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The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #1


Alrighty folks, today we finally reach the big #1 on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.

On our journey up through the Top 10, we’ve covered bosses featured in games of numerous genres, ranging from action platformers to 2D fighters.

Yesterday we took a closer look at Tageri and Ubusunagami Okinokai, a pair of end-game bosses from the acclaimed Treasure shoot ’em up, Ikaruga.

While some bosses earned their places on this list through being deceptive or unpredictable, the 2 bosses mentioned above did so through possessing entirely predictable, but immensely complex and oppressively persistent attack patterns.

There are innumerable traits and profiles to choose from, but when it comes to describing that which makes for the most difficult of boss fights, in my mind the combination of the 2 listed above makes for the perfect unbeatable monster of the videogame realm.

To be “unpredictable in one’s predictability.”

That’s what makes for the greatest challenges, not just in gaming, but in all things of a competitive or adversarial nature.

Today’s boss, the #1 ranked entry on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, possesses the aforementioned elusiveness, while at once making use of crushing attack power and inhuman speed.

That being said, The Hardest Boss Fight is:

“Iron” Mike Tyson – Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Pictured: Little Mac mere nano-seconds away from eating a right uppercut from Tyson.

Mike Tyson is of those rare bosses that is so hard that there’s a certain elegance to be found in the brutally of his design.

The original Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (that’s right, we’re not talkin’ that Mr. Dream bullshit) came out in 1987, smack dab in the era in which few would argue “Iron” Mike’s claim to the title of “Baddest Man on the Planet.”

To put things in perspective, at the time of the game’s release Tyson was 31-0, with only 4 of his wins going to decision.

The rest, went pretty much like this:

While time has gone on to prove things otherwise, in 1987 Mike Tyson was, for lack of a better term; invincible.

What better than to honor the man’s reputation than by creating an 8-bit digital version of him that was every bit as powerful, quick, elusive and intimidating than the real thing?

In case you couldn’t tell by now, that’s pretty much what the folks over at Nintendo did.

That’s right, they took the terrifying essence of Mike Tyson, and crammed it into an NES cartridge for mass consumption.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!: The game that eats your children.

In real life, Tyson’s aura of invincibility was shattered in 1990 through a complex combination of a lax training camp, possible fatigue generated by traveling to Japan and fighting at an off-time, and the relentless, pressuring attack of one James “Buster” Douglas, a B-level fighter emboldened by the recent passing of his mother.

While that’s how things went down in real life, the sad fact of the matter is that, in order to even last 2 seconds with the “Iron” Mike featured in Punch-Out!!, one’s best bet is to play defensive and look to land blows immediately after slipping one of his.

Which, if you've never seen it before; results in THIS delightful face.

Of course, if it were that simple Mike Tyson wouldn’t be the Hardest Boss on this list, now would he?

The core mechanics of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! are extraordinarily simple on paper, though in practice their complexity is not to be denied.

Much like real boxing, in every fight in the game the basic strategy, without fail; is to dodge or block your opponent’s blows while landing your own in response.

In the game, when you miss or block punches you lose “hearts,” which are representative of one’s stamina and must be exchanged at a rate of 1:1 in order throw punches.

Countering an opponent “clean,” that is; at the exact frame of animation in which they would’ve hit you with a blow of their own, awards you with “stars” that can be used to execute a devastating (but slow) super punch.

Every fight in the game goes a maximum of 3 rounds, with decision wins being a possibility, though more often than not fights end with one of the boxers being TKO’d due to the 3 knockdown rule being in effect.

Which will result Tyson doing his nifty "win" pose.

At it’s core, Punch-Out!! is a game that is based around timing and memorization.

Every fighter in the game has “tell” of some sort that signals you of their actions, though it’s up to the player to identify the meaning of these signals while surviving under the strength of their reflexes in the meantime.

All of the fighters in the game have a complex pattern to their actions, though many of them expand on their repertoire of moves should they be allowed to advance to the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the fight.

