We’re just under 1/4th of the way through our boss rankings. We’ve made it past the irredeemably bad selections and are onto some picks which failed to live up to their potential or weren’t super memorable, but were also fairly decent experiences that simply didn’t compare to high level picks. It’s our #169-160 selections! Michael ”Mango” Givigliano and I return with more this week. For a reminder of our judgment criteria, see here.
169. Ancient Dragon (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: We begin today’s list with what could very well be a controversial selection. The Ancient Dragon is an entirely optional boss fight. It isn’t even initially hostile, as the player will have to attack it a few times before it will begin to fight back. It is well known for having massive damage output, being able to kill even the tankiest of tanky builds in no more than two hits. It also has the most health of any boss in the game by a long, long shot.
In terms of challenge, this is a difficult one to judge. On one hand, the Ancient Dragon’s raw stats vastly outclass all other bosses in the game. As mentioned, it has no problem killing the player in just two, sometimes even one hit. With a massive health pool, on paper, the Ancient Dragon seems too challenging- simply too overbearing with its massive stats to be able to defeat. Yet, that simply isn’t the case. What the Ancient Dragon has in raw numbers only tries to make up for its horrific move pool. All of its attacks have very easy, ample counterplay and are highly telegraphed. Over the course of an extraordinarily long fight, it is definitely possible for the player to make a lethal mistake as they may grow tired, not being used to such a lengthy affair. Attrition is therefore the main challenge.
In terms of lore, the Ancient Dragon is a demigod who has lived since the dawn of time. Or at least, that’s what the game will try to trick the player into thinking. This Ancient Dragon is actually a creation of Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin. This is evidenced by the fact that the Ancient Dragon drops a Soul of a Giant when defeated.
For fun, the Ancient Dragon missed the mark. It missed the mark by so much, I’d question if it was blind. This is a long, repetitive, arguably unfair fight that drags and drags on forever and ever. Unless you’re desperate to get a Giant Soul to go fight another lengthy fight against King Vendrick, do yourself a favor and just let sleeping dragons lay.
Mango: This boss is extremely mechanically simple. However, it has an enormous health pool, meaning the player will be fighting it for a long time- I gave it a 14 for challenge. The Ancient Dragon gives the player the Ashen Mist Heart which is required to progress the game and enter other memories. It also holds a Soul of a Giant, so you should fight it to make the King Vendrick boss fight less tanky. Because of this, I gave it a 17 for lore. Finally, because all of this boss’ attacks are simple and easy to dodge, I gave it a 7 for fun.
168. Guardian Dragon (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: Another fairly underwhelming dragon boss fight, the Guardian Dragon isn’t necessarily horrific in any one thing. The issue is that it fails to stand out positively at doing anything either. For a dragon boss fight, you naturally expect the fight to have something memorable about it.
Challenge is relatively lackluster, but not totally absent. The Dragon does hit hard and has attacks which cover a lot of ground. Unfortunately, in between assaults, it’s a massive sitting duck for easy hits. Plus, it has a tendency to just fly overhead a good deal and give the player plenty of time to heal or take aim with a ranged weapon. That said, it can still hit quite hard with reasonably tricky dodge times on its attacks, mainly fire breath and when it lands. So it isn’t a total pushover, but it’s hardly a rousing, epic duel of any kind.
Lore for this one is sadly relegated to “well look, it’s a dragon and it’s guarding something.”
In terms of fun, the fight is fair enough but, again, not particularly memorable. Fighting dragons is always at least somewhat entertaining. After all, the player will have likely spent the vast majority of the game up to this point fighting demihumans and other reasonably sized foes, so an enemy whose sides eclipses the scope of the camera is pretty nice. That said, there isn’t anything to distinguish this fight from dragon bosses that From Software did quite a lot better. As such, you could be forgiven for forgetting this fight even existed in this game.
Mango: This dragon likes to fly around a lot and stay out of the range of melee characters. Because of this, I gave it a 17 for difficulty. This boss doesn’t stand out narratively, getting only a 3 for lore from me. Dragons are fun and enjoyable, but this fight only gets a 16 for fun because it was annoying for me personally to fight on my own melee character.
