Demon’s Souls was released in 2009 and something about its design struck a deep chord within us. It was a challenging experience and recalled an era when game worlds were merciless and secrets were well hidden. This sense of nostalgia became a worldwide phenomenon when Dark Souls was released. The game would go on to sell nearly 3 million copies. It put From Software firmly in the centre of the mainstream gaming conversation, and revealed the creative genius of Hidetaka Miyazaki.
Much of the success of the Souls series is owed to this man. His unique storytelling approach is integral to these games and his talents as a developer allow his imaginative beasts to appear fully formed on the screen, often to devastating effect.
Boss encounters are some of the most exciting and fully realized moments in Souls games, but also some of the most trying. Occasionally, the level of punishment reaches absurd proportions, and we at TheGamer have assembled the 20 most infuriating bosses, drawn from all available games and their DLC. The challenge of these bosses is only matched by their lore implications, and this makes beating them all the more satisfying or, in some cases, tragic. But no matter how maddening, no boss is unbeatable, and all can be defeated with the right amount of patience, skill, and teamwork.
20 Bed Of Chaos (Dark Souls)
What better boss to start off the list? This fight is a shame, because the Bed Of Chaos is exceptionally important lore wise. This fiery monstrosity is the Witch Of Izalith, who sought to recreate the majesty of the First Flame. Instead, she created the horrifying Chaos Flame, which spewed demons into the world, destroyed Izalith, and transformed the Witch and her daughters into horrifying forms.
The Bed Of Chaos is really more of a platforming puzzle than a fight, and platforming in Souls games is far from precise. You must dodge her swinging arms and jump across gaping chasms to reach her inner sanctum, where a curious worm creature awaits its destruction. One false move can send you careening into the pits and the Bed Of Chaos's movements are heinously sporadic and unpredictable.
19 Father Gascoigne (Bloodborne)
This is where Bloodborne gets serious and it's a make or break point for newcomers to the series. Father Gascoigne is furious and deadly, and forces you to manage your inventory carefully and have lightening fast reflexes. The challenge is augmented in the second phase, where Gascoigne goes full beast mode and makes mercy a relic of the past.
Thankfully, there are some tricks that can help you get through the fight. First, you can douse him in oil then toss Molotov cocktails at him, which do a significant amount of fire damage. You can also use the music box given to you by the little girl earlier in the level. The sound of it paralyzes him, reminding him of his lost humanity of the wife he mindlessly murdered, and leaves him wide open to attacks.
18 Ancient Dragon (Dark Souls II)
Found at the very top of the Dragon Shrine, the Ancient Dragon has a fire breath attack that he uses very liberally. The massive AOE from this move leaves very little room to hide and it can obliterate you in moments. It is very difficult to dodge and requires you to run right to the edge of the ring, then run back again to deal damage to his unguarded legs.
The Ancient Dragon is a curious creature and one that may not be who he seems. It is very likely that he is a creation of Aldia, brother of King Vendrick, who did research on the secrets of life. No matter his origins, the rewards for encountering the Ancient Dragon are numerous, as you are granted a Giant’s Soul and the Ashen Mist Heart, which lets you access new areas through the memories of giants.
17 Old Monk (Demon’s Souls)
The Old Monk battle in Demon’s Souls can either be one of mediocre difficulty, or one of the toughest fights in the game, depending on your luck and Internet connectivity. The fight is wholly unique in the Souls series and pits you against other player characters. You may face a serious roadblock as a result of this, for there is no NPC that can replace the cunning of a real human being who wants nothing more than to murder you.
This human element means that no two Old Mink battles are the same. Every player has his or her own strategy and you may be poisoned, ambushed, or beaten to death with a giant club. The unpredictability of this fight makes it one of the most maddening and shows how the developers are always looking for new ways to challenge their players.
16 The Four Kings (Dark Souls)
The Abyss is one of greatest threats in the Dark Souls mythos and when you first step within it, you are greeted by the Four Kings. The Four Kings were once great men and friends of Lord Gwyn, but were reduced to subservient hollows when Darkstalker Kaathe tempted them with Lifedrain, a powerful technique that usurps victims of their humanity. Now they stalk the Abyss, and attack all who dare entreat with them.
This fight is one that assaults you from all angles and requires you to be aggressive and persistent. While the first King seems an easy mark, things become much more complicated when his compatriots arrive and, if you take too long to defeat each King, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed. Swing your sword fast and true!
15 Maneater (Demon’s Souls)
The Maneater boss fight is deceptively simple at first. You face off against a gargoyle creature that has relatively strong attacks, but nothing too frightful and seems to be going down after a few well-placed hits. But once his health goes below 80%, things take a turn for the worst, and a second Maneater appears.
This simple, yet devastating twist makes you think on a much broader level. Suddenly you have two foes to deal with, and must split your focus between them equally. Losing track of one can easily be your downfall and the Maneater fight is made even more difficult due to the narrow walkway on which it occurs. The “second boss entering the fray” mechanic was destined to become one of From Software’s favourite fallbacks, and famously reappears for the first time in the Bellfry Gargoyle fight atop the church in Dark Souls.
