We all love boss fights. (If you don’t, then why are you reading this list?) Boss fights serve as a way of highlighting a game’s mechanics, adding dramatic tension, and improving a game’s pacing. Different boss battles succeed for different reasons, so we at TGR have compiled a list of the ten greatest boss battles we’ve ever had the pleasure of taking part in.
10) Phalanx (i.e. Colossus #13): Shadow of the Colossus
Hardly even a "boss fight" per se, as this "boss" never even attacks you (I don’t believe it’s even possible to die in this sequence), Phalanx is an amalgam of all that is cool about videogames. You get to ride around on a horse through a gigantic desert region, shoot your bow & arrow (while riding said horse), and jump from your galloping steed onto the wounded, fleeing creature. Even the game’s usually wonky camera manages to behave here, adding to what is one of the most cinematic boss battles ever conceived. The creature design is amazing as well, creating a creature that is both majestic and powerful, without succumbing to the usual game design ploys.
9) Echidna: Devil May Cry 4
The She-Viper is not only an amazingly cool boss design, but she plays extraordinarily well, too. With a wide variety of attacks at her disposal, it’ll take a long time to figure out how to successfully avoid her on the harder difficulties. Better yet, playing as Dante nets an all new challenge as your old tricks won’t work anymore, and you’ll have to go about discovering a whole new strategy. Fighting her in "Dante Must Die" mode initially took me close to two hours to conquer with each protagonist; there was never a dull moment.
8) Gigyas: Earthbound
After a lengthy journey through a myriad of crazy locales, Earthbound pitted the player up against the ultimate evil force, Gigyas. Gigyas was so hardcore that it appeared only as a slew of swirling colors in the fight screen background. What made this battle so awesome, though, was the way it ended. Throughout the fight, the party managed to do only minimal damage to Gigyas, and eventually, Ness and friends WOULD die. It was Paula’s "PRAY" ability that saved the day. After using the skill, the player viewed short scenes of various characters from earlier in the game as they prayed for the party’s safety. After each cut, Gigyas would receive heavy damage, leading up to the massive killing blow dealt by the prayer of the player, whose name had been entered in the very beginning of the game. I killed Gigyas…cool.
7) Eden: REZ
The end of the synesthetic journey of Rez sees a confrontation with the supercomputer-gone-rampant, Eden. Doubting her own existence, the computer has brought herself to begin a destructive shutdown sequence. The build-up to reaching Eden is as epic as any other final battle. Cryptic, ominous messages about human life flash before you as you realize you’re traversing the very evolutionary stages of life itself. As ships and various enemies flit around a stadium-like area with Eden taking center stage, your best bet is to aim straight for the core. Each time you’ve inflicted enough damage, you will prompt a short scene depicting the parts of Eden being reformed.
Eden has a very humanoid form, and as you rebuild her from her broken state, she smiles serenely, as if to thank you for what you have done for her. Rebuilding Eden is nothing short of nerve-wracking, as failure will restart you at the beginning of the area and Eden will shatter. However, even if you do manage to rebuild her, unless you attained a 100% completion rate of the entire game, the true ending will still elude you. Preventing Eden from shutting down, thus destroying the K-project, is one of the most fluid and surrealistic boss fights one could ever imagine — the kind of dreamlike, fleeting moment of escapism that many of us tend to seek from gaming. The fight draws the gamer in as though Eden’s loss truly will affect us all.
6) Krauser: Resident Evil 4
In an already fantastic game, fighting this mutant sonuvabitch in a ruined pueblo had to be the highlight. The way he’d disappear, then reappear right next to you for some close-quarters combat made for many-a tense moment as you’d run about collecting stone tablets. There’s a slight intermission between his phases, where you must destroy defense sentinels before facing him again, in a stronger, mutant form while a time bomb ticks in the background. This kind of traditional gunplay mixed with quick-time button presses was first introduced in RE4, and Krauser, with his quick agility, left you no place to hide. Word of advice: there is a cheap tactic to killing him that the designers left in as something of an easter egg, but I’d recommend not using it if you want a challenge.
