Video game bosses are supposed to be the ultimate challenge. If the boss is well designed, it is an adversary that will challenge you on everything you were supposed to have learned up to that point, or at least that is how it used to be.
Ever since Hideo Kojima turned that idea up its head with Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid, we’ve seen more and more bosses that buck the normal trend of just being a final hurdle to close out a level. We have seen some truly fascinating bosses over the years, and while some of these might not be the most challenging, they certainly are some of the more creative and interesting bosses we have faced over the years.
The Old Monk – Demon’s Souls
The Souls games are renowned for it’s not only great but also challenging bosses. And while Demon’s Souls is often forgotten when it comes to these debates, the game arguably has the most interesting boss of them all. The Old Monk is not really a “boss” in its own right, but rather a test of your PvP skill, as the Old Monk allowed other players to invade you as the boss under the right circumstances. It wasn’t that the other player turned into a hulking beast of some sorts, but rather a straight-up PvP battle between the two of you. It was such a clever idea that players would often (and this happened to me) guide players to the start of that boss fight, die just before it and then try and invade you just to troll you. It was all in good sport though, and the guy that did it to me eventually let me kill him so I can continue on my way since he was just so much better than me, but I didn’t give up.
This was not the last time that From Software incorporated this type of gameplay mechanic though, since you could invade other players who was fighting the Mirror Knight in Dark Souls II if you belonged to the right covenant.
Dancer of the Boreal Valley – Dark Souls III
Yes, I am taking two bosses from the same series, but this is my list so deal with it. This is also probably one of my favourite video game bosses of all time. The Dancer of the Boreal Valley is one of the most challenging bosses in a series renowned for its difficulty and even tested the best of Souls game veterans.
The reason for this is that she’s set at a completely different rhythm to just about everything else you face in the game, which means it throws you off when fighting her. Almost every boss you face in the Souls games has attack patterns that run in the 4/4 notation similar to music. This makes predicting attack patterns a lot easier once you get used to the rhythm of the game. The Dancer of the Boreal Valley
What really makes this boss so interesting, is that this type of thing was considered during the design phase, which shows you what kind of geniuses actually sometimes work on these things. The Dancer of the Boreal Valley has been my absolute favourite boss in the Souls series since I encountered her the first time, and now I know why.
Crying Wolf – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
The Metal Gear Solid series has no shortage of great bosses battles. As mentioned before, one of the most memorable bosses came from Metal Gear Solid in the form of Psycho Mantis.
In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots you come across a quartet of foes known as the Beauty and the Beasts, which are all beautiful ladies who are tormented through some form of psychological abuse and at the same time have some kind of mecha super armour to make thing interesting because of course, they have. Crying Wolf is one of these bosses and is arguably the most challenging and most memorable of the lot.
What makes the fight so interesting is the deadly game of cat and mouse that you play with her as she stalks you in a large field during a massive snowstorm. Visibility is almost nil, and you need to draw her out of her tank like armour in order to take her down, with the only way of doing that is to show your position. It’s such a good fight since it’s not about brute force but rather about outwitting your opponent who is so much stronger than you.
Cronos – God of War III
There are few franchises that are as over the top as God of War. Yes the 2018 soft reboot of the series did dial things back a little bit, but by the time the third numbered entry rolled around, they were not holding back any punches. Kratos had taken down some pretty might foes, but they had to up the anté by pitting him against arguably the biggest enemy possible, the king of the Titans, Cronos.
The fight takes place in the pits of Tartarus, and to make things even more compelling, the mountain strapped to the Titan’s back, which was about half of the first game, is visible during parts of cutscenes and fights. It’s technically not a fight, but rather a puzzle level in itself, and that is what makes it so much fun. It’s fun to see and experience how Kratos goes about taking down the biggest possible foe he will ever have and for that reason alone it becomes one of the best and most memorable boss fights of a series full of incredible boss fights. That’s until Baldur cruised into town that is.
Verdugo – Resident Evil 4
The Resident Evil series has seen some incredibly cool bosses over the years, with some being seen as absolute classics. Verdugo is not one of the most memorable, but it certainly is one of the most interesting. The enemy is encountered in the bowels of the Salazar Castle, as Leon Kennedy tries to find a way back up to the actual castle to take out the little shit Ramon Salazar.
The fight itself isn’t anything to write home about, but what makes it very interesting is that it bucks the trend a bit by forcing you to use the environment to your advantage in order to survive for a time with it in a very, very confined space. You were forced to think on your feet and dodge a deadly enemy at the same time, and acing this thing the first time quickly became a truly nervewracking experience.
Phalanx – Shadow of the Colossus
You cannot talk about bosses and not mention a game entirely dedicated to them. Shadow of the Colossus is an absolute masterpiece and changed the way we look at games in a way. It consists entirely of only 16 bosses that you need to take out in order to save a girl who might be the love your life (we don’t really know since the game doesn’t really tell you).
Each of the colossi you encounter
Phalanx is probably the moment you realise this, as it is the only Colossus that doesn’t retaliate. While each of the others attack in some shape of form, you physically have to bring this flying beast down to your level so you can mount it and kill it. It doesn’t do anything to harm you, and the challenge is merely getting on top of it and slaying it. It is, as I said at this point you should know that what you’re doing is wrong, but seeing as it is the 13th Colossus out of 16, we are kind of already in too deep so might as well follow through.
Oryx – Destiny: King’s Fall Raid
Destiny certainly wasn’t the first game to bring in the concept of a Raid boss that required players to work as a team in order to succeed, but it was the first to bring that concept to consoles and first-person shooters. I know Oryx is not the first Raid boss that Destiny had to offer, and most would remember the fight against Atheon in the Vault of Glass more fondly, but that fight always felt a bit more random and chaotic for me. I also feel that the King’s Fall Raid was the pinnacle of what the Destiny franchise had to offer similar to the expansion it came with.
What made this fight so great was that it was essentially a puzzle that needed to be solved, and required an incredible amount of teamwork. Everyone needed to know their place and role and execute it to perfection in order to succeed. At no point in the fight is it about doing an X amount of DPS or anything like that but rather changing the state of the arena to your favour and putting Oryx down through that.
That’s my list. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of other interesting and memorable bosses you can think of and I would love to read about them in the comments below.