Top 5 most memorable boss fights in video game history

Top 5 most memorable boss fights in video game history
Justin Cabrera

Justin Cabrera

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You’ve finally made it to the end of the dungeon. You’re low on health and out of potions, and you’re tired. Luckily, the exit is in sight. Right in front of it, however, is a giant clearing with a save point, which can only mean one thing: boss battle.

Boss battles are some of the toughest and most iconic parts of most games The satisfaction of finally taking out a boss that’s been repeatedly kicking your ass is unmatched by anything else in gaming. Here are some of the toughest, weirdest, and overall most memorable bosses in video game history.

Top 5 most memorable boss fights in video game history

5. Mike Tyson – Punch-Out!!

It may seem strange to younger readers that one of the boss fights on this list is based on an actual person, but Mike Tyson in the NES classic Punch-Out!! is no joke. His jabs are blindingly fast and his tells are way more subtle than the other opponents. Watch out for his uppercut, as it can KO poor Little Mac in one blow! Honestly, I’m pretty sure it’d be easier to fight Mike Tyson in real life.

Hilariously, Tyson himself had never actually played the game until 2014, where he fought his pixelated counterpart on The Tonight Show. He lost, but if you think about it, it’s kind of a win-win.

4. Shao Kahn – Mortal Kombat

Most fighting game bosses don’t play by the rules, and Shao Kahn is no exception. Kahn was designed at a time when arcades were everywhere, and video game developers made games with the intention of sucking as many quarters out of kids as possible. Mortal Kombat 2 and 3 are fantastic arcade fighting games, but their final boss Shao Kahn alone probably made arcades hundreds of dollars in quarters.

Unlike other characters, Shao Kahn has super armor on most of his moves. In fighting games, super armor is when a character takes damage but doesn’t flinch, allowing them to power through your attacks. His attacks are also incredibly fast and powerful, and if he hits you with his giant hammer, your character sits stunned for years, allowing him to lay down the smack. Oh, and before you can even fight him you have to take down his pet tiger/man/four-armed thing Kintaro. Worst of all, you know what he says when he beats you?

“It’s official, you suck!”

Kahn caused me countless hours of agony as a kid and as a grown man I still can’t beat him. Maybe someday I’ll be able to beat him and finally get that payback Fatality.

3. Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid

When Metal Gear Solid came out on PS1 back in 1998, it revolutionized the gaming landscape with its deep storytelling, stealth gameplay, and technical prowess. It’s considered one of the greatest and most influential games of all time, and its hero, Solid Snake, has become a gaming icon. One of the most iconic parts of an already fantastic game is a boss fight against the psychic soldier Psycho Mantis.

Using his telepathic abilities, Psycho Mantis messes not only with Snake, but with the player themselves. He can black out the screen and mess with your controller inputs, forcing you to switch the controller to the player 2 slot. Most memorably, Psycho Mantis can read the player’s memory card and comment on the games that are stored there to mess with their heads. in the original PS1 version, he’ll ask the player about Castlevania, and in the Gamecube remake, he’ll mention Mario, Zelda, and Super Smash Bros.

Psycho Mantis is arguably the best example of a video game breaking the fourth wall. His “mindreading” abilities are more than just a gimmick, they serve the story and help build his character.

2. Yellow Devil – Mega Man

The Mega Man NES games are absolute masterpieces of side-scrolling shooters. The characters are charming, the controls are tight and responsive, and the music is unquestionably the best of the 8-bit era. The games were also famous, however, for their high level of difficulty, due in no small part to the series’ famous bosses. While Dr. Wily sent all manner of Robot Masters to fight Mega Man, perhaps none are as iconic or long-lasting as the Yellow Devil.

As the name implies, the Yellow Devil is a hellish creature. His body is made of deadly yellow goo that shoots out at Mega Man. By shooting out pieces of himself, the Yellow Devil can move around the stage, reforming himself as he goes. His eye is his only weak spot, but it can fire deadly energy blasts that home in on Mega Man.

While his attacks are relatively simple, fighting the Yellow Devil is an exercise in patience. He challenges every skill you’ve learned up to that point, including your timing, jumping, and shooting. Winning the battle is all about keeping cool, because if you mess up your timing and become tilted, it’s all downhill from there. (Or you could use the famous “pause” trick to make your Electro-beam blasts count as multiple hits with one shot… but that’s cheating.)

1. Ornstein & Smough

Dark Souls is widely considered one of the hardest games ever made. The game is unforgiving and brutally punishing, yet fair. Every mistake you make is your own, and the only thing that’s stopping you from beating the game is your perseverance to try over and over again. With that being said, Ornstein and Smough can make even the most hardened Dark Souls veteran scream with rage.

This dynamic duo fights the player simultaneously. Smough is a big boy who towers over the player, wielding a hammer that can crush even the tankiest player in one or two hits. His buddy Ornstein is the exact opposite; he’s quick and nimble with a lightning spear, popping up out of nowhere to impale you and shower you with electric fury. While fighting one of these bosses on their own would be very difficult but manageable, fighting both of them at the same time is maddeningly difficult. If you manage to defeat one of them, the survivor absorbs the corpse of the other, refilling their health and increasing their size and power.

Like the Yellow Devil, fighting these two is about keeping your head, though it’s incredibly hard not reacting to the adrenaline pumping through your veins when you get close to beating them after dying dozens of times. Beating them is totally worth it though, and you can rest easy and celebrate loudly that you’ve taken down one of the toughest boss fights in video game history.

Have you beaten these bosses? Are there any big ones we missed? Let us know!

Justin Cabrera

Justin Cabrera

Justin Cabrera is a tech content writer with Prior to joining Softonic, Justin was a overcaffeinated radio DJ and know-it-all music critic with WPGU 107.1. His two favorite things in the world are video games and music culture.

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