We continue our long lasting series, today delving into the top 25. With the quality only going up from here, let’s get right into our 30-21 set of entries!
30. Elemer of the Briar (Elden Ring)
This Sith Lord wannabe is a really cool boss concept that’s a lot of fun to fight. This particular iteration of Elemer is fought inside the Shaded Castle, specifically in a relatively cramped room that makes the fight all the more chaotic. As a cherry on top, he has some pretty great rewards on defeat, making the trek all the more worthwhile.
Challenge for this fight is extreme. While fighting his dancing blade in a cramped up room may be more chaotic, it’s also a lot tougher to deal with than the over world as the player has much less room to evade the blade. Elemer is also fully immune to backstabs, and the player’s weapon will clank off of him, making them vulnerable to punishment if they try. To top it off, Elemer is definitely not defenseless in close quarters either. His grab attack does a ton of damage, and he can use the Briar Greatshield on his back to good effect offensively, while falling back on the Marais Executioner’s Sword to harass the player from a distance. With a loaded kit lacking in any deficiencies in a boss room largely favoring the boss, this one could take some attempts to clear.
Not too much is known about Elemer’s lore, other than the fact that he must have been one twisted guy before he took up residence in the Shaded Castle. Per the game’s lore, he once lived in a far away area. His signature sword is one which he stole after he managed to escape his own execution. What he was sentenced to execution for is a mystery, but given that he seems to enjoy randomly hunting down and killing merchants for a hobby, it’s not unthinkable to imagine it was something similar to that.
Easily the most standout thing about Elemer is just how cool his kit is. The Marais Executioner’s Sword is arguably the most pleasing aesthetically both to fight against and to use. Elemer can use it more stylishly than the player, as he is capable of making it do basically whatever he wants as he commands it to attack the player, but it’s still a cool concept. His grab attack is aesthetically really cool, while his usage of a shield in a primarily offensive way just adds to it. Simply put, Elemer is a great showcase of just how far From Software has come with their creativity, as there is zero chance Elemer would’ve worked out in older Soulsborne games, not just mechanically but visually as well.
29. Godfrey, First Elden Lord/Hoarah Loux, Warrior (Elden Ring)
This climatic showdown at the Elden Throne was a much better job at trying to basically cram two boss fights into one than what we saw with Radagon and the Elden Beast. It’s very well done cinematically, both bosses are well fleshed out and unique, and it’s appropriately challenging for the end game.
Challenge for this fight is high, and that’s for a couple of subtle reasons the average player might miss. For one, Godfrey and Hoarah Loux are both resistant to all forms of status, making game changing procs such as Scarlet Rot or Bleed much harder to achieve. For another, both of these bosses are predictably tough to deal with close up, but actually use unique mechanics to punish the player for making distance. Godfrey’s annoying arena-wide unblockable AoE stomping spam gets kicked into high gear if he isn’t in melee range of the player, as he is happy to simply chase them down whilst spamming this attack if they make distance. Hoarah Loux is adept at dodging projectiles and closing the gap, so making distance on him is rather pointless as well. Up close, however, both fights are tough. Godfrey attacks quickly and aggressively with numerous different combos that deal devastating damage. Hoarah Loux’s close quarter attacks are even faster, plus his many grabs attacks will rip off enormous chunks of health if they hit. Neither will stagger easily and both have large HP bars. Simply put, this boss will always be challenging regardless of how it is approached, which is how an end game boss should be. With nothing artificial or particularly cheap, difficulty was perfectly tailored in this fight.
Another standout aspect of this fight is the simple visual spectacle it is. The second phase cinematic where Godfrey turns into Hoarah Loux is awe inspiring, but quite intimidating; “oh crap, I have to face that now????” Additionally, it boasts quite a fun, novel concept. At the beginning of the game, the player encountered the Demi-God in Godrick who grafted a dragon to get stronger. Here, Godfrey has grafted the lion Serosh to his shoulder, not to get stronger but instead so Serosh could limit Godfrey’s bloodlust, in effect making him weaker. Watching Godfrey dispose of Serosh to take that limitation off is just epic, and really brings the story of the game to a full circle with how it handles grafting.
