That being said, I can think of no better source of motivation, than to start up another epic Top 10 list!
As you’ve probably guessed from the AWESOME banner at the top of this post, this time around our list is focused on a subject that is very near and dear to my heart: videogame boss fights.
For better or for worse, boss fights have been a staple of game design for nearly as long as the medium has existed.
Perhaps a product of the “quarter munching” aspect of arcade games, boss fights were at initially characterized as a clash with a unique character, who’s attack pattern and/or attributes often caused them to represent a significant spike in the games’ difficulty level.
Nowadays, what with the advances in technology and a fairly consistent trend towards favoring narrative based gameplay, boss fights have become increasingly irrelevant.
Hell, I remember reading an article on Kotaku awhile back positing the possibility that boss fights may be an unnecessary artifact carried on from a bygone era of gaming.
Despite being a fascinating read, the viewpoint of said article largely applied exclusively to story driven games, games that boss fights would feel “tagged on” or extraneous in.
For whatever reason, I can’t find the article in question, but oh well; you get the gist of it.
Personally, my background in 8 and 16-bit gaming has left me with nothing but fond memories of battling big baddies at the end of every level.
Maybe it’s just the old school gamer in me, but I play most games expecting there to be big ugly dude with a bloated life bar at the end of every stage, level, chapter, episode, or what have you.
For me, boss fights are both the final obstacle prior to advancement, as well as, on occasion; a reward in and of themselves.
Good boss fights represent some of the finest moments in gaming history.
Bad boss fights can be anywhere from disappointingly shallow, to controller smashing-ly hard.
The latter, largely represents the contents of this list; though not entirely.
Tough boss fights are just another part of gaming, as natural pressing the “A” button to jump, and the “B” button to kill.
That being said, let’s get this party started as we delve in to the 10th hardest boss fight:
#10. Yellow Devil – Mega Man
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played plenty of harder games, especially on my NES, however in terms of hard boss fights; few put fear in my heart the way the Devil did.
When I was a kid, I never beat the Yellow Devil.
Encountered in the first stage of Dr. Wily’s fortess, the Yellow Devil was a wretched beast that kept me from beating the original Mega Man until well into adulthood.
Fighting the Devil was a fairly straightforward experience, but one made difficult by the tedious nature of the bosses’ pattern, as well as his fearsome attack power.
Basically, the original Yellow Devil only had 1 attack in his pattern, but it was a real pain in the pass.
Check it out here:
Disassembling his mustard-y yellow form into a series of cubes, the Devil launches his body, piece by piece; from one end of the room to the other.
While in flight, all of these pieces serve as dangerous projectiles that must be avoided by the player through careful jumps of varying heights and timing.
The actual pattern of the pieces’ dispersal isn’t quite random, however it’s complicated enough to the point of being easier to dodge through reflex than memorization.
The real problem with this pattern, is the fact that damage can only be dealt to the Devil one shot at a time, for only a brief moment following the completion of his reassembling phase.
Many bosses throughout gaming history have employed the annoying as fuck pattern characteristic of, “You Can Only Hit Me After I’ve Slapped You With My Dick For 5 Minutes” but few have done so with the audacity of the Yellow Devil.
With a rather potent weakness to Elec Man’s Thunder Beam, the Yellow Devil doesn’t take all that many hits to kill, however the time one has to devote to frantically hopping about in order to get into position to deliver said hits; more than compensate for any weaknesses he may have.
I was usually good enough to get close to taking out the Devil in Mega Man, but it wasn’t until I was much older, wiser, and entirely less interested in achieving victory that I would actually conquer the beast known in the states as the Rock Monster.
That being said, I feel the Yellow Devil’s #10 slot on this list is entirely warranted, however imagine my disappointment when I stumbled across the glitch/exploit featured in the video below:
The Devil earned his spot on the list through the frustrating nature of his borderline random attack pattern that made battling him a test of reflexes and coordination rather than memorization.
Appropriately enough, battling the #9 entry on the list requires a similar range of skills, however coming out on top is measurably more difficult given their more aggressive stance.
That being said, the next entry on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:
#9. Shredder – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game
If there’s any one, constant truth about arcade beat ’em ups, it’s that you can always expect to face a cheap-ass boss or 2 at some point within them.
Wind blows, water flows, Mr. Shadow dies by the power of Leeloo and Corbin Dallas’ love, and arcade beat ’em ups have cheap-ass bosses.
In the age of the beat ’em up, no other company stuffed their games full of quarter munching bastards quite like Konami.
Don’t get me wrong, Konami was also one of the best when it came to cranking out beat ’em ups, but whether it be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Turtles in Time, The Simpsons, X-Men, or Metamorphic Force; virtually all of Konami’s beat ’em up bosses made use of an infuriating attack pattern that was entirely beatable, but rarely without the use of a continue or 2.
While I highlighted the arcade version of the Shredder in the pic above, make no mistake, he’s equally tough on either platform, though arguably more so on the NES.
Unlike the Yellow Devil from yesterday’s entry on the list, I’ve beaten Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game numerous times, mostly in my early childhood; however on every occasion I’ve had considerable difficulty in challenging not only the Shredder, but virtually all of the end level bosses.
As mentioned earlier, fighting the Ninja Turtles arcade game bosses is mostly a reflex oriented experience, much like fighting the Yellow Devil; however the difference in difficulty lies in the aggressiveness of their attack pattern.
