Even today, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is still seen as one of the largest and most immersive video games on the market, with its countless main and side quests making each replay of the game its own unique experience. Many quests allow the Dragonborn to choose different outcomes for many of the quests, whether you want to spare Saadia and stop her Alik'r pursuers in exchange for turning her in, or if you choose to follow the Dark Brotherhood quest line in exchange for wiping out the entire faction at once.
One thing that typically doesn't change across different replays of the game is the bosses. While their levels may change, depending on how strong your character is upon encountering each particular boss, a good boss battle always remains good, and a bad boss battle always remains bad.
Sometimes the lesser boss battles in Skyrim are lacking due to their unoriginal fighting scenarios. Other times, they are bad boss battles simple due to narrative issues, with an intense, difficult fight ultimately feeling pointless if there are no stakes in the matter. Some of the better boss battles in the game, however, seem to make up for the bad fights. Sometimes these better boss fights are better due to narrative reasons, the unique fighting style, or the unique location that the fight takes place in.
No matter the reasoning, Skyrim is filled with boss fights that are both great and entertaining, as well as some that are an absolute waste of time.
With this in mind, here are the 10 Bosses That Hurt Skyrim (And 10 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Mercer Frey
Mercer Frey was the primary antagonist of the Thieves' Guild quest line, being the group's former leader who betrayed his colleagues. One of the final quests of this particular quest line features the heroes of the Thieves' Guild tracking down Frey, who is in the process of taking his greatest score yet. While this boss fight certainly had enough narrative build up, the fight itself felt rather flat and dull.
Rather than putting up a fight against the Dragonborn, Mercer Frey sort of just ran around a large statue the entire time.
While Frey's disappearing and fleeing act was fun for a moment, after a couple minutes, it just became annoying. Skyrim players like bosses and enemies that will actually fight back, rather than just running away the entire time. It was a disappointing ending to a truly entertaining quest line.
19 Saved: Voslaarum and Naaslaarum
In the Dawnguard DLC, one of the most stretched out quests was "Touching the Sky," where the Dragonborn and Serana must journey through the Forgotten Vale, a long, tedious, ancient location filled with nothing but ice and ruins. While many people were not fond of how long this quest was, there was an aspect of the quest about halfway through that made it all worthwhile. Randomly, while the Dragonborn is walking on top of a frozen lake, two dragons burst out of the ice, setting up an intense and entertaining battle.
Voslaarum and Naaslaarum prove to be some difficult dragons to take down, and the stakes rise even more every time that the dragons decide to crash back into the ice, only to break back through the ice at a random place. It's unlike any other fight in all of Skyrim, and it makes "Touching the Sky" a lot more bearable.
18 Hurt: Krosis
Dragon Priests are typically entertaining bosses to fight against, since they use unique spells and staffs. However, one of the most common, and frankly disappointing, Dragon Priest fights takes place on the top of a small mountain. While Krosis isn't a disappointing boss during every replay of the game, there are some situations where he becomes an utter annoyance.
The main issue with Krosis is that his location at Shearpoint is right above the Ancient Nordic Tomb Korvanjund, which is one of the first locations the Dragonborn is sent to during the Civil War quest line. The problem here is that low level players may come across Krosis accidentally, and get caught in the middle of an intense fight against an overpowered enemy. However, at least you get a cool mask out of it.
17 Saved: The Forgemaster
One of the longer side quests in Skyrim is "Lost to the Ages," which comes with the Dawnguard DLC. However, the quest isn't necessarily too long, as the climax of the quest really makes it all worthwhile. This particular quest leads the Dragonborn deep under ground to some old Dwarven ruins. This leads to an intense fight against the strongest Dwarven Centurion in the game, the Forgemaster.
Unlike the other Dwarven enemies in the game, the Forgemaster is absolutely immune to fire, seeing as it has lived in the depths of molten magma for centuries, which can make the fight even harder for some players.
The absolute best aspect of this fight, however, is the location. All of this takes place right next to a large pool of lava, which adds an intimidating orange glow to the entire room.
