Columns Soulsborne Boss Fight Rankings Worst to Best

Soulsborne Boss Fight Rankings #109-100 “Secret Boss Edition” | Column from the Editor

Approaching the halfway mark, the quality is fittingly beginning to rise. Let’s have a look at the run up to our century mark boss in this one, which will end off with a couple ‘secret’ boss fights. For a reminder of the criteria for judgment, see here.

109. The One Reborn (Bloodborne)

This one would have to take the cake for one of the most disgusting bosses in franchise history. It is basically a giant sentient mass of rotting carcasses, not unlike that of Demon’s Souls’ Dirty Colossus. It’s moveset is also quite grotesque as well, giving it the ability to literally rain dead bodies down onto the player, surround itself with what can only be described as some form of poison excrement and use one of its seven legs to try kicking the player. Truly a work of art- a nauseating one at that.

Difficulty is this boss’ main criticism. All of the ‘golden rules’ of Bloodborne work to great effect, namely getting behind the creature, keeping a wary eye for anything it might telegraph, and going wild attacking it with mostly reckless abandon otherwise. The One Reborn has one AoE attack that deals devastating damage, though it can be seen coming from a mile away and easily dodged. The aforementioned poison excrement attack will force the player to back off for a bit, but counter play is still easy. Other than that, the rally mechanic just about totally invalidates any serious damage this boss can do.

Lore is all over the place for this one, but is unique and interesting nevertheless. Up to this point, the player has had the opportunity to use a Beckoning Bell along with Insight to summon NPC Hunters as well as other players for help. In the cutscene preceding this boss, we see a series of Bell-Bearing Women do exactly this, indicating that the school of Mensis has the ability to use these bells, and unsurprisingly has quite a lot of Insight.

If you’re familiar with the Tower Knight of Demon’s Souls, this fight will feel like a throwback. It replicates everything about that fight nearly perfectly: the cutscene showcasing the Bell-Bearing Women, who aid the One Reborn similarly to Tower Knight’s archers with projectile support and the process of eliminating these women before confronting the boss itself. Unfortunately, it gets one key thing wrong in translation: The One Reborn is a mid game boss, where people will have had the opportunity to get at least a decent grasp of the game as a whole. Tower Knight is typically fought very early on in Demon’s Souls, where the player will not be as experienced, and learning to deal with the knight’s support first requires a sense of awareness that makes that fight a great teacher. As a result, this fight feels a bit out of its element, and it really would’ve been better suited for the early game. Still, it plays out well enough and has that side effect of nostalgia.

108. Tree Sentinel (Elden Ring)

Tree Sentinel was ultimately the cause of many new players giving up on one of the greatest games ever. This boss can be accessed extremely early in the player’s playthrough, before they even have the chance to level up should they desire it. It is one of few bosses to see reskins that didn’t get cumbersome to face multiple times, as it is very well rounded.

Challenge out of the gate is quite high. All of the Tree Sentinel’s attacks operate off of heavily delayed attacks off of enormous wind ups, something which becomes consistent across the rest of the game. As well, riding a large horse, the sentinel can catch up to the player and close distance easily while threatening to kill in two or even one hit. This is a fight where positioning is absolutely critical, as the player will constantly want to dodge towards the off-hand side of the sentinel if they want to get in hits of their own with any consistency. They’ll only have a maximum of five flasks to work with as well, so resource conservation can be tricky as well.

The Tree Sentinels are said to have been commissioned with guarding the Erdtree. That said, it’s a bit confusing why this one is positioned so far away from the tree. Given that this one is very close to the Church of Ellen, it would perhaps have made sense to station one Tree Sentinel by every church in the game, which would’ve offered the reasoning of patrolling these common grounds in search of those who would threaten the Erdtree. Even still, it at least provides a clear and easy reason for why the Tree Sentinel is an antagonist in the first place, which is good enough.