As a side note, Godfrey and Hoarah Loux are the only bosses to consistently respect and admire the player. Even if they win, Godfrey will tell the player that they fought nobly. If the player wins, Hoarah Loux will compliment their strength and tell them that they’re fit for the crown. This is because, like the player, Godfrey is Tarnished and understands what the player has to go through to get here. This level of modesty was a nice change of pace and made Godfrey all the more likable.
28. Old King Allant (Demon’s Souls)
#1 ranked Demon’s Souls boss on this entire list
When Demon’s Souls first came out, naturally plenty of the content in the game was quite challenging. Over the years, future iterations in the Soulsborne franchise would stand to make Demon’s Souls outdated, and the general difficulty of its boss fights would also decline by proxy. Old King Allant is therefore the exception, with a well designed moveset, a mechanic which still to this day is entirely exclusive to himself across the franchise, and a unique resistance that can be hard to deal with.
If Old King Allant was dropped into Elden Ring, he’d be extremely easy. However. Demon’s Souls is a much slower paced game where the player simply has nowhere near the resources to work with. As a result, he is quite hard and is arguably the hardest boss in the game, certainly top 3 at bare minimum. At first, he acts like a standard human boss with his sword. Not too long into the battle, he starts using close ranged magic to keep the player at a distance, he can shoot spells at them which do a lot of damage, his sword in the Soulbrandt hits quite hard. But nothing can compare to his vile, secret weapon: the exclusive ability to take away an entire level up from the player with a grab attack. To this day, Old King Allant is still the only enemy period capable of stealing a level up, and it can be devastating if he manages to hit with this. If the player is unlucky, that one level up loss could cause them to no longer have the stats needed to wield various equipment, which could effectively end the fight then and there. This attack also cannot be blocked by a shield, forcing dodge rolling to avoid the maneuver.
As we know, this is not the real King Allant — it’s a double created by the Old One. It’s a pretty well done clone, considering how easily it can threaten a quick kill. Perhaps the fact that this is a clone explains why Old King Allant is heavily resistant to Magic, the best form of damage output in the game.
27. King of the Storm/Nameless King (Dark Souls 3)
From one timeless King to another, we have a look at the boss of the Archdragon Peak, a man responsible for many broken controllers, the Nameless King. This is another two phase fight, involving the King initially riding in on his dragon. Once the dragon goes down, it’s time for the man himself to get his hands dirty.
Challenge for this fight is predictably pretty high, but partially for an interesting reason that the average player probably wouldn’t notice. Incidentally, the Nameless King holds his weapon in his right hand, but begins many of his melee maneuvers by stretching it out towards his left side. Typically, the player is best off either rolling through a source of damage, or positioning themselves to be away from it. However, the Nameless King uses both sides with deceptive telegraphing as to which side he will use, which can throw the player off. Throwing the player off will come at a cost of a massive amount of health, as the Nameless King sure leaves a mark with his brutal attacks.
While the Nameless King is heralded for his difficulty, he is also a focal point of a lot of vague, confusing lore that serves to make his character interesting. Debatably, the Nameless King’s true identity could be a variety of characters. He could be a much more mature Ornstein or he could be Dark Souls 1’s beloved Solaire with an added mean streak. After defeating him, the iconic Dragonslayer armor worn by Ornstein in Dark Souls 1 is seen laying idly as an item drop. The two both fight with lightning, both had a large involvement with dragons and it’s not infeasible to imagine Ornstein getting much more powerful over the course of two whole games. On the other hand, the Nameless King utilizes Sunlight Blade and Sunlight Spear, which are two miracles that would’ve been long outdated by the events of this game. As well, Solaire’s canon lore never got official closure, and as the (likely) son of Gwyn, it’d also make sense for Solaire to have gotten stronger too. Why either of these men show up to fight the player is, much the same, a mystery. Overall, Nameless King’s lore is as open to interpretation as it is interesting and varied.
26. Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower (Bloodborne)
To liberate our viewers from their wild curiosity, here is the last boss that just missed the mark at top 25 on our list. That said, it is certainly not due to any shortcomings on Lady Maria’s end, as the fight is mesmerizing, it’s a treat cinematically, and for a character with very well defined, solid lore.
