6 Unforgettably Epic Video Game Boss Fights

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There are people that hate boss fights in gaming, but I am not one of them. I love them. There are certain games I remember specifically FOR the boss fights. There’s something great about the idea that I had proverbially trudged miles and miles to have to prove my meddle, and that is often just what a good boss fight does. It proves that you have learned the skills necessary to successfully traverse the virtual world you are in.

I truly think a boss fight, when done well, can work as a perfect exclamation point at the end of a level or series of challenges. The best boss fights will ensure that you have mastered all your skills by forcing you to put them to use against these end-level heavies, and the result of a rewarding boss fight is pride, a little bit of adrenaline, and the reward of (usually) getting to explore a whole new area of the game.

Don’t get me wrong, not every boss fight is awesome. There are many that have just become silly cliches of what a bad boss fight is. The BIG boss you can’t hurt but you can make dizzy, and then have to attack while he is “dizzy.’ The boss fight where the developers treat us like we are “special” and put a glowing weak spot somewhere on the creature, as if we would be lost without it.  And how can we forget the ever-hilarious, “this boss has three sets of patterns that it does, over and over, and you need to learn them so you can attack at the right times” battle. Allow me a moment to address what is wrong with all three of these boss fight tropes.

First off, the “dizzy” thing bothers me. I can’t hurt this giant boss, but I can do something to make it dizzy? Aren’t those one and the same in the video game world? Second, glowing weak spots on bosses are the most insulting things in gaming right now. Unless your game sucks and you are willingly wanting the world to think you are lazy developers, in modern games, this is disgusting and unforgivable. I have been gaming for 25 years, give me some f**king credit. Finally, attack patterns. This one cracks me up. Games that pride themselves on having slick graphics and great AI, yet try to throw bosses at us who seem stuck in some kind of OCD loop? It’s just ridiculous and seems to imply that we gamers are so incompetent that, if the developer does not hold our hands, we would just walk off cliffs or into invisible walls for hours at a time. Kind of an insulting thing to imply to the audience that is paying your bills.

All that out of the way, there are boss fights that suffer some of those indignities, but are still awesome and unforgettable, regardless of those setbacks. Here, for your reading enjoyment, are six boss fights that I found completely unforgettable and will always remember.

Please note that this list is in the chronological order that I experienced the bosses, and each entry is from a different gaming generation, from oldest to newest.

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Mike Tyson from Mike Tyson’s Punchout

mike tyson 6 Unforgettably Epic Video Game Boss Fights

Okay, I know some people will cry foul, saying this boss battle actually succumbs to my “repeat patterns” complaint, but there is little else you could do with a boxing game programmed on an NES. What was he supposed to do, dip and move and adapt realistically to each player? No, the whole game was pretty much a series of boss fights, each carrying a different element, and with the difficulty spiking just right on each one (minus Bald Bull, whose charge ALWAYS messed me up). There was just something SO intense to facing off with Mike Tyson in this game and I had to include it on this list.

Maybe it was because he could knock you out with one punch in the game. Maybe it was because it was Mike Tyson, and anyone who grew up in the 80′s and early 90′s knew that Tyson was a pitbull off his chain. A genuinely scary, unhinged man, and even though I was only facing off against him in 8 bits, anytime I dodged one of those super fast punches, I felt like it was a little victory.

The other thing is, I will NEVER forget the one time I beat him. My hands were shaking from the adrenaline coursing through me after hours of attempts, but I did it. I knocked Mike Tyson ONCE in this game, and it gave me such a sense of accomplishment that I will never forget it. Got an NES and wanna try it out for yourself? Put in the code 007-373-5963.

THAT is how etched into my brain that game is.

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Loki from Ghouls and Ghosts

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Please do NOT take to the comments and tell me it is Ghosts and Goblins, because it is not. I am speaking of Loki, from the GENESIS version, Ghouls and Ghosts. Now, before any of you leap on me and rip off my arms only to beat me with them, let me explain why he is on this list. It really is a two-fold thought process.

One, because of the grueling challenge it took to actually get to him. Ghouls and Ghosts, much like Ghosts and Goblins, was an unforgivably difficult game that derived MUCH joy from torturing the player, so to make it to Loki without a broken controller was a remarkable feat in itself.

Second, and what really drove the whole battle home for me was that fact that he was freaking huge and pretty scary, too. I was facing the Devil, and to me, it LOOKED like the Devil. Granted, the actual boss fight is sort of weak when you look at it now (why would he not just actually stand up to crush you?), but when I was just a wee lad, Loki was the first time I really understood how scope could factor into an awesome boss fight.

Also, the Devil had no dick, which I found even more unsettling. But honestly, how odd would it have been to see two, dangling red balls just above Arthur’s head? I think they made the right choice there.

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Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid

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I know the Metal Gear games are KNOWN for their awesome boss fights, but you need to understand, this was THE FIGHT that convinced everyone of that. Though every boss fight from Metal Gear Solid is awesome, there are few boss fights in history that had the impact that the Psycho Mantis fight had on me, and on MANY gamers. The character design was amazing. The voice over work for the character is unnerving and befitting, and then the fourth wall shattering that happens is just, well, in my honest opinion, one of the most progressive and brilliant moments in gaming, ever. Yes. Ever.

The fact that this boss was making fun of me because I saved my games way too much, to the fact that he approved of my Castlevania fanboy status meant that the Psycho Mantis fight did one very simple thing, and still no one has been able to touch it in sense of the impact it had. He read your memory card.

Yup. That was the kicker. He would “read” your memory card, and insult you a few times accordingly based on how you played and what you saved. Add to that the fact that he manipulated your actual controller, making you need to switch ports, and you have a boss fight that will always be one of the greatest of all time.