167. Leechmonger (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: This one was, in retrospect, not a bad idea on paper. It’s technically a gimmick boss, but it somewhat stands on its own two feet (metaphorically) without its notable gimmick. The issue is that it has extremely easy counterplay and is further undermined by being the boss of one of the most notoriously horrible areas in Soulsborne- the Valley of Defilement.
In terms of challenge, it really depends on the player’s build. Leechmonger is absurdly weak to Fire and doesn’t actually move, so the Lava Bow or a healthy supply of Firebombs will make short work of it. Without fire, things become more complicated. The Leechmonger, when not being set ablaze, has the unique capability of healing when it attacks. No, we aren’t talking about some kind of throwback Malenia here, but it’s just enough to hassle melee users and make things interesting. As such, aggressive play is encouraged, which can naturally leave the player more open to punishment than usual.
As far as lore goes, there really isn’t much to be found here. Basically, the Leechmonger is a collection of a swarm of leeches which became animate via the fusion of a Demon Soul. It likes to hang out here and attacks things which get too close. Not a lot to go off of.
Setting this thing on fire and watching it just burn and writhe for 15 seconds until it dies can be really funny. Choosing to fight it without heating up, though, creates the interesting dilemma of balancing resources, keeping an eye on the boss’ health bar and actually dealing damage between hits. This keeps the player engaged and, in a nutshell, that’s mostly what a boss fight should do.
Mango: Even though it can regenerate health, Leechmonger’s huge weakness to fire and magic has me only give it a 10 for difficulty. Because of its positioning in the Valley of Defilement, I gave it a 7 for lore. Using fire spells on this thing will allow the player to essentially bulldoze right through it, and with the personal experience of having done this, I gave it a 20 for fun.
166. Dirty Colossus (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: Basically Leechmonger Part 2 minus the healing and weakness to fire. At least this one has a bit more, distinguishing lore to it. That, and, it looks like much more of a bad ass than Leechmonger does.
As far as challenge goes, it’s a little more consistent here because Dirty Colossus doesn’t have such a massive weakness that plagued Leechmonger. However, it also cannot heal itself like Leechmonger can, so the player can be more conservative here.
Lore is what gives this thing the slightest of edges over Leechmonger. Dirty Colossus was essentially formed via all of the garbage and filth created by the people of Boletaria. Basically, it’s living proof that the general populace at least knows how to recycle and dispose of their garbage properly. Guess there won’t be any issues with global warming- just problems with demons destroying entire cities and harvesting the souls of the dead for all sorts of dastardly purposes. Take that, EPA!
Fun is a bit unique for this one. By the time the player has reached this boss, assuming they don’t lose to it, they can mercifully put the Valley of Defilement behind them, which is cause for enormous relief all on its own. As for the boss itself, it has an interestingly designed boss room. Dirty Colossus can, unsurprisingly, afflict the player with muck and filth that will slow them down and cause them to deal less damage. There are a selection of torches hung up around the area that can serve as a one-time remedy of this. Alternatively, despite its lack of weakness to fire, the player could lure Dirty Colossus over to a torch, hit it hard and drive it into a torch for major damage. The interactivity of the boss area gives this fight wings.
Mango: It isn’t quite as weak to fire as Leechmonger is, but it is still weak to fire, so I gave Dirty Colossus a 10 for difficulty. Lore is similar to Leechmonger, and i gave it a 7 as a result. Clearly, between Leechmonger and Dirty Colossus, there is a lot of fun to be had with fire- I gave this a 16 for fun. My personal experience of blowing this guy up with fire was very entertaining. Bring fire to the Valley of Defilement!
165. (Blue) Smelter Demon (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: Let’s be clear on something- the existence of this fight is a massive blemish on From Software and is one of the most insulting farces they’ve displayed. The reason for this is that it’s a reskin of another boss. This might not be the absolute end of the world were it not for the fact that Blue Smelter Demon is a boss found in Dark Souls 2’s Crown of the Iron King DLC. That means people paid extra just to experience a reskin boss!
