For many people including myself, a good boss fight is one of the best aspects of gaming. When they are well made, video game boss fights make you pause and think critically for a moment while assessing the threat level. They often require you to use specific skills achieved throughout the game and react on the fly.
Often, you will find yourself finishing some boss fights being better at the core game than when you started the fight. While many current video game boss fights may feel like cut and paste copies of other bosses we have seen throughout the years, there have been a few boss fights in gaming that are truly iconic and have changed how we see end bosses in general.
Here are just a few iconic video game boss fights that changed gaming forever.
Bowser – Super Mario FranchiseThis is technically about Bowser AND all the original Nintendo bosses.
You can’t bring up video game boss fights and not talk about the developer who essentially invented them. With old Atari games, levels often just got faster and harder. However, the Nintendo Entertainment System really introduced us to the concept of a battle with a big baddie at the end of a level or video game. Now you see it in every game you play.
When the NES first came out, their boss fights set the tone for many to come. Bosses like Bowser became repeat big bads to take down in every Super Mario game seemingly. Plus, we cannot forget the challenging Ganon fight at the end of A Legend of Zelda and Mother Brain at the end of Metroid.
It is hard picking the most iconic Nintendo boss, so I thought throwing all of them here felt fair.
Chaos – Final Fantasy 1We may take the role-playing game format for granted in 2021, but back in the 1980s, it was unheard of as a gameplay style in the west. Then Final Fantasy came out and changed everything. While there are many memorable boss fights from this game (like the hellish randomly spawning Warmech fight I still have night terrors about), Chaos is where it’s at.
Chaos at the end of Final Fantasy 1 felt like playing a game of chess against a master. Each character takes a turn, slow and methodically. However, this fight was quite challenging, which set it apart. It was the first RPG end boss we Americans got to play, and judging from the popularity of the series now, we clearly loved it.
Okay, now for the father of all Nintendo end bosses (and the last Nintendo entry)
Mike Tyson – Punch-Out007-373-5963.
That is the password to get directly to Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.
I know it still to this day because of how much effort I put into beating this digital damage sponge as a child. People will still say Mike Tyson at the end of Punch-Out is the toughest game boss of all time. Toughest, no. He is brutal, but the reality of this fight is, if you treat it like a rhythm game and memorize his moves, it gets easier.
Oh, wait, no it doesn’t.
They randomize his punch patterns, and his “double blink” tell is so fast it is hard to see and react to. This may have actually been the first end boss to make kids smash their controllers. Thus, Tyson very much belongs on here. I remember spending hours upon hours trying to beat him, then beating him and no one believed me. Now I am not sure I ever beat him.
I may have made it up to make myself feel better. It’s called compartmentalizing, it is a decent way to deal with childhood trauma. Did I really just win out in one of the toughest video game boss fights ever, or did I dream it up? I JUST DON’T KNOW!
*Rocks self to sleep*
Spider-Man, Batman, & Godzilla – Revenge of ShinobiYup, this happened. SEGA was an insane developer (and still is, look at Yakuza for example). The Revenge of Shinobi game proved that with every single boss fight they had. All major players in the nerd pop culture pantheon.
We are talking Spider-Man, not named Spider-Man, but clearly being Spider-Man. We are also talking about Batman, not being called Batman, but clearly being Batman. Then, to top off the insanity meter, we ninja fight Godzilla by tossing throwing stars at its snout while it tries to roast us with fire breath.
I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. This is a real game. The reason these bosses made the list is that “insane, Japanese boss fights that made it to America” should be repped here.
They all hit kinda differently.
Nemesis & Mr. X – Resident Evil SeriesI know doubling up is kind of cheating, but hear me out before you cast your stones of judgment.
Mr. X from Resident Evil 2 was my first ever experience with a boss that continuously stalked you through an entire game. He made you feel on edge and uncomfortable, not being sure when he would break through the wall and start violently beating your face in.
It was anxiety-inducing, but also, incredibly engrossing. You were scared, but you secretly wanted to see him again because of the adrenaline you got each time.
Capcom honestly upped the intensity of that feeling of anxiety with Resident Evil 3′s Nemesis. While you saw Mr. X sparingly, it felt like Nemesis was always at your back when you played RE 3. Unlike Mr. X, you didn’t get camera teases or warnings from the game itself. Nemesis would show up anywhere and just game-end you.
