The pinnacle of games in both design and gameplay is usually their boss fights. Moments like these can put a player’s skills to the test and present the antagonist of the story in the best light to really get a feel for their character.
I saw many a boss fight in the games I’ve played this year, so I thought it would be fitting to make a list of my Top Ten Boss Fights of 2015. This list will include any games I’ve played this year, regardless of when they were released.
If it wasn’t obvious enough, there will be heavy spoilers in this list. To help mitigate them somewhat, I’ll only put the name of the boss in each entry title.
To get a good feel for how each one goes down, I’ll also be including a link to their battle theme below each entry title. You don’t have to, but I think that playing the music in the background adds to the experience.
Battle Theme: The Collision of Thunderstorms
You may not have expected some of the games on the list to return from last year, but all of them have boss fights I was only able to experience this year. Azure Striker Gunvolt’s true boss took the longest to get to since the requirements to do so made the gameplay pretty brutal. On your first run through, Asimov turns against Gunvolt and Joule for the sake of adepts worldwide and there’s nothing you can do about it. Only after finding a hidden jewel in each level, getting a special pendant from Joule, and beating Nova with the pendant equipped in place of Gunvolt’s most useful ability will the true ending trigger.
Gunvolt is able to survive Asimov’s gunshot thanks to Lumen entering his body. With Lumen’s rejuvenation, Gunvolt heads back down the tower to face Asimov. As it turns out, Gunvolt was not the first Azure Striker. Now, you have to face Asimov who is a more powerful version of yourself. This sequence is made a bit more manageable than fighting Nova thanks to Lumen’s help, but it’s still difficult.
The fight itself is pretty much what you expect from a Gunvolt boss fight. He has lots of projectiles and getting hit once drains your energy entirely, making it harder to dodge and keep up your assault. This also makes Asimov’s Voltiac Chains even more dangerous if you don’t have enough energy to stay on the top of the screen. Even after all of that, the best part has to be the music. Asimov’s music brings the musical progression from the first stage of the game back in an awesome remix. It’s this kind of music that I love in games. Really, all of these pieces made facing Asimov worth the effort and worth putting on this list.
Ever since Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land, it seems like Kirby’s final bosses are getting more and more grandiose relative to the cuteness of the games. This is made more apparent with the orchestral tone of the music that usually plays. It’s been some time since I’ve played a modern Kirby game, so when I picked up Kirby and the Rainbow Curse and got to the final boss, this tone hit me pretty hard.
It isn’t all fluff either, both phases of the final boss are a ton of fun to fight. First, you face off against Claycia, your paintbrush friend Elline’s sister and the source of the color draining from Dream Land. Like Gunvolt, this boss battle is what you expect for this game. It also does do an excellent job of using the mechanics you’ve learned on your way here, especially with the monochromatic zones that you can’t draw lines in.
Once you beat her, it turns out that she was possessed by the Dark Crafter, a being that wants to steal the vibrant colors of Dream Land. Now, it’s up to Elline and Rocket Kirby to get that color back. This sequence is pretty daunting since it forces you to get good with drawing to avoid barrages of mines. Store up enough Star Power and unleash a Star Dash to knock the color out of the Dark Crafter and save the day. Both of these fights bring out the best of Rainbow Curse’s gameplay design while still being fun. They may not as groundbreaking as some of the other fights on this list, but I enjoyed them anyway.
Battle Theme: Ninetales’ Extermination
I didn’t know much about Okami before I picked up Okami HD for my PS3. All I knew was the art style, it being influenced by Japanese mythology, and that it was made by Clover Studio, the studio precursor to Platinum Games. With that and the main story setup of Orochi’s returning and Ameratersu being reincarnated to stop him, you’re off to rid Nippon of Orochi’s curse. However, after fighting Orochi and believing that I’d reached the end of the game, surprise! That was only Act 1.
Now, Nippon opens up even more as you travel to the Ryoshima Coast. Your journey escalates as you go on quests like finding the source of pollution in Sei-an City, helping the priestess Rao recover the Fox Rods from a sunken ship, and finding a way to tame the rampaging Water Dragon off the coast. I don’t want to spoil these moments if you haven’t played them yet, but it all leads to Oni Island and it’s all topped off with the boss fight against Ninetales.
At this point I’d gotten most of the Celestial Brush techniques, ranging from wind attacks to lightning strikes to slowing time. Wielding these against a giant fox that is able to use the same brush techniques is really cool. Ninetales was also the first boss I had real trouble with, but making it through made it that much more satisfying. Ninetales was an excellent end to an excellent act, and that’s plenty of reason to put it in my Top Ten Boss Battles.
