Boss fights are as much a part of video games as anything else. Their lineage traces back to the earliest video games in existence. Players above all else love accomplishment. This isn't something that's exclusive to players, however. This is a human trait that seems to be embedded deep within our DNA. Humans love the satisfaction of accomplishing a task or challenge. The differences come when you start to explore the difficulty of something in relation to someone's willingness to overcome said difficult. Humans are alike in a lot of ways, but each person has a distinct set of preferences and traits that make them unique. Some people love taking on harder and harder challenges because they feel it brings greater joy upon completion. Others feel that there is a certain point where something becomes too difficult and all enjoyment is lost. For the sake of this argument, we'll be talking about those who are video game masochists and find pleasure in torturing themselves with insanely difficult bosses.
Difficulty in games has been a topic of discussion as the years have gone on. Some people feel as though video games have become too easy because they cater to a broader and more general audience now. Others feel that the niche of difficult games is being taken care of with the likes of Dark Souls and Nioh. Either way, we've seen plenty of difficult bosses over the years that make you want to throw your controller across the room. Let's take a look at just 25 of the most rage inducing bosses in video game history.
25 Zeus (God Of War 2)
When God of War 2 released, it was evident that this sequel was taking the series to new heights. Though we've seen numerous games afterward and are eagerly anticipating a new entry in 2018, there hasn't been a single boss harder in the series than Zeus. Contextually there's a reason he is so difficult for Kratos to defeat. Zeus is the god of all gods and arguably the most powerful of his kind. I don't even want to discuss how annoying his healing mechanic is during the fight. The great part about the fight with Zeus is that the player is rewarded for accomplishing such a tremendous challenge. God of War is known for over the top cutscenes, but man is that Zeus post-fight cutscene so extremely satisfying.
24 Ender Dragon (Minecraft)
Oh, you're upset that I have a boss of a kid-friendly game so high? The Ender Dragon is a boss that is difficult in terms of the actual fight, but even more difficult when you take into account how hard it is to make it to the fight in the first place. I understand Minecraft has mods and plenty of tools in place to make this an afterthought, but let's take into account the millions of players who experience the vanilla version of the game. Mojang implemented the Ender Dragon in such a way where he feels like an endgame boss. Players must gather numerous supplies in order to find the nether portal, fix it, and also have the necessary equipment to defeat the beast. The next time someone tells you that Minecraft is for kids, hand them the controller during the Ender Dragon fight and see them squirm.
23 Virgil (Devil May Cry 3)
Devil May Cry 3 is often lauded for having some of the most iconic, memorable, and difficult fights in the entire series. It seems that the one fight that accomplishes all of these feats to their most extreme is when Dante is faced with defeated his brother, Virgil. Considering how powerful Dante is you kind of anticipate this being an all-out brawl that will test your skills and put them into maximum overdrive. Completed this fight alone should be rewarded with a platinum trophy or a hefty amount of gamerscore. A common theme you'll probably see throughout this list is the ability to regenerate. When a boss can essentially reset the battle at the same time in which the player is being drained of health and resources, it's going to result in a rage quit or two.
22 M Bison (Street Fighter 2)
I'm going to be real with you. Fighting games are a genre that's never clicked with me. On a personal level, every single boss in a fighting game makes me want to rage quit. Interestingly enough that seems to become a staple of fighting games over the years. This trend amongst a hundred others owes its existence to Street Fighter 2. It was a game that not only sparked a competitive and hardcore fanbase that's as healthy now as it was then, but showed people that difficulty in games was great. M Bison was the man responsible for broken arcade cabinets and shattered screens. His move set was uniquely erratic and hard to predict. Over the years this fight has fallen in terms of tough boss fights, but at the time of release M Bison in Street Fighter 2 stood in a league all his own.
21 Smelter Demon (Dark Souls 2)
Now, Dark Souls 2 is considered the least beloved game out of the entire franchise, but that doesn't mean it didn't have any super difficult boss fights. The difficulty is the soul of Dark Souls. It's a series who found its niche and leaned into it harder than anyone ever has. Dark Souls 2 catches a ton of flak for not having as many iconic moments as the other games, and a lot of this has to do with Miyazaki not directing the game. The Smelter Dragon is a boss who shares aesthetic similarities with the Balrog and is just as intimidating. He comes equipped with a mid-fight upgrade and a heartbreaking combo attack. He's an optional boss, which is great, and we strongly suggest that you take the option to completely avoid him at all costs.
