Boss fights in video games are a way of presenting specific challenges, in order to task the player with using the game’s mechanics to their fullest in order to best a difficult fight. It’s like the developers throw down the gauntlet to you and say “come and have a go if you think you’re good enough”.
To this we say “challenge accepted”. But what challenges grant the respect of our fellow gamers? Here are 8 bosses that you simply have to experience, be it for the sheer cool factor, or the bragging rights, or both.
Vergil – Devil May Cry 3
“You’re going down”, said Vergil as he sent another unworthy scrub back to Easy mode.
Dante’s brother Vergil proved to be the toughest opponent in the game, which in a game renowned for difficulty is no understatement. You could be one hit away from delivering the killing blow to him only to be combo’d to death from full. For the truly masochistic you can try the game on Dante Must Die mode, where he’ll have new attacks and increased damage. If you can hunt down the HD Devil May Cry collection for PS3/X360 you should definitely try to beat this one.
Alma – Ninja Gaiden Black
Alma’s also famous for her massive….spike in difficulty.
Back when Tomonobu Itagaki was the king of action games, Ninja Gaiden Black kicked many an ass when it was released in 2005. The game was notoriously difficult, and many players found a sort of breaking point which separated the determined few from the casual many.
This breaking point was Alma. Occurring about a third of the way through the game, this powerful pink Greater Fiend suddenly appeared just as players thought they were getting good. Alma has ridiculous attacks, including a grab which takes around 50% of your hp, she dodges most of your attacks, and if you’re not careful she’ll throw parts of the temple you’re in at you. On higher difficulties her attacks will double and triple and she’ll even move faster. If you can beat this boss, you can definitely finish the game.
Ornstein and Smough – Dark Souls (pictured above)
Dark Souls starts being difficult from the off. You’ll be ambushed by groups of enemies hiding around corners; mini-bosses will show up even in the first area, and the uninitiated will certainly have to prepare to die many times. But most of the bosses in the first parts of Dark Souls can be cheesed out; many tactics and strategies exist that can carry you through.
That is until you reach the main boss of Anor Londo: the two-versus-one battle against the Dragon Slayer, Ornstein, and the Executioner, Smough.
Ornstein and Smough is a legendary boss fight, reaching a sort of mythical status among gamers. “Wait til he gets to Ornstein and Smough”, they say, “That’s where the real Dark Souls begins”. Nothing can prepare you for the first time Ornstein lunges at you from 50 metres away, or the first time Smough jumps into the air and butt slams your face. And that soundtrack. If you manage to defeat one of them, the remaining boss will absorb their fallen comrade’s power, and become a powered-up version of themselves for you to beat. This marks the point in Dark Souls where players either give up, or press on.
Seven Force – Gunstar Heroes
Assuming you aren’t head-banging along to the ludicrously cool theme playing in the background, Seven Force will still take a lot to defeat.
Heading back in time for a bit, this 16-bit shooter released on the Mega Drive/Genesis and developed a cult following. The imaginatively designed bosses and the weapon-combination system gave this 2D sidescrolling platformer/shooter the edge, and it is one boss, or rather, seven, which stand out.
During the already hectic and intense minecart stage, Red and Blue’s nemesis, Green (well thought-out names, I know) shows up in his transforming mech capable of seven different forms, becoming the Seven Force. He’ll transform into a robot dog, crab, handgun, human, eagle, urchin, and uh, a tail.
What’s great about this boss is the way the game uses the stage you’re in to deliver seven great boss fights in one. Your minecart can ride on the floor, the ceiling, walls, and all of this goes on at breakneck speed. You don’t actually have to fight all seven forms, but of course if you choose Hard mode, then the entirety of the Seven Force will show up and try to take your measly 100 Vitality away. Good luck.
The 13th Colossus – Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus is already a game filled with boss fights, where the difficulty in the boss fights came from figuring out how to defeat them, using the environment, Wander’s basic equipment, or your brain.
One of the most memorable and challenging of the colossi that players fought in the game was the thirteenth, a huge lizard…thing which floats around a vast desert, and it’s up to you to figure out to climb on top of it. The process is fairly simple when you know how, but the act of actually getting onto the colossus and staying on it as it flies around trying to shake you off is nerve wracking as one false move means one long fall back to earth.
Penance – Final Fantasy X
The typical height for a party member is about the size of one of his fingers.
Oh lordy. Penance is a boss so big that his arms are separate characters with their own HP counts and attacks. Yes he’s optional, but players who want the ultimate challenge will want to try and fight him if only for the sheer ridiculousness of it all. As if that weren’t enough simply getting to him requires you to defeat the Dark Aeons, which are powerful bosses in themselves.
With a battle clocking in at upwards of 40 minutes in some cases, Penance will test your endurance as well as your strategies. At 12,000,000 HP, this has to be one of the most over-the-top bosses ever created, even for Square’s standards.
Once you’ve managed to shave off three of the twelve million HP, he enters a different phase in which he might just decide to use Judgement Day, which will deal a little bit of damage, somewhere in the region of, say, 99,999 HP to each member of your team. Thankfully, Penance is an optional boss in the game, which takes the edge off a little bit, but Square really flexed their crazy muscles on this one.
SSX 2012 – Darkness
In true SSX fashion, there’s an achievement for completing this stage without the lamp.Somehow.
Wait, what? SSX doesn’t have boss fights, it’s a snowboarding game! Well, in the case of the 2012 sequel to the classic snowboarding series, players took on a single player mode in which they face the nine Deadly Descents; courses over ultra-difficult terrain which is the key to progressing. So really, “boss fight” is the perfect way to describe them.
Taking control of Mac when he plunged out of a helicopter and into Mt. Kilimanjaro as Camo and Krooked’s song “Heat” kicked in alongside your first contact with snow was an exhilarating experience. From then on it was you vs. the lava pits and pitch-black tunnels that make up Mt. Kilimanjaro’s interior, armed only with your little head-lamp. A perfect of example of what Todd Batty was trying to do with SSX; Darkness was one of the more memorable sections of an otherwise sadly-forgotten game.
Mistral – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
“A STRANGER I REMAAAAAAAAHAYAYAYAAAAAAAAAIN!! *Ahem*.
Two Words: Platinum Games.
At the end of the game’s first real level, we encounter Mistral, the multi-armed madwoman who sets the tone for the rest of the bosses in the game. Taking part across three phases, Raiden and Mistral clash swords and arms, as Mistral assembles an army of mini-metal gears into a long staff capable of turning into a whip.
Clever use of the Blade Mode mechanic in this fight as well as the ability to parry Mistral’s attacks make for an intense battle, but one of the greatest things about this fight is the audio – or rather, its implementation into the game. The original song “A Stranger I Remain” plays in the background, but will change depending on what part of the fight you’re in. What this means is that the final climactic sequence of the fight will always coincide exactly with the song’s amazing outro.
A good boss fight is memorable, exactly the right difficulty, and extremely rewarding to beat. And while these were all epic in their own way these were just eight of the many thousands of bosses that are out there. So, do you agree? What bosses do you feel simply have to be played? Let us know in the comments.