Video games offer challenges in many forms, but boss fights are generally our favorite kind. These are special moments, ones that allow you to finally face the super-powerful villains who have been griefing you all along. Sometimes those villains are particularly memorable; other times, they require every ounce of skill to defeat. But such encounters almost always leave lasting impressions on those who experience them. So, what is your favorite boss fight of all time? Here are ours...
Matt Cundy: Handsome Men (Killer 7)
Just one of the many outstanding moments in Suda51’s masterpiece Killer 7, the Handsome Men boss fight is typical of the game's completely off-it’s-face attitude. The entire fight between the Killer 7 and the Handsome Men (aka Punishing Rangers) is scripted, with the outcome of each of the seven showdowns predetermined despite the player having control of each of the characters in turn, which is a complete subversion of the established rules of how things normally go down in a boss fight.
So when you play it for the first time there’s a sense something isn’t quite right, that you’re not entirely in control of what’s happening. But it transpires it doesn’t matter anyway. The 16-bit styled "Killer 7 Online" credit sequence that plays at the conclusion of the Handsome Men encounter suggests the boss fight is actually a video game itself, played against antagonist Kun Lan. Ultimately the entire boss fight is inconsequential. Because it’s just a video game. Go figure.
Henry Gilbert: Raphael the Raven (Yoshi's Island)
Ranking high on my list of best games of all time, Yoshi’s Island has an abundance of great boss battles, but the determined little dino’s battle with an oversized raven is in a class of its own. Set far above the clouds, Yoshi faces Raphael on a tiny moon that isn’t big enough for the both of them. Running around the little sphere while the gorgeous horizon spins in the background is a beautiful sight to see, but get too distracted and Ralph will catch up with you. The straightforward platforming controls meshed well with the dynamic nature of the fight, making for an unforgettable moment in Mario history.
Ryan Taljonick: Arthas (World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King)
Sephiroth? Cool. Lavos? Obviously. The Boss? Uh, hi--of course. These are all particularly memorable encounters that I can recall quite fondly, but when it comes to my absolute favorite boss fight of all time, I'm gonna have to go with Arthas in World of Warcraft's Icecrown Citadel raid. As a long-time WoW addict, I found myself drawn in by its lore. Arthas was such a fascinating character to me, and when it came time to finally face him, I was stoked. Boss fights can be immensely gratifying moments, but the adrenaline spike they typically provide increases tenfold when you're fighting the biggest badass in Azeroth with a group of 24 buddies. The mechanics of that encounter were extremely challenging at the time, and when he finally went down, my guild's Ventrilo channel erupted in cheers and applause. Best boss fight ever? Yeah, I think so.
Hollander Cooper: Gaius (Shadow of the Colossus)
None of the wizards, warlords, or monsters I've ever defeated has made me feel what the third boss in Shadow of the Colossus did. Getting to him was a hassle--requiring Wander to climb over platforms to get to his giant arena, but once I saw the colossi and began to fight him, I was blown away at what the PlayStation 2 was capable of handling. Running up his blade, which was slammed into the ground, was groundbreaking (pun intended) and exhilarating, and redefined what I thought was possible in a game. His design was absolutely awesome, too, making the fight one that I look forward to every time I replay Shadow of the Colossus.
Justin Towell: Puffy (NiGHTS into Dreams)
The Soft Museum level in Sonic Team's Saturn masterpiece, NiGHTS Into Dreams, is appropriately dubbed "The Confusion" thanks to its bouncy floors. But after the light-hearted fun in the main level, you're whisked away to that world's nightmare for this unforgettable boss fight. That's where you meet Puffy. She's an opera singer, so fat she bounces around like a Space Hopper in reduced gravity. She doesn't attack you, but she can hurt you if she clatters into you at the wrong angle. Your real opponent is the clock. You must defeat her by grabbing her spherical bulk and throwing her backwards, smashing through walls down a long curved corridor until she gets popped on the final wall. Nasty. The brilliant bounce physics, gratifyingly destructive smashes, and high-score urgency combine to produce the perfect video game boss fight. For anyone who appreciates such game design genius, it's still unsurpassed after 12 years.
