As promised, we’re continuing our talk on boss fights with a look at some of my favorite boss fights of all time. If you haven’t guessed, we’re going to be heading into spoiler territory with this one.
When I did my tribute video to Hideo Kojima, I talked about how boss design has been one of his biggest strengths. For me, Metal Gear Solid 3 may be my favorite game of the series; in no small part due to the boss fights.
The boss fights of The Boss and The End combined all three points I talked about before: Environment, Weight and Mechanics. Starting with The End, we have the sniper fight taken to the extreme.
The End’s fight requires players to either understand sniping or sneaking around to get the drop on him. The environment was three areas to explore and hunt him down. As an added treat, you could “cheat” the fight by forwarding your system clock so that he would die of old age.
The Boss is less of a mechanical-heavy fight, and more about the emotion of the game. If there was ever the perfect example of combining story and gameplay, The Boss would be it. The fight plays out as student vs. master in one last battle.
The Boss is one of my favorite female characters in video games thanks to being completely different from anyone else. Throughout the game, you are never shown as someone on the same level as her, as she routinely kicks your ass.
For the final fight, this is where it’s time to show her how far you’ve come. This is a fight that’s about using CQC and your stealth skills to prove that you deserve the title of Big Boss. Throw in the Snake Eater theme and the gut punch reveal at the end of the game, and this is one fight I still remember today.
Instead of story focus, the Mr. Freeze fight is the perfect marriage of gameplay and environment for a boss fight. Mr. Freeze is tracking Batman through the lab thanks to his augmented suit, and the player has to take him down. The catch, and what elevates this fight, is that Mr. Freeze adapts to the player’s actions.
You can only hurt him via stealth attacks. However, each time you pull one off, he will adapt and prevent you from doing that same one again. Playing on the hardest difficulty, you need to hit him with almost every stealth take down to finish him. There are very games that have “stealth fights,” to them, and this an example of how you can elevate the mechanics into a challenging situation.
The boss fights of all the Souls games are some of the best around. For my top picks, we have two examples of challenging the player. Champion Gundyr is one of a few optional fights in the game and takes place in a strange world.
The fight begins like the tutorial battle from the start… until he loses a quarter of life. After that, Gundyr goes full-on aggressor on the player with new moves and attack patterns. What I like about this fight is the fact that this is a straight up melee fight. You won’t be able to fight him with range or spells and dodge his attacks. The melee combat in the Souls series is some of the best around, and I love it when bosses use that.
The Soul of Cinder is another fight along these lines. The first half of the fight features one of the largest number of attacks for a boss to have. Every few minutes, he will switch to another weapon and change his moveset. The remaining half of the fight is fighting him in a charged up mode. Unlike Gundyr, you are free to use all available tactics to take him down. There are no crazy abilities (unless you count his combo) or the environment getting in the way; just one final one-on-one fight.
Special mention goes to the Smough and Ornstein fight of Dark Souls for the crazy two-on-one and then one pain in the ass-on-one.
Killer 7 is one of the strangest games out there, so it stands to reason that one of the boss fights would be the most memorable. In the Cloudman stage, you have to fight the postal worker turned cult leader turned heaven smile (it completely makes sense in the game).
You only need to shoot his floating head once to win the fight. However, you are stuck in a maze of ambulances and his body provides protection from a few feet ahead. The boss fight is a deadly game of hide and seek, as you try and get the right angle to get the one shot needed. Getting that one shot can take you a few seconds to minutes of navigating the maze.
This is a good example of a streamlined fight that makes good use of the environment for both the player and the enemy.
Of course for a list of great boss fights we have to include Shadow of the Colossus. Not many games are all about boss fights, but STC makes it work with some of the most memorable fights around.
The setting of the mysterious land plays into the boss fights, as you never really know their back-story or situation. This is one of the few games that you can describe the bosses as “majestic,” as you literally climb all over them to take them out.
Despite the minimalist story, the situation and the fights just pull you from beginning to end.
Skill-based boss fights can be some of the most challenging involved; see the Dark Souls 3 example further up. The Vergil fight is one of the rare instances in the Devil May cry series that has you facing an enemy similar in power. For this list, my pick would be the final fight at the end of the game.
Vergil has a similar moveset as the player, but more importantly, he can use devil trigger. Devil trigger is the ability to regenerate health and do more damage. Just like the player, Vergil’s DT will recover multiple times during the fight; changing the pace of the fight multiple times. The fact that he’s so similar to the player’s abilities is what makes this stand out.
This is not a fight about learning exploits, but mastering the game’s combat. For players who are good enough to play on the highest difficulties, this is a massive challenge and a nail-biting fight.
Finally, we have one of the most memorable/disturbing fights in game history. Earthbound is an amazing game and something that we could spend an entire post on. The game’s cheery atmosphere and JRPG combat hides a very dark core. And at that core we have Giygas: The manifestation of evil.
The battle against him occurs in one of the freakiest settings in a video game, with the game’s designer supposedly being inspired from a horror movie rape scene. The battle scene features and incomprehensible image that is constantly pulsating and changing.
Giygas attacks with moves that cannot be described by the game while saying weird things to you. The only way to finish him off is to end the fight by praying for help from all your friends you met.
Earthbound was a great example of a game that did a lot with its basic gameplay and graphics, and the Giygas fight is proof of that. While we see many games that subvert genres today — such as Undertale — Earthbound was one of the first to get freaky.
I hope you enjoyed this list of some of my favorite boss fights of all time. If you want to get in on the fun of remembering these crazy fights, be sure to leave a comment below.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to the Game-Wisdom Patreon campaign. Your donations can help to keep the site going and allow me to produce more great content. Follow me on Twitter @GWBycer, and you can find daily video content on the Game-Wisdom YouTube channel.