Elden Ring has inspired me. Not because it’s one of the best games ever made (even if it is), but because there’s a certain moment that keeps me thinking: Inside the game, there’s a boss who locks me in one place with dozens and dozens for hours. failed attempts to defeat them.
As the minutes passed and my kill count increased, I realized this boss was rising in the ranks of the hardest I’ve ever fought. All those bosses broke me somehow. They challenged my fighting spirit and forced me to play further than I could.
To celebrate the release of Elden Ring, along with one of his bosses who makes me realize I’m nothing but a victim of FromSoftware’s evil will, here are the hardest bosses I’ve ever defeated. For the sake of diversity, I will only include one entry per game.
Please note that this list is based entirely on my own experience. Some of these bosses were incredibly challenging due to the difficulty I played the game on. If you want to avoid spoilers for Elden Ring, don’t go to the bottom of the list.
8. Harbinger (Halo Infinite)
Halo Infinite on Legendary is a nightmare. And Harbinger is a big part of that equation, as the player is forced to fight a wave of ruthless enemies before the start of each stage. Once you make a mistake, you will be sent back to when the enemies start spawning instead of when the boss re-enters the arena.
This means you have a very slim chance of learning Harbinger’s attack patterns and how to avoid them. Every tough boss forces the player to learn, and given that Halo Infinite on Legendary leads to many hits being a one-off kill, the player’s already short window of time to learn about the boss is made worse by the waves of enemies you need to defeat to defeat go back there. Combine that with a blast of energy that’s really hard to avoid, and you’ve got a boss that took me hours of trying to take him down.
7. Date Masamune (Nioh)
While Nioh can be challenging, I’ve never retried a boss more than a dozen times. But Date Masamune, a fierce dual-wielding swordsman who commands the elemental spirits of water and wind, uprooted my expectations of difficulty for the game. This enemy is relentless, because his attack patterns are fast and he has many brutal skills. One move in particular causes him to attack the player, and if his katana connects, he’ll trap them in an animation that deals an absurd amount of damage.
And once Masamune starts imbuing his weapons with elemental power, parts of the arena become difficult to traverse as puddles of noxious water take away the safety of maneuverability. And even when he’s done casting spells, his quick attacks and far-reaching attacks make it impossible to relax for a moment. It got so bad that I had to craft healing items, which made failure particularly punishable.
6. Darkeater Midir (Dark Souls 3)
Darkeater Midir scared me. After a stressful journey through Dark Souls 3, I was ready to finish the game and move on with my life. I was right at the end of “The Ringed City” DLC, ready to take on the final boss when I found an obscure path hidden in an illusory statue. Suddenly, I plunge into a never-ending hole as a hulking violet dragon slumbers on the other side of a huge chasm. I knew my battle against this creature wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t expect the hell I’d go through.
Darkeater Midir broke me. I got so frustrated with my first five or so attempts against him that I tried to change my entire build. But the problem was not with my character. The boss has a huge health bar and a high damage output, with ridiculous moves that will make everyone scream in fear. One attack in particular engulfs the entire arena in a prolonged flame. The player cannot run through it or dodge it, and if they don’t come up with a solution, they will die. I could only defend against this with a shield, and even then it always dealt massive amounts of damage. And while Midir has a lot of health, he will take a lot more damage if you attack his head. This pressures players to get up close and personal, rather than hovering around his legs. And when Midir starts firing laser beams that erupt throughout the arena, you want to go home.
5. Ludwig the Cursed (Bloodborne)
Bloodborne’s “The Old Hunters” DLC is known for its tough bosses and brutal areas, but Ludwig in particular is notorious in the Bloodborne community for his relentless brutality. Acting as the DLC’s first boss, Ludwig has way too much health, hits like a truck and refuses to give the player a chance to attack. I spent hours banging my head against a wall fighting Ludwig, forcing myself to master every move he had under his belt.
Ludwig will jump off the screen and crash into the arena, spewing acidic saliva, coming at you at Sonic’s speed, sweeping the ground in a wide arc and slamming his hooves on the ground over and over to crush your bones. Even if the player thinks they’ve made decent progress during the battle, Ludwig will transition to his second stage when his health bar is halfway through. Many believe this stage is a lot easier than the first, but if you’re running out of Blood Vials and have no idea what abilities it has up its sleeve, it’ll be frustrating when a glowing beam of light kills you.
