One of the most important elements of any video game is arguably that it ends in a strong fashion – a memorable final boss is just one way of doing this.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a cliche topic, but I’ve been on a bit of a Dark Souls trip lately, and the final encounter got me to thinking – the most memorable aspect of a game is how it ends, isn’t it? I mean, everything in the game’s been building to it: at this point, all the chips are down, and you’re throwing everything you’ve got at your foe in a desperate effort to achieve victory. That’s how it should be, anyway. Today, I’d like to take a look at a few of my personal favorites – a few of the best final bosses in video game history.
8. Giant Baby Bowser(Yoshi’s Island)
I’m going to start off the list with a bit of an odd entry. Even though Yoshi’s Island was a bit of an odd duck in the Mario series, it arguably featured some of the strongest game-play of any title. One of the best segments of the game was the final boss – which as a child is goddamn terrifying. See, you’ve just managed to beat the crap out of baby Bowser (who it turns out is a bit of a spoiled brat). Kamek – Bowser’s Magikoopa nursemaid – doesn’t really appreciate that, and decides to cast a spell which basically turns him into Godzilla. Standing on the ruined ramparts of Bowser’s castle, Yoshi turns to the distance and sees a colossal monster looming over the surrounding landscape.
The whole aim of the fight? Stop Bowser from getting close to you. if he does, you lose. It’s a harrowing experience, to say the least – and its spot on this list is well-earned.
7. Omega (Mega Man Zero 3)
Spoiler alert. You have been warned.
All throughout Mega Man Zero 3, you hear people talking about the insidious Dr. Weil, and his terrifying creation Omega – the being that nearly destroyed the world. It’s fairly obvious that you’re going to need to kill this beast, and probably Weil in the process – that’s how these things work, right? As it turns out, though, there’s more to Omega than meets the eye. He’s not simply some mindless god of destruction…
His real body is actually Zero’s original body, and his personality is what Zero should have been; what he was originally created to be. Centuries – or perhaps even millennia – of conflict come to a head, as Zero desperately tries to prove that even if he doesn’t have his original body, he’s still got his original soul. That might sound a bit corny on paper, but playing through the battle is something else altogether – it’s yet one more reminder that Capcom honestly had no business killing off the Mega Man franchise as it did.
6. Jack of Blades (Fable)
The Fable series honestly only has one villain who’s even remotely worth mentioning, and that’s Jack of Blades. Well before the franchise jumped the shark, this harlequin-masked psychopath embodied everything a high-fantasy villain should be: he was ruthless, calculating, and horrifyingly powerful, with an army of ancient abominations at his side and world conquest on the brain. Both battles with him – in the original game and in The Lost Chapters – were positively brilliant, and nothing the franchise has done since has been able to top them.
5. Zeus (God of War 3)
It’s the battle that an entire franchise was building to; the confrontation that everyone knew was coming ever since the bastard’s betrayal at the beginning of God of War 2. Although the rest of the game was marred by a sub-par plot (the irony of Kratos searching desperately for “the power to kill a god” while wielding Helios’s head as an item was not lost on me), I’m fairly confident that this confrontation helped players to forget – at least for a while – the train-wreck that was the game’s narrative. It was, after all, what we’d all been waiting for: the final battle between a King of dead gods and the man whose vengeance tore apart the world.
4. Lavos (Chrono Trigger)
I’ve talked about Lavos – a world-devouring parasite for whom mortal concepts of morality don’t actually apply – before. The sheer gravity of the fight against this time-rending, cataclysmic monstrosity lands it at the number four spot on the list. This is a creature beyond anything your band has encountered: to it, you’re nothing more than gnats, insects to be ground under its boot. And when you finally get inside the beast’s shell to encounter its core…
Raise your hand if you don’t still shudder at the sound of its scream.
3. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder (Dark Souls)
I’ll get this out of the way right now: yes, you can slaughter this boss by mastering Dark Souls’ parry/riposte mechanic. You’re a fool if you think this somehow makes the battle any less poignant, though. Like its spiritual predecessor Demon’s Souls, the final battle against Gwyn is more of a narrative experience than a fight.
Here, you’ve a fallen god – the only remnant of a golden age that’s fast coming to an end. He’s sacrificed everything he was, given every last ounce of his strength to try to stop that end from arriving – something which may inevitably prove futile. It’s unlikely that he even realizes what he’s doing as he charges at you, sword drawn. In essence, What you’re doing battle with isn’t really the Lord of Sunlight – it’s a sad, lifeless shell.
It’s living proof that even gods can go hollow.
2. Darth Malak (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
As every good Star Wars game should, KOTOR ended with two warriors and their lightsabers. Everything – from the destruction of Taris, to the kidnapping of Bastila, right up to the climactic showdown outside the Star Forge’s walls was all just window dressing for the final, incredible battle between Malak and Revan. Regardless of your force alignment, regardless of who your Revan ultimately proved to be, the duel between these two titans of the Force was one for the ages, and the perfect way to top off what was arguable one of the best Science Fiction RPGs ever made.
1. Blue (Pokemon Red/Blue)
“I still can’t believe my dragons lost to you, RED! You are now the POKEMON LEAGUE champion!
…Or, you would have been, but you have one more challenge
ahead. You have to face another trainer! His name is…BLUE!
He beat the ELITE FOUR before you! He is the real POKEMON LEAGUE
Game Freak has come close in recent installments, but they’ve never yet been able to top the epic feel of the confrontation between Red and Blue deep within the Pokemon League. Nothing else mattered – not Team Rocket, not Professor Oak’s Pokedex, not even the championship – this battle was about something else: a final clash between two lifelong rivals, to prove once and for all which one deserved to be named the true Pokemon master. I get goosebumps looking back at it even now.
What about you folks? Got any epic final bosses you want to mention? I know full well I’ve not included everything worth mentioning on this list – let me know in the comments below what you think is missing!