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The First Colossi From Shadow of the Colossus

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When I made my list about games that had better moments then movies, one We Got This Covered reader simply put “Shadow of the Colossus. Hello?” in the comments section, and it genuinely made me laugh. While he does have a point, I didn’t put that game on that list because I was saving it for this one. And while many readers had different colossi that they preferred for various reasons, I have to go with the very first colossi. The reason is because I had NEVER felt anything like I felt when I was riding on horseback and suddenly saw that MASSIVE, living breathing creature, back-lit and barely visible, in the distance.

I know I have mentioned scope before, and this was the kind that you could honestly feel. You felt like you had no chance. You felt like a bug trying to sting a grizzly. But then, you began to make some progress, finding the various spots to stab and weaken the mighty beast. And every damn thing about it, at the time to me, was perfection. From the murky tones the game used to imbue hopelessness, to the stunning composition work, Shadow of the Colossus is nothing short of remarkable, and it really is that first colossi that shows us and makes us feel that.

The bleak composition that played when you finally fell the beast was the first indication that you may not be the hero you think you are. And though each beast brought something greater to the table, I will NEVER forgot the first one I killed and the dark road it led me down.

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El Gigante from Resident Evil 4

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Yes, Resident Evil 6 sucked, and this series has pretty much fallen off, but few people can argue that the first time they saw this abomination in part four that they didn’t piss their pants at least a TINY bit, because we all did. Though it may have had a name like a bad Taco Bell menu item, El Gigante was everything we loved about bosses. Big and scary as hell. While the Resident Evil series has ALWAYS had some amazing, huge, intimidating bosses, this motherf**ker was uprooting trees and using them as a baseball bat, and every second of it was pure, adrenaline-fueled fun.

I think what really sold me on this boss battle though was his intro. If you recall, the infected villagers had it held captive, like a sort of sick, abused pet, and the first chance it has to get away, it pretty much kills everything in its path. You are one of the things in its path, and the whole point of that scene is to NOT be one of the things it kills without mercy or regard. What I liked about this battle is the real sense of fear you felt when you knew it wanted you dead. At a primal level, this thing is scary looking. You add its size to the mix, and you suddenly see your odds of survival less and less likely, which puts a real rushed sense of fear in you as you play. Granted, the area around the battle is STACKED with ammo, and he does repeat patterns, but still, the fight was amazing.

On top of all that, it had a second form, like most Resident Evil bosses had. Still, nothing beat the first few moments of that battle, and the feeling you get the first time it roars at you and the screen shakes.

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Mr. Freeze from Arkham City

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Mr. Freeze from Arkham City is one of, if not the most well executed boss battle of all time. Again, before you twist my bat-nipples and brand me an idiot, allow me the chance to tell you why.

The whole idea of the Arkham games is that you slowly gain some really cool gadgets, weapons, and techniques, and that arsenal allows you to play the game how you want. Do you want to go through the game like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and just mess everyone up, or do you want to go through the game more like the quiet, twisted superhero who works in the darkness and works off of fear, like Nolan’s Batman? That was completely up to you as the player, and for that reason, it was a very different game for different people.

What is so perfect about the Mr. Freeze boss fight is that it pretty much said to the player: there are VARIOUS ways you can take out Freeze, and whichever ones you like the most are the ones that you can choose. That being said, it also let the player know that if they had been button mashing and getting lucky up to that point, that would no longer work. You needed to have mastered these techniques to pull them off, and if you knew them all, it was like some sort of blank canvas that you could paint any way you wanted.

It was such an awesomely fun moment that I played through the segment multiple times, in multiple different ways, just to see what it was like. I mean, you could really do ANYTHING in that boss fight, from pulling freeze through a window to zip lining in from the fog and kicking him in the face. Though the entirety of both Arkham games really do show you what it would feel like to be a real-life Batman, no scene in either game captures that sensation better than the boss fight with Mr. Freeze in Arkham City.

Is it the BEST boss battle of this gaming generation? It might not be the best, but I can admit that it’s pretty damn close.

Feel free to take to the comments and let me know what bosses I forgot that you will never forget. Also, the only reason there are no GOW 3 bosses on this list is because I don’t have a PS3. If you want to send me one, I will add the Titan boss fight to the list.

By the way, send that PS3 here. Thanks, kids.

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  • churro

    the devil is just too cocky to do that hahaha. ether that or he reminds me of me because im too lazy to stand up hahahaha

  • Jake Weston

    Feel like it’s worth mentioning that the picture on your Shadow of the Colossus section is actually the third Colossus, not the first.

    Awesome list, though!

    • Tea0149

      Ya…that’s the third one…how could you even mistake those two? Oo

  • Christopher M. Bland

    The Freeze fight is just as you say. On my first play through I figured out I wasn’t gonna be able to just go up and FIGHT like I did previously and it took me awhile to figure out those skills. He been ignoring.

    My second play through I was a grizzled arkham veteran and much more of a ninjas the freeze fight was then fun because I could man plate him with my built skill set.

    • Christopher M. Bland

      …I had been ignoring…

      Dang fat fingers and autocorrect.

  • Old Man Watchitt

    I really liked the Great Mighty Poo.

    • Mr. Nech

      I am the great mighty poo and i’m going to throw my shit at you! A huge supply of tish comes from my chocolate starfish! How about some scat, you little twat?!
      Definitely deserves a spot on this list.

  • mikeybruises

    I’ve been gaming since Pong and I agree, Mike Tyson is the toughest, if not one of the toughest bosses ever in the history of gaming. After beating him once, I dared not try again. That’s how you felt after losing to him over and and over again. Back then I didn’t have a code to automatically fight him. If one lost, one had limited amount continues.