Quantity over quality. That's what best describes Dark Souls 2's take on the notoriously difficult gaming franchise. That's both a good and bad thing. On one hand, we have a grand total of 41 bosses (including expansions). On the other hand, more than half of them were unnecessary, poorly designed, or just embarrassing tryhards compared to the bosses of the original Dark Souls or even Dark Souls 3.
Still, there are some diamonds in the rough... along with some really bad and crumbly coal. Five of those bosses work to make Dark Souls 2 stand out from its predecessor, while the other five prevented the game from becoming a masterpiece.
10 MAGUS AND CONGREGATION (WORST)
This boss is a huge joke. It consists of an evil priest and his emaciated flock of followers who will then attack you with a fervor that would make even zombies look athletic. However, that's not the reason why Magus and Congregation is a poorly designed and implemented boss. They simply feel tacked on and undercooked, like a little kid wanting to join adults at the pool party.
Coupled with the fact that they are a breeze to defeat makes their existence in a game like Dark Souls 2 all the more puzzling. It's like the developers were forced to follow a boss design quota so they introduced this boss as a placeholder and forgot to polish it out.
9 PURSUER (BEST)
Now, we're getting to the heavy hitters. The Pursuer acts as your nemesis in Dark Souls 2. He is there to remind you that you're just undead scum who's way out of line and needs to be put down. You first meet him quite early in the game and he's probably the first wall that players had the displeasure of hurdling over.
Once you defeat him though, it gets more interesting (or annoying). You soon find out that he somehow still exists and has been chasing you around waiting for the chance to get back at you. As a result, you actually have to fight him several times in the game. Lovely.
8 OLD DRAGONSLAYER (WORST)
The Dragonslayer Ornstein was one of the most iconic bosses and characters in the original Dark Souls. He was also no slouch and can kick the players' butts several times over. So how come him being carried over to Dark Souls 2 is a bad thing? Because that's lazy.
He is essentially a copy-pasted boss. That in itself is not a bad idea, however, they forgot to give him justice-- he was a pushover in Dark Souls 2, and a disappointing counterpart of the original Dragonslayer. He really should not have been in this game.
7 SINH, THE SLUMBERING DRAGON (BEST)
Majority of Dark Souls 2's bosses are cookie cutter big dudes in big armors and that got a little too repetitive and unimaginative. Hence, Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon was a breath of fresh air (or fire) for players. He was the first dragon fight where it actually felt like players were fighting a legitimate dragon who is a lot more powerful than them.
It is worth noting that Sinh is exclusive in the Crown of the Sunken King DLC of Dark Souls 2. Still, his arrival and addition were very much needed and welcome, especially after players were forced to fight a certain cheap dragon in the base game...
6 ANCIENT DRAGON (WORST)
One of the main selling points of the Dark Souls games was that they are hard but fair, meaning you can learn to be better or to "git gud," so to speak. For that matter, players are often sensitive as to how well-designed a boss can be, especially if they had cheap tricks and moves that can kill the players in one hit and covers the whole arena with their attack.
One such filth of a boss exists in the form of the Ancient Dragon. It was arguably the cheapest boss in Dark Souls 2: its health pool was huge, it has one-hit-kill attacks, and can nuke the whole arena. There is an easy way to defeat it, but it requires taking advantage of its abysmal A.I., leading to an unsatisfactory fight and a hollow victory. It's quite sad since the concept behind the fight looked epic.
5 FUME KNIGHT (BEST)
An exclusive boss of the Crown of the Old Iron King DLC and is generally regarded as the most difficult boss in Dark Souls 2. The Fume Knight earns a spot in the best Dark Souls 2 bosses because of how his design is representative of Dark Souls' core formula. This dude wants you to die over and over again until your blood vessels pop, and only then can you retain the composure and patience needed to defeat him.
His attacks are a combination of swift and heavy hits which can be deceiving as he likes to use them interchangeably. On top of that, you don't get many windows of opportunity to sneak in some measly strikes. Once you defeat him though, you'll be rewarded with enough endorphins to last you a whole week.
4 TWIN DRAGONRIDERS (WORST)
The worst example of a copy-paste boss in Dark Souls 2. You actually first meet this guy alone as a boss early in the game. He is a weakling at that point and can even kill himself in a degrading accident. That would have made for a good prelude for his revenge against you with an ally, right? Nope. With his lazily designed brother (they obviously just recolored him), both of them became blundering idiots.
These two bosses are a waste of time and space in the game because of how lazy the developers were with them. There could have been four or six of them and you'll still be able to defeat them just as easily.
3 SIR ALONNE (BEST)
The Artorias of the Dark Souls 2. If you don't know who that is, he's is the defiantly noble fallen hero figure of the original Dark Souls. Like Artorias, Sir Alonne has the best backstory out of all bosses in the game. He was once a renowned and virtuous warrior who made a great sacrifice for the greater good.
Of course, he is also incredibly skilled and can kill you if you simply dare attempt to blink when fighting him. Additionally, Sir Alonne is an honorable samurai and will commit a ritual suicide out of shame if you ever defeat him without losing any health. Now that's how you make a good boss!
2 ROYAL RAT VANGUARD (WORST)
For some reason, Dark Souls 2 has this fixation with rats in one of its levels. They really pushed it with their poorly designed rat enemies. There was a giant rat boss, rat enemy fodder, and the final straw, the Royal Rat Vanguard. Their name is actually misleading since they are neither royal nor a vanguard.
They're just oversized rats who mindlessly swarm you until you find their "alpha" whose health bar is displayed like in a regular boss fight. Really, the Royal Rat Vanguard is just a poorly implemented digital game of whack-a-mole.
1 DARKLURKER (BEST)
What makes a good Dark Souls boss? A combination of imposing character design, interesting fight mechanics, mysterious backstory, and a fair arena. The Darklurker has all those ticked and is probably tied with Sir Alonne for the best Dark Souls 2 boss ever for some people. Still, the Darklurker arguably has more variations in his spells and attacks. All of them require your full attention and skill in order to win.
Despite being a fun challenge, the Darklurker is one of the hardest fights (or the hardest for some) in Dark Souls 2. Just when you think you know him like the back of your hand, he will spice things up by making a clone of himself and launching some random projectiles at you. Should you come out victorious, however, you'll feel like a true conqueror and badass.