The only part of this fight that isn’t absolutely disgusting is the fight difficulty. Admittedly, this fight is quite challenging. As well, it has slightly different timings juxtaposed to the OG Smelter Demon, so that could and likely will throw a player off. In its second phase, it will begin to deal extremely heavy magic damage with its sword, while anyone getting up in its face will take chip damage from the magical fire burning inside its body. This is in the discussion for hardest fight in Dark Souls 2, and it’s not unimaginable that it could show up in someone’s top 10 for Soulsborne as a whole. The biggest issue is that it gets mostly invalidated by a Greatshield with high or even 100% magical absorption.
There is nothing this boss does in terms of lore. The base game’s Smelter Demon actually has really interesting lore that just makes Blue Smelter’s lack thereof even more disappointing.
Any sort of fun that could be had in this fight is ruined by two things: the run up to the boss and, again, the fact that the player basically paid extra for a reskin. The run up is littered with oppressive ganks, ranged fights with spellcasters that melee players can’t touch, a mini boss and suffocatingly narrow terrain that gives the player next to no room to maneuver themselves to engage with a gank fight. As has been touched on, the fact that From Software wanted the player to pay even more money for an extremely similar boss fight is insulting.
Mango: Blue Smelter Demon is definitely more challenging than its orange counterpart, with different timings on its attacks and hitting a lot harder. However, because this is mostly just a reskin, I gave it a 16 for difficulty. Lore gets just a 4 because this boss isn’t even required within the DLC, being a side boss. Finally, I didn’t appreciate this boss being a reskin- sure, it has some slight variations in attack timings, but that’s the only real difference between it and the Smelter Demon.
164. Pthumerian Descendent (Bloodborne)
Andrew: The dynamic for this fight is actually somewhat similar to Gideon Ofnir the All-Knowing. Basically, imagine fighting a PvP match against an opponent who does nothing but rush at you and spam attacks. Then imagine that this was made into a boss fight. The result is the Pthumerian Descendent, a chalice dungeon boss.
Despite how simple playing around spammy play in PvP is, it’s quite a bit harder when it’s being done by a boss. While you actually can parry Pthumerian Descendent, the window to do so is hard to capitalize on, and he will punish failed attempts immensely with how aggressive he is. He truly is relentless, rushing straight up to the player from moment one and never really backing down. That also means opportunities to heal are hard fought for, as well as windows to get in hits without trading blows.
Like most chalice dungeons bosses, Pthumerian Descendent has no appreciable narrative value whatsoever. The only thing we can even try and scrounge up is his name- the title of ‘descendent’ implies that he is involved with perhaps royalty or some kind of important family line of some kind. There is absolutely nothing, not even a hint to go off of that gives anymore information, unfortunately.
Fun is a bit tricky to judge here. On one hand, aggressive boss fights are always fun. As discussed with the Ancient Dragon, a fight which drags on is anticlimactic, so we don’t experience that issue here. However, Pthumerian Descendent is very one dimensional and doesn’t have any real depth other than running up to the player and beginning to spam attacks. That, and, spamming in general is relatively cumbersome to face.
Mango: This boss is absolutely relentless and hardly even gives the player a chance to attack. This made it worthy of a high 18 for difficulty. While the chalice dungeons are optional, exploring them gives the player the opportunity to acquire strong blood gems for their weapons- Pthumerian Descendent guards some of these gems, so I gave it a 10 for lore. Fun gets a 16- because of how aggressive this boss is, there is a lot of stress on finding windows to attack back and dodging can be quite hard.
163. Old Hero (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: This was another gimmick fight from From Software. For its time, it was actually a really good idea. It hasn’t aged terribly well, but it’s at least a gimmick that isn’t a total joke.
