iRate:- Baddie Boss Bashing

iRate MascotHave you ever experienced the sheer horror of getting to the end of a game and being totally and utterly disappointed? Not because the game was bad, oh no, it was just that end boss was such a huge let down? Well fear not my friend because you are not alone!

These days, playing all the way through a game and being completely let down by a half- hearted end boss and ending is becoming more and more common. What with developers being pressured into producing milkable cash cows rather than good games, what do you expect? Sequels, prequels, downloadable add-ons and expansions; you name it, they are in development and they are all being made at the expense of a damn good ending!

But things weren’t always like this…

Back in the late 80′s – early 90′s (or as I like to call it…”The Golden Age” of computer games) the main emphasis was solely on the end boss. This lead to some truly epic encounters. There wasn’t a need for silly achievements, points or trophies; we had all the motivation we needed. We just had to beat the game. That was enough for gamers because back then games were much harder.

Games felt like an epic journey as you battled your way through, offing tough end-of-level bosses that crossed your path until finally reaching the absolute pinnacle: the end of game boss. Auto-saving checkpoints? Pahaha! Don’t make me laugh! Helpful in-game tutorials? Not a chance: read the f*cking manual! That was the kind of time we lived in and that’s what made games so special. It’s such a shame that this “retro aesthetic” is lacking from games of new. However as long as franchises like the Mega Man franchise continue to exist, it will live on.

No other series personifies the “retro aesthetic” more than the Mega Man franchise. Not only is every Mega Man game extremely tough (FACT!) but they also serve as the perfect reminder of how awesome retro game bosses could be. Take Mega Man 2 for example. The game itself follows the traditional Mega Man formula: Mega Man must defeat an array of robots created by an evil scientist, collecting some of their various traits along the way, before the final showdown with the anonymous scientist himself.

The whole journey you must take as Mega Man is one of epic proportions. Battling your way through the various themed levels (which is no mean feat itself considering how tough some of them can be) and defeating the end of level bosses (such as Bubble Man and Heat Man), builds for a truly epic final battle with Dr Wily. This is just something you don’t see in games anymore.

Mega Man 2 screenshot

Haha...his name is Wily....that looks like Willy...which is another word for penis...teehee!

And Dr Wily, whilst anonymous until you actually get the chance to fight him, is utterly memorable. Again, this is something you don’t really see in modern gaming anymore. I mean, when was the last time you fought someone as memorable and as iconic as Bowser, Dr Robotnik or even Mecha Hitler from Wolfenstein 3D? That’s right, it was a while ago. Well, that’s if you can even remember any at all. They just don’t make end of game bosses like they used to.

Wolfenstein 3D screenshot

Quite possibly the boss of all end bosses, Mecha Hitler!

It seems modern day gaming is all about style over substance. So much effort is poured into graphical trickery and what a boss looks like rather than actually making the final fight enjoyable. After all, the perfect end boss should not only look incredible, but also have character, instill emotion, be fun and unique to fight, be difficult but not too difficult and provide perfect closure (I don’t ask for much do I?).

This point is possibly best demonstrated by Epic’s Gears of War 2. Don’t get me wrong, Gears of War 2 is a brilliant and incredible looking game. However it has quite possibly one of the worst end of game bosses I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering. The Mutated Brumak boss sure does look splendidly grotesque (all in 1080p, HD awesomeness), but it’s also extremely boring, weak and disappointing: a bitter end to a brilliant game. Epic got it so right in Gears of War 1 with General RAMM, it’s just a shame that they couldn’t deliver “the goods” in it’s otherwise improved sequel.

Another trend that I’ve noticed, and this really bugs me, is that quite often than not developers will just ramp up the difficulty right at the end in order to make the end boss seem far more powerful (Killzone f*cking 2). Again, this harks back to retro games, because old games are renowned for being notoriously hard. The difference is that they were extremely tough to play all the way through. They didn’t have a huge difficulty spike right at the end like a lot of modern games do.

Picture of Radec

Killzone 2's Radec is one hard motherfudger!

A game should have a finely balanced difficulty curve. Because retro games were consistently hard it meant that whilst the games were tough, they were consistently tough. This created a finely balanced, progressive difficulty. It seems developers these days neglect all of this. By just making the last boss extremely hard, all difficulty balance goes out of the window. What you’re left with is a player who gets frustrated, having to try and try again until eventually they just give up.