5.) Great Mighty Poo: Conker’s Bad Fur Day
This is perhaps the most humorous of all boss battles. Conker enters the dung beetles’ hideout, and is compelled to feed sweet corn to a strange voice penetrating the cavernous poo-pile from below. He is then greeted by The Great Mighty Poo, an opera-singing pile of dung with sweet corn kernel teeth and feces-slinging arms. Luckily, Conker is equipped with copious rolls of toilet paper, which are the bane of the s*** monster. With each successive papering, he bursts into a new, more fervent song, each more distasteful than the last, until Conker manages to flush the deuce away. It is wonderfully satisfying.
4) Crying Wolf: Metal Gear Solid 4
In essence, Crying Wolf is a brilliant reimagining of two of the Metal Gear series’ best boss battle: The End and Sniper Wolf. It combines the free-roaming environment employed in MGS3’s fight with The End with the setting (quite literally the EXACT same courtyard) and character used for Sniper Wolf in Metal Gear Solid. You may be able to easily track her footprints with thermal goggles, but you have to worry about the added element of a field full of armed guards. I’d recommend not spoiling it for yourself by killing the guards (or opting for the hide-under-the-truck tactic that I’m sure was included for those who just wanted to see the story and don’t like to have fun), and if you’re truly hardcore, go for no alerts as well. And if an intense sniper duel with an squad of elite acrobatic soldiers set in a blizzard wasn’t enough, Crying Wolf’s also able to stampede about and pounce on you if she catches wind of your scent. When this happens, the camera switches to her point of view and you’re given a split second to react and stop her in her tracks. It’s wonderfully tense, epic stuff. In a game known for wonderful boss battles Crying Wolf really takes the cake.
3) Mike Tyson: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out
Many people consider conquering "Iron Mike" to be one of the top video game accomplishments of all time. This is due to the simple fact that he is one fierce warrior in the ring. For a minute and a half, he delivers his dreaded Dynamite Uppercuts, which floor Little Mac instantly. Later, his barrage includes powerful hooks and rapid jabs, not to mention Dynamite Uppercuts thrown into the mix, just for fun. Just surviving this onslaught is no easy task, but in this championship bout, you need a KO, as Mac can’t beat the Dynamite Kid by decision. I am thankful I only fight Mike Tyson in video games.
2) GLaDOS: Portal
The fact that Valve managed to come up with any kind of boss fight in a simple puzzle game with no weapons is already impressive, but the fact that they made one such a multi-tiered and worthy puzzle unto itself is an even greater achievement. This sequence also contains some of the funniest dialogue in the game as GLaDOS attempts to convince you that you are a bad person and that no one likes you. Even after defeating her you’ll likely want to reload just to hear all the bits of dialogue you may have missed. There’s even a full-fledged recipe for cake in there. What other bosses can you say that about?
1) The Boss: Metal Gear Solid 3
The Boss is a truly epic final boss encounter utilizing one of the greatest set pieces seen in gaming. Taking place in a field of white flowers blowing in the wind at sunset, The Boss finally has a chance to utilize her space age sneaking suit. There are different ways to fight her, including secret hidden CQC techniques and stealth. There’s also the added threat of a time limit (something I usually hate), which only adds to the tension here. The way the theme song slowly starts playing midway through the battle is a real treat as well, making it among the greatest final boss battles I’ve ever seen. And the interactive cutscene following the fight where you have to pull the trigger yourself…genius!
What a dramatic finish to a superb game. The battle with The Boss is an epic one. Before the fight, the Boss delivers an emotionally charged speech about the state of the world, the placement of power, and the manufacture of conflict. She calls for "the operation" to begin, and the two have ten minutes before MiGs perform an air strike on the area. Student and teacher face off in a field of flowers, using every means to emerge victorious. The player can use any combination of guns, grenades, mines and CQC to defeat his mentor in this intense two-person war. "Let’s make this the greatest 10 minutes of our lives, Jack." -The Boss