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Developer From Software has etched its name in the history books in the last decade, establishing itself as the premier producer of video games so difficult that it will strain a player’s sanity to its very limit.
Inevitably, any conversation regarding From Software’s catalogue (commonly referred to as the Soulsborne games) immediately turns to the arduous boss battles, with each gamer telling their own personal war stories about how many attempts it took them to conquer the challenge or just admit defeat and give up on the game altogether.
However, it goes without saying that the Soulsborne series doesn’t hold a monopoly on tough boss fights and a plethora of games from before and after From Software’s rise to prominence feature blood-boiling bosses that would be right right at home in the Soulsborne Universe. Here are seven such hard-nosed S.O.B.s.
Beware of story spoilers for Final Fantasy X (2002) and Undertale (2015) ahead:
Braska's Final Aeon – Final Fantasy X (2002)
OK, we concede that being a JRPG main story boss means that you can very easily walk straight through this guy with enough hours spent grinding and seeking out top equipment for each character, but enter this fight at (or even reasonably above) the natural level you're likely to be at this point in the game and Braska's Final Aeon is a brick wall standing between you and the end credits.
Breaking tradition, this boss throws punches in bunches – using several powerful attacks each turn instead of the one allocated, making his next wave of offence very difficult to prepare for. Additionally, he's accompanied by two Yu Pagodas that will constantly heal him if not taken out (for the short term at least, as both Pagodas will constantly return to action with more HP each time).
This is a final boss battle that should serve as an example to other such games, it truly tests player's capabilities and means that even on a successful attempt, the winning blow will come from a place of desperation, a last gasp from a team one turn away from obliteration.
The Undertaker – WWE 2K14 (2013)
In order to understand this entry, we need a quick pro wrestling history lesson:
Heading into 2014, WWE Superstar The Undertaker held the most revered winning streak in WWE history: The Deadman was 21-0 at WrestleMania. For over two decades the legend had never lost a match at WWE's biggest show of the year, so it got to the point where The Undertaker's match would usually be the most important and highly anticipated match at WrestleMania regardless of its position on the card or whether there was a championship on the line.
WWE 2K14 gave players the opportunity to do what a who's who of WWE Superstars couldn't in a mode entitled 'Beat the Streak'. This mode consisted of only one match: Taking on The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Of course, this was no easy feat as he seemed able to reverse around 90% of offence and when necessary, use his supernatural powers to bring the stadium to complete darkness before appearing behind you with an additional finisher ready to use.
If you wanted to defeat The Deadman you'd need to hug your self-respect goodbye and send it to stay with a friend overnight, then proceed to rely on the most underhanded of tactics, such as keeping the fight outside the ring where you couldn't be pinned and knocking down the referee before using any weapons available, in order to stand a chance at victory.
Sigrun – God of War (2018)
If you've done battle with Sigrun then you probably guessed that she'd show up on this list. If that's the case then well done, you're quite the Norse-tradamus. No, wait! Please come back!
God of War's most obsessive side-quest tasks Kratos with defeating eight Valkyries before he can take on the Valkyrie Queen, Sigrun. Each Valkyrie battle is increasingly difficult before culminating in the winged freight train known as Sigrun.
What makes her so tough is her unrelenting pace and variety of offence. Using all of the attacks possessed by the previous eight Valkyries, she launches an unpredictable onslaught with hardly any time to register and react. There is no shortcut to winning this battle, you need to go in as well prepared as possible, persevere, learn and adapt – and it doesn't get much more Soulsborne than that.
Sephiroth – Kingdom Hearts (2002)
Olympus Coliseum's platinum-haired kingpin stands as the ultimate challenge in the original Kingdom Hearts. After spending hours tearing through the competition, Sora's final reward is a one on one fight against Final Fantasy 7 favourite Sephiroth, in a battle that will prove to be incredibly one-sided for the under-prepared.
What with a variety of attacks that will decimate a HP bar, if not empty it instantly, Sephiroth only really becomes beatable if the player takes Sora on a Rocky Balboa-like training regiment and returns a new man, complete with the ultimate weapon and best equipment, stats approaching their maximum level and the knowledge gained from a series of failed efforts. Only then can the elite, genetically enhanced super soldier be defeated by a child with a comically over-sized key and the world can finally begin to make sense.
Lou – Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (2007)
So you're reaching the end Guitar Hero III's set list on expert difficulty – you somehow made it through the solo in Cult of Personality by The Living Colour, by some minor miracle you finished Slayer's Raining Blood. That's when you meet the game's final boss: Lou.
Players are placed in a duel against the Devil as you each hammer out a guitar cover of The Charlie Daniels Band classic Devil Went Down to Georgia – a great song that you are going to be sick of hearing over the coming countless retries.
As with all Guitar Battles in this title, you have to maintain focus while your enemy uses power-ups with effects that include increasing the already ludicrous amount of notes you have to hit and making said notes disappear. All this while trying to nail sections so complex that it could only be played by Eddie Van Halen's protege/pet octopus, Squidister Gates.
Don't worry though, if you can defeat Lou you get to play one more song as the end credits role: Dragonforce's Through the Fire and the Flames... Ah well, who needs unbroken fingers anyway?
Ethereal Queen – Infinite Undiscovery (2008)
There are Soulsborne-level bosses, and then there are bosses that make the Moon Presence look like a Nintendog – and that's exactly what we have here.
Tucked away in the depths of many titles developed by esteemed JRPG Developer Tri-Ace lies two optional bosses that exist to truly test your mettle – Gabriel Celeste and the Ethereal Queen. In the Xbox 360's Infinite Undiscovery, both can be found in a deep, brutal, boss-filled post-game dungeon with only one save point called the Seraphic Gate.
As you near the end of the dungeon, the pressure has hit its apex – you've grinded your characters senseless and given them peak gear, you just barely scraped past Gabriel Celeste earlier and have struggled to get this far, but you passed the dungeon's only save point about two hours ago and there's no going back now. The Ethereal Queen is ahead, you're nervous but confident in your team and in your abilities... Then she wipes out your party inside of five seconds.
At this point despair usually wins over determination and you choose to either never play this game again or defenstrate your console and start a new life as a fisherman. Either way, the Queen always wins.
Sans – Undertale (2015)
One quick question for anyone who claims to have defeated Sans in Undertale: Why do you turn this website into a house of lies?
Conquering Undertale's beloved comic is pretty much impossible. Landing an attack on Sans is a no-go from the beginning, meaning you have to weather a bombardment of lightning fast attacks turn after turn with no chance to fight back, all the while your HP is draining automatically and Sans shows no shame in attacking even as you decide what move to make. Players have to endure this punishment for at least 23 turns before getting the chance to land a winning blow when Sans runs out of energy.
There are two ways to beat Sans – be an advanced android designed specifically to react to his attacks (otherwise you likely won't make it past turn five, and even if you are you may burst into flames by turn 14) or die so many times that you memorise everything that he does. Though if you're going for this approach, the intricacy of his attacks means that it would probably be easier to memorise the choreography for an eight hour Babymetal concert.
The most galling thing about this battle is that its theme music is the fantastic Megalovania, but Sans' relentless barrage means that you'll be lucky to hear anything past the first twenty seconds. Insult to injury at its finest...
Can you think of any other nightmare boss battles that deserve a place on this list? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!
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