We’ve now narrowed the list down to just the last one-third, and begin to approach the top 50. For a reminder of the criteria for judgment, see here. Without further ado, let’s begin.
79. Vordt of the Boreal Valley (Dark Souls 3)
Vordt is going to be almost every player’s second boss fight in Dark Souls 3. Juxtaposed to the tutorial boss in Iudex Gundyr, Vordt is much faster and roughly as aggressive. He is quadrupedal and boasts the first element the player will have to deal with in Frostbite.
Challenge is relatively well done for this fight. Do remember that the rating isn’t so much “how hard is this boss in a vacuum” but assessing how difficult the boss is for a new player using only resources which they can obtain through natural gameplay. For a new player, Vordt could present a challenge. Vordt’s telegraphs in his first phase are quick and tough to react to, though he does tend to mainly use the same two attacks over and over again which can mitigate this unpredictability. In second phase, however, Vordt has a first breath attack which he spends absolutely forever and ever charging up, more than enough time for the player to get behind him and just lay into him while he attacks nothing. It would’ve been a good idea to make this attack do less damage, but perhaps come out a bit more quickly. Overall though, Vordt is a fair fight for a new player, and though his difficulty diminishes significantly on repeat playthroughs, he at least commands some respect for wielding deadly Frostbite and being quite mobile.
Like the Dancer, Vordt is an Outrider knight, and a particularly mature one at that. Like others, he is under the command of Pontiff Sulyvahn. What exactly he is doing at the High Wall of Lothric is a bit blurry, but it can be speculated that the Pontiff wanted to lead an invasion against Lothric to extend his dominance and influence beyond Irithyl. To that end, Vordt is not actually willfully Sulyvahn’s knight, but is instead under his control. We know this from a possible reward for defeating Vordt, the Pontiff’s Right Eye ring, which suggests that Sulyvahn gave Vordt this ring to make him stronger in combat at the expense of his mental autonomy.
Whether it’s your first or one hundredth time facing Vordt, he is an incredibly mobile, engaging boss who flies around the boss area and is aggressive right to the bitter end. This is a very adrenaline inducing power trip fight where the player is encouraged to try and match Vordt’s aggression. As well, the crescendo the soundtrack enters when it transitions to second phase is just amazing, and it really complements the build up of the fight well. These types of fights are rollercoaster rides, where the action is of a high quality. This makes the fight get a great grade for fun.
78. Loretta (Elden Ring)
Note: Loretta fights the player twice, once as “Royal Knight Loretta” and the second as “Loretta, Knight of the Haligtree.” Simply referring to her as ‘Loretta’ stops the title from getting excessively long.
Imagine that this is Pokémon, and the Tree Sentinel is one of those pseudo legendary lines that doesn’t hit its final stage until late in the game. If we use that analogy, Loretta is the Tyranitar or Salamence of Elden Ring. Her fight at Miquella’s Haligtree represents the final culmination of everything we’ve seen from the Tree Sentinels to this point. Her fight at the Caria Manor could then represent some kind of first-into-second stage evolution.
Loretta is a step faster than Tree Sentinel, wields some basic sorceries at Caria Manor that become full fledged nuclear assaults at Miquella’s Haligtree. As such, the tempo for this fight is quite fast and makes for a challenging experience. Worth noting is that Loretta cannot be afflicted with status at Caria Manor, so despite her lesser repertoire, fighting her here is arguably harder depending on the player’s build.
Loretta is an interesting character in lore. As she is found at Caria Manor, she is allied with Ranni the Witch and is meant to be standing guard in Ranni’s defense. However, at the Haligtree, it seems she now performs the same role for Malenia, Blade of Miquella. There isn’t an especially strong connection between Ranni and Malenia, so it begs the question- why does Loretta fight for them? Is she some kind of mercenary? Perhaps potential DLC that delves more into Miquella’s lore could clarify this.
