We get ever closer to the ceremonious top 50- here are some picks that may have just missed the cut, but were overall strong picks in their own right. For a reminder of the judgment criteria, see here.
69. Shadows of Yharnam (Bloodborne)
From Software has had an auspicious history designing gank fights. Flashes in a pan such as the likes of Ornstein and Smough have been similarly mired in miserable gank fights such as the Dragonrider Duo. Here, however, is an instance of a gank fight done quite well. The Shadows of Yharnam are encountered as a boss in the Forbidden Woods of Bloodborne.
Challenge is decently high for this one, but the player has some tools to give themselves somewhat of an edge. For one, there is the quintessential indestructible structure in the center of the boss arena that the player can use to split the shadows or take cover behind to heal or apply a buff if needed. For another, each shadow staggers extremely easily and none of them have much health to speak of. However, they hit really hard especially when low on health and two of the three have ranged options. They can harass the player quite a lot and put the player in a rough position if they end up low on health.
The Shadows of Yharnam aren’t just a static entity- they seem to always be residing in areas where Queen Yharnam is. For example, they appear at Nightmare of Mensis and the Chalice Dugeons, seeming to pose as guards of some sort. Here, the shadows are the boss of the Forbidden Woods, an area just before Byrgenwerth where Queen Yharnam is eventually found deep inside of.
68. Penetrator (Demon’s Souls)
If this list was intended to rank bosses based on entrance, Penetrator would be a no doubt top 5. Bluepoint Games seems to have recognized how popular Penetrator’s aesthetic was among the community, because his armor set appearing in the remake is the only actual gameplay difference between the original and the remake. That said, Penetrator is absolutely not just for show: a stand out boss fight is on tap for this tilt at the Boletaria Palace.
Somewhat similarly to last article’s Lost Sinner, Penetrator’s difficulty is rather artificially inflated by the cast around him. This fight is unique, as Penetrator is much more aggressive and immediately threatening than most of the game’s bosses. That said, this is similar to fighting Knight Artorias in Dark Souls 1: a faster paced boss in a slower paced game. To that end, Penetrator wielding a long ranged grab attack ensures he does not fall prey to greatshield users, meaning he tends to dictate the tempo of the fight more than the player at times.
Fun fact: Penetrator is the first boss From Software ever made that allowed the player to receive support from an NPC. Through the completion of Biorr of the Twin Fangs’ prison break, he will show up and help the player fight Penetrator. Overall, the level in which Penetrator distances and distinguishes himself as a boss in Demon’s Souls makes him a very memorable, fun fight. It has since aged as software for developing video games has over the last thirteen years, and that’s the biggest reason it just misses out on the top 50.
67. Iudex Gundyr (Dark Souls 3)
Iudex Gundyr is a pristine example of how to make a wonderful tutorial fight. He is fought before the player can even level up or access the game’s hub world. His moveset overall is very easy for experienced players to handle, but poses significant problems and major teachable moments for the rookies.
Given that this boss was designed to be fought by new players, a 15/20 for difficulty is appropriate. A newer player will, right out of the gate, be forced to learn how to analyze and properly react to an enemy pattern or telegraph. Iudex Gundyr’s telegraphs are all very generous, and his moveset isn’t deceptive or variable in the slightest, so this is a very fair challenge. He does hit quite hard and can close the gap very quickly, so a player with a deer-in-the-headlights feel for the game will struggle quite a lot.
Gundyr’s lore overall is fun and very ambiguous to analyze. Before the player, he was actually set to be the Champion of Ash, embarking upon the same adventure the player would eventually go on. However, he very simply was too late to meet his Firekeeper at the Firelink Sheine, and his chance to be the champion eroded. In his Iudex Gundyr form, he seems to be somewhat of a test to see if the player is worthy to go down the road he was intending to go. The word “Iudex” translates literally from Latin to English as “the judge”, which supports this notion.
It was discussed during our very first entry into this series that a brain dead tutorial boss makes for a waste of time. On the other hand though, when the tutorial boss forces the player to immediately learn the framework of the game at large on an elementary level, this makes for a great teacher. People who can overcome this boss now have the skills to work their way up through the rest of the game, not just the ability to know what buttons perform what actions.
66. Borealis the Freezing Fog
Borealis has arguably the best, certainly the most underrated entrance in the game. The player will be traveling through the Freezing Lake, their visibility completely blocked by a raging blizzard. It will have been awhile since their last Site of Grace, meaning their resources are likely quite strained. Out of nowhere, rushing down the lake, the roaring of a dragon is heard, and inward comes Borealis! Fantastic stuff that is thrilling to experience the first time, and just as anticipated on each subsequent playthrough.
Borealis is a very difficult boss, arguably the hardest dragon in all of Elden Ring. Frostbite is the element this dragon wields, and it does so with authority. It’s nasty roar attack during second phase can straight up kill from full health right on the spot if the player doesn’t have a greatshield handy. It builds frost very quickly, necessitating tedious management on the player’s end to deal with. Finally, Borealis os highly mobile, and having massive range on his ice breath attack means he can put that speed to use. Overall, usage of Torrent in some way is basically mandatory to win this fight, but as the player cannot shield themselves while on Torrwnt, they will be walking (galloping) on egg shells all fight long.
