Today’s piece narrows the list down further, as we bear witness to some truly standout encounters. Without further ado, here are today’s 40-31!
40. Cleanrot Knight (Elden Ring)
Note: This refers to the particular iteration found at the Stillwater Cave.
This is going to be a surprising, possibly even a controversial pick. Amidst the rotting pile of reused garbage found in many Elden Ring dungeons is a hidden gem right here. The Cleanrot Knight’s positioning as an early game boss is key to it showing up this high on the list, in addition to one other interesting interaction that changes up the fight a bit.
For a newer player, the challenge for this one can be a bit high. Cleanrot Knights in general are very aggressive, and this one is no exception. As well, they don’t stagger for much, can block attacks and don’t have a notable weakness to exploit. Simply put, this boss can be viewed as somewhat of a fundamental check, forcing the player to square up and display their mechanical skills to advance. With how many different tools the game gives the player, many bosses across the game are vulnerable to being ‘cheesed’. Not this one.
Cleanrot Knights are, of course, servants to Malenia. The game’s lore doesn’t seem to offer a reason for this particular knight being in this particular cave, but other Cleanrot Knights are found in other seemingly random spots, so at least the game is consistently inconsistent.
To top it off, a fun interaction with this specific knight comes when discussing the reward for defeating it: a Winged Sword Insignia, a talisman boosting the power of attacks used in rapid succession from one another. What’s cool about this is that the knight in this fight will actually gain the effects of this talisman, which is a neat idea. Essentially, the knight is using the talisman, which it then drops to the player upon defeat. This is a pretty cool idea that seems to mainly only be seen in ‘main’ bosses, such as Remembrance bosses in Elden Ring or Lords of Cinder in Dark Souls 3. It was nice to see it done here.
39. Astel, Stars of Darkness (Elden Ring)
Note: This refers to the one fought at the Yelough-Anix Tunnel, not the one fought at the Lake of Rot, which has shown up on this list already.
Perhaps another pick which could be argued as surprising, but reskinning Astel actually ends up making the boss fight more impactful. Being incredibly weak and having no health to speak of as the one at the Lake of Rot has to deal with is a bit awkward. Astel is basically a giant god from space trying to create an entire colony in the Lands Between. A figure like that sounds like an end game boss, and the Yelough-Anix Tunnel was able to deliver what the Lake of Rot missed.
With more appropriate stats and scaled for end game, Astel can be quite the doozy to fight. It has an extensive arsenal that can threaten major damage from afar, the ability to teleport, and the ability to greatly defend itself should the player get close. Most of these huge beast-like bosses are vulnerable and become weaker should the player manage to get positioned underneath the body, but Astel has some tricks prepared for that. Its signature move, Wave of Darkness, is at the forefront for close ranged defense, but a grab attack, another signature move in Nebula, or simply using its huge jaws to snap at the player can all work too. When fighting Astel, there is never a point in time where it can’t immensely threaten the player somehow, so until it’s HP finally hits zero, challengers should be on edge at all times.
Curiously, based on game lore, Astel actually has somewhat of a vague connection to Malenia, Blade of Miquella and Miquella himself. Apparently, Miquella’s Golden Needle, an item designed to remove scarlet rot, also has the effect of ‘halting the influence of outer gods’ which certainly includes Astel. The pluralization of that sentence is interesting, because it calls attention to the fact that there are multiple Astel fights in the game. Are there multiple Astels? Can Astel essentially clone itself? Perhaps future DLC could provide an answer, but it is an intriguing question for sure. Finally, we know Astel is directly responsible for the starry sky seen in Nokron, the Eternal City. It seems the residents of this city worship Astel, and are continually punished by the Greater Will for this.
38. Yhorm the Giant
Yhorm was all over the internet when Dark Souls 3 was initially announced, as his boss fight was largely showcased during pre-release trailers. That definitely wasn’t a mistake, as this fight manifested into Dark Souls 3’s “spectacle fight.” The reason for this is that there is a lot of powerful lore going into the fight, the potential for an emotionally impactful ally to add even more to the storyline, and the opportunity to uniquely wield a really cool, powerful weapon.
Anyone who has fought this boss has likely figured the only reason Yhorm isn’t top 25 material- amidst making this fight into a spectacle, From Software abandoned the notion of the fight being challenging almost completely. When using the Storm Ruler, Yhorm is mostly a pushover and generally won’t give the average player a hard time, especially if they’ve done Siegward of Catarina’s questline and are receiving support from him. Subjectively, I personally do not view this as a major shortcoming, but in order to remain objective and consistent in judging these bosses as we have since the series started, it did have to tank Yhorm’s positioning on this list by a bit.
