Since the release of Demon Souls and Dark Souls, FromSoftware has become known for their challenging games and memorable boss fights. It’s no surprise then, that their latest title Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice features numerous outstanding boss encounters that push players to their absolute limits. This list is a ranking of those boss fights based on their quality. Of course, this means that all of the major boss encounters will be spoiled, so read on at your own discretion:
15. Corrupted Monk (Illusion)
One of Sekiro’s most interesting areas is the more horror inspired Mibu Village, that sits beyond the dark forests of the Ashina Depths. Throughout the area, an illness has taken over the residence of a fishing village who blindly put too much faith in a religion. It’s a memorable divergence from the more grounded areas that permeate through the rest of the game, so it’s a crying shame that the boss at the end of this area is arguably the most uninspired fight in the game.
Instead of having a boss that’s built around the horror aspect of this area, players instead find an illusion of a boss that appears later in the game. This version of the Corrupted Monk fight essentially acts as the first phase of the full fight that appears later in the game, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe another boss used to reside in that area before being scrapped due to time constraints. Regardless of the reasoning behind its inclusion, it’s by far Sekiro’s most forgettable boss encounter.
14. Folding Screen Monkeys
In concept, Folding Screen Monkeys are a genuinely interesting fight. Most of the boss fights in the game are combat encounters, testing player’s reflexes and pattern recognition. Folding Screen Monkeys, however, take advantage of the stealth elements, leading to a fight that works more like a puzzle. Unfortunately, in practice this fight fails to execute on its ideas, with players being able to brute force their way through the encounter.
During this battle, there are four different monkeys with varying personality traits that can be exploited to land a killing blow on them. While this might sound interesting, it’s often easier to just chase after a monkey and smack them a few times until they drop dead, before moving onto one of their friends. This trivialises the entire point of the fight, leading it to feel more like a tedious chore than a battle of wits, especially on subsequent playthroughs.
13. Demon of Hatred
Speaking of tedious chores, this is probably the most long winded and tiresome fight in the game. Throughout Sekiro, a key component of combat is the posture bar, in which you fill up an opponent’s posture by deflecting their attacks while striking back in your own to deliver a killing blow. Demon of Hatred completely ignores this mechanic of the game, instead acting more like a rejected Dark Souls boss where you’ll chip away at its health for several minutes at a time, while running back using the large arena to dodge its area-of-effect attacks.
What’s more disappointing is that the tragic story implications of the amicable Sculptor character turning into this horrific beast are wasted on a frankly poor fight. After toppling Demon of Hatred, it’s more likely that players will be glad they don’t have to spend any more time on such an uninteresting fight as opposed to feeling excited due to overcoming one of the games challenges.
12. Headless Ape
Much like the Corrupted Monk, this is simply just a less interesting iteration of another boss fight that appears in the game. After bringing down Guardian Ape, you can encounter it yet again in the Ashina Depths, only this time it’s only in its second headless phase. Half way through the fight, a second ape joins which sounds like a suitably cruel way to raise tensions, but acts more like a brief distraction as it can be easily taken care of with a few of Robert’s Firecrackers. While it’s by no means a terrible encounter, it’s not a particularly interesting one either.
11. Emma, The Gentle Blade
If you’re heartless enough to betray the young Divine Heir and side with Sekiro’s treacherous father Owl, you’ll find yourself facing down the kind-hearted doctor Emma. The fight undoubtedly manages to hit the right emotional beats as players are forced to cut down one of games most likeable characters, but the fight itself is a rather standard affair. Emma has a few fancy animations and grab attacks that she can use, but outside of the emotional impact there’s not a great deal of substance to the fight mechanically.
10. Isshin Ashina
Immediately following Emma is a showdown with the once-great warrior Isshin Ashina. This old man certainly packs a punch with a furious barrage of slicing attacks in his first phase, and fire attacks in his second phase. It’s a suitably challenging fight to wrap up the Shura route of the game, but it feels like it’s dangerously close to crossing the line of excitement and frustration, as Isshin continuously unleashes large scale fire attacks that can do devastating damage with very little warning.
9. Divine Dragon
If there was ever a “correct way” to do a gimmick fight in a FromSoftware game, Divine Dragon would be a shining example. It’s surprising that one of Sekiro’s less challenging boss fights would come towards the tail end of the game, but the simple spectacle and presentation does more than enough leg work to elevate the fight.
The fight takes place in a gorgeous wide-open space within the clouds, where the Divine Dragon’s large sweeping attacks have to be dodged before the player can strike back with lightning deflection moves that are introduced earlier in the game. Watching the towering Divine Dragon flop over as you punish it with consecutive lightning hits is nothing short of awe inspiring, and it helps that the entire battle is accompanied by one of best music tracks in the game.
8. Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa
Sekiro’s first mandatory boss fight acts as a strong introduction to the other formidable foes in the game, hammering down the importance of parrying and positioning as well as providing a good sense of spectacle. The fight takes place in a war-torn battlefield, covered in the bodies and destruction that’s followed from enemies who have tried and failed to defeat Gyoubu in battles prior to your arrival. This small set-up helps raise tensions in what is most player’s first truly exhilarating fight in the game, and you can’t really ask much more from a first boss fight than a knight circling you on a horse while yelling about how he won’t let you pass the gate he’s defending.
The list is continued in a part two where I have ranked the remaining seven bosses of the game.