The Dark Souls series is home to several bosses designed with the intent to intimidate you and give you all your money's worth. While some are excruciatingly hard to beat, they still provide some of the most heated fights in a video game of this genre. Unmarked spoilers ahead.
- The Bell Gargoyles. After the trek through the Undead Burg has tempered you into expecting what Dark Souls has to offer, you find yourself in the Undead Parish, where the first of two Bells of Awakening await you. The final obstacle is a towering gargoyle swinging both its tail axe and its halberd to smash you into the roof you fight upon. And then, when you've whittled down its health to half, another one joins the fray, blasting fire at you as you now deal with two opponents. Bonus points for this being the first point you can summon Solaire in the game. This boss was so popular that it was brought back for Dark Souls 2 and they brought their whole family this time!
- The Iron Golem. You've been through hell and back after finishing the gauntlet of traps that is Sen's Fortress, and this colossus is the only enemy left that guards the way to Anor Londo. Your train of thought? Bring It! Bonus points for being allowed to summon the almighty Black Iron Tarkus.
- Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough. Once you bring in an allied phantom (players or even Solaire), the fights become much more enjoyable, letting you enjoy the monumental battle as the powerful knights destroy the surrounding pillars in order to kill you, complete with a totally awesome soundtrack that will make you beg for more, no matter how many times you die to them. Also, once you kill either of them, the surviving one gains full health and becomes even stronger, making for a much-needed encore.
- Great Grey Wolf Sif. His Undying Loyalty towards his master after the latter died long ago, as well as the hauntingly beautiful boss theme, has illicited many a desire to not fight him, and even so provides one of the most emotional fights in the game, Gwyn notwithstanding.
- Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. While the buildup prior to encountering him was dreary and foreboding, you enter the arena and are treated to a melancholic music piece. After learning of the circumstances behind this sudden change in music, you realize that Gwyn still clings on desperately to a long-forgotten desire to preserve the Age of Fire, and happily gives you one of the toughest duels in the game. The fight gets even better if you managed to save Solaire, allowing you to summon him and beat Gwyn together in jolly cooperation.
- The "Artorias of the Abyss" content adds a gauntlet of powerful bosses for the most hardened Dark Souls veterans:
- The Sanctuary Guardian. A winged manticore that shoots lightning and punishes you for even the smallest of mistakes. You also fight it in an open area, leaving you with only your raw skills to overcome this fearsome beast, which becomes immensely satisfying once you do so. Want to get full access to the additional content? Defeat it first!
- Knight Artorias. A clear-cut expy of Guts, this guy not only gives you one hell of a boss introduction, but is also a bonafide Lightning Bruiser on par with Gwyn, if not better. Between the crazy spin attacks and sword-plunging somersaults, Artorias lives up to his reputation as one of the most praised characters in the Dark Souls lore.
- Manus, Father of the Abyss. See Artorias above? This bad guy proceeds to up the ante and attack you relentlessly from the start, overwhelming you with heavy flurries and shadow sorceries. Not all hope is lost, however, for you are able to summon Great Grey Wolf Sif for the fight, giving you the courage to put a stop to this omnicidal abomination for good.
- Black Dragon Kalameet. The Bonus Boss to end all bonus bosses, this feared dragon is more than eager to crush you with all his might when you descend down the valley for his proper boss fight. Between his awesome design and brillant soundtrack, there's little getting in the way for you to enjoy this hidden battle. There is a very good reason why this fight is widely regarded as the best dragon fight ever put into any video game.
Dark Souls II
- The Pursuer, a massive levitating armoured knight who appears halfway through the first level...outside his boss arena. That's right, he doesn't wait for you to come to him, he comes to you instead! And he isn't done after his first death. He'll dog you across the entirety of the Lost Bastille, rematch after rematch, death after death. Every time he kills you, every time you kill him, there will be a rematch. And after you're through, and you've probably half-stopped wondering when the next time he'll show up is, he comes for one last go at Drangleic Castle, and there's two of him this time.
- The Last Giant, a foe so huge you can only target his feet and ankles. His opening cinematic has him tear himself free of the rubble confining him in a particularly badass way, and once you reduce his health enough he'll rip off his own arm and use it as a freaking club.
- The Old Dragonslayer, a shadow of the previous game's Ornstein. As soon as you enter the Cathedral of Blue, you're immediately confronted by this familiar face, forcing you to fight once again amidst breakable pillars, avoiding his powerful spear thrusts. This is topped by his unique Leitmotif, "The Old Dragonslayer". Many players report seeing Ornstein again and panicking, spinning around wildly looking for Smough.
- The Lost Sinner, a nameless undead warrior entombed in Sinner's Rise. Having her hands shackled together does nothing to stop her from cleaving you in half with her ultra-greatsword. Unlike some of Dark Souls II's enemies The Lost Sinner has no gimmicks at all, simply being an ultra-aggressive swordswoman yet still managing to be one of the most memorable bosses in the game.
