With the days of quick time events rapidly taking over, true boss battles are seemingly a dying concept. Good boss battle should push the player to the limit to use everything they have learned so far, and a close victory should be something to remember. It will come as no surprise that all of my favourite boss battles come from some of my favourite games, which I have written about previously, and there are some minor spoilers for each game. Also note that these are not (necessarily) the best boss battles of all time, just my personal favourites:
Mr Freeze (Batman: Arkham City)
The first battle between the Caped Crusader and his cold-hearted adversary is a perfect counter to the common ‘do something three times to win’ scenario in many games. Rated very strongly by pretty much anyone who played it, the boss battle against Mr Freeze is memorable because you can only ever attack him the same way once.
A wild departure from the stock-standard punch-punch-dodge-repeat battles from the first game, taking down Mr Freeze would require unique takedowns (three on Easy, five for Normal, eight when playing on Hard and nine of a possible 12 when playing through New Game Plus), which would then be unavailable to use a second time. Adding to the tension is Freeze’s deadly Freeze gun, and a devastating right hand which makes attacking him head-on a death wish.
The stakes are high too; failure to beat Freeze means you will not get the cure to the Joker’s virus, coursing through your veins. A choice between certain death, or just a high chance of death, makes this one of the coolest boss fights I have ever survived.
Grigori (Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen)
With it’s very recent release on PC, everyone who did not play this on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 can now discover the maximum hype of holding onto a dragon as he soars through the sky, doing everything he can to cause you to plunge to your death. To say this battle is challenging and memorable is an understatement of the highest degree, and players need to use every skill they have acquired to take down the scaly beast, and anything less then the highest quality team will prove to be a recipe for disaster.
Players had to dodge attacks like breathing fire and a devastating tail swipe, whilst simultaneously grappling to climb over his entire body to get to various weak points. If he takes off, you need to use a ballista, a remnant from a war long past to bring him back to ground level before you can continue your onslaught. God help you if he turns one of your hired allies against you, with his mind-controlling roar.
If you think I’ve skipped over the meaningful part of my boss-battle-triumvirate, then consider this: this dragon bastard literally ripped your heart from your chest and has been taunting you for the entire game, saying you don’t have what it takes to challenge him, let alone defeat him. And even if you do manage to defeat this primary antagonist, don’t hold your breath that the fun stops there because (spoiler!) the fun is just getting started.
Ganondorf (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
If there was an award for being a dick to countless generations of children, just because you can, then Ganondorf would surely have it in the bag. On a quest for total power, Ganondorf’s path often crosses with the Princess Zelda and her green-clothes ally Link. After a (simply phenomenal) game of various gimmicks and the necessary use of certain items, this final boss turned things into a good ol’ fashioned sword fight. Atop a tower, as the rest of the world literally flooded around you, players had to utilise all the combat skills they had learned to dodge the wild swordsmanship of the Dark Lord, with Zelda able to provide some cover fire with her magic bow.
As far as atmosphere goes, I don’t think any other setting will top the Wind Waker’s ultimate battle. The stakes are high, the fight is intense, and there could not be less room for error, all of which culminates in an incredibly memorable showdown. Originally this entry on my list also included the final battle from following game Twilight Princess, due to the similarities of the two, but Wind Waker edged out the spot due simply to how bloody amazing it is.
Two more of my favourite boss battles await, on page 2!