What Ever Happened to Boss Battles?

After defeating the mighty Gears of War 2 this weekend, I was hit with a startling realization that I had heard repeated a few times before in its reviews- the ending boss was majorly lame. It was truly baffling. In this day and age, many of the blockbuster titles that we seem to play don’t have those uber boss battles that we used to know and love from when we were younger.

Have we gotten softer as gamers? Are developers less inventive? Is there just not room for as many bosses in the first person shooters that have flooded the market? In the end, who knows, but I do know that we gamers are missing out on one aspect of gaming that was a staple when I was growing up- epic boss battles. The dudes that you grinded against for days, rattled your brain trying to fight, and that required every ounce of skill and timing you could muster.

In honor of great foes long slayed, I thought I’d take a look back at some of my all time favorite boss battles.



Final Fantasy VII: The Emerald Weapon

Talk about a freaking juggernaut. The emerald weapon still stands as maybe the hardest boss I’ve ever fought against in my entirety as a gamer. Sporting over 1 million HP and multiple points of attack, the guy could take you out in a heartbeat. Really, the only strategy to use against him was a series of “Knights of the Round” summons, some Mime commands, Omnislash and luck. I remember rejoicing the first time I conquered this green beast.




Shadow of the Colossus: Gaius

While you could name almost every single boss in this fantastic game , it is the battle with Gaius, the third Colossus, that really gave me that sense of awe and scale that I experienced for the entirety of the game. When he swings the ginormous rock sword and it sinks into the ground, you just know what you have to do, even though it’s intimidating as all hell. Great boss battle.




Super Mario 64: Final Bowser

I almost put up Super Mario World in place of this one, but what I love about Mario 64 (and old school Mario games in general) is that the last dungeon and the last boss are kind of one in the same. I still haven’t played a platformer like Mario 64 that gives you that total sense of control over your character, and navigating through the last stage is an ordeal in and of itself.

Climbing, dodging, triple jumping- it totally empowers you. And that’s not even mentioning the Bowser fight, which has you hurling the lizard into wicked explosive spikey ball things. Talk about badass.




Metal Gear Solid 3: The End

For anyone that’s played Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you know exactly what I’m talking about. While I almost put “The Boss” down here simply because of how stunningly gorgeous the battle is, I just couldn’t resist putting down maybe one of the most epic and trying ordeals ever in gaming. Until you figure out exactly what you need to do, that is.

The thing about fighting The End is that he’s a legendary sniper. The battle takes place over three different areas, and you have to crawl, listen and sneak your way around trying to find him before he finds you. The best trick is to use your directional mic (pulling out your sniper lets him see your lens when it reflects) and listen for his ragged breathing. After that, sneak around behind him.

Trick is, you’ve got to do it 3 times. This took me about 45 minutes of playing it perfectly to beat him the first time. A couple of hours including when I failed.




Ocarina of Time: Ganon

Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest games of all time to many, and for good reason. Like Mario 64, it ushered us into the 3D realm with total fanboy service and great gameplay. It was truly remarkable to play as Link in a 3D setting, with a huge world to explore- and a horse!

So it was to much fanboy delight when everyone got to engage in an epic sword duel with Ganon at the end of the game. After magical attacks and some swordplay, you vanquish him. Just when you think it’s over, the castle collapses, and you’ve got to haul ass. And even after that, Ganon re-emerges in his super sweet demon form, and it’s time for one of the coolest boss battles ever.




Prince of Persia: Tower of Dawn

For anybody that’s played this game, you might be saying, “huh?”, but hear me out. Even though the last boss in Prince of Persia is lame, that’s because he’s not actually the last boss. The last boss of Sands of Time is really the final stage, The Tower of Dawn.

Just before you scale the tower, the Prince is relieved of all of his nifty time rewinding abilities. This takes out any room for error as you traverse the most treacherous part of the entire game, taking risks, leaps of faith and the like. It’s incredibly terrifying after you’ve had the safety net of being able to rewind the entire game, and it really pushes you to your limits. Truth told, it’s maybe the most exhilarating platforming I’ve yet played.