14 Ebrietas, Daughter Of The Cosmos (Bloodborne)
The Healing Church discovered Ebrietas, the left behind Great One, in the labyrinth beneath the city and she showed them the true power of the cosmic plane. This inspired the creation of the Choir and they have since delved deep into its mysteries, while making many frightful discoveries. Her blood was part of the church’s blood ministration program and is likely one of the sources of the beastly scourge.
This Lovecraftian horror is a hard hitter and her swinging tentacles and charge attacks will sweep you off your feet, even if you are whittling her health down from the side. To make matters worse, she also has an arsenal of arcane spells, which rain down from above and will rapidly put you underground if you don't dodge them fast enough.
13 Old King Allant (Demon’s Souls)
Old King Allant is the demonic doppelganger of the true King Allant, who gave up his kingdom to the Old One in his lust for power. This boss forces you to use all the skills you have acquired throughout you journey in Boletaria. He is fast, ruthless, and hits like a freight train. Even if you are halfway across the room he can cut you in half with his rushing strike, and has an explosion attack that will kill you in a single hit if you don’t get far enough away.
There are certain strategies you can employ to defeat the Old King. The Total Protection spell is extremely useful, as it greatly reduces damage done to the player. Long-range weapons and hit and run tactics are also highly recommended, for getting caught in Allant’s sword combos will quickly spell your end.
12 Pontiff Sulyvahn (Dark Souls III)
Pontiff Sulyvahn, one of the biggest jerks in the Dark Souls universe, is also one of the most obnoxious bosses to take down. He has two swords, one wreathed in the flame and one in dark, and he swings these relentlessly to smash through your defences. To make matters worse he summons a phantom of himself during the latter half of the fight, once again forcing you to take on two enemies at the same time.
Pontiff Sulyvahn was born in the Painted World and, upon leaving he spread misery to Anor Londo and The Boreal Valley, he overtook what remained of the royal family, named himself Pontiff, and fed Darksun Gwyndolin to Aldritch The Devourer. He is also responsible for creating the beastly outrider knights, who assault us in unexpected corners throughout our journey in Lothric.
11 Smelter Demon (Dark Souls II)
High up in the Iron Keep you will find the lair of the Smelter Demon. This monster was formed out a mass of iron that was given a soul, and was strong enough to kill Old Iron King himself.
The Smelter Demon’s attacks are crushing and the arena you face him in is tiny. As the fight goes on, his inner flames ignite to deal passive damage at close range and he imbues his sword with fire. There is some hope in the form of a summon outside the fog gate and, though Lucatiel of Mirrah doesn't put up much of a fight, she’s great for distracting the monster so you can get in a few hits. Aside from that, be sure to always dodge to the left and wear fire resistant gear!
10 Flamelurker (Demon’s Souls)
The Flamelurker exists simply to guard the way to the Dragon God and make your life miserable. He combines brutal hits with fast movements and gives you very little time to breathe between each attack. Many of his strikes are followed by explosions and these can send you flying back or break you shield guard, which will leave you wide open for more punishment. You must also be aware of his fiery footprints and the pools of lava he leaves behind when wounded.
You must be patient and persistent when fighting the Flamelurker, dodge true, and not be too greedy with your strikes. There are a few spots amongst the dragon bones where the Flamelurker can get stuck and using these will allow you to reorganize your inventory, or get in a few attacks without fear of retaliation.
9 Dancer Of The Boreal Valley (Dark Souls III)
One of the outrider knights of Pontiff Sulyvahn, this poor individual was likely a daughter of Gwynevere and was forced to serve as the Pontiff’s dancer before being sent out as a knight. The ring the Pontiff gave her transformed her into a mindless beast and fused her armor to her body. Now she guards the entrance to Lothric Castle and kills all who attempt to pass.
The Dancer’s reach and speed are her most dangerous weapons and very few attacks will consist of just one swing. Any hit she lands does a great deal of damage and, unless you can get out of range fast enough, your fate will undoubtedly be sealed. Her spinning attacks are especially dangerous and, later on in the fight, she employs magic attacks as well. Dance with her at your own peril.
8 Lud And Zallen, The King’s Pets (Darks Souls II)
Lud and Zallen are another example of a dual boss fight and are a hassle to find. They are located in the Frigid Outskirts, the final challenge area in The Crown Of The Ivory King DLC, and wait for you on the other side of a tundra where blowing winds decrease your visibility to nothing. Ice Stallions will ambush you in your journey across the tundra and you must be skilled and resilient to survive their assault.
Once you reach the boss area you will first be greeted by Lud, then Zallen. These giant sabre tooth tigers bear upon you relentlessly and Zallen gets an enraged stat boost near the end of his life. Going this fight alone is a nigh hopeless endeavour and victory is much easier to obtain with the help of a friend.
