Boss battles are a staple of video games, usually combining all of the skills you have learned up until this point with some extra challenge on top. They’re built in such a way to test that the player has understood the core mechanics of the game: But if you haven’t, then you’re not going to succeed (At least, not easily). These are our Top 10 Intense Boss Battles, where the rules are very simple:
- The battle must make you feel like you’re experiencing a challenge.
- The battle does not have to be a final boss.
We will not be focusing purely on action games: But RPGs can make an appearance. Heck, even puzzle games sometimes have an intense battle. Here we go…
10) Bowser – Super Mario Bros.
The classic villain himself makes his way to our tenth place, if only because he’s able to make the end of a platformer feel like serious business. When you first meet Bowser at the end of world 1, you suddenly realise you’re against a true monster who has set all of his minion monsters after you. Breathing fire, at least 3 Mario’s in height and standing on a bridge over a riverbed of lava, you know Bowser means business.
It’s a pretty intense encounter when you consider how chilled out the rest of the game is. He only just clawed his way onto this list, mostly due to him being a lot of people’s first memories as to what a ‘boss’ truly was. Bowser might not be hard to defeat, (he leaves an axe to chop down his bridge right behind him weirdly,) but he’s certainly one of gamings most iconic and memorable boss encounters.
9) Saavedro – Myst 3: Exile
Here’s a boss encounter of a different sort, Myst is not a game where you tend to get into a fight. However, when you finally confront the villain of Exile in his home age Narayan you have already learned his heartbreaking story, and the level of desperation that he has been driven to by cruel brother Sirrus and Achenar in their greed driven conquest of the many ages. Saavedro has lost his home, his family, everything at the hands of two selfish little boys, and is determined to show their father Atrus what suffering feels like.
Played by Brad Dourif (Child’s Play, Lord of the Rings) his intense pacing as he awaits your assistance and the feeling of those dark eyes watching intently as you help him reach the remains of his home make the final, hardest puzzle incredibly high-pressure. His performance has built the pressure to the importance of this moment to an apex, and this is the only puzzle where you can be killed by your failure… or cause genocide.
8) Rhan Tegoth – Arkham Horror
We have a board game in the list!
The Ancient Ones stir in their slumber, and the city of Arkham Massachusetts suffers as a result, with portals opening all over town spilling terrors of the outer planes into the streets and skies. Intrepid souls delve into these portals and slay the beasts in an effort to seal away the unstoppable eldritch thing before it awakens and brings apocalyptic fury upon their heads.
There are a lot of Ancient Ones that you play against in Arkham Horror, so we had a lot to choose from, but with Azathoth the game merely ends with his arrival, and Cthulhu is a little tame to be entirely honest. Speaking from personal experience, I have had the most fun facing down Rhan Tegoth, the great fish like monstrosity from Horror from the Museum. Untouchable by physical weapons, his cultists summon him from his sleep faster, leaving worse foes in their wake, making it nigh-impossible to prevent his awakening, and near impossible to put him back to sleep.
Certainly he’s the only Ancient One who’s had me on my feet yelling at a board game.
7) Thur’Abis Plateau – Dawn of War: Dark Crusade
Strategy doesn’t often feature boss fights, certainly they rarely include ones so memorable and intense that they’re worthy of mention, and I think that’s why I wanted to bring this one to the list.
The Necrons are Warhammer 40K’s robotic undead horrors, not merely powerful but hard as hell to put down permanently. In the video game they leave corpses dotted around the field that linger where they fall to be reborn again, three alarmingly strong corpses already lie in your starting position, animated before you can even begin to establish your first base, and reinforced soon after.
Thur’Abis keeps you on the back foot from minute one and keeps you there, all with the haunting narration of Pariah Tomas Macabee, resurrected and remade in the Necron image, cursed to immortality, placidly informing you of the blessing that death brings.
6) Tabuu – Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Super Smash Bros. Brawl was indeed the most popular fighting game ever. Yes, even more popular than Melee, more so than Tekken and Street Fighter and even Mortal Kombat. Super Smash Bros. Brawl introduced new characters to an already colourful cast, bringing lots of interesting new play styles. This was the game where Sonic was introduced to the crew and the fights were tough but worth the effort.