The Yellow Devil has only one attack sequence, that if you can endure for long enough; (which in my youth, I couldn’t) will lead to your eventual victory.
Shredder, along with virtually all of the Konami arcade game bosses of the day; doesn’t have a distinguishable pattern in his attacks, but instead forces you to enter into a war of attrition with him.
The bosses in all of these games have superior reach and damage dealing ability to your player character, and attack in such a way that there really is no good way to ensure dealing damage to them without taking some yourself due to their split-second reaction times.
Did I mention virtually all of the Shredder and his buddies’ attacks have priority over your own, and have the nasty tendency to fling you across the room or knock you out of the air every time they hit you?
As with yesterday, check out this video to get a feel for what’s it’s like to tangle with the Shred-Head:
It looks dumb, but the player in the video above’s incessant use of the JUMP KICK is basically one’s only viable option in Ninja Turtles 2, especially against the Shredder.
Think of it like a nightmare scenario where you’re fighting a counter-puncher who’s not only got your number, but also has 20 lbs on you.
You’re only real option is to try and remain elusive (read: JUMP KICK) and take potshots at distance, however inevitably; no matter how fast or accurate you are with your attacks, Shred-Head is gonna’ find you and put the hurt on you.
Such is the frustration of doing battle with Konami’s quarter munching stable of assholes.
While one could argue that virtually all of these bosses deserve a spot on this list, I’ve always felt that Shredder’s multiplying ability and one-hit kill anti-mutagen beam put him over the top.
That’s right, Shredder can indeed multiply in this game!
AND kill you in one hit at any given moment!
So imagine every nasty detail I mentioned above, coupled with the fact that during the course of the battle you have to contend with 2 Shredder’s on the NES, and up to 5 in the arcade; any one of which can take a life away with one blast of the blue laser from their hands!
Imagine being like 5 years old and having to deal with that bullshit!
While the arcade version may put you up against 5 Shredders, I honestly think the NES version is more difficult.
When you face 5 Shredders, you do so with the help of 3 other players; not to mention the arcade Shredder has a less overbearing style of attack that rarely knocks you across the room, making it easy to simply swarm him and trade blows until he folds.
Given the lack of an option to pump more quarters into the machine for extra lives, as well as the Shredder’s slightly more annoying style of attack; I’d say the official #9 entry on this list would have to be the NES iteration.
As we work our way up through the bottom tier of our list of the The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, it’d dawned on me that our previous 2 entries both earned their slots, partly through an element of “cheapness” in their attack patterns.
“Man, there’s just no good way to fight these guys without getting dick-slapped here and there.”
That being said, while I admit, wholeheartedly; that the next entry on this list isn’t anywhere near as annoying as the 2 bosses that have preceded him, I’d argue that he was the more difficult, and the more thrilling challenge overall.
Our #8 entry on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:
#8. Sigma – Mega Man X
The Mega Man X series has produced some of gaming’s best boss fights.
Fighting a futile battle against the indestructible Vile in his robot ride armor was an experience few gamers will forget their first time around.
Similarly, fighting Zero, the protagonist’s partner and close friend; yielded real drama in my young imagination (mostly because of the simple, but AWESOME music) way back in the day.
By the way, the only reason you’d ever have to fight Zero in Mega Man X 2 is either because YOU SUCK, or because you’re lazy.
My guess is that guy was lazy.
While many would dispute Sigma’s placement on this list, one has to understand that, at the time of the original Mega Man X’s release; the gauntlet style of final boss encounter that has since become his signature was in the process of being pioneered.
Like many contemporary games, fighting Sigma is a multi-stage affair involving 2-3 back-to-back fights of ascending difficulty.
Sigma is relatively difficult in all of his appearances, with the notable exception of X 2 and 6 where he was a total pussy; and truth be told, I was actually tempted to put his iteration from X 4 on the list as opposed to the original.
The kicker however, was the fact that 2 out of Sigma’s 3 forms in X 4 were pathetically easy, making for an experience where all of the difficulty in the battle is reserved for the very end.
Even so, that last fight was pants shitting-ly insane:
Unlike in X 4 though, the battle is very much pants shitting-ly insane all the way through from start to finish in Mega Man X 1.
Oddly enough, the first fight with Sigma in X 1 is against his robot dog, Velguarder; who sadly did not become a recurring element of Mega Man X universe, despite having a pretty badass design.
Given his extensive range of context sensitive attack functions, and tricky wall climbing dash, Velguarder can be pretty tough; however after you’ve spent about 20 seconds with him, or put some Shotgun Ice up his ass, usually he folds pretty quick.
Despite this, the dog is a credible threat that, if able to get the drop on you enough times; can sufficiently gimp your life meter for the battles to come.
Next up is the big boss himself, Sigma armed with a pimp-ass beam saber:
Similar to Velguarder, Sigma has the capacity to dash onto the walls and basically follow you wherever you go; however his movement speed is actually a bit slower.
The tradeoff is, Sigma’s sprite is about twice as big as the dog’s, and he does quite a bit more damage.
While he can be strung along and forced into chasing you up the walls in a diagonal fashion, on occasion Sigma breaks his pattern and plants his feet for a devastating slash with his beam saber.
Seriously man, while it’s entirely possible, and indeed, necessary; to make it through Velguarder and Sigma without using a sub tank, one hit from the Chartreuse Beam Saber of Ultimate Destruction is good enough to nearly cut your life bar in half.
