From Software’s popularity can be attested to many factors, from excellent and immersive world design, to deep lore and flexible options in style of play. However, the developer has a knack for including some truly astounding boss battles in their extensive library. After scouring the internet looking at various polls, rankings, and message boards, we’ve decided to compile a list of the best boss fights in From Software’s games. With this in mind, while the developer has a history before the Souls games, every game released after Demon’s Souls has included a range of boss battles that topped several lists and rose to popularity. On that note, we’ll mainly be looking at bosses from Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Dark Souls III, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (including their DLC) to find out which one is not only the most popular, but also the most widely agreed upon great.
Before we kick off the list, we have six honourable mentions to get through. All of these picks are truly superb battles in their own right, but just fell outside of the top 10 zone. In no particular order, they are:
The Nameless King – Dark Souls III
Sir Alonne – Dark Souls II: Crown of the Old King
Tower Knight – Demon’s Souls
True Corrupted Monk – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Slave Knight Gael – Dark Souls III: The Ringed City
Soul of Cinder – Dark Souls III
10. Fume Knight
Dark Souls II: Crown of the Old Iron King
Topping several lists as the unanimous best boss of Dark Souls II, the Fume Knight is a challenging ordeal, but also highlights some of the greatest strengths of the franchise as a whole. Unlike most bosses that follow set patterns, Fume Knight’s erratic list of attacks make it difficult to read at first. Armed with two intimidating swords, the knight can unleash four-hit combos, devastating lunge attacks, and a backward slash that throws a curveball against the “stick to its behind” formula of most Dark Souls games. In its second phase, the boss unleashes a deadly flurry of fire-based attacks, making close combat a matter of clever timing and patience. It’s a supremely difficult fight, but ultimately the most rewarding that the game has to offer too.
9. Orphan of Kos
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
Sticking with incredibly difficult fights, the final boss of Bloodborne‘s The Old Hunters DLC, Orphan of Kos, is a brutish affair. While the DLC is filled with incredible boss encounters (we will come to see in a bit), the Orphan of Kos is notorious for being perhaps the most difficult of them all. Emerging from the womb of a fallen Great One, the Orphan is a bit irritated – okay, maybe just more than “a bit”. He’s fast, hits like a tank, and strings together quick and furious combos that leave very little room for error, or even counterattacking. What makes the Orphan such a fantastic battle, though, is its tragic lore. Putting the creature down is an ordeal, but a sad one once the credits roll.
8. Genichiro Ashina
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
In video games, we often hit brick walls; massive challenges that we must overcome in order to progress further. If the toughest boss fights are described as brick walls, then Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice‘s Genichiro Ashina is a steel fortress. You encounter the supposed “villain” of the game in the early hours, but what makes this fight so unique and unlike any other fight before it is down to Genichiro’s versatile moveset. Sekiro gradually teaches you the mechanics of the game, but when you hit Genichiro, it funnels you into putting everything you learned thus far into practice. Parrying is especially important, as this fight heavily relies on how quick your reflexes are in building his posture bar. Genichiro is also fast and leaves little room for error, constantly keeping you on your toes throughout. The cherry on the cake is the beautiful Ashina Castle’s backdrop in which the fight takes place.
7. Darkeater Midir
Dark Souls III: The Ringed City
As a dark fantasy epic, you’d expect the Dark Souls series to have its fair share of encounters with dragons. While they are in short supply, the few that do stand out really make a strong impression. Out of all the dragons fights, though, Darkeater Midir is unanimously agreed upon to be the best. In fact, not only is it the best dragon fight, but many agree that it’s the best boss in Dark Souls III, period – a tall task considering the sleuth of great bosses in the game. Darkeater Midir, apart from having an intimidating and malevolent design, is everything you could hope for in a fight against a towering dragon. A barrage of deadly area of effect attacks combined with its gargantuan size make for a tricky fight if you aren’t re-positioning yourself constantly. The best turn of the fight happens when you get it down to half his health. It’s a spectacular battle that really sticks out in Dark Souls‘ history.
