As is quickly becoming tradition around these parts, CelJaded’s 3rd anniversary, which commences on June 3rd 2017, will be celebrated with yet another brand new top 100 list starting this month and running through to the summer. This year we’ll be delving into a topic that I’ve been excited about for a long time and that’s the topic of best video game bosses.
Love ’em or hate ’em, boss battles have been one of the defining features of video games for a very long time. In the classical sense, a boss fight is intended as a test; a huge enemy, a gatekeeper, or spotlight encounter designed to ensure players possess the necessary skills or ability in order to continue.
Being a common trope of action and fighting games in particular, most decent boss battles are notable for their challenge. These encounters regularly test a player’s reflexes and forward-thinking, free from the training wheels of tutorial pop-ups or other instructions that might otherwise dilute the difficulty involved with achieving success. However, managing this task without resorting to clichés is itself a tricky endeavour, and in composing this list I was dismayed by how few examples I could recall of truly great boss fights that exceeded mechanical as well as stylistic conventions.
Indeed, there are several entries we’ll come across where the boss fight in question kinda stinks from a gameplay perspective! But even then, there can be a singular idea or breadth of spectacle that helps such gaming moments transcend their own mediocrity. For instance, Dead Rising is a video game whose environments are teeming with hostile zombies and yet its dozen or so mandatory boss battles all pit you against psychotic human adversaries instead. These fights are usually awkward and annoying as all hell, but the ironic twist of humanity outdoing the undead for sheer terror factor is a fitting twist for that genre of horror. Again, the gameplay might suck, but the boss battles are still used in a fairly unique way that is at the very least quite memorable!
Modern video games have undergone a shift towards more narrative heavy experiences and so nowadays boss encounters are able to fulfil a number of different of roles. Sometimes they’re angled as set pieces to further a dramatic story moment or to introduce a new character and other times they can be entirely optional or made in the name of simple nostalgia or comedy. Some modern titles have even gone so far as to ditch bosses altogether. Games like Halo effortlessly generate enough drama and flair without them and there are even critics such as Charlie Brooker who think boss battles are like “having a second job”. Ouch!
I shouldn’t need to argue the point of whether I think boss battles are necessarily good or bad though, as by the time it’s through, this upcoming list will hopefully supply enough evidence for both sides of the argument. We will definitely revisit the question by the time we reach #1, you can be sure of that!
As with CelJaded’s other lists, this new effort is going to be written with familiar house rules in effect, namely: each individual video game can only appear on the list once and I can only feature video games that I have played. These guidelines force me to choose only my favourite boss from each game mentioned whilst primarily relying on my own first-hand experience to convey the impact those moments had on me.
With that said, I hope you enjoy this exploration into action game culture and join me on the 3rd June for the final instalment where I’ll be going over the final top 10 in the run up to #1. You don’t want to miss it!
Begin Part 1