Video games have always captivated us with their interesting stories and unique gameplay, many aspects of which have stuck within our conscious for many years. Yet what is equally as fascinating as the over-arching tales or gameplay mechanics are the characters we follow throughout our time spent playing the game. And while everyone wants to love and “be” the hero of the story, the villain or bad guys are just as vital to the total experience. A hero is only as good as the antagonists he stands against throughout the story us gamers play through. What brings everything together is the moments where the two opposites finally collide in the levels we look towards the climax of a game, the great boss battles of gaming.
Throughout the history of video games, various titles have presented a plethora of large scale, intuitive and sometimes heart-pounding boss battles. Not solely limited to the climax or ending parts of a game, these are the times when a gamer’s skill is put to the test, culminating the execution of all the skills and tactics that may have come earlier in a level or in previously stages of the game. At the same time, a boss battle doesn’t necessarily have to include the main bad guy of the story, but can otherwise be a powerful henchmen or rival. Yet regardless of who stands as an obstacle to the player’s progress, it is these moments that gamers learn that the challenge that lies before them will push their skills to the limit. While not every great, iconic, or EPIC boss fight is featured here, each one of the foes detailed here bring something interesting and different to the table, providing a level of challenge and satisfaction upon defeat.
Mortal Kombat 2 – Shao Kahn
Some people may be inclined to say the fights with Goro, Shang Tsung, or Kintaro make for better battles, but they don’t really understand the true task of fighting Shao Kahn. Even on the easiest difficulty of Mortal Kombat 2 (MK2), for both Genesis an SNES, Shao Kahn would destroy many players with hopes of reaching the end of MK2. Yet what makes this boss fight so interesting is the variety in gameplay with each of the fighters on the roster. Much like any of the other Mortal Kombat games, all of the boss characters must be approached somewhat differently depending on who the player has chosen as a Kombatant. The special thing about Shao Kahn is the level of pressure that is put on the player during the fight, which is significantly higher than any of the other boss characters in the game. Shao Kahn is the only fighters that would “allow” a player to get a successful attack and then destroy them afterwards. In later iterations of Mortal Kombat Shao Kahn still presented a challenge, but was much more diluted and easier with each successive title.
Star Fox 64 – Andross
Andross is a monkey that does play around when gamers meet “face to ship” with him at the end of Star Fox 64. Andross attacks players with different attacks in the form of a giant floating head and hands from within Planet Venom. Between chewing players up and spiting them out (literally), and a host of magical attacks, Andross is not an easy foe to take down. The battle itself can actually have different outcomes depending on how well a player did during the course of the game. A second stage of the Andross battle is unlocked if a player has taken a specific path during earlier parts of the game when reaching the final level, this also unlocks a “true ending” if Andross is defeated. A combination of quick reaction time and pattern recognition is vital to surviving this battle with the giant floating monkey head.
Kingdom Hearts 2 – Sephiroth
Although the battle with Sephiroth in the first Kingdom Hearts is arguably much tougher, the second run-in with the One-Winged Angle is much more exciting and crazy. With the game’s hero Sora maturing and getting stronger, it’s only natural that the enemies of the Kingdom Hearts universe would change their tactics up a bit. Sephiroth was always an optional boss fight that players could avoid in when finishing up the game’s main story, but for those who wanted to successfully get 100% completion and the secret movie on Normal Difficulty, he was a necessary challenge. Much like in Kingdom Hearts 1, and similar to his Final Fantasy 7 incarnation, Sephiroth has a wide range of attacks, such as a rain of meteors from the sky, that keeps players on edge and will destroy many who don’t properly level up in preparation for the battle. In addition, his infamous attack Sin Harvest would completely drain the health and magic of players, causing for some quick and cheap deaths for many players.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Robotnik Death Egg
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a game with a strong sense of speed and excitement, but also had a hint of strategy in the form of this boss fight against Dr. Robotnik. While all of the Doc’s machines were unique and different at the end of each stage of Sonic 2, the Death Egg battle was unique in the timing and level of excitement it presented. This boss fight is the second of two battles that happen at the end of Sonic 2, the first being a battle against a robotic version of Sonic. The Death Egg is also the only boss fight in the Sonic series that carries over the outcome into the plot of the following games, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. In this battle, rather than just mindlessly jumping atop of Robotnik’s machine like in previous levels, gamers have to patiently look for openings as the Death Egg flew above and came down from the top of the level. Failure to hit the Death Egg at the right time resulted in a lot of Extra Lives lost.
Super Smash Brothers – Master Hand
The Master Hand is a very exciting boss fight, but also one with the simplest concept behind it. A giant floating hand comes from the sky in subspace and viciously starts attacking the player’s character. This is a battle that is vastly different from previous fights earlier in the game, where players have to alternate between attack and defense on the fly constantly. At the same time, there are no obstacles or items on the level, Final Destination, to help defend against the Master Hand’s barrage of attacks. Skill, quick reaction, and adaptation are the tools needed to take down the Master Hand, tools that vary in strategies depending on which character the player has chosen.