Please go easy on me
Fighting game bosses are built from the ground up to be the most unfair, cheap duels possible. Think about it in the context of a '90s arcade: You've sunk an outrageous amount of quarters and minutes of your time into this arcade machine, fighting tooth and nail to best every AI opponent in your path. Finally, you've come face to face with the ultimate opponent; this one last enemy is all that stands between you and glorious victory. But in truth, this is the game's last and best chance to devour even more of your money. Continue? You can't give up, despite the near-impossible odds! You made it this far, didn't you?
For whatever reason, that kind of cruelty-as-a-business-model boss design stuck with the genre, even after it migrated from arcades to home consoles. And despite the fact that fighting fans have come to expect a ludicrously lopsided fight against the final enemy, there are few things more rage-inducing. Losing to a skilled human opponent is one thing; being repeatedly beaten down at the hands of a cheating computer that counters your every move is something else entirely. These are the worst offenders...
Galactus (Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3)
Capcom likes to go nuts for the bosses of the Versus series games, but they all share a common thread: any skills or strategy you've employed on the path to the final fight suddenly become useless. You know how you've been learning to combat super-powered tag teams up until now? Here's a gigantic, solitary boss who can obliterate your team in seconds. Have fun! Oh, and if your team doesn't include someone with copious projectile-spamming capabilities, just give up now.
Galactus, the cosmic, planet-eating entity from Marvel lore, is like a Greatest Hits of the unfair tactics used by his Capcom-designed predecessors. He's got the imposing size of X-Men vs Street Fighter's Apocalypse, the non-stop laser beam barrage of Marvel vs Capcom's Onslaught, and the unflinching, massively confusing attack animations of MvC2's Abyss. Every time Galactus claps his hands, one of your teammates dies--literally. And as if this fight wasn't hard enough already, Galactus makes you fight two metallic puppets for his amusement before you can even take a crack at him. After you lose for the tenth time, you won't even care that Galactus is destroying Earth because of your failure.
Akuma (Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo)
Imagine being buried alive. There you are, stuck in a coffin, totally at a loss about what you can do to save yourself. You can't move too much, or you'll run out of air and die. But you also can't stay still, because then you'll run out of air and die. That awful situation is tantamount to fighting against Akuma (aka Gouki) in his debut game. It feels like, no matter what you do, death is simply an inevitability.
Akuma is the Shotokan archetype on steroids, with precognitive Shoryukens, a get-out-of-jail-free teleport, and double air fireballs that essentially lock down anything you try to do in response. Even if you ever do manage to finally defeat Akuma, likely after 30 or more attempts, it somehow doesn't feel earned. It's more like the computer felt sorry for you, and decided to give you a pity win.
Shao Kahn (Mortal Kombat 2)
Did you know that humankind has developed an artificial intelligence that 1) Can see into the future and 2) Loathes gamers of all kinds? It's called Shao Kahn, and it has ruined the lives of arcade goers and console owners alike for decades. Fans of Mortal Kombat expect a certain level of brutality, what with all the grisly stage finishers and gory Fatalities. But not even the world's biggest S&M devotee could derive any joy from Shao Kahn's merciless beatings. The number of egos and wallets left in shambles by Shao Kahn is innumerable.
When this skull-helmeted brute isn't hurling baritone insults at you, he's smashing your cranium with a sledgehammer or shoulder-charging away huge chunks of your health--usually with the kind of reaction times that only a computer reading your button inputs could be capable of. Pretty much the only time you can attack Shao Kahn is when he's taunting you. Put another way: your only hope of beating this guy is to take advantage of how often he laughs about your lack of skill.
Azazel (Tekken 6)
When people first encountered Jinpachi Mishima, the demonic geezer at the end of Tekken 5, they complained that his moves had too much priority, he could ground-bounce juggle you from full health to dead, and that no one should be able to shoot lasers out of the mutated mouth growing from their stomach. In response, Namco Bandai made Azazel for Tekken 6--and immediately, all complaints against Jinpachi were forgiven in the face of this new terror. Hated that mutated old guy, huh? Here, have a fire-breathing crystal dragon that's as tall as the screen.