20 Shao Khan (Mortal Kombat 2)
We've already discussed how difficult M Bison was for people when Street Fighter 2 released. Shao Khan by all accounts was part two. He was equally as frustrating and difficult and reaffirmed fans of fighting games that these games will take some skill to complete. The most impressive thing about Shao Khan is that unlike M Bison his boss fight has remained difficult and that hasn't been lost in this modern era of fighting games. It's funny that the developers knew how difficult he was and made it a point for Shao Khan to taunt players during the fight. He comes equipped with a bevy of annoying abilities, the worst of these being his charge attack. This fight would rank higher on the list if players hadn't figured out a way to cheese the fight and remove all difficulty.
19 General Raam (Gears Of War)
General Raam is on this list for several reasons. Shooters aren't known for having particularly interesting much less challenging boss battles. It seems like a tough task to create a challenge for someone with all the firepower imaginable. General Raam not only provided a huge difficulty spike, he fundamentally changed the way you played Gears of War. This is what was most frustrating about this fight. During the entire game, players learn that using cover while continuously pushing forward will help you accomplish your goals. During the fight with General Raam, players must use cover carefully while at the same time tactically separating yourself with distance. General Raam's combination of a minigun and Kryll flock were nothing short of painful.
18 Kai Leng (Mass Effect 3)
Kai Leng seems like he was lifted out of Hideo Kojima's mind and transplanted into the world of Mass Effect. For the sake of this article, we're going to specifically talk about the last stage of the fight with Kai Leng. When developers make a boss fight in an area with a little cover you kind of have a feeling that you're in for a rough time. Kai Leng's final fight with Shepard is difficult for several reasons. First off, he's a ninja that moves remarkably fast and can be quite annoying to keep up with. Next, he's not alone in this fight and will be constantly aided by robots throughout the fight. The hardest part, however, is fighting a boss like Kai Leng in an area with no cover.
17 Flamelurker (Demon's Souls)
Get ready. As you've noticed, we're starting to enter the part of the article where numerous Souls bosses will be mentioned. There's a reason Dark Souls carries the prestige and respect it does. It takes boss fights and makes them challenging, rewarding, and interesting. The Flamelurker is a boss that hails from the early days of Souls games. The Flamelurker is the DNA that spawned many of the bosses throughout the Souls series. His major tactic revolves around combat claustrophobia. It's when an enemy stays on top of the player at all times and doesn't allow them to recover, strategize, let alone breath. He also comes packed with his share of fire damage. The Flamelurker has a huge weakness to magic, however, which lowers his difficult but we mustn't forget what he did for the future of FromSoftware.
16 Gill (Street Fighter 3)
Let's talk about another boss fight from an iconic video game. This fight comes from Street Fighter as well, but this time we're talking about Gill in Street Fighter 3. Gill isn't much different from the M Bison or Shao Khan fights (on the surface), but he did something that made him even worse. Once players finally drained his health bar and began cheering in victory, they would pan over back to the screen to see that Gill had recovered his health completely. I'm not sure if this was the first time this specific boss fight mechanic was used, but it may have been the most effective it ever was. This is the real beauty of video games before the internet. Not a single person knew this was going to happen, so the effect it had on angry players was multiplied tenfold.
15 Dracula (Castlevania 3)
This list would feel drastically incomplete if we didn't include a boss from the Castlevania series. Luckily for you, I'm not Konami, and I actually care about preserving the legacy of one of the most important and influential series of all-time. Dracula is a boss that I would deem subtly frustrating. On the surface, he's a three stage boss that can be beaten with a little practice and patience. In practice, however, he proves to be a boss fight that's as difficult to complete as it is to start. The level leading to Dracula is not easy to let alone the fact that if you die you start back at the beginning of the level. Did we mention that the same exact thing happens if you die at any point in the fight against Dracula? Oh boy, is it frustrating.
14 Manus, Father Of The Abyss (Dark Souls)
Now we're going to be talking about Manus, otherwise known as Flamelurker Part 2. In many ways, Manus is simply a clone of Flamelurker from Demon's Souls, but accompanied by some hefty upgrades and tweaks. Manus doesn't have the same weaknesses that plagued Flamelurker in terms of difficulty. I should also mention that you fight Manus in a very tiny area. He's a large boss so being able to create room or dodge can become a tedious endeavor on its own. Luckily he's a DLC boss which means he only needs to be defeated if you want more Dark Souls. I love context, and it's great to see FromSoftware making the ruler and creator of pure evil and darkness known as The Abyss translate that through making players lose hope.
