Boss battles have traditionally been the icing on the cake of video games. Almost every genre has them, and whilst they are a staple of the industry, there’s some that stand above the rest in terms of difficulty. The following is a list compiled from my own personal experiences, so if there’s a boss missing from here that you think is harder, it’s probably because I’ve never played said game. Be sure to let us know in the comments section if there’s a boss you’ve fought that’s way, way harder than anything featured on this list!
The following list is in no particular order
Daimon - Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon’s Dogma isn’t as famous for its difficulty as Dark Souls, but at times it can be just as hard - if not harder - than Namco’s well-known, punishing RPG. Residing in the darkest depths of Bitterblack Isle, Daimon is the final boss of the Dark Arisen expansion, and he is an utter asshole.
Not only do you have to defeat multiple anger-inducing bosses to even reach him in the first place, you also have to defeat Daimon once to unlock his true final form. Chances are, the majority of players never saw the demon’s ultimate form, because his first one took at least an hour to kill in itself. With a truckload of health, stupid speed and zero downtime between attacks, your only chance was to climb onto his face like an annoying fly and start slicing his face apart. If you emerged victorious, you then had to journey through Bitterblack and defeat Daimon a second time to be greeted by his final form - a faster, cheaper and more annoying version of his first form.
Ornstein & Smough - Dark Souls
If you’re an avid Dark Souls player like myself, try and remember the moment when you first stepped through Anor Londo’s fog gate by yourself - not backed up by two other mates - and laid eyes upon the two guys responsible for untold amounts of frustration.
The trouble with including Dark Souls bosses in lists like these is many players forget how difficult its many, many foes were the first time they faced them. In a game all about learning attack patterns and patience, even Dark Souls’ bosses can become child’s play once you’ve defeated them half a dozen times. Ornstein & Smough though, are still the only encounter I dread but equally look forward to when picking up the game for another playthrough. Whether you succeed or fail against the tag team, they’re always entertaining and unpredictable to engage in battle with.
Vergil - Devil May Cry 3
Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry was excellent. Despite all the laughable fanboy hate the company received, Dante’s much-needed reboot was a return to form after the disappointing Devil May Cry 4. However, whilst its boss fights were creative and fun - Bob Barbas was pure genius - they were never as challenging or difficult as the nightmare creations of Capcom’s earlier entries in the series.
I lost all track of time, death count and real life responsibilities when fighting Vergil in Devil May Cry 3. It’s one of the only times i’ve had to put the controller down, turn the console off and return to fight another day with a fresh pair of eyes due to the amount of time sunk into one fight. Dante’s dick of a brother can do everything you can and more. He can also do it faster and flawlessly, meaning you have to be flawless too, as one slip up will almost certainly mean you’re dead.
Mom - The Binding of Isaac
There’s two things you need to know about Edmund McMillen’s roguelike dungeon crawler. Everything in the game is randomly generated - and Mom is a bitch. McMillen’s follow-up to Super Meat Boy was always going to be difficult, but the randomly generated nature of TBoI is what makes it a nightmare to complete. You can either be blessed by amazing item upgrades and generous health drops on your journey to kill Mommy, or you can be screwed over at every turn by annoying boss fights and constant combat rooms.
Regardless of how fortunate you were on your journey to Mom, your first encounter against her is almost certain to end by being crushed by her leg - which seems to suffer from a severe case of cellulitis. With the release of Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on the horizon, it has never been a better time to try this indie hit - just don’t expect to win on your first 20 attempts.
Every Final Boss - Street Fighter Series
M.Bison, Akuma, Gill or Seth? Take your pick, they’re all a bunch of bastards. Street Fighter is the third Capcom game to feature on this list, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone - the Japanese company are responsible for some of the hardest and most imaginative boss battles in the history of videogames.
Regardless of which Street Fighter game you play, you’re guaranteed to face-off against an end boss that’s as difficult as they are cheap and annoying. Secret boss Shin Akuma would have your ass for breakfast, Ultimate M.Bison would take you down in a handful of attacks and Seth would beat you into submission with his cheapness. All of them are deserving of being on this list so it’s impossible to place one above the other in terms of difficulty. Street Fighter V has a lot to live up to - if it exists.
Shao Kahn - Mortal Kombat Series
Mortal Kombat’s comical levels of gore aren’t the only reason the series is famous. Shao Kahn is the final boss of multiple games in the bloody series, with the most recent being 2011’s Mortal Kombat. Regardless of which iteration you play though, Shao Kahn is always there to laugh in your face when he beats you down for all eternity.
In Ultimate Mortal kombat 3, you had to first beat Motaro - who was just as bad - to gain access to the ruler of Outworld, whereas in 2011’s MK, you had no choice but to fight him as Raiden in the story mode. With insane damage, flawless blocking and attacks with huge range, Shao Kahn has secured his place in the Hall of Douchery as well as being a very, very hard boss.
Alma - Ninja Gaiden
I imagine Alma would laugh hysterically at the concept of Dark Souls being difficult. The Arch-Fiend (basically a form of demon), is the hardest boss I have ever beaten in a videogame. That’s a statement that isn’t easily said, but Alma definitely takes the cake for being the hardest of the hard.
Like Dark Souls, what made Ninja Gaiden so great was difficulty that was fair and entirely dependent on player skill. If you didn’t come prepared to fight Alma, you would last for mere seconds and be punished for your own sloppiness. The key to success was perseverance. Only through death would you gradually learn her moves and patterns, enabling you to learn when to attack and when to get the hell away from her. It has been years since I last played Ninja Gaiden, but if I were to play it now, I have no doubt that Alma would be just as difficult now as she was when I was swearing at my TV as a teenager.
So there’s a collection of boss fights that have been the toughest for me personally, but what about everyone else? If there’s a boss that you think is leagues ahead in terms of difficulty in comparison to the ones listed above, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments section!