- The Skeleton Lords themselves are somewhat disappointing, but beat them and you have the closest thing to a full-on The War Sequence as Dark Souls has on your hands, a solid mass of skeletons bearing down on you, and any phantoms you summoned for help. Just powering through the swarm with a greatsword or blasting it apart with magic simply feels satisfying.
- The Duke's Dear Freja, apparently borne out of the Duke's fascination with arachnids and the like. While the boss itself is fairly straightforward, the really impressive part comes after beating it... no Great Soul drops. It's sitting in the open at the back of the arena, directly below a cocooned dragon — meaning the player had to kill something tougher to get it.
- The Looking Glass Knight, where the game drops all pretences of subtlety and INDULGES in a gorgeous display of graphic prowess with an unforgettable Battle in the Rain. From the boss' intimidating presence to the bolts of lightning he unleashes, there's nothing quite as fun as taking him down in the middle of a storm. Oh, and his mirror shield can summon NPCs or even other players, akin to the Old Monk.
- The first Guardian Dragon. Ever wondered how a straight-up boss fight against Dark Souls's Hellkite Dragon would turn out? This is it. After the bone-chilling trip in Aldia's Keep, you finally get to fight one of the most prominent creatures featured in the pre-launch trailers (right up there with the Looking Glass Knight). Despite fighting it in a massive cage, this wyvern still gets to fly around a bit, and makes full use of the boss room, all while hailing you with a trail of fire breath. Bonus points for the glorious Scenery Porn that comes after the boss fight.
- The Darklurker. Just reaching it is a challenge (requires finding and joining an obscure covenant and fighting through several gauntlets of black phantoms). The actual boss fight pits you against an eerie angelic figure who is bar none the most powerful spell-caster in the game. The entire battle is a desperate race to whittle down its (thankfully relatively low) health any way you can while it hurls pyromancies, hexes, and sorceries at you. Then, just when you think you've got it on the ropes, it duplicates itself.
- The Crown of the Sunken King DLC adds three bosses, two of which stand out.
- Elana, the Squalid Queen. Combining hexes, pyromancies, and the ability to summon minions, she's exactly what Queen Nashandra would be if the developers had put more thought into it than the Anti-Climax Boss we're presented with in the endgame. Boasting incredibly high health and a myriad of attacks (including the ability to summon a lesser version of Velstadt), Elana ranks high in terms of boss difficulty, which makes it all the more satisfying to take her down. Perhaps it is time for you to rely on Benhart of Jugo...
- Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon. A magnificent reprisal of Kalameet's legendary boss battle, Sinh flies around while raining down fire on you, before landing in a dramatic fashion and engaging you in a ground fight, complete with toxic-infused fireballs and environmental damage.
- Crown of the Old Iron King also has its share of bonus bosses, all of which put even veteran players to the test.
- The Smelter Demon comes back with a vengeance! Now it has more fancy moves and a different design (devilish horns and blue flames), and your only source of light in the boss room is this beastly golem once it gloriously sets itself aflame.
- The Fume Knight, or Sir Raime the Rebel. Boasting hard-hitting DUAL-WIELDING swordplay with his straight sword and ultra greatsword, and resistances that would put even Manus to shame, this Fallen Hero is a likely candidate for the hardest boss in the game. Rising from his slumber to protect the Bride of Ash, he gives you a very thorough swordfight, and just when you think you've weakened him, he ditches his smaller sword and goes full-on Lightning Bruiser with his BFS!
- Meet Sir Alonne, a proud samurai who became the catalyst for the rise of a kingdom, he meditates within the memories of the Old Iron King, awaiting for the day a worthy foe would challenge him. Once you enter the boss arena, witness what is unequivocally the most breathtaking castle room in the game, from the floor's reflection to the dust collected each time you fight, as well as the sunset backdrop seen outside of the windows; the definite proof that the game's engine is being pushed to its limits. Sir Alonne himself is one of the fastest striking bosses in the Souls series, ensuring that you will never forget his signature blade's strikes; the very second you stop dodging in this fight, you have lost. To top it off, there's the imperious leitmotif, which makes replaying this boss an absolute must.
- Crown of the Ivory King boasts a few unusual bosses:
- Aava, The King's Pet: After making your way through the level a bit, you encounter a fog door with a side path. Ignore the mysterious voice's warning and you're faced with... nothing. Nothing you can see, even as your health bar gets blasted down to zero. Take the side path first and make your way through half the level, and you'll find an item that reveals Aava as an icy tiger almost as big as Sif.
