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The Top 10 Boss Battles of Last Generation

Sometimes they’re like a reward, sometimes they’re more like a punishment, but most games feature boss encounters, to some degree, and often they incorporate the most spectacular and memorable parts of said game. Here is a rundown of what we think are ten of the very finest bosses to feature in games on the PS2, GameCube and Xbox:

10. Crimson Helm – Okami

Following the template Zelda has all but perfected over the last couple of decades, Okami is abundant with bosses waiting at the end of dungeons to challenge you and test your Celestial Brush proficiency. Far from the toughest, but arguably the finest of the bunch is this monstrous beast. Coated in flames, heavily armoured and wielding a pair of swords each sizeable enough to eviscerate heroine Amaterasu, this brute’s bark may be worse than his bite but he’s still the most brilliantly-designed and enjoyable boss encounter in a game full of them.

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9. Darth Malak – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Few things will appeal to a die-hard Star Wars geek more than the prospect of building a lightsabre and duelling with an infamous Sith Lord. And that is exactly what KotOR delivers, after 30 or 40 hours’ of building up the lore and mythology behind BioWare’s surprisingly tangible take on the famous sci-fi universe. Whether you choose the path of the Sith or the Jedi, the adventure is long, rewarding and intricate, and the incentive of squaring up to this Dark Lord was recompense indeed – a villain every inch Darth Vader’s equal.

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8. El Gigante – Resident Evil 4

In a way, El Gigante’s entrance is representative of Resident Evil 4‘s assault on the then-stagnating survival horror genre; he (it?) smashes his way in, killing all of the smaller, weaker Ganados, then proceeds to rip up a tree and beat Leon over the head with it. Fortunately Leon has a retort; namely a shotgun, machine gun, grenades, and so on. If you have already completed the game and were lucky enough to afford it, you might even have the excellent Chicago Typewriter or Infinite Rocket Launcher, which would both make short work of even this gargantuan boss.

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7. Dhoulmagus – Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King

Dhoulmagus was brilliant. Not that he was the principal or the most challenging bad guy, or anything, but his chilling insane jester performance was one to be remembered. Methodically killing without remorse and proving more than a match for the band of four heroes, we arguably haven’t seen an RPG enemy so distinct and clearly deranged since Final Fantasy VI‘s Kefka.

Of course, being part of this brilliant and tough game, when you do finally confront him it is an exhausting and difficult battle, only for him to change once defeated and reveal his true, even stronger form (much to your dismay); the demon-esque Ghoulmagus.

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6. Phantom – Devil May Cry

It happens just when you’re getting comfortable with Devil May Cry; just when your skills are reaching the point where you can handle the marionettes with relative ease and élan, along comes Phantom – arguably the hardest boss in the game – to well and truly kick your arse and keep your self-belief in check. In true Capcom fashion, you have to duke it out with the immense molten spider/scorpion hybrid at least two times before it’s defeated, although the first encounter is almost certainly more memorable given (a) the tight confines of the room make the battle very punishing, and (b) it’s the first boss battle in this outstanding game.

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5. Meta-Ridley – Metroid Prime

Just like summer blockbuster movies being crap and Sony executives talking bullshit, you can rely on Metroid antagonist Ridley coming back every couple of games to give interstellar bounty hunter Samus Aran a hard time. Giving you a tantalising glimpse of the winged foe at the beginning of the game (and once or twice thereafter), he makes his re-appearance for the inevitable confrontation right near the end. As ever though, he is no match for the now fully powered-up Samus, and he is defeated yet again, to await his inevitable restoration and return.

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4. The Armoured Minotaur – God of War

Boss battles may have been thin on the ground in God of War, but their incredibly high quality more than made up for it. Anyone could reasonably pick any of the three bosses to fill this slot, but I feel duelling against this magnificent creature was the most exciting and enjoyable battle. Once you’ve spent a while beating on it and ramming huge fiery tree logs into its chest, the armour falls away revealing the fact it’s actually an undead giant armoured minotaur, and you pin the big bastard to a wall for daring to mess with you.

Quite a typical day for Kratos, as it happens.

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3. Ganon – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Videogame antagonists rarely come more evil, oppressive and resilient than Zelda veteran Ganondorf. Delivering an epic multi-tiered battle here incorporating Link defending against his foul sorcery, duelling with a massive and fearsome boar-beast, chasing Ganon down atop Epona, and finally, confronting him in a climactic sword fight. With arguably the most memorable encounter between Link and his nemesis, Twilight Princess had an outstanding final confrontation leading up to a wonderful climax, which is easily one of the finest boss battles from any game in the series.

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2. The End – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Rarely has Metal Gear Solid and series creator Hideo Kojima’s genius been displayed better than in your marathon encounter with The End. Resembling something akin to a test of endurance – a cat-and-mouse battle, with subtle and inspired use of your equipment and many more incidental nuances than boss encounters traditionally display; this intense, drawn-out and draining battle against quite literally a near-dead old expert sniper is one of the very best parts of a very good game.

Plus, you get a slow-motion shot of his airborne false teeth once defeated, which is ridiculous yet awesome.

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1. Phalanx; The ‘Sand Dragon’ – Shadow of the Colossus

Boss battles have long been an integral part of videogames, but never before have they been so fundamental to every facet of the story, gameplay and characterisation as with SotC. Twisting traditional values on their head by effectively making your foes themselves the level, as opposed to being restricted to simply end-of-level guardians, SotC comfortably delivers some of the most exciting, epic and memorable battles ever seen in a videogame.

In truth, probably half a dozen of your monstrous opponents from the game could justify a place here, but the sheer sense of scale, airborne speed and imagination displayed in battling your thirteenth colossal foe is enough to elevate it above its contemporaries.

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The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2007.

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