In other words, if you’re planning to fuck up against Sigma, do so without sitting on his fiery, lime-green popsicle of Death.
You see, the really hard part about fighting Sigma, is the fact he forces you to enter into the battle thinking 2 steps ahead of yourself.
The fight in Mega Man X is 3-stage gauntlet, and with (ideally) 4 sub tanks AKA 5 total life bars at your command from the start, you have to be judicious with your life refilling or face the consequences in the form of getting to the finish line, only to run out of gas.
By far, the most frustrating part of fighting Sigma is getting to his final form, using all your sub tanks on a good effort, only to lose and realize that your sub tanks won’t refill automatically on your next life.
That being said, as mentioned earlier, it’s in your best interest to get past both Velguarder and Sigma’s first form without using a sub tank, as the final boss, Wolf Sigma; is one mean motherfucker that’ll wreck your shit, and then shit on your shit that’s just been wrecked.
Like the Yellow Devil from #10, Wolf Sigma is one of those nasty fuckers that won’t let you hit him until he’s good and ready.
His attacks are numerous, constant, and savage enough to take a third off your life bar every go; and the only way to get at his weak point (read: THE FACE) is by jumping on and riding his quick moving claws that are trying to kill you all the while.
Like most Mega Man bosses, Wolf Sigma has a weakness, in the form of the Rolling Shield; however it can take awhile to figure that out your first time through.
Put it this way:
You’ve got 8 weapons at you’re command at this point in the game, and that means you have to survive to hit Sigma with each them almost 8 times to test out the Rolling Shield.
That means you need to eat a lot of Wolf Sigma claws, lightning, and fire breath before you figure out his weakness, by which time you very well may have burned through most of your sub tanks.
While not exactly the hardest boss of all time, Sigma’s debut in gaming will always stick out in my mind as one of the more taxing mind games I’ve encountered in an action game.
3 fights, all in a row, and you’ve got to ask yourself, “Do I go all in, or will I do better next time?” all the while.
Of course, you could be a bastard and just use the hadouken to plow through the first 2 fights… but not third.
Capcom wanted to make sure you’d suffer just a little bit, even if you decided to cheat…
Alrighty, now we’re starting to get to the part of our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights where the fights get just plain, Anne Ramsey-ugly.
Up until now, there was at least some quantifiable element of “fun” to be had in fighting the bosses on this list, but pretty much from this point on, the fun gets tossed out the window, and all we’re left with is 7 scalp ripping-ly frustrating douchebags that make up the stuff of gaming nightmares.
In case you couldn’t tell from my “colorful” language above, I’ve got beef with a lot of the bosses to come; in particular today’s entry.
That being said, #7 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, and quite possibly one of the most unabashedly douchey motherfuckers in the whole thing is:
#7. Duriel – Diablo II
“Looking for Baal?”
Of all the bosses on this list, Duriel has to the one I hate the most.
It’s one thing to have your balls torn out of your scrotum and stuffed into your ears by a boss, but to have them do it over and over and OVER again without a hint of motherfuckin’ progress to show for all of your attempts, well…. That’s just plain fuckin’ mean.
Like, irrational fictional character hate-spawning, mean.
Okay, so we’ve established that I’ve got problems with Duriel.
So then, why exactly is it that I hate Duriel?
That would have to be the fact that he’s a cheap, overpowered motherfucker that represents one of the steepest and most sudden difficulty spikes in gaming.
Don’t get me wrong, Diablo II is a wonderful game that I’ve happily played on and off again for many years now, (though not at the time of it’s release, my computer was too wimpy) but when it comes to Duriel, somebody at Blizzard dropped the fuckin’ ball straight through the floor and into the depths of Hell.
Let me just explain a little something about how I’ve played Diablo II, as I’m sure there’s plenty of Diablo experts out there who are laughing at me right about now:
I’ve never played Diablo online.
As far I understand, this is just about the worst way to take on Duriel, solo or otherwise.
ESPECIALLY with the fuckin’ Paladin, ’cause as I hope we all know, he sucks monkey balls.
Moving on, Duriel’s abilities and attributes are tailor made to chew up guys whose only option is to go toe-to-toe.
He’s beefy and can take a hit with the best of them.
He hits harder and faster than you.
He moves faster than you.
And to top it all off he strikes with a Cold Aura that slows your actions, effectively enabling him to land 2 for every 1 of your hits; as well as make escape an unreliable backup tactic.
Enough of my words, take a look at this video of a group of about 4 players barely edging a victory over Duriel to get an idea of what I’m talking about:
The term “buzzsaw” comes to mind when watching such blood-soaked spectacles.
While all of the crazy cheap-ass shit listed above indeed sounds insurmountable, the real kicker is the fact that it didn’t have to be.
Duriel’s speed/freeze combo is a motherfucker, but the clunky nature of Diablo’s mouse driven controls and equation based combat results are in many ways equally to blame for the difficulty one faces in dealing with him.
If you were to take a boss like Duriel and drop him into a precision-based action game, there’s a good chance he’d be a little less of a prick.
Unfortunately, Diablo II isn’t a precision-based action game, leaving us with Duriel in his current state of ungodly douchey-ness.
Probably the saddest part of actually beating Duriel, at least for me; was discovering that there really was no good way to do it without exploiting the mechanics of the game.
True, I was playing solo what basically amounts to a multiplayer experience; but even so it made me sad to have to stoop to out-douche-ing the douche that is Duriel in order to finally defeat him.