Yhorm has a powerfully tragic tale that adds a lot to this fight. Yhorm built the Profaned Capital from the ground up. Initially, inhabitants who took refuge didn’t trust his intent. To gain their trust, Yhorm had the Storm Ruler made, a weapon he is extremely weak to, and gave it to the townsfolk as a way to keep him in check if he turned out to be deceptive with his motivation for creating the city. This worked until Yhorm had to sacrifice his soul to link the First Flame initially. In being awoken and prompted to do this a second time, Yhorm awoke from a long slumber to see his marvelous city, destroyed and in ruins, totally abandoned apart from the presence of some rats and Irithyl cultists. As such, Yhorm sunk into a depressive state and refused to help link the flame. This is also likely the reason he leaves the Storm Ruler in plain sight for the player; he isn’t going to accept a mercy killing, so he wants an ‘honorable’ death, and likely wants the player to defeat him after he goes down swinging.
Siegward’s place in this fight is compelling as well. Siegward lived in the Profaned Capital, and is the one who held onto the Storm Ruler and promised to use it to put down Yhorm if needed. In doing this, Siegward befriended Yhorm, and his questline involves helping Siegward make his way to the capital to uphold his promise, given Yhorm’s state.
Finally, the Storm Ruler is an absolute blast to use. As many will learn, attacking Yhorm with other weapons is generally ineffective, as the game intends the player use the Storm Ruler to chip at Yhorm’s 41,729 HP, the highest figure in the game.
37. The Pursuer (Dark Souls 2)
Without question the best base game boss in Dark Souls 2, even if that unfortunately isn’t saying much. The Pursuer is an early game basic fundamental check, but it isn’t just another regurgitated instance of a teaching tool. Pursuer has quite the presence across the entirety of the game, appearing even in end game areas such as Drangleic Castle.
The endearing thing about the Pursuer in terms of difficulty is that, while his moveset doesn’t change, the environment around him does, causing each subsequent appearance to be more challenging. His first formal boss fight provides the player the ability to use a ballista to quickly kill him should they be able to get into position. Later, he will appear at Lost Bastille, with a small group of rabid dogs and archers positioned in a tower who will assist him. Things get at their most difficult at Drangleic Castle; not only will the player need to be on their third New Game Plus to get him to appear, but when they get there, they’ll find a second Pursuer to really shake things up. Overall, Pursuer isn’t at any point the hardest boss in the game, but he is definitely never a pushover wherever he may be fought.
The Pursuer provided a really interesting dynamic to Dark Souls 2 that Elden Ring would only slightly replicate. As his name plainly suggests, the Pursuer was tasked with hunting any afflicted by the Undead Curse, including the player’s character. In fact, data mining and comparing parallels largely suggests that the Pursuer was inspired by Resident Evil 3’s Nemesis, a villain who similarly hunts the main character and makes many different appearances in doing so, with each subsequent getting more challenging to deal with. Given that the player is typically accustomed to being in the power role, the ambitious one who leads their own journey, the notion that someone else’s “journey” solely involves hunting them down and eliminating them can create an edge to the game while traveling. After all, you never know when this red-eyed levitating knight is finally going to show up to try and claim your soul next.
36. Dragonlord Placidusax (Elden Ring)
Kind of like a diet-Darkeater Midir in some ways, Placidusax is a ‘secret’ boss hidden behind some very obscure parkour at Crumbling Farum Azula. Many dragon boss fights exist in Elden Ring, but based on a number of factors, it is evident that this is the one From Software put the most time and resources into developing.
Difficulty here is high, but not as high as you’d think for such a visually imposing figure. Placidusax’s main deficiency is that he has a tendency to just sit still for lengthy periods of time and barely move during his first phase. He starts teleporting a lot more during second phase and flying around the arena, but given how lethal some Elden Ring builds truly can be, that initial sluggish start by itself can make this one a cakewalk for some players. Unfortunately, things don’t get too much harder in second phase. While Placidusax starts moving quite a lot, most of its attacks come with heavy telegraphs that are easy to respond to. That said, Placidusax hits like a truck and will kill with any of its attacks in two hits, providing the main source of difficulty. As well, he has heavy elemental resistances and isn’t particularly susceptible to status, which could make it take some time for various builds to take him down.
