The average video game controller is built to be sturdy enough to survive being thrown at a wall. This is a conscious design choice on behalf of console developers, as some boss battles can be so annoyingly difficult, the player will turn their gamepad into a baseball in a fit of rage.
Game balance is impossible to predict, due to the sheer range of skill among the video game audience. What is easy for one player might be difficult for another. The developer can only do their best, and hope that even the hardest battles will still be entertaining.
This does not mean that all video game bosses are made equally. Some bosses are hard because they are simply unfair. We are here today to name and shame the most annoyingly cheap boss battles that exist in great games. From the dreaded Cow of Goldenrod city, to the most blatantly unfair boss to ever be made by From Software. Here are 15 Classic Video Game Bosses That Still Make You Scream In Frustration.
15. Whitney – Pokémon Gold & Silver
The first generation of Pokémon games had horribly unbalanced gameplay. The Psychic-type ruled the game, and nothing else came close. When Pokémon Gold & Silver was in development, a lot of effort went into balancing the game.
When the player reaches Goldenrod City, they can challenge its Gym in order to win their third badge. The Goldenrod Gym was based on Normal-type Pokémon. The battle against Whitney, the Goldenrod City Gym leader, is one of the most frustrating fights in the series. In their effort to make Normal-type Pokémon seem tougher, Game Freak gave Whitney a devastatingly annoying creature on her team. Her first Pokémon is a Clefairy, who will likely go down easily enough. Then she will bring out her Miltank, and all hell will break loose.
Whitney’s Miltank is a sheer powerhouse in terms of stats. It will likely outclass everything in your team at that point in the game. It can heal itself with Milk Drink, and it knows Attract, which can force all male Pokémon on your team to miss a turn. Most importantly of all, it knows Rollout…
Rollout is a Rock-type move, that gains power with each consecutive use. The longer the battle goes on, the more powerful Rollout will become. This is where having a team of low level Pokémon will work against you, as they will struggle to survive each turn. Whitney’s Miltank is the total package, and can survive a lengthy battle. This was the point in the series that forced you to think about your approach in battle.
14. Dark Link – The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
Just because a boss is brutally difficult, it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
The Water Temple in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is notorious for being one of the most frustrating dungeons of all time. Even the true boss of the dungeon, the Giant Aquatic Amoeba: Morpha, is a pain to battle. The only positive thing about the Water Temple is the mid-boss battle against Dark Link.
Intended as a reference to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the Dark Link is Link’s evil equivalent. He is composed of shadow matter, and has burning red eyes. Dark Link is unique in that he acts as a mirror match for the player – he possesses all of Link’s moves, along with a few of his own.
The problem with fighting Dark Link is that he cheats. He has the ability to counter all of Link’s sword attacks. You can be swinging your sword, when Dark Link will suddenly jump on top of it, and perform a counter attack. If you manage to successfully strike him, then he will fall through the floor and appear behind you.
13. The End – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The early Metal Gear titles mostly took place inside cramped military facilities and bases. This trend continued when the series jumped to 3D with Metal Gear Solid. The games were all about stealth, and there was more challenge in hiding in corridors than in miles of terrain filled with cover.
When Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was in development, it was decided that the game would focus on surviving in the wilderness. The player would have to face the harsh environment, as well as enemy soldiers.
With this new focus on the great outdoors, different kinds of boss battles were dreamt up to accommodate the new terrain. The most frustrating of these was the battle against The End, an old man who was the father of modern sniping. He had somehow become one with the plants, and this grants him nature-based superpowers, like camouflage, photosynthesis, and the ability to communicate with his parrot (which acts as his spotter).
The battle against The End takes place across several screens worth of jungle terrain. You have several options on how you can fight him, like sneaking up from behind and going for close range combat, or beating him at his own game in a sniper battle. Every time you leave cover, The End will take a shot at you from far away, and the battle becomes one of endurance and persistence, rather than skill.
It is possible to beat The End through turning the clock on your system forward, as this will cause him to die of old age. Most players were not aware of this at the time, however, and were forced to battle him the old fashioned way.
12. Death – Castlevania
In the Castlevania series, Count Dracula’s best friend is Death. The two are such good friends that Death will show up to help Dracula against whoever is invading his castle. Death is usually a late-game boss, and will be very difficult to fight. He tends to favour projectile weapons, and will fly out of the range of your attacks. That is not to say that battles against Death cannot be fun. The climactic battle against the team of Death and Dracula at the end of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is one of the highlights of the series.
