Columns Soulsborne Boss Fight Rankings Worst to Best

Soulsborne Boss Fight Rankings #89-80 | Column from the Editor

We have passed the halfway mark of the series, and will proceed further into the territory of genuinely good boss fights. As a reminder for the criteria for judgment, see  here. Without further ado, let’s continue!

89. Death Rite Bird (Elden Ring)

A boss seen four times throughout Elden Ring, the Death Rite Bird is consistently threatening and also quite rewarding. All iterations are scaled for a late game encounter, where the player will likely be mechanically seasoned enough to take it on competently.

Difficulty here is high, and this stems from the Death Rite Bird checking all the boxes: you’ve got high damage output, high mobility, a varied moveset and a fair health pool. The Bird’s moveset in particular is challenging, boasting a powerful incantation, a grab attack, a couple of heavy hitting slams and generally confusing telegraphs that can easily put the player on the back foot. Overall, Death Rite Bird’s dynamic is simple on paper, complex in practice and a fair, engaging challenge.

Death Rite Bird’s level of immersiveness is supplemented by the consistently strong aesthetic it is found in. At Caelid, it is fought inside an apocalyptic wasteland. In Consecrated Snowfield, the player does battle with it amidst a raging blizzard. Combine this with its solid, strong stats and this boss checks out well in the fun department.

88. Nashandra (Dark Souls 2)

One of two possible final bosses, Nashandra brings a lot of narrative relevance and an interesting, unique albeit slightly frustrating gimmick. She also boasts quite the reward for those who take her down.

Nashandra’s Scythe of Want is scary, dealing tons of damage on a direct hit. Unfortunately, Nashandra herself has a very poor melee moveset with very distinct telegraphs that are very easy to react to. Enter her main gimmick to help defend against this; Nashandra will periodically spawn a handful of dark orbs around her. If the player is near them, they’ll take constant minor damage and, worse yet, receive constant Curse build up. These orbs can be destroyed in a single hit, but Nashandra can easily replace them. As well, leaving Nashandra’s melee range will trigger her AI to use a deadly dark laser beam with above average tracking that deals a ton of damage. Overall, Nashandra has massive damage potential and a gimmick that can greatly pressure the player that are compensated by her having a horrible moveset, making a middling grade for difficulty appropriate.

As the Queen of Drangleic and wife of King Vendrick, Nashandra is clearly a very narratively important character. It is a little unfortunate that her arrival is spoiled by the Emerald Herald, as the interesting plot twist of Nashandra wanting the Throne of Want to herself would’ve been a lot more impactful if it was entirely a surprise. Still, this was a neat plot twist after the player’s first meeting with Nashandra was with her magically under the guise of being human, and looking quite beautiful at that. Being a fragment of Manus, Father of the Abyss, Nashandra’s loaded resume made her lore rating easy.

On one hand, this fight does a good job giving the player an additional threat to worry about without being a lame gank fight. On the other, Nashandra’s bland moveset makes her rather unthreatening despite having such high damage output, so this can reduce the amount of pressure she can exert noticeably. The real kicker comes with the player’s reward for winning the fight- they can either have her intimidating scythe, a powerful Chime for spellcasters, a useful bow or a neat shield. All are quality options that give just about any ‘build’ a useful option for winning this fight. As such, it’s a decently memorable encounter.

87. Sinh the Slumbering Dragon (Dark Souls 2)

This is a fight which has not aged terribly well, as many, many better dragon bosses have been showcased over the last six and a half years within Soulsborne. Still, for its time, this fight would’ve likely been a top 59, maybe even 25 pick as it’s an entertaining fight against a giant dragon- what’s not to like?

Sinh’s level of difficulty can range anywhere from ‘decently engaging and tricky’ to ‘brutally unforgiving and seemingly insurmountable’ depending on the build. Uniquely, Sinh is a dragon who actually greatly resists Lightning rather than being weak to it. As such, Miracle builds will struggle here due to Sinh’s tendency to weave and dance around melee assaults, which would be all such a build could do to solidly damage him. As well, Sinh’s X-Factor for this fight stems from his apparently corrosive skin. Attacking Sinh will damage the weapon’s durability for 2.5x the norm, causing fragile weapons to break incredibly quickly, forcing the player to come with at least one back up. As such, Sinh’s bite is plenty as effective as his toxic-inducing bark.

