Boss fights are a helluva thing. They’ve been around since storytelling has been a formulaic (though not in a bad way) endeavor, and have seen incarnations in the likes of big boss men in James Bond movies who threaten to kill the aforementioned character in the most creative manners, with henchmen (or sub-bosses) to do their bidding. They’ve also been in all manner of kung fu movies, with heroes like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan facing off brutes who smash their faces in—usually early on in the films—only to have their asses handed to them by the end of the film.
Needless to say, video games carry on this great (if arguably tired) tradition of boss fights, who provide the player with an ample challenge. Everything you do in the game leads up to the boss fight, and particularly well-designed boss fights take into account everything you learned up to that point and take your skills to task.
Without further ado, here are the best and most brutal boss thrashings that gamers have faced in recent years. Keep in mind that spoilers are abound!
#19 Bowser from Super Mario Galaxy
One of the most iconic bosses of the gaming space, Mario’s final battle with Bowser in Super Mario Galaxy happens against an epic backdrop of a molten planet, while the princess looks on from an airship. The fight itself is engaging and not particularly easy, not to mention rather long by Mario standards, spanning three entire planetoids, each covering a different phase where Bowser employs different tactics. The ending is a great homage to the original, but I’ll let you take a gander at that.
#18 Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime
The eponymous last boss of Metroid Prime starts as a big bug-like creature - a far cry from the cuddly metroids we know and love, but it’s still vicious enough to make you have to use your entire arsenal to conquer. The bug phase is only the first one though.
#17 The Hunter, Dead Space
The hunter is a rather special type of necromorph. You can’t kill it no matter how much you try, and he won’t relent haunting you through quite a stretch of the game. Rather reminds me of the Terminator of the first film, really.
#16 Letho the Kingslayer, The Witcher 2
Geralt is a Witcher, a monster slayer. Letho is one too, but he’s bigger, balder and quite a bit more intimidating than you. He’s also killed a king. Let’s just say he’s no pushover.
#15 Hercules, God of War 3
Everybody likes some sibling rivalry sometimes. It’s even more dramatic when the siblings in question are demi-gods, and one of them is Hercules himself, looking more like an ogre than a man.
#14 Didact, Halo 4
You know what happens? An alien dude throws you around like a ragdoll, your blue AI girlfriend seizes him and allows you to put a grenade in his butt. How’s that not badass?
#13 Vergil from DmC: Devil May Cry
I like to think of Vergil like fratboy Wesker without the glasses. That should actually give you a good idea about the fight.
#12 Jeanne, Bayonetta
Similar to the witcher’s fight with his fellow witcher, Jeanne is very much the red version of Bayonetta. The duel of posh English accents begins!
#11 Ustanak, Resident Evil 6
In true Resident Evil fashion, Ustanak is an unrelenting big brute you have to shoot time and time again while he wrecks the area you are in. It also ends with a shot to the forehead, because the past hundred shots didn’t manage to actually make a scratch.
#10 Forest Guardian, Metro: Last Light
What better boss can you think of in a post-apocalyptic environment set in Russia other than a friggin’ irradiated bear thing? I can think of a few, but they all involve tentacles, so I think it’s better if we stick with the bear.
#9 The Tank, Left 4 Dead Series
The closest thing to a boss found in Left 4 Dead gets a massive makeover in the modded server featured in the video, being much faster, stronger, better, so much so that he lags the server and takes down a team of 16 people.
#8 Alduin, Skyrim
The skies are filled with aurora borealis, a huge vortex and a falling meteors. You’re in Sovngarde. Something is missing though. Oh yeah, a huge dragon. Get to it, Mr. Dovahkiin.
#7 Super Mutant Behemoth, Fallout 3
These guys are towering heaps of muscle and sinew, strong enough to shake off nuclear explosions from nearby. I suppose shooting their feet off is a good tactic, in true World of Warcraft fashion.
#6 Wyzen, Asura’s Wrath
If scale is your thing, you should probably try fighting Wyzen from Asura’s Wrath. He actually becomes a planet-sized statue that tries to squish you with his finger. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it thus far.
#5 The Joker, Arkham City
The Joker is an iconic boss in batman games, though this time, he’s part of a bar-fight, sending dozens of goons to take you down while engaging in fisticuffs himself.
#4 Final Boss, Dragon’s Dogma
The fight itself isn’t as impressive as the epic environment, devoid of much detail and yet full of turmoil and... er... clouds and stuff. It’s a stormy atmosphere, and it fits the fight well.
#3 Wheatley, Portal 2 [Spoiler]
A proper ending to a game with a lot of build-up, the final fight in Portal 2 is one as epic as it is witty, full of quips from both GLaDOS and Wheatley himself. Spaaaaace!
#2 Ornstein and Smough, Dark Souls
So you have this dragonslayer dude and a fat executioner with a massive hammer. It’s Dark Souls, the odds are stacked against you from the point at which you say there’s 2 against one. But then you add a sharp spear and a huge hammer and you have something more like suicide fuel.
#1 Shao Kahn, Mortal Kombat
Despite his brutish appearance and swagger during the fights, you’ll find no opponent which will annoy you more than Shao Kahn. While not quite as large as Goro, players of Mortal Kombat will most likely lose a few times to this asshole when they first reach him simply because of how much damage his attacks do. It’s all made fair by the fact that he likes to swagger about and taunt you, but that only serves to throw you off more.