Placidusax was, in a way, the first true God of the Lands Between. The game’s lore is intentionally vague on a lot to do with him, but to sum it up, Placidusax was driven away by Queen Marika and Godfrey, who would later go on to establish their own regime to rule with. It isn’t precisely clear how the player is even able to find Placidusax, much less approach and then fight him, but given that Crumbling Farum Azula is in its own world among the space/time continuum, this is probably intentional.
Overall, initial hype following Elden Ring’s release compared Placidusax to the aforementioned Darkeater Midir. When the hype began to die down and the dust settled, it became overwhelmingly clear that Placidusax doesn’t fly at those lofty heights. Still, this was a standout fight, especially visually, and it was at least an automatic for the top 50.
35. Flamelurker (Demon’s Souls)
This is a fight where improved visuals courtesy of the game’s remake actually make a tangible difference. It’s a lot easier to appreciate a wickedly aggressive boss when it’s body isn’t burning so bright that it hurts the player’s eyes to look at. Flamelurker is probably the first truly aggressive boss From Software ever developed. In a game featuring most boss fights as gimmicks, a good, simple fight to get the adrenaline going stands out.
Challenge for this one is pretty high, and that’s mostly due to the limited resources the player has to tackle this one juxtaposed to other games in the series. Despite being able to acquire an infinite amount of grasses to heal with, Flamelurker is fast and attacks quickly, so it can make it difficult to heal mid fight. This also extends to actually landing hits on Flamelurker, as doing this without trading blows is predictably tricky. In many ways, this fight was well ahead of it’s time. It doesn’t hold up too well in the modern era, but even then, you could argue that a Flamelurker boss would fit in nicely in an Elden Ring game that can’t stop throwing Erdtree Burial Watchdogs and Godskins at you.
34. Rom the Vacuous Spider (Bloodborne)
Yet another controversial pick, Rom is possibly the single most polarizing figure in Bloodborne, and may yet be in the Top 10 for all of Soulsborne for that category. It is doubtlessly iconic whether you love it or hate it, as the fight itself is a pretty massive changeup from every other fight in the game. This one is somewhat of a gimmick, one that can be fought numerous different ways.
Challenge for this one can be relatively high, especially for newcomers. After the player gets in a few hits on Rom, she will teleport away and surround herself with giant spiders. This will become consistent across phase changes in the fight. Right away, the player is confronted with a strategic dilemma: should I kill all the spiders to make it safe as possible to confront Rom? Or should I just ignore the spiders and head straight for Rom? Both strategies have pros and cons that make neither superior, and this will depend on player preference. Having said that, if you intend to ignore the spiders and head straight for Rom, this will need to be a major commitment on the player’s end, as they will eventually end up spawning into the 30s collectively by the end of the fight. Rom herself isn’t a sitting duck, as she will occasionally attempt to drop large meteors on the players or, if close enough, will spam two different melee AoE attacks.
Defeating Rom will unlock the veil withholding the Blood Moon. This has a fairly extreme impact on the rest of the world, as doing this will close multiple important questlines as well as altering most of the rest of the world around the player. The emergence of the moon will permanently change the sky aesthetic everywhere but Cainhurst Castle. The Hypogean Gaol will straight up get destroyed, being replaced by Ya’Hargul and gaining large amounts of Insight will now result in even creepier things happening to the player visually. To sum it up, this is an extremely important fight that changes the game up significantly when completed.
33. Vicar Amelia (Bloodborne)
This is basically Bloodborne’s “welcome to Souls” type of boss. Vicar Amelia is simple in practice, yet does demand decent mechanical skill and wields a unique, exclusive mechanic the player will want to account for. In many ways, this fight does a great job finally giving the player the keys to the city (their moveset) and forcing them to make use of all their resources, with no more hand holding.
Challenge for this fight as a newcomer will be pretty high, perhaps even extreme. Vicar Amelia has some deceptive telegraphs and different dodge timings on most of her attacks. Additionally, though trying to flank her and “smack that booty” is perfectly viable and even recommended, she has a couple backwards sweeping attacks that can catch an inattentive player just mashing buttons with reckless abandon, which is something previous beast bosses weren’t able to defend against too effectively. The main gimmick to Vicar Amelia, however, that will really prove cumbersome for newer players to deal with, is her self heal ability. In theory, Amelia can use a healing power to restore a significant amount of health as many times as she wants in the fight. This is the mechanic that demands the most from new players to deal with, as it really encourages them to be aggressive and constantly get in good hits to outdamage her self heal. Alternatively, a clever player could bring a handful of Numbing Mists, as these items will deny Amelia the ability to heal herself at all. Whether through item or playstyle, the player will need to make extra certain to prepare thoroughly for this one.
