10. Gaping Dragon (Dark Souls)
The Gaping Dragon isn’t exactly one of the most engaging boss fights in the Dark Souls games, but it does earn its spot on this list because of how memorable this encounter is. The boss arena is huge and very atmospheric, with light shining through the dragon-shaped crack and cast down on the soaked stone floors.
The boss looks tiny and unassuming at first. In fact, it looks like nothing more than a little crocodile. But then it slowly crawls out of the hole, and you realize that the tiny head you see is just a prelude to the reveal of a very frightening-looking toothy dragon. While the fight itself isn’t particularly difficult, the Gaping Dragon is one of the most well-designed, albeit nightmare-inducing, bosses in the series.
9. Burnt Ivory King (Dark Souls 2)
He’s locked away in the depths of an immensely challenging DLC, but this boss fight is well worth the effort to get to. The Burnt Ivory King is a special boss fight because the King himself doesn’t make an appearance until you’ve killed enough of his lackeys. The player character jumps into the arena with a few knights at his or her side, and you have to fend off the Ivory King’s soldiers.
The arena feels like an epic battlefield, and the fight only gets better when the Ivory King himself makes his entrance. Combined with the tension of the warzone, this fight is one of the best in the Dark Souls series because of how diverse the King’s moveset is.
8. Seath the Scaleless (Dark Souls)
When you first meet Seath the Scaleless, he looks majestic. He’s a great white dragon encased in crystal. Your breath is taken away just from looking at how gorgeous the large arena is. And then you’re dead. Seath is the first boss in Dark Souls that actually requires you to die before you learn the method to fighting him properly. Big Hat Logan finds you in the Duke’s Archives and reveals to you that the Primordial Crystal is the source of his strength, and all you have to do is destroy it.
When you meet Seath again in the Crystal Caves, he is still invulnerable and all-powerful. But once you destroy the Crystal, you can hurt him like any other enemy. Seath’s crystal attacks are beautiful, and he makes for a memorable boss fight simply by virtue of having heard so much about him through the game’s lore and item descriptions. Here you have the traitor who turned his back on the dragons. And now, you get the satisfaction as the Chosen Undead of striking him down.
7. Fume Knight (Dark Souls 2)
He also goes by the name Raime. If you’re a Dark Souls lore fiend, you’ll be well-informed of Raime’s past and how he was banished by King Vendrick. The Fume Knight boss fight is hard enough on its own; the first phase has him dual-wielding his swords, and every strike depletes almost your entire stamina bar even if you’ve got a good shield equipped.
He becomes even more dangerous in the second phase. The Fume Knight wields only one sword here, but he also gains powerful flame AoE attacks that can one-shot you if you lose focus for even a second.
What’s so special about this fight is that Raime can get enraged and jump straight to his second phase at the start of the fight if you wear any piece of Velstadt’s armor. As Velstadt served alongside Raime when they were both under Vendrick’s command, the two were natural rivals. The lore implications here are that Raime is reminded of his rival and his banishment upon seeing Velstadt’s armor, and immediately gets more aggressive when the fight begins.
6. Bell Gargoyles (Dark Souls)
The fight against the Bell Gargoyles in Dark Souls is a special one for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the first real difficulty spike in the game. Up till this point, first-time players have only faced the Asylum Demon and the Taurus Demon. These guys are formidable, but their attacks are easy to read, and therefore it’s easy to take advantage of their obvious openings. The Bell Gargoyle hits hard, and its swooping attacks can send you back to the previous bonfire faster than you can say ‘YOU DIED’.
The second reason is in the name itself. Bell Gargoyles. When you enter the arena, there’s only one boss and one life bar. As soon as you get used to his moves and start whittling his health down, the game senses that you’re getting comfortable and decides to throw you a curveball. There are actually two Bell Gargoyles.
The fight gets more unpredictable as you now have to keep an eye on two equally dangerous enemies. That ‘oh, shit’ moment when the second Gargoyle joins the fight remains one of the most memorable experiences from my first playthrough.
5. The Pursuer (Dark Souls 2)
The Pursuer isn’t a very difficult boss to beat. His attacks are very telegraphed, you can parry him if you’ve got the timing down, and you can make short work of him with the giant crossbows in the arena.