Though the fight is somewhat of a reskin, it’s still well designed. Contending with Loretta’s ranged options makes it slightly more similar to Draconic Tree Sentinel than the more ordinary iteration. The Caria Manor version supplies the player with some obstacles they can use to act as a one-time barrier to Loretta’s sorceries, though her melee attacks will destroy these too and hit the player anyway, so these aren’t consistent – and they don’t need to be, it’s not a gank fight. The Haligtree version is more plain and open, though Loretta seems slightly more melee focused here, perhaps to compensate. Either way, the fights are reasonably challenging, engaging and lacking in any real flaws. Hard to ask for more than that.
77. Lost Sinner (Dark Souls 2)
If Lost Sinner was in Dark Souls 3 or Elden Ring, she would probably have appeared much, much lower on this list. However, she adds something to Dark Souls 2 that it sorely lacks, especially in the early game: a fast paced, aggressive boss lacking in any serious defensive shortcomings. Lost Sinner is also important for being one of four Great Souls the player needs to advance the game.
Difficulty for this fight is relatively high, but can climb even higher if the player didn’t pack a Flame Butterfly or didn’t manage to bring a torch to just outside the boss room. If they failed to do either, the Lost Sinner will knock out the lit torches in her room, making her almost impossible to see shrouded in darkness unless she’s dead in front of the player. Her sword hits hard and has range, so being right in front of her without a greatshield will prove unsustainable since you won’t be able to see her. However, that is one issue with her difficulty- she has nothing at all to threaten greatshield users, apart from flanking them.
The Lost Sinner is somewhat of a reincarnation of the Witch of Izalith from Dark Souls 1. You know, the Bed of Chaos. Safe to say this iteration was much more well developed. Her opening cinematic showcases a small bug crawling into her mask- this is the witch brainwashing her, not unlike what happened to Solaire of Astora in Dark Souls 1 if his questline isn’t done. As well, the Sinner herself appears to have been inflicting self torture upon herself. Much like the actual Witch of Izalith, the Sinner was a rebellious woman who tried but failed to link the first flame. Rather than make the same mistake the Witch did in trying to use pyromancy to get the job done, the Sinner simply retreated to her room here, where she tortures herself for her ‘transgressions’ in the form of a mask with spikes stuck into her face, chaining herself to a stone wall and starving herself. How gnarly!
As previously stated, the Sinner gives the player something that’s only even slightly tried out by The Pursuer up to this point in the game. She is aggressive, doesn’t leave easy openings for retaliation and she hits hard. Her health pool is modest, likely as a ‘balancing maneuever’ for a game with notoriously easy boss fights. As such, she belongs high on this list for basically being a massive juxtaposition of most of the rest of the game.
76. Smelter Demon (Dark Souls 2)
This boss has the potential to be a new player’s first real ‘wall’ of Dark Souls 2. Sure, you might get tripped up by Pursuer early on, maybe one of the Great Soul bosses proves irritating, but this boss could easily require a handful of tries to beat. As well, it has interesting lore with major implications towards one of those Great Soul bosses.
Difficulty for this fight is high. The Smelter Demon’s damage output is well above what the player has had to deal with to this point. Melee users are also going to be under quite a lot of pressure, as Smelter Demon will buff itself early on and give itself a mini, permanent Immolation. Standing close to it will result in the player taking progressive chip damage, but quite quickly, and they will only be able to stay close to Smelter Demon briefly before needing to retreat to heal. When Smelter Demon buffs again, it’s big sword becomes permanently coated with fire, making it hit like a freight train. That said, Smelter Demon’s offensive moveset is quite limited, being just a few sweeping slashes, a jump attack. As such, experienced players can get into a rhythm dodging it’s attacks, which can make it a little easier to fight. Still, one mishap can turn things around 180 degrees, so even experienced players have to respect Smelter Demon.