4. Without (Undertale)
Undertale is an acclaimed wonder that almost every gamer knows, and it features multiple playthroughs that result in new experiences. Many fans go so far as to say that reaching the end credits is just the beginning of the journey, as there is much more to explore before you see the full picture.
While Sans is friendly to the player on the other routes, he is a boss on the Genocide Route. Toby Fox knew exactly what he was doing in creating this fight, and deliberately made it as discouraging and punishing as possible. Tons of fake wins keep you off guard, and Sans continues to mock the player with each death. He will count how many losses the player has incurred, and offer a few new lines of dialogue as they fail more and more.
This battle begins abruptly with Sans using one of his most powerful moves against the player, and if they don’t expect it, they will die instantly. There is an extremely small margin of error and further into the fight he will go so far as to attack the player while they select action from the menu. For shame, Sans.
3. Sigrun, the Valkyrie Queen (God of War)
God of War 2018 on the “Give Me God of War” difficulty is the most challenging video game experience I’ve had. Not only is this setting extremely difficult, but it cannot be reversed once the player starts the journey. It took me three years to finally beat this game, and the ultimate culmination was my battle against Sigrun.
Sigrun owns the moveset of every single Valkyrie boss in the game, and each player will almost give the player a shot. You must master the winding patterns you see in all of Sigrun’s attacks, as they require exact reactions. Some need you to dodge in a certain direction, others need a parry, some need you to avert your gaze, and sometimes Kratos needs to throw his hand ax straight at the boss.
Her powerful moveset is made even scarier when the player’s margin of error is so low. You die in one or two shots, and the boss fight lasts a long time. Sigrun’s health bar is the largest in the game, so players have to fight this marathon while making little to no mistakes.
2. Emma the Soft Knife (Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice)
I spent four hours and 30 minutes over the course of a week trying to beat Emma. This isn’t just because the battle is tough, it’s related to that particular playthrough, one where I didn’t take Kuro’s Charm at the start of the game. This meant I took damage while blocking, enemies had more health, and my stance broke faster.
Emma has incredible range, unpredictable attack patterns and uses a grappling attack that can melt the player’s health. But the tough part of this battle isn’t just Emma; once the player defeats her, Isshin Ashina appears behind Sekiro, holding Emma’s corpse in his hands. And as he unsheaths his katana, the player will soon regret choosing this ending. Isshin’s fiery geysers span the entire arena, and getting hit by one often resulted in instant death. Furthermore, his attacks are fast and deal large amounts of damage. It took me so long to overcome this boss, and once I did, I cried out for joy.
1. Malenia, Blade of Miquella (Elden Ring)
Not only is Malenia the most challenging boss in Soulsborne, but she’s also easily on top of the difficulty during my time with video games. Her infernal mechanics evoke hopelessness and throw the player in the throes of despair.
Malenia longs for perfection. With each attack she lands on the player, she heals a significant portion of the damage dealt. The player cannot brute force his way through the battle with health restore or powerful Ashes of War. Instead, you have to get to know each of her ridiculous attack patterns and come up with a solution against them.
Unlike almost all boss fights I’ve fought, mistakes result in more than just loss of health. Now the player loses valuable progress in the battle. There have been times when I started this encounter, landed six or so hits and got stung once, only to see all my progress lost and her health bar return to max. This is absurdly punitive, because from the slightest failure it can be a huge makes adversity. If the player has not mastered her moveset, there is no way they can deal enough damage to defeat her.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Malenia has a charging attack that is impossible to stop. You can’t run from it, you don’t have the stamina to resist it, and to get through every hit requires the mastery of a Street Fighter tournament champion. She lands dozens and dozens of attacks in a flurry that can kill you instantly, no matter how much health your character has. Even after 100 tries over the course of four hours, I still can’t avoid most of this attack, even though I’ve gotten a little better at going through some parts of it.
To top it off, when players land the final hit on Malenia, players are rewarded with a cutscene. In this cutscene, we see Malenia bloom from a scarlet flower, flapping her wings as she exclaims, “You will witness real horror.” Yes, the fight only gets tougher from here on out, with a slew of one-shot moves and the rotten state effect that constantly threatens to bring the player down to 0 HP. Good luck!