Mike Tyson takes all of the above complexities and turns them up to 11.

His power is unworldly.

His timing is deceptive and uncertain.

To put it in his own words:

Seriously man, words cannot describe the beastly-ness of Mike Tyson.

Like our #2 entrant(s) on this list, Mike Tyson is a rare example of a final challenge that demands absolute precision and excellence in all of the skills you’ve acquired throughout the game.

While I’d argue that such a gesture on the part of the game’s developers is actually quite¬†admirable, especially in this modern age of gaming where “hand-holding” is in many ways the norm; there’s no denying that Mike Tyson is a videogame challenge was designed to be conquered by only the best of the best.

AKA The Koreans.

His absurd power and speed alone would likely make him worthy of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, however at the end of the day it’s his indecipherable timing that make him it’s king.

Like all of the fighters in Punch-Out!!, “Iron” Mike signals his attacks with a gesture or facial tic, however the reaction time necessary to avoid the resulting attacks,; let alone capitalize on the openings presented by them, is downright superhuman.

Not only that, the timing of his attacks, and his pattern on the whole, is somewhat variable; resulting in instances of familiarity on repeat plays, but never complete consistency.

Even if you somehow manage to avoid his attacks and land a follow up shot, if the timing of your offense is off by a fraction of a second, or worse yet, you overextend yourself and throw one too many punches; his recovery time is usually quick enough to punish you.

Pictured: What it looks like to be "punished" by Tyson.

Another tricky aspect of “Iron” Mike’s game, is the fact that his blows suck stamina like a fuckin’ Dyson, resulting the inevitable instance or 2 in which you’ll have to hang on for dear life and dodge a few of his shots in sequence in order to get your wind back.

Given the imperceptible nature of most of his attacks, this is usually the point in the fight when Mike Tyson picks you apart and puts you to sleep.

Dodging his attacks every now and again isn’t terribly difficult, but doing so several times consecutively is a whole ‘nother story.

Such is the indescribably nerve-wracking experience that is fighting Mike Tyson.

I’ve never beaten him, and to date I’ve only gotten to Mike Tyson maybe 1 or 2 times in my life.

While he’s quite a bit more “fight-able” than some of the lesser bosses of this list, (*cough!* Duriel *cough!*) in that it’s possible for an above-average player to hit, and even knock him down once, Mike Tyson remains to me the Hardest Boss Fight in videogames.

In fact, in many ways “Iron” Mike’s faux vulnerability is what makes him the #1 entrant on this list.

While as the final boss of the game he was appropriately given the tools to run over you at the outset of the fight, his AI was cleverly designed to fight in unpredictable fits and spurts, resulting in a perpetually tense situation wherein you don’t know what kind of Tyson you’re going to be dealing with.

You could spend 2 thirds of the fight straight-up handling a relatively lax and predictable Tyson, only to have him suddenly shift gears and unexpectedly put you to sleep in the closing moments of the final round kind of like this:

There’s no such thing as catching your rhythm or finding your “comfort zone” with Mike Tyson.

Much of Tyson’s aura of invincibility in real-life was perpetuated by psychological means, through the fear each of his opponents failed to conquer, before and after stepping into the ring with him.

If Mike Tyson was unbeatable in his prime for this reason (among others) in real-life, then personally I find it’s only befitting that his videogame counterpart should share this reputation.

Thanks For Reading!

Filed under: Boxing, Games, The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #5


Yesterday I mentioned in passing that fighting Beowulf from Devil May Cry 3 was a boss fighting experience that transcended the staples of normal gaming challenges.

To me, the difficulty of fight with Beowulf stemmed not just from the challenges presented by the gameplay of that segment, by also by the psychological stress the battle places on you, the player.

Now, I consider myself a particularly seasoned gamer, so whenever a videogame is able to genuinely cause me stress, and not just anger or annoyance; it tends to stand out to me as something special.

Such is the reason the battle with Beowulf stood out to me as both an incredibly difficult and exhilarating fight entirely worthy of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.