Challenge is actually not as poor as you might think. Yes, the Thief Ring makes it hard for him to hit the player. Yes, even without it, a ranged player can take him down without much issue. However, while he might not be able to track the player, the Old Hero will certainly try. He will happily swing his Large Sword of Searching errantly until it hits or he dies. He happens to hit absurdly hard, two-shotting tanky builds and destroying anything else in one swipe. This means that he can actually be quite oppressive when the player is not equipped with a Thief Ring. As such, a hit and run strategy will be needed and, even then, death due to bad luck in terms of where he chooses to swing his sword is very possible.
Lore for this one is actually quite interesting and is well reflected on by what the player can do with the Old Hero soul after beating him. Basically, the Old Hero was a legendary warrior who was resurrected from the dead by the Old One. At least, his fighting prowess was. His personality and general demeanor were entirely shifted via a ritual performed by the Shadowmen, who molded him into what was essentially the role of a pawn. The Old Hero supposedly ’sought storms’, hence his Large Sword of Searching and his presence at the Shrine of Storms. As well, his soul can be used to purchase the miracle Second Chance, a miracle that will immediately revive the player if they fall- this is well reflected by Old Hero being brought back from the dead. The main critique for Old Hero’s lore would be, while interesting and creative, it doesn’t make a major impact on the game’s broader narrative and is truly difficult to fully experience given how boss souls in these games work and make his items hard to both get.
In terms of fun, this fight offers something that, to this day, hasn’t really been seen again- a cat and mouse experience. Old Hero hits really hard and has a formidable healthpool to back it up. Rushing in and trading blows with him will go remarkably poorly, so the player is generally encouraged to try hit-and-run to deal with him; getting in and taking advantage of his blindness to get in quick hits before he figures out where the player is and hits back. It was a good idea that will hopefully be performed again in the future with more modernized technique.
Mango: Old Hero may hit hard, but he’s overall trivialized by the Thief Ring, so I gave it a 7 for difficulty. You have to go through him in order to reach the king of the Shrine of Storms. For this reason, I gave it a 10 for lore. Finally, it does feel a little bit bad beating on a giant blind guy, and I personally felt more bad than fun fighting him for that reason- I gave it a 9 for fun.
162. Undead Giant (Bloodborne)
Andrew: The chalice dungeons offered a mixture of lame reskins and new bosses that aren’t seen outside of them. Undead Giant is the latter, scaled for a level 60-80 player to fight.
Difficulty is quite apparent in this fight. At first, the Undead Giant is relatively passive. When second phase begins, however, is when he becomes dangerous. Here, he begins to aggressively wield a ball-and-chain combo of weapons, which will do unbelievably high damage. In fact, he has a two hit combo with this that is virtually guaranteed to one-shot a player who isn’t overleveled for the fight. The one dimensional nature to this makes it hard to give it too much credit, but it offers an edge that can make losing this fight definitely a reasonable prospect.
Like many chalice dungeon bosses, the Undead Giant is devoid of any lore value whatsoever. There isn’t even the breadcrumb of using his name to derive any narrative value like with Pthumerian Descendent.
In terms of fun, the volatility of this boss fight makes each experience facing him feel relatively fresh, as if you can’t truly master it. However, the two hit ball-and-chain combo is a little bit cheap with its proportionately high damage output, which can make the fight a little bit unfair. Still, this boss is challenging and, in a nutshell, offers a useful challenge to make it quite entertaining.
Mango: This boss can easily catch the player off guard using lingering hit boxes and large attacks, so I gave it a 12 for difficulty. This guy does show up a few times after his first fight, but this is still the completely optional chalice dungeons we’re talking about here, so I only gave it a 4 for lore. Finally, this boss is pretty much a big, slow punching bag without much to intensify the experience, so I only gave it a 4 for fun.
161. Dragonrider (Dark Souls 2)
Andrew: Despite being clearly easier overall than the Dragonrider Duo, this singular Dragonrider gets a higher spot on the list for a few reasons. One of them has to do with the boss area, the other being that this is the first Dragonrider encounter, so it isn’t a lame reskin and the third is that it’s not a lazily designed gank fight for artificial difficulty. Unfortunately, it is still deeply flawed.
