Every good role-playing game worth its salt has at least one memorable boss fight, and Final Fantasy series installments are no exception. But while the Japanese RPG franchise is known for its high-end graphics, forward-thinking battle systems, and charismatic Big Bads, the boss fights in each game have run the gamut from pushover to impossible.
Unfortunately, many of Final Fantasy’s final bosses fall on the weak end of the spectrum. That’s frustrating in and of itself, simply because these are the baddies we’ve been drawn into hating throughout the course of the game. But the grinding nature of JRPGs allows players to over-prepare for their final boss battles, sometimes even taking on super bosses before facing down the primary antagonist, and so a fight that might have been a challenge many levels ago is neutralized to a few hacks and slashes.
Final Fantasy also features many optional and mid-bosses capable of absolutely destroying a party that isn’t fully prepared. Many of these require players to put hours into seemingly unrelated quest lines in order to unlock the one accessory or spell that will help them defeat the challenging boss — I’m looking at you, Emerald Weapon.
Look, I’m not suggesting that Final Fantasy should make its final boss fights nearly impossible to win, nor am I saying that mid-bosses should be toned down for rookie players. An individual boss’ difficulty comes down to a number of factors, including player level and story significance. Still, a little consistency would be nice.
Here are 10 inexplicably difficult boss fights from the Final Fantasy series, and 10 more that should have been a lot harder.
15 Impossible: Atomos (Final Fantasy V)
You can explain away Atomos’ difficulty by saying that he's the last line of defense for Castle Exdeath's protective barrier, but that doesn’t make this boss fight any less ridiculous. There are more than a few ways to cheese your way through this fight, including taking advantage of Atomos’ lack of Sleep immunity. Still, the Barrier Tower guardian’s penchant for Comet attacks that can KO the entire party leaves little room for error, and unprepared players will likely fail a few times before they figure out the AI’s plan. See, you have to fight him with one party member down in order to avoid his Comet attacks. Once again, this mechanic is not intuitive to any player, much less a rookie. Kind of makes you wonder if someone had the right idea they said Final Fantasy V was too hard for North American gamers.
14 Easy: Evrae Altana (Final Fantasy X)
Depending on who you talk to, Evrae Altana is either a supremely difficult boss, or cheesecake. Square probably didn’t mean for players to toss curative spells and items at this sewer boss, but that’s what happens when you make an undead Big Bad that retains its susceptibility to white magic.
What really makes Evrae Altana an easy boss is that there are two ways to escape the fight without playing beat-em-up with a zombie. In addition to the undead exploit mentioned above, there are two locks that, when broken, will offer players an escape route in exchange for bypassing valuable loot.
Giving up a Save Sphere isn’t preferable to just KO’ing the boss the easy way, however. In fact, defeating Evrae Altana with two Phoenix Downs is so widespread that gamers actually have to ask who beat this boss “honestly.” Not I, my friend. Not I.
13 Impossible: Guard Scorpion (Final Fantasy VII)
A goofy translation error made the first boss of Final Fantasy VII nearly impossible to defeat. During the battle with the Guard Scorpion, Cloud advises Barret to “Attack while it’s [sic] tail’s up!” Active Time Battle systems being what they are, the player has the chance to input an attack before Cloud’s next message appears to tell them that the boss will “counterattack with its laser.”
Now, my thinking was that maybe the Guard Scorpion was incredibly vulnerable while in tail-up position, and so we should attack while we could to avoid whatever devastating power it was preparing to unleash upon us. A reasonable assessment, but a wrong one.
As it turns out, translators simply skipped over the crucial word, “Don’t,” in Cloud’s first message, prompting a generation of gamers to either give up on Final Fantasy VII altogether or over-level before facing the first boss.
12 Easy: MagiMaster (Final Fantasy VI)
At the top of the Tower of Fanatics sits the MagiMaster, an Ultima-casting boss that guards the valuable Soul of Thamasa item. Fortunately, this boss can be easily undone ... by a Wall Ring?!
No, I’m not kidding. A Wall Ring grants its wearer a reflective barrier that can send the MagiMaster’s magical attacks rocketing back at him. Once equipped with these accessories, all the party has to do throughout the fight is defend, and the boss will eventually KO himself with reflected magic. So long as the player has cast Reraise, the party will survive the MagiMaster’s Ultima attack, which he only unleashes once he has been defeated.