This all culminates in the player wasting countless hours playing and never sees the end. Where is the logic in that?! At this rate developers won’t even bother with endings. They’ll all start making end bosses that no one could ever beat, that way they wouldn’t have to waste time thinking up a proper ending because no one would ever see it. This may sound crazy but I guarantee in a few years I’ll be proven right.

In fact, creating even a passable end boss is such a fine art that some of the gaming worlds most influential, famous and highly regarded pieces of work are guilty of muffing it all up. Case in point, widely accredited as being one of the best games of all time; Final Fantasy 7. Whilst gamers are more often than not recalling all their favourite moments that made the game so memorable, they often forget how truly awful the last boss actually was. Final Fantasy 7 did the exact polar opposite of what I have just been talking about. Rather than making their last boss crushingly hard, beating Sephiroth was far too easy. Rewarding players with Cloud’s final limit break, even if they hadn’t previously unlocked it, made the battle essentially a one hit kill. Not very clever considering you’ve built up to this epic battle over three bloody discs!

And that’s not all, what about the dedicated players? What about people like me that played the game for hours… and hours… and hours… and hours… and… well, you get the picture. We unlocked every limit break, found every summon, maxed-out levels, collected all the materia and beat every enemy. And for what? I’ll tell you; absolutely nothing.

Final Fantasy 7 screenshot

Even the mightiest fall...

But I’m sad to say that Final Fantasy 7 is only the start. What about gaming’s most iconic character? What about Mario? That’s right, even the Super Mario Bros. franchise is guilty of dropping a stinker from time to time. Proof that retro games also suffered from the curse of rubbish end of game bosses is Super Mario Bros 1.

Whilst Bowser may be memorable, your first encounter with him in Super Mario Bros 1 is extremely brief. Much like Final Fantasy 7, an epic battle is built up as you go from castle to castle in search of Princess Peach, who is being held by Bowser. However, once you come face to face with the monster it becomes far too easy, quite literally a hop, skip and a jump actually. You simply wait for him to walk onto the bridge, jump over him and walk into the axe to chop the bridge down and send Bowser to a fiery death. Talk about underwhelming.

It’s not all doom and gloom though folks. Thankfully there are developers out there who still care about what matters the most; the final encounters. The Zelda series has always had great end bosses. However, at the end of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, we’re shown that modern games can get end of game bosses right sometimes. Ganon represents a truly epic battle built over the entire course of the game that requires some skill to prevail. The difficulty is just right and ends fittingly with a beautiful stab to the head. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

picture of Ganon

Wind Waker's showdown with Ganon is nothing short of brilliant.

It’s just unfortunate that quite often, these are nothing more than dreams. What we actually have to play is more like a nightmare.

- Kieran Roycroft

Wed, July 7 2010 » Articles, iRate

11 Responses

  1. ItsActuallyAdam July 7 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    impressive article :) i think mega man has to be the most annoying tbh. i couldn’t even beat more than one boss on that game

  2. Crofterz July 7 2010 @ 2:02 pm

    Not annoying..just means you are shit.

  3. joefeesh July 7 2010 @ 10:03 pm

    Bioshock boss – easy
    Gears of War 2 boss – stupidly easy
    Mario Galaxy boss – easy
    Borderlands boss – easy
    Darksiders boss – quite easy

    It’s true. The bosses should be harder. Not cheap like Street Fighter (or Tatsunoko bosses) but definitely should be harder.

  4. joefeesh July 7 2010 @ 10:05 pm

    Pokemon bosses are always hard though!

  5. Mightyles July 8 2010 @ 1:44 am

    I dont think a boss has to be hard to be a rewarding experience. Case in point the final battle with Liquid Ocelot in MGS4 – that was one of the best boss battles I’ve had in a long time, and I beat it on the first try.

    One of the worst gaming sins is attempting to make a boss battle more difficult just by giving them a fuck off huge life bar, like in Dante’s Inferno.

    Did none of these developers play Mario or Zelda? They’re ignoring the primary rule of three – having to hit a boss more than 3 times quickly becomes a chore.