The Tree Sentinel is the perfect embodiment of a colloquial psychological phenomenon known as “The Black Knight Effect.” This concept originated in Dark Souls 1, where the player has numerous opportunities to fight a Black Knight early in the game. In the early game, the Black Knight’s stats vastly outclass both the player and anything they’ve fought up to this point. It is understandable if the average player cannot take one down, so they can simply go through the game, get stronger and then come back when they’re ready. The Tree Sentinel is indeed scaled for an encounter much higher level than a fresh new character, so it’s understandable if the player simply can’t handle it right away. Given Elden Ring’s open world nature, it is easy to simply leave the sentinel for a later time. This degree of flexibility also makes this fight replayable.

107. Night’s Cavalry (Elden Ring)

Take Tree Sentinel, make it a bit less lethal, a good deal faster and with a more varied moveset, and you get Night’s Cavalry. Although not spread out in the Lands Between as Tree Sentinel, Night’s Cavalry can be fought multiple times within Limgrave. As the title suggests, it can only be fought at night time.

Where Tree Sentinel was scaled for a level higher than the player when they arrive at it, Night’s Cavalry is a bit more ‘fair’ and is scaled to be a low level encounter. As a result, difficulty isn’t quite as high, but is still definitely there. Like Tree Sentinel, expect a healthy helping of incredibly delayed attacks, high mobility courtesy of its horse and, unlike Tree Sentinel, Night’s Cavalry can actually afflict a reckless player with Blood Loss.

The Night’s Cavalry are commanded by Margit, the Fell Omen. Margit’s overall goal is to deny the player the ability to reach the Erdtree, and his mission begins the moment the player’s does. He has essentially sent the cavalry out to deal with not just the player, but anyone in general who would have their same goals.

The Night’s Cavalry hunts the player and gives off the impression that they could be around any corner waiting to pounce. We hadn’t seen a boss like that since Dark Souls 2, and though Dark Souls 2’s iteration is doubtlessly much, much better, this one still manages to achieve the ‘one eye open while asleep, tread extremely carefully with a hand on my sword at all times’ type of fear.

106. Abhorrent Beast (Bloodborne)

A hidden gem found deep inside Bloodborne’s Chalice Dungeons, the Abhorrent Beast is an adrenaline inducing epic duel. It is arguably the game’s fastest paced, most sheerly aggressive boss in the game, and that’s saying quite a lot. While there isn’t much more to be said about it, this alone is exactly what makes Bloodborne as strong a game as it is.

This fight is extremely difficult, and for all of the right reasons. The Abhorrent Beast is the master at testing the player’s ability to position themselves, as it can close the gap in a second flat with half of its moveset. It can protect itself if the player manages to flank it, it gives barely so much as a second to heal or get in hits, and when it does damage itself, it leaves one massive mark. It was very encouraging to see From Software put together a boss like this without it needing to be a lame, lazy gank fight.

Lore is unfortunately mostly absent in this boss. It truly is a shame it had to be a chalice dungeon feature, as if it was a main game boss, it likely would’ve had quite a bit of narrative impact.

Fun is a perfect score, no question about it. This fight’s capacity to immerse the player fully is almost uncontested due to how active the beast tends to be. At no point does it begin to feel unfair, as the player has the means to match its aggression thanks to Bloodborne’s stellar combat mechanics. It’s a shame this fight had next to no narrative impact, as well as being buried so deep in the chalice dungeons.

105. Aava, King’s Pet (Dark Souls 2)

One of the more interesting bosses in terms of placement, Aava can actually be fought the moment the player accesses the Crown of the Ivory King DLC and enters Frozen Eleum Loyce. If done so, they will find that Aava is just about completely invisible and cannot be locked on to. The player could proceed to fight like this, but they are encouraged by the game to explore the city and locate a tool to render Aava visible and more easily fought.

Aava hits incredibly hard, with split physical and magic damage imbued within its paw attacks. It has a nasty grab attack as well as the ability to throw its own take of Homing Crystal Soulmass at the player too. With high mobility to back all of this up, Aava is a consistent challenge for builds of all kinds.

Like Lud and Zallen, Aava is one of the Ivory King’s pets, hence the name. Aava was specifically tasked with defending the King’s love, Alsanna, who is audibly heard telling the player to leave Eleum Loyce and then ordering Aava to attack when the player does not. Given that there are seven pets, four of them are unknown, and we have a figure in Alsanna who eventually asks the player to grant the Ivory King an honorable death, there is a direct parallel to the Daughters of Chaos from Dark Souls 1. Given that the Ivory King’s throne room is positioned directly over what was once Izalith, and that his queen, Alsanna, is a fragment of Manus, it’s worth wondering if Aava itself has any connection to Izalith.