To make this fight easier, Wall Rings can be found or purchased throughout Final Fantasy VI, which means there’s really no excuse for not having them by the time you ascend the Tower of Fanatics.
11 Impossible: Bahamut Trio (Final Fantasy XIII-2)
Remember how I said that the Final Fantasy franchise has a bad habit of throwing underwhelming final bosses at the player? The Bahamut Trio battle in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the exception that proves the rule.
In this fight, Serah and Noel face off against the real Big Bad, Jet Bahamut, who is flanked by the Garnet and Amber Bahamut, on which he bestows a few Dispel-proof buffs. So long as either of those two lesser dragons is alive, Jet Bahamut cannot be targeted by any spells or attacks. After defeating his flunkies, players only have a short amount of time to damage Jet Bahamut before he returns one of them to the battlefield and becomes un-targetable again.
Combine this frustrating mechanic with Jet Bahamut’s devastating attack roster — which includes Gigaflare, Teraflare, and Exaflare — and you’ve got yourself one heck of an impossible Final Fantasy boss.
10 Easy: Gerogero (Final Fantasy VIII)
Although it's certainly surprising to learn that the president's body double is actually an undead monster, this boss fight loses all of its threat when you realize that you can kill it by healing it. Yes, just like Evrae Altana, Gerogero is an undead boss.
Also, like the Final Fantasy X boss, Gerogero can make for a tough fight if you don’t know that he is vulnerable to restoration spells. This Final Fantasy VIII baddie inflicts a number of undesirable status ailments on the party, including Silence, Slow, and Curse.
Of course, you don’t have to worry about dealing with Gerogero’s status-inflicting abilities, so long as you have a Phoenix Down in your inventory. Drop that little feather on him, and the monster that once dwelled inside the Fake President will be toast.
9 Impossible: Ozma (Final Fantasy IX)
I tried hard to not include super bosses among the impossible fights on this list, but Ozma stands out as one of the series’ most difficult fights of all time. Ozma hits Zidane’s party with a number of status-inflicting spells and powerful magic attacks, including Meteor and Doomsday. If party members will not be affected by a status ailment or magical element, Ozma will bypass the use of those spells in favor of something more effective.
Not only does this strange, spherical boss sit on a cache of devastating magic attacks, but it also may only be faced after you earn a Sky Chocobo from the Chocobo Hot and Cold minigame. And unless you’ve found all nine of the friendly enemies in Final Fantasy IX, Ozma will float just out of reach of your physical attacks. Hacking and slashing alone won’t take this Ozma down, but every bit of damage helps.
8 Easy: Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI)
The Phantom Train is unique, even by Final Fantasy standards, because it’s both a dungeon and a boss. In Final Fantasy VI, Sabin and company find themselves stuck aboard a train to the afterlife, and must fight their way to the front and defeat it before it takes them to its frightening terminus. But although the image of a sentient ghost train bearing down on you would be enough to make you wet your pants in real life, the Phantom Train poses no real threat to Sabin’s party, provided they have a spare Phoenix Down lying around.
Yes, once again a boss in Sqaure’s beloved franchise has fallen victim to the series’ exploitable undead weakness. Granted, Final Fantasy VI doesn’t have that many undead bosses, but you’d think Square would have made at least one of them resistant to the Phoenix Down trick.
7 Impossible: Judge Magisters (Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System)
Another of the Final Fantasy franchise’s infamous super bosses, the Judge Magisters stand out as one of the most difficult boss fights in the series. This fight is only found in Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System, where players face off against five bosses at once in the final level of the re-released title’s Trial Mode. Even with a maxed-out party, the Judge Magisters are a real challenge.
Not only do you have to fight these five enemies immediately after defeating Omega Mark XII, but you also have to prepare yourself to come up against some of the best AI tactics in the franchise. Judges Bergan and Gabranth attack the party while receiving buffs from Judge Zargabaath. Meanwhile, Judge Ghis casts some of the most powerful debuffs in the game, and Judge Drace keeps her allies healed up while casting powerful magic attacks on the player characters.
6 Easy: Asura (Final Fantasy IV)
Much like the MagiMaster, Asura can be defeated with one well-placed Reflect spell. This time, however, the player must cast it on the boss herself. Asura uses buffs and curative spells to keep herself healed up while she deals heavy physical damage to Cecil’s party. Casting Reflect on her allows the player to reap the benefits of Asura’s magic while they whittle away at her health.
