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Background Boss
When he goes One-Winged Angel, Baby Bowser isn't so cute anymore.

In Platform Games, you'll often meet a monumental boss who's about as large as the screen and stands in the background layer behind the platforms, facing toward the screen. It'll typically stand stock-still while swinging its Giant Hands of Doom or using a Breath Weapon or something. You may have to engage in a small Colossus Climb to reach its Weak Spot, (often its huge, grinning noggin), but in all cases the body of the boss (with obvious exception of its weak point and attacks) is not a threat even if the game features loose Collision Damage and your character is a One-Hit-Point Wonder.

In 3D games, Background Bosses are a rarer occurrence due to the less obvious distinction between "foreground" and "background", but can still apply if the battle is fought at long range and it is (for whatever reason) impossible to actually close distance with the boss.

Due to the impressive difference in scale between these guys and everything else in the game, they are often the Final Boss. As such, beware of minor spoilers in these examples!


Examples:

  • Flash game Abobo's Big Adventure turns the NES Contra example into a Bait-and-Switch Boss, when Krang gets swallowed whole by a gigantic Kirby, who becomes the true Background Boss.
  • The Adventures of Lomax has every boss like this. At the end of the first 3 worlds, it's airships shooting rockets at you. At the end of the fourth world, it's Evil Ed who causes bombs and boulders to appear on the stage.
  • Alien Hominid has one of these for the penultimate boss.
  • Crabburn from Arc Angle. It's so big that both the game and the player have to zoom out of the screen just to see the thing. There's also the Sleeping Spire of the first stage, who is part of the background in the second half of the level, and Highwayman, a bandit train-thing that attacks you from the background.
    • Quite a few Mini Bosses and bosses do this too, as well as Xero-Fin in his final attack phase.
  • This Mecha Grunty boss in Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge (or is this 3D?)
  • Battletoads: The first boss also inverts this with a boss-view cam.
  • In Binary Boy, there is a Skeleton Pirate which shoots cannonballs from the background, and there a Kraken boss in the next level (which doesn't actually attack you, but instead tries to squash you against the bulkheads by forcing the water level to rapidly rise up.
  • King Drool in Bonk's Revenge.
  • Castlevania
  • Giga Gaia from Chrono Trigger. Lavos' exterior is also too big to fit the screen.
  • Contra provides several examples:
    • The waterfall boss of the NES port of Contra.
    • The Stage 3 boss of the arcade version of Super Contra, and the Stage 7 boss of the NES version.
    • The stage 3 boss of Contra III.
    • The stage 4 and 7 bosses of Contra IV.
    • The stage 1 mid-boss of Contra Hard Corps. Also the boss of stage 2 if you opt at the end of stage 1 to intervene at the research center.
    • The boss of Stage 2-1 in Contra: Shattered Soldier first attacks you from the background, then moves into your plane.
  • The final boss of the second Disgaea Prinny spin off game.
  • Game Boy Donkey Kong: The absolutely very last fight with the ape involves him transforming into a very "kingly" foe.
    • Donkey Kong Jungle Climber features King K. Rool increased in size with the power of the Crystal Bananas.
    • Also, in the Donkey Kong Country 2 GBA port, you've got the boss Kerozene (added to K Rool's Keep/Stronghold Showdown as a boss). You can see it here.
      • And before any of those Squirt's Showdown in Donkey Kong Country 3.
    • Bleak from Donkey Kong Country 3. He doesn't take up the whole background, but he spends the entire battle back there as you basically have a snowball fight with him.
    • In Donkey Kong Country Returns, Tiki Tong is one up until you destroy his hands.
  • In Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter, the Giant Robosa is partially this.
  • Dynamite Headdy - Spinderella, and Trouble Bruin in the flying level. Spinderella gets bonus points for putting you in the background for some of the time.
  • In EarthBound, final boss Giygas is the background.
  • Every single villain in G.I. Joe.
  • The giant Moai head in Gradius Rebirth. In order to defeat it, you have to destroy the core when it pops out of the head and starts bouncing around, all the while dodging smaller Moai heads and the lightning