Final bosses are a bit of a lost art form in video games. It used to be that every game you played had that one final challenge that you had to overcome, that one tough bad guy that you just had to get past. Nowadays, with multiplayer-heavy games or narrative-driven games, it makes no sense to have a boss fight. A boss fight would seem overly contrived and out-of-place
Despite their more frequent absence from the video game world, we still look back on boss fights with fond remembrance. Huh, wait a second. "Looking back fondly" is not the only thing I'm doing as I recall all the boss fights I've ever survived. I'm also "shuddering in regret and horror" over some of those boss fights. The more I think about it, at least half of the boss fights I've played in video games have been absolutely soul-shattering experiences. I think I've questioned what I'm doing with my life after some of these boss fights.
So, clearly, boss fights can be either really well done or really done bad. It's a bit of a toss-up. I've known video games, great video games, that have been sorely wounded by their own horrible final boss fight. At the same time, I've also known video games that have been greatly propped up by their final boss fight, kind of like a last hurrah. Read on if you want to relive some of your best boss fight experiences...and suffer through some of your worst boss fight experiences.
30 HURT: Navarro's Quick-Time Showdown
A game like Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is all about the satisfying gameplay and thrilling story. Honestly, a boss fight should have been the last thing on this game's mind. Instead, Nathan Drake got into a strange kind of boss fight with baddie Atoq Navarro.
While controlling Nate, you had to duck behind crates for cover or else you would be instantly wiped out by a shotgun blast. And after all your cover is finally blown to smithereens, you had to bum-rush Navarro to engage in the worst kind of end fight in the history of end fights: quick-time events.
29 SAVED: One Archdemon To Rule Them All
I adore dragons, so any boss fight that includes a dragon is going to get a bump up in my opinion. In Dragon Age: Origins, you fight off against Urthemiel, an old dragon that has been poisoned by darkspawn and turned into an Archdemon.
What is so great about this boss fight is how much strategy is involved.
You actually have to consider all of your options before you try taking down the Archdemon. Who's going to be in your party? What effects is the Archdemon immune to? When you defeated the Archdemon, you felt like you deserved it.
28 HURT: Who's Hoyt?
This "boss fight" was hurt by narrative nonsense. Far Cry 3 had a really great villain. Who was that villain, you might ask? Why, it was Vaas Montenegro. He appeared on the cover of the game, he tormented Jason and his buddies on the island, and his thoughts on insanity were insane. You would think a boss fight with him would be epic.
Well, it wasn't. As it turns out, Vaas is not the boss of the game; this other guy who you never really spent any time with named Hoyt is the real boss of the game. We got rid of Hoyt, but there was no joy and a lot of indifference involved in this boss fight.
27 SAVED: Fighting The Planet Eater
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is a pretty regular fighting game in the series, but it is made awesome by its final fight. The premise alone sounds amazing. Albert Wesker of Resident Evil fame and Doctor Doom of Fantastic Four villainy cause a ruckus in both of their respective universes. Galactus takes notices and decides to end the world in response.
Then heroes and villains have to team up to bring the big guy down.
It sounds awesome, right? And it sure is something to see Galactus just dominate the screen when it comes time to fight him.
26 HURT: Floating Half-Life Space Baby
No one should ever complain that Half-Life holds your hand too much. When it came to that final boss fight with Nihilanth, the leading force of the Xen aliens, I had no clue how to destroy the dang thing. (It looks like a space baby, right?)
You have to destroy several crystals before tackling Nihilanth himself, crack open his skull, and hammer some rounds into his open brain. This might seem like a straightforward encounter, but this is Half-Life we're talking about here. You're under attack the whole time and have to rely on some first-person platforming skills.
25 SAVED: Getting Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! was a notoriously difficult game. But at least it was consistent in how difficult it was. The game's final boss was Mike Tyson himself. A single uppercut from that guy could send Little Mac to the floor, out for the count.
But when you eventually got the hang of how to fight Tyson (which took a lot of tries), your victory was ultimately satisfying. After beating Tyson, all you wanted to do was lie back on the floor and glory in your win.
24 HURT: Bowser's Boo-Boo
Okay, so Super Mario Sunshine all around was not the best game around, especially compared to the other Mario games. The fact that characters talked instead of just making noises as per usual was also a little...off.
The final boss fight with Bowser was underwhelming.
(Honestly, who else would the boss be in a Mario game?) You basically run around in a circle avoiding whatever Bowser throws at you. To deal damage to Bowser, Mario has to shoot himself into the air and then ground pound five times. That's it.
23 SAVED: Boss Buddies For Life
I know, I know. Ornstein and Smough from Dark Souls are not technically "final" bosses. But come on, you can't expect me to write a list about boss fights and not include some Dark Souls bosses on it.
Every boss fight in Dark Souls is a worthy challenge, but Ornstein and Smough upped the difficulty setting a notch by having to fight two bosses at the same time. When you finally managed to defeat one, the other would get a health boost and immediately go on the offensive.