As exasperating as it was, it was also dope and is now both are among the best video game boss fights in gaming history.
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Cronos Titan – God of War 3Truth be told, this list could be 10 God of War bosses.
Picking the one that dropped your jaw the most is tough. I did want to go with Baldur from the recent God of War game, but even his boss fight wouldn’t have existed had Kratos not beaten the fecal waste out of the massive Titan at the start of God of War 3.
There have always been “massive” bosses in gaming, but the Cronos Titan fight took that scale to another level. You were basically an ant climbing up a giant, doing tiny bits of damage to certain body parts as you went. The scope was nuts, and even though that boss fight is from two generations ago, it is still a visual marvel to behold and fun as hell to play!
Ornstein & Smough – Dark SoulsCan’t do a list about iconic video game boss fights without at least mentioning some kind of From Software game, as they are the new masters of building the perfect boss fight. And if we’re gonna praise From Software, let’s do it right by highlighting the best boss fight in their whole catalog.
The Ornstein and Smough boss fight from Dark Souls does something very unique and incredibly well. One is a tank, one is basically a sword ninja, and they fight in tandem. Depending on which one you kill first, the other boss gets their abilities (so suddenly the tank is fast as hell and/or the ninja is hitting for massive tank-like damage).
It is hard as #%$^, and it drives you slightly insane. Yet the feeling of accomplishment when you take them down is unparalleled. They may make you tear your hair out, but they do belong on the list.
Lisa – P.T.I realize mentioning a boss you never actually fight from a demo that never received a full game seems out of place. However, Lisa from the P.T. Playstation 4 demo did something remarkable in the very short time we had with her.
She scared the absolute crap out of anyone who played the demo.
She was a constant presence in that small amount of time, and you honestly felt genuinely uneasy at all times. This is because you felt that she could see you, yet you could very rarely see her. She left a crater-like impact as soon as the demo hit too.
For about a week, that was all anybody who had a PS4 was talking about. She was in our lives for under an hour of actual gameplay, but she still sticks with us like we played a whole game with her.
Honestly, Lisa is here for us to recognize a “moment of silence” for what could have been. Shame on you, Konami. Oh, what could have been in the world of video game boss fights!
All Colossi – Shadow of the ColossusThis entry was a sort of battle. At first, I wanted to pick the first colossus because of how awe-inspired it left me. Then I wanted to pick the flying Colossus because of how different it was in play mechanics from the other bosses. However, I eventually thought I should pick the water colossus. We might as well bring up the frightening scale of the final colossus too.
And it was right about then that it hit me.
Every single Colossus encounter in this game is staggeringly cool. Plus, unlike any of the other games on the list, these majestic beasts were innocent and you were really the bad guy in the game. If you look back on the game and numerous video game boss fights, it can make you feel terrible inside when you find out what you had been suspecting the whole time.
Honestly, only one boss fight can beat the Shadow of the Colossus fights, and you all know what it is!
Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear SolidI still get shivers (in a good way) when I think about the effect this boss fight had on me. Leave it to Hideo Kojima to design what is possibly the most unique and immersive boss fight of all time. A boss fight that still stands at the top for how ingenious it was.
For a video game boss to break the fourth wall and roast you based on the files in your memory card is still something I cannot wrap my head around. That is exactly what Psycho Mantis from MGS did. I remember having several RPG games where I saved every five minutes. Somehow, the Psycho Mantis knew this and called me out for it!
“Ah, I see you are very nervous and like to take precautions.”
Wait, what? My tender young mind was blown and dripping out my ears.
Then he is like: You don’t believe me, do you?
You look around, like: the dude is talking directly to me, isn’t he?
Then he tells you to put the controller down and “witness his power. ” At which point, your rumble pack kicks into high gear and your controller starts moving across the floor on its own. My mind is officially blown, still to this day.
To top it off, he reconfigures your controller when the actual fight starts to play backward. The only way to properly beat him is to plug your controller into port 2.
That, my friends, is why Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid is (still) the best boss fight of all time, full stop. Among all video game boss fights, he is most certainly the master!