6. Great Grey Wolf Sif
The previous entries on this list may have been daunting challenges and naturally earned their spots for being memorable in the way banging your head against a mountain is memorable, but Great Grey Wolf Sif from Dark Souls earns this spot for being just an overall fan-favourite of the series. The gigantic wolf’s iconic design sees it wielding his master Artorias’ sword between his teeth, using it to swing attacks your way. While not a particularly tough fight, what makes Sif an absolutely heart-breaking showdown is the fact that the more you dwindle his health, the more desperate he becomes, whimpering and limping for his life in the final phase. I’ve never felt so terrible taking down a boss before, but that alone more than earns him a spot mid-way through this list.
5. Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough
Going back to banging our heads against really hard objects, Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough perhaps have the greatest reputation amongst Dark Souls fans… for being infuriatingly difficult. However, mechanically, this is also one of the most interesting fights that From Software have ever created. Ornstein is a smaller, more agile enemy that doesn’t deal much damage, while Smough perfectly complements that by being a large, albeit slow brute with a massive hammer that hits like a freight train. The trick to this fight is balancing both targets constantly. It’s about as perfect of a boss encounter as you could have as it tests your patience, reflexes, and ability to read openings. One small mistake leads to death – a Dark Souls proverb that pretty much started from these guys.
4. Ludwig, The Accursed
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
The first encounter in Bloodborne‘s The Old Hunters DLC, Ludwig The Accursed is From Software arguably at the peak of their creativity when it comes to supremely challenging fights balanced with interesting shake-ups between phases. Ludwig, the large, morphed monstrosity, keeps the fight fairly straight-forward in its first phase. If not for the second phase, it would still be a worthy battle, but what shoots it to pure exhilaration is that pivotal second phase. Backed into a corner, Ludwig gains the power of the trusty (and all-too-familiar) Holy Moonlight Sword that proceeds to make your life a living hell. It tests you in ways video game bosses rarely do, constantly keeping you bouncing between ranges for perfect moments to strike. It’s a relentless clash, but a clash that ascends into the top tiers of From Software bosses.
3. Knight Artorias
Dark Souls: Artorias of the Abyss
Admittedly, Knight Artorias is my personal favourite From Software boss fight. Apart from having rich and deep lore behind the character, Artorias’ tragic descent into darkness explodes in this one-on-one battle between two skilled warriors at odds. His attacks come in fast, from all angles, and thanks to his ability to channel the energy of the Abyss, buffs himself up during phases. The battle itself amounts to a sort of rhythmic dance between clashing swords, as there’s a clear pattern to memorize that, once locked in, feels like a rhythm game – except its a duel to the death. Knight Artorias is a poster child of the Dark Souls franchise, and this fight simply exemplifies why that’s the case.
2. Isshin, The Sword Saint
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I think I died more times to Isshin, The Sword Saint than I did in my entirety playing Dark Souls II – an exaggeration, maybe, but it really summarizes just how insanely hard this fight is. However, with that steep difficulty comes an unparalleled sense of accomplishment when you do finally take down the final “true” boss of Sekiro. Broken up into three (or four, if you count the pushover Genichiro fight beforehand) phases that escalate in difficulty, Isshin, The Sword Saint demands only perfection from you. Any small mistake, mistimed dodge, or poorly spaced side step could result in you immediately being open to a flurry of hard-hitting attacks. Parrying is key once again, but due to him being the final wall at the end of the game, puts every single skill you’ve learned in Sekiro to the test. I can’t stress enough how much this fight forces you to be super-attentive and on-point at all times, to the point where it might even seem downright unfair. With enough perseverance, the fight will surely end up being one of the most memorable and mechanically brilliant battles in From Software’s history for you.
1. Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
I was actually astonished to find just how much fans seemed to adore Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower, the highlight of Bloodborne‘s The Old Hunters (in a brilliant DLC already flourishing with stand-out battles). Not only is she one of the most complex boss encounters on a mechanical level, her lore involving the convergent paths of Gehrman, The Doll and the Healing Church lends that extra emotional punch to the fight. It’s easy to see why Lady Maria ranks high and mighty above the rest. She embodies everything that a great boss fight should have: a perfectly balanced moveset, punishing but forgiving counters, and a fast pace that escalates in sheer insanity as the fight progresses. She accumulates more varying abilities too as the fight rolls on, meaning no two encounters are ever the same. With only your wits and skills to combat Lady Maria, you’re both equal on every conceivable level. It’s no wonder she ended up creeping into the hearts of gamers everywhere – and, according to many fans, the best From Software boss to date.
What are some of your favourite boss fights in From Software’s history? Let us know in the comments below.