There’s nothing that can give a gamer a greater sense of accomplishment than sending the game’s boss back to the shadowy depths from whence the came. At the same time, there’s nothing that can leave a gamer wanting to smash their controller more than a boss that simply won’t accept defeat.
Bosses have been a part of video gaming since the very beginning. After all, what would a Zelda game be without taking down Ganondorf? How about a Mario game without squaring off against Bowser? Defeating these bosses gives a finite end to the hero’s quest. Bosses can also help establish the end of a level — signifying that the player has earned the right to move on to the next chapter of the story.
For a while there, it seemed like video game bosses were quickly becoming a thing of the past. The surge in online multiplayer games meant that players no longer needed to beat an intimidating NPC to feel a sense of accomplishment — not with an endless supply of other gamers that they could triumph over instead. In recent years, RPGs have seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to franchises like Dark Souls, God of War, and The Elder Scrolls. The difficulty and in-depth nature of these game have created a community all of their own. Players now take to the web to share strategies on how to take down these franchises' most formidable foes.
Let's countdown the 20 Hardest Video Game Bosses Ever (And Exactly How To Beat Them).
20 M. Bison — Street Fighter II
Making his debut in 1991's Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, M. Bison serves as the final opponent for the player to square off against — provided they can make it through Sagat in one piece.
M. Bison is a relentless fighter, whose moves are fast and far more powerful than any other competitor in the game. Even just getting tossed by the criminal overlord can eat away a third of the player’s vitality, meaning that keeping your distance throughout a majority of the fight is a must. Using a character with projectile attacks can give the player a slight advantage during this fight, but victory over M. Bison will ultimately come down to lots of trial and error.
19 Dark Link — Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link may be one of the most maligned installments of this high fantasy series, but it also has one of the most competitive boss battles. Here, Dark Link serves as the final foe of the 1988 NES game, where he has the exact same speed and moves as the Hylian Hero. Since the blocks and attacks come at the player almost as quickly as they’re dealt out, this boss fight is all about spot-on reflexes — and a little luck certainly doesn’t hurt.
Dark Link has since become a recurring enemy in the series, though the fight against him in Zelda II is easily the most challenging. That is, unless you just want to take the easy way out by crouching in the corner and endlessly stabbing your sword in Dark Link's direction.
18 Dracula — Castlevania
With no shortage of YouTube videos and messaging boards to sift through, Dracula isn’t nearly as hard to defeat today as he once was. When the game was first released, players had to figure out how to take down this Castlevania boss all on their own. That meant playing through the game all over again to try and implement a new tactic, only to have it fail and have to start all the way back at the beginning.
Since the player takes four times more damage than Dracula, going into the battle with a surplus of hearts is a must. Using Holy Water can also help stop Dracula’s projectiles, making them easier to jump over. Holy Water can also stall Dracula in his final form, making the second stage of this boss fight actually easier than the first.
17 Sinistar — Sinistar
Known for being relentlessly difficult, Sinistar is a multi-directional shooter which was released in arcades back in 1983. The game finds the player piloting a lone spaceship, which they use to dodge planetoids and enemy ships that whip across the screen in headache-inducing patterns.
Shooting the planetoids releases crystals, which the player needs to create Sinibombs. You need 13 Sinibombs to defeat Sinistar, the game's final boss. However, the enemy ships are also on the hunt for crystals, which they use to construct Sinistar throughout the game. Outside of sheer skill, the only real trick here is to slowly chip away at the planetoids to better the chances of gathering crystals. Otherwise, these planetoids will simply be destroyed without giving the player any assets.
16 Wizpig — Diddy Kong Racing
The primary antagonist of Diddy Kong Racing, Wizpig is an intergalactic pig-wizard who takes over Timber’s Island and lays claim to the land’s racetracks. The player must beat Wizpig twice throughout the Nintendo 64 game — once on land, and once in space — but it’s actually the first race that presents the real challenge for racers.
While Wizpig will inevitably take an early lead in the one-on-one race, the player can make up ground throughout the track’s three laps. The key is to hit as many of the track's zippers as possible — which will give the racer a temporary boost in speed. Hitting these zippers alone isn’t enough-- you need to be pointing in the perfect direction to reap the full benefits of these boosts to stand any chance of staying ahead of Wizpig.
15 Emerald Weapon —Final Fantasy VII
Emerald Weapon may not be the final boss of Final Fantasy VII, but this battle is easily the game’s most challenging. The aquatic enemy is an optional superboss, which requires the player to get in a submarine and venture beneath the seas. The first challenge of taking down Emerald Weapon is the 20-minute time limit, which means the player must continuously be on the offense throughout the fight. Add to that an enemy HP of one million, and Emerald Weapon seems almost undefeatable.
