Not so long ago, I talked about how looking at guides for games is absolutely fine. I even included Dara O’Briain’s remarks on video games being the only form of media that denies you access to more of it unless you prove you’re good enough. I mentioned how there really should be ways for anyone to experience the stories that games provide. But that’s not how games work (well, most of them anyway). There are bosses. Those big chaps and chapettes placed in your way to test you on everything you’ve learned so far. Sure, you’ve eliminated those enemies, mowed down the mooks and bested many baddies, but can you face down this ridiculous robot? That colossal creature? Those ferocious fighters? Alliteration aside (ha!), let’s have a look at some of those end of level guardians that have given me a serious run for my money.
Some rules as ever. Only one boss per franchise and only bosses I have faced and defeated. Oh, and if you’re offended by crude language, this is one of very few posts I write that will contain swearing. Because, seriously, some of these guys are absolute dicks.
Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid
Let’s start light. Because Psycho Mantis isn’t terribly difficult once you know what to do. In fact, I technically didn’t find him all that difficult when I played this, but I’ll explain that in a moment because I recognise why this clown is so difficult. You see, you can’t shoot him. He dodges everything as though he can read your mind (he can because Metal Gear Solid is insane) and react before you fire. Not only that, he will also attempt to control your companion, Meryl, and attempt to have her kill herself. The strategy to defeat him, as I’m sure many of you will know, is to swap your controller from port one to port two on your console, thus confusing Psycho Mantis and allowing you to shoot the crap out of him.
In terms of boss battles for the era (or indeed any era), this was very inventive. And if you don’t know how to beat him, I can see how this could be incredibly challenging. Now, on to how I managed to beat him. I played this on PC, in which to defeat him you need to play using the keyboard. I did not have a gamepad for the PC and used the keyboard for the whole game so he proved to be only mildly challenging. Still, I thought this boss should be included due to the potential challenge.
Ornstein & Smough – Dark Souls
Alright, let’s get this two bastards out of the way. The Dark Souls original gank boss. The multi-man brawl that From Software have tried to emulate ever since. One of the hardest bosses in the series (I know there are others that people consider harder, but this pair whooped me for hours). Bosses in Dark Souls are no joke, but here we have two hard ones at once. One (Executioner Smough) is big, powerful, and capable of destroying the pillars that provide cover. The other (Dragonslayer Ornstein) is quick, powerful and has wide sweeping attacks that are hard to dodge. Keeping an eye on both of them whilst trying to land even a couple of hits to whittle down their health is extremely challenging.
Oh OH, and once you beat one of them, the other grows to twice the size and becomes even more powerful. Just to make sure you get no breaks. Because letting up just isn’t Souls style. If you defeat Smough first and take on a doubly powerful Ornstein then prepare for the battle of your life because he is an utter arse once powered up. The gorgeous journey through Anor Londo up to this point simply cannot prepare you for the pummelling you’ll face here. Victory is unbelievably satisfying, even though it took me summoning two phantoms to help with taking them down. I love this series, but there’s no way I’m going back to take them on again.
Lou – Guitar Hero 3
This is a weird one to include, but it is a boss battle. Guitar Hero 3 had a story mode of sorts, with your band being confronted by the devil (Lou) for a final face-off. Boss battles in this game were in the form of songs in which you and your opponent you play sections against one another, with powerups allowing you to disrupt the other player. Attacks could make notes become invisible, or one of your strings to break which makes playing a section correctly much harder. The final song was a rather creative rock cover of the rather excellent The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band, with a ton of notes everywhere. Playing this in the game was hard enough, but throw in disappearing notes and buttons that temporarily won’t work and you have a recipe for plastic guitar breakage.
Seriously, this is rather good, and the Guitar Hero 3 version is pretty good too.
No meaning to brag, but I was pretty good at games in this series. I could rattle through most songs on expert mode without too much trouble. But this. This song with those stupid attacks was near on impossible. I eventually beat this, but only by swallowing my pride and dropping down two difficulties to normal. I know, I still feel the shame burning me now. I really liked the plastic instrument craze, but this boss battle song crap can piss right off.
Shao Kahn – Mortal Kombat 3
I was torn between Shao Kahn and M. Bison from Street Fighter 2. I went with Shao Kahn because he’s such a cheap git. M. Bison can be beaten with careful zoning and good positioning. Shao Kahn needs Sub-Zero and a shit ton of luck. Shao Kahn can practically dash right in front of you and send you flying. Over and over again. Along the ground or in the air. The dash attack also breaks your block. Oh, and he has projectile attacks which he can spam. Plus a hammer attack that can stun you. So my experience was something like this: jump attack lands on Kahn, hammer to me, dash attack me into the corner then I die. This happened many, many times.
I know I finally beat him based entirely on luck. Sub-Zero could freeze Shao Kahn in place, allowing an upperful (one of the most high damage single attacks). I used that and resorted to staying crouched and hoping an air dash attack would come my way, allowing another free uppercut. It went like this for a long, long time until I finally bested him. A dishonourable victory perhaps, but that’s what he gets for being such a wanker.
Yellow Devil – Mega Man
Oh this guy can just fuck right off. Cheap, extremely hard to dodge, takes ages and can pretty much only be beaten by luck, glitching, or having more patience than Jesus. In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus would just switch the game off and play something else. Like Doom. Anyway, the Yellow Devil is one of the final bosses you face in Mega Man and it is a bastard of one. He starts by flying in piece by piece from the left, and good luck if you don’t know the pattern by heart. You’ll almost certainly get hit by one or two pieces (suffering significant damage) before he opens his eye for a split second to fire. I hope you were paying attention in that one second as that’s the only chance you have to damage it before the pieces fly to the other side of the screen. Repeat until you die. And I did. Repeatedly.
To be fair, with enough care and attention Yellow Devil can be taken down. It’s just the number of times you need to face it before you have the patterns down. And once you lose all your lives its back to the start of a long and difficult level to get back for another go. That’s the bit that irritated me the most. Once I got past that, I managed to wear him down. But getting to that point was a trial. This was not the last time this boss appeared in this (or other) series. The music was pretty exciting for the battle too. At least, the first few times.
Some (dis?)honourable mentions. Vicar Amelia from Bloodborne took me a long, long time to get through. She hits hard, moves quickly and could heal most of her health back mid battle. If you couldn’t out-damage her heal you didn’t have a hope. Another boss I had to summon for. Then there’s Capital B from Yooka-Laylee. I think I’ve made my feelings on this arsehole clear before.
Who’s kicked your ass repeatedly in games? Don’t feel the shame, share below and feel better about yourself! Carrying that defeat around will just bring you down, share it with the group…