Battle Theme: Reach Out To The Truth (Dancing on Persona Stage)
In this list, this is the last game I would have expected to show up here. The last time I experienced a boss fight in a rhythm game was deuling the Devil himself in Guitar Hero 3. While Persona 4: Dancing All Night doesn’t have the interactivity that Guitar Hero 3 has, it makes up for it in the amount and quality of its boss fights.
Out of the bosses I’ve fought in Dancing All Night, Mikuratana-no-Kami is the most memorable of them all. The chapter leading up to her is the best of the game with the reveal that Kanami was the vessel with which the Midnight Stage was started. Mikuratana-no-Kami’s ideal of satisfying everyone’s desire to be loved is on par with the mainline series as far as boss motivations. Even the music on the stage is exactly what it should be for this kind of moment. Really though, it’s a lot easier to show than describe, so check out the whole dance on YouTube. This battle is one of the biggest reasons why I keep coming back to Dancing All Night, and that makes it one of the best boss battles (technically) of 2015.
Pokémon games have their memorable Trainer battles. With each game you’re treated to the final League challenge of the Elite Four and the Champion, and with each game these get better and better. The Pokémon games also do a good job with sub bosses, with my favorite one being against Red at the top of Mt. Silver. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected the recent Gen III remake to surpass that, but it definitely did with Zinnia.
The plot of the Delta Episode involves stopping a meteor from destroying the planet. In order to do this, Zinnia needs to call forth Rayquaza. However, it finds you worthy instead. After you successfully catch Rayquaza, Zinnia challenges you to a battle to test your strength. I’m not going to lie, this battle is a cakewalk. Since you have Mega Rayquaza, you can one-shot everything. Still, Zinnia has some of the most amazing battle music, so much so that it still gives me goosebumps listening to it.
Does it end there? Oh no! After beating Zinnia, you ride Mega Rayquaza into space and crash through the asteroid, blowing it to smithereens, all to a pleasant guitar track to celebrate your victory. However, the music turns electronic as it is revealed that Deoxys was inside the meteor, and a remix of Deoxys’ theme starts playing. If you want to catch Deoxys, this fight is more difficult. Otherwise, one-shot him with Mega Rayquaza again and you finish the Delta Episode. Out of the battles on this list, these are the ones that gravitate more towards the music than the actual fight, but it makes them excellent regardless.
Doppelganger fights are some of the funnest, albeit most cliche fights. The idea of fighting someone who is your equal and overcoming that is satisfying when done well. If there’s a game I wasn’t expecting to have one, it was Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows.
After Plague Knight defeats the Enchantress, I half expected a repeat of her final form from Shovel Knight’s adventure. I ended up being pleasantly surprised to find that she actually is defeated and turned into the last essence Plague Knight needs to complete the Serum Supernus. Before he can use it, it turns volatile, and Plague Knight’s doppelganger Plague of Shadows (roll credits) appears. This fight is pretty much identical to Shovel Knight’s, but it’s nice to fight it with Plague Knight’s moveset.
After you defeat it, Plague of Shadows transforms into one of the creepiest bosses I’ve fought since the Undying Core from Cave Story+, Corrupted Essence. While this fight isn’t as difficult as the Enchantress Final Form (mainly because you didn’t have to rely on another person), it still left a huge impression on me. The battle music is also well done and fits into the game perfectly just like the other new tracks added in this expansion. Even the events surrounding it with Plague Knight and Mona are just as touching as with Shovel Knight and Shield Knight. I’ll leave that up to you guys to check out for yourselves, which shouldn’t be too hard since the expansion’s free with a copy of the game. Meanwhile, this game is well deserving of its placement in my Top Ten Boss Battles of 2015.
Battle Theme: Id (Purpose)
I bought Fire Emblem: Awakening when it launched, and I remembered playing a ton of it. For whatever reason back then, I never finished it. Earlier this year when I picked it up again, I realized that I missed out on an amazing finale. On the plus side, I have a boss fight to add to this list, and that is against the Fell Dragon Grima.
In the last sequence of the game, it is revealed that Robin’s future self (which was successfully possessed by Grima) traveled back through the Outrealm Gate with Lucina and the other future children. This Robin is successfully able to restore Grima’s dragon form after he/she flees from The Dragon’s Table. Now it’s up to Chrom and the Shepherds to strike it down with the help of the present Robin, who is the only one who can kill Grima permanently.