Sinh’s history within the Sanctum City is very interesting, and the environment does a good job telling this tale. In particular, the player may notice a massive spear is lodged into Sinh’s neck; this was the work of Yorgh the Sunken King and, incidentally, this spear may be acquired for the player via Sinh’s boss soul.

On one hand, fighting a dragon who has a complex moveset and has high, but fair stats makes Sinh unique amongst Dark Souls 2 dragons, given that his competition in the Guardian and Ancient Dragon are mediocre at best. On the other, the durability mechanic is frustrating to begin with, and fighting Sinh unfortunately amplifies this issue. As well, Sinh’s AI can occasionally cause Sinh to do a lot of flying up high, putting him out of melee range. This can sometimes result in the player having a lot of down time where all they can really do is stand there and watch Sinh until he finally decides to land and return to being approachable. On the other hand, with so many awful dragon bosses across Soulsborne, with only Dark Souls 1’s Black Dragon Kalameet really breaking the mold, Sinh being a strong, entertaining fight makes him stand out.

86. Demi-Human Queen (Elden Ring)

Probably one of the most overlooked fights in all of Elden Ring, the Demi Human-Queens are consistently a thrill to fight. Though they lack any sort of build up and have relatively mediocre atmosphere, the actual fight itself makes up for this. By far, the best iteration of this fight stems from fighting Maggie right in front of Sorcerer Azur, who rewards the player with arguably the best sorcery in the game when they’ve defeated her.

The Queen can threaten the player with two things- deadly, powerful blunt force or relatively mild but still respectable sorcery. Either way, expect a healthy helping of enormous wind ups, distinct telegraphs, long combos and high damage output. Emphasis on the latter in particular, as her two handed overhead slams can easily kill quickly. As well, Maggie is joined by a group of sorcerers, making this a gank fight and causing difficulty to be unsurprisingly high.

All in all, one of the biggest things these fights have going for them is accessibility. Sure, they aren’t anything too out of the ordinary on paper, but all Demi-Human Queen fights are easy to access, only one of them actually requires a resource in the Stonesword Key to reach, and all of them are consistently fast paced. In other words, if you want a good, quick, simple fight, you’ve got it here.

85. Black Knife Assassins/Alecto, Black Knife Leader (Elden Ring)

Gimmick fights, the Black Knife Assassins are a consistently engaging tilt. With a couple unique twists and a massive reward for beating Alecto, they’re a good idea for any player to seek out.

Difficulty is relatively high, and in one instance, can climb higher than the indicated grade. As far as Alecto goes, she is actually not such an occurrence, but she is still threatening with her unique death-imbued blade, sporting similar properties to Maliketh the Black Blade. As such, she is efficient at chewing through the player’s healing flasks and keeping up the pressure. However, all of the Black Knives are rather frail, stagger very easily and the gimmick has more or less run it’s course by the time the player reaches Alecto. Their ability to pose a threat is contingent on how the player cannot actually see them all the time. In one case, they’ll need a very specific torch just to see them at all. They can be tracked by the sound of their footsteps, or by paying attention to the environment; a blade of grass moving, a puddle of water experiencing a few ripples or an outright footstep can suffice.

The Black Knife Assassins got their name because they were the ones who assassinated Godefroy the Grafted. In the process, Tiche, Alecto’s daughter, was killed. Alecto herself seems to have been caught and imprisoned as well, as this fight takes place in a Gaol rather than the field or a dungeon.

The most noteworthy thing about this fight, specifically the one with Alecto, is the reward the player gets for winning. The prize in question is the spirit summon Black Knife Tiche, arguably the best and certainly at least the second best spirit in the entire game, with by far the highest DPS of them all at that. Beyond that, fights with the Black Knives are just fast paced in general. Their limited, or in one case complete invisibility forces the player to remain engaged at least subconsciously due to the need to match their aggression and fast pace. As such, a high grade for fun is appropriate.

84. Dragonkin Soldier of Nokstella (Elden Ring)

This is a boss for whom Elden Ring’s new movement options help to really expand upon. If this boss was fought in a Dark Souls games, it would still be alright, but jump attack interactions and even crouching help to really make this fight one that stands out.