Azazel has everything that made Jinpachi such a nightmare--disgusting combo damage via his stomps, unpredictable animations, and immaculate defenses--wrapped up in a monstrosity that covers the majority of your viewing angle at any given time. Laser eye beams, full-screen armadillo rolls, a series of claw attacks that burst up from under you; Azazel is the perfect example of everything that shouldn't be present in a 3D fighter.
M. Bison (Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior)
I know, I know; Akuma makes M. Bison (aka Vega, Dictator, or "that a-hole with the Psycho powers") look like a chump by comparison. But think back (provided you were alive then) to when you first laid hands on a Street Fighter 2 arcade machine; a time when there were a mere eight playable characters and a whopping four boss fights before the end credits. In that context--the fighting game genre's infancy--M. Bison was one of the most infuriating opponents imaginable.
Your fingers were no doubt aching after the grueling battles against Balrog, Vega, and Sagat--but those three members of Shadaloo have nothing on the malevolent empire's bossman. And for those not yet accustomed to the game-breaking ways of big bads in fighting games, M. Bison's every move seems to be a giant middle finger to the player. Y'know, like an attack where he literally jumps stomps on your head whilst posing cross-armed. And Bison's Psycho Crusher can still hit when he's behind you? Jesus Effing Christ, man.
Parace L'sia (Arcana Heart 2 Sugoi!)
"She's just an elf with enormous boobs--how tough could this possibly be?" (cut to 20 seconds later) "I regret every decision I've made in life leading up to this point." That's the predestined response for any fighter who goes up against Parace L'sia, an elf who chooses to clothe herself in nothing but a cape and a tiny apron affixed to her breasts. Parace's final boss shtick is the set of four elemental orbs constantly orbiting around her. Those will be the cause of your death.
You know what's fun? Fighting an enemy who can one-hit kill you from anywhere on the screen. Within two seconds of the match starting. Parace gets a full nine meters of super gauge right off the bat, and her magic orbs (not those, you perv) have a habit of zapping you into submission no matter what you're trying to do. If you somehow manage to pop Parace into an air juggle, you better pray that she hits the ground dead--because otherwise, it'll be your nubile young body bleeding on the floor.
Gill (Street Fighter 3: Third Strike)
A lot of people think Street Fighter 4's Seth is the cheapest boss in the franchise's history. Those people are patently wrong. Gill is the godfather of infuriating final boss fights, because his abilities are a laundry list of what defines "cheap" in a fighting game. Ability to resurrect from dead to full health? Check. Special moves that deal way more damage, blocked or not, than anything in your repertoire? Check. A super that deals damage to every available pixel on the screen, while simultaneously making Gill invulnerable? You can't be serious.
Gill's three Super Arts create the strangest mindset in anyone who dare oppose him. Because of Gill's Resurrection move--which activates automatically if you knock him out when he's got a bar of super meter to spare--you actually WANT him to whittle away your health with his massively damaging Meteor Strike or Seraphic Wing supers. How messed up is that: you need Gill to constantly annihilate your life bar so you can have a slim hope of depleting his. Otherwise, your best efforts could turn Sisyphean real quick.
Alpha-152 (Dead or Alive 4)
Compared to the other bosses on this list, Alpha-152 seems like she'd be pretty tame. It's not like she's got insanely cheap projectiles in a 3D fighting game, nor is she some colossal beast that towers over your pugilist and fills up the screen. If anything, Alpha-152 just looks like a translucent, naked clone of Kasumi that was gestated in a vat of Lime Jell-O. But underestimating her abilities is a surefire path to bitter defeat.
That's because Alpha-152's movements are more erratic than a car dealership's air dancer during a windstorm. When you think she should fall, she swings up into a physically impossible twirling kick. Just as you go to throw her, she teleports behind you and cleaves off two-thirds of your life bar with one combo. And when your battered fighter inevitably takes a dirt nap at Alpha-152's feet, she has the audacity to simply say nothing. Her independently jiggling jelly breasts do all the taunting for her.
