Sora vs Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts 2

The 10 Greatest Final Bosses in Video Games

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You’ve slogged your way through countless hours of gameplay. You’ve found every weapon. You’ve done every annoying little fetch quest side mission. You had to restart the game when your little sister saved over your game file. You even survived the annoying tutorial level.

Victory is within your grasp. You just have to defeat one final enemy.

But this one sure is a doozy.

Maybe you’ve known who they were since the jump. Maybe they’re a new foe you didn’t know was pulling the strings the whole time. Maybe they’ve always been your enemy. Maybe they were once your friend. Maybe they betrayed you. Maybe they killed one of your own. Maybe they want power. World domination. Maybe they’re just on the wrong side of history. Maybe they just want to watch the world burn. Maybe they’re three cats in a trench coat.

Whoever they are, they’re the final boss, and they aren’t going down easy.

So to pump you up for this final battle (or maybe just re-traumatize you) I’m coming up with a list of some of the best final bosses in gaming to show you that even the mightiest of foes can be beaten. Just make sure you save your game before going in to fight them. Because you may die. A lot.

The Boss from Metal Gear

(image credit: konami)

This is, by far, the most emotional boss fight on this list. Your fight with The Boss at the end of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is going to bring up a lot of feelings. She was your former mentor. She taught you everything you know. If anything, she’s more like your surrogate mother. She betrayed you in the beginning of the game for reasons that you don’t understand, and now you have to fight her and kill her. She meets you in a field of beautiful white flowers and tells you that you have ten minutes to defeat her before an airstrike comes in to blow the both of you to smithereens. The fight is a brutal, hand-to-hand affair. You both sneak around the field of flowers in camouflage, and her snow white jumpsuit blends in perfectly with the blossoms. She rushes you out of nowhere and you have to time your button presses just right to escape her hand-to-hand strikes. And all the while the theme music from the game is playing to really put you in touch with your feelings. At the end of the battle, she lays defeated at your feet, and she looks you in the eye and asks you to finish her off. The camera cuts away at the sound of the last gunshot. And it’s over. And then you cry. And you don’t stop crying until the end of the game when you realize that (SPOILER ALERT) she was on your side all along. Devastating.

Majora from The Legend of Zelda

(image credit: Nintendo)

The final boss from Majora’s Mask is a deeply unsettling affair. After collecting all the magical masks in the world and facing down Skull Kid on top of Clock Town’s clocktower, you are transported to the surface of the moon which doesn’t actually look like the moon at all but rather a peaceful green field with a tree in the center. Under the tree you find children wearing creepy masks who ask you to play games with them. One child is sitting alone under the tree, away from all the others. He is wearing the evil Majora’s Mask, and is no doubt the spirit of Majora incarnate. He asks you to play a game of “good guys versus bad guys” and that “you’re the bad guy.” Then he transports you to a technicolor hellscape where you realize that Majora is not a “he” at all, but an “it.” Majora’s Mask floats in front of you, and grows gross tentacles that you have to destroy. Then it changes form and grows an eye and legs and starts running around at sonic speeds while laughing maniacally. You give it a couple of good licks with your sword and then it changes form again into a vaguely humanoid shape with tentacle whips and at this point, you black out from screaming and come to and hopefully, Majora is dead. But it doesn’t die. Because it lives on in your nightmares, forever.

Xemnas from Kingdom Hearts

(image credit: Square Enix)

Okay, so you spent all of Kingdom Hearts 1 dealing with the Heartless prince of darkness, Ansem, and his bitch-ass puppet, Riku, who was, at that point, your best friend. You defeat Ansem, and Riku starts to redeem himself. In the second game, you find out that whenever a Heartless is created from the darkness of a human heart, a “Nobody” is created from the body they left behind. And guess what? Ansem has a Nobody too. His name is Xemnas, and he’s even worse than Ansem. You track him down to his homeworld, and you get to team up with Riku, for the first time in two games, in order to put the hurt on this guy. And the battle is wild. It has like five stages. Xemnas rides a giant monster thing that you and Riku have to defeat while piloting a ship. Then Xemnas starts throwing skyscrapers at you that you cut in half with your magical Keyblade. Then, he takes you to a formless void where you and Riku have to defend yourself against an infinite amount of lasers while Xemnas tries to cut your head off with a pair of lightsabers. Then Xemnas captures Sora and you get to play as Riku in order to free him. And then finally the two of you pull off an amazing quick time event tag team attack where you finally land the killing blow. This battle is awesome. One to rival God of War’s boss fights (which deserve their own list entirely)

Omega Flowey from Undertale

(image credit: Toby Fox)