On that same note, today’s boss just happens to have earned their spot in much the same fashion as Beowulf.

As chatty as he is dangerous, the #5 entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:

#5. Sinistar – Sinistar

Pictured: A lone fighter pilot prepares to face the dreaded Sinistar head-on.

“BEWARE, I LIVE!”

If ever there were a phrase in gaming history capable of sending a chill down a gamer’s spine, that quote from Williams’ Sinistar would have to be it.

Announcing his presence with a Jack and the Beanstalk-esque “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum!” of sorts, the arrival of Sinistar at the end of each level in the game of the same name is one of those moments in gaming that, though it may seem ho hum by today’s standards; will live on forever as a classic of it’s time.

Sinistar’s hilariously minimalist taunts and battle cries will likely live on forever, however it’s easy to forget that, as fun as it could be when you were winning; the game was hard as fuck.

A classic twitch shooter through and through, Sinistar was one of those mean-ass arcade games that would bait you into thinking it wasn’t all that tough, only to stomp the ever loving shit out of you by level 2.

Be it Centipede, Missile Command or Robotron, arcade games of the early 80’s, and indeed throughout much of the history of arcade machines thrived on inviting players in win the promise of a fun first level, only to drop the hammer and crush them just a few stages down the road.

Centipede: A whole helluva' lot harder than you'd think.

I’m guessing this was supposed to trigger a “What the fuck? Let’s try this again…” psychological response in the players or something.

Things were different back then.

It was a lot easier to justify pumping money into a machine for a few minutes of fun when few people owned consoles of their own, not to mention the fact that the home systems weren’t capable of the graphical sophistication presented by arcade machines of the time.

History lesson aside, Sinistar was entirely guilty of the gameplay model mentioned above.

It was pretty easy in the first level, but holy Ewoks and graham crackers brother, you gotta’ be a motherfuckin’ pinball wizard to get much further than that!

The boss of the game, Sinistar; being largely responsible for said nut-crushing difficulty.

Fighting Sinistar is not what you’d call a “fight” in the traditional sense.

Much in the way I wouldn't call this a "fight."

Up until his arrival, you spend your time in the game piloting your star fighter, shooting the occasional enemy, and, quite literally; shaking down asteroids for “Sinibombs” and crystals.

The gameplay during this phase of the game, at least during some of the earlier stages; is actually kind of eerie in terms of how quiet and relaxed it can be.

Like many arcade games of the day, the game features no music during play, resulting in a unnerving silence in between the occasional laser or explosion sound effect.

Don’t let my overly romanticized descriptions fool you, this phase of the game is merely the calm before the storm.

Allow me to paint for you, a picture (in words) of how a typical fight with Sinistar goes down:

As you’re collecting shit out in space, at some point you’ll likely notice the enemy ships zipping about and snagging crystals before you can get to them.

For whatever reason they aren’t trying to shoot you down…. For what purpose could they be gathering the crystals for?

As this process continues for a time, it will likely dawn on you that those little ships are up to something…

Something…. SINISTAR.

Just as you’re starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together in your mind, suddenly a horrifying call resonates from the void of space, shooting shivers down your spine and dookie out your poop-hole.

“BEWARE, I LIVE!”

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

The ravenous space-beast Sinistar has arrived!

His hunger knows no bounds!

He dares you to run, as it is truly your only option in the face of such a beast!

Moreover, he is Sinistar, and he lives!

From the time the hunting call sounds, precious few seconds remain before the great gray beast comes into view and gives chase.

Innumerable questions come flooding into your mind with the utmost urgency:

Should I go out looking for Sinistar, or let him come to me?

Do I have enough Sinibombs to kill him?

Am I a bad enough dude to rescue the president?

Eventually, all questioning and speculation goes out the window as the mighty Sinistar rears his demonic head and cuts a swath through the flotsam of the cosmos, bellowing insults and taunts at every turn!

You juke left!