Challenge for this fight is decently high. The soldier doesn’t actually have much of a moveset to speak of, with just four attacks, one of which seeing use one time. However, all of its attacks inflict Frostbite build up, it hits really hard, and it can be difficult to dodge. Jump attacks make a huge difference, also giving the player the ability to guard break and riposte him. As well, crouching behind cover after his transitional explosion can actually make him unable to locate the player once he recovers, which can leave him open to a big assault.

Once again, the reward for beating this boss makes it a worthwhile endeavor. That is, if you’re playing a Faith build. Frozen Lightning Spear, an Incantation the soldier drops when defeated, is both strong and offers the utility of inflicting Frostbite build up, which is extremely useful. The area the soldier is fought in is a strong boss room as well, giving the player structures they can hide behind to both take cover from an attack and cause the soldier to lose track of where the player is. In all, this is a strong fight which rightfully ends up on the right side of the halfway mark.

83. Draconic Tree Sentinel (Elden Ring)

This guy is an absolute force to be reckoned with, a true checkpoint of skill coming around 1/3rd of the way through a typical player’s playthrough. He is both very tanky and hits like an absolute truck, with all of his attacks effortlessly two-shotting a properly leveled player for the encounter.

Difficulty, again, is naturally very high. In spite of that, the fight is very fair. The Draconic Tree Sentinel has very distinct telegraphs that require memorization but are fair enough to recognize. While the sentinel moves around a lot on horseback, his attacks do leave him reasonably open to punishment should the player manage to dodge them and be in a favorable position. He may be quite tanky, but he’s also susceptible to every status in the game, and the player has had the opportunity to get quite a lot by this point in the game to exploit this. Overall, a very hard fight but a very fair fight at that.

Fortunately, there is a Stake of Marika basically right next to the meadowy area this fight takes place in. As such, there is absolutely zero run up to this boss, meaning the player can attempt him endlessly with virtually zero real punishment other than time spent. This really goes a long way to enhance the experience, as there are a litany of great bosses who are hindered by a negative experience during this run up. The aforementioned notion that the fight is very fair while being hard makes it naturally a fun encounter.

82. Old Demon King (Dark Souls 3)

This is probably the best representation of lore fodder done right. The Old Demon King’s combat is slightly lackluster, but his lore and representation of said lore is spot on immaculate, arguably top 5 in all of Soulsborne.

Challenge would unfortunately have to be Old Demon King’s defining criticism, keeping him out of the top 50. Old Demon King suffers from being an optional boss in an area the player very much needs to go out of their way to get to, meaning newer players are likely to not know he exists until they’re very overleveled and curb stomp him as a result. Even a player at an appropriate level can probably handle him easily enough. He does hit incredibly hard and has a late-match trump card that can cause deaths easily, but other than that, he probably won’t be tripping too many people up.

As previously stated, lore is this fight’s strong suit. This is one of the best instances of Dark Souls 3 making use of the environment to tell a story. It does this with excellent build up as well. As the player travels through Smoldering Lake, they’ll realize that they just so happen to be walking upon the remains of Izalith and the Demon Ruins from Dark Souls 1. This will become further apparent by all of the dead demon bodies scattered around the area. In Old Demon King’s boss room, dead bodies of major demons fought in Dark Souls 1, including that of the Asylum, Taurus, Capra and even Centipede variants, are littering the ground. With the Demon race essentially dying off, Old Demon King is portrayed as the last demon to exist. This ends up as the game intentionally misleading the player, but the notion that the player is essentially committing genocide here is pretty extreme. It adds weight to a fight that would otherwise be relatively toothless.

Fun is mostly done well. Atmospherically, this fight is pretty strong. The simple but ominous soundtrack, the slow paced fireballs that hurtle towards the player as the OST’s climax comes in, and finally, the Old Demon King visibly limping and being out of ‘fight’ as he reaches low health make this fight somewhat of an occult spectacle. It is unique in that regard. As well, the boss room is structurally designed well, though it does contribute to the fight being as easy as it is to an extent. There is a massive indestructible structure in the center of the area which serves to deflect projectiles, and can give the player ample time and space to heal or apply a buff. Overall, a strong fight for all the right reasons.

