The best video games usually feature a wide variety of balanced boss fights–too bad not all games turn out this way. Over the years, some boss encounters have gained almost legendary status for being difficult or even "broken." A boss can end up being so hard that many gamers would rather cut off their thumbs than pick up a controller to face them again. After constant punishment at the hands of these bosses, even the most laid-back gamer will probably eventually rage-quit to avoid more hours of misery and failure. Here are just a few of the worst offenders.
Whitney – Pokémon Gold & Silver
While you probably wouldn’t expect a Pokémon game to feature one of the toughest boss battles ever, Goldenrod City gym leader Whitney from 1999’s Pokémon Gold and Silver definitely deserves her place on our list. Whitney’s collection of Pokémon seems underwhelming at first glance, but a single member on her team actually makes this fight one of the toughest in the entire Pokémon franchise.
When Whitney brings out her Miltank, you might be anticipating an easy battle—it’s just a dairy cow, after all. But this Miltank packs a punch with an especially difficult moveset. Miltank heals itself with Milk Drink, uses Attract to cause your male Pokémon to miss a turn, and knows the Rock-type move Rollout—which hits you with increasing damage for five turns in a row. If Whitney’s Miltank doesn’t just one-shot defeat all of your Pokémon, prepare for a protracted battle that will end only when all of your team members run out of PP. If you’re still "udderly" frustrated with this gym battle, then check out this guide to beating Whitney and her Miltank.
Mike Tyson – Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Even more than 20 years later, the final fight with Iron Mike in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! for the NES remains one of the hardest boss battles out there. Tyson will knock you flat on your face every time unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Unlike the other more "rhythmic" opponents in Punch-Out!!, Tyson’s moves appear to be random and his attack signals are intentionally misleading. Add in Tyson’s size and reach, his lightning-fast footwork, and his extremely powerful attacks, and you’ll find little opportunity to even land a punch on the champ.
For many players, the fight with Tyson inevitably turns into hours of failed attempts as you painstakingly commit all of his moves and combos to memory. All that said, it is possible to beat Iron Mike with enough time and dedication. These two dedicated Punch-Out!! gamers even managed to beat Mike Tyson blindfolded during the 2016 AGDQ speedrun event.
The Rebel Flagship – FTL: Faster Than Light
The Rebel Flagship is undoubtedly the hardest encounter in 2012’s FTL: Faster Than. This extremely powerful enemy ship switches attack strategies in each phase of the fight. The Flagship’s AI is extremely overpowered and it even has unlimited ammunition. Unless you’re adequately prepared for this boss, you’re going to get blown to smithereens—even in normal mode. Because losses are permanent in FTL, any failure here means starting the game over from the beginning.
One effective strategy involves leaving a single enemy crewmember alive. This will prevent the enemy AI from automatically repairing the Flagship. Upgrade your shields early and often in the game and practice rerouting power on the fly. Also get your ship some cloaking or maxed-out engines to increase dodges. Start by destroying the Flagship’s missiles and other weapons systems. Pairing your teleporters with firebombs right into the enemy medbay is effective, too.
Sephiroth – Kingdom Hearts I and II
The mysterious Final Fantasy VII villain Sephiroth appears in both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. In both games, his optional boss battles are nearly impossible to beat. Even max-level players wielding the Ultima Weapon have a hard time with Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts because of his jaw-dropping abilities. (Even worse, you have to watch his long cutscene before every attempt.)
Defeating Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts usually involves spamming Aero, cure spells, and elixirs—lots of elixirs. For PlayStation 3 owners, get the remastered Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix. Sephiroth’s fight is identical, but at least you can skip the cutscenes and go straight to your next soul-crushing defeat.
In Kingdom Hearts II, you can face Sephiroth again. His brutal Heartless Angel move is back, and his attack power ramps up as his HP goes down. He’s also added new moves, including evil little orbs of pain that home in on you as you try to flee. If manage to beat the Kingdom Hearts II version of Sephiroth, the game rewards you with a Fenrir keyblade. You don’t win anything for defeating him in the original Kingdom Hearts, but the sense of accomplishment is definitely worth it.
King Krusha K. Rool – Donkey Kong 64
King K. Rool of the Donkey Kong franchise has left countless frustrated gamers in his wake, beginning with his very first appearance in 1994’s Donkey Kong Country. Donkey Kong and his little buddy Diddy do battle with the tyrannical crocodile aboard his ship, the Gangplank Galleon. In that fight, K. Rool fakes his own demise after you land enough hits on him. Many gamers have been fooled by the King’s end-game "Kredits," only to be insta-beaten when he jumps up and renews his frenzied attack. But that’s nothing compared to the King’s alter-ego Krusha K. Rool in 1999’s Donkey Kong 64.
