutely love seeing the way that their Phazon corruption has altered their forms into twisted, energy charged versions of their former selves. The friends you knew are gone, time to take them out and give them peace.
4. Ganon (Ocarina of Time)
So, you have fought your way through Ganondorf’s keep, killed his minions, climbed his tower and beaten the crap out of the evil sorcerer and freed the princess. You are feeling good at this point, just starting to relax after a job well done when suddenly a huge monster erupts out of the wreckage of your enemie’s ruined castle, wielding two enormous swords and angry as hell. Oh, and he takes your sword away and traps you in a ring of fire. Great. This boss battle looks fantastic. The figure of Ganon was designed so well, he looks evil as anything and really is huge and threatening. More than that, though, is the feeling of pressure which comes along with this boss, the feeling of being suddenly put upon and attacked is very real at that point. When you finally retrieve your Master Sword and drive it into the King of Evil’s face…..priceless.
3. The Star Magician (Golden Sun 2 GBA)
In my opinion, this is one of the best RPG’s ever made, I love it so much. I may do a separate post about this game so I won’t say too much here, but suffice to say that it does so many essential RPG elements well creating an absolutely fabulous game. It was a toss up between the final boss and the Star Magician for this spot on the list. The final boss certainly feels dramatic and climatic, but I have gone for the Star Magician because it really is just so challenging. He possesses numerous attacks and spells that can wipe out most of your party’s health in one go, but he can also summon familiars to aid him. Some of these attack you with magic, others just straight up explode for huge damage; but worse than these are the healers. They can heal almost all the bosses health back in just a few turns of combat, making all your work up to that point useless and essentially restarts the combat. This means that you have to really fight tactically and oh so carefully. You need to strike the right balance between attacking the boss, killing the familiars (he can summon these many times) and not leaving yourself vulnerable to counter attack. You definitely need to have at least one party member spamming party heals every turn just to stay alive. This sounds frustrating; it isn’t. it’s very fun, and the sense of reward is proportionate to the difficulty of the task.
2. Bowser (Super Mario 64)
Earning enough stars to climb the endless staircase and confront Bowser for the last time is a hugely fun journey. It was, and remains, one of the best games ever. The level leading up to Bowser with its dramatic and tension building music is just perfect. It really creates the atmosphere of a reckoning, an evil doer about to face justice through a final confrontation. It manages to successfully impart the feeling that every action in the game so far has been leading to the pivotal moment, this final clash. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
1. Ornstein and Smough (Dark Souls)
This is probably the most intense moment in a video game that I have experienced so far. Cliche as it sounds, this boss battle really will have you on the edge of your seat as you desperately try and stay alive. Either one of the two enemies alone would be manageable, but together they are a brutal and remorseless boss fight. One huge and powerful, the other quick and deadly. Focusing your efforts on one of them while avoiding the other is the only way to go if you want to survive. You kill one of them and think “Success! One down, this is going to be easier now!” Wrong. The surviving boss pulverises the body of its former ally and absorbs its energy, mutating into a massive version of itself. It’s debatable which one is worse to face as a mega boss, but I always ended up with Smough, and it was hard. Its so nerve wracking, knowing that if you fail (chances of that are pretty good) then you will have to do the whole thing all over again. Even killing one of these foes can be health sapping. Then there is just mega Smough to deal with. Already big and powerful, he becomes only more so, and is quicker than you would expect, with a huge reach using that giant hammer of his. A tough battle then, but its hard to get anymore enjoyment out of a video game than this boss battle offers.
Honourable mention: All the bosses from Jet Force Gemini (N64) they are all just hilariously fun.