Boss battles have been a part of video gaming since the industry’s early days, often serving as tough challenges that push players to their limits. While boss battles are part of many different games, some games make boss battles the focus, or at least such an integral part of the experience that the games are almost defined by these encounters.
Over the years, many games have featured remarkable boss fights, but these 10 stand out as the games with the best boss battles in gaming history.
Batman: Arkham City
Out of all the comic book superheroes, few have a rogues gallery as impressive as Batman. Rocksteady dug deep for the baddies included in Batman: Arkham City, featuring iconic villains like The Joker and Penguin alongside lesser-known foes like Clayface and The Mad Hatter.
The bosses aren’t just there as an excuse for Batman to beat up some villains, though. They are all integral to the story, and the fights often feature clever gimmicks based on whoever Batman is fighting to keep each encounter fresh.
When it comes to boss fights, few games can match up to the indie platformer Cuphead. Released last year to critical acclaim and millions of copies sold, Cuphead is built entirely around boss fights.
Each boss is beautifully designed and animated in the game’s 1930s Fleischer-inspired art style, making these battles memorable not just for their crushing difficulty, but for their visual awe. Some of the battles in Cuphead, especially the one against King Dice, may have made some players want to their throw their controller in rage, but nothing compares to the satisfaction one feels after finally defeating a particularly challenging boss in the game.
Dark Souls is a series that built its reputation on fair, but difficult gameplay and incredible, intimidating boss battles. While any game in the series could have easily fit on this list, we have to give the nod to the first Dark Souls for having some of the most memorable boss battles in the series. From the Bell Gargoyles fight to Gwyn, Lord of Cinder and the unforgettable throwdown with Sif, the Great Grey Wolf, Dark Souls is a sequence of one great boss battle after another.
God of War 3
When it comes to Gods, Kratos is a relentless killing machine. The titular “God of War” has decimated some of the most recognizable characters in Greek mythology by the time we get around to God of War 3, but his quest for revenge is still far from over.
God of War 3 offers some of the most visually stunning and absolutely brutal boss fights in God of War history, including some jaw-dropping encounters with the likes of Hercules, Poseidon, Zeus, and more. With the next God of War focusing on Norse mythology, it will be interesting to see if any of the boss battles from that game can top the fights seen in God of War 3.
The boss battles in the Kingdom Hearts series are great for a number of reasons. Many fans find the idea of battling it out with classic Disney villains an appealing prospect all its own, but it helps that the battles can actually be challenging and intense, even with original characters in the mix.
The Kingdom Hearts series is also known for its creative use of secret boss battles, with the fights against Final Fantasy 7‘s Sephiroth standing out as particularly memorable encounters. With the previous games in the series creating an expectation for high-quality boss fights, fans will expect the same from the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3 when it finally launches later this year.
Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter World is unique in that almost every single enemy encounter in the game could be considered a boss fight. Monster Hunter World is all about taking on dangerous and deadly beasts, all with their own strengths and weaknesses that hunters need to keep in mind to take them down.
Players can choose to carve or capture monsters to earn materials to craft new equipment based on the monsters they’ve defeated, which encourages them to keep battling the same monsters repeatedly to obtain the best gear possible. Early on it’s common for any given encounter in Monster Hunter World to last 20 minutes to half an hour, and so the end of a fight brings with it a deep sense of accomplishment and relief.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The Metal Gear Solid games are known for their complicated plots and exciting stealth-action gameplay, as well as their iconic boss battles. While almost any Metal Gear Solid game could have been included on this list, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater gets the nod for having the best all-around boss encounters in the series.
Some of the boss fights are truly creative, like the fight with The End that can be won simply by waiting for the ancient sniper to die of natural causes, or the heartbreaking encounter with The Sorrow that forces players to deal with the “ghosts” of the enemies they’ve killed throughout the game.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Since the entirety of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is built around its boss battles, it makes sense that a lot of care clearly went into making these fights something special. As the perpetual underdog, Little Mac, players will take on the likes of King Hippo, Piston Honda, and Super Macho Man in a series of intense boxing matches that demand they learn their opponents’ weaknesses and study their patterns. Only those that truly master the game will stand a shot at beating the titular Mike Tyson, who stands as one of the most challenging bosses in NES history.
Shadow of the Colossus
There are many games on this list that are built entirely around their boss battles, but few of those fights have as much emotional weight as the encounters against the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. Players take control of Wander, who is tasked with destroying all 16 colossi, with each fight feeling like an elaborate puzzle for players to solve. The emotional weight behind each fight in Shadow of the Colossus makes them all feel special, and they are a large part of the reason why the game stands as one of the most critically-acclaimed titles in modern gaming.
World of Warcraft
Since World of Warcraft launched in 2004, the MMORPG has seen its fair share of boss battles, with its raid bosses standing out as particularly iconic. Forcing players to assemble coordinated groups, play their roles, and communicate effectively, the bosses and their associated raids in World of Warcraft have often highlighted what makes an MMORPG special compared to traditional gaming experiences. Whether it was the epic battle with The Lich King or the tough fight with Illidian Stormrage, World of Warcraft has delivered some of the most exciting boss battles in gaming history.
While we thought these 10 games were ahead of the pack when it came to the best boss battles, there have been many other games over the years with great boss fights as well, with titles like Bloodborne, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, No More Heroes, and more coming to mind. And even though online versus multiplayer experiences seem to make up the bulk of video games these days, fans should rest assured knowing that the future will still have many new games with boss battles that may even eclipse the titles listed here.
Which video games do you think have the best boss battles? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.