Rugal Bernstein (The King of Fighters '94)
Over the years, fighting fans have diagnosed certain games with what's known as "SNK Boss syndrome," used to describe any AI opponent whose power level is outright broken. Rugal Bernstein's existence is what led to the coining of such a term. This muscular, mustachioed gentleman is what happens when Geese Howard's cheapness scale gets cranked up to 11--which, coincidentally, is also the number of seconds you have to live after Rugal takes off his jacket.
That's because Rugal's partial disrobing indicates that he's just entered his second phase, also known as the I'm-going-to-murder-you-now form. In addition to his normal attacks that deal insane damage, Rugal starts spamming fireballs like a madman and darts about the screen, vying to get in close and crush your neck like an empty soda can. There's a reason why two of Rugal's move names contain the word "Genocide."
Eyedol (Killer Instinct)
This two-headed Cyclops (so, technically not a Cyclops, then) was the bane of many a Super Nintendo owner. That's because Eyedol has a bizarre tendency to play fairly passively, throwing out a fireball or two every so often--before suddenly going 0-to-60 with all-out aggression. If you're not prepared for this switch, you're going to be taken on a 12-hit combo ride straight to the Continue screen.
But it's not so much that Eyedol is that cheap, as fighting game bosses go. It just hurts so much more when you lose to someone who looks this stupid. After seeing bad mamma jammas like Fulgore, Glacius, and Chief Thunder elsewhere in the game, how could I possibly take a buffoon with hooves and a bulky club seriously? Why should my super badass robot be getting trounced by a two-bit, poorly rendered relic from Greek mythology? It ain't right, I tell you.
Mizuchi (Neo Geo Battle Coliseum)
This fairly rare SNK battle royale has an end boss that's hella cheap, even by SNK Boss syndrome standards (which makes sense, seeing as he's a souped-up clone of KOF's Orochi). Mizuchi's got an infallible flowchart for beating you down, again and again and again. Are you jumping at him? Giant fireball. Are you throwing projectiles from afar? Giant fireball. Are you standing still, praying for death at the hands of a merciless god? Giant fireball. You get the idea.
Luckily, this tattooed pretty boy isn't invincible; his AI seems to take it easy on you from time to time, so he'll occasionally stand still and wait for you to pummel his face. But when Mizuchi's not feeling so friendly, he can keep your fighters at bay until they've been chip-damaged to death. And in a bizarre twist, SNK decided that Mizuchi should only punish the least capable players. Battle Coliseum has four bosses in total; Mizuchi is the one you get if you fail to meet the requirements for the other three. Yet for some reason, he's the toughest opponent in the game. How, exactly, does that make any sense?
General (Kaiser Knuckle)
You probably don't have hands-on experience battling the blandly named General--which is understandable, considering how few people have actually played Kaiser Knuckle to completion. So what I highly recommend you do is watch this video of Japanese Guilty Gear aficionado Pachi taking the General head on. Besides being hilarious, the clip succinctly demonstrates how much of a cheeseball this boss is (not to mention his status as a blatant M. Bison rip-off).
Look at Pachi's reaction right from the get-go. Here's a bonafide fighting game master, shocked at how unfair General's teleport-to-choke-slam offense is. Witness this expert's complete inability to escape the constant barrage of the General's sliding kicks, as they completely and utterly box Pachi into the corner. It's enough to make you never want to play Kaiser Knuckle--which, let's be honest, was probably going to be the case regardless.
You lose! Continue?
As long as there are fighting games, there will be incredibly cheap final boss fights to go along with them. Did we miss any of your most-hated bosses? Perhaps you had your dignity descrated by Guilty Gear XX Accent Core's boss version of I-no? Maybe you have bad memories of the fight against Ivan Ooze in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition? Let it all out in the comments below.
And if you're looking for more boss-related grievances, check out 9 crazy overpowered RPG bosses that (almost) made us rage quit and 8 tired boss fight tropes that need to die.