Challenge for this fight depends on how good the player is at parrying. If you can parry, this fight becomes a lot more manageable. If you can’t, good luck! This is a three-phase fight starting Maria off as fairly tame an easy to handle. She adds blood to her attacks for second phase, then fire for third, increasing her damage output substantially. In third phase, she can easily one-shot the player even if they have a high Vitality stat. Again, all of her attacks can be parried and she does stagger easily, so the player will want a steady hand at the go for this one.
Lady Maria’s pre-fight cutscene manifested itself into Bloodborne’s most iconic, and in typical From Software fashion, this is mostly because of how good a job it does at showing, not so much telling. The player will find what looks like Maria’s lifeless body sitting in a chair, but when they inspect her, she awakens, pulls them in and tells them that a corpse shouldn’t be meddled with. The abrupt nature at how Maria goes from totally stationary to aggressive and firm is staggering to watch. Watching Maria unsheathe her weapon as she calmly tells the player they need to die would ordinarily be a simple precursor to the actual fight. But there’s something more to this. Maria unsheathing her weapon and saying her line is done in a tone that would make anyone else seem irate with anger, ready to rip you to shreds. But Maria’s anger is more channeled and ‘professional’ than that, keeping the fight down to Earth somewhat and making it all the more tense when she buffs herself as the fight is happening.
Overall, Maria is a simple, cinematic masterpiece with a very memorable fight. It’s too bad for her that the ridiculously high standard only gets higher as we venture into the top 25 of this list.
25. Pontiff Sulyvahn (Dark Souls 3)
If this had been an “Andrew’s favorite Soulsborne bosses” list, then this guy would be in the top 10 no question. Pontiff Sulyvahn is one of the most famous names in Dark Souls 3, one of the biggest reasons being purely how difficult he is. The area behind Sulyvahn, accessed after defeating him, is also notorious for being the biggest hotspot for PvP in the entire game.
Challenge for this one is generally quite high. Sulyvahn is incredibly speedy, with some of his attacks only giving the slightest of telegraphs before he can simply zoom across the boss room. As he transitions to second phase, Sulyvahn gains the aid of a clone. This may seem like a Darklurker-esque gank fight, but it’s actually very well balanced. In return for giving Sulyvahn an edge in numbers, the clone heavily telegraphs Sulyvahn’s attacks and makes it easier to respond to since the clone will always use the same exact attack as Sulyvahn, though it’ll act before he does, foreshadowing what he’s about to do. However, the one problem with Sulyvahn that stops him from being on the top 10 for this list and holds him back from being the hardest boss, at least in the base game- he can be parried. Almost every single one of his attacks can be parried, and a few of them are fairly easy to parry at that. Historically, this has taken the difficulty of a particular boss down several notches, and this is no exception.
Pontiff Sulyvahn’s backstory is so well made that it makes him theoretically viable to have been this game’s final boss. Not many in Soulsborne games are truly, objectively evil but Sulyvahn definitely suits the role of a villain here. He has been aiding Aldrich, Devourer of Gods by helping him in finding gods to devour. It is said that Sulyvahn defeated Dark Sun Gwyndolin in battle, captured him and fed him to Aldrich. As well, Sulyvahn is in charge of the Irithyl army, and we know he isn’t exactly a kind hearted leader based on the item descriptions of the Pontiff’s Left Eye and Pontiff’s Right Eye rings. These rings were distributed to his entire army, including the Dancer of the Boreal Valley and Vordt of the Boreal Valley. They greatly enhance their wearer’s fighting capabilities in exchange for slowly but surely driving them mentally mad and ensuring they would not think to rebel against Sulyvahn’s command. Simply put, Sulyvahn is one of the most genuinely heinous characters in From Software history, adding to the impact of fighting him.
24. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder (Dark Souls 1)
This is a very similar boss to Pontiff Sulyvahn, with the main difference being their vastly different backgrounds. In terms of fighting style, they actually share a surprising amount in common. Gwyn is the final boss of Dark Souls 1. Because of how the game works, Gwyn will always be the final boss fought in any playthrough of the game, as defeating him immediately ends the playthrough and sends the player to the beginning of the next New Game Plus cycle.
