There’s a lot of criteria to consider when determining exactly what constitutes a difficult game boss. The strength of the character matters, as well as his ability to heal or evade shots. The hardest bosses leave you desperate. Their weapons outrank yours, and maybe you’re left with few provisions, such as insufficient bullets or healing potions. The backstory plays a role too. Challenging bosses frustrate you more because you’ve fought so passionately to get there, and you just can’t seem to best your foe. Ultimately, defeating him is an incredible reward, but he’ll drive you bonkers before you’re ever able to best him.
If you’ve faced any of the following enemies, you know the soul-sucking irritation of dying and then dying again, and then making it farther only to die. If you’ve ever screamed at the television, cursed a game or boss, or been kept awake at night plotting his demise, you’ve faced down a difficult game boss. Congratulations; the fight was hard, but so worth it to finally crush the hardest boss in a memorable game; however, not everyone will share your experience.
Because all gamers are different, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact ranking for the hardest bosses. You maybe struggled with one, but not another because you were quick to pick up a pattern or discover a weakness. Or, perhaps you were better prepared for the battle. Because of this, the following 15 games aren’t in any chronological order, but are rather the 15 hardest bosses in no logical order because they’re all difficult in different ways. Stay alert, there are spoilers ahead.
15 Awakened Alma – “Ninja Gaiden Black”
Of all the Greater Fiends, Alma proves the hardest challenge for most gamers. She can pull you in with a beam of light, and then smash you to the ground. She also has the power to hurl pillars and cast fireballs. Her counterattacks make her infuriating. Attacks do little damage, and she will land a powerful counterattack. She is frustratingly agile, and moves too quickly to target. The only way to stop her is to use Ninpo and the Flying Swallow-Technique, which will freeze her for a few moments. The secret to defeating her is to keep moving, immobilize her as often as possible, and attack at key moments.
Alma is such a satisfying, albeit extremely difficult, boss because she has one of the more interesting backstories. She is a good-girl-gone-bad, having gone rogue under the guidance of Doku. She and her twin sister Rachel, once close, become adversaries. She’s fought in two battles and both are really difficult. During the first battle, Rachel fails to kill her sister after Ryu successfully takes her down. In the second, an Awakened Alma sacrifices herself in order to save a dying Rachel (again after Ryu wins).
14 Ruby Weapon – “Final Fantasy 7”
If you missed Ruby Weapon in FF7, don’t beat yourself up. The optional superboss only appears after you’ve defeated Ultimate Weapon and then fought a random battle. Additionally, you can only approach if you’re riding a chocobo or in the airship Highwind. It’s one of many difficult and mysterious side quests in FF7, and probably the hardest boss battle in the entire game. Ruby is one of two superbosses in FF7; the other is Emerald Weapon.
The secret to defeating Ruby Weapon is to come prepared. The superbosses’ high defense renders physical attacks almost useless, so be prepared for a magical battle. If you don’t have Cloud Strife equipped with magical abilities, you may run into trouble because Ruby Weapon can and will use eject to kick-out some party members. Ruby’s weakness is paralysis, so if you have a number of Dazers, you’re going to be able to paralyze the tentacled creature. It may also be of use to equip absorb Fire and resist certain status effects, and then use summons and attacks to slowly batter Ruby’s HP.
Defeating Ruby won’t be easy, but the outcome is very satisfying. You’ll receive the Desert Rose, which can be taken to the Mourner of Kalm and traded for a Gold Chocobo. Gold Chocobos aren’t great for racing, but they can be used to access the four Materia Caves, which contain special Materia not found elsewhere. Additionally, if you’re playing on a PlayStation 4, you also earn the Ruby Render trophy.
13 Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough – “Dark Souls”
Dark Souls is notorious for its difficulty. It’s a game rife with obstacles that requires gamers to think their way out of challenging scenarios by learning complex mechanics. Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough is a two-against-one battle that’s terribly hard to win. You’re pitted against both foes in the first stage, and will need to defeat one of them before you can move on to the second stage.
Who you fight in the second stage depends on who you defeated in the first. The other will absorb the downed player’s ability. Smough takes Ornstein’s lightning power if you defeated Ornstein first. Alternatively, Ornstein absorbs Smough’s power and doubles in size. Both bosses are formidable, but it’s probably a good idea to kill Ornstein first because Smough will be easier to kill in the second battle. What you’ll need to do is summon Solaire of Astoria and phantom to help you out, and use the pillars to avoid attacks. Drops depend on who you killed first. You could pick up the Soul of Ornstein and Leo Ring or just the Soul of Smough.
12 Grim Reaper – “Castlevania 1”
If you’re old enough to have played Castlevania on NES, you know the struggle of facing down the Grim Reaper. Grim Reaper, aka Death, is the second to last battle in the game. Arguably, he’s harder to beat than Dracula, the game’s main antagonist. His difficulty is due in part to the battle that is waged before you find him in the Clock Tower. You have to fight your way through skeletons and soldiers, some of which only die for a few moments before returning to life. If you’re not careful this will diminish your HP, and you may die a lot before making it to the boss battle.