While this is certainly not a comprehensive list as there are tons of games I haven’t played, I feel it’s representative of some memorable occasions. Some other notables I didn’t get to were Mike Tyson from punch out, plenty of great MGS boss battles, and some dudes from Contra: Hard Corps as well as Sephiroth in FFVII and Kingdom Hearts.

What about you guys? What are some of your favorite boss battles, and do you agree that we don’t get as many awesome ones these days as we should?

Written by

I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

19 thoughts on “What Ever Happened to Boss Battles?”

  1. Final Bowser in Super Mario 64. Seriously a classic. My cousin owned an n64 before I did and he came down once and we played that game, I was the one who beat the final Bowser. We paraded around the house chanting about it.

    Another one I remember is from the .//hack RPG game for the PS2. Part 1 had a hard boss, but it had an EXTRA boss at the end who would drop the best blades in the game. Beating him was hard as hell. In fact I stopped trying for a while then years later (it was this year actually) I picked the game back up, learned a pretty cheap way to beat him (yet without cheating) and finally beat him.

    Other than that Im struggling to think of ones that were super hard. On Ace Combat 6 there is a mission that is ridiculous, and its not even the boss battle. Thats the last thing I played that had me frustrated beyond belief. I couldn’t beat it for so long, I put that game down again. Finished it and unlocked everything recently as well XD

    Bosses….just arnt like they used to be. In TFU the emperor wasnt THAT hard. Took me a few tries, but nothing major.

  2. I think the thing with the boss battles is that games are just getting too realistic. Let’s face it, in reality there aren’t many bosses to fight. Let’s take Far Cry 2 for example, although I haven’t beat it, I highly doubt there is much of a boss battle because the “boss” is the Jackal who is just a regular human like us…who happens to be a dick.

    If it isn’t an extreme fantasy game there isn’t much thought into boss battles because it takes away from the realism that so many game creators are trying to achieve…I do miss boss battles though because they are a lot of fun…especially in the fantasy games. Who knows what will happen though…only time will tell.

  3. Being a DQ nut, one of my favorite bosses was the Divinegon from Dragon Warrior III. He was a bonus boss that you could fight after you beat the game and then went through this ridiculously hard dungeon. Took me forever when I was a kid to grind out enough levels to beat him. The cool thing was, when you beat him, you got to make a wish.

    Also, I hated bowser in Super Mario 64, because I couldn’t aim the damn mutated turtle at the friggin bombs to save my life. 😛

  4. the hardest final boss in a game was actualy in every single game I played. I remeber as it was yesterday. I allwas tried hard to win i gave my best! But allways the same: Game Over!!!!!

    And that boss is: MY MOM;-)
    She allways came in my room an buging me i have to turn off my SNES and go out or do my homework! And then i found a solution for that problem: I grow up! But seriously i miss this days sometimes!

  5. What are you talking about? Boss battles are alive and well! Why, at the ending of Halo 3, I…Wait a minute!

    Yeah, I do miss the grandeur of old-school boss battles. That was how you measured yourself against you friends; at least it was for me. The race to beat Bowser, Andross and Ganon for bragging rights was probably the best memory I have of the N64. Master Hand fits in there as well.

    Beating Ganon also gave me one of my best gaming moments ever. You know how you have to stun him with Light Arrows? Well, I ran out of arrows. (Don’t ask me how, but I did.) Want to know how I beat him? Deku Nuts. That’s right, a whole game of collecting and never using those Nuts came in handy. Worked almost as well as the Arrows, too.

    The End in MGS3 was a great battle as well. I wanted to do it perfect the first time. 45 minutes of sneaking around, and ambushing that old fart. Awesome.

  6. Ha! That rules, Marth. Yeah, I remember the first time I fought Sephiroth in FFVII, I had actually never played an RPG before. I was totally not ready for the final battle, nor was I leveled in the slightest. By the end of the first form, I was literally using the Throw command to throw items and old weapons at him.

  7. Play the Resistance games. Plenty of bosses/mini bosses all over the place. It will satisfy your need for a ass kicking.

    And it’s fun as hell.

  8. i loved the painkiller bosses, not cause they where ridiculous, but because they had that epic grandness that you don’t see often in an fps.