At the very end of the adventure/story mode, the Subspace Emissary, players take on The Great Maze. One they’ve managed to defeat every challenge within this Maze, they are presented with one final fight. Tabuu: A mass of energy with large wings. This encounter takes some people a lot of tries to defeat. He’s tough, he’s a fitting end to the story: Yes, more so than Master/Crazy Hand. Tabuu is the real deal… and taught many players that blocking was a good strategy.
5) Omega Weapon – Final Fantasy VIII
Anyone even vaguely familiar with some of the older Final Fantasy games will know and feat the name Omega Weapon. In Final Fantasy VIII, Omega Weapon is the ultimate Superboss. Omega makes an appearance in a few other Final Fantasy titles as well, such as in Final Fantasy X and X-2, but ultimately the most memorable appearance is probably during VII’s Dirge of Cerberus. With Vincent Valentine in his own spin-off shooter game, you have to try and take on this incredible machine.
However in Final Fantasy VIII, Omega Weapon is even harder. It’s a massive beast that has well over half a million health. I’d always take Zell to go in and punch that beast down, getting 9999 combos with his punches! Yeah, go Zell!! But, Omega is able to do a ridiculous 9999 damage to any of your party. You unlock the Proof of Omega after you somehow beat this ridiculous beastie, which says that you are “The finest fighter in the world!” But I knew that already.
4) Scarecrow – Arkham Asylum
Here’s an easy entry for the high end of the list. While he wasn’t exactly hard to defeat, the reality-bending powers and haunting mindscapes of the Scarecrow fights made for some of the most compelling moments in Arkham Asylum, outdoing the Clown Prince himself in terms of fear-factor. Using his patented toxins, Jonathan Crane plunges Batman into a shattered world formed of his own warped psyche, confronting him with his fears and his shames.
Crane dominates these worlds, standing in the centre as an almost divine figure, impossible to combat by normal methods, only by confronting the worst parts of yourself, and hiding from his terrible gaze. The effects not only take Bruce Wayne back to the heartbroken little boy he used to be, but also hit the player where it hurts by glitching the game and restarting from the beginning, but quickly making you realise something is very wrong.
3) Saturos and Menardi – Golden Sun I
Now, whilst the fight in this isn’t necessarily all that hard (although there’s certainly an element of strategy required), Saturos and Menardi are a tough duo to crack. You first encounter them at the start of the game, in the peaceful Vale. The volcano has erupted and you overhear these two sinister, although fabulously dressed characters. You hear that they were effectively the cause of the volcano… and if you dare take them on in battle… You will lose. Regardless. Trust me. Unless you cheat.
When you go through the game, you encounter them time after time. They become slowly more manageable, until this very final fight. To make it even more high stakes, your friend Felix, who you thought was dead after being washed away in Vale, is on their side. The second game focuses around Felix and his new found friends… But this game is all about elemental wielders who can cause massive carnage. These two are no slouches.
=1) Pokemon Trainer Red – Pokemon Soul Silver: Timlah’s Selection
This is it, the big one – the final battle of Pokemon Soul Silver. Of course, he’s also the final battle of Pokemon Silver, but there we go. Pokemon Trainer Red is an incredibly tricky fight. In the original game, where his Pikachu reaches a ridiculously high level – Past level 80. However in Soul Silver, all of Red’s team get a bit of a buff. They are all level 80+… With his Pikachu being an absolutely overwhelming level 88.
The music for this fight is incredible – You feel like you’re fighting not just a trainer: But the trainer. This makes sense, as Gold’s whole story is around succeeding the best. Red does 8 badges: Gold does twice that. Red’s champion encounter was around the level 60’s, whereas the final boss of Gold and Silver is Red whose whole team in Soul Silver is level 80+. This isn’t just a fight… This is for pride. Up there, atop Mt. Silver, where only the best of the best may go. Fitting, for the final encounter between Gold & Red.
