Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
Boss fights are a feature of many video games, but the emphasis placed on these fights often differs from one game to the next. There can be one, final boss, or a series of the memorable large encounters. The fights can be an afterthought if poorly done, and on the flip side, they can be unforgettable if done well. The Dark Souls series is known for its iconic boss fights, and games like Shadow of the Colossus and Furi exist that are made up of nothing but boss battles. The mechanic is so strong and so timeless that nearly every game, from platformers to shooters, has boss fights in some form. These battles are one of the most enjoyable aspects of gaming, and this week, I’m sharing my favorites.
Favorite Bosses: The Burst (ugh), The Star, The Edge
Furi is a game that completely caught me off guard. I had no idea it was a thing until it was revealed to be a part of PlayStation Plus, and had it not been, I may never have gotten around to playing it. The game is boss fights from beginning to end; very, very hard boss fights. One, known as The Burst, took me four hours to complete. It’s one of the only things, in my entire life as a gamer, that has made me rage quit. After having accepted defeat, I came back the next day and finally beat that annoying boss on my third try. Truthfully, though, all Furi is like this. Some fights are harder than others, but almost every encounter will require multiple tries and tons of practice. There is no handholding, and the game challenges even the best gamers with a few near-impossible moments.
Yet, I still love Furi. Even through all the retries and all the frustration, I remember the game fondly. The story of each boss was told well prior to the fight, complimenting their interesting designs and unique fight patterns. It’s a game that places an emphasis on its enemies more than any other aspect, and everything works because of that.
Up next, the bosses from Geralt of Rivia’s final adventure...
4.) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Favorite Bosses: Imlerith, Eredin, Olgierd, Dettlaff
The Witcher 3’s defining feature is, without question, its storytelling. The attention to detail in all the quests and mechanics is incredible, as every little journey has strong characters with their own stories to tell, and choices to make about what happens to those characters. Further, during Witcher Contracts, my favorite of those quests, players are tasked with taking down something special. Whether it be a Leshen, a Griffon, or a Werewolf, the game is consistent in getting one key thing right: the buildup to the big fight. Following tracks, talking to victims, and, in some cases, talking to the monster itself all help players to get engrossed in what is happening. As I inched closer to every encounter, I had to remember to prepare. The correct sword had to be chosen, while oil had to be applied to do extra damage to a specific monster type, and potions/healing items needed to be readily available. All this preparation made the boss battles of the contracts feel just as thought out and just as important as those in the main story.
Speaking of the main story’s fights, those against the titular Wild Hunt must be mentioned. Imlerith was a tough encounter (especially on Death March), and the easier final boss fight with Eredin was visually stunning. The fights with Olgierd in Hearts of Stone and Dettlaff in Blood and Wine were also great. As to be expected, these fights were perfectly setup by CD Projekt Red.
In the third spot, a game with a gorgeous remake on the way...
3.) Shadow of the Colossus
Favorite Bosses: Literally all of them (but if I must pick, the thirteenth colossus would probably be the one)
Few remakes could create as much excitement as the one for this game has. Though there are games like Furi today, at the time Shadow of the Colossus was completely unique. The idea of filling a game with only boss fights sounds like a disaster on paper; poor pacing and repetition seem unavoidable. Yet, Shadow averted the disaster, and instead delivered an absolute classic. In many ways, it’s the precursor to some of today’s most popular games. The way in which it tells its story, and makes players feel guilty (or sympathetic, at the very least) for killing the bosses is a technique that FromSoftware has used in the Souls games and that Platinum Games has used in Nier: Automata. Yet even with multiple games being inspired by it, there is something unique about Shadow of the Colossus.
The uniqueness of the game is exactly why I’m so excited for the remake. It’s my favorite Team Ico title, but funnily enough, I haven’t played it all the way through since the PlayStation 2 days. This remake won’t only be a great opportunity for players who never had the chance to play the game, but also a chance for people who played it years ago to play it again. I can’t wait to go back and play an even better version of the game I remember so well. Thankfully, I won’t be waiting much longer.
Next up, the best superhero games of all time...
2.) The Arkham Series
Favorite Bosses: Mr. Freeze, Deathstroke, Scarecrow, Bane, Clayface, Ra’s Al Ghul, Killer Croc
Batman is one of the most iconic characters of all time, and rightfully so. With a huge catalog of extraordinary stories and a phenomenal supporting cast, it’s not too surprising that Batman’s rogue’s gallery is as good as it is. Though the foundation of the Arkham games are rock solid, it’s that same group of villains that enhanced Rocksteady’s beloved series. The boss fights against them were all an absolute blast, and when they weren’t there (looking at you, Arkham Knight), something felt missing. In all fairness, though, the other Arkham games provided more awesome boss fights than most series do.
From the back and forth with Deathstroke in Origins to the fear gas-fueled hide and seek with Scarecrow in Asylum, each game offered its fair share of great boss battles. Arkham City had the most, though, as well as the best of the best: Mr. Freeze. It’s a fight that served both characters so well, and one that every gamer (especially a Batman fan) should experience.
Finally, in the top spot, a series that has been in more of my top 5s than any other...
1.) The Metal Gear Solid Series
Favorite Bosses: Liquid Ocelot, Liquid Snake, Sniper Wolf, Solidus Snake, The Boss, Volgin, The Fear, The End, Metal Gear Rex, Sahelanthropus, Quiet, Fatman
It’s unreal how consistent the Metal Gear Solid series is when it comes to boss fights. Every game had at least one great fight, with the rest being good or okay (and none being bad). The variety of these fights is just as impressive as their consistency, too. From awesome ranged fights, like the one with Sniper Wolf, to exciting finales with The Boss and Liquid Snake, the fights are always offering something new. This shines the most in fights like the iconic moment with Psycho Mantis, and the lesser-discussed but equally awesome showdown with The End. These bosses did things that remain original today, and that nothing can really do again. Whether it was advancing the system clock so that The End dies, or messing with the memory card to bring down Psycho Mantis, there are moments in Metal Gear games that can only happen in Metal Gear games. It’s for that exact reason that the games remain timeless, and that the series remains my personal favorite.
I’d like to close this article by choosing my #1 boss, and after some time spent contemplating the possibilities, I decided on one from MGS 4: Guns of the Patriots: Liquid Ocelot. The way the fight with him pays homage to the past games is clever, and the fight itself plays so well. It’s also preceded and followed by two of the best moments in the game (maybe even the series as a whole), making it stick out as both the perfect conclusion to Guns of the Patriots, and Solid Snake’s Story. Whenever I think of boss fights, this is the one that comes to mind first. To me, that makes it worthy of the top spot.