Every game needs a villain. Someone has to do the kidnapping, destroying and pillaging. And when the story reaches its end and the hero is finally equipped to save the day, it usually means a brutal, climactic battle is on the way. Finishing off a boss is challenging but satisfying, and in nearly every video game ever made you’ll find yourself slinging arrows, firing bullets or punching furiously to retire the bad guy and protect the world from destruction.
Some boss fights, however, are harder than others. Some fights give you no room for mistakes. Some leave you in tears. And some break your spirit entirely.
Here are five such battles:
Kintaro – Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Fighting game bosses are, by definition, incredibly difficult. With no extra mechanics on which to rely, fighting games have to settle for super-powered, lightning quick monstrosities. Kintaro was the supreme being of 90’s game bosses, able to end even the most skilled Kombat player’s career in just a few short punches. His regular attacks do massive damage, his “grab-and-pound” move is absurdly overpowered and his counter throw take an enormous amount of your health away. In short, if you wanted to defeat Kintaro, you basically had to do it without being hit.
Mike Tyson – Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! (1987)
There were a lot of difficult fights in Punch Out!!, but none was more difficult than the end battle with the game’s titular figure. For the first 90 seconds of the championship bout, there is no strategy but avoidance for the player character. If Tyson nails you in those early moments, you go out like a light and your career ends. The difficulty eases up after Tyson’s initial barrage, but it still takes a player who’s quick on his or her feet and skilled enough to deliver a near perfect match to put Tyson on the mat.
Sephiroth – Final Fantasy VII (1997)
No list of difficult boss fights would be complete without an appearance from Final Fantasy’s Sephiroth. In fact, many gamers consider the confrontation with this memorable character to be the hardest boss fight of all time. You run into Sephiroth a few times over the course of the game, but it’s the final battle, in which he can instantly drop your entire party to one hit point, that truly pushed players to the limit. And even if you managed to down him in FFVII, you just ended up getting trounced by him again in Kingdom Hearts.
Bowser (King Koopa) – Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Mario has come a long way since in the last 25 years, but people often forget that the original Super Mario Bros. was an incredibly difficult platformer that required memorization and sheer skill. The last castle in the game (found in World 8) was a time-sensitive dash through a confusing maze. The reward for making it to the end? A brutal face-off with a hammer-throwing King Koopa. Downing Koopa is easy enough if you’re still empowered by a Fire Flower, but getting through the avalanche of hammers and under Koopa to drop his bridge still stands as one of the toughest in-game moments of all time.
Algalon the Observer – World of Warcraft (2004)
People like to hate on World of Warcraft for its immense popularity and its tendency to skew towards casual gamers. However, there’s plenty of difficulty to be found for those willing to put in the time. Algalon the Observer was an optional battle in hard-mode version of Ulduar, a 10 and 25-man raid instance released during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Once activated, Algalon only hung around for one hour, giving guilds just a few attempts per week to knock him down. His primary abilities annihilated unprepared raids—world famous guild Ensidia needed seven weeks after Ulduar’s launch to topple the starry giant.
Difficult battles help to give us a sense of accomplishment in games. After all, there’s nothing satisfying about defeating an easy boss. The above five bosses have long served as gatekeepers for the truly elite gamers with the skill, dedication and patience to conquer them.
What is the hardest boss you’ve ever encountered?