You juke right!

And all the while Sinistar follows close behind!

In your panic, your fingers trace their way across the surface of the arcade cabinet in search of the one weapon, the one source of sanctuary that can hope to save you from the advance of Sinistar:

The Sinibomb button.

You mash on the button again and again, scattering scores of Sinibombs into the massive face of Sinistar!

With every impact the great beast howls in pain, delivering a shock to your nerves, and a morbid sense of satisfaction…

Bomb after bomb makes it’s mark and your confidence begins to build.

13 direct hits are all that are needed to fell the space monster, could victory be within reach?

NO.

You depress the Sinibomb button one last time only to realize:

You’re out of ammo.

The gray space leviathan follows close behind without any semblance of fear across it’s battered, mechanical visage.

"Never wound... What you can't kill."

In a desperate bid for survival, you begin making attempts to rebuild your ammo supply, carefully skirting asteroids while slowly giving ground to the rapidly encroaching Sinistar.

You juke left!

You juke right!

And just before you recover the last Sinibomb you need to finish the monster pursuing you, it happens:

You accidentally bump an asteroid, Sinistar slams into your ship and crushes it in his terrible maw; sending fiery chunks of debris out into every corner of space.

Such is the ordeal that is fighting Sinistar.

The actual procedure is little more than a fairly straightforward chase, however due to the panic-inducing presence of the boss in question, coupled with the variables of the level construction, (I.E. enemy ships, asteroids) the difficulty piles up very quickly.

If that’s not Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights material, I don’t know what is.

Oh yeah, after all my fanciful storytelling I guess you deserve a look at what the actual battle with Sinistar looks like in-game:

Filed under: Games, The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, #6


It’s funny, as I was typing out the article for yesterday’s entry on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, it dawned on me just how much I hated fighting Duriel from Diablo II.

As much as I discovered I hated him though, I feel I was justified in placing him relatively low on this list.

Despite the fact that I’m pretty sure there’s not a single boss character on this list that I hate more than him, the actual difficulty that came from fighting Duriel came almost entirely as a result of his unbalanced and, quite frankly;¬†cheap design.

He’s not hard per se, he’s just broken….. And more than a little douche-y.

The point I’m trying to make, is that, in my eyes; the hardest boss fights are the ones that are just that:

Tough fights.

Fighting Duriel isn’t what I’d call a traditional fight, it’s just an unwarranted and totally out of place exercise in tedium within the confines of an otherwise straightforward and balanced game.

I know it’s just a matter of opinion, but I felt I needed to make my stance on this subject as clear as possible.

That being, the next boss on our list, earned his spot, not through being cheap, or even unpredictable; but by simply being one of toughest motherfuckers I’ve ever fought.

There are bosses with patterns, and there are bosses with weaknesses, and then there’s the #6 entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights:

#6. Beowulf – Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

Pictured: Dante, about a half second a way from getting bitch slapped by Beowulf.

To me, Beowulf isn’t just one of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, he’s also one of the best.

His pattern isn’t anywhere near as complex as some of the other bosses in Devil May Cry 3, and he certainly doesn’t deal an inordinate amount of damage; but for my money he’s the toughest boss in a game packed to the hilt with some of gaming’s stiffest challenges.

We're talkin' TURBO TUNNEL-tough!

The fact of the matter is, Beowulf’s a hard boss simply because he makes you work for your victory over him.

There’s no such thing as a quick win over Beowulf, and therein lies the beauty in fighting him.

The frantic nature of the battle prevents his various “phases” from ever feeling overlong, not to mention lead to instances where the sheer intensity of the conflict cause you to make mistakes with your controller.

If ever there were a sign that a boss is tough, it’d have to be that of making your hands twitch out of pure sensory overload.

To this day, I have yet to find a “good” way to fight Beowulf outside playing it cool and wearing him down.

That’s the thing with Beowulf:

He doesn’t have any weaknesses.