22 HURT: Destroying The Borderlands
Part of being a good final boss is that the difficulty in defeating it is raised. An easy final boss is an affront to nature. That's more or less what we got with The Destroyer from the first Borderlands game.
Borderlands was otherwise a delightful cooperative experience. But the final boss, inappropriately called "The Destroyer," was sinfully easy to destroy. It was even more embarrassing if you had some buddies along with you to take it down. I'm telling you, the fight lasted ten minutes tops.
21 SAVE: Smashing The Master Hand
Some might say that Super Smash Bros. has no boss fight, but I think they're forgetting the fourth-wall-breaking battle with the Master Hand. A giant gloved hand will appear as the final opponent in the single-player mode that Super Smash Bros. offers.
Not only is the Master Hand visually appealing as a boss, the fight the Master Hand puts up makes it a worthy foe. And seriously, who doesn't enjoy pitting their teeny-tiny character model against a giant floating hand?
20 HURT: Arkham Tank Simulator
I'll be honest with you, I was initially excited about being able to use the Batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight. But when I got the game in my hands and saw how many times I had to use the Batmobile when the controls were kind of clunky, my excitement faded away into dust.
Imagine my dismay when I found out that part of the boss fight involved using the Batmobile. You have to chase an Excavator through some underground tunnels with the Batmobile, and if you weren't exactly proficient at using the Batmobile, you were more or less (kind of) totally and royally screwed.
19 SAVED: The Master Fallout Experience
Fallout was already a phenomenal game all on its lonesome. Throw in an awesome boss fight and you've got yourself a game-of-the-year kind of game. The boss in Fallout is a former human turned into a mutated brain-creature that exists only to "unify" humans by making them super mutants.
As the Vault Dweller, you have to go up against his might with only your wits and your SPECIAL abilities at your disposal. What's satisfying about this boss is that once you deal with him, you can see the effects of your decisions later on.
18 HURT: A Bed Of Misery
I figure it's only fair that if I hype up one Dark Souls boss, I have to bash on another. Any Dark Souls fan will remember the nightmare that was the Bed of Chaos boss. It's almost universally agreed within the fandom that it's the worst Dark Souls boss period.
More of an environment than a boss, the Bed of Chaos was annoying for how frequently you had to run around (and through) it in order to wound it. The battle was more a pitched frenzy of running away and then darting in for one quick jab. (Which is kind of every Dark Souls battle now that I think about it.)
17 SAVED: Ganon Works It
Despite being an older game, Link's final battle with Ganon in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time stands the test of time (in more ways than one) in terms of how engaging a boss battle can be. That final fight kept you on your toes, which is rare from boss fights of the olden days.
Old boss fights could sometimes be pretty formulaic, where all you had to do was perfect your button timing. Ocarina of Time gave Link's boss fight an extra bit of pizzazz that kept us glued to our screens.
16 HURT: Climbing Up The Boss
Shadow of the Colossus is a gem of a game. It's the one game I'll recommend to people that they have not heard of, which is a downright shame since it is so good. That final boss fight though. It's not pleasant, I'll tell you that.
Most of the fights in Shadow of the Colossus involve Wander, the protagonist, climbing up these behemoths and stabbing them in their weak spot. The last boss, Malus, is this giant edifice more than a monster. He shoots laser blasts at you that you don't get time to recover from, and he's a platforming nightmare.
15 SAVED: The Final Final Fantasy Boss
I might catch some flak for this, but I think that Kefka is the best Final Fantasy boss that the series has to offer. Seriously, think about it. First of all, think about how creepy his laugh is. There should be a rule that all bosses should have creepy laughs.
Secondly, he looks like a clown! I almost didn't finish Final Fantasy VI because of how much he creeped me out. I'm glad I did see it through, because setting up for that final fight was absolutely exhilarating.
14 HURT: When Stealth Is No Longer An Option
Despite other complaints about the game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution had a great stealth mechanic. It took some getting used to for me at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. Stealth was my jam. And then the game punished me for it with the final boss fight!
There is practically no way to stealth the fight with Lawrence Barrett.
I ended up taking too long to defeat him and got a fairly bad ending. I very nearly broke my controller in frustration.
13 SAVED: The Count Is In
No boss fight list would be complete without Dracula. The big bad of the Castlevania series makes for some great battles. You have to make sure you've got all the right weapons assembled for the fight, and the precision with which you have to approach the fight is dizzying at times.
The challenge is there, but it's not impossible.
That's what makes for a good boss fight: balance between toughness and ease. And Dracula's boss fights always toe the line.
12 HURT: The Doom Boss
I adore Doom, so it hurts me to say that the final boss fight in Doom II was disappointing. The final boss in Doom II was the Icon of Sin. It was, in essence, a giant head that remained stationary. You had to time some rocket launcher shots at it when its weak spot was exposed.
For a game that had previously been all about speed, having a non-moving boss was a major letdown. I do not want to play a Doom game where my enemies move less than I do.
