Bosses are one of those staple things in games that exist from the very beginning. The big bad that is often the final challenge that stops your progress on your journey, bosses are some of the most iconic moments in gaming.
Considering how classic they are, there are quite a few to choose from, new and old. Sometimes the best battles are against someone who has a deep connection to the protagonist, or maybe you’re the only person who can take them down. Sometimes it can be even more abstract, but the most important thing is how memorable they are.
10 God of War (2018) – Baldur
God of War has always been a well-known series, the eponymous god of war Kratos is just a pure killing machine. However, in the latest game, he is a softer figure, someone who wants to put all that bloodshed behind him. But he could never drop something like that so easily.
In the land of Norse mythology, Kratos meets the strange Baldur, who becomes something of an unkillable rival, until the very end, when he finally feels pain again and may die. The fight is bombastic, throwing you across the stage as Baldur and Freya try to take you down. It is almost a reflection of Kratos’ own past and as such gives Baldur a more merciful death than he would have been in the past.
9 Nier: Automata – Final Boss Fever
Nier Automata is a much-loved game, with characters telling you they’re logical beings of perfect precision that break down into something more… human. It is a world so separate from ours, but with constant parallels. And in the midst of all that emotional turmoil is a beautiful combat system that makes every battle a joy.
It can almost make you feel guilty for reveling in such a great system against so many enemies who just want to exist, and Automata’s ending has you fighting so many. Ko-Shi and Ro-shi with two characters, the Red Girls, and then the final showdown where you have to choose a side. Even if the combat is great, you won’t come out unscathed, at least emotionally.
8 Undertale – Omega Flowey
There is nothing to match the impact Undertale had on internet discourse. Although it takes a lot from older games like Earthbound, and many other games have been around with surreal reputations, Undertale almost feels like a game with prescient knowledge of how it would play.
For example, Flowey. That happy but slightly pushy tutorial guide that seems a bit insane. They’re also likely the first final boss most players will encounter, just as something…quite different. Flowey doesn’t look like Flowey when you fight them, but rather an unholy chimera of Photoshop editing. It’s quite a twist and one not easily forgotten.
7 Assassin’s Creed 2 – The Pope
Much can be said about the direction of Assassin’s Creed, but many fans herald Assassin’s Creed 2 as the high point of the series: a massive structure built on a limited foundation of the original.
With a story that spans nearly 40 years, players truly care about Ezio and his quest for revenge. His own motivations twist and turn back to something more altruistic at the end. Because in the end, he doesn’t even want to kill this man who ruined him, the literal Pope. Instead, he offers her a simple fist fight, a way of showing her that everyone is equal on earth in crude terms, that the Pope is not a being above others.
Metal Gear is a series that has never strictly followed the rules. It’s always been an amazing meta-narrative with a constant awareness of its surroundings, and its bosses are no exception, ranging from more typical heavily themed bosses to bosses that can literally age to death.
However, Metal Gear Rising is a character action game, and despite its stealth roots, it essentially feels like Metal Gear. And Senator Armstrong is a strong villain, literally and figuratively. That final showdown in Rising where he just kicks you while he rants like a maniac as you tear each other apart is so damn adrenaline pumping.
5 Dark Souls – Gwyn
Dark Souls and much of FromSoftware’s work has worlds that require some reading. First, they can seem like a very typical dark fantasy, and then lead to a more depressing world. However, Dark Souls, at its core, is a message of hope, of constant perseverance. That this gloomy world can become a better place.
Gwyn is heralded as a near-godlike being, someone who banished darkness from the world and ushered in an age of civilization. But that light continued to wane, and the world continued to crawl toward an inevitable future with no plans. And when you finally meet Gwyn, it’s sad. Someone so afraid of the dark that they dragged the entire world down with them.
4 Majora’s Mask – Majora
People constantly try to put a harder timeline on The Legend of Zelda series than it actually exists, but as tradition dictates, there is definitely a cyclical nature to the world. Almost every game ends with a battle against Ganon in some form, be it his Ganondorf Gerudo form or as a great beast.
Majora’s Mask breaks this tradition. Not Zelda, not Ganondorf, not even Hyrule. Set in the land of Termina with the imminent end of the planet looming high, there is Majora. Skull Kid is just a victim. The actual multi-stage fight against Majora is surreal, creepy, and unlike anything Zelda has done before and since.
3 Devil May Cry 3 – Virgil
Originally spawned as a prototype for Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry is a series firmly its own now featuring some of gaming’s most beloved characters, from pizza-loving, demon-slayer Dante, to his brother suffering from Down syndrome. main character Vergil. Because what is a game without a good rival?
Vergil has been around since the beginning of DMC, but DMC3 functioned as a kind of origin story for all of them, which is why you fight him multiple times throughout the game. However, in the end, for purely insignificant reasons, Vergil wants to fight again to prove that he is stronger. Having seen them both grow up in the game, it’s so tempting to fight a boss that he’s just as powerful as you are.
two Shadow of the Colossus – Malus
Shadow of the Colossus is one of those incredibly interesting games that has inspired so many other games, but very few have recreated the same emotional moments. Many games have had mounts, open fields, and gigantic enemies that you can climb on. But few have made you feel so bad about it.
On your journey to save someone else, you hunt down the 16 colossi of the valley, considering their lives less important than the one you’re saving. The final colossus, Malus, is not an epic showdown. At this point, you accept that you have committed a great sin, and the journey to climb them and finish them off gives you plenty of time to contemplate that.
1 Final Fantasy 7 – Sefirot
Of the wide range of Final Fantasy games out there, there are so many great villains. Some may be stronger than others, or may not have such a clear antagonist, but they all have something to unite against. However, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7 is special, it is ingrained in the minds of gamers all over the world.
FF7 felt like a revolution for game storytelling at the time, and Sephiroth’s murder of Aerith was a cultural moment. He is the villain in Cloud’s eyes, but he is just another victim of a corporation’s brutal militarization. The penultimate battle against the one-winged angel is legendary, but the final cinematic showdown on Cloud’s own head is just as memorable, with him finally overcoming Sephiroth’s hold on him.
NEXT: Enemies That Gave Us More Trouble Than The Boss
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