16 Hurt: Malyn Varen
During the Daedric quest "The Black Star," the Dragonborn is taken on a rather unique journey into the center of the Black Star artifact itself in order to get the evil sorcerer Malyn Varen out. The interior of the star was rather cool, being a long, circular tunnel, with the walls, floor, and ceiling all being some sort of bright blue crystal. However, despite having a cool-looking location, the fight against Malyn Varen was incredibly bothersome.
As soon as the fight begins, Varen summons three Dremora to defend him which, depending on the player's level, can be rather difficult to beat, especially when considering the tight corridors of the location. The entire time, Varen is essentially running away from you, which means that you have to chase him around the circle while also dealing with the three annoying Daedra that are chasing after you.
15 Saved: Vulthuryol
Some of the best bosses in Skyrim are the ones that appear when you least expect them. The ancient dragon Vulthuryol is a perfect example of this. Vulthuryol is the only dragon that resides in the underground region of Blackreach, one of the coolest looking, but also most dangerous, locations in all of Skyrim.
Blackreach is filled with ancient Dwemer ruins, but the capital of it all has a large, glowing, circular lamp resting above it. Should the Dragonborn choose to use Unrelenting Force on it, they will awaken Vulthuryol, who will end up fighting the Dragonborn in an fierce, gorgeous underground fight. Though most casual players don't know about this particular boss, the discovery of Vulthuryol truly stands out in the game as a welcome surprise. Vulthuryol may not be particularly difficult to beat, but it's an incredible fight nonetheless.
14 Hurt: Forsworn Briarhearts
While Forsworn Briarhearts aren't necessarily unique bosses, they are still strong enemies. Unless you manage to sneak up behind a Forsworn Briarheart to pickpocket their heart out before they spot you, Briarhearts have proven themselves to be ridiculously difficult to beat, no matter what level you are. While most members of the Forsworn can be beaten with ease, Briarhearts can seemingly strike you down with two simple hits, and it takes several hits on them to even do any damage.
Though bosses this difficult are bearable in actual quest lines, Briarhearts start to get annoying when they regularly appear in the wilds of Skyrim.
Often, Briarhearts and the other Forsworn will attack the Dragonborn randomly in the wild, which becomes aggravating overtime, especially if the Briarheart manages to beat the player, who may not have saved recently.
13 Saved: Ahzidal
Dragon Priests do tend to be entertaining bosses to fight throughout Skyrim, but one of the best Dragon Priests in the game doesn't even reside in Skyrim. Instead, he lives in Solstheim, which is accessible with the Dragonborn DLC. Though most Dragon Priest fights are entertainingly interactive, the fight against Ahzidal really outdid itself, making it a fun piece of combat in the game that is both high stakes and enjoyable. This makes the "Unearthed" side quest one of the highlights of the Dragonborn DLC.
Another great aspect of Ahzidal is the reward for defeating him. Unlike every other standard Dragon Priest in the game, Ahzidal actually has a full set of armor that the Dragonborn can take and equip after the battle. Most Dragon Priests only have a mask and a staff, but Ahzidal has the full package.
12 Hurt: Paarthurnax
One of the most infamous aspects of Skyrim is the heavy decision regarding the ancient dragon Paarthurnax. Early on in the main quest, it is revealed that the leader of the Greybeards is the dragon brother of Alduin, Paarthurnax. However, once the Blades start to form and learn about Paarthurnax themselves, they give the Dragonborn an ultimatum: you either have to slay Paarthurnax, or they won't follow you and won't help you for the rest of the game.
At this point, many players had grown attached to Paarthurnax, who was essentially the only dragon in the game you could just have a casual talk with. Should the Dragonborn decide to put an end to Paarthurnax, it often becomes rather heartbreaking, with the player regretting their decision shortly after. This is one boss fight that Skyrim really could have done without.
11 Saved: Skeletal Dragon
Many Skyrim players agree that the College of Winterhold quest line is one of the game's weakest stories. However, there is one particular encounter toward the end of this quest line that really helps to make it a bit more entertaining: the fight against the Skeletal Dragon. During the quest "The Staff of Magnus," the Dragonborn comes face to face with a resurrected, necromantic dragon, with no scales or skin. Instead, you must literally fight a dragon's skeleton, which teams up with an army of other skeletons.