However, the time limit can actually be avoided by acquiring the Underwater Materia elsewhere in the game. It may be a lengthy process, but it will take a lot of pressure out of the fight. From there, it’s just a matter of memorizing Emerald Weapon's attack pattern and reacting accordingly.
14 Ornstein and Smough — Dark Souls
If you thought taking on one Dark Souls boss at a time was already hard enough, try squaring off against two at once. This is what makes defeating Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough one of the most challenging boss battles in the entire series. If you want to make things easier on yourself, summoning another player is always an easy out.
After one of the enemies is defeat, the other will absorb the powers of the fallen foe. Therefore, focusing on one at a time is a must. Ornstein is likely the easiest to defeat first since he’s the hardest to distance yourself from. Using some lightening resistant-armor and fire-based weaponry will also give you a slight edge up during this brutal and unforgiving fight.
13 Alma — Ninja Gaiden
The 2004 installment of this action-adventure series, Ninja Gaiden was originally released for the Xbox, where the game become notorious amongst players for its punishing boss fights. Squaring off against Alma is largely considered the most difficult fight in the game, as the Great Fiend both has immense power and speed on her side. On top of her rapid-fire projectile attacks, Alma can also rush up on the player in an instant, giving them very little time to react.
Like so many challenging boss battles, defeating Alma is all about precision timing. Due to her impressive speed, it might be tempting to try and rush the fight through. Being patient and waiting for the ideal opening will ultimately reap the better outcome.
12 Mike Tyson — Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Even if the player managed to make it to the Dream Fight of this 1987 fighting game, taking down Mike Tyson is no easy feat. The opponent towers over the player’s Little Mac, who has a much smaller arsenal of moves which also deal out a lot less damage.
There is a set strategy for defeating the world-class boxer. First and foremost, you need to dodge Tyson’s punches precisely and free yourself up to counterpunch as soon as possible. You’ll also want to try and hit Tyson on the opposite side that he is currently facing — which will deal out almost double the damage. The key of the entire fight is to only react. Don't try to predict Tyson's next move, because dodging when you don't need to will result in being knocked out in no time.
11 C’Thun — World of Warcraft
C’Thun is an ancient god who first appeared in the Temple of Ahn-Qiraj in World of Warcraft. The enemy is gigantic eyeball surrounded by a mass of tentacles, who inspires insanity in anyone who lingerings in its presence.
C’Thun has a wide range of attacks, including everything from an eyeball beam to a stomach full of acid that will quickly eat away at the player’s health should they find themselves swallowed by the monstrous beast. Staying on the outside of this fight is of the utmost importance. Defeating C’Thun has also become increasingly easy over the years thanks to a number of patches, but the original incarnation of the character was nearly unbeatable, even to the most seasoned WoW player.
10 Goro — Mortal Kombat
Any of the original trilogy bosses in Mortal Kombat are a challenge to overcome, but Goro from the original 1992 game is slightly more difficult to defeat than both Shao Khan and Shang Tsung. As the story goes, Goro is a half-human, half-dragon beast who has served as the tournament's champion for the last 500 years. His extra set of arms allow him to grab the player and deal out a massive amount of damage at once. Goro even has a projectile attack, making him a threat at any distance.
While the second-to-last boss can be beaten by any character with enough practice, one of the easy ways to take down Goro is to use Sub Zero’s freeze moves — which temporarily stun the enemy and opens him up for a second attack.
9 Yellow Devil — Mega Man
Making his debut in the 1987 platforming game, the Yellow Devil is a giant robot created by Dr. Wily. Despite his gigantic mass, Yellow Devil’s only weak spot is his single red eye — which is only visible for a fraction of the fight. Even worse is that the enemy will only take one hit at a time, resulting in him dismantling piece by piece and floating to the other side of the screen. Therefore, a majority of this battle is spent dodging attacks.
If you can get a handle on the dodging pattern, using the Thunder Beam to attack the Yellow Devil’s weak spot will greatly help speed up this boss battle in the player’s favor.
8 Senator Armstrong —Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
The final boss of this Metal Gear spin-off, Senator Armstrong is an accomplice of the secret military company Desperado Enforcement — which serves as the game’s primary antagonist. Players must take on the role of the cyborg Raiden to take down the secret organization, which culminates in an epic boss fight against Armstrong.
The senator has increased durability and strength courtesy of the nanomachines that are one with his body. While Armstrong's buffed strength makes this fight an uphill battle, the enemies attacks are well choreographed. Since you can always see his ranged attacks coming, defeating Armstrong is just a matter of dodging and then dashing in at the right moment. Being patient during the first half of the battle is the key, as Armstrong is a much more manageable boss once you knock him down to 100% HP.