The way I finally did it, with my brawny melee beast of a Barbarian, was to bring a dinky (and mostly unwanted) bow from my stash, and poke the bastard with arrows until he either beat my ass so bad I had to Town Portal my way out of his lair; or I killed him.
For all intents and purposes, my skills, my stats, and my equipment had little to nothing to do with my victory.
He had the muscle to put me down with only a few hits, no matter what.
Really, if any one thing is to be praised as the ultimate conqueror of Duriel, it’d have to be the Scroll of Town Portal.
I’m fuckin’ serious.
Unless you turn off the game, the bosses’ health doesn’t regenerate over time, making it an entirely viable tactic to ‘port in and out of the battle zone to re-supply as one sees fit.
This tactic can be used for any boss in the game, however Duriel was the only one I felt I had to.
If that’s not ABSOLUTELY FUCKED game design, I don’t know what is.
The only reason Duriel isn’t WAY the fuck higher on this list is because he’s just plain unfair as opposed to outright “hard.”
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To me, the difficulty of fight with Beowulf stemmed not just from the challenges presented by the gameplay of that segment, but 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
“BEWARE, I LIVE!”
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.
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.
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…
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?
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?
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.
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:
A recurring subject in our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights thus far has been the important distinction between bosses that are genuinely hard, and those that are merely “cheap” or “broken.”
In my mind, no other bosses in gaming embody both of these definitions with as much ease as fighting game bosses.
Given the limited functionality of fighting game play mechanics, fighting game bosses are often some of the more difficult in gaming due to the head-first manner in which they must be dealt with.
There are no switches to be flicked, or items to be used; it’s just you and them, one-on-one.
Often possessing movesets consisting of absurdly quick and high profile maneuvers, as well as enhanced attributes, fighting game bosses typically boast every conceivable on-paper advantage over the standard player characters.
What’s more, in most cases bosses in fighting games have a tendency to “stretch” the rules of their respective game’s mechanics I.E. being able to execute special attacks without charge time or possessing a few unblockable moves.
These “unfair” advantages make most fighting game bosses an easy target to be labelled “cheap,” however in some cases, I actually welcome the challenge they represent.
Let me just stress the use of the word “some” in that last sentence.
Fighting games are usually won through knowing your arsenal and being able to anticipate your opponent with precision.
In games like Street Fighter, all it takes to block an attack is to hold back on the d-pad.
In that sense, the unfair advantages owned by fighting game bosses shouldn’t be looked at as straight up cheapness, but rather padding to the computer’s (hopefully) human-like AI.
The best fighting game bosses are the ones that are challenging, but human in the way they occasionally make mistakes or overextend themselves.
The hardest fighting game bosses are the ones that boast absurd attributes and flawless, frame-by-frame AI routines.
Today’s entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights occasionally shows glimmers of the former in his behavior, but most of the time he proudly embodies the latter.
‘Cause he’s an epic, diaper-wearing douche-hole.
*AHEM!* That being said, our #4 is:
#4. Gill – Street Fighter III: Third Strike
Let me just get things started off here by saying that Gill is an anus sucking turtle-fucker.
Seriously man, as far as fighting game bosses go, few others have carved out a spot for themselves on my naughty list as emphatically as Gill has.
*COUGH!* Now that I’ve gotten that ugliness out of my system, I feel I’m obligated to mention the fact that Gill also happens to one of the better designed fighting game bosses in gaming history.
That should give you a good idea of how many “good” fighting bosses there have been over the years.
Gill’s natural on-paper advantages over you, the player; are extensive, to the point in which it’s hard to deny the cheapness of his design, however his AI, at least on the mid to mid-high difficulties, veers a little closer to “fair” on occasion.
Close to, but still nowhere near fair.
What I mean to say is:
Gill is a blue and red BEAST of the highest order.
He does more damage than most of the characters in the default roster.
His attacks generate an absurd amount of stun damage.
Most of his attacks strike from troublesome angles and have priority and reach advantages.
He is able to execute charge moves without charge time.
His projectiles strike twice, ensuring that he’ll win any exchange of fire.
His durability and speed are both well above average.
To fight Gill is to enter the room outgunned and outclassed from the very start.
While I’d never consider myself much more than an experienced novice at fighting games, to date I’ve only been able to beat Gill twice.
Both times it took several continues to achieve the serendipitous task that is defeating Gill.
You see, despite all the nasty traits of cheapness that I mentioned above, Gill also brings to the table a pair of utterly devastating super combos that do wonders to ruin his standing as a “great” boss in my eyes; and make beating him a feat often times a feat equally attributable to luck as to skill.
Allow me to clarify.
Gill’s greatest asset as a fighting game is his inherent fallibility.
While his moves and stats are all better than yours, I have to admit that Capcom did well to program Gill with the occasional human-like lapse in his concentration.
He never acts silly, or outright dumb, but there are times when Gill slips up and takes a hit he shouldn’t have, or fails to capitalize on a round winning opening.
Gill’s greatest success as a boss is that he’s difficult enough be one of the hardest bosses in gaming, while at the same time easy enough to be fought with some degree of success on every occasion.
Nothing is worse than a hard boss that doesn’t even let you get a hit off every time you continue.
Nearly every time I’ve fought Gill, I was at least able to take his health down considerably, or on a good day; beat him one round.
That said, Gill’s AI generally behaves with stunning precision, making use of his high priority moves to counter most of your attacks; making him a stiff challenge most of the time.
