Ahh, the boss battle. Video games wouldn't be what they are today without them, as they offered us bigger challenges and more memorable moments than any others. With that in mind we have compiled the 20 Best Video Game Boss Battles Ever.
Note that this isn’t a list of best final bosses, or the hardest bosses of all time. These are the boss battles that have stuck with us, offering us something truly special and unique, which is really all you can ask for in a boss.
20 The Tyrant (Resident Evil)
After enduring zombies, giant snakes, ravens, hunters, sharks, and all manner of things that wish you dead, your reward at the end of the first Resident Evil was to face the Tyrant. This biological nightmare has an obvious weak spot- its heart beats outside its body- but that’s easily countered by the gigantic claw it has in lieu of a hand.
That claw can kill you in one swipe, so the first time you face the Tyrant you’ll do a lot of running and screaming. If you do manage to take him down you still aren’t done, as he will explode out of the ground as you attempt to flee via helicopter, reminding you that there's more work to be done. He'll chase you around the helipad until one of your buddies throws down a rocket launcher, which makes good work out of him once and for all.
19 Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong)
Without Donkey Kong, Mario was just some guy hanging out in the sewers jumping on turtles.
We will likely know what led the lesser Kong to kidnap poor Pauline and drag her to the top of this very rickety structure, but his plan in Donkey Kong is actually pretty foolproof. Consider this: every dang level in Donkey Kong is a boss battle, and the game is almost impossible because of it. He will throw barrels down at you that have to be dodged by jumping at the last minute, and he’s apparently made friends with living flames. He’s a bit weak against a frontal attack but it’s unlikely you’ll ever knock him off his perch more than a couple of times. This is his jungle.
18 Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
By far the most imaginative boss on this list, Psycho Mantis seems impossible in the first Metal Gear Solid. He appears after having taken control of your companion Meryl and almost having you kill her, and then he starts to mess with your mind. He taunts you by telling you you play too many games, actually letting you know what games you’ve been playing (at least, what Konami games) by reading the contents of the memory card. He then tells you to place your controller down on the floor to show you how powerful he is, and proceeds to rattle it around "psychically."
And then the battle begins in earnest and you will likely die a few times, as he’s almost invulnerable. Eventually you’ll figure out that you have to unplug your controller from Port 1 and place it in Port 2, effectively making it impossible for him to read your mind.
From that point on he’ll be easy to take out. It was a frustrating moment for most but that “ah-ha!” revelation has never been topped, even by later Metal Gear installments.
17 Mike Tyson (Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!)
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is not an easy game, but it isn’t until the very last fight that you begin to know real pain. Digital Mike Tyson appears throughout the game, taunting you and smiling his iconic, gap-toothed smile, but once he’s in the ring with you, you’ll realize he backs up his words.
Soon into the bout you will see that each of Mike’s regular punches can almost knock you out, but then when he flashes, you better be prepared. Only the most nimble of gamers will be able to dodge each and every punch of his barrage, which culminates in his trademark uppercut that can KO you right away. He’s one of the hardest video game bosses for this, and it doesn't help that you can be knocked out so very quickly, leaving you to play through the entire thing again in order to try and learn his patterns.
At least he stays away from your ears...
16 The Archdemon (Dragon Age: Origins)
For a game called Dragon Age, you don’t see an awful lot of dragons. In fact, the first one you see arrives at the very end. Fortunately this final battle against the massive beast is as memorable as you could have ever hoped for.
You will genuinely feel like you’re fighting a large-scale battle (no pun intended) against this demon dragon, and your choice of companions and enchantments is absolutely crucial for this fight. Depending on the allies and partnerships you’ve made over the course of the game you have many different strategies you can employ, and it makes for the most epic battle in the game by far.
Of course, the giant beast isn't the only enemy you'll face, as you'll also be overwhelmed with darkspawn forces to keep things interesting. Prepare for a long fight.
15 Hitler (Wolfenstein 3D)
Not only was Wolfenstein 3D one of the first first-person shooters ever made, kicking off a genre that’s still among the most popular today, it also offered one of the most satisfying final bosses to this date: Adolf Hitler himself.
You’ll play through the game as BJ Blazkowicz, an American soldier in World War II who’s tasked with battling hundreds of Nazi soldiers, so who better to face as a final boss than Hitler himself? Well, how about Mecha-Hitler? Yes after defeating the moustachioed goose-stepper a few times he will disappear, only to reappear in an armored mech suit, shooting quad-chainguns right at your face.
Destroy him and you not only save the world but are rewarded with the sight of him dissolving into a bloody pile of body parts, perhaps the most satisfying death of Hitler until Eli Roth slaughtered a movie theater full of Nazis in Inglourious Basterds. After, the screen will flash "Let's See That Again!" and play back the gnarly death animation in slow motion, just so you can relish it. Get psyched.