Ava’s fight has good replayability, as the player can try fighting it while it remains invisible as a ‘challenge run’ of sorts. Whether fought this way or fought with Aava in plain sight, this fight is still quite thrilling due to Ava’s variable moveset and high mobility. It’s aggressiveness makes getting greedy quite risky, but it is also relatively fair due to Dark Souls 2’s overall slower than average gameplay. This fight was, in many ways, a breath of fresh (and maybe cold) air.

104. Magma Wyrm Makar (Elden Ring)

A mid game boss, Makar is somewhat of a turning point where, moving forward, the relative damage output of boss fights really starts to rise. Makar is a big beast with the means to defend his flank and overwhelm greatshield users easily.

Makar is relatively unimposing during first phase, but second phase is where things start to get tight. Here, Makar can spew lava from his mouth and simultaneously charge at the player, easily breaking the guard of a shielding player and swiftly eliminating one who gets caught by the brunt of the attack. In general, Makar’s attacks inflict high amounts of Fire and Strike damage, elements which are typically ignored by most armors in the game. Hitting Makar can be deceptively difficult for melee builds, as he is constantly surrounded by lava and on the move, while having a beefy health bar to make the fight last.

While the player will have had the opportunity to face dragons by this point, Makar represents a few new challenges for a big beast type that make the fight memorable and entertaining. Makar’s ability to defend his flank is crucial, and the player also cannot get underneath him to deal easy damage like a typical big beast type fight. In many ways, this fight is similar to Bloodborne’s Lawrence the First Vicar, and though it didn’t become quite as iconic, it is still a step up from the various reskins of Magma Wyrm we see throughout the game.

103. Regal Ancestor Spirit (Elden Ring)

This is Elden Ring’s spectacle fight, a common idea across From Software games. The focus behind this boss was obviously maximizing the atmosphere and aesthetic quality as opposed to the actual fight itself.

Difficulty is absolutely a miss, as the player should have this boss dead in 30 seconds unless they’re too busy watching it majestically gallop across the beautiful boss room. The Regal Ancestor Spirit hits like a wet noodle and dies fast, making it pose little threat.

The player, as it happens, actually has a hand in ‘constructing’ this boss. As they travel through Nokron, they’ll locate and be prompted to light a series of heavily guarded flames. Once done, a carcass of a deer which is also heavily guarded will seemingly come to life. Interacting with it teleports the player into the boss area. The spirit is essentially a godlike entity for the people of Sofria and Nokron, and is both protected and worshipped as such.

It takes somewhat of a refined palate to enjoy spectacle fights in these games. Truly, the atmosphere for this boss area is breath taking, as it feels as though the conflict is taking place in outer space, if space also happened to have a beautiful lake with even perfect lighting to boot. The color scheme of the spirit greatly contributes and gives a surprisingly harmonious feeling to the area, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the player entered Nokron or Limgrave for the first time.

102. Lichdragon Fortisaxx (Elden Ring)

Somewhat of a ‘secret’ encounter, Fortisaxx can be accessed taking a massive detour within the Deeproot Depths, an area which already required quite the trek to access. Players will likely be amidst one of two different questlines which involve them arriving here.

Lichdragon Fortisaxx poses one capability that hasn’t been seen since Seath the Scaleless, or Dark Souls 3’s Oceiros if you count him as a dragon; instakill. The ‘lich’ part of his name isn’t an accident, as he has numerous attacks which cause Death Blight build up and can easily cause the player to immediately lose the fight. Even if the player is doing well, this mechanic keeps Fortisaxx threatening right until his HP finally hits 0. On top of that, lighting attacks with tricky tells, strong hitting melee attacks, a challenging second phase and a highly mobile dragon keep this fight challenging.