Which brings me to the aforementioned game breaking super combos:
With a full super meter, Gill has at his command the power to instantly reverse the outcome of a round.
The gameplay mechanics of Street Fighter III restrict the players to selecting and utilizing only one super combo in battle.
Gill is the only character in the entire roster that is capable of making use of all 3 of his super arts in one fight.
One of these moves, Meteor Strike; is relatively harmless.
The other 2, are utterly devastating.
First is the fearsomely boosh-tastic Seraphic Wing:
Seraphic Wing is a move that drains about a third of your life bar when blocked, and virtually all of it when landed at close range.
While it can be stopped preemptively, in most cases the deployment of Seraphic Wing usually means the end of the match in Gill’s favor.
If that’s not a kick to the boner, I don’t what is.
Oh wait, there’s one more move!
Gill’s other dick slap of a super combo is his Resurrection ability:
Basically, Resurrection is exactly what it sounds like.
Imagine this scenario:
You’ve just spent the past hour battling Gill, continuing over and over again while cycling your way through the entire roster numerous times.
Finally, after countless attempts, you’ve managed to get the upper hand on Gill and are only a precious few hits away from victory!
The tension is palpable.
Your eye twitches involuntarily.
With the clever use of an EX attack you manage to upset Gill’s impeccable timing and rocket a Shoryuken into his chin and straight towards the realm of victory!
His life bar depleted, Gill collapses in a heap on the ground in slow-motion.
Throwing up your arms in victory, you are shocked to hear the familiar sound of a super art being deployed.
Suddenly, Gill beings to levitate, and immediately his life bar begins to rapidly refill!
You quickly fire a Hadouken, only to watch as it is harmlessly repelled by the powerful vacuum generated by the Resurrection field.
Eventually, Gill’s health is restored in full, leaving you to fight him with what little you have left.
Exhausted from the historic effort you put forth from getting this far, ultimately you lose to Gill in the third round as you have on every occasion prior.
Such is the epic douchey-ness of Gill.
He’s better than you from the start.
He’s pretty damn smart, even when he’s stupid.
And to top it all off, he can take all of your hard fought efforts, and render them irrelevant with the use of a mere super combo, one of which he doesn’t even have to be alive to use.
To this day, I still hate Gill, however I do retain a certain level of respect for his AI design.
On a side note, I’m pretty sure Capcom was the first to make a genuinely incongruent 2D fighting game sprite, but that’s besides the point.
Gill: An atypically hard boss that has the gall to max-out his douchey-ness by holding back and shitting on you when it hurts the most.
Yesterday on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, we took our first steps into the rage inducing realm of fighting game bosses.
As mentioned previously, fighting game bosses tend to be some of the hardest challenges in all of gaming, though more often than than not this comes as a result of unfair or “cheap” elements in their design.
Whether it be by breaking the mechanics of the game, or possessing unbalanced attributes; fighting game bosses are rarely designed to function (fairly) within the established gameplay parameters of the games they reside in.
That being said, yesterday we took a look at Gill from Street Fighter III, a boss that I would personally consider to be one of the better designed bosses in all of fighting games, if not for the fact that he’s a cheating bastard that gobbles cock under the bleachers on Tuesday nights.
While I bear a great deal of animosity, or rather, straight-up HATE towards Gill, those feelings pale in comparison to those I feel for today’s entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.
I hate Gill, but as mentioned earlier, I also respect the intelligence of his design.
#3 on our list doesn’t benefit from that luxury.
#3 is the kind of ball-stomping ass-clown that wouldn’t even get a nod from me if I saw him rescue a kitten from a burning tree.
And I fuckin’ love kittens.
#3 is the kind of unbelievably loathsome fighting game boss that only one videogame company could produce.
#3 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:
#3. Magaki – King of Fighters XI
I love their games, but goddamn does SNK know how to fuck us in the ass with bosses from the broken-as-fuck school of fighting!
Fuck that, most of SNK’s fighting game bosses didn’t just graduate from Broken-As-Fuck University, they’re fuckin’ tenured professors there!
Rage-gasm aside, Magaki is just about the motherfucking-est motherfucker I’ve ever run across in a fighting game.
I’ve beaten him before, more times than I have Gill actually; but the sheer frustration generated by every encounter was more than enough to convince me to rank him higher than the latter on this list.
While Gill is at times fair, at times borderline human; Magaki just takes the motherfuckin’ rulebook and smears pink and blue shit all over it.
Hell, that’s his M.O. for pretty much everything:
Magaki doesn’t like how his Moons Over My Hammy turned out?
Pink balls and blue floaty shit.
Magaki gets served a tax evasion notice?
Pink balls and blue floaty shit.
Should that fail, and it likely won’t, Magaki’s got his bases covered in the form of being able to neon tie-dye THE ENTIRE FUCKING screen at the drop of a hat.
Just watch this poor sap take it up the butt as he literally comes this close to besting Magaki only to have his eyes raped by the rainbow sherbet shit storm of pink and blue shit that is Magaki’s super combo:
Ouch! No lube even….
*AHEM!* To walk into a fight with Magaki is to have your 3-on-3 fighting game instantly turned into a 3-on-1 shoot ’em up.
King of Fighters bosses often come with a write-off excuse for their extreme difficulty and cheapness due to the fact that you, the player; get to fight them with 3 characters to their 1.
