I’ve never done a lot of posts about video games, nor do I intend to start. But the Dark Souls series has been captivating to me since I first played the second installment, two years ago. As anyone will tell you, the series only gets better from there.
Since there seem to be very few boss ranking lists online, I figured I might as well add one to the pile. It’s early into the official release still, so SPOILER ALERT. Some of the following images and descriptions will certainly give away information you may not want to hear!
19. Oceiros, The Consumed King.
A great design, and an excellent idea for a character even from what we can glean from a mere 30 second cutscene, but certainly the easiest boss fight of the game. It’s too easy to slip under this boss for him to be higher up the list.
18. Vordt of the Boreal Valley
Being encountered so early in the game, you might expect this boss to appear around here on the list. Unlikely to cause too much trouble, but the new frostbite mechanic might throw some players.
17. Deacons of the Deep
This game’s answer to the Prowling Magus and the Congregation. More of a pain than an enjoyable boss fight, but working out the strategy is fun on the initial attempt.
16. Curse-Rotted Greatwood
One of the earliest ‘gimmick-based’ bosses you’re likely to come across. This game contains a few, but surprisingly, they’re mostly executed very well IMHO. This particular fight is one of great spectacle, but again, not of great skill.
15. Crystal Sage
This boss is… frustrating? Nothing wrong with the mechanic of the fight, but when the second phase introduces several duplicate Sage’s, it can be a bit of a lucky dip whether the real Sage appears next to you. Weird for a boss fight to have a difficulty level so reliant on chance.
14. Old Demon King
An optional boss, the Old Demon King feels more like a rehash other Souls game bosses than any other did to me. Having said that, it’s an interesting fight, and it might surprise you and give you a little trouble.
13. High Lord Wolnir
Certainly a gimmick fight, but still kind of tricky. And this boss definitely scores points for spectacle. It also introduces a mechanic which comes in handy later whereby the player does inconsequential damage unless they attack the correct areas. This will help you to work out when future fights might require a different strategy.
12. Iudex Gundyr
It might seem worrying for the first boss of the game to be almost halfway up the list of best bosses. But it’s a very well designed fight. It’s perfectly paced to introduce new players to the series, and the introduction of the two-stage-boss could be enough to throw some more experienced players. Extra points btw for one of the best arenas from any souls game.
11. Yhorm the Giant
I’m torn on this one. The feeling of being able to fell the giant Yhorm is pretty empowering, not least because of the quick thinking the fight requires if you’re going to do it in the arenaon your first try. On the other hand, it again comes down to gimmicks, so your mileage may vary. Of course, if you can’t work it out, and if rewatching some Demon’s Souls playthroughs doesn’t help you, you can always use the summon who puts even Iron Tarkus to shame.
10. Ancient Wyvern
The most gimmicky fight in the whole game. Seriously. I know people are going to be split on this one, but I personally didn’t find it as cheap as I’ve heard others say. In fact, I really enjoyed this fight.
9. Pontiff Sulyvahn
A properly good boss fight, with an interesting second-stage change-up. I’ve heard this one’s given some people trouble, and it’s easy to see why.
8. Dancer of the Boreal Valley
This boss can be fought at different times depending on how you progress through the game, so every player will have a different experience of this one. I fought the Dancer quite late, and still had a bit of trouble owing to the unexpected reach (and length) of some attacks.
7. Abyss Watchers
The first boss in the game to actually give me a bit of trouble. The first stage with the multiple Abyss Watchers can be unexpected, but easily learned, but the second stage against one particularly hard-hitting and vicious Knight caught me consistently off-guard for a little while.
6. Aldrich, Devourer of Gods
One of the creepiest bosses in the Souls series. By the time you encounter Aldrich, Saint of the Deep, he has acquired the new title ‘Devourer of Gods’ and wears the skin and weapons of the legendary gods from the original Dark Souls. It’s a mark of good design that the extent of this world’s decay is represented by fighting him in one of the most grand, spectacular venues from the first game, as it crumbles to dust and ruin around you. Apart from all that, it can be a very difficult fight. Teleporting, fast and powerful spells and fire damage all make this boss difficult, but his ‘rain of arrows’ move will decimate you if you aren’t well-equipped to deal with it. I ran to Aldrich to take my final hit with full health and still we died at the same time. Excellent fight. Likely infuriating.
5. Twin Princes Lorian and Lothric.
One of the more unique bosses in the game, as when you first fight Lorian, he will abuse his teleport ability to no end. I personally found it very difficult to come to terms with that move and a second stage where you must kill Lothric to prevent him from healing Lorian seems a little gratuitous. So too, does the gauntlet you must run to face the boss at all. But then, the reward for the fight is some of the coolest armour in the game.
4. The Nameless King
I hate this boss. Simply put, this might be the most difficult boss in ANY souls game, I found the fight against the Nameless King so difficult that I didn’t even get any satisfaction from finally winning. I was just glad not to have to keep going. And yet it ranks this highly purely for that reason. Sheer difficulty.
Oh, and the items beating the boss unlocks are a fitting prize.
3. Champion Gundyr
One thing this game does exceptionally well is the Man-In-Armour boss fights. They’ve really hit on and perfected a formula for making them interesting, unique and challenging, hence why so many of those highest on this list match that description. Champion Gundyr is likely to get some backlash for being a rehash of the first boss, but much like the Blue Smelter Demon from Dark Souls II, it’s a much better, much harder fight. This incarnation is a very fast, hard-hitting boss. I couldn’t fight this boss without smiling at how much it had been stepped up from the early-game.
2. Dragonslayer armour
I’m not sure why I liked this fight so much. It’s another prime example of the Man-In-Armour fight being executed as well as the series ever has (as is number one on my list, although that takes it to an even higher peak). The idea of fighting empty armour is pretty cool, and the Pilgrim Butterflies which control the armour are perhaps my favourite creature design in the series. But the fight is intense, long and difficult.
1. Soul of Cinder
One of the best Dark Souls bosses ever, by any means of measurement. The embodiment of all those who have linked the flame in the past, an enemy who can perform almost any move you can, with five entirely unique movesets and two forms. This boss will test everything the games have trained you to know. It’s the perfect end to the game and the series as a whole.