A final boss can make or break an ending. If they’re too easy, they can override the feeling of success from conquering the game. If they’re too repetitive, they fail to make proper use of the game’s mechanics in their last moment. The journey is more important than the destination with The Legend of Zelda, but final bosses leave a lasting impression for better or worse.
10 BEST: Ganon (Ocarina Of Time)
Ganon isn’t a particularly difficult final boss, but he’s certainly memorable in all the right ways. The Nintendo 64 version of the fight specifically features phenomenal lighting that really sets the tone for the boss. Even without that lighting, though, the fact that Link starts the fight without the Master Sword does more than enough to let the atmosphere set in.
It’s one of the few boss fights where Link is at a clear disadvantage. He could die. He does die in another timeline. But he won’t die here. As Link outsmarts Ganon long enough to win back the Master Sword, Ocarina of Time ends itself on one of the most triumphant notes in gaming.
9 WORST: Ganon (The Legend Of Zelda)
On the flip side, Ganon’s a bit of an underwhelming finale in the first game. He’s by no means unexciting, holding the fight in a pitch black arena, but blindly trying to attack Ganon and shooting him with Silver Arrows makes for a weak end to the game. A shame considering that the first game does have good boss fights.
If nothing else, Ganon is inoffensive. He isn’t brutally difficult or punishing like other bosses from the era. It’s better to look as Level 9 as The Legend of Zelda’s final boss. The dungeon itself is long enough to be a boss in its own right. It certainly helps Ganon come off better.
8 BEST: Vaati (The Minish Cap)
The Minish Cap is one of the easier Zelda games in the franchise. Link has a lot of different abilities and items to choose from, and while the variety makes for engaging gameplay, this results in a fairly easy game. Up until the very end. Once Link enters the final dungeon, The Minish Cap stops pulling its punches.
Out of nowhere, the game becomes insanely hard. Not just that, Vaati ends up being a three part boss fight that only gets more difficult as it progresses. It’s incredibly stressful trying to tear away at Vaati knowing that he still has another form.
7 WORST: Dark Link (Adventure Of Link)
On paper, Dark Link should be one of the best final boss fights in the series. He’s one of the only bosses designed as a genuine challenge of players’ skills, making him an ideal final challenge. Unfortunately, he’s designed that way for Zelda II, notoriously one of the hardest games on the NES.
The fact that most players choose to cheese the fight entirely really goes to show how unfun Dark Link is to fight against. An incredibly high skilled player might eventually enjoy a more involved duel, but most players aren’t getting to the end of Zelda II with that level of mechanical mastery in their skill set.
6 BEST: Ganondorf (The Wind Waker)
Ganondorf as depicted in The Wind Waker is a far more mature character than he’s ever been. He’s wise, humbled, and understands his failings. At the same time, he isn’t any less villainous. He’s self-aware and now hesitant to kill Link & Tetra, but he’s still a power hungry mad man who covets Hyrule above all else.
The final fight against Ganondorf marks the first time that Zelda actually participates in the final battle. Link even needs to interact with her in-game in order to trigger the final blow. It makes for an incredible finale and Ganondorf even poses some level of challenge, especially on Hero mode.
5 WORST: Calamity Ganon (Breath Of The Wild)
Breath of the Wild might be one of the best games in the series, and one of the most refreshing entries in a very long time, but it drops the ball hard when it comes to its boss fights. The Ganons just aren’t fun and Calamity Ganon might be the least fun of all. While his first form isn’t too bad, the rest of the fight is just a cinematic slog.
Worse yet, actually playing the game as intended and finishing the Divine Beasts results in a severely neutered Calamity Ganon who can barely put up a fight. Even in Master mode, simply parrying utterly demolishes him.
4 BEST: Majora (Majora’s Mask)
Majora is a very interesting final boss, in that it can be one of the hardest bosses in the game or the outright easiest. When played normally, Majora offers three phases of relatively challenging combat. Majora is hectic and chaotic, tripping up inexperienced players right at the finish line. It’s perfectly fitting given the tone of the game.
By collecting all the masks, however, players will enter the fight with the Fierce Deity Mask, a mask that turns Link into a literal god— one that can kill Majora within actual seconds. At the same time, getting the Fierce Deity Mask is fairly difficult and requires players to go out of their way to get it. Being able to trivialize the final boss as a reward is great!
3 WORST: Vaati (Four Swords)
While Vaati’s final game ends with one of the best boss fights in the series, Vaati’s introductory game leaves a lot to be desired. Realistically, most Legend of Zelda fans haven’t played Four Swords and won’t be playing it anytime soon. It’s locked to the Game Boy Advance with link cables and 3DS owners who managed to download the game when it was very briefly available on the eShop.
At the same time, most fans shouldn’t play Four Swords. Vaati sums up the game perfectly: an unexciting, uneventful final boss that prioritizes surface level gimmicks over actual level or puzzle design.
2 BEST: Ganondorf (Twilight Princess)
Ganondorf in Twilight Princess isn’t one of the series’ better villains. He hijacks the game from the far more nuanced Zant and has no personal connection to Link, Midna, or Zelda. At the same time, that doesn’t really matter since the finale is going for a traditionally epic finale that pits good versus evil.
And at that, it succeeds. The final fight between Link and Ganondorf is brutal. Ganondorf even makes it personal by seemingly killing Midna. Link has to fight a possessed Zelda, the beastly Ganon, Ganondorf on horseback, and the King of Evil himself in a final duel pitting the Master Sword against the Sword of the Sages.
1 WORST: Lady Maud (Tri Force Heroes)
Tri Force Heroes basically takes Four Swords, removes the exclusivity factor, and somehow makes the whole experience all the worse in the process. This is a badly designed Zelda game, one of the very few. Puzzles simply are not designed for single player and it shows. Playing alone becomes downright tedious and the online community is too dead to salvage the game.Fighting Lady Maud solo is an exercise in absolute futility. It’s a slow, tedious battle that offers a level of challenge that’s simply unreasonable for Tri Force Heroes. Lady Maud explicitly shows just how thoughtlessly designed Tri Force Heroes ultimately was.