    Ps. Raam in gears sucked ass – he was a massive cheat on the highest difficulty. I still beat him, but he irritated the hell out of me.

  6. crofterz July 8 2010 @ 9:55 am

    Disagree. I thought RAAM was brilliant. They built him up as this horrible, badass throughout the game which made him really memorable and the final battle epic.

    He was hard..but you were playing it on Insane mode. I didn’t find him to be too hard when playing it on Insane co-op though.

    Also another sin that attempts to make bosses hard…regenerating life…

  7. Mightyles July 8 2010 @ 10:20 am

    The thing with raam was that he was cheap. He could hit you even if you were behind cover if he got pastva certain point. I found running up and down that train pretty tedious. On insane difficulty all they did was have him take more bullets and especially after that patch that made co-op even harder. I couldn’t beat him on solo insanity, I emptied all of my weapons into him, mostly headshots, and he was still standing! On co-op we killed him on our first attempt. Raam was the epitome of cheap!

  8. bow wowalishous January 3 2011 @ 5:42 am

    hey, a wee hint- dont like the game, dont play it.
    fact is alot of people- like me r completly fine wit the way games r made 2day, otherwise we wouldnt keep buyin them nw would we? i dont like havin 2 spend all dat time goin thru a game just 2 get 2 a fag boss i cant get past. i like 2 enjoy n hav fun on my games, not spends 3 f’ckin hrs on the same thing n get bored outta my balls. RAAM for example i beat on normal 1st, then tried it on insanity- once i realised i was gettin my ass handed 2 me i decided i couldnt care less if i beat him again, iwas satisfied alredy n knew the end- i wasnt goin 2 sit der like a sad act 4 hrs on end repeatly dying and gettin really frustrated. Why? Bcus dat aint fun! yes fun, which is the whole purpose of proper games. i admit there are aload of lichy money grabbin game developers (AVP makers) who dont try hard enuf n r let dwnsn stuff, but not all games r like dat- a gr8 example is batman arkham asylum, a fantastic game where the creators hav obviously worked hard n did their research, none of it disapointed. so if ur not happy wit the way games r made 2day then stop bitchin n go bck 2 ur side scrollin 1980s super mario n hop over a few mushrooms while i go play bfbc2 n halo reach, blast the shit outta sum bad guys n get that little tinglin badass feeling

    PS Radec was piss easy, i died on him once

  9. Crofterz January 3 2011 @ 7:18 pm


    Hmm I think you may have missed the point a little bit. The point I was trying to make was that developers recently have become lazy with their end of game bosses. I wasn’t necessarily saying just make them harder (although in some cases a more challenging boss fight is needed), the point is that end of game bosses on the whole turn out to be disappointing these days.

    They don’t only lack a challenge (although in some cases they do), but I find they also lack imagination, creative, innovation and sometimes fail to give a satisfying conclusion to a thoroughly good game.

    Besides how would I know if I didn’t like a game or not without playing it? And why should I have to go back to my “side scrolling, 1980′s Super Mario” games? I’m a gamer just like you, I use my hard earned money to buy games, so my opinion is as valid as anybodys, I just feel slightly short changed when I play a lot of modern games because the end encounters seem to be disappointing.

  10. Granithor April 20 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    Well done article. Though I admit I do disagree with your view on FF7 a tiny bit. I don’t honestly feel that the solo battle between Cloud and Sephiroth is the final boss battle of the game. I feel that fighting him as the One-Winged Angel is. Honestly, they probably could have simply made the “last fight” into a video sequence and had the same effect.

    I think it’s a matter of perspective. Just because it’s the last thing you do in a game, does that necessarily make it the “final boss”? In GoW2, I consider Skorge the “Final Boss” and the rest of it the wind-down of the game. It’s similar to novels: it doesn’t just end at the climax. There’s a wrap-up, which may or may not involve a brief conflict.
    I realize that there is a fair amount of gameplay after you beat Skorge, but if you look at the game from a storytelling standpoint, instead of a traditional, linear/terminal game-layout view, that battle is the climax for the characters.

  11. Crofterz April 26 2011 @ 10:07 am

    Finally a comment with some proper constructive criticism, kudos to you!

    If I’m honest I just felt the ending to FF7 was a bit of an anti-climax :(

Leave a Reply