No discredit to Ornstein and Smough, but these guys aren’t actually all that bad. They’re entirely based around a relatively simple strategy. Split them apart if you have a companion with you – beat up one of them (usually Dragonslayer Ornstein) and then take out Executioner Smough. You can block a lot of their attacks – They’re very predictable. However: They are a great fight, with some brilliant music and amazing visuals!
=1) Ornstein and Smough – Dark Souls: Joel’s Selection
Let me start by saying that I advocated for Ornstein and Smough despite having never played Dark Souls, I play to relax, not to mentally punish myself. However, as a keen study of game design these are the names I hear repeated when discussing incredible design, balance and challenge. Two complimentary foes in a game notoriously full of incredibly tough bosses; Ornstein, incredibly fast and capable of ranged attacks keep the enemy forever on their toes, demanding their attention so that they aimlessly wander within reach of Smough’s devastating hammer.
This seems simple enough, kill one then the other should fall swiftly enough, but whichever you leave ‘til last gains a portion of the powers of the other, the speed, the attack power, and the life, making them a far more potent combination. In a game where death is inevitable, and frequent, the best – if not only – way to defeat this pairing is to go in knowing exactly what to do, what to equip, and how best to approach each situation.
I hate to detract from Pokemon, but much like with Ornstein and Smough, there are ways of making the fight against Red very easy; simply out-levelling his team might seem like one massive investment in time spent playing but it’s effective, and reduces his team to a mild nuisance. Sure there’s plenty of story to build the fight up, but turn-based games lack the high-pressure intensity your average action game provides, giving you time to stop and evaluate at every moment. Deserving of the number one slot, perhaps, but I don’t think it’ll ever offer quite the same rush, and capture the attention of major game designers.
Now you choose which of our joint winners is your personal number one intense boss battle:
Vs Saxton Hale Mode – Team Fortress 2
Fans of Team Fortress 2 will be very aware of the name Saxton Hale, but to those who are just looking in from the outside, you’ll notice this isn’t a character that’s on the roster. Instead, Saxton Hale is a storyline character, who is effectively the Chuck Norris of the arena shooter game. He’s got chest hair in the shape of Australia, he’s pretty big and all around a very strong, buff man who puts a whooping on whoever he needs to.
With that said, Saxton Hale isn’t officially in the game. Some genius people created the Vs Saxton Hale mode, a modded game mode where one person plays as Saxton Hale, who must defeat the rest of the players. The more players, the higher Saxton’s health is. The easiest strategy to beat the massive man is to knock him off an edge… But good luck doing that!
The Patriarch – Killing Floor
Tim suggested I looked into this one, as he’s a massive fan of Killing Floor. And he was damn right.
The Patriarch begins the final wave of Killing Floor, bringing with him a small army to back up his minigun, massive claws, rocket launcher, spikes, and prehensile belly-button. Your standard weapons array for any boss-monster, stack that with the ability to almost completely cloak and you’ve got yourself a complete package, but damn they do not play fair with that artificial intelligence! While invisible the Patriarch is regenerating what health you’ve managed to whittle down, and taking the time to plant itself as close as possible to you, appear right in your peripheral vision before battering you half to death.
But can you blame a guy for fighting with every dirty trick at his disposal when heavily armed people are slaughtering your disgusting children. Patriarch isn’t just a name for Kevin Clamely, the man responsible for turning London into a bloodbath, he genuinely considers the horde of monsters to be his children, finally joining them against humanity, becoming everything his children could be and more. All of that is suddenly right next to you carrying a big gun, that he doesn’t strictly need.
Hopefully we’ll not be wiping any more after facing off with these bosses. We’ve checked out what we consider to be our most intense boss battles, but we became stuck at the top 2 we chose. So it’s up to you to vote for who you feel is the more intense battle between the two… And hey, whilst you’re making your mind up on the number one intense boss battle, why not vote for next week’s Top 10?
That’s it for another week, it’s time for us to sheath our swords and collect all of the ‘phat loot’. Check out how much XP I gained during this encounter – I bet you’re all jealous now! What did you make of this week’s list? Did we miss off any boss battles that you think is more deserving of a slot, or do you think we hit the nail on the head? Did we arrange some of these in the wrong order? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.