Difficulty for this fight is easy- dead zero. The Dragonrider is pathetically slow, can be parried, and can even be driven to fall off the edge of his own boss area into instant death. He can be defeated easily by any build by simply circle strafing him until he whiffs an attack horribly, then punishing these whiffs.
As mentioned with the Dragonrider Duo, the Dragonriders are essentially Drangleic’s military force, the Royal Guard of King Vendrick. They have a rigorous acceptance process that makes them very high maintenance and prestigious. Seems that this one may have kidnapped and impersonated a real Dragonrider though, as it’s so aloof that it has difficulty simply not rushing off a cliffside to its death. Again, very poor representation of its lore, but important lore to the overall narrative.
Fun is derived mainly through one thing- can you lead this Dragonrider off the edge of the platform to its death? As it happens, there are several reliable methods to get this to work. All of them culminate in the silliest ending to a boss fight in all of Dark Souls 2, and that can be extremely funny to experience.
Mango: Dragonrider does hit pretty hard, but there are ways to make it kill itself by wandering off the edge to its death- I gave it a 10 for difficulty. By beating this boss, the player is allowed to proceed to the No Man’s Wharf area and continue the game, so I gave it a 12 for lore. Last off, this boss can be parried, so I gave it an 8 for fun.
160. Storm King (Demon’s Souls)
Andrew: The Archstone Demon of the fourth world, the Storm King supplies brilliant aesthetics for its area, the opportunity to wield one of the coolest weapons in the game, and that’s about it. This fight, however, should still be appreciated for the thematic spectacle it turned into.
Difficulty is dependent on your build, but isn’t terribly much in any case. Melee builds will have it hardest, forced to traverse the enormous boss area and retrieve the almighty Storm Ruler to swat these vicious manta rays down. If you’re a magic caster or have a powerful bow with a large stock of arrows, this fight will be over in less than a minute. The Storm Ruler remains an option for any player that, by itself, trivializes the fight completely.
Considering this boss’ status as an Archstone Demon, its lore is relatively lackluster. Basically, this beast is what the Shadowmen of the Shrine of Storms worship. They believe its presence brings forth rain and thunder, thus creating a storm. That does adequately give the Storm King enough lore to actually be taken seriously, but it doesn’t stand out and isn’t seriously important on the broad overall narrative. Being an Archstone Demon that the player is forced to kill to obtain an ending is minimally valuable, although one could then make the argument that this is the only thing separating Storm King from other, lesser bosses such as Old Hero or the Adjudicator with respect to lore.
If you don’t derive joy from the eye candy that this boss area’s aesthetics provide, you’ll surely have an absolutely blast using the Storm Ruler. For the simple act of enjoying the experience, even magic casting or archer builds should go to the effort of retrieving it. Swatting those manta rays out of the sky after they pestered and harassed the player for two whole levels is a dopamine rush, and that goes double for melee builds who haven’t been able to fight those annoying creatures back until now. Between the aesthetics and the thrill of commanding the Storm Ruler, this is easily the best fight seen on this list yet in terms of providing a thematic spectacle. Even if the lack of real difficulty diminishes this somewhat.
Mango: Like Andrew said, the difficulty for this boss largely depends on what weapons you have available. It can be pretty simple with the right build, so I gave it a 10 for difficulty. Since this is the very final boss of the Shrine of Storms, I gave it a 13 for lore. This is another very gimmicky boss found in this list, so I gave it an 11 for fun.
Michael ”Mango” Givigliano, is a woodworker residing in the town of Alvin, Texas. He has managed to finish a ’Soul Level 1’ playthrough of Dark Souls 3, a run where Mango did not at any point spend Souls to level up his character before finishing the base game and DLC. He has also finished a ”broken-broken straightsword” play through, where he used the game’s weakest weapon with even weaker stats as a result of depleting its durability to beat the game. His favorite From Software game is Dark Souls 3, and his favorite boss fight would be against Slave Knight Gael. You can find his YouTube channel, where he occasionally uploads Elden Ring and Dark Souls 3 content, here