The Smelter Demon was essentially ‘created’ by the Old Iron King for some reason that lore never clarifies on. It was basically locked away in a room and forgotten until one day, it became strong enough to break free from its shackles. Afterward, it basically threw the king into the lava surrounding the Iron Keep, turning the king into the monstrosity we see him as later on. It’s worth wondering if Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein could have possibly influenced this lore dynamic, as they share a bit in common; a lowly person who constructed a monster who would later reject its creator lead to their own downfall.
A bit like Lost Sinner, Smelter Demon is the first real powerhouse that the player will have to face. Being dangerous just to stand close to it makes this a tough one for melee users. Spellcasters are typically wearing robes instead of actual armor, meaning they take even more damage if hit by Smelter Demon, and thus aren’t safe themselves. As such, this fight is well rounded and lacking in any serious flaws, making it fitfully engaging and challenging, boding well for its fun element.
75. Abhorrent Beast (Bloodborne)
Straight away, this is easily the best boss the Chalice Dungeon has to offer in terms of the straight up combat. Abhorrent Beast is an adrenaline junkie’s dream, while also being quite thematically well pieces together as well. The only unfortunate thing is how deep into the Chalice Dungeon it comes, but that doesn’t take away from the boss itself.
Difficulty for this fight is extreme. The Abhorrent Beast is second only to the Orphan of Kos in terms of straight up unrelenting aggression and speed. It can close the gap and get right up in the player’s face in the blink of an eye, and it will spend the majority of this fight doing exactly that. It hits very hard, has fast telegraphs that demand fast reflexes to properly respond to, and most of its ground based attacks have shockwaves, meaning they will catch a player close to where the attack was centered, meaning the player will have a tough time trying to match the beast’s aggression through typical maneuvers such as dodging through attacks and baiting out an attack and trying to meet it with a hard hitter of their own. This boss requires pretty extreme precision to overcome, but because nothing is inherently unfair, the challenge is high for all the right reasons.
While this boss doesn’t have a ton of build up or anything black and white for narrative impact, it’s positioning within the dungeon sparks speculation about who the beast once was before transforming. This boss is fought right before Queen Yharnam, of whom the game’s setting is named after, as well as being positioned essentially directly underground of Yharnam. It’s not unthinkable to imagine the Abhorrent Beast as being related to her somehow, either as family, in her service in some way or even just a simple acquaintance. He does have some faint voice lines mid fight that suggest he has some small amount of human consciousness left- this is similar to Queen Yharnam, who seems to be mostly lost to the scourge of beasts but bears some slight resemblance of her more rational human self.
If it wasn’t made clear already, this fight is one of Bloodborne’s finest. It’s just a good, clean, fair fight and the particular dungeon it’s the boss of is quite short. These types of things in a combat centric game are very nice- just a good, quick, fun encounter without the hassle that these things tend to have preluding them. Because the fight is hard, the player could definitely lose of course, but because the run back up to the boss is short, it won’t be long before the player can try again- once more, for a boss that’s hard, not having a frustrating run up is just great to allow for continued attempts at winning come quickly. Overall, this is just fantastic all around game design.
74. Darklurker (Dark Souls 2)
One of the most notoriously difficult Dark Souls 2 bosses, arguably the most difficult, Darklurker is the player’s “reward” for maxing out their covenant rank with the Pilgrims of the Dark. He is fought as the player drops in from the third and final torch-lit Dark Chasm of Old.
Difficulty for this fight is high, and the fight even has somewhat of a tendency to be quite stressful. Things are straightforward in the beginning, as Darklurker by itself isn’t too imposing. In typical Dark Souls 2 fashion, however, this fight becomes a gank at around 70% of its health, where it will split itself into two Darklurkers. The trade off is that these Darklurkers share the same health bar, so if the player manages to hit them both at once, it will essentially be dealing double the usual damage. However, they are incredibly dangerous in tandem, with massive move sets that deal lots of damage and all demand different dodging approaches. This one is a test of survivability: can you withstand the barrage of deadly magic being rained down upon you by two separate enemies?