Despite having 3 characters at your disposal, more often than not the balance ends up being all out of whack, with the boss being extraordinarily overpowered in every way imaginable.
King of Fighters bosses have been consistently cheap as balls since before the series was even called King of Fighters.
Fighting Magaki though, is unlike any other boss encounter in the King of Fighters series, let alone any other fighting game period.
While many King of Fighters bosses are highly mobile and make use of potent attacks designed to counter from virtually any angle, Magaki fights like fuckin’ Sagat on crack.
Sagat has his high-low fireball combo, Magaki has, well, endless waves of pink balls and blue floaty shit.
Seriously man, when you fight Magaki it feels like you just stepped into a game of R-Type.
The screen is literally filled with shit to the point in which you’ll often times find yourself just throwing up your hands and saying:
“Fuck this shit! Let’s play some Street Fighter…”
Simply put, there is no “good” way to handle Magaki.
While he’s admittedly kind of Mechagodzilla like in the sense that he’s basically a slow-moving projectile platform with feeble melee skills, on every occasion you do manage to get close enough to deal damage; he’ll usually just toss you away with….. I’ll just let the picture do the talking:
You can easily spend an entire battle with Magaki, that is, all 3 of your characters; without ever getting past his fruity barrage of carnage.
This would be entirely forgivable if not for the fact that SNK saw fit to grant Magaki all of the standard cheap-ass advantages they give to virtually all of their bosses.
Giving him the ability to fill the screen with projectiles would’ve been fair if not for the fact that his attributes are broken-as-fuck as well.
If he had been, say, fragile for instance; then I could’ve bit my tongue and said he was a decent boss.
But no, they gave him the ability to execute all of his moves with frame-by-frame precision and timing, and they made him absurdly powerful and durable.
When I finally beat Magaki for the first time, I didn’t feel any sense of pride in my achievement.
I felt like I had just lost an hour of my life to a barely decent game, and truth be told I think I actually recall saying to myself:
“Good. Now I can get on with my life and never play this shitty game ever again.”
While I actually did go back and play the game a few times here and there, rest assured, the moment King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match came out, I pretty much lost interest in every other game in the series outside of ’98.
Nowadays I don’t have much interest in any of them…
Magaki is admittedly not quite as hard as his #3 spot likely deserves, but in my mind no other fighting game boss has caused me as much frustration and borderline physical pain as he has.
During the course of our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, I’ve stressed the fact that the best examples of genuine difficulty in boss fights are stemmed from clever and rewarding gameplay design, and not outright cheapness.
Along with Duriel from Diablo II, Magaki’s presence on this list serves as a symbol championing the power of broken game design and cheapness.
That Magaki could make me eat my words with such resounding vigor as to place him at #3 on this list is proof enough of just how motherfuckin’ cheap that pink bastard is.
In any case, here’s a video of the Apex of Pimp himself, Geese Howard; putting the hurt on Magaki as only he can:
*Gifs courtesy of Fighter’s Generation, the finest fighting game site I’ve ever known.*
As you’ve likely noticed, the past couple of entries on our list of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights have both been final boss characters from fighting games.
While I personally feel that the fighting game genre is quite likely the most prominent contributor to the realm of tough-ass boss characters, there is another genre of game that has a similar penchant for ass-raping it’s players when it comes to boss fights.
That genre, is the shoot ’em up.
While occasionally consisting of pure twitch reflex gameplay, the challenge in conquering most modern shoot ’em ups lies mainly in knowing one’s hit box and a healthy dose of pattern memorization/anticipation.
And no, I will not be using the term “shmup,” as it is silly, and the people who came up with it smell like poo.
*ANYWAY* Many scrolling shooters, especially shorter ones; present gameplay challenges of such difficulty so as to be considered downright unfair, if not for the fact that the expectation is that the player will fail numerous times in attempting to slowly “learn” the stages and be able to anticipate them accordingly.
Indeed, the art of the shoot ’em up is a relic of times past, a genre that holds little relevance amongst the 10-20 hour technical marvels that largely represent the current age of gaming.
I don’t remember where I read it, but the best description of shoot ’em ups and old-school action games I’ve ever heard went something like:
“It’s learning how to play a small game well, as opposed to merely experiencing a large game.”
Let’s just pretend I was responsible for the quote above, ‘k?
Like many nostalgic lifelong gamers that grew up in the 8 and 16-bit era, I enjoy playing modern narrative driven games; however I often catch myself longing to go back and play some of the simpler games of the past.
That being said, today’s entrant on our list of the Top 1o Hardest Boss Fights does indeed come courtesy of a shoot ’em up, however it by no means what I’d call a “simple” game.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that today’s boss comes from perhaps the most sophisticated (and difficult) shoot ’em up of all time.
#2 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:
#2. Tageri and Ubusunagami Okinokai – Ikaruga
Ikaruga is one of those games that I want so badly to love, but I suck so badly at it that I just can’t…. ‘Cause it’s stomped my ass into the ground more times than I’d care to admit.
I love shoot ’em ups.
If it scrolls and it involves planes/dragons/fairies with unlimited ammo, chances are I’ve played it, or failing that; want to play it at some point in my life.
Unfortunately, I’m quite far from skillful when it comes to, well, shooting things up.
I’m usually good enough to get 2-3 stages into a shoot ’em up before dying, but as we all know; that’s usually not nearly good enough to beat the game in the arcade without dumping $5 into the machine.
To date, I have yet to beat the console version of Ikaruga.