14 The Master (Fallout)
The creator of the Super Mutants that terrorize you through each Fallout game, The Master has decided that his best role in saving humanity is to turn the entire species into mutated beasts via a virus. Showcasing how amazing the game really is, you can choose to fight the Master as expected at the end, even though he's quite a hard fight. He can attack twice a round, has respawning Super Mutant bodyguards and has a ton of hit points, but you can also choose to simply blow up his entire building with a nuke or just join forces with him and become a Super Mutant yourself.
But perhaps the best part of this boss battle is that you can completely avoid it. Depending on the skills you’ve upgraded, you may be able to convince him that everything he’s done is terrible and get him so depressed that he chooses to take his own life rather than face you. Can you think of another game that offers that?
13 Bebop and Rocksteady (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
The 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game is notoriously difficult. As an arcade game, it was designed to separate you from your quarters, after all. Cheesy enemies could whittle your health down to nothing within seconds, leaving you shell-shocked and pizza-less.
In a game full of memorable villains, however, the tag-team duo of Bebop and Rocksteady made for one of the toughest battles. and you had better hope you had a full four-player roster ready for the fight, because it’s incredibly easy to get tagged by one villain as you try to hit the other. Both come equipped with guns, and while it’s smart to try and separate the two, they can knock you out with a strong kick or barrage of bullets. Pray for luck… or a pocketful of quarters.
12 Colossus Of Rhodes (God Of War II)
“How can they possibly make this game more epic?” many gamers wondered after the first God of War, which sees its protagonist, Kratos, become the titular character and sit down on a throne in Mount Olympus.
SCE Santa Monica chuckled knowingly, and started you off in God of War II fighting the Colossus of Rhodes, which Zeus brings to life in order to destroy Kratos. You're a mere ant to this giant bronze statue and so have to fight this epic battle crawling over and inside this automaton as he destroys an entire city. It only gets even more epic from there, but it still reigns as one of the most stunning opening sequences in an action game.
11 Bowser (Super Mario 64)
Bowser is a mainstay in every Mario Bros game, but his appearance in Super Mario 64 may be his most memorable. Time after time he appears in a special level where you have to grab his tail and spin him around to toss him into a number of bombs lining the arena and take him out, and every single time he keeps crawling back for more. The stages themselves are both incredibly satisfying and a wonderful demonstration of the power of the 3D platformer, which this game effectively kicked off as a genre.
Bowser in the Sky, the final battle level, sees Mario trying to face a Bowser that's learned a ton of tricks, like how to break the ground, breathe fire, and send shock waves by smashing down. Defeat him and you’ll rescue Princess Peach, even though you know that he’ll just rise up again and again and again in future games.
10 Ganon (The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time)
You might think the game is over after Link defeats Ganondorf, and you barely escape from the castle with Zelda as the ruins come crumbling down around you. But you'd be wrong. From the ruins of the castle Ganondorf rises again, and he uses his Triforce of Power to transform into Ganon, a huge beast wielding two swords.
What's makes things even better is the setting. The battle between these two figures takes place as the dark and stormy sky flashes with lightning, highlighting the still-flaming ruins of the castle around you. Ganon is tough enemy but ultimately the Master Sword is what’s needed to take him down for good and bring peace to the world. An appropriately wonderful ending to one of the best games ever made.
9 Big Daddy (BioShock)
The Big Daddy. They are the first thing most think of when they think of BioShock, so iconic is their look. They lumber around in antiquated atmospheric diving suits, and they are there to protect the Little Sisters all over the underwater world of Rapture. Some have rivet guns or drills for arms, but their punches are just as formidable.
Forget the final boss battle of this game, which cheapens the experience. The Big Daddy enemies are the best in BioShock, especially as they are basically roaming battles that allow you to choose when and where to engage them. The best bet is to do it on your turf with plenty of traps and heavy weapons at the ready, because each and every one of these is a fierce battle. There’s few things as unsettling as the groaning, whale-like noises these guys make (especially combined with the reverberating footsteps their heavy armor makes), but when they're angry at you? It's utterly terrifying and you know you’re in for it.
8 Lavos (Chrono Trigger)
An alien parasite and the final boss of this classic JRPG, Lavos crash landed on the planet in the year 65,000,000 B.C. and has been generally mucking things up ever since. Defeating it will save the world from being drained of of power, ironically by using technology that was directly influenced from its arrival here. It has many different forms that you'll face and it will be quite a lengthy battle.
Lavos is unique, though, as it’s just sitting around waiting for you to fight it. Early in the game you can choose to fly all the way back in time and challenge it, although it’s likely that if you’re not levelled up, you’ll get destroyed right away. Depending on when you face it, you’ll receive one of thirteen different endings, so be sure that you’re good and prepared for it.
7 Ornstein and Smough (Dark Souls)
Bosses in the notoriously brutal Dark Souls are tough enough, but when there's two of them? You better be prepared for a vicious battle, and put that summoning stone to good use.
Like every boss in the game, Ornstein and Smough both tower above you, although "Executioner Smough" is twice the size of "Dragon Slayer Ornstein" and carries a massive hammer, the head of which is the same height as you are. When one dies, the other gets a boost to their power and full health, so concentrate on one at a time.
