Boss Fights have always been used to mark important milestones in gaming. Originally they were used to mark the halfway or final challenge in an individual level. As time has gone on, they’ve transitioned to more of a storyline milestone, since games have become less based around a strict level organizational style.
Sometimes a boss fight is simply another challenge between you and the next level/story event. But sometimes, boss fights can be truly amazing. They can be an incredible experience. Forcing you to use every tool at your disposal, or feature mechanics that really make an impression. When you finally overcome the fight, you wish you could turn around and do the fight all over again. When coming up with this list, I stuck to only one boss per game series to make it more interesting. Obviously there are some game series that are known for their incredible boss fights (*cough* Metal Gear Solid *cough*), and I really wanted to spread the love! It should go without saying, but there will be SPOILERS ahead!
Without further ado, here are my top 10 boss fights in video games:
10: Dr. Nefarious – Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2)
This fight is just a blast. Its a 4 stage fight against the comical Dr. Nefarious. It starts as a 1 on 1 brawl with the doctor, and ends with a spaceship battle against a giant robot with the “amazing” Captain Quark by your side. Of the many excellent fights in this series, this one is perhaps my favorite.
9: Jubileus – Bayonetta (PS3/Xbox 360)
Cards on the table? I’ve never actually played Bayonetta all the way through. However, in doing my research for this post, I came across this fight. The sheer scale and mechanics of this fight are incredible. It features a battle against an immense god inside a spherical “room”. This fight comes in multiple stages that forces Bayonetta to use a wide variety of her abilities and finishers. The scale of this fight, coupled with the visuals, mechanics and amazing soundtrack have granted this fight a place in my top 10.
8: Mike Tyson – Punch-Out (NES)
I never had the opportunity to play Punch-Out as a kid. I was too busy rescuing princesses and playing robot baseball. However, the Mike Tyson fight at the end of Punch-Out basically defined what it meant to be a difficult boss fight. It took amazing skill, patience and precision to defeat Mike and even then there was a lot of luck involved.
7: Super Metroid – Mother Brain (SNES)
The fight against mother brain in Super Metroid was one of the first games that really grabbed gamers with an unexpected punch in the feels. Who knew you could feel so sad over a baby Metroid sacrificing itself to save you? Especially after it tried to eat you only minutes before. Oh yeah, also, crazy amounts of damage and overwhelmingly powerful attacks made this fight a brutal slog. The music during this entire scene did wonders to accentuate the tension and the sorrow in exactly the right ways. This video also features the brutal slow that is getting through the final chamber and actually coming face to face with Mother Brain.
6: Wheatley – Portal 2 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Battling Wheatley is a wonderful experience. This fight forces the player to make the best of their portaling skills, as each time you hit Wheatley, he adapts to your skills and changes his attack patterns. While you’re trying desperately to do geometry in your head and literally work out your angle of attack, a timer counts down to the facilities’ destruction. Wheatley’s sarcastic banter is just wonderful to listen to, keeping you entertained while you try to avoid being blown to bits. The fight ends in the most fantastic way possible, an over-the-top portal to somewhere completely unexpected. Just excellent.
5: Roxas – Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix (PS3)
For me, this fight defines fantastic boss fights. Its a solo fight between Sora and a part of himself. No allies, no summons, just you. This fight also marks a sharp increase in game difficulty right near the end of the game. I’d also say its easily the hardest fight in the game (optional bosses excluded). This fight really forces you to use all of your skill. You’ll need precision to block his attacks and careful timing to take advantage of openings. An excellent skill testing brawl with heavy subtext.
4: Ganondorf – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
This was the perfect boss fight to end a game that was already filled with excellent bosses. It was suitably epic, with an amazing orchestral background theme. It was fought in 3 distinct stages. First, a one on one battle with the Gerudo King in his tower. Then, after he seems to be defeated, Link and Zelda must escape the crumbling tower. You’ll need to protect Zelda as she tries to open magical barriers that block your path. Its heart pounding. Lastly, just when you think you’re finally safe, Ganondorf reappears and uses the power of the Triforce of Power to transform into Ganon. Ganon, a hulking behemoth forces you into a final titanic clash for the fate of the world. Its the kind of fight that really sticks with you. It makes you wonder what’s in store for the final 3!
3: Mr. Freeze – Arkham City (PS3/Xbox 360)
The fight against Mr. Freeze is probably my favorite mechanical boss fight ever. Every time the Dark Knight manages to hit him with an attack, Mr. Freeze adapts and changes his strategy. This means, you can no longer use that move against him for the remainder of the fight. You’ll need to find a new gadget or sneaky maneuver to use. Spend more than a few seconds in his sights and you’ll quickly become frozen bat bits. While you’re sneaking around, the mechanical voice of Mr. Freeze taunts you as you try to find yet another new way to break through his defenses. Playing the game on hard mode was one of the most challenging fights I’d ever done. I needed to get REALLY creative with the last few hits.
2: King K. Rool – Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
This fight was just wonderful. It was the perfect fight to end this game. Donkey Kong 64 features 5 playable characters, and you play as all of them throughout the course of the game. The final fight is a 5 stage battle that has each of the 5 characters take a unique role in the fight, each suited to their unique abilities. This is an excellent example of a strong mechanical fight. Top top it off, the game makes great use of its signature comedic style, and takes place in a boxing ring surrounded by the King’s cronies, and they control the bell.
1: Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid (PS)
The battle against Psycho Mantis is my favorite fight of all time. Its a difficult fight that makes you use all of your game knowledge as well as some out of game knowledge. Psycho Mantis uses his psychic powers to read your mind and mess with your controls. That’s right. He basically blackscreens you until you swap your controller from port 1 to port 2. That’s the only way to get your controls back. How crazy is that? Its a wonderful experience and even though it can feel a little corny at times (he also uses his psychic powers to read your memory card and taunt you based off how often you save etc.), it never stops being a challenging experience. The additional meta component of this fight is just excellent and really puts this fight over the top for me. This franchise has had some excellent fights, and some memorable scenes, but the battle against psycho mantis is by far my favorite!
So there you have it! My favorite boss fights of all time (with some input from the other members of GGW). Do you agree with my choices? Do you think I missed a great fight? Comment and link me a video of the fight, I’d love to see it! Let me know what your favorite boss fights are!
If you enjoyed reading this, check out my personal blog (8bitcourage.com) for more fun top 10 lists and other gaming related content! Thanks for reading.