13 Flemeth (Dragon Age: Origins)
We've already covered a couple of optional bosses in video games and Dragon Age: Origins features one that is reserved for the bold. Flemeth, Morrigan's mother, is a frail old woman who knows magic. Those facts alone should let you know that she'll be the toughest thing you'll ever encounter and have you begging for a secondary save. Flemeth is a shapeshifter, a dragon shapeshifter. The great thing about facing dragons in boss fights is they normally have tons of health, do tons of damage, and are really good at the area of effect attacks. Wait, did I say great? What I really meant to say is awful. Fighting dragons in video games seem awesome, but most of the time they leave you with an empty heart and an aching fist.
12 Ultimate Alma (Ninja Gaiden Sigma)
I was contemplating calling the entire Ninja Gaiden series a boss and listing it in this same position. Ninja Gaiden is a series, like Dark Souls, that prides itself on difficulty. Sometimes it feels like their main priority is being difficult above all else. In Ninja Gaiden Sigma players are faced with a task that most would consider borderline impossible. Imagine being a ninja with extreme skills and abilities, and yet you come across an enemy that wipes the floor with you. Ultimate Alma is a boss created with the soul intention of draining a players enthusiasm and breaking them from the inside out. Someone can make the argument that most bosses can be overcome with a little patience and strategy, but even that might not be enough to overcome Ultimate Alma.
11 Sephiroth (Kingdom Hearts)
First, we talked about Minecraft, now you're probably wondering why we're talking about Kingdom Hearts. Well, Sephiroth is a boss infamous with the challenge he brings to players in Final Fantasy. That being said, he poses an even larger challenge when players must defeat him as Sora in Kingdom Hearts. He's a boss that strikes fear in the hearts of players and can turn a jolly nostalgiac playthrough of Kingdom Hearts into a rage induced panic attack. Sephiroth is capable of knocking the player down to 1 HP with a single blow. In order to make this fight reasonable in the slightest extent of that word, players must focus their entire playthrough on building up HP for this specific fight. Not only does this detract from the overall experience, it doesn't even guarantee you stand a chance against him.
10 Soul Of Cinder (Dark Souls 3)
Soul of Cinder, much like Gwyn in Dark Souls, is the sum of your entire arduous journey. He alone encompasses everything you hate in this world. He's difficult, yes. The thing that sets Soul of Cinder apart is his unrelenting poise matched with an incredible score. Hard boss fights are those that have levels. They're the ones that evolve, creating a true sense of desperation and failure. He bares a striking resemblance to the main character on the cover of Dark Souls. Soul of Cinder also gains the power of Gwyn in the second stage of the fight and shifts the entire fight. Difficult boss fights are as much about mechanics as they are about presence. Soul of Cinder was a frustratingly fantastic way to end Dark Souls 3, no matter how many times I unplugged my console.
9 Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
We've talked about Kai Leng, the most Metal Gear boss that isn't actually in Metal Gear. Now let's talk about the most feared and iconic boss fight in the entirety of the series. Psycho Mantis is considered one of the most memorable boss fights of all-time and contained a mechanic so brilliantly executed. Let's start by stating that this was before the internet landscape we all know now. This was so special because of the limited knowledge and resources people had at their fingertips. Psycho Mantis was able to predict your every move and avoided almost all the damage you tried to dish out. That was until you figured out by putting your controller in the second port, making his mind-reading useless. Yes, it makes the boss fight easier, but the path to figuring that out is paved through the world's largest salt lake.
8 Ludwig The Accursed (Bloodborne)
Developers are usually really good at easing players into a world of difficulty. It's strange when a game's first boss in it's DLC is harder than the final boss in the base game. FromSoftware, though known for their punishing games, has become better at aligning the progression of their game with the progression of difficulty. This also goes towards the DLC they make for their games. That's why Ludwig is such an interesting case, and his boss fight is annoyingly bothersome. Like most tough bosses he has multiple stages, but the thing that makes Ludwig stand out is how weird he is. His move set is unorthodox and hard to predict the first time you fight him. Also, during the second stage of the fight, he comes equipped with a one hit kill move. I'm glad I jumped into this DLC.