When you start playing Undertale, you’re met in the tutorial level by a cute little flower with a face named Flowey. He starts off by being sweet to you. Except something is seriously off with this flower. He immediately tries to kill you but then you are saved at the last minute. You think that he’s gone for good, or at least won’t be a problem anymore. But he survives the attack and is plotting revenge. If you play the game’s Neutral route, then at the end of the game (after fighting a fake out final boss) Flowly reappears and challenges you to another battle. You think “this is gonna be a cinch, this guy is just a little flower, right?” WRONG. Flowey transforms into a disturbing as hell photoshop monstrosity called “Omega Flowey”. And this Flowey is brutal. He shoots lasers, fires missiles, and just says horrible things in order to drive you into total despair. It’s a seriously messed up battle. If you thought Majora was bad, this is far, far worse.

Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7

(image credit: Square Enix)

Have you ever heard of the term “one winged angel”? It’s trope where a (usually) villainous character changes form halfway through a climactic battle revealing their true form in all its beautiful, deadly glory. Well, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7 invented that trope. At the end of the game, Sephiroth turns into an angelic abomination hellbent on sending Cloud and friends into the afterlife .It’s a long, grueling fight, and set to one of the most iconic video game battle themes ever made: “One Winged Angel”.

Malus from Shadow of the Colossus

Malus from shadow of the colossus
(Sony Computer Entertainment)

Playing Shadow of the Colossus is a morally ambiguous affair. As the character Wander, you hunt down and massacre a series of breathtaking giants that appear to be just… minding their own business? And the more and more of these giants that you kill, the more monstrous your form becomes. And yet, something about the final boss battle with Malus feels justified. Malus is a true mountain of a being, and has a far more sinister presence than all of the other collossi. The battle is long and emotionally grueling. Finally, you climb to the crown of Malus’ head and take the giant down with a fatal thrust. But it’s a hollow victory, and allows the real tragedy of the game to begin.

Baldur from God of War

baldur from god of war
(Santa Monica Studios)

There were few things more shocking to me than when short king Baldur knocked on my door in the beginning of God of War and then proceeded to punch me so hard I flew over my own house. It’s a bloody, brutal fight. Baldur feels like a madman, totally deaf to reason. This is even more true in the final fight against him. BUT instead of worrying about Baldur hurting your son Atreus, Baldur has to worry about Atrues hurting him. This climactic battle is a thrilling father/son tag team beat down of a character that really deserves it. And the mistletoe moment? No spoilers, but what a reveal.

Moon Presence from Bloodborne

moon presence from bloodborne

This is technically a secret boss in Bloodborne, and is actually the “true” ending of the game. After collecting three pieces of eldritch umbilical chord (ew), you return to the Hunter’s Dream to face the craft old hunter Gehrman, who is bound by the Moon Presence. After defeating the first hunter, the moon presence descends to do battle. And it’s eerie. The fight takes place on a field of white flowers, set to a spooky yet tranquil piece of music. It’s attacks are erratic and devastating, and offers one of the greatest challenges in the game. After killing the god, it then allows you to… take its place. SPOOOOOKY!

Yami from Okami

yami from okami

This is one of the most interesting boss designs I have ever seen. Yami is the origin of all evil in the game Okami, a dark, alien presence from beyond the stars. It takes the form of a shriveled little fish, held in a tank inside a bio-mechanical sphere of death. Amaterasu has to use every brush trick up her furry sleeve in order to defeat the beast, but still fails to do so. When all hope seems lost, the people of Nippon begin praying to for Amaterasu in return for the good deeds she did them. Amaterasu is then energized with divine power, and is able to defeat the monster for good. It’s a real tear-jerker of a battle, and the first boss to ever leave me with an enormous sense of gratitude.

Abby from The Last of Us 2

Ellie confronts a beat-up Abby, who is cradling an unconscious Lev in 'The Last of Us Part 2'
(Naughty Dog)

This is perhaps the most emotionally devastating boss fight on this list. At the climax of the game, Ellie finds Abby tied to a post on the California coastline, left there to die after trying to escape against a brutal group of slavers. Ellie cuts Abby down, and Abby offers to help Ellie escape, despite Ellie having killed all of Abby’s friends. Just as Ellie and Abby are about to go their separate ways, Ellie tells Abby that she can’t forgive her, and that one of them has to die. Ellie coerces Abby into fighting, and so begins one of the nastiest, gut-wrenching, harrowing boss fights I’ve ever experienced. The two exhausted young women break each other’s noses, bash each other’s heads in, and even bite off a few fingers. It’s a boss fight that the player actively does not want to have, and yet it forced into for their own survival. The fight culminates in one of the most touching moments of forgiveness, or at least mercy, I have ever seen.

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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.