However, what makes the Pursuer so special is the fact that he actually lives up to his namesake. This is particularly relevant in Scholar of the First Sin. The Pursuer shows up in unexpected areas when you’re in the Lost Bastille, and in the room where you fight the Smelter Demon. He’s relentless, and he won’t stop hunting you until you’re dead.
While his official boss fight may not be particularly challenging, his unexpected appearances in subsequent areas can really spice up your Dark Souls 2 experience, and land you in sticky situations.
4. Capra Demon (Dark Souls)
Now here’s a boss that’s sure to have given many players lots of rage and salt. When you first encounter the Capra Demon in the Depths, the fight feels immensely unfair. You’re trapped in a small room with the boss, and as if he wasn’t threatening enough, there are two damn dogs in there to make your life hell too.
The first few seconds of the fight will set the tone for the rest of the encounter: if you can’t get past the dogs and run up the stairs in the corner, you’ll probably be dead.
As infuriating as this fight is, the Capra Demon exists to teach players one very important lesson: i-frames and the timing of your dodge rolls. The fight against Capra becomes very easy once you learn how to dodge into his attacks and make use of your i-frames to escape the damage. Once you’ve dodged that first swipe and you get onto the stairs, that’s half the battle won.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve screamed, “Will you please move your dogs, sir?!” at my screen, but I will forever be grateful to you, Capra, for teaching me the value of i-frames. Thank you, sir.
3. Sif, the Great Grey Wolf (Dark Souls)
Sif is most likely the first boss in Dark Souls to really make players feel like complete assholes when they beat him. Again, Sif isn’t exactly the toughest boss around, but there’s a good reason for that: he doesn’t actually want to fight you.
Sif is only fighting you because he wants to protect his master’s grave and, if you beat the DLC before this fight, because he recognizes you and doesn’t want you to go to the Abyss. As the fight wears on and his health dwindles, Sif begins to limp around, and his attacks become noticeably weaker.
There’s no time to mourn, however. Once you’ve killed Sif, it’s time to move on. Sif is one of the best boss fights in Dark Souls because of how he’s probably the only boss no one wants to fight due to his loyalty to Knight Artorias and his noble intentions.
2. Knight Artorias (Dark Souls)
Speaking of Artorias, this guy is one of the most memorable bosses in Dark Souls because you finally get to fight the legendary knight you’ve heard so much about. Even though Artorias has been corrupted by the Abyss and is no longer in his prime, he still puts up quite the fight with that greatsword of his.
Whenever Artorias kneels down and charges up, the player’s first instinct would usually be to back away into safety. All other bosses execute devastating AoE attacks whenever they charge up – why would Artorias be any different? But if you leave him alone as he buffs himself with darkness, Artorias becomes even deadlier and can end the fight pretty quickly if you’re not careful.
As one of the more renowned badass characters in Dark Souls, coupled with his awesome medieval knight design, Artorias can be considered a memorable boss because of his importance in the game’s lore and the insanely intense fight he puts up.
1. Ornstein and Smough (Dark Souls)
Without a doubt, these two nerds present the toughest challenge for any Dark Souls player. The Bell Gargoyles gave you a taste of what it was like to face two bosses at the same time, but Ornstein and Smough take it to a whole other level. Ornstein is a speedy spear-wielding knight that throws lightning at you, while Smough is a slower lug, but can crush you to death with his giant hammer.
The first phase of the fight is tough, to say the least; you have to focus on taking one down while also keeping a keen eye on the other. Losing focus on either one of these foes will usually result in you getting blindsided. Even after you’ve taken out one of them, the second phase changes things up by having the leftover foe absorb the essence of their fallen comrade and become even stronger.
Ornstein becomes a giant knight that can perform lightning butt slams, while Smough’s hammer gets imbued with lightning, and trust me, you do not want to be anywhere near that hammer when he swings it. Even years after its release, Ornstein and Smough are still the two bosses that you will regularly hear about in discussions regarding first-time playthroughs and hardest fights in video games.
These two, lovingly dubbed by the community as Pikachu and Snorlax, serve as a true test of skill in Dark Souls, and that makes them the best bosses of the series in my book.