Interestingly, we see a bit of a Dark Souls 1 parallel in terms of lore here. Fortisaxx is said to have allied himself with Godefroy the Grafted during the Ancient War of Dragons, not unlike how Seath the Scaleless betrayed his kind in providing Lord Gwyn with the dragons’ weakness and allowing them to win that war. As previously stated, Fortisaxx brings forth an element that hadn’t been seen in a particularly large dragon since Seath. As such, it’s fair to assume that this narrative dynamic was a very subtle call out to the first Dark Souls game, and designed incredibly well at that.

Status inducing bosses drive up the player’s adrenaline, but nothing can compare to a literal instakill build up in terms of inducing fear. There will scarcely be a moment in this fight where the player isn’t pressing a button of some kind, be it to dodge, attack, heal, perhaps apply a Preserving Bolus to fight Death Blight, and more. That type of excitement makes for a very entertaining boss fight.

101. Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin (Dark Souls 2)

A true secret boss, Aldia is fought in the aptly named “Scholar of the First Sin” edition of Dark Souls 2. His fight is accessed by exhausting every one of his dialogue scenes and defeating Vendrick before defeating Nashandra at the Throne of Want. If this criteria is met, after Nashandra is defeated, Aldia will immediately appear as a boss fight.

Difficulty isn’t so much tied to Aldia’s ability to quickly defeat the player, as much as the issue is the exact opposite. Aldia constantly surrounds himself with a deadly fire that makes damaging him with melee almost impossible without immediately dying. He will occasionally teleport or prepare a deadly attack, during which the fire is briefly quenched and the player can potentially get some hits in. He is quite tanky, so the main challenge to this fight is attrition.

Aldia is arguably the most well rounded, relatable and enjoyable narrative figure in the entire game. He is King Vendrick’s brother, and due to their disagreements on how things should be run around Drangleic, Aldia essentially distanced himself from Vendrick. He appears numerous times to test the player’s moral senses as well as feed them helpful information on the outcome of their actions. Specifically, he will encourage the player to do what they themselves believe is right rather than feel obligated to take the throne, link the first flame, or watch the flame die out and beckon in an age of dark. In fact, once Aldia is defeated, he will inform the player that the throne is their’s for the taking should they desire it. He clearly would prefer the player walk away from the throne and leave it unattended to, and this will be further reflected by dialogue he has if the player does choose to walk away from the throne. Overall, Aldia was something of a middle ground between in the classic angel/devil dilemma, and his presence in reminding the player that they ultimately control their own destiny is simple, appreciable and incredibly memorable.

Atmosphere makes up most of the fun here, as the pacing for the fight is notoriously slow. As well, if the player heads here after beating Giant Lord and completing the prerequisites for Aldia to show up, then he will be the third boss of a de facto gauntlet that saw the player have to beat Throne Watcher & Defender and Nashandra before fighting Aldia, presenting a unique challenge.

100. Moon Presence (Bloodborne)

Bloodborne’s secret boss fight, this one is accessed by acquiring and using three One-Third Umbilical Cords and then defeating Gehrman the First Hunter.

Difficulty is somewhat of a miss. This boss is a beast like fight, something the player has encountered many times up to this point. As such, the Moon Presence’s moveset is mostly attacks the player knows how to deal with by now. However, the one ace in the hole it has is an attack that is unavoidable and immediately reduces the player’s HP to just a single point. This, however, is followed by it needing to recharge and lay down, completely vulnerable for a long time. The player can use the rally mechanic to get most, if not all the HP back. It’s only truly brutal for new, passive players.

The Moon Presence is essentially responsible for all of the horrible things going on in Yharnam, such as the scourge of beasts or the Ashen Blood virus. As Gehrman was its surrogate, and he was killed, it will look to the player to take Gehrman’s place. In a cutscene after Gehrman’s defeat, it will embrace the player warmly as it essentially hypnotizes them into taking Gehrman’s place. If the player has used the aforementioned items, however, they will repel the Moon Presence to prevent this. In a fit of rage, it will attack the player as a means of demanding their compliance. This makes Moon Presence easily the most narratively impactful character in the game.

A fight which encourages use of the rally mechanic is going to score well on fun due to how brilliant rally as a whole is. Moon Presence is easily the best example of such a dynamic in the entire game, given that the player can restore enormous amounts of health with rally here. However, it is a pretty standard beast boss otherwise, which is a little disappointing given the effort needed and the importance behind unlocking this boss.

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