Your best bet is to try and separate the two and pick off Ornstein first, as he's much faster and more dangerous. A swipe or two of Smough's hammer will pulverize you for good but he's slow enough that you can usually see all the attacks coming from far away. Even knowing all of this, it will likely be a few tries before you can beat them both. Good luck.
6 Atheon (Destiny)
The bosses in Destiny are the most memorable parts of the game, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of the Strikes and Raids, which let players tackle tough battles and bosses any time they want. By far the most popular is Atheon’s Raid from the Vault of Glass, which was the first Raid in the game and still holds up as the best.
Atheon is a massive Vex Minotaur that is either the creator of the Vault of Glass or its creation, but either way, it's a tough enemy. It wields a Torch Hammer and can send Guardians into the Timestream, sending them into the past or future and confusing them thoroughly. Expect a long, tough battle, but as with anything in Destiny, there’s the potential for tons of loot for the toughest missions. Beat Atheon and you'll get exclusive loot, including a good chance you'll get some exotic weapons.
5 The Final Colossus (Shadow Of The Colossus)
Shadow of the Colossus is basically a game of nonstop boss battles, so it’s hard to pick one out of them all as a clear highlight. Still, the 16th and final colossus that you face really is something special. First of all, it’s bigger than all the ones you’ve faced before, by a good degree. Nicknamed Malus, this colossus is basically a giant stone tower that rains down hellfire on you, all the while a raging storm crashes above its head.
Lightning storms are certainly nothing new to boss battles (see how many selections in this list have them!) but the wind and rain really makes you feel helpless as you try to climb up this beast. Brave the climb and attack its weak points and you’ll topple it before long, but expect a long journey to the top, even as you question whether you should be doing this in the first place.
4 Ugh-Zan III (Serious Sam: The First Encounter)
An unapologetic old school shooter that’s as ridiculous as it is fun to play, there was really only one way that Serious Sam could end, and that’s with a boss that’s multiple screens tall. Ugh-Zan III is by far the largest and hardest boss in the game, one of the generals of main villain Mental and the third incarnation of Ugh-Zan, a warlock giant. He's apparently one of the most dangerous creatures in the universe but our hero Sam can make short work of him.
That’s a lie, actually. Ugh Zan III is one tough cookie.
Get close to him and he'll stomp on you and kill you instantly. Stay away and you'll have to try to shoot down his rockets and lava ball attacks before they destroy you, or dodge his laser beam blasts. It doesn't help that Ugh Zan III is hundreds of feet tall and can regenerate his health when it gets too low, but you know what they say about guys like this: the bigger they are...
3 Diablo (Diablo 3)
Diablo! Also known as Al'Diabalos, the Lord of Terror, this demon is one of the three Prime Evils and is responsible for enslaving mankind using their very own fear. If the name didn’t tip you off, he’s the main antagonist in the Diablo series and was defeated in Hell, but he returns in Diablo 3 to try and destroy Heaven itself.
Looking about as appropriate as a demon should look, with red fiery skin, horns, and wing-like spikes growing from his back, you’ll face this giant demon at the end of the game. After beating up on him for a bit he'll use his powers and bring you into the realm of fear, making you face shadowy beings as a storm swirls around. Keep your head straight and you’ll be able to destroy him, potentially for good… or at least until you play some Heroes of the Storm.
2 Ultros - (Final Fantasy VI)
“Don’t tease the octopus, kids!
Kefka may be one of the most memorable villains in a Final Fantasy game, but the best battle has got to go to Ultros, who first fights our heroes as they attempt to escape from a boat onto a raft. Yelling such strange catchphrases as the one above (as well as “Muscle heads! Hate'em!" and "Delicious morsel! Let me get my bib!"), he's definitely got the best sense of humor of any boss in the game. He isn’t too hard, though, as his attacks mostly consist of him trying to ink the party to blind them. But a good sense of humor goes a long way.
This battle isn’t the last of him, though. Ultros shows up later to try and interrupt the opera, tries to stop them once again on an airship, and finally has a great cameo as a receptionist, having amended his evil ways. Seafood soup!
1 Dracula (Castlevania)
The Belmonts would have easy lives if it weren't for Dracula. This bloodline is cursed to be the eternal enemies of the famous bloodsucker, and, fortunately for all of us, never shy from venturing into his castle in order to do battle with him. His very first appearance in the first Castlevania is still likely the best.
He flies around and appears randomly around the screen, shooting fireballs from his cape, with only his head vulnerable. Knock him down enough and you'll face his second form, as some sort of gray demon. What's more, you're playing in front of his open casket (as if the whole thing wasn't ominous enough).
But as with many of the best game bosses, you know that defeating Dracula won't be the end of him. He will inevitably rise again to face you in the decades and centuries to come, and you'll be there waiting for him.
Do you love these battles as much as we do? Do you have some others that you'd rate just as highly? Let us know in the comments below!