Unlike most Devil May Cry bosses, and indeed most bosses in general, Beowulf doesn’t have a magic solution to his pattern.

Hell, he doesn’t even really have a significant vulnerability to any weapon in the game, making defeating Beowulf an affair based purely on skill and endurance.

Unlike fuckin’ Crash Man:

Beowulf’s pattern is essentially that of a pressure-fighter, a Rocky Balboa if you will.

He’s predictable, and he’s kind of slow, but he’s on your ass all night long and there’s no safe way to hurt him.

At first glance he seems like a pushover as long as you keep your distance, however the sad truth of the matter is:

Inevitably he’s going to catch up to you.

.... But not without taking 20 times the punishment in the process.

While all Beowulf really does in his opening phase is stomp and throw haymakers, there’s a clever science to the placement of his attack angles.

You can see every move he makes coming from a mile away, and yet, due to the wide-arcing nature of his swipes; you’ll often find yourself caught by blows that initially looked harmless.

As is typical of Devil May Cry bosses, Beowulf is rarely reactive to the damage of your attacks, making it unwise to exchange blows with him, given his potent attack power that is equally typical to the series.

The one exploitable weakness I know of that Beowulf has, is extraordinarily minor to the point of being almost counterproductive.

Throughout various cutscenes in the game, as well as the in-game graphics; it is imparted to you that Beowulf bears a scar over one of his eyes.

Whenever a blow is delivered to Beowulf’s scarred eye, he immediately clutches it in pain and swings wildly with his free arm with surprising accuracy.

"Nobody move! One of my contacts just fell out!"

This technique is only really viable in the first phase of the battle, and indeed does a fair amount of damage, however the dangers in employing jumping attacks against Beowulf are numerous, so in my opinion it’s better to play defensively and simple forego the exploit altogether.

The second and third phases of the fight are where things get really hairy.

Up until this point in the fight, Beowulf basically just plods about and punches at you, however once you’ve done enough damage to trigger his second phase, he drops down onto all fours and starts running about the arena with frightening speed.

In between phases, he throws easy to dodge metal towers at you, but make no mistake, once he’s on all fours, he becomes quite difficult to keep up with.

Given his ability to break into a gallop at any given moment, Beowulf’s second phase takes the tricky accuracy of his initial attack pattern and injects a element of unpredictability that makes it a bitch to keep up with.

Much like fighting Sigma in the Mega Man X games, Beowulf is a test not only in a twitch sense, but also in the sense that you never really feel like you’re pulling ahead in the fight.

Sadly, defeat usually comes very late in the fight against Beowulf, as his third and final phase is hard to avoid without taking at least some damage…. Damage that one usually can’t afford to spare by this point in the fight.

Beowulf’s third phase compounds all of his previous attacks and abilities, but adds a few volleys of glowing white energy fired from his now fully outstretched wings.

...I guess I better say what everyone's thinking: BEAST MODE: ENGAGE.

The damage dealt from these projectiles is significant, but mostly survivable.

The real kicker in all this, is the fact that it’s very difficult to avoid these volleys without taking at least some damage.

After softening you up with the projectiles, typically Beowulf will charge at you full speed, at which point one of you will likely be killed given the lowly state of your health bars.

Just take a look at this video where the player does well throughout, but inevitably ends up with almost no health by the battle’s final moments:

That’s what I love about fighting Beowulf:

He represents the rare case when a boss demands not just precision, but also endurance.

He really doesn’t do all that much, but something about the way he subtly changes his angles in order to chase you, and unpredictably makes use of his running attacks; makes him hard in a way that’s different from many other bosses.

Simply spamming the dodge or roll commands won’t work, because if your timing is off he’ll punish the shit out of you.

Simply pulling out the “right” weapon won’t work, because he doesn’t bear any weaknesses to any of them.

Simply hanging back and shooting him death won’t work, because eventually he’ll spread his wings and run your ass into the ground.

Beowulf’s a terrific boss, that also just happens to be one of the hardest I’ve ever fought.

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