The most difficult battle against Death happens in the original Castlevania. A lot of this has to do with the horrible controls, as Simon Belmont is one of the most sluggish characters in all of gaming. When you jump, you cannot direct your movement after you leave the ground. If you get hit, then you will be knocked back without recourse. These factors combined make the Grim Reaper frustrating, because he conjures several flying sickles that appear randomly around the screen, and then fly towards you. It is difficult enough to land a blow on the Death, as he flies about the place. The sickles make it almost impossible, as they are very difficult to dodge, and one hit will send you flying back, preventing you from attacking.
11. Yellow Devil – Mega Man
The six original Mega Man games on the Nintendo Entertainment System are considered to be some of the best platformers of all time. The first Mega Man is considered the weakest of the series, due to its low number of Robot Masters (six, compared to the later standard of eight), and its higher difficulty. Fans are generally forgiving, however, as the game was the first of its kind, and took a lot of design risks that paid off (but still needed refining.)
One thing fans cannot forgive is the inclusion of the Yellow Devil, a late-game boss that is brutally difficult, and requires perfect jumping skills in order to defeat.
The Yellow Devil will appear on one side of the screen. He will then fire a few blasts, giving you a few seconds to hit his weak point. He will then move across the screen, block by block. The player will have to master Mega Man’s floaty jumping, as being hit by even one of these will likely knock you back and cause you to be hit by the rest. You have to remember the pattern perfectly, if you are going to succeed.
It is possible to exploit a glitch in the original NES version of the game that will allow you to defeat the Yellow Devil easily. If you pause and unpause the game whilst the Yellow Devil is being hit with the Thunder Beam, then the attack will hit repeatedly without giving the Yellow Devil a chance to react. This exploit was fixed in later versions of the game, however.
10. SA-X – Metroid Fusion
The Metroid series is filled with boss battles against giant alien monsters. It is ironic then, that the most difficult challenge Samus will face is against herself.
Throughout the events of Metroid Fusion, Samus narrowly misses an encounter with an enemy that looks just like her. She discovers that this creature is SA-X, a parasite that she encounters at the beginning of the game. SA-X has mimicked Samus’ appearance and abilities, and is hunting her down.
Much like the battle against Dark Link, the fight with SA-X involves Samus battling against a mirror of herself. The first phase of the battle is a straight up Samus vs Samus. In a unique twist for the 2D Metroids, Samus must battle an opponent who is as small and agile as her, with a powerful selection of ranged weapons. After the first phase is over, SA-X transforms into a giant monster that bounces around the screen. The third (and final) phase is against a giant blue nucleus that bursts from SA-X’s body. This nucleus possesses ice powers, and will create a frozen shards that can act as both a shield, and a weapon. Any of these boss battles alone would have been frustratingly difficult, but the fact that you face all three consecutively makes it far worse.
If the SA-X really wanted to win, it should have mimicked Metroid: Other M Samus. After witnessing SA-X weeping like a schoolgirl and constantly calling Adam for help, Samus would have thrown herself out into space.
9. Tyrant On The Plane – Resident Evil – Code: Veronica
The second battle against the Tyrant in Resident Evil – Code: Veronica is difficult due to deceptive storytelling. You have to reach a cargo plane whilst a timer runs down. On the way to the plane, you must battle against the Tyrant in order to proceed. It is because of the finality of this encounter that the game tricks you into thinking that you have reached the end of Claire’s scenario. This means you can be as liberal with the ammo & healing items as you want, right?
When you get on the cargo plane and take off, the game throws another, more difficult Tyrant battle against you. If it is your first playthrough, then you will likely not be prepared for this fight, and you may as well start over.
The second Tyrant battle takes place aboard the cargo plane, whilst the rear hatch is open. You need to weaken him to a certain point where he falls onto his knees, then you can push a switch that will knock the cargo into him, and kick him off the plane. In order to weaken him, you will need a lot of ammo, as well as several healing items. You are only given a small area to manoeuvre, and the Tyrant can kill you in two or three hits. Even if you have saved up enough items, the battle will not be easy.
8. Carry Armor – Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII is filled with iconic villains. So which one will give you the most trouble. Is is Sephiroth, Jenova, Ruby Weapon, or Emerald Weapon?