While this boss is rather simple to beat, considering that he is unable to fly, it is still a unique boss fight that really stands out in the game.
Throughout most of the game, every player sees a dragon skeleton after they beat it, but this is the first time that one of those skeletons got back up.
10 Hurt: Nelkir
This character seems a bit out of left field, but he was originally the antagonist of the side quest "The Whispering Door." Nelkir is the son of Jarl Balgruuf of Whiterun, specifically the son who was said to be going crazy, as he kept hearing voices from some sort of mysterious door in Dragonsreach.
Should the Dragonborn decide to figure out what is going on with Nelkir, they start the quest "The Whispering Door," which leads the Dragonborn to the Ebony Blade. It's an absurdly short quest that was almost a lot more detailed and grim. Rather than just taking the Blade and leaving, the original quest showed more about Nelkir. By the end of the quest, Nelkir went absolutely insane and actually slayed his own father, and presumably would have had to clash with the Dragonborn as well, even if it was just a verbal fight. Unfortunately, this intriguingly dark plot was cut from the final game, leaving Nelkir as an absolute waste of an antagonist.
9 Saved: Arch-Curate Vyrthur
While the quest from the Dawnguard DLC "Touching the Sky" is a bit too long, the finale makes it worth the wait. In it, the Dragonborn and Serana finally track down Arch-Curate Vyrthur, the vampiric Snow Elf who has been hiding in his castle for decades. This launches an enormous boss battle that leads to the castle walls crumbling down halfway through the fight. However, this boss battle isn't just fantastic due to the fighting style, but also due to its narrative features.
For some players, it seems rather contrite to strike down Vyrthur, not just because he is one of the last of his species, but also because he is revealed to be a vampire, which makes him a relatable character if the player choses to go the vampiric route in this DLC quest line. The stakes and impressive dynamics of this fight truly make it one of the best boss fights of the entire game.
8 Hurt: Logrolf the Willful
One of the darkest quests in the entire game is the Daedric quest "The House of Horrors," which features the Dragonborn trying to cure a house from the Daedric god, Molag Bal. The only way to cure the house, however, is to do exactly as Molag Bal commands. By the end of the quest, Molag Bal will have talked the Dragonborn into bringing a priest of Boethiah, Logrolf the Willful, into the house. Bal then entraps Logrolf in a cage and orders the Dragonborn to end his life. To make it worse, after you take the life of Logrolf, Molag Bal just brings him back, which means that you have to beat the life out of the defenseless old man a second time.
While most boss fights are entertaining, or at least a bit challenging, this boss fight has no challenge to it whatsoever.
Instead, the Dragonborn has to bring a brutal end to a defenseless, trapped priest, which just feels wrong.
7 Saved: Mirmulnir
Mirmulnir definitely deserves a mention on this list, as he is the first dragon that the player ever fights against in the game. Early on in the main quest, the Dragonborn is led to the location of a recent dragon sighting, revealing for the first time to the guards that these dragons are indeed real.
The location of the battle against Mirmulnir certainly helps the fight, as the player can either choose to fight the dragon from the ground or from the top of a tower. There are also plenty of guards nearby, seemingly just so the player can witness what happens when a dragon crashes into an NPC, or what happens if a dragon decides he wants to eat another character. All in all, this particular boss fight was a great introduction to what dragons would be like for the rest of the game, and goes down as one of the most memorable moments in all of Skyrim.
6 Hurt: Harkon
No matter which faction you decide to side with at the beginning of the Dawnguard DLC, the Vampire Lord Harkon will always end up being the final boss of the quest line. However, compared to all of the other boss fights in this DLC, the fight against Harkon is incredibly disappointing.
Considering that Harkon is an ancient and incredibly powerful Vampire Lord who can travel anywhere by turning into a swarm of bats, Harkon's fighting features are surprisingly dull. He just has a basic pattern of movement where he attacks, and then flees to let his minions attack, and then repeats this pattern, which is incredibly less innovative than every other boss added in Dawnguard. Harkon's boss battle certainly had the potential to be great, as it takes place in a unique location, with the boss himself having intriguing abilities, but at the end of the day, this climactic boss fight fell flat.