32. Godrick the Grafted (Elden Ring)
The earliest, easiest to find Demi-God in the game, Godrick is an amazing springboard that really does a fantastic job showcasing what the player should generally expect from these types of fights. Really, this is probably the first fight to show up on this list that simply has no real flaws in design.
Challenge for this fight is high for newcomers, but is extremely reasonable at that. Godrick is one of the closest in Elden Ring to a ‘classic Souls’ boss. Unlike others, he doesn’t have enormous eight hit combos that undergo massive windups and are impossible to punish.
Simply put, Godrick may have a loaded kit of attacking options, and while all of these are good, they have very reasonable counterplay or drawbacks. He does have combos, but they’re well telegraphed. He has ranged attacks, but they’re reasonably easy to dodge. He has a couple faster attacks to go in with his heavier hitters, but even these aren’t impossible to deal with. His signature attack, I Command Thee Kneel! will do a lot of damage and will force players to get away from melee range, but it can actually be jumped over, so a player can use this as an opportunity. Finally, his second phase introduced the Grafted Dragon and fire to a lot of his attacks, making him more threatening overall. Even still, his attacks will still have very generous telegraphs and straightforward ways to dodge or otherwise mitigate them. While Godrick has nothing absolutely overwhelming, every single one of his attacks must be respected because he can hit hard and defeat the player quickly otherwise.
While Godrick’s fight is a strong one, his impact on the game’s narrative is arguably even bigger. For one, the player begins hearing about him from the moment the begin the game, giving plenty of time to hype him up a bit. Interestingly, where all other Demi-Gods are extremely powerful in their own way, Godrick is portrayed as being weak and generally embarrassing to the others. His main source of power is grafting, hence his title “the Grafted.” In Elden Ring, grafting is kind of like ‘sewing’ the body parts of another creature or person onto one selves. For example, Godrick will iconically cut his own hand off with his axe and replace it by grafting the head of a dragon to the arm. This type of artificial power is mostly frowned on by others outside of Godrick’s circle. As well, in the lore, he is depicted as having challenged Malenia, Blade of Miquella to a fight in which he was thoroughly defeated and forced to lick Malenia’s boots after the fact. All in all, Godrick is an appropriate first Demi-God as one who is still powerful, but nowhere close to that of his peers.
To conclude. his second phase cutscene is extremely bad ass. I mean, chopping his hand off and replacing it with a dragon head? The voice acting performance by Ramon Tikaram is stellar as well, making this one a fun scene to watch on repeat playthroughs.
31. Chaos Witch Quelagg (Dark Souls 1)
Okay, no, before you ask, this high placement isn’t because of the “Amazing Chest Ahead” scene. You know which scene I’m talking about. At least, it isn’t entirely or even largely because of that scene. Quelagg is one of the more important, memorable boss fights in Dark Souls 1. She is guarding one of the two Bells of Awakening the player must ring to unlock Sen’s Fortress.
Challenge for this one is interesting, as factors outside of Quelagg herself can manipulate this. Quelagg is the boss of Blighttown, a notoriously brutal area that can expose the player to Toxic, Poison, and potentially force them through a tediously large trek just to get to Quelagg if they didn’t begin the game with the Master Key. As such, if you did begin the game with the Master Key, challenge for this fight is going to be middling. If you didn’t, the experience of trudging down ladder after ladder, getting assaulted by toxic blow darts, fire maggots and other horrible denizens of the area will leave you weary for this fight and may make it artificially harder.
In terms of the “Amazing Chest Ahead” scene, again, this did not dictate or even seriously influence Quelagg’s placement, but it does at least need to be talked about briefly as one of the more iconic things to emerge from Dark Souls 1 as a whole. Not for nothing, but if you didn’t get the Master Key and did have to experience Blighttown at its worst, perhaps this cutscene will provide at least momentary amusement before the fight begins.
Quelagg is unique for having quite the fleshed out moveset for a Dark Souls 1 boss, and it’s fairly apparent that From Software put much more effort into designing her than most other bosses, especially in the first half of the game. Quelagg is basically a giant Drider whose spider half is capable of breathing fire. She can also explode and deal lots of damage that way while simultaneously forcing the player off of her. Finally, her soul can be turned in to acquire the Quelagg’s Fury Blade, one of the best and certainly coolest looking weapons in the game. There’s plenty to like about this boss, she’s positioned in a very memorable map, and is very important to the game’s narrative. What’s not to like?