Nope, it is a robot whose main function is carrying crates around a dock.
Carry Armor is a robot with two giant arms. The player will encounter it in the Junon Underwater Reactor, during the mission where they will acquire a submarine. Reno from the Turks will set Carry Armor onto the party, as he tries to flee aboard the submarine.
So what it is that makes Carry Armor so frustrating? It’s the arms. Carry Armor can grab up to two characters at a time. Those characters are immobilised, and are out of the battle until the player can destroy the arm holding them. If the Carry Armor grabs two players, and kills the third, then it is game over. Carry Armor also possesses a powerful attack called “Lapis Laser”. This attack hits like a truck, and ignores resistances. It is entirely possible for Carry Armor to get a fluke victory by grabbing two characters, and spamming Lapis Laser on the third.
7. Metal Sonic & Dr. Robotnik’s Giant Mech – Sonic 2
Sonic 2 is both an easy game, and a short one. A skilled player could probably beat it in a few hours, especially on a repeat playthrough.
There is only one frustratingly difficult moment in Sonic 2, and it happens during the final level. Once you reach the Death Egg Zone, you are thrust into two consecutive boss battles. The first is against Metal Sonic, a robot version of Sonic, who can fly at you with his thrusters. The second is against Dr. Robotnik’s Giant Mech, a huge machine that fills the screen. The Giant Mech is adorned with spikes, meaning the player has to be very careful where they hit.
These bosses would not be so hard, if it weren’t for one thing – there are no coins in the level. In the Sonic games, collecting coins allows you to survive a hit. It is possible to collect a few of the remaining coins as they spill out of your body, allowing you to take another hit. The two final bosses give you no second chances. You have to beat them both perfectly, in one try. It is the amount of remaining lives that you have left that will determine how many attempts you get to take at these two bosses.
6. Deviljho – Monster Hunter 3
The Monster Hunter series is filled with incredible boss battles. It also has its share of unfair ones, that abuse their A.I. in order to get one over on the players. There are many Monster Hunter creatures that could have taken this spot, especially the underwater monsters from the Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (who are a nightmare to fight, due to the swimming controls sucking so much).
There is one monster that stands out from the rest in terms of unfairness. Its name is Deviljho, and it looks like the offspring of a dinosaur and a pickle. Deviljho is big, fast, and strong. He is encountered in High Rank missions, where he will pose a challenge even to experienced teams of Hunters.
Deviljho has another sneaky move up his sleeve, however, and it involves a weaker monster name Qurupeco. If you hunt Qurupeco, and damage it, then it will play you the song of its people. Qurupeco can mimic the sounds of another creature, giving it a chance to summon another High Rank monster onto the field.
Should the Qurupeco’s call successfully summon a monster, there is a good chance that Deviljho will show up on the field unannounced, like a dinosaur version of Denny from The Room. The mission then becomes a race against time, as the players have to kill Qurupeco before Deviljho annihilates the party.
5. Marquis Elmdor – Final Fantasy Tactics
Riovanes Castle is one of the most frustrating locations in any Final Fantasy game. Not only does it contain the difficult battle against Wiegraf, but also the maddening fight on the roof that follows it.
Nobody likes escort missions. Most players feel safer knowing that their fate is in their own hands (or at least in the hands of other players), rather than the A.I. Final Fantasy Tactics has several missions where you must keep a certain party member of NPC safe, but none are as unbalanced as the battle on the Riovanes Castle roof.
You have to protect a girl named Rafa from three foes. Rafa is suicidally stupid, and will run headfirst into their attacking range (despite her lack of offensive capabilities). The first of the three opponents is Marquis Elmdor, who possesses a selection of long range sword attacks. His opening attack of the battle will instantly knock off half of Rafa’s health. The other two characters are Elmdor’s personal Assassins. Two beautiful women, who possess a selection of instant-kill melee attacks. If Rafa moves within range (which she will because she has a death wish), and one of the Assassin’s turns comes up, then you may as well just reset the game.