- The Burnt Ivory King: After dropping down a massive pit into a small arena surrounded by an ocean of lava, you're attacked not by a boss, but by wave after wave of Charred Loyce Knights who pop out of 3 portals. Kill a certain number of them, and then a huge portal rises up from which the Burnt Ivory King emerges in epic slow-mo fashion. However, unless you took the time to find the three other Loyce Knights scattered throughout the DLC, the Charred Loyce Knights will just keep on coming. What the Loyce Knights will do is sacrifice themselves to freeze the portals so that the Charred Loyce Knights would stop coming out, making your fight with the Ivory King easier. The Ivory King also has his fair share of awesome animations, such as backflips and a jumping attack that make him go slow-mo in mid-air and then suddenly dashes towards the ground.
Dark Souls III
- Iudex Gundyr is a perfect introduction to the game. Remember when the Asylum Demon taught you how to dodge and attack during openings? Well, this guy also does that... but he also teaches you that bosses in this game are fast, will change up their attack patterns, force you to stay in close and be constantly vigilant, and then start a second phase that's even more frantic. This guy is more intense than most bosses in Dark Souls II, and he's found in the tutorial. Want to access Dark Souls III? Beat this guy first.
- Farron's Undead Legion of the Abyss Watchers are concentrated Badass given form, both in the lore and in the fight against them. They're basically a legion of undead designated with guarding against the horrors of the Abyss, and when the time came for them to Link the Fire, they went down there together to burn as one. It also helps that they are both a Call Back to and were founded by fan favorite character Artorias, and it really shows in the fight against them; these bastards are Lightning Bruisers to the core, able to cross yards of arena in the blink of an eye and incorporating a lot of scrambling movements and flips into their devestating move set. It gets even better when you hit Phase 2 of the fight, as the combined power of all the fallen Watchers flows into their leader, activating his/her powers as a Lord of Cinder. You'll be in for the fight of your life as he/she practically flash steps around you and strikes with his/her flaming greatsword. After the abysmal Wolf Pack Bosses from Dark Souls II, these guys show us how it's done.
- Despite also being one of the most notorious cases of That One Boss in the series (he's even representing the game in the pictures for the franchise's That One Boss page), most still agree that the battle against Pontiff Sulyvahn is excellent despite its brutality. It's a fast-paced, exhilarating battle against an incredibly aggressive and nimble boss that will thoroughly test your dodge-roll timing, ability to quickly react to enemy tells and quickly punish openings. This, combined with his memorable design (basically the Pope Dual Wielding BFSs), epic music, and excellent lore, made Sulyvahn extremely popular in the fandom.
- Champion Gundyr, the alternative version of Iudex Gundyr in the Untended Graves secret area, is a relentless Lightning Bruiser who is guaranteed to make your adrenaline flow. From his excellent AI who will punish common exploits and strategies to cheese him, to his tough but fair long combos, to his rather unpredictable patterns (especially where his Foe-Tossing Charge and his kick are concerned), Champion Gundyr will keep you on your toes through the entire battle.
- The Nameless King is one of the most visually stunning battles in the games, in addition to being an awesome fight in its own right. There's a good reason for this: You're fighting the literal God Of War of the Souls series. Not a hollowed god, not a god of death who has been drained of power for untold ages, and not a cowardly god who spends the entire battle fleeing from you. This is a full-on battle against a real, living god, one at the height of his power, and who is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with you. With him being the last of the true gods, this battle is The Last Dance for the deities of Dark Souls as a whole, and as he wrecks your face for perhaps the hundredth time, you'll begin to understand why guys like him reigned undisputed until the fire began to die.
- The Twin Princes, Lothric and Lorian, a Handicapped Badass duo who will regardless stomp you into the dust. Lorian is crippled such that he can't use his legs properly, but Lorian is able to teleport him around the room, turning a Mighty Glacier into a Lightning Bruiser. Even once you manage to fell Lorian, Lothric will teleport into the fray, revive his brother with an incredibly haunting line ("Rise, if you would. ...For that is our curse."), and climb onto his back as the two enter their Lord of Cinder form. Cue Lorian's Lightning Bruiser being added to with Lothric hurling sorceries from his back, making the battle even more desperate. Add in their haunting and beautiful theme and their incredibly sad and tragic lore, and you have one of the game's most memorable boss fights.
- The Final Boss fight is probably the single best boss battle in the history of the series, for no other reason than the fact that you are basically fighting yourself! More specifically, the Soul of Cinder combines the power of every Chosen Undead and nameless entity that ever Linked the Fire, and as such it has access to, in no particular order; a straight sword, a greatsword, a curved greatsword, a staff, sorceries, miracles, pyromancies, and the backflip-dodge of the Dark Wood Grain Ring. The only thing that makes this fight even better is when you hit Phase 2, and you hear the three lonesome piano notes of Gwyn's theme as the Soul takes on the move set of the first Lord of Cinder himself. It feels both like a do-over of Gwyn's fight from Dark Souls I and an enhancement; no cheesing out parry attempts here folks, you're gonna have to do this legit! Hope you know your way around the combat or brought a couple phantoms in to help you. Suffice to say that FROM pulled out all the stops in making the Final Boss of the Souls series worth all the effort to get to it.