The Reaper waits for you at the end. He flies around and hurls sickles at you, and you’ll need to use your weapon to kill them before they can hit you. Ranged weapons are best for defeating him, such as the boomerang and whip. Throw holy water at him, but be careful to time it so it hits him dead on. By today’s standards, the Grim Reaper isn’t all that challenging, but back in the day he was one of the most frustrating video game battles.
11 Shao Kahn – “Mortal Kombat II”
Shao Khan is the final boss in the arcade game, Mortal Kombat II. He’s a recurring character in the Mortal Kombat series, but his first appearance was in 1993 when he infuriated gamers as an impossible to beat final character. Imagine what it must have cost to play through the entire game, and then routinely continue in failed attempts to take down Khan. A lot of kids lost their allowances trying to beat Khan, but only the best prevailed.
The secret to defeating Khan is learning his moves, and how to block them and counterattack. For example, his powerful stomp attack can be countered with a jumpkick. You don’t want to rely solely on jumpkicks, but rather mix up your attacks and keep moving. A lot of experienced arcade gamers recommend using Scorpion for MKII’s final battles, but Kitana and Liu are also formidable adversaries to Khan.
10 Technodrome – “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
Technodrome Guardian was the boss of the fifth level of the original TMNT video game in 1989. (If you remember this battle, congratulations you’re old, but hey so are we.) Later the Guardian was dropped from the name, and Technodrome was the final boss in a number of subsequent games. It was always a difficult one to beat, but never looked quite the same as the original Technodrome Guardian, which featured a yellow and blue interior.
Defeating Technodrome required attacking certain parts at certain times. First you had to attack the cannons, then the eye at the top. In some instances, the eye wouldn’t appear until the other steps were completed. The detail and color of the Technodrome depends on which version of TMNT you’re playing, but this battle is always one of the hardest. Once defeated, players can enter the technodrome sometimes to find other bosses (Shredder or Krang) or sometimes to continue fighting the Technodrome itself.
9 Emerald Weapon – “Final Fantasy 7”
When Sephiroth summons Meteor, he releases Emerald Weapon (the second superboss in FF7). You won’t find him post-battle with Sephiroth however. You’ll have to run into him with the submarine when exploring the Bottom of the Sea. If you want to avoid him (no one blames you if you do), you’ll need to operate the submarine at its maximum height; otherwise, you’ll have no choice but to run into Emerald Weapon.
The battle is fought in twenty minutes. If that doesn’t seem like enough time, it really isn’t. You’ll die a lot before you can kill Emerald in this timeframe; alternatively, you can equip Underwater Materia and eliminate the time limit. Equip Counter, Mime, Knights of the Round, and HP Absorb. It’s also a good idea to Hero Drinks, which your party can take during the battle to increase their stats. Equipping these items make for a very effective strategy to defeat the formidable Emerald Weapon. He’ll drop the Earth Harp when you defeat him.
8 Cargo Plane Tyrant – “Resident Evil: Code Veronica X"
Resident Evil has its fair share of difficult bosses, but the cargo plane battle is especially infuriating. Most players show up woefully unprepared. The rest of the game depleted your necessary equipment, including bullets and grenades. Ultimately, without a grenade launcher, this battle is going to take forever because the Tyrant is so strong. There’s little to pick up in the plane, so most players just run out of the necessary ammo.
It can take a couple tries before players realize you can launch cargo boxes at the Tyrant. This “duh” moment shouldn’t get you down, as many players have felt your frustration. The cargo boxes aren’t obvious, and once you do discover you can hurdle them at the Tyrant, it’s still a difficult battle. You have to maneuver, throw, avoid attacks, get him into position, throw again, and ultimately end up hitting him with at least five boxes before you can knock him out of the plane.
7 Final Battle Against Kai Leng – “Mass Effect 3”
Every battle against Kai Leng is difficult, but none is harder than the final battle against him. The assassin attacks Shepard in the Illusive Man’s office. He is accompanied by droves of Assault Troopers, Phantoms, and Nemeses. He’s able to summon these characters at will, and it isn’t long before they and Leng cripple Shepard’s own team. This poses a unique challenge for Mass Effect 3 players who’ve grown accustomed to strategy play. Unlike previous bosses, you can’t just duck for cover and shoot at Leng until he’s dead.
Leng is a fast and he’s got shields. You’ll need to be as fast as he is, and maneuver from cover to cover and use shield weakening ammo. Disruptor ammo is great for breaking down his shields. A word of advice: don’t focus all your attention on Leng, vary up your attacks between him and his reinforcements. Because he’s basically invincible while he’s in regeneration mode, you can use these moments to attack his reinforcements or regenerate your own health.