11 SAVED: Of Course He's The Final Boss
Id Software may have dropped the ball with Doom II's final boss, but they definitely did a great job with Wolfenstein 3D's final boss. In a game where you shoot up WWII bad guys, it's only logical to have the WWII enemy be your final boss. However, we did not just get a regular one. We got Mecha-him.
Moving quickly and taking cover is vital in this final fight with him. He can deal a ton of damage in one quick spray of bullets that can reduce your health to nothing if you're not paying attention.
10 HURT: So This Is A Reaper?
Mass Effect 2's boss encounter masks itself as a "good" fight pretty well. Leading up to the boss, Commander Shepard and his team go on this mission where not all of your team members will make it. (That is, unless you perfected the art of keeping everyone alive.)
The hype of that run tries, but fails, to disguise how unsatisfying it is to shoot at the Human Reaper when you do finally reach it. I'm willing to overlook this particular boss fight's shortcomings as long as Garrus survived that harrowing mission beforehand.
9 SAVED: The Metroid Menace
If your villain is going to share the same name as the game's title, then the villain better be good. Luckily for Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime is a great villain to have for a boss fight.
One of the great things about the fight with Metroid Prime is how you get two fights for the price of one. First Samus has to deal with he Exoskeleton Form, and then she has to deal with the Core form. There are varying tactics to use for each form, which definitely makes the fight more interesting.
8 HURT: Not Another Hive Mind
Dead Space was a fantastic game. But its final boss was so disappointing. A large Hive Mind of a Necromorph appears in front of Isaac, and you have to shoot the glowing, yellow sacs that are clearly the weak points.
It's at this moment where you deeply regret not purchasing the Pulse Rifle if you did not go out of your way to get it and upgrade it. Why, you might ask? Because the Pulse Rifle's rate of fire is the only thing that can get this boss fight over with quickly.
7 SAVED: Tyrannizing The Residence
Your heart has been held in suspense the entire time you've been playing Resident Evil. Matters are made worse/better when the Tyrant appears. At first you think Wesker is going to unleash the Tyrant on you and succeed, but then the Tyrant turns the tables on Wesker and demolishes him.
However, you're then left running and shooting at this massive monster. Here's hoping you have some allies alongside you to help you out. And copious amounts of First Aid Spray. It's awesome.
6 HURT: The Game That Punched The Boulder
Speaking of Resident Evil bosses, if the Tyrant was a good one, Albert Wesker himself was a terrible one. Resident Evil 5 turned him into this strange character out of The Matrix. He absorbs dozens of bullets, rockets, and blows, but still he keeps coming.
And then, for some inane reason, the final fight takes place in the middle of an active volcano. The gameplay during the fight wasn't totally unfair, but it definitely made the story suffer.
5 SAVED: The Flower From Below
Undertale was an indie game darling that seemed to show up out of nowhere. It was full of boss battles that were endearing and hilarious. The final fight with Flowey the Flower took things to a whole other level. A weird creature appeared on our screen and shocked us with his total domination over our lives and our save files.
I won't spoil how you end up beating Flowey, but it sure tugs at the heartstrings. If you haven't played Undertale, you are definitely missing out.
4 HURT: Revenge Done Wrong
Ezio Auditore's story in Assassin's Creed 2 was the best in the series because of how personal it was. Players understood Ezio's motivation to eradicate the people who had done away with his father and brothers.
When he gets to the top of group of people responsible, the height of his revenge, the boss fight fails to impress. Rodrigo Borgia is the man who hurt Ezio to the core, but the showdown we all wanted failed to come across in the stealth-oriented gameplay.
3 SAVED: Robotnik's Mech Suit
In Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Sonic faces off against Dr. Robotnik and his vehicles once again. People looking at the gameplay might not understand the appeal of the final boss fight, but if you try it once for yourself, you'll understand the appeal. (Sonic used to be more than a meme, you know.)
You had to time those body bops perfectly.
Despite have a giant mecha-suit complete with rockets, Robotnik was no match for a little blue hedgehog bashing his spinning body against his armor.
2 HURT: Frank Fontaine's Failure
Other than his boss fight itself, Frank Fontaine was a wonderful addition to Bioshock. He has an incredible back story, a plot twist entrance onto the scene, and a steady build-up of hype beforehand.
But the fight itself was disappointing.
First of all, fighting Fontaine was uninspired compared to the rest of the game. Second of all, your character doesn't end up taking down Fontaine. Little Sisters crawl out from some vents and jabbity-jab their needles into him.
1 SAVED: Bowser Once Again
Bowser makes a comeback! His boss fight in Super Mario Sunshine was a disappointment I mentioned earlier on this list, but now he's back with a win from the boss fight in Super Mario 64.
I don't know what it is, but there's something immensely satisfying about grabbing Bowser by the tail and whirling him around a few times until he lands on a bomb. The bomb would then explode and toss Bowser back into the fight. Bowser has been an awesome boss to have in a fight over the years. I tip my hat to you, sir!