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Top 10 Lackluster Boss Fights In Gaming | Column from the Editor

As a follow up to my most recent article on boss fights, this article seeks to have a look at some that just didn’t really work out for a number of reasons. These boss fights aren’t necessarily overtly easy or challenging, but were just generally poorly made and either didn’t add much of value to their game, or overall detracted more than they added. They’ll be listed in order of “least worst” in tenth place to “absolute worst” at the number one slot.

10. Shadow Niijima (Persona 5/Royal)

This boss fight is just too draggy and kinda antithetical to the excursion of Niijima’s Palace as a whole. The fight begins with a lengthy, rather boring mechanic where the player is essentially severely punished for doing anything other than stand totally still. The gimmick is that Niijima is using her surroundings to essentially cheat herself into gaining invincibility, and anyone attempting to strike her will do no damage and instantly be reduced to a meager one hit point left on their own health pool.

Until the player is able to figure out how to remove this unfair advantage, all they can do is just stand there and do nothing. When they do figure it out, one of their four teammates can go and take a few turns to remove the field effect, while the other three just stand there and do nothing. Once the actual fight begins, Niijima turns into what appears to be a pretty awesome looking Terminator style robot who immediately begins the fight by buffing all of her stats by one stage. Pretty threatening and looking like a decent challenge, right? Unfortunately, just a short bit into the fight she begins essentially writhing in agony at her impending defeat, and more or less just proceeds to start spamming the same two moves in perfect order over and over again. The fight doesn’t even really have a satisfying ending, because this is the only Palace in the game where no treasure is stolen in the end. On paper, this fight looks decently well crafted, but in practice it’s immensely awkward and an unfortunate ending to an otherwise very well built Palace and storyline.

9. Bowser (New Super Mario Bros)

Bowser doesn’t really have any other underwhelming or negative appearances as a boss, so his appearance as the final boss in this 2007 Nintendo DS piece will ultimately be viewed as a hiccup. Nintendo generally handles final boss fights really well, but they definitely dropped the ball here. Bowser is just… extremely easy, non threatening and anti climactic as the final boss here. You show up to his boss room, spam fireballs, and just win. Ending the game then and there. When playing through the game, it’d be entirely reasonable for the player to think “…wait, that’s it? No, there’s got to be more to it than that” only to ultimately be left hanging. There was plenty of room to make this boss fight more exhilarating and challenging. It’s Bowser after all, he has a seemingly endless bag of potential tricks to use especially in his own decked out castle where the fight takes place. It just simply doesn’t happen.

8. Drufi, Herald of Winter (Neverwinter)

The actual boss fight as the developers intended is actually really well made, and is a fitting ending to the lengthy, grindy campaign associated with it. So why does it make an appearance on this list? The developers made one critical, fatal mistake when designing it where a team of players, via the famous “Drufi glitch”, can completely disarm the boss and render her incapable of doing a single thing when the fight begins, where the players can then just run straight up to her, beat the crap out of her while she stands there and does nothing, and then call it a day when her health bar is depleted. This one is really unfortunate on account of how well made it is otherwise. But it just goes to show that game developing truly is a game of inches.

7. Demon Firesage (Dark Souls 1)

As a whole, Dark Souls 1 had an unfortunate list of underwhelming bosses, but this one wasn’t mechanically malfeasant. Rather, this boss wreaks of laziness and is just immensely uninspiring. This boss is a recycled version of the Stray Demon boss fight, who in itself is a recycled version of the Asylum Demon boss fight, the tutorial boss fight of the game. This might not be the end of the world, but the Demon Firesage is fought fairly late in the game when players generally have their end-game builds complete and are ready to shoot for the final boss of the game. So coming across a boss who shares a ton in common with a tutorial boss is, to put it mildly, extremely underwhelming and it feels as though the otherwise masterful FROM Software ran out of ideas for bosses in this part of the game.

6. Metal Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)

This represents the final boss fight of the game. Sure, it came in an era where hand holding was far less commonplace in contemporary gaming, but it is overall still too punishing and serves as more annoying and tedious than genuinely challenging. If the player fails to defeat Metal Sonic on their very first try, subsequent attempts will force them to begin the fight with zero rings, where they are a single hit away from repeated death. Sega should really have left at least a few rings out before entering the boss area. It stands to reason that if a player cannot defeat this boss with a few hits of wiggle room, how should they be able to adequately contend with it when that wiggle room is unfairly taken away from them? No other boss fight requires the player to go in with zero rings even if they previously lost to it, so this mechanic is harshly punishing and detracts from the overall fight itself. For this reason, it was doubtlessly going to appear on this list.

5. The Mother (Dying Light)

Dying Light didn’t get much, if anything else wrong in their masterful game, but their final boss fight of The Following DLC definitely left a lot to be desired. The game essentially takes away all of the player’s equipment, relegating them to just unarmed melee strikes. This ends up with the fight just being tediously long hit-n-runs and melee strike spam, which is pretty anti climatic for how great the DLC was otherwise. In general, taking away a player’s items, skills and abilities is a rather poor design choice in games, and there was no exception in this fight here.