  9. Great post Eddy! You do make a great point but, as Vertigo mentioned, games are trying to be too realistic. We need more interesting dilemas. SotC relied on the gimic of 16 boos battles is the game. It worked. Resi 4 had some good ones. El Gigante (the first time is a huge WOW moment) and the fight against IT. Terrifying good. Also when I ran out of light arrows I used the longshot. That stuns him very briefly but side jump ’round him and hit his tail with it again. VERY slow but hey, it worked!

  10. Great post. There are a lot of bosses that are not mentioned as bosses, they jus appear out of no where and you fight.

    I always hated the final final boss fight. The fight after you thought you beaten the final boss the first time. Arg…

  11. The true form of Andross in Starfox 64. Finally beating that brain, then he says, “If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me!” O SHI-! The screen fades to white, surely you are dead, right? No! You’re long lost father comes and leads you out of Andros’s lair before mysteriously disappearing.

    Very badass

  12. Ah, Boss Battles. Brings me back to my childhood.

    Pretty much all of the Shadow of the Colossus bosses are some of the best, evarrr, but the ones you listed are awesome too.
    Now about boss battles nowadays, or the lack thereof. It is the Age of the FPS right now, and there’s not much you can do with most FPS’s to make a boss. Back when we were kids, the fantastic landscapes BEGGED for big demons and spiders and magic. But now, we (in general) like realistic war games and such. Maybe we’ve outgrown the fantastic stuff. Hopefully, some developer will step forward and rejuvenate our love for mystical worlds with a truly epic game. Maybe it’ll be FPS.

  13. I beleive that your boss battles were pretty epic. I remember Mario 64 and the whole final bowser level being real tough to do
    Also, Wolf3d. Episode 3. Mechahitler. NOt only do you get to kill the guy, but hes in a robotic suit, and has 4 chainguns (for those who dont know, the cahingun was only surpassed in power to the Rocket launcher, which only a couple bosses had). I remember freaking out whenever I heard his mechanical footsteps getting louder as I was frantically trying to find health and ammo. good times to be had when I finally got him (took three tries before I got a good rythm down).
    The only other none-mentioned boss fight was the boss in Doom2. Something about a giant robotic head shooting out ArchViles (among other baddies) and having to time my rockets so they would actually hurt the guy made me really happy when it was all over as you get to watch his head blow up.

  14. [quote comment=”1981″]…On Ace Combat 6 there is a mission that is ridiculous, and its not even the boss battle… [/quote]

    Can you remember which one it was? The one that had me boned was the before last mission with the huge ass missles and city patrol, until i found out i could get hextuple sidewinders (XMA6, for you junkies). I loved taking down the gunships, one of my fave gaming moments. Watching one of those beasts go down is pure, awesome pleasure. But then again, kicking an epic boss’s ass always is.

    Shadow of the Colossus has some greatly satisfying ass kickings, as well as Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. Both of them made me bring the house down as I cheered my ass off after beating Final Ganon and Ganondorf, and the final swordfight in Twilight Princess is the shit.

    I’m sure there’s more, but I just can’t seem to remember. Something, somewhere, has gone truly wrong. We need more epic boss battles.

  15. Great point Eddy games need a final fight. For me it would be Metroid Primes metroid prime. How you had to change your beam according to the bosses colour. Then you verse his core with you needing to changed vision every minute. Then Timesplitters 2’s Helicopter in Serbia on hard. Seriously its impossible to beat the fucker.

  16. On Super Mario 64, my first game I think, I still hadn’t learned that dying wasn’t that bad (only 5-6 years old back then). So when me and my brother came to the first bomb-omb boss I was sacred like shit and when we came to the first bowser the scary laugh + scary music alomst made me cry in fear. lol. got my dad to get him for me. hehe good times

  17. I think there are actually plenty of boss battles present in many of today’s games. One example i can think of is in the half life series. Every now you would have to take down an antlion guard or a strider or something. I think while the boss battles may not be as obvious, they feel naturally placed and believable. I must say taking down a strider and trying not to get skewered on its legs provided for an epic boss battle.

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