The more things change, the more they stay the same as the video games of the last decade still had one time-honoured tradition up their sleeves: A good ol’fashioned boss fight! Whether you were slugging away at glorified bullet sponges or trying to outlast juggernauts that were capable of laughing at your mightiest attacks, here’s a look at some of the best and most satisfying boss fights of the decade.
Senator Armstrong – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Developer Platinum Games may be the undisputed master of the boss fight, but the studio outdid themselves in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. With a collection of foes who pushed Raiden to the bleeding edge of what he was capable of, the Metal Gear Solid spin-off saved the best for last with a final showdown that was both gruelling and memorable.
Kicking off with a titanic mechanised spider fight, players soon found themselves biting off more than they could chew with Senator Armstrong, as the powerhouse politician was a final hurdle who required pinpoint precision to put down for good. Memorable, almost unstoppable and oh so satisfying by the time you swung your sword that one last time, Senator Armstrong’s last stand is the stuff of legend.
Mr Freeze – Batman: Arkham City
Narrowly beating the intense slugfest that is Batman: Arkham Origin’s Deathstroke boss fight, Mr Freeze nabs the top spot as one of the best boss fights of all time thanks to it focusing on Batman’s most dangerous ability: His keen mind. Quickly reminding players that straight-up fisticuffs won’t be enough to put Victor Fries back in the cooler, the first Arkham sequel instead tasks players with using their intelligence to outwit the villain.
What follows is an intense game of cat and mouse, as no single trick works twice and players have to constantly change their strategy if they want to avoid being put on ice…for good.
Oryx – Destiny: The Taken King
While Guardians had faced Oryx during the main campaign of Destiny 2, what they had fought in that brilliant expansion was nothing more than a shadow of the Hive tyrant and his dreadful power. The real Oryx was a god who waited for players in his Ascendant Realm, an almost immortal tyrant whose true power could not be contained in our fragile dimension and could only be slain by the combined might of six well-prepared players.
Facing a gauntlet of tough opposition, the final battle with Oryx is as tough as they come but worth the pain when it finally results in the demon being conquered and left to rot amongst the rings of Saturn.
Cyber Demon – DOOM
In 2016, what was old was new again as DOOM updated its sleek action for a new generation. Along with its faster pace and brutal weapons came a nostalgic nemesis: The Cyber Demon who had plagued players in the 1990s and was reborn for a brand new conflict. Gigantic in size and almost unstoppable, there was nothing complicated about this fight: Players had to outlast one of Hell’s greatest champions, pump a metric ton of lead into its hide and stay a step ahead of the beast.
The twist of the knife here? DOOM’s reminder that no demon truly stays dead, as just when you thought the toughest fight of the game was done, it began all over again…
The Hand of the King – Dead Cells
While every battle in Dead Cells had been a thumb-blistering test of endurance and strategy, it’s the final encounter with the Hand of the King that truly tests players. Relentless, without mercy ad able to absorb your best attacks without showing a single hint of slowing down, the infamous guardian of the dead king has plenty of lethal weapons in his arsenal as he unleashes all hell on your seasoned warrior.
The culmination of dozens of hours of action, death and rebirth, finally beating the Hand of the King may just be one of the most satisfying experiences on this list.
Calamity Ganon – Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Ganon isn’t just yet another incarnation of the iconic antagonist in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, he’s a presence whose danger is felt throughout the lands of Hyrule. Appearing four times in different guises along the way, Ganon’s final form is a towering beast that feels legendary in scale, calamity personified and ready to burn the world down.
Evolving even further during the fight, Ganon’s power is eventually his own undoing as players weather his most powerful attack for that one moment to sink an enchanted arrow into his weak spot. A moment of triumph, that goes down as one of the very finest in the storied history of The Legend of Zelda.
Ornstein and Smough – Dark Souls 3
What’s worse than one Dark Souls boss? How about a pair of them, who happen to be perfectly in sync with one another, perfectly encapsulating Dark Souls and its nature of forcing players to live, die and live again as they learnt from their mistakes. Plenty of that savage education was needed for this one encounter however, as not only did players have to deal with Ornstein’s brisk brutality, but they also had to keep an eye out for Smough’s shattering attacks from behind.
Killing many a foolhardy adventurer along the way, Ornstein and Smough is one boss fight that’ll leave your controller drenched in sweat by the time it’s all over. Eeewwww, gross.
The Caretaker – The Witcher 3
If ever there was a game that could outdo Dark Souls in the boss fight department, it could only be The Witcher 3. Taking place in the Hearts of Stone DLC, Geralt’s battle with the Caretaker isn’t exactly fast-paced action, but rather a more strategic and calculated affair. Like the best battles in The Witcher 3, it all comes down to a single stroke of the sword, expertly timed and executed as Geralt faced a foe that had the power to almost end him in a single attack.
Framed amidst a spooky and haunting backdrop, the fight against the Caretaker is tense and beautifully paced, resulting in one of the more memorable moments from an unforgettable series of games.
Redmaw – Horizon: Zero Dawn
There’s a pecking order in Horizon: Zero Dawn’s new android animal kingdom, and when you first start the game you quickly find out that you’re at the very bottom of that food chain. While Aloy may grow in power and confidence throughout her incredible journey that sheds light on just how mankind fell from grace, there’s one beast that’s there to remind you that some legends aren’t just real…They’re even more deadly than the myths would have you believe.
The Redmaw is that very fable given robotic form, a ferocious Thunderjaw that looks and attacks like a mechanised Tyrannosaurus Rex on Rocky 4 steroids. Armed to the teeth and savage in nature, the Redmaw is less a mechanical animal and more a force of nature that packs plenty of heat. Now that’s a hell of a story that has earned a spot in the history books.
Final Nemesis – Shadow of Mordor
For most of the villains on this list, attacking you was just part of their business. But for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor? It was very much a personal affair as players raced to the end and found…that guy. The Nemesis system may have been the key selling point of this action game, but it was this very moment when a deadly idea took on a life of its own.
All of your actions, your battles and deeds had led to this one moment when the hordes of Mordor stood in opposition to you and were led by none other than the very Orc who had succeeded in killing you numerous times along your quest for vengeance. Forged in your own blood and ready to face you one final time, this was when Shadow of Mordor raised the benchmark on what a boss fight should be.
Personal and oh so satisfying by the time you lopped the bugger’s head off, it just didn’t get better than Shadow of Mordor’s sword stroke of genius.
Last Updated: January 17, 2019