Out of all the fights in Soulsborne, this one is maybe narrowly edged out by Dragonslayer Ornstein & Executioner Smough and the Demon Prince for simply demanding the player’s hyperfocused attention at all times. Once the Darklurker splits up, the tempo to the fight experiences an extreme rise, which gets the adrenaline pumping tenfold. The player is truly living on the edge, as the Darklurkers are unrelenting in their ranged assaults and deal tons of damage with them. Sure, the dodge counterplay is actually relatively simplistic to each individual attack- but what do you do when each Darklurker is using a different attack that requires a different technique to dodge? For example, what if one of them spawns a portal that shoots fireballs as the other one rushes up to the player and tries to explode right in their face? Each move is easy enough to dodge on its own, but requires a different approach to doing so from one another. As such, the Darklurkers can easily ‘checkmate’ the player, so being greedy is a big no go here. Overall, an incredibly heart thumping fight that will get the blood flowing for any player.
73. Fallingstar Beast (Elden Ring)
The Fallingstar Beast is seen on a few rare occasions. It’s basically a giant beast which rained down from space, that was once being held up by Starscourge Radahn.
Difficulty for this fight is high. The beast is fast, has ranged options, is relatively aggressive and is quite tanky. In terms of aggressiveness, we aren’t talking about a boss against whom the player will be suffocated by, per se, as the beast has a tendency to wander away from the player at times due to the trajectory of some of its lengthy attacks. However, it’s quite mobile and has an arsenal of melee attacks, so it definitely isn’t the least bit passive.
This fight is fun because it’s fresh, and it really offers us something we haven’t seen in the rest of Soulsborne- a ranged shootout with a mobile enemy who is actually not super resistant to magic. Other highly mobile bosses, such as Oceiros the Consumed King or the Red Wolf of Radagon, are typically resistant to sorcery. Bosses weak to sorcery, such as Flamelurker, are typically more melee oriented, making Fallingstar Beast unique, as it’s absorptions towards non-gravity magic are noticeably less than it’s physically oriented resistances. Because this beast itself packs quite a punch, this can easily become a shootout between two glass cannons, which can be quite thrilling!
72. Gravelord Nito (Dark Souls 1)
Gravelord Nito is in possession of one of four Lord Souls in Dark Souls 1. This fight is basically a gank fight, as Nito packs an army of skeletons he will deploy very liberally here. He packs a steady stream of dark Miracles and melee attacks.
Challenge for this fight is on the lower end of the spectrum. This fight would actually be a total pushover were it not for two things: the mandatory fall damage taken by jumping into his boss arena, and the fact that he begins the fight with some skeletons already spawned, who will rush the player right as they take this damage. This begins the fight on a very awkward note for the player, but if they’re able to hold down the fort until the initial wave is defeated and they’ve been able to heal, they should claim victory easily. The ticket to making this fight easy is to simply get in Nito’s face and beat him down without giving him room to breathe. Not only are his melee attacks fairly pathetic, but he is also frequently prompted to spam a massive AoE dark attack that conveniently friendly fires his own skeletons, wiping them out and making the fight even more straightforward.
As one of the Lord Souls, Nito was naturally going to score high for lore off of that alone. However, Nito is arguably the most interesting of his contemporaries. This is simply because he happens to have arguably the least specific lore out of anyone in the game, leaving his identity as a bit of a question. However, given his status as a Gravelord with an entire covenant dedicated to him and the ability to summon skeletons effortlessly, it’s possible that Nito plays the role of a grim reaper-esque character, one who plays the part of playing ‘death’. Literally showing up and killing Death himself is just awesome, really giving him some added character.
A bit like the Skeleton Lords, this fight can be fun for its massive power trip potential. One shooting skeleton after skeleton after skeleton with a big weapon like a Greatsword can be incredibly fun. The boss area has also actually been designed to handle a massive gank fight quite well. There’s an enormous indestructible structure right in the center of the boss area the player can use for typical crowd control, finding moments to heal or apply an offensive buff and so on. All in all, a very fun, unique fight.