4. Event 51 (Super Smash Bros Melee)

This represents the last Event in Melee’s event mode, pitting the player against Ganondorf, Mewtwo and Giga Bowser on the Final Destination map. These three represent major antagonists from their respective series, so it should seem on paper like a fairly challenging, thematically exhilarating way to end off the Event mode. Instead, the chosen map doesn’t really support the fight too well, everything is clunky, and the fight is either extremely easy for experienced players or brutally hard and unforgiving for newer ones. Either way, the general strategy and critical thinking needed for the previous 50 Events doesn’t really apply here. The player is expected to randomly mash buttons for the most part and hope that their monkey-on-a-typewriter efforts bear fruit. Pretty anti climatic for an otherwise legendary video game.

3. Bed of Chaos (Dark Souls 1)

Considering that even that FROM Software has publicly expressed regret for making this boss fight, it should be little surprise to see it appear on this list. Simply put, this boss fight is stupid. This boss fight’s difficulty isn’t due to running any sort of specific character build, knowing any particular mechanics, or being generally new or experienced. This boss fight’s difficulty is basically chalked up to abusing the game’ shortcomings in a way that the player cannot reliably compensate for. Dark Souls 1’s platforming is a little bit clunky and inconsistent, and that is what this boss fight stresses. It can kill players in one hit because of some random attack it throws out that the player cannot dodge, that knocks them off the cliff to their doom. Once the player actually reaches a position where they can damage the boss, it only takes a few good swings to put them out of commission. Still, this boss doesn’t actually reward or punish the player for any specific skill-based shortcoming. This is easily the worst boss FROM Software has ever made, a shoo-in to appear on this list.

2. H.I.V.E Master (DC Universe Online)

DC Universe Online as a whole presents generally thrilling final bosses to cap off, and the fact that they are well suited for eight players also makes them riveting social experiences for the most part. Unfortunately, they definitely missed out big here, and on arguably their most well made storyline revolving around the Teen Titans as well. Simply put, this boss fight is also stupid. It would be an acceptable one, were it not for one incredibly annoying and harsh mechanic. At various points in the fight, the H.I.V.E Master will do a 360 degree spin where he fires a small laser beam in a straight line all around him. Anybody who gets hit by this laser instantly dies. Moreover, anybody who was not specifically climbing on a wall or flying in the air will die, even if it did not appear to hit the player. Thus, jumping over this puny laser beam will still result in the player dying anyway for some weird reason.

The beam itself is fired without any warning and comes out fast, certainly killing any player who was in the middle of using a power of some kind, who had jumped into the fray and was attacking the H.I.V.E Master, or both. It is a bizarre mechanic that is simply too harsh and results in this fight being more annoying and irritating than actually challenging. Thus, it definitely deserved a spot on this list.

1. Shadow Okumura (Persona 5 Royal)

Hoo boy, time to unpack this one. This is definitely the worst boss fight ever created, and on one of the worst dungeon-crawling experiences to boot as well. To add insult to injury, Atlus had about six years to rectify this before coming out with Persona 5 Royal, and they somehow managed to make it even worse! This boss fight is thematically poor, it is structurally poor, it punishes the player for trying to use a mechanic that is bizarrely and uniquely absent in this specific fight, and it ultimately goes down as being more hair-pulling than actually challenging. To give an idea on how stupid this boss fight is: it is actually ‘easier’ to win this fight when the player is using the Merciless difficulty mode than it is when the player is using the game’s easiest mode, Easy. This is because Okumura’s uninspiring robots will take more damage under Merciless mode than any other difficulty setting.

This boss fight fails fantastically because it is ultimately an uninspiring copy/paste of about half the Palace to this point. To sum it up, this is basically more of just mindlessly beating up Okumura’s robot slaves. When his smaller robots are destroyed, he sends bigger robots. And when his bigger robots are destroyed, he sends the “Executive Chief Director of Okumura Foods” who, wait for it… is a massive robot! When defeating him, Okumura sends a robotic version of his daughter, Haru, who proves to be pretty impotent before the fight basically ends. What’s more, if the player fails to defeat an entire selection of four robots every two turns, they’ll run away and Okumura will essentially reset the phase with robots of similar size to whatever just fled the field. They’ll spend their turns afflicting the Phantom Thieves with stupid statuses, such as the Hunger status (which may just be the dumbest status affliction in any video game ever) or throwing out basic attacks.

At the end of it all, unlike every other Palace ruler, Shadow Okumura himself doesn’t transform into anything and dies in one hit to end off this horrific boss fight. Maybe this could’ve been slightly salvaged if, with his back to the wall, Okumura transformed into something (ideally not a big robot!) that was cool and fun to fight. But he doesn’t, he just packs it in and dies. Kind of like how badly Atlus mailed it in with the experience as a whole.

At the time of writing, this was no doubt easily the worst boss fight ever made in gaming.

‘Dis’honorable mentions for the list:

Pinwheel (Dark Souls 1), Witch of Hemwick (Bloodborne), The Atropal (Neverwinter), Ridley (Super Smash Bros Brawl) and literally every Pokémon Champion ever aside from Cynthia.

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