The final showdown takes place where you may least expect it, on the back of Grima itself! This is also the moment where one of Fire Emblem: Awakening’s most famous tracks kicks in for facing off against the last of Grima’s forces and the possessed Robin. The moment in its entirety, from the gameplay to the music to the presentation, really invokes a powerful feeling. Fighting Grima is one of the few moments in games that I can genuinely use the word epic, and my only regret is that it took this long to discover it.
Splatoon is one of the most original games I’ve played this year. While I expected its gameplay to be top-notch, I wasn’t really expecting much out of its single-player. I’m glad I was proven wrong, as it was a lot of fun to play and was good training for the online battlefield. The boss fights were also pretty stellar and made good use of the mechanics you’ve learned. However, nothing beats fighting the leader of the Octolings, DJ Octavio.
As far as gameplay, there’s nothing you do here that you haven’t done previously in your journey. The biggest strength of fighting DJ Octavio is how it tests your skills with shooting ink, swimming through ink and managing your ink levels to make sure you don’t run out at a critical time. The amount of stuff thrown at you also escalates to the point where you’re dodging three or four attacks at a time on perilous platforms! By this point, I’d gotten in the groove enough to overcome it and beat DJ Octavio in a satisfying finale. Oh, and the music’s pretty good too, especially when the Squid Sisters’ tunes kick into overdrive during the final phase. This makes for one of the most original boss fights I’ve had in recent memory, and I’m glad I got to experience it.
Undertale was a massive surprise for me. Coming out of nowhere, I never expected this game to hit me the way it did, nor did I expect it to have boss fights good enough to make the list. Its unique take on the RPG formula with its philosophy of not needing to kill anyone and its charming writing makes Undertale’s boss fights amazing. While any of them could easily have filled this slot (Flowey’s game-breaking antics are worthy on their own) I have to give it to Mettaton for being so fabulous.
The multiple fights you have against Mettaton are pretty simple quiz-style games, bringing the writing that you would expect from the humor-filled Undertale to the forefront. Mettaton’s ulterior motive is to kill you, and that makes these encounters escalate in bizarre ways, including Dr. Alphys giving your soul the ability to fire blasters shoot-em-up style. The point where it goes over the top is when you flip Mettaton’s switch and he transforms into the beautiful Mettaton EX.
The main gimmick of this boss fight is to escalate the ratings meter on the side by performing different feats like boasting and posing (yes, posing). Of course, the fight is filled with funny moments, like typing an essay about why you like Mettaton and taking your union-mandated break. That humor is what makes all of Undertale’s bosses special, and Mettaton’s just happens to be my favorite of these for 2015. Who knows, maybe that’ll change for 2016 after I do my Pacifist and Genocide runs.
Even though it’s a bit cliche to use the final boss to represent a game, the true boss of Persona 4 Golden is the reason why I decided to start this list. The leadup is just as important, so I’ll start with that. After defeating the real cuprit behind the Inaba murders and the source behind the fog, you’re still left with questions to ponder. How was the Midnight Channel started in the first place? How were you able to awaken your Persona Izanagi without facing your other self? After some more investigation, you discover the one behind it all, Izanami.
In one last hurrah, you travel into the Midnight Channel to Yomotsu Hirasa in order to face Izanami. Here, you face a rather tough boss battle with amazing music, but it is pretty straightforward. However, you reach a point where you can’t deal any more damage. In this moment, you use the Orb of Sight given to you by Igor and Margeret of the Velvet Room to reveal Izanami’s twisted form, Izanami-no-Okami. This form is a lot more powerful, which makes for a difficult but doable fight. This is also where the battle themes that you’ve heard so much of leading up to this moment (Reach Out To The Truth and I’ll Face Myself) are reincorporated into an amazing orchestral piece.
However, when you think you beaten Izanami-no-Okami, she uses Thousand Curses and your teammates are imprisoned trying to save you. Just when it all seems hopeless, you use the power of your Social Links to summon your Ultimate Persona, Izanagi-no-Okami. Now, you face Izanami-no-Okami head-on, able to withstand her assault. Once it’s your turn, you can use one skill, Myriad Truths, to deliver the final blow. The best part about everything mentioned here is that it’s expressed purely through the game’s mechanics, and it makes for an incredible boss fight, deserving of the top slot of 2015.
So there you have it, my Top Ten Boss Battles of 2015. Were they what you expected? Where there any that you enjoyed more and would have put in instead? Either way, feel free to share your favorite boss battles in the comments below. I’ll be back next week for my Top 5/Bottom 5 Sonic Games of 2015.