The atmosphere set by the beautiful albeit treacherous Freezing Lake combined with Borealis’ masterful entry really make this one to remember. The reward for this fight is a Dragon Heart and access to the Borealis’ Mist Incantation, an incredibly strong Incantation that further puts this fight on the map.
65. Aldrich, Devourer of Gods (Dark Souls 3)
Aldrich is likely the second Lord of Cinder the player will encounter. He is encountered in the iconic Anor Londo, where he is in the middle of cannibalizing Gwyndolin as the player approaches. The Gwyndolin aesthetic is notable, as the level at large mainly encompassed quite a lot of Easter eggs coming over from Dark Souls 1, and in a way, this is the grand finale of said theme: a straight up callout to Dark Sun Gwyndolin, both aesthetically and via the soundtrack, which includes a massive part of Gwyndolin’s boss theme
The reason this fight doesn’t stack up to the truly greats is easy to see: difficulty. Aldrich would have been much more of a threat with a faster moveset and more health. As is, he has a single threatening attack, but is otherwise easy for the player to rush and beat down with little issue. That threatening attack, however, is a classic in itself: Aldrich will take aim with a bow and fire a massive rain of arrows down on the player. If the player doesn’t immediately flee from Aldrich, the arrows will almost immediately eliminate them and end the fight on the spot. This plus Aldrich’s silly but annoying soul masses and his Soul Spear at least make this fight out to not be a total joke.
Aldrich’s true and full list of victims will likely never be known, but his involvement with the game’s plot is as direct as can be- the player must kill him to take his soul and deliver it to the Firelink Shrine. We know he at least cannibalized Gwyndolin along with having eliminated Yorshka from Dark Souls 1 as well. It is also quite likely he has similarly killed Executioner Smough, as Smough’s armor set is buyable after defeating Aldrich. Overall, Aldrich is a major character with a lot of mystery and speculation.
Contending with Aldrich while a bajillion different things fly at or around the player can prove quite exhilarating. However, one of the major reasons this fight is memorable is the boss area. A perceptive player will notice that it’s the same room Dragonslayer Ornstein & Executioner Smough are fought in. Overall, these elements make this fight very memorable and a blast to play.
64. Executioner’s Chariot (Dark Souls 2)
In the realm of gimmick fights, this is one From Software definitely got right. The idea is to enter the tower where the boss fight is had, use various gaps inside the walls to dodge the chariot as it rushes past, and eliminate necromancers and their skeletons along the way. When the player reaches the top of the tower, they can pull a switch that will drop a portcullis, causing the chariot to wipe out when it makes another round. When this is done, the player can now properly fight the chariot.
Difficulty can be quite high unless the player brings one of a specific set of items or spells, which a newer player will likely not do. The gaps where the player is meant to take cover from the chariot are very small, and this can cause problems when the player is trying to balance fighting skeletons with dodging the chariot. The chariot itself is far from a pushover, as the horse hits really hard and isn’t easy to get underneath like most large beast type bosses.
The skeleton riding the chariot is known as ‘the Executioner’ as the boss title would suggest. This particular skeleton was ‘employed’ in a way by King Vendrick to swiftly eliminate the undead to best repel the curse. However, the curse eventually got to the Executioner himself and it twisted his purpose. Instead of just imprisoning and eliminating the undead, the Executioner mercilessly tortures them to death for his own amusement. Such well defined and represented lore adds meaning to the fight as a whole.
This boss is early game, an area where a handful of humanoids with a weapon boss types show up. As such, it is a very refreshing new take with a really interesting gimmick that isn’t seen anywhere else in the game. The added silliness of watching the Chariot just get wiped out as it collides with the portcullis is humorous as well, and it’s quite odd how removing a bit of ‘edge’ works to the fight’s favor in that regard. Overall, this one would have to be the most underrated fight in Dark Souls 2, and it places near the top 50 on this list for its standout qualities.
63. Fire Giant (Elden Ring)
Fire Giant is notable for a lot of different things that make him a standout boss. For one, he has the second highest health out of any boss in the game, and unlike Rykard the Lord of Blasphemy, a special weapon doesn’t exist that will do extra damage to make up for this huge health pool. The cinematic value of this fight is also quite notable, as will be discussed.
Challenge is very high for this fight. Fire Giant’s size isn’t just for show like quite a lot of enemies in this game, as he constantly has the power to two or even one shot an appropriately leveled player. In his first phase, he wields a massive manhole cover of sorts that gives him a lot of effective range. Like all giants, this one is an ankle biting fest, but the act of getting underneath Fire Giant to attack his ankles is hard considering the aforementioned advantages. In his second phase, he adds dodge rolling and a boatload of Pyromancies to his arsenal, making him all the more threatening and even agile to boot.
Lorewise, Fire Giant is the last of his kind from the Shattering of the Elden Ring and the many wars and strife which ensued. The reason the player must go through him is to access the Forge of Giants to burn the Erdtree, granting access to the Fractured Marika and the Elden Beast. With how much is on the line combined with the player essentially committing genocide, there are a lot of story implications in this fight.