You see, unlike an arcade game, the console version of Ikaruga restricts the player to making use of 3 lives per stage; meaning there’s no continuing from the middle of a level.
Basically, if you can’t beat the last stage with 3 lives, then you’re sunk.
While it’s an almost obnoxiously beautiful game, both in terms of art and design; I can think of no other shoot ’em up that requires as much memorization and focus as Ikaruga.
There are in fact harder shoot ’em ups out there, mostly of the bullet hell sub-genre; but in my mind there are few that are better.
That however, does not change the fact that I’ve never beaten the final boss(es) of Ikaruga.
As you may have noticed up above, I actually named 2 bosses as entry #2 on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.
While some might call foul on that, in my mind both characters serve as the final boss of the game.
Tageri, a biomechanical monstrosity with a literal yin and yang core, serves as the penultimate challenge of the game, and boy is he a douche-rocket of an asshole:
Don’t let the INSANE skills the player in the clip above fool you, Tageri not one with whom to fuck.
You see, Ikaruga’s main gameplay innovation is the implementation of a black and white based polarity system for every attack and enemy in the game.
At the touch of a button, the player is able to change the color polarity of their ship back and forth from white to black, allowing them to harmlessly absorb enemy fire sharing their color profile and convert it to power a homing laser attack.
At the same time, enemies struck by fire of the opposite polarity take twice as much damage, making the bulk of the game an ongoing high-speed puzzle of matching polarities for survival, and opposing polarities for quick kills.
Like all of the bosses in the game, Tageri’s attack pattern involves both of the above tactics, however in a much more straightforward and confrontational fashion.
In essence, the fight with Tageri pushes your rhythm, memorization, and polarity matching skills to the limit; as his attacks never let up, and are almost impossible to avoid, forcing you to defend yourself almost exclusively absorb bullets as your only form of defense.
That’s the one element of Ikaruga that’s perhaps the most difficult to embrace, even as a veteran of shoot ’em ups:
In Ikaruga, you’re not only expected to run into enemy bullets; at many times it’s to your advantage.
In a genre where the one steadfast rule of the gameplay is to not touch the bad things, that’s not an easy pill to swallow.
That being said, the “dot eating” aspect of Tageri’s attack pattern is a nerve-wracking experience that as mentioned earlier, I’ve yet to conquer.
All of the bosses of Ikaruga are tough, but Tageri is one of the only ones that forces you to basically stand your ground and eat every bullet on the screen throughout the duration of the fight.
This involves keeping an eye on the half dozen or so sources of fire at all times, and accounting for which color bullets are going to hit when.
The fact that you only get 3 lives, many of which can easily be exhausted before you even enter his chamber, coupled with the information overload produced by Tageri’s maddeningly aggressive attack pattern, has resulted in me never quite getting to a point in which I’d say I were “comfortable” in fighting him.
Despite this, I have managed to beat him once or twice, though I did so with little tact, and at the cost of nearly all of my lives.
Which brings us to the “other” final boss of the game, the Ubusunagami Okinokai, or “The Power of God:”
Not actually an enemy to be fought, Ubusunagami is actually just a diamond shaped object that shows up after you’ve defeated Tageri, and then proceeds to fill the screen with bullets for 60 seconds.
Indeed, you read that right.
Immediately following one of the hardest bosses in gaming, with one of the most brutal and oppressive attack patterns imaginable, you then have to face down the diamond-shaped embodiment of “The Power of God” for an entire minute.
Remember when I said Ubusunagami wasn’t really something to be “fought?”
Well, what I meant by that wasn’t just the fact that you’ve gotta’ have Korean-level gaming skills and APM to win against him, but that you also can’t fight him period.
That’s right, after encouraging you throughout the entire game to eat like colored bullets to survive, the game basically forces you to put that newly developed gaming instinct to the test and survive, without the option to fight back; for one whole minute.
While that’s admittedly a very bold and, frankly, “cool” way to force players to truly excel at the game in order to be rewarded with an ending, it’s sadly a test I don’t know I’ll ever pass.
As mentioned earlier, much of Ikaruga is based around the concept of memorization.
It’s a well known fact that Ikaruga players are among the hardest of the hardcore.
The fact that the ultimate source of pride in playing the game is not simply beating it, as few mortals can ever hope to do; but to do so with a high-score should tip you off to how dedicated they can be.
Doing so that involves killing enemies of the same polarity sequentially to string combo multipliers, or in some cases, beating the game without firing a single shot.
Yes, it’s possible, though not for this poor shmuck:
I’ve beaten games like Demon’s Souls, which involved a great deal of trial and error and persistence, but the level of memorization and timing required to beat Ikaruga straight through, are such that I’d probably have to sacrifice my ability to recognize simple shapes to free up space in my brain.
Who am I kidding, if I sat down and forced myself to be an expert Ikaruga player, I’d probably end up an autistic and incontinent husk, capable of nothing but playing shoot ’em ups and counting cards.
Huh, if I could get Tom Cruise to take me to Vegas, that probably wouldn’t be too bad a deal…
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well folks, it finally happened.
Yesterday we finally finished working our way up through the ranks of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights, and named Mike Tyson as the rightful owner of the #1 spot.
As per the norm whenever I put together a top 10 list, today we’ll be taking a look at some of the runner-ups to the list.
Some of the omissions surprise even myself, so expect a few exceptionally tough cookies to pop up in the proceedings.