71. Red Wolf of Radagon (Elden Ring)
This would definitely have to be Elden Ring’s premiere glass cannon fight. The Red Wolf of Radagon is fought inside the Raya Lucaria Academy, just before Rennala, Queen of the Full Moon. It’s a fast paced wolf boss who also boasts unique sorcery options.
Challenge is on the higher end of the spectrum. The wolf has a tendency of making dodging against it awkward and difficult to consistently pull off, as it moves quickly around the area, drops sorceries, and can then close the gap on the player quickly for melee damage using its Greatsword. However, it also has a totally nonexistent health pool and will die in about 6-7 good hits. As such, this fight is pretty much a giant DPS race for both the player and the wolf itself.
Elden Ring isn’t lacking in high-octane bosses, and the Red Wolf of Radagon certainly fits the mantra. However, unlike a boss such as Malenia, Blade of Miquella who deals a ton of damage and has massive longevity, the wolf will die quickly, if it doesn’t defeat the player first. In other words, where other higher profile duels will entail longer, more drawn out experiences, this one is short and sweet. It’s a perfect boss for when the player just wants a good, quick fight. For that, it stands tall in the fun department.
70. Great Grey Wolf Sif (Dark Souls 1)
And we end off today’s list with the classic tilt against Artorias’ pet wolf, Sif. This iconic fight is arguably the most emotionally stimulating fight in all of Soulsborne, much less Dark Souls 1. It’s a mandatory fight, as the player must defeat Sif in order to obtain the Crest of Artorias needed to fight the Four Kings.
Challenge for this one is relatively low. Though Sif is quite fast and strikes quickly to boot, it’s just quite easy to get underneath her and have easy hits against her legs. As well, Sif doesn’t have much of anything to threaten greatshield users, and she doesn’t actually close the gap especially quickly, meaning magic users can stay at a distance with relative safety, and healing or applying a buff mid fight is pretty doable.
Sif is Artorias’ pet, essentially, and she is seen here defending his grave. As well, if the player did the DLC before coming to this fight, it will change the opening cinematic and shift the purpose of the fight; instead of defending Artorias, Sif will be trying to stop the player from obtaining the Covenant of Artorias and going into the Abyss. She saw what it did to her now deceased master, and given her friendly interaction with the player in the DLC as the player rescues her from captivity, she will go as far as fighting the player to stop them from going into the Abyss and suffering a similar fate. Such a captivating, interestingly customizable story makes for top notch scoring in the lore department.
The atmosphere for this fight, however it may be approached, is stellar. As well, the game decides it wants to tearjerk the player as the fight is at its end; once Sif reaches very low health, her eyes will close in noticeable agony as she begins to limp towards the player. She will whine as she swings her sword, her attacks will now be very slow and deal pathetic damage. Given that humans and dogs have always had generally strong connections over the course of history, it’s likely not wrong to assume that a lot of people who have played these games either had dogs at the time of fighting Sif, or previously had owned a dog, and will likely feel at least somewhat if not immensely emotional when this happens.
In the world of video gaming, gamers will often most vividly recall gaming moments that illicted strong emotional reactions, such as overcoming a level or an encounter that had been insurmountable for hours or even days, watching a climactic cutscene in a narrative themed game, or being faced with a cliffhanger. This is why the average Soulsborne player will likely remember the Bed of Chaos more vividly than the Demon Firesage. The latter is arguably the worse boss fight, but since it’s just a lazy reskin, it doesn’t illicit much in the manner of emotion at all and is extremely forgettable. The former is so uniquely horrible and agonizing to play through that it stimulates very angry or generally upset emotions, and as a result is much more memorable. For similar reasoning, Great Grey Wolf Sif is arguably the most memorable boss in Dark Souls 1, making its fun grade clear to see.