Difficulty for this one is very similar to Pontiff Sulyvahn, but Gwyn is arguably slightly more generally challenging. The simple reason for this is Dark Souls 1’s slightly more clunky, slower paced gameplay as opposed to Dark Souls 3 making it harder for the player to respond to Gwyn’s aggression. Gwyn’s moveset shares somethings in common with Pontiff Sulyvahn; both have a running jump attack, fast combos up close and a grab attack. Gwyn’s moveset has a little less variation to it, but the dynamic is very similar. Also very much the same between the two is that Gwyn is susceptible to being parried. However, Gwyn is much easier to learn how to parry than Pontiff Sulyvahn due to the game’s more slow paced nature increasing the margin of error for the player.
The vast majority, if not entirety of the events which take place in Dark Souls 1 can be blamed or associated to Gwyn. In his desperation to keep the Age of Fire going, Gwyn became the first to sacrifice his soul to link the First Flame. Considering how long he’s been at the Kiln of the First Flame, Gwyn’s legendary fighting prowess has greatly diminished by the time the player fights him. The notion that the player can fight godlike beings whose power has fallen from grace is an incredibly common theme across Soulsborne games in general, and this is probably the first, arguably most notable instance of this taking place.
The soundtrack of this fight contributes a lot to the theme, arguably more so than any fight across all of Soulsborne. Fighting a legendary being like Gwyn, you might expect an epic score with a tense edge that’s loud and over glorified. However, the only instrument being played is a piano, and it’s a very calm, sorrowful melody. This ends up being a powerful contributor to the fight and adds a lot of emotion, really helping to bring the player’s lengthy journey full circle with the very last fight of the game. Considering Gwyn isn’t at his best, it makes sense that he can be parried and even defeated in the first place. In general, Gwyn is so incredibly important to the Dark Souls trilogy that the landscape of the trilogy’s narrative would look vastly different without him. As such, he was an automatic to appear in the top 25. Like Pontiff Sulyvahn, he would’ve been a contender for top 10 if he wasn’t so easy to parry.
23. Gehrman the First Hunter (Bloodborne)
Another emotionally well crafted final boss fight, Gehrman was a major plot twist when Bloodborne was in its prime. He spends the game giving the player some basic advice and meandering about the Hunter’s Dream until it’s time to fight him.
Challenge for this fight can be quite high. Gehrman is incredibly fast, aggressive and can do some serious damage quite quickly. During second phase, he can also shoot the player with a gun that will always parry them even if they weren’t moving at all, making close quarters engagements extremely risky. Gehrman’s Burial Blade, his signature weapon, has deceptive range. He can uniquely use it to pull the player slightly closer to him, giving him the opportunity to easily follow up. However, much like the previously discussed bosses, there is one nagging flaw holding Gehrman out of the top 10: he can be parried. He’s actually a really easy parry in second phase in particular, as he has a tendency to attack recklessly for lengthy periods of time, and even just randomly mashing parry without any thought can still get the job done.
The reason this fight was slightly favored on this list over the likes of Gwyn and Pontiff Sulyvahn is mainly lore and theme. Gehrman is very much a good guy as far as the player is concerned. The only reason he’s fighting them comes from the player refusing to allow him to mercy kill them. After hunting as many beasts as they have, destroying the source of the nightmare and eliminating Mergo’s Wet Nurse, the player has earned respite from the horrible scourge of beasts in Gehrman’s eyes. The player refusing to be granted an exit is, in his outlook, them having slipped into madness as many long term hunters have. Gehrman is therefore fighting the player for entirely benevolent reasons, unique for a Soulsborne fight.
As a lasting note, presentation for this fight is immaculate. The Hunter’s Dream is simply a captivating setting for a sorrowful fight between two allies. The soundtrack is great, properly reflecting a conflict held between two begrudging hunters.
22. Father Gascoigne (Bloodborne)
We go from the game’s final boss into the game’s very first required boss fight. Gascoigne harbors many standout qualities of the bosses discussed on this list, while having an unfortunate weakness plaguing a few of them as well. That said, Gascoigne represents a “welcome to Souls” type boss, and he would have to be the best entry in the franchise with that niche to date.