7 Ruby/Emerald Weapon (Final Fantasy VII)
Imagine taking your time in an RPG. You know, grinding away for hours so you can breeze through combat, enjoy the story, and just take in things as they come. Some players feel that this playstyle is best because it allows you to enjoy combat while at the same time not allowing you to become complacent or stuck at any point. In longer role-playing games it's important to constantly be progressing and spending some time investing in grinding seems like a logical investment and a long-term payoff. Unfortunately, Ruby/Emerald Weapon don't really care, even if you're level 99. They can completely dismantle you after the smallest of mistakes, and it can make you want to punch a hole through your wall. The number next to your party is meaningless to them.
6 Yellow-Devil (Mega Man)
Mega Man is a series that's entirely based around boss fights. It's a series that allows players to tackle a set of levels and bosses in the order they choose. Obviously, there's a specific order that makes the game easier, but the beauty of Mega Man is figuring out which path works best for you. You can make an argument for a bevy of Mega Man bosses, but the Yellow-Devil has a set of challenges, that together, create an infuriating situation. Players have to dodge his attacks while at the same time landing attacks during the minuscule windows in which he is vulnerable. His fight revolves entirely around timing. It's up to the player to perform in such a manner where perfection is the only option.
5 Lorian/Lothric (Dark Souls 3)
It was tough figuring out where to place this pair of brothers on the list. In some cases, I felt that Soul of Cinder was a more difficult boss fight, but the more I thought about it I felt this fight was clearly more rage inducing. Lorian and Lothric are brothers, so naturally, they're going to protect each other. One has magic and the other has a sword. The frustrating thing with this fight is that at the very least you're fighting three people. You begin the fight against Lorian who's accompanied by teleportation powers. Once you drain his life bar, you must then fight a resurrected Lorian with Lothric hanging on his back. The moment in which you kill one you must immediately focus on the other. If you slay Lorian and Lothric isn't killed shortly thereafter, Lorian will be resurrected with some health.
4 Fontaine (Bioshock)
Let's start off with the hardest boss in one of the most iconic video games of all-time. Not only is Fontaine part of a plot twist so crazy it took the gaming world by storm, but he ends up being more difficult than you would ever anticipate. Fontaine is utterly relentless. He will attack you over and over again, and it never feels as those there's that right moment. You need to come equipped with serious dodging skills and be ready for a fight. Some people actually criticized this boss fight with Fontaine on the grounds that it was an unnecessary difficulty spike in an already challenging game. Others felt that making something so hard pulled you out of the immersive world of Bioshock. Either way, it makes sense that a man who manipulated you the entire game would be a difficult person to overcome.
3 Ornstein & Smough (Dark Souls)
We've talked about fighting pairs of bosses in Dark Souls, but I beg you to name a more iconic boss duo. Ornstein and Smough sound like a law firm focused on personal injury and boy is that ironic. It's hard enough winning a handicap boss fight on the simple fact that it's one versus two. Dark Souls decided it would be fun to give you two bosses with opposite traits, characteristics, and move sets. Dragonslayer Ornstein is a very quick and efficient swordfighter with electrical power, whereas Executioner Smough is a lumbering mass with a powerful hammer swing. Fighting both of them at the same time can drive people clinically insane. Oh, did I mention that when you kill one of them, the other inherits the fallen bosses' power?
2 Iron Mike (Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!)
How can you play a game thousands of times over the course of 30 years and never beat the boss? Well, it's not that crazy if you realize that's the reality for a hefty amount of adults who grew up playing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! in and after 1987. The game as a series is known for giving players hints as to how their opponent will act next. Mike Tyson's character took advantage of this, and his tells were often intentionally misleading. We've talked about 3 other fighting games in which their ending boss was super difficult, but none of them get talked about as often as Iron Mike. I could easily make the joke about you having both ears still, win or lose, but what good is that if your spirit is broken for the next thirty years? Here's hoping people can get their revenge if the game ever makes its way to virtual console on Nintendo Switch.
1 Nameless King (Dark Souls 3)
Some people may be upset that a Dark Souls boss is #1, and others might be upset that it's this specific Dark Souls boss. The Nameless King follows the tradition of the series. He's an optional boss that just so happens to be the most challenging in the game. Contextually he provides a lot of intrigue in terms of lore and who he is. The Nameless King is a boss fight all about escalation and execution. The first stage of the fight isn't too difficult considering he's limited on his mount and attacks are somewhat avoidable. The second stage is where things start to become uncomfortable. He dismounts his dead mount, harnesses its power (of course), and begins a steady onslaught of despair. Those who've already beat him might disagree, but I believe that the Nameless King is the #1 boss guaranteed to make you rage quit.