5 Saved: Miraak
Miraak, the final boss and main antagonist of the Dragonborn DLC, put up a truly extraordinary fight in his boss battle. Part of what made the fight against Miraak great wasn't just the fight itself, but what led up to it. In order to beat Miraak, you must travel into a plane of Oblivion, fly on dragons, and face him on a rather cool looking island.
Seeing as Miraak is a Dragonborn as well, the fight against this villain includes a number of dragons that Miraak controls, that you can also try to take control of part way through the battle.
By the end of the boss fight, the island is littered with dragon skeletons, which both you and Miraak will have taken down throughout the battle. All of this, combined with the cool tentacle effect of Miraak's sword, make Miraak one of the absolute best bosses ever added to Skyrim. This makes Dragonborn a must-have.
4 Hurt: Sebastian Lort
Sebastian Lort is, in a way, the main antagonist of the Daedric quest "A Daedra's Best Friend." Lort is the target that the Daedric god Clavicus Vile tells the Dragonborn to track down, as Lort has stolen Vile's Rueful Axe. The disappointment with fighting Lort is due to the fact that you don't really get anything from tracking this thief down, at least compared to what you get if you don't track him down.
Throughout this portion of "A Daedra's Best Friend," Clavicus Vile sends his own dog, Barbas, to assist the Dragonborn. Barbas is an immortal dog that will follow you everywhere. Because of this, many Skyrim players have taken to starting this quest just to have Barbas as a follower, and never actually track down Sebastian Lort. Had Lort been an entertaining boss to take down, many players likely would have completed this quest.
3 Saved: Karstaag
After a while of playing Skyrim, many players start to long for a challenge, as even giants and mammoths seem to go down easily when faced against their max-leveled Dragonborn. Fortunately, the Dragonborn DLC gave many high level players the perfect solution. The side quest "Summoning Karstaag" leads the Dragonborn to resurrect the ghost of the ancient beast Karstaag, who had previously appeared in the Morrowind DLC Bloodmoon.
Karstaag has been described as the definitive hardest boss in the entire game, as he has 4,000 health and has been categorized at level 90, no matter what level you are when you encounter him. Karstaag himself acts as an overpowered Frost Giant, and is immune to frost, poison, and paralysis. He also has the ability to summon Ice Wraiths. This boss battle is perfect for any Skyrim player who is starting to get fatigued by easy-to-beat foes, as he will give them a truly refreshing challenge.
2 Hurt: The Ebony Warrior
One of the most legendary villains in Skyrim is the Ebony Warrior, a foe who will challenge the Dragonborn in a random city once you reach at least level 80. When players first learned about the Ebony Warrior, they behan working hard to raise their level above 80 in order to take on this fabled boss. However, considering the work it takes to get to level 80, the Ebony Warrior isn't really be worth the wait. He has about half the health of Karstaag, and the fight itself is rather lame.
Rather than having any mystical abilities, or taking you to a cool location, the Ebony Warrior really only fights like an overpowered bandit.
While it's still cool to encounter the Ebony Warrior, he most certainly does not live up to the hype, especially considering that he was originally treated as the final enemy players had to beat before any of the DLCs were added.
1 Saved: Alduin
At the end of the day, one of the best fights in Skyrim is the game's main story's actual final boss, Alduin. While Alduin does essentially operate like any other dragon in the game, he does have a few unique powers to help him stand out from the rest of the enemies in Skyrim. The best aspect of Alduin's boss fight, however, is the location and the music. To take on this epic foe, the Dragonborn must travel to the afterworld, Sovngarde, which has an absolutely gorgeous landscape.
The build up, the music, the location, and the fight itself make the boss battle against Alduin one of the biggest highlights of Skyrim. While he may not be as strong as Karstaag, or destroy a castle halfway through the fight like Arch-Curate Vyrthur, Alduin is nevertheless a boss that you will not forget.
What do you think? Are there any other Skyrim bosses that saved or hurt the game? Let us know in the comments!