Every single Souls game has good level design— some much more so than others— but the series really excels when it comes to boss fights. The boss design is consistently some of the franchise’s greatest quality. From Demon’s Souls, to the Dark Souls trilogy, and to Bloodborne, Souls games are never lacking in bosses.
But not all boss fights are created equal, and even masterpieces like Bloodborne can make a misstep. For the most part, all the bosses in Bloodborne are good, but the worst offenders have strange, glaring flaws in battles that would otherwise be incredible (some of the time.)
10 BEST: Cleric Beast
A good first impression can go a long way, and the Cleric Beast is a brilliantly rude awakening to the world of Bloodborne. Central Yharnam is designed in such a way where blind players will find themselves fighting the Cleric Beast before they can even level up. That alone makes getting to the Beast a challenge in and of itself.
Most players will fight the frantic Cleric Beast at their weakest, and that makes it one of the best fights in the entire franchise. It’s an adrenaline pumping introduction that demands competence right out the gate. A refreshing feat in an era of easy games.
9 WORST: Undead Giant
The Chalice Dungeons are great and anyone who’s ignored them owes it to themselves to invest some time into one of Bloodborne’s coolest features, but some of the fights can be a real drag. The Undead Giant is a boring, relentless boss that has too much health for his own good and offers little meaningful challenge in turn.
Of the Chalice Dungeon bosses, he’s far and away the worst. There’s little interesting about him, which is rare for Bloodborne. That said, he’s very optional and players never need to fight him if they don’t want to. It’s not perfect, but a bit forgivable.
8 BEST: Rom, The Vacuous Spider
Coming face to face with Rom for the first time is one of the single best moments in the entire game. It’s ethereal, somber, and downright horrifying. Fighting Rom, the Vacuous Spider marks the beginning of the end for Bloodborne. Not only is the battle challenging, it’s unnerving. Up to this point, Bloodborne’s hasn’t gotten too fantastical.
For first time players, Rom can be especially difficult. There’s something about the fight that really throws players off. For veterans, it’s far more manageable and quite fun. Rom isn’t a particularly difficult boss to punish in capable hands, which is cathartic in any game.
7 WORST: Living Failures
Conceptually, this is an insanely cool fight. The Living Failures shine light on another side of Bloodborne’s lore. They’re insanely creepy, lumbering around, summoning meteors, and growling as they swipe at players. They’re also incredibly easy for anyone who knows how to dodge and exist only to block Hunters from a much better boss.
Atmospherically, though, the fight can only be given praise. It’s genuinely interesting even if it’s not that fun on a fundamental gameplay level. The visuals are mesmerizing, the Living Failures are really creepy, and the music is top notch per usual. The fight’s just not fun.
6 BEST: Ludwig, The Holy Blade
One of the DLC bosses, Ludwig kicks the DLC off to a great start. He’s aggressively difficult, and his forms are distinct enough where players will need to shift up their play style halfway through just to stay alive. It’s an engaging battle that demands strategy and fast reflexes. That Ludwig fights with the Holy Moonlight Sword is just a plus.
Ludwig is also another boss that really benefits from replaying Bloodborne. He can be overwhelmingly difficult on a fresh playthrough. Anyone unlucky enough to try the DLC for the first time on NG+ might find themselves quickly regretting their choices when Ludwig tears them to shreds.
5 WORST: Shadow Of Yharnam
This isn’t a bad boss fight in theory. There’s a lot of value in challenging the player by throwing three distinct bosses at them at once. The problem ultimately arises in just how bland Shadow of Yharnam is as a collective boss. It essentially amounts to 3 on 1 PVP match where all the opponents have magic, but are also kind of dumb.
The fact that all three bosses all share similar character design doesn’t exactly help matters, either. That’s fine for regular enemies (which they do become by the end of the game, funny enough,) but for a whole boss fights? Efforts would have been better spent elsewhere.
4 BEST: Lady Maria
Anyone could make a valid case for Lady Maria being the best boss in Bloodborne and they wouldn’t exactly be wrong. She’s challenging, she’s engaging, she’s narratively relevant, and everything about her fight is insanely cool. A battle against a scythe wielding warrior inside of a clock tower? That’s ridiculously cool and ridiculously Castlevania.
In general, The Old Hunters is an amazing piece of DLC. While it’s not included here, honorable mention should be given to the Orphan of Kos, the DLC’s final boss so to speak. He’s far more frantic than Lady Maria, and a bit less elegant in design, but these two bosses really showcase FromSoftware’s talents.
3 WORST: Witch Of Hemwick
Atmospherically, this boss fight is really well done. It plays off Insight in an interesting manner and the music is super creepy. Plus, what’s not to love about Macbethian witches in a FromSoft game? Unfortunately, the fight itself is just so boring. The witches pop around the field, summoning monsters depending on Insight, and the player has to ping pong back and forth, attacking them.
It’s only a difficult fight for those going in unprepared. Understanding the gimmick just trivializes the entire boss. Unlike the Living Failures, the Witch of Hemlock doesn’t offer much in terms of interesting lore either.
2 BEST: Gehrman, The First Hunter
The game’s penultimate boss, Gehrman is one-on-one combat at its best. Not just for the Souls franchise, but arguably the genre. Gerhman is an inspired battle, truly challenging the player in every way possible. It’s a fight that demands some semblance of mechanical mastery. If not mastery, the understanding.
Narratively, it’s an amazing way to cap off the game for the second ending. The third ending has its own final boss after Gehrman, but Gerhman is so good that the Moon Presence just can’t compete. In many respects, Gehrman is a reimagining of King allant from Demon’s Souls.
1 WORST: Mergo’s Wet Nurse
In a vacuum,this is a good fight. Had it happened earlier in the game, it would have been a great fight. As is, Mergo’s Wet Nurse is an incredibly disappointing end to the main story. It’s one of the most important fights in the narrative, but it’s disappointingly easy with Mergo’s Wet Nurse offering virtually no challenge.
It’s by no means a conventionally bad boss fight, but these bigger moment battle needs to be challenging. Games need sensible difficulty curves, and Bloodborne has that for the most part, but Mergo’s Wet Nurse is a strange, last minute misstep. At least everything else about the fight is cool.