For this fight, Donkey Kong and his companions must beat K. Rool in a bizarre boxing match. Instead of a straightforward boss battle, players must launch themselves from cannons, drop spotlights on K. Rool’s reptilian head, and even make him slip on banana peels. You have just three minutes with the crocodile king in each round, and if you don’t knock him out in time, his health bar will completely refill. If he defeats any of your team or you fail to KO him with all of the Kongs within 12 minutes, the entire encounter resets and you have to start the entire fight over again.
Ornstein and Smough – Dark Souls
The dynamic duo of Ornstein and Smough from 2011’s Dark Souls definitely deserve their spot on this list. Ornstein wields his spear to deadly effect and will also smite you from a distance with lightning bolts. Smough is a waddling hulk who’s also pretty effective at smashing your face in with his gigantic hammer. You can summon Solaire for an assist, but don’t assume that bringing along Mr. Sunbro will make this fight easy. No amount of praising the sun or jolly cooperation can save you if you don’t have a good strategy.
There’s no point in trying to defeat both Fatboy and Slim at the same time—after you beat one, the remaining boss will fully heal, absorbing additional powers and moves from his fallen buddy’s soul. Whichever one you dispatch first is up to you, but prepare for a grueling experience either way. That said, Ornstein and Smough can be beaten if you have enough time and patience to learn the fight; this guy even managed to do it with a level one character on NG+7 difficulty. Make sure you do your research before heading off to challenge this armored odd couple—the order you fight them in determines the items you get as a reward. Seriously: you don’t want to have to beat these guys twice.
The Bloat – The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
None of the bosses in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth are particularly easy, but Bloat is definitely the worst of the lot. He’s so reviled by players that there’s even an entire Subreddit dedicated to hating him. Bloat’s most-hated ability is his instantaneous Brimstone attack, which comes without warning and can easily destroy you because of its wide (and misleading) damage beam. Bloat will also leave red puddles on the ground, which do damage and can even trap you if you aren’t careful about where you step.
Unlike a traditional boss, The Bloat has a chance to appear in several different locations—and he can even show up more than once in the game’s randomized roguelike dungeons. If that weren’t enough, particularly unlucky Rebirth players might encounter the "Champion Variant" Green Bloat. This extremely challenging version of the boss adds new attacks to his punishing moveset. He’ll even spawn additional mobs to chase you and generally make your life miserable while you try to beat him. Defeat is permanent in The Binding of Isaac, which means you’ll have to start the entire game over if The Bloat gets the best of you.
Spider Guardian – Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
In 2004’s Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, the hardest encounter in the game is actually the Spider Guardian mini-boss. Much of Spider Guardian’s difficulty depends upon what version of the game you’re playing. The battle was changed to be more manageable on the Wii edition of Metroid Prime 2, but players of the original GameCube version can attest that this boss fight was a hellish nightmare—even on normal mode.
The entire fight takes place within a maze, which the spider boss travels through with ease. In contrast, your "ball form" must jump around the labyrinth awkwardly while avoiding the Spider Guardian’s damaging aura. As you hop wildly around the maze, you must simultaneously lay down bombs in the guardian’s path—making sure to time them just right if you want to actually damage the boss. It’s a complex and time-consuming process that has undoubtedly induced many rage-quits over the years.
Fontaine – Bioshock
The final boss battle with Fontaine in 2007’s Bioshock presents a noticeable difficulty spike right at the end of the game. After being cornered by Jack, Fontaine injects himself with the DNA-altering Adam genetic material, which turns him into a superpowered monster. Have your reflexes on point for this fight, because Fontaine is absolutely relentless. His rapid-fire attacks come in quick succession, leaving you very little opportunity to land a hit on him in return.
Your best bet is to use ranged attacks like frag grenades or RPGs to tick down his health while dodging him as he charges across the room. Another good option is to lure Fontaine into the water and then shock him multiple times. Regardless of how you approach the fight, be ready for multiple stages of stressful insanity. After beating his health down far enough, Fontaine will be temporarily returned to his chair, where you must stab him with a syringe to drain some of his Adam before he breaks free and starts beating you to a pulp again.
The Nameless King – Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 propelled itself onto our list for its optional boss battle with The Nameless King. This legendary god of war wields a lightning-charged spear and attacks you from atop his dangerous mount. During the first phase, you’ll need to take out the Storm drake while avoiding its rider’s unpredictable swipes and slashes. While The Nameless King is still aboard his drake, players have to contend with not only the King’s attacks but also the game’s camera, because this powerful pair will take up your entire screen.