6 Ghost of Lady Comstock – “Bioshock Infinite”
Annabelle Watson, aka Lady Comstock, died in 1895, but she’s brought back to life by Comstock to thwart Booker and Elizabeth’s efforts to retrieve her hand. They need her fingerprints to enter Comstock House, but they must defeat her first. From beginning to end, Bioshock Infinite is an increasingly difficult game, and this battle is especially difficult because Lady Comstock continually starts new battles by reviving the dead.
The secret to defeating her is to use the vigors Bucking Bronco and Murder of Crows. These vigors attack multiple enemies, and will free you up to focus your attacks on the ghost. The battle is not easily won, and seems to go on forever. If you’re patient and attack her heaviest when she’s calling for reinforcements, you will best her. If you run out of ammo, which happens basically all the time in Bioshock Infinite, you’ll need to acquire more to keep going. Otherwise, you may be forced to start the battle over again.
5 Yellow Devil – “Mega Man”
The infamous Yellow Devil, aka the Rock Monster, is a frequently encountered boss enemy in the Mega Man series. He appears first in the original Mega Man, as a fortress boss. He fires projectiles at Mega Man, and you’ll need to perfectly time jumps to avoid them. Once you’ve gained the upper hand by learning the pattern, the Yellow Devil switches things up. He changes the attack pattern and starts shooting from the opposite side, which was pretty intense and original for an NES game.
Although he’s never been quite as challenging as he was in the seminal game, Mega Man 3 introduced a new level of difficulty in regards to this boss character. He shoots his blobs faster and the bottom layers can cause damage. Like all subsequent versions of the Yellow Devil, you can learn the pattern and use that to perfectly time jumps and avoid getting hit by his rapidly firing blobs. In the interim, you can shoot at the enemy and slowly reduce his HP.
4 Dracula – “Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse”
Trevor Belmont is the new protagonist of Castlevania III. It can be presumed he’s related somehow to the original protagonist, Simon Belmont, since they share the same last name. Trevor is able to recruit some friends, but ultimately battles Dracula on his own. Although all the Castlevania games were difficult, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was harder, and the final battle with Dracula was definitely more difficult than previous versions; although, the battle is very style-similar to previous versions.
The final Castlevania III battle is fought in three stages. During the first part, Dracula blocks your ability to move with walls of fire. Don’t touch these if you want to retain HP. You can use your whip to attack through these flames. In the second part, Dracula changes form. You can attack him with the axe, and you’ll want to use the axe to attack nearby light fixtures to collects hearts and recoup your HP. Just keep hammering him with axes and you’ll take him down in the third round.
3 Sephiroth – “Kingdom Hearts II”
In a unique and amazing crossover, Sephiroth (from FF7) is a boss in Kingdom Hearts I and II. He’s the only enemy from Final Fantasy to show up in the game, which is odd and awesome. For Final Fantasy fans, his appearance is a reminder of the three battles he waged in FF7, including that he was a significant part of the final battle. Despite FF7 being a very challenging game, he was harder to beat in Kingdom Hearts II.
He’s difficult to beat because his hits cause massive damage, and he wages seemingly never-ending attacks. To beat him, you have to frequently cast Aero for better defenses. If it wears off, be prepared to cast Cure quickly (a couple hits from Sephiroth, and you’re dead). Just keep rolling to avoid his attacks, and countering whenever possible and summoning explosions and things near him. Eventually, you’ll wear down his HP gauge and you’ll win.
2 Psycho Mantis – “Metal Gear Solid”
A psychic member of FOXHOUND, Psycho Mantis can read minds, including yours. He frequently breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the gamer. That’s supposed to be a hint, by the way, but did little to help pre-Google gamers figure out how to kill him. He’s frustratingly difficult right up until someone told you the secret. Switching your controller to player two’s port blocks his psychic attacks. It was there all along; after-all he was reading your mind, and logic would tell you he’s doing that through the controller…Wait… No…
Yeah, that doesn’t exactly make sense, but it was certainly innovative. Game developers couldn’t get away with anything like that today because gamers have instant access to information, but back in the day you had to wait until a friend figured it out or buy the game guide. Once you figure out his secret, Psycho isn’t so tough. He’s actually pretty simple to beat.
1 Mike Tyson – “Mike Tyson Punch Out!”
No list of difficult video game bosses is complete without Mike Tyson. The 1987 NES classic is widely regarded as the game with the hardest boss to beat. Strange, but the real Mike Tyson never played Punch Out at the height of its popularity. He waited until 2013 to try it. Perhaps there is a sort of unnerving existentialism about fighting yourself, or maybe he was just busy.
In order to beat Tyson, players have to be quick and pay close attention to the screen. Tyson has some tells, including that his body shines when he’s about to launch an uppercut. Getting hit with an uppercut is a total knockout, so these must be avoided to win. If you could time your quick dodges correctly, counter his punches, and keep your focus on Iron Mike, you could beat him. Once done it can be done again and again, like learning a new trade. If you’ve beaten the title character of Mike Tyson Punch Out! you’ve got something to brag about because he is almost universally recognized as the hardest boss to beat.