4. Ness’s Nightmare – EarthBound
EarthBound for the Super Nintendo is one of the most beloved games of all time, and it’s considered sacrilege in some circles to point out its flaws. The game is oozing with charm and character, and is held together by its funny dialogue and genuine heartfelt storytelling. With that being said, the game has a lot of issues when it comes to balance. The earliest parts of the game are very frustrating, due to the fact that you only have Ness, the protagonist, in your party. Both Ness and the low level enemies of the game have abysmal hit rates, and most early battles will involve a lot of misses. Thankfully, the game gives you a party of four varied characters, and later battles are a lot more fun because of this.
As you reach the end of the game, Ness must take a spiritual journey inside of himself, and purge the evil within his own heart. He visits the city of Magicant, and travels through his own mindscape on a mission of understanding. At the end of this journey, Ness must battle his own dark side – the creature known as Ness’s Nightmare.
The battle against Ness’s Nightmare brings back a lot of the problems from the beginning of the game. You only have Ness in your party, and you are facing an opponent that can protect himself from a lot of your PSI attacks. This turns the battle into a boring war of attrition, as the two of you chip away at each other… slowly.
3. Magus – Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo is regarded by many as the greatest video game of all time. It is game design turned into a work of art, created by some of the best minds in the industry when they were at the height of their game.
By far the most difficult battle in the game awaits you at the end of Magus’ castle. After defeating the one hundred beasts that guard his fortress (in what may be the best dungeon in the game), the players will finally get a chance to battle the dark sorcerer known as Magus.
The fight against Magus is all about barriers. He has the ability to change his elemental weakness whenever he wants, and due to the three party member limit, it is impossible to be able to cover them all at once. Striking Magus will force him to change the barrier… which he signifies by casting a group-wide attack spell of the same element. Magus has absurdly high defence, which can only be lowered by being struck by Frog’s sword, the Masamune. By forcing you to use Frog as a striker, the game gives you less opportunities to use his healing magic, which is necessary for a battle of attrition like this.
While the Magus battle is brutally difficult, the one thing we can all appreciate is how awesome his theme is.
2. The Matador – Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
Despite being one of the longest running RPG series in Japan, the Shin Megami Tensei games took a long time to be released in the West. While the games started out on the NES in Japan, the series did not see an English release until Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne on the PlayStation 2 in 2004. The success of the game led to the release of the later titles in the series, and Shin Megami Tensei has now achieved a cult following in the West.
All of the games in the series are known for their brutal (some might say unfair) difficulty. For many players, their first experience of this was against the Matador in Nocturne. You are forced into a boss battle against an undead Matador, and if you are not prepared, then he will annihilate your party with ease.
The Matador’s role in the game is to make sure the players are using debuff spells appropriately, and covering their elemental weaknesses. He will chop the party into pieces until they have learned this lesson. Matador has the ability to increase his agility to the maximum (making it highly probable that most of your attacks will miss), can strike the whole party with one attack, and can strip away all of your buffs. The player needs to plan the battle carefully, and choose a team of demons that can counter all of Matador’s strengths. The first time you battle him, however, the Matador will seem unbeatable. It should come as no surprise that his presence alone has caused many players to quit the game there and then.
1. Capra Demon – Dark Souls
The Dark Souls series is known for its high difficulty. With that being said, the games reward persistence, and a willingness to learn its systems. Even the nastiest looking creature can be taken down with skill timing. Each boss defeated gives a huge sense of accomplishment, which is one of the many reasons that this series has such a loyal fanbase.
The games have a reputation for being tough, but fair… Except for the Capra Demon from the original Dark Souls. Everything about the battle is intended to cheat the player out of a victory, and the developers should be ashamed for its inclusion.
The Capra Demon is a huge goat-headed demon. It carries two huge swords that it swings with impunity. The Capra Demon is slow, but powerful. It will only take a few hits to bring you down.
What makes the Capra Demon such a hard battle is not so much the demon itself, but rather the area that you fight it in. Once you enter the misty entrance of his boss arena, you cannot leave until the battle is done. The fight thrusts you into a tiny area (possibly the smallest of any boss battle in the series), giving you almost no room to manoeuvre.
It is then that the Capra Demon will set his dogs on you. The Capra Demon has two canine friends in the arena, who will pounce on you straight away. While not that strong, the dogs have the ability to stunlock you, giving the Capra Demon ample time to chop you up with his swords. The only real way to win the fight is to sprint to the other side of the room, and quickly turn around and face the dogs. You best hope you can deal with them before the Capra Demon is upon you. It is then the real battle begins… as you now have to face a giant monster in a tiny area.
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