Lucas Sullivan: Kaptain K. Rool (Donkey Kong Country 2)
I would go with the Giant Baby from Zombies Ate My Neighbors, but he’s more “precocious-toddler-turned-giant-mutant” than a true boss fight. That’s why I’ve settled on the hefty crocodile pirate who first kidnapped Donkey Kong. K. Rool was amazing for the sheer amount of stuff he shot at you, each with its own unclear but present danger. He’s probably one of the most grueling-but-fair bosses I ever encountered as a kid.
K. Rool’s primary attack was a barrage of spiked cannonb--excuse me, kannonballs shot from his oversized blunderbuss. These were easy to dodge at first--but the death-balls would fly with increasingly wonky patterns, eventually whirling at you in slo-mo loop-de-loops that wreak havoc on your jump timings. When he wasn’t blasting kannons your way, K. Rool fired colored clouds (which looked vaguely like trapped monkey souls) that could freeze you, slow you, or reverse your controls. Oh yeah, and he would intermittently turn invisible AND teleport around trying to hit you. You also have to fight him twice to see the true ending, and his Krocodile Kore incarnation is exponentially more difficult. What a baller.
Amber Fariss: Sander Cohen (Bioshock)
Before meeting Sander Cohen face to face, he makes you kill splicers, take a photo of their dead, lifeless corpses, and place those photos on one of the empty frames of his morbid "masterpieces." Nothing beats killing splicers to the tune of Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers; it was so over dramatic, and I loved it. You didn't even have to fight Cohen there (as I found out later)--I just immediately shot at him when he reached the top of the stairs before he could finish his grand entrance that he had been so excited about--and I ruined it for him.
When I played Bioshock for the second time, I hesitated and chose to fight him later in the game when going to his apartment in Mercury Suites after shooting at the dancing couple (I indeed "rattled their rhythm" after they told me not to). Although I hated fighting Houdini Splicers, I didn't mind fighting Cohen since he was so flamboyantly funny and twisted.
Sophia Tong: Colossi (Shadow of the Colossus)
It’s hard to pick a favorite from the Shadow of the Colossus because I am continuously impressed each time I confront one of these phenomenal moss-covered colossi. What I love most about these boss fights is that once you figure out what you need to do, you don’t have to hack and slash at it for 20 minutes to bring it down. The challenge is an intellectual one, and not so much about stamina and how much you had to level beforehand.
Shadow of the Colossus may be a game that is entirely built around boss fights, but even so, the satisfaction that you gain from figuring out what the weak spots are and driving your sword home is unlike any other game I’ve played. I feel like a hero every time I succeed, and there’s always a sense of awe and wonder when I run up to each colossi to get a closer look.
Lorenzo Veloria: Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
He may not be a full-fledged, real boss (in Ocarina of Time, at least), but Dark Link is my favorite boss--er, miniboss--encounter in any game. After the first time I beat the shadowy doppelganger, I copied my save to an empty slot just so I could go back and fight him all over again. I did so at least a dozen times.
The first time I entered the wide-open room with the ankle deep water and dead tree at the center I felt completely mystified. It looked like there was nothing in there--until I realized that Link’s shadow was missing and there was a dark figure standing at the base of the tree. Giving into curiosity and moving in for a closer look unleashes an unforgiving enemy that knows your every move. Whatever strategy you employ, the battle is intense. He might not be as difficult as his Zelda 2 self, but Dark Link in Ocarina of Time is definitely one of the funnest encounters I’ve had in a boss fight.
Brian Kim: Lavos (Chrono Trigger)
Most games have final boss fights that are pretty vanilla. Sure, some feature multiple forms or some kind of gimmick, but these are merely bland toppings thrown atop a melting ice cream sundae. The Lavos encounter in Chrono Trigger offers you so much more than your standard run of the mill boss fight thanks to its slew of different outcomes. I highly doubt that anyone who played Chrono Trigger only played through it once considering how many possible endings there were. Fighting Lavos is like trick-or-treating during Halloween: For every house you visit, you’ll likely receive a different type of treat--and for every time you face Lavos, you can get a potentially different ending. I love treats, which is why I’ll be banging on Lavos’ door every Halloween.
The biggest boss
Now that we've shared our favorite boss fights, we want to hear about yours. Drop us a note in the comments below detailing your favorite encounter, and why you find it so memorable!
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