In the second phase, The Nameless King dismounts and absorbs his drake’s powers before launching an even more difficult onslaught against you. He impales you with his electrified spear, swoops down on you from above, and smites you with bolts of lightning. Additionally, the mist-covered ground and massive size of this boss make it extremely difficult to anticipate and dodge his attacks. Even with heavy armor equipped, The Nameless King can wipe out half or more of your health with each swing. Mages stand very little chance against this boss, so your best strategy is to roll a melee class and equip items offering lots of physical and lightning resistance before entering the fog.
Yellow Devil – Mega Man
The long-running Mega Man series has offered up plenty of difficult bosses along the way, but none are more infuriating than Yellow Devil from 1987’s original Mega Man for NES. He’s even a contender for the most rage-inducing video game boss of all time. When Yellow Devil first appears on your screen, he fragments into 19 pieces that speed across the screen. You must dodge and jump over these fragments at the correct height and in a precise pattern, or their knockback and stun damage will start a chain reaction that inevitably ends in Mega Man’s end.
As the yellow blobs move to the other side, they reassemble piece-by-piece into the Yellow Devil. After the boss is whole again, he immediately shoots a projectile at your face. You have to dodge this bullet while also launching your counterattack. This extremely short attack window is the only opportunity to deal some damage before Yellow Devil starts fragmenting again and becomes invulnerable. If the Yellow Devil still stumps you, a simple glitch cheat for NES offers a quick solution. Immediately after your Thunder Beam touches the boss, rapidly pause and unpause the game. Every time you unpause will reapply the damage on him—allowing you to defeat Yellow Devil with just one shot.
Duriel – Diablo II
Diablo II‘s Duriel is one of the most enraging PC game bad guys of all time. You’re trapped in a tiny room with a tanky maggot king that easily soaks up your best attacks. Despite his enormous size, Duriel will be hot on your heels before you can say "Looking for Baal?" A skillful caster can kite Duriel around, but his freeze ability makes melee classes almost useless against him. If you plan to take Duriel on, bring Thawing potions and do your best to cast a town portal before Duriel’s chamber—you’ll need it. Dying without one means a very long walk all the way back to Duriel’s location.
A player with lots of patience and plenty of town portals can eventually defeat Duriel, but this boss has infuriated many gamers since Diablo II first launched back in 2000. Because defeat is final in Hardcore mode, Duriel’s chamber has marked the end of the line for countless characters over the years. The notorious lag at the start of his fight makes things even more frustrating. There’s nothing worse than finding Duriel standing over your frozen and mangled corpse right after his room finally loads. They don’t call him the Lord of Pain for nothing, you know.
Sans – Undertale
He may be billed as Undertale‘s "easiest enemy," but don’t let the description fool you—this usually agreeable and grinning skeleton will seriously mess you up as the final boss in the game’s "Genocide Route." Fighting Sans will take everything you thought you knew about Undertale and turn it on its head as he throws all sorts of surprises your way. After stealing the first turn, he launches an intense barrage of attacks and tactics unlike anything else in the game.
While Sans "can only deal 1 damage," the truth is he actually deals 1 HP of damage per frame—up to a ridiculous 30 times per second. You can’t dodge, all your attacks miss, he glitches out your screen and attacks you through your menu. Sans even drags out his final turn for several minutes in an attempt to bore you into quitting. Since you killed his brother and all the other monsters in the game, Sans doesn’t bother trying to hide his subtle fury and contempt for you. When you think about it, you’re actually the final evil boss of Undertale–and Sans is fighting you.
Alma – Ninja Gaiden
The boss fight with Alma in the 2004 Ninja Gaiden Xbox reboot is widely regarded as the toughest battle in the entire franchise. Her speed, agility, and deadly arsenal of moves are practically legendary. Alma shoots blindingly fast fireballs that home in on you, and she throws stone pillars around the room with ease. Beware her pink tractor beam, which Alma uses to smash you on the ground like a ragdoll. There’s very little room to maneuver in this fight—get too far away and Alma will launch projectiles, or get too close and she will go airborne and give you a swooping beatdown.
Beating Alma in the original 2004 Xbox version is extremely difficult, but her updated iterations are even more soul-crushing and maddening than the original. In Ninja Gaiden Black from 2005, Alma retains her original moves, but now has some demon lackeys to help her—as if she needed it. She’s also able to launch many more of those infuriating pink fireballs at a time. She doesn’t have those demons in Ninja Gaiden Sigma from 2007, but the ridiculously awful camera controls used for this PS3 version are just as effective as any sidekick. No matter which Alma you take on, beating her will likely mean hours of frustrating attempts. May your broken controllers rest in pieces.