7 Sans — Undertale
Sans pops up in all three storylines of the 2015 role-playing game Undertale, but he only serves as the primary antagonist during the Genocide Route. Here, Sans is easily the hardest boss battle in the game, which requires the player to continuously go on the offense in order to have any chance of progressing the fight.
The first half of the battle is straightforward enough that it comes down to simply memorizing each mini-game. The much more difficult second phase relies both on memorization and spot-on reflexes. Since Sans inflicts poison damage, even the slightest mistake will continue to drain the player's health beyond the initial contact. To better your odds, it’s best to go onto the fight with as many resources as possible, then wait until the halfway point to do any necessary healing.
6 Orphan of Kos — Bloodborne
Much like the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne has no shortage of challenging boss battles, but the hardest battle comes courtesy of The Old Hunter DLC. The Orphan of Kos uses both close and wide attacks throughout the battle, making him a threat from any distance. Since many of his attacks land to the right, it helps to stick to the Orphan of Kos’s left and wait for an opening.
In the first phase, the boss also has a tendency to jump toward the player. It may be tempting to roll backward, but charging this attack will give the player a chance at a backstab. During the second phase, it helps to stay close to Kos and wait for an opening, just so long as the player doesn't get greedy and go for more than a few sings at once.
5 Sephiroth — Kingdom Hearts
Sephiroth may be the final boss of Final Fantasy VII, but this human-alien hybrid is much more of a challenge to take down in the Kingdom Hearts series. Here, Sephiroth is able to block a ridiculous amount of the player’s attacks. He’s also able to counter-attack with very little recovery time. Therefore, trying to get behind the one-winged angel may be the easiest way to get in a hit.
For this fight, preparation is just as important as battle strategy. Going into face Sephiroth below a level 70 will almost certainly spell disaster for newbies. There are also a number of resources, abilities, and equipment that will help buff your strength and HP when going against this relentless boss.
4 The Nameless King — Dark Souls III
Considering that this may well be the hardest battle in series, there’s good reason that The Nameless King is an optional boss in Dark Souls III. The first phase of the fight involves taking out the king’s dragon. It might be tempting to keep your distance, but doing so will result in the dragon taking flight — which is never a good thing. Stay close and aim for the head whenever an opening presents itself.
The second phase is much harder, as the Nameless King’s attacks are fast and devastating. Even one mistimed roll could result in instant defeat. The only real strategy comes in memorizing the Nameless King's attacks and dodging/blocking at the exact moment. In other words, there are simply no shortcuts or easy outs in this boss battle.
3 Queen Larsa — Mushihimesama Futari
As if the final boss in the original Mushihimesama wasn’t already hard enough, the 2006 sequel upped the ante to a ridiculous level with Queen Larsa. This Japanese series of vertical scrollers is known for being unbelievably hard. For those you who aren’t fans of the manic shooter genre, you’ll likely want to steer clear of the Mushihimesama games altogether.
For those brave enough to face Queen Larsa head on, they should know that there are no collectibles, cheat codes, or glitches to aid in this fight. It all comes down to hand-eye coordination and precision reflexes. With the barrage of projectiles constantly headed in the player's direction, this final boss literally leaves no room for error.
2 Skolas — Destiny
The final boss of the House of Wolves expansion, Skolas is easily the toughest foe to defeat in Destiny. When the expansion first debuted, Skolas was subject to weekly challenges. This would keep dedicated players on their toes as they worked for hours to take down Skolas with their teammates.
The battle was such an unforgiving one, that the game developers eventually removed some of the modifications and cut the HP of Skolas in half to make for a fairer fight. That being said, taking down the Kell of Kells still requires a seasoned team of players who know how to work well together. Otherwise, they're bound to be taken out by Skolas's army of Fallen before the battle has nearly begun.
1 Absolute Virtue — Final Fantasy XI
Absolute Virtue was such a challenge to beat upon initial release that this boss dips into the level of ridiculous rather than outright challenging. The character debuted in the Chains of Promathia expansion pack for Final Fantasy XI, where players would eventually spend hours at a time trying to defeat Absolute Virtue to no avail.
After going undefeated for years — at least, by legitimate means — the developers added a patch to the game which dramatically reduced Absolute Virtue’s HP from somewhere around 100,000 to 66,000. A two-hour time limit was also implemented to prevent players from spending the better part of the day from trying to take down this boss. Even with these modifications, taking down Absolute Virtue requires weeks, if not months, of upgrading your character to prepare for the battle.
Which boss do you think was the biggest challenge to defeat? Let us know!