81. Halflight Spear of the Church (Dark Souls 3)

The second PvP boss discussed during this series, Halflight Spear of the Church manages to get a lot of things right that make it very memorable. PvP is the main piece of this fight unlike Dark Souls 2’s Looking Glass Knight. This fight really tries to pull out all the stops and spice up PvP here, between its environment, the build up and some mechanics to the fight itself.

Difficulty can fittingly go all over the place for this one. Given that a completely random player meeting a specific series of criteria will be brought forth to fight the challenger, it is possible that the enemy player could be anywhere from a total pushover to a total god at the game who will stomp you into the ground without breaking a sweat. That said, even in case of the former, this fight is quite hard. Alongside the enemy player, two Painted Guardians will separately aid them, providing both healing and another enemy for the challenger to have to deal with, creating a gank fight. As well, the enemy player will be randomly given Homing Soulmass as well as the church’s unique spear attack that will passively be cast, allowing the enemy to occasionally threaten the challenger without even having to do anything. Finally, the enemy will gain an extreme amount of poise that will make them difficult to stagger. However, the enemy will be barred from using any of their Estus Flasks, and they can still be parried or backstabbed, while the challenger gets free use of their Estus. The challenger can also summon their own backup, with two separate NPCs or real life friends being at their disposal. As such, this fight adds a lot of flavor to an otherwise ordinary PvP match, and it does so in a way which is somehow very volatile but simultaneously very balanced.

Fun for this fight is naturally quite polarizing. Generally, PvP encounters are a good experience even for people who aren’t particularly active in PvP. At worst, it’s changing things up from the typical ‘fight a big guy who usually has a big weapon’ dynamic seen in most other fights, which is still really solid. Unfortunately, it can’t get a 50/50 for fun for one simple reason; it’s entire structure is rooted within humanity, meaning bad people will naturally make it a less than stellar experience. Hackers can create unwinnable scenarios, trolls can make the fight significantly less enjoyable, and then you’ve got angry cyber bullies who may attempt to negatively interact with you after the fight is over; from their vantage point, your internet was bad, your strategy was cheap, you summoned friends like a coward, or something in general that will cause them to spread their bile to your message box. You could easily just make it so that people you aren’t friends with can’t message you, though, which mitigates the issue almost completely. In all, this is a very fun fight that is immensely replayable and very unique at what it does.

80. Old Monk (Demon’s Souls)

The original PvP boss fight, Old Monk is a much more simplistic version of the two discussed to this point. There isn’t an extra enemy helping the enemy player like the Looking Glass Knight or the Painted Guardians of the Halflight Spear of the Church fights. There isn’t a massive boss room or passive projectiles being tossed around like in the latter. Nope, two players will square off here and it’s as simple as that.

Difficulty is noticeably lower than Halflight Spear of the Church. Here, the volatility of wildly ranging skill levels creating a random experience is still there. However, if the enemy is a total pushover, the fight is now pretty easy since there isn’t anything to it other than the enemy player. As well, if the player fights this boss offline, they will fight a lackluster NPC wielding the Claws who is a total pushover, unlike in Halflight Spear of the Chuch where the NPC is quite a bit more formidable. Still, there’s always a chance of getting a fateful encounter with a pro player who will make you reconsider your life choices of playing these types of games. As such, difficulty can’t be too high, but it can’t be too low.

Old Monk has well defined lore extending to the beginning area of Tower of Latria. Basically, the Old Monk has a large amount of hollows imprisoned because he wants to drain them of their souls completely. When an enemy player is summoned, their cosmetic headpiece will always be changed from whatever the player has it at into the Xanathous headpiece, resembling the Old Monk’s logo. This can be viewed as the Old Monk essentially kidnapping that player’s character and stealing their souls until they go hollow- brutal stuff!

Pretty much the same things said about the Halflight Spear of the Church boss fight in terms of fun can be said here. Still, you may prefer this fight or that one depending on one big thing- do you prefer tons of Chaos and volatility with a completely unpredictable playing field (Halflight Spear) or do you prefer a more mundane, straightforward encounter (Old Monk)? The choice is yours!

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