Asura has one other crucial design flaw that makes the fight against her so easy: She only attacks in retaliation. If this boss critically injures the party, all the player has to do is stop attacking. Asura will attempt to heal herself, but the spells will be reflected onto the party, revitalizing them for the next round of combat.
5 Impossible: Yunalesca (Final Fantasy X)
Yunalesca. Her name instills fear and frustration in the hearts of gamers who fought their way to the end of Final Fantasy X to face her. Although she isn’t actually the final boss of the game, Yunalesca is certainly the most difficult storyline challenge players will face, particularly if they don’t know that she has an infuriating strategy that can quickly KO an unprepared party.
Yunalesca takes on three different forms during the fight, and the real challenge lies in the transition between her second and third incarnations. She turns Tidus’ party undead, and then uses curative magic to damage them. That’s right: this boss utilizes the same cheesy strategy players can use to defeat the easier Final Fantasy bosses. If you make the mistake of dispelling the Zombie status, you’ll be vulnerable to Yunalesca’s third form, which will insta-kill anyone who isn’t undead. Ugh.
4 Easy: Ardyn (Final Fantasy XV)
To be the ultimate evil in FFXV, and to have demanded a one-on-one with Noctis, Ardyn sure doesn't put up much of a fight. Then again, he has accomplished everything he set out to do, so maybe he doesn’t really need to kill Noctis at this juncture. Whatever the case, the Ardyn fight — much like the battle against Yu Yevon in Final Fantasy X — doesn’t feel like enough of a challenge to warrant “Final Boss” status.
Players know Ardyn is evil, if misunderstood, but all his flexing and posturing throughout Final Fantasy XV makes the showdown with him lackluster, at best. It’s virtually impossible to lose to Ardyn, and you don’t even get the satisfaction of seeing him transform into something bigger and badder. Final Fantasy XV was experimental enough without throwing an unimpressive final boss into the mix. Bad move, Square Enix.
3 Impossible: Yiazmat (Final Fantasy XII)
The monster with the highest HP in the franchise, Yiazmat takes 1-2 hours or more, even with a fully-leveled party. Unlike the Judge Magisters, this fight has a nearby Save Crystal that allows players to heal if Yiazmat plays too roughly, but attempting to save in the middle of the fight means taking the risk that the player’s target will also take time to heal up.
Not only does Yiazmat sport over 50 million hit points, but the super boss also buffs itself with stat-boosting effects and Regen. Players who stray too far from the creature may be hit with Instant Death attacks, but those who linger close are susceptible to sweeping moves that strike the entire party. Yiazmat also has a low chance of inflicting Instant Death with any physical attack it lays on you, and will double its own level with Growing Threat when its HP is low.
2 Easy: Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)
This famous boss fight has two-and-a-half stages, and not one of them is difficult. For completionists who have obtained the Knights of the Round materia, the final showdown with Sephiroth didn't live up to the hype. Did I mention that this is a boss that scales to match player performance and level?
The first form, Bizarro-Sephiroth can be defeated quickly using Ultima or a powerful summon, such as the aforementioned Knights of the Round. Next up is Safer-Sephiroth, whose attacks follow a set formation. Although its attacks can inflict problematic status effects, including Frog and Petrify, Sephiroth’s second form is cheesecake to a well-equipped party with ultimate Limit Breaks ready to go. Finally, Sephiroth assumes his final form, which has a single, lonely hit point and cannot kill Cloud.
1 Impossible: Ultimecia (Final Fantasy VIII)
This is a final boss done right. Like Sephiroth and Yunalesca above, Ultimecia forces players to endure three rounds of combat, beginning with one in which she randomly selects three of Squall’s party members to fight her. Next, Ultimecia summons her Guardian Force, which can destroy the party’s cache of spells and regularly uses one of the most powerful enemy spells in the game, Shockwave Pulsar.
Once her summon has been sufficiently pummeled, the wicked witch in the Final Fantasy VIII lineup kicks off the final round off by casting a few of the most devastating magic spells in the game: Flare, Holy, Meteor, and Ultima. She saves the party-killing Apocalypse spell for later, once her HP has been lowered. As if that weren’t enough, Ultimecia also absorbs Squall’s fallen comrades, removing them from combat for the duration of the fight. Talk about an impossible battle.