7 Ludwig The Accursed/Holy Blade (Bloodborne)
Ludwig is one of the most violent and grotesque bosses in Bloodborne. As a hunter of the Healing Church, he was drawn deep into bloodlust brought on by the hunt and transformed into a particularly hideous beast, as all members of the clergy do. He found comfort in the Moonlight Greatsword, which showed him a sliver of light amidst the blood-drenched darkness of the Hunter’s Nightmare.
The fight against Ludwig is one that requires persistent dodging and rapid attacks. His first phase gives you almost no room for error, and he charges at you with unrelenting fury. Once he draws his sword and stands upright, your strategy must evolve and you must learn to avoid his sweeping strokes and far reaching waves of moonlight.
6 Fume Knight (Dark Souls II)
The Fume Knight is lauded as the most difficult boss in Dark Souls II and this reputation is well earned. He carries two swords, a short sword for quick attacks, and a massive great sword for smashing us to dust. The Fume Knight’s strikes are wide and deadly, his health bar significant, and his shockwave attack has the power to decimate us in moments.
This formidable enemy was once known as Raime. He was a loyal servant of Vendrick before he clashed with the Royal Aegis and was deemed a traitor. He then travelled to Brume Tower in search of great strength and fell under the spell of dark spirit Nadalia. Raime became Nadalia’s champion and her power remains in the flame that wreathes his sword late in the fight.
5 Gehrman, The First Hunter (Bloodborne)
The sad story of Gehrman eclipses our entire experience of Bloodborne. He was the first hunter of the Healing Church and operated in secret to try and contain the beastly scourge. Untold blasphemies and interferences from the Great Ones would make him the master of the Hunter’s Dream and from this place hunters could embark on a nightly hunt that would never end.
Once you slay a true Great One, Gehrman offers to set you free from the dream or face him to become its new master. If you choose the latter, you are in for one of the toughest fights of your life. Gehrman is faster than any hunter ought to be and carves you to pieces with his Burial Blade. This is an epic duel that pits two master hunters against one another and only to most dedicated and tactful will prevail.
4 Black Dragon Kalameet (Dark Souls)
Kalameet is the optional boss in the Artorias Of The Abyss DLC and is one of the most intense fights the game has to offer. He can only be challenged once he has been brought down by Hawkeye Gough and is the last surviving member of the Ancient Dragons.
Kalameet does his ancestry proud. His attacks will brutalize you, his hide is thick, and his black flame is as mesmerizing as it is devastating. He has a single eye and if ensnared by it, you will receive double damage for a time. Defeating Kalameet is reward in itself, but you are also granted the Calamity Ring, a seemingly useless tool that causes you to take twice as much damage with every hit. Recommended for sadists who seek an even greater challenge.
3 Sister Friede/Father Ariandel (Dark Souls III)
Phases in Souls boss fights are almost a rule, but this encounter in the Ashes Of Ariandel DLC takes things to a whole new level. You begin by squaring off against Sister Friede alone, who up until this point had been sitting quietly in the church. Her scythe is deadly and she has a penchant for turning invisible and attacking you from behind. Once you take her down, the good Father joins the fight and uses his makeshift Lordvessel to resurrect his daughter, and bludgeon you to a fiery pulp.
Once you beat them, you wipe the sweat from your brow, certain the fight is finished. But no, Ariandel’s voice rings out once more, resurrecting Sister Friede yet again. Her scythe is now enveloped in black flame and her attacks are quicker and deal more damage than ever. Good luck!
2 King Of The Storm/Nameless King (Dark Souls III)
As soon as he flies in on his monstrous feathered steed, you know the King Of The Storm means business. All clues say this character is the firstborn son of Gwyn, the Storm God whose name was wiped from history for betraying his kind for the dragons. Such an epic re-entry into the series is something most players did not expect, for many had decided that Solaire was the titular son.
Regardless of his true identity, the King Of The Storm puts up one hell of a fight. Atop his steed he is untouchable and, once you slay the drake, he jumps off and claims the beast’s power for his own. Now the true fight begins and the Nameless King comes at you with all the fury of a hurricane. His spear is enchanted with the wind and lightning is his closest ally. Only the most resolute will survive this encounter.
1 Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough (Dark Souls)
Arguably the toughest boss fight in the whole series, Ornstein and Smough are the breaking point for many Dark Souls player, old and new alike. All previous challenges had been tough, but this fight borders on sadistic. It requires you to manage two distinctly different enemies at the same time and do so with little or no mistakes, for you’ll need every drop of Estus you have for this marathon of a fight.
Those without the ability to summon will face an uphill battle against Ornstein and Smough. Whoever is killed first is absorbed by the other and this creates a whole new boss in the process. All in all, this fight is the perfect marriage of multi-faceted lore and gameplay mechanics, and respects your abilities as a gamer. Victory is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable and reminds us why Dark Souls is one of the greatest games ever made.