This ranking is a continuation from the previous list where I ranked the eight out of the fifteen total bosses. For full context, I’d highly recommend starting with that list, which includes Sekiro’s worst bosses.
7. Lady Butterfly
Sekiro’s former tutor Lady Butterfly acts a stern early game challenge for new players, but fittingly enough she teaches some key fundamentals that will help players throughout the course of the game. She can be knocked off the elevated wires she uses to try and drop down on players through the shuriken prosthetic tools, and her troublesome illusions in the second phase can be dispersed via the use of Snap Seeds. It’s the intense action of this fight mixed with the seamless tutorials that makes it a standout early game battle, and the setting of a burning building helps add an extra flair to the spectacle.
6. Corrupted Monk
The confrontation with the true Corrupted Monk is a much stronger battle than its predecessor, taking place on a bridge coated in beautiful cherry blossom leaf’s that dance in the wind as the monk swings her large weapon. This traditional fight of deflecting and dodging the monk’s long string of attacks has a few interesting divergences that manage to give it a strong sense of identity.
Most notably is the monk’s intimidating design that becomes even more fearsome once a leech sprouts from her head in the second phase. Her dangerous illusions that appear in between phases also offer a unique challenge of trying to predict where the attacks will come from, and trying to position yourself in time to deflect them.
5. Great Shinobi Owl
Is there a more hateable character in Sekiro than the titular shinobi’s adopted father Owl?
If players choose to fight Owl at the top of Ashina Castle, they’re in for arguably the most difficult battle in the game. Not only does Owl use numerous sneaky tricks such as smoke bombs, explosive gunpowder, and even begging for his life in an attempt to fool Sekiro, but he also hits like a freight train by cutting through defences with just a few attacks. This means that players have to fight back with their own tricks and rely on positioning just as much as deflecting. It’s a real test of skill and knowledge of all the intricacies of combat that have been learned up until that point in the game, and leads to one of the most satisfying victories in the game as well.
4. Owl (Father)
This second Owl fight is an optional battle that can only be accessed in the Purification route and it’s a decidedly more honourable duel with the legendary warrior. Taking places three years in the past on a return trip to the Hirata Estates, we see a slightly different side to Owl. He trades some of his dirty tricks for an owl spirit animal which heightens the challenge in his second phase, leaving players on their toes with the extra mobility he gains. The difficulty from the previous encounter remains but as a whole, the fight feels much more respectable.
3. Guardian Ape
If there was a ranking of Sekiro’s best moments, it’s inarguable that the Guardian Ape fake-out would sit near the top. Upon landing a killing blow that decapitates the ape after an arduous first phase, you’re left with a sense of empowerment that quickly turns to panic as the ape gets back on to its feet without a head and continues fighting in an even more dangerous second phase.
This single surprising moment isn’t all the ape has to offer as the fight itself ends up being one of the most entertaining showdowns in the game from a mechanical standpoint. In the first phase, you’re given a large arena to move around with the grappling hook to avoid the beast’s dangerous attacks. In the second phase, the fight becomes a bit more traditional with parrying becoming more viable as the ape dons a giant sword, but its erratic movements and deadly terror attacks do more than enough to keep players uneasy. Upon completion, you can’t help but feel like you’ve just experienced one of the most enthralling boss encounters you can find in a modern videogame.
2. Genichiro Ashina
In most games, Genichiro would feel like a fitting finale. Early on in Sekiro, he leaves our lead without a left arm before kidnapping the Divine Heir to try and use his immortality to help aid against invading forces. This is more than enough motivation for players to want to try and stop his plans and when you come face to face with the merciless warrior during the end of the game’s first act upon the top of Ashina Castle, it feels like a climactic moment.
Of course, the game still continues after this point but if this battle was saved for the end it really wouldn’t feel out of place. That alone is enough to justify its place near the top of the list, and it helps that the fight itself is extremely entertaining. Genichiro employs numerous tactics including a variety of different sword swings that must be blocked and dodged as well as a bow that forces you to keep close to him. In his third phase, he gains additional lightning attacks which can be deflected back at him giving him a taste of his own medicine and players a sensation of empowerment. It’s a battle that hits all of the right beats in terms of emotional payoff and enthralling mechanics, and it sets a high bar for the rest of the game to follow.
1. Isshin, the Sword Saint
While Genichiro would’ve been a suitable final boss to end the game on, Sword Saint Isshin is all you could hope for out of a game’s finale. Throughout the entirety of Sekiro, you hear about how Isshin was a great warrior in his prime and in several optional conversations he states that he’d love to fight Sekiro given the chance. After a brief clash with Genichiro for a second time, players are faced with fighting Isshin after his return from the underworld, looking younger and fiercer than he appeared throughout the game.
This multi-stage battle demands pinpoint precision as he switches between a sword, spear and a handgun. Each phase of the fight ushers in a new moveset giving full context to how powerful of a ruler Isshin once was. It’s the perfect note to end on in a game full of blood pumping boss fights, and arguably FromSoftware’s strongest boss encounter in recent years.
Now that I’ve ranked each of the bosses, I think it’s safe to say that Sekiro has an incredibly strong lineup of fights. A lot of the positions on the list came down to the finest details, but I think that’s a testament to the quality of the game as a whole.