It’s official. We are less than one month away from the release of Elden Ring, Fromsoftware‘s latest action RPG. Set in a sprawling open world, it looks to be a culmination of all of Fromsoft’s previous titles, combining the best bits of the Dark Souls series with Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and adding some shiny new features to boot.
Elden Ring promises more of Fromsoft’s trademark deep combat and build variety. But perhaps most excitingly, it promises LOTS more incredibly tough boss battles. These encounters are a huge part of the reason why this series is so popular.
But what makes them so great? Boss battles are in every game. Tough bosses can be found across multiple games, genres, and platforms. So what’s in Fromsoftware’s secret ‘boss battle’ formula, that many others have attempted to use?
At their best, the fights are a stunning mixture of raw difficulty, visually incredible settings, an adrenaline-fueled soundtrack, and deep lore.
With Elden Ring now very much on the horizon, what better time to revisit the creme of the Fromsoftware’s crop, with a look at five of the very best encounters found in this stunning franchise. Remember these bosses were chosen not just based on difficulty, but also on how enjoyable and fair the encounters are.
#5- Fume Knight – Dark Souls 2
Dark Souls 2 is typically known as the worst of the trilogy. Lacking the intricate design and mystery of the first game, and the fast-paced aggressive combat of the third. It doesn’t quite match up to its siblings.
Most of its boss battles are fairly forgettable affairs.
But not Fume Knight.
Found deep in the bowels of Brume Tower, Fume Knight presents the player with an incredibly tough challenge. He wields one small sword and one huge one. Both of which he uses in tandem with grace and precision.
Beating him requires timing, skill, and determination. Learning his attack patterns and finding small attack windows is crucial to achieving victory. But you can expect to die many times trying.
Your reward for getting him to approximately 50% health is Fume Knight ditching the small sword and flying at you all guns blazing with the larger one. Which is now covered in flames by the way. Good luck!
Oh and one other thing. If you didn’t manage to scour the winding corridors and halls of Brume Tower before fighting Fume Knight, there’s a good chance you won’t have found some key items called ‘Smelter Wedges’. If you didn’t find these, then you won’t be able to use them to disable the four statues dotted around the arena before entering the battle.
With these statues active, Fume Knight will constantly heal himself. Wonderful.
If you do manage to disable the statues though, you will find that this fight is incredibly fair Each time you fall, it will ultimately be because of a mistake you made. This is the beauty of Fromsoftware bosses!
#4- Ornstein and Smough – Dark Souls
The classic ‘Little and Large’ tag team, Ornstein and Smough are widely revered as one of the best two-on-one boss battles in all of gaming.
Deep inside the chambers of the huge castle in Anor Londo, the duo guard the Lordvessel with their lives. If you want it, you will have to get through them to get it.
Dragonslayer Ornstein is lightning quick. He can cover long distances in a split second and uses his huge spear with deadly precision. Executioner Smough is huge in size and extremely cumbersome. But if he manages to hit you with his huge hammer, expect your health bar to take a turn for the worse.
Like a pair of highly coordinated lions, Ornstein will spend the fight chasing you down, whereas Smough would rather hang back. While doing this he will be smashing the stone pillars around the arena and waiting for you to run within his range (which you inevitably will, thanks to Ornstein’s stalking technique).
When you eventually take one down, your reward is that the other one grows to almost giant size with a refilled life bar and packing an extra punch.
An exhilarating, edge-of-the-seat fight well-deserving of a place amongst the best.
#3- Sister Friede and Father Ariandel – Dark Souls 3
Three back-to-back boss encounters in a Fromsoft game were never going to be easy. But this fight manages to strike the perfect balance of toughness and enjoyability.
The fight takes place in an underground altar at the end of the Ashes of Ariandel DLC, and what a fitting finale it is.
A three-stage test of endurance, first you will come up against Sister Friede on her own. This stage of the fight isn’t too tricky, provided you are able to dodge at the right times and not get greedy with your attacks.
Best her, and she wakes up Daddy. The second phase sees Friede and Father Ariandel himself attempt to take you down. While they thankfully only share one life bar. This phase can become overwhelming very quickly if you don’t play it right. Friede uses ice magic to complicate things, while Ariandel repeatedly attempts to smash you with his huge gold cauldron. If you’re aggressive and focus on the lumbering Ariandel, you may be able to end this phase before Friede even gets an attack off. If not, you’re in for a long, difficult slog, maneuvering around both opponents and looking for an opportunity to strike.
Finally, after defeating them- you’d think it was over. But you’d be wrong. Very, very wrong.
From the ashes rises Friede one final time, in her ‘Black Flame’ incarnation. Buffed to be quicker, stronger, a tonne more aggressive, and also using fire now (because why not?), this phase is by far the toughest. One of the most difficult parts is knowing that if you fall at this third phase, you have to repeat the first two. That piles the pressure on you even more and makes this truly one of the most memorable multi-phase bosses in all of gaming.
#2- Nameless King – Dark Souls 3
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fight a giant lightning god on a bed of clouds in the sky? Probably not- but here we are.
This completely optional encounter (mercifully) can be found towards the end of your journey in Dark Souls 3.
In another two-phase fight, the first part sees Nameless King flying around on his huge Blue Wyvern. He will constantly pepper you with fire attacks before occasionally landing. The King himself will also shoot lightning at you. Sound fun? Thought not.
The real enemy in this phase is the camera though. If you can keep sight of both the King and the Wyvern, you will eventually slay the winged beast and down the King.
Now solo for the second phase, the Nameless King will dual you on a sea of clouds. His huge lightning spear against your weapon of choice. He is fast, mobile, and hits like a truck. This is a grueling encounter that will leave you mentally exhausted once you eventually emerge victorious.
#1- Knight Artorias – Dark Souls
Of all the Fromsoftware bosses you encounter in the franchise, non is more tragic than Knight Artorias. Touted as the brave, strong knight capable of keeping the abyss at bay, Artorias ventured into it in order to battle Manus and save his beloved dog Sif. In a cruel twist though, Artorias became corrupted by the darkness and ended up becoming the very thing he had sworn to destroy.
When we encounter him in a huge, Coliseum-like structure, he is a twisted and warped version of his former self.
Despite only having the use of one arm, he is more than a match for the player with his impressive mobility and huge blade which he swings at will.
Artorias has more than one trick up his sleeve. Just when you think you’ve mastered his attack patterns, don’t be surprised when he changes without warning. He will match you blow for blow and you’ll need every ounce of skill and patience to beat him.
To add, when you get him down to 50% health, he will buff himself and become much tougher. Because if you got him down to 50%, he must have been too easy, right?
This is an epic duel, the likes of which you probably won’t experience anywhere else.
Best Fromsoftware Bosses – What Next?
Those who have been lucky enough to already spend some time with Elden Ring have encountered several bosses even in the early portion of the game that was available to them. This begs the question, what weird and wonderful monstrosities await us in the Lands Between?
How many of this list will still sit among the five best bosses after February 25th?
We can’t wait to find out!
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