Fun here is carried largely by cinematic value. In particular, the cutscene transitioning Fire Giant into his second phase is gloriously iconic. As the player has been attacking his weaker ankle of the two, the leg the ankle belonged to will collapse and break entirely during the cutscene. This prompts the Fire Giant to quite literally and graphically rip the leg off entirely and offer it to the Flame God, who buffs Fire Giant’s fire potency in return. The unapologetically vulgar and graphic nature of the cutscene stands out brilliantly and really makes the fight memorable. It’s more than enough to forgive Fire Giant’s tendency to dodge roll a lot in both phases, which can make the fight turn into quite a lot of just running to get back into fighting distance with him.
62. Amygdala (Bloodborne)
These guys seem to like hanging out in random maps across the game, as they can be found on almost all of them. They have a few different boss fights, but for the sake of the list, this one is pertaining to the one found at the Nightmare Frontier.
Difficulty is generally quite high. Amygdala’s massive arms give it a big range advantage, and this is further backed up by its deadly eye lasers it will periodically cover the battlefield. For its second phase, it disembodies a couple of said arms and begins to use them as weapons, adding more range and damage to its melee attacks. It will also use its lasers more frequently. It does have a weak spot, being its head, and it does leave generous telegraphs on its movements, but it’s still an above average difficulty for sure.
The crowning feature of the Amygdala fight stems from how many different ways it can be fought due to its body structure. A player could keep their distance and poke at its head to punish any attacks it misses, they could try and get behind it and do less damage to its legs, but remain safer, or they could try baiting melee attacks and attacking the arms as punishment. All ways can work, and which way is ‘best’ is purely subjective. Overall, this gives it a lot of replayability that meshes well with how curious the creature as a whole is. After all, the player sees them a handful of times, and even has to allow themselves to be killed by one to access the DLC before they actually get to fight one.
61. Mergo’s Wet Nurse (Bloodborne)
Mergo’s Wet Nurse is a standout pick in Bloodborne for one big reason: the tempo of the fight. Similarly to Lost Sinner within Dark Souls 2, Mergo’s Wet Nurse is a much slower paced fight than any seen to this point of the game. Like many Bloodborne fights, it is notable for doing a great job setting a great atmosphere for the context of Lovecraftian gothic horror.
Challenge for this fight is high. Though it moves slowly, when it does attack, Mergo’s Wet Nurse swings its swords with lethal precision and speed. It has a handful of different attacks it can use to catch different dodge habits the player exhibits, meaning they’ll eventually run into a problem they have to adapt to on the fly. Finally, it has a unique mechanic known as “Nightmare Phase” which will periodically activate when it reaches half health. When this happens, the battlefield will go entirely dark, a clone of the wet nurse will spawn, and both it along with the real deal will pester the player for awhile before the lighting returns to normal and the clone fades away.
This boss is the instance where ‘fun’ is arguably the most subjective due to how it juxtaposes to almost every boss in Bloodborne. That said, it’s many unique qualities should be appreciated, in particular the way it establishes a contextually appropriate atmosphere. The soundtrack consists entirely of nursery chimes, the crying of a baby, and there are skulls all over the grounds of the battlefield. It’s more than enough to be eerie or even downright disturbing, no doubt the intention From Software had in mind when developing it.
60. Rennala, Queen of the Full Moon (Elden Ring)
This fight has convincingly shown itself to be the fully-blossomed, perfected iteration of the Fool’s Idol/Crystal Sage gimmick, while also doing a great job being unique in its own way as well. This boss is the second Great Rune boss the player has access to in the game, found at the end of the Raya Lucaria Academy.
Unfortunately, there is simply no way to take the previously mentioned gimmick this fight tried to build on and make it actually meaningfully difficult. The first phase of this fight is a total cakewalk, as the “Fool’s Idol” aspect cues in and the player has to attack three of Rennala’s academy students in order to be able to damage her. In the second phase, Rennala plays out as a large sorcery wielding humanoid, with the added twist of being able to summon spirits in the form of a dragon, giant, Bloodhound Knight or wolves to help her. She is too fragile to pose a serious threat, though her sorceries can do quite a bit of damage and do demand tedious attention to dodge.
Rennala is the mother of the game’s cast of Demigods, though she herself is not a Demigod. After defeating her, the player can unlock her services to respec their build if needed, and it is here where we see her Great Rune come into play as a device to facilitate this. In the game’s lore, it is said she was once wife to Radagon, one of the final bosses of the game, and it is through him that she gave birth to the demigods of the game. He left her eventually, however, and the game implies that this sent Rennala into a mental descent into depression as a result. Such deep, meaningful and important lore made her grade easy to see.
Overall, it was really nice to see what a perfected version of a previously seen gimmick looks like. Rennala isn’t causing broken controllers over how difficult she is to beat, but she’s at least a bit more challenging than the Fool’s Idol or Crystal Sage, which largely reinforced that this is the pinnacle of said gimmick. Without anything to hold the fight back, it’s importance in From Software history will only become more apparent with time, as this fight will age quite nicely.
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