Challenge for this fight is going to be high. Newcomers haven’t had any experience in hunter fights, and they’re going to be well educated in how to handle them here. In many ways, Gascoigne’s fighting style is very similar to Gehrman’s. He wields the Hunter Axe and is quite aggressive in using it. However, when second phase comes, Gascoigne turns into a terrifying beast figure of sorts, becoming even more aggressive. Unfortunately, both phases of Gascoigne are susceptible to being parried which, like the previous three on this list, did hurt his rank here ever so slightly. For a newcomer however, parrying won’t come easy naturally, so making it easy enough to parry Gascoigne will act as a lifeboat of sorts for newer players. It won’t come freely though, as they still will need to learn how to parry, making this fight good at encouraging this. Because of that, Gascoigne being parry-able is most forgivable here as opposed to the other bosses mentioned earlier today.
“Beasts all over the shop… You’ll be one of them, sooner or later” is a top ten iconic liner in all of Soulsborne, uttered by Gascoigne in a cinematic played before fighting him. With this being the player’s first exposure to a man-turned-beast, the atmosphere being incredibly unnerving suits it perfectly. Once again, a fine enough job of voice acting, this time courtesy of Connor Byrne, adds a great deal to Gascoigne’s character. Interestingly, the player can actually summon Gascoigne as a helper early on in Central Yharnam, and they can use him as assistance for fighting the Cleric Beast, assuming the player hasn’t fought Gascoigne already. This was the first time in Soulsborne history an allied summon would later turn into a boss fight, adding even more shock and tension when meeting Gascoigne as a boss later. Overall, this fight is a wonderful embodiment of the atmosphere and theme that distinguish Bloodborne from the rest of the franchise, and doing this early in the game is just perfect.
21. Fume Knight (Dark Souls 2)
Arguably the hardest boss in the game, debatably among the most important to the game, narratively and one of the most generally memorable, Fume Knight is a large reason why Dark Souls 2 DLC is as great as it is. Positioned as the final boss of the Crown of the Iron King DLC, he is unique among his Dark Souls 2 peers for being challenging without having to be a lame gank fight or a gimmick.
Challenge for this fight has the potential to get rough, really rough. Fume Knight’s first phase isn’t the end of the world, though he will give a small preview of his signature Ultra Greatsword, using it in tandem with his signature short sword. Second phase is where things start to get wild; at around 70% of his health, he will begin to two-hand the Ultra Greatsword and will apply a permanent DarkFire buff to it, making it now do ridiculous amounts of damage. Even the tankiest of tanky builds will be cleanly two-shot at best by him, and anything else will just get melted by his pure, unbridled second phase might. Additionally, Fume Knight has mechanics directly intended to punish common player habits or tendencies. He has a slow sweeping strike designed to catch early side rolls, his DarkFire does enough damage to put too much pressure onto Greatshield users, forcing them to learn to dodge instead of hiding behind their makeshift fortresses. Finally, if the player uses an Estus Flask or Lifegem, Fume Knight’s AI is designed to use a jump or lunge attack that will catch the player before they can finish using the item- this forces them to wait to heal until Fume Knight is locked in an animation. Fume Knight also has attacks that can hit behind him, meaning that even flanking him doesn’t provide any real safety like it does against 90% of the game’s bosses. This one can be a real rough one, so if you manage to take him down, pat yourself on the back.
Fume Knight’s name is Raime, known alternatively as ‘The Rebel Swordsman’. Before becoming Fume Knight, Raime was King Vendrick’s ‘left hand’ man, closely working with him alongside Velstadt. When Vendrick brought Nashandra into the fray, even except for Raime was deceived by her ulterior motives and general deception. Unlike Velstadt, who is more concerned with Vendrick personally, Raime had the best interest of all Drangleic in mind as opposed to just Vendrick, so he tried to have Nashandra removed from the picture. When nobody listened to him, he ultimately rebelled against Vendrick as a last ditch effort and was defeated in a duel by Velstadt. Following his subsequent banishment, Raime came to the Brume Tower, where he met Nadalia, Fragment of Manus. Rather than eliminate her as he easily could have, Raime allowed himself to be corrupted by her and her abyssal influence, turning him into the Fume Knight we know and see here. This was likely done to amass enough power to return to Drangleic. It’s too bad we presumably won’t see a “Dark Souls II 2” because this all by itself could’ve been a major plot point for such a game.
All in all, Fume Knight is largely what makes an entire DLC as great as it is. That’s enough to earn a very high spot on this list.
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