That being said, let’s get to take a look at the top 5 runner-ups, presented, for my convenience; in no particular order:
#5. SS01-Schwarzgeist – Einhander
In case you’re wondering “Schwarzgeist” is German for “Black Ghost.”
With a name like that, the developers of Einhander were pretty much obligated to make this guy totally badass.
To be fair, they also went ahead and made pretty much the entire game absolutely fucking badass.
While the game is populated by a host of tough bosses, each sporting a number of variable attack patterns depending on the approach you take in fighting them; “The Black Ghost” is likely the most difficult overall.
He also happens to have one of the better tracks in the game as his battle theme.
Boasting an absurdly complex attack pattern that is nearly impossible to grasp without burning a continue or 2, “The Black Ghost” is a brutal challenge that is nevertheless, much easier to defeat through brute force than pure skill.
That is to say, coming into the fight with the right weapons *Cough!* Grenade Launcher! *Cough!* is key to victory.
The fact that “The Black Ghost” has a definable and not all that well hidden weakness, is likely the reason he didn’t make the Top 10.
Despite this, his despicable variety of attack patterns, combined with Einhander’s unforgiving gameplay system of only allowing you 1 life before each continue; make a strong case for his presence among the runner-ups.
#4. Isaac Frost – Fight Night Champion
Then again, these days it’s almost a tradition to include at least 1 overpowered athlete in sports games.
Designed to be fought in a round-to-round, objective based system; the actual procedure involved in fighting Isaac Frost contributes almost as much to his difficulty as his actual fighting ability.
Possessed of unbalanced punching power, speed, and stamina, Frost holds all the cards from the opening bell, and yet his beastly-ness is further bolstered by the fact that the game forces you to fight him a certain way.
Essentially, throughout each round of the fight you are required to follow a pre-determined gameplan, be it using your legs and hanging back, or landing haymakers to the body.
To date I have yet to beat Isaac Frost, largely due to his insane attribute bonuses, but the fact that the game forces me to fight him the way it wants me to really grinds my gears to an exceptional degree.
With that, I leave you with this video of Frost obliterating Super Middleweight, Anthony Mundine:
#3. General Akboob/Hitler – Total Carnage
Virtually identical in terms of gameplay, both are exceedingly difficult top-down shooters that absolutely revel in chewing up players and spitting them out.
While every second of these games is a challenge of the most epic variety, the bosses featured in them are quite likely the most difficult aspect of them.
On that note, I don’t think many people would argue with me in crowning General Akboob, the final boss of Total Carnage, as the toughest among them.
His pattern involves filling the screen with projectiles at all times.
Most of his attacks have an accurate homing capability.
And worst of all, he has no less than a half dozen forms, one of which is a giant Hitler head!
I have no idea what that has to do with anything, especially since the very Russian looking/sounding Akboob is supposed to be Middle Eastern, but whatever it was the 90’s.
Anyway, all of this results in a horribly drawn out battle of endurance.
… A battle of endurance in a game where your character dies in one hit.
You do the math.
#2. Emerald and Ruby Weapon – Final Fantasy VII
I just realized this, but there weren’t any RPG bosses on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.
I’m guessing it has something to do with my own (heavily biased) opinions, but the simple fact of the matter is that I really haven’t played an RPG since Final Fantasy VIII way back in ’99.
I did however, play quite a few before that point, mostly of JRPG variety.
That being said, while I’ve heard that some of the Shin Megami Tensei bosses are absolutely balls out insane in terms of their capacity to rob you of hours of your life, I haven’t actually played any of those games, so I don’t really have an educated opinion in that matter.
The point is, from my experiences with pre-1999 RPGs, Emerald and Ruby Weapon were the only 2 bosses that I recall having an inordinate amount of trouble with.
From what I hear, the debate rages on which of the 2 is more difficult, though I got my ass served by both of them equally, hence their dual ownership of the their spot among the runner-ups.
I remember Emerald had, no joke, about a million hit points, and Ruby was able to eject your characters from the fight, making doing battle with either of the pair an absolute pain in the ass.
From what I’ve been told, much of the strategy involved in defeating either of the 2 involves an incredible amount of dedication and prep work, as well as a healthy dose of luck.
When Final Fantasy VII came out, I was barely a pre-teen, so I had neither the patience nor the intelligence to figure out which angle to attack them from.
This resulted in me getting literally whipped to death by Ruby, and sat on by Emerald more times than I’d care to admit.
That being said, here’s a clip of some Narutard beating them both into the ground.
Don’t ask me why he dubbed the Final Fantasy themed J-ballad over it….
#1. Geese Howard – Fatal Fury
Geese Howard was, and always shall remain, one of the toughest bosses in all of fighting games.
Oh yeah, and he’s quite possibly one of the pimp-est videogames of all time to boot.
That’s saying a lot considering how far fighting games have come since 1991.
Possessed of a limited, but utterly devastating repertoire of moves, Geese was tough to beat for all the reasons you’d expect an SNK boss to be.
He was better than you in every way, especially in his capacity to dole out chip damage on par with some of your clean hits.
Despite this, I’d hesitate to call Geese cheap, merely inordinately difficult and just a little bit frustrating.
Perhaps worst of all though, ‘ole Geese also had a counter-throw capable of cancelling most of your melee attacks.
I don’t think I have to tell you that he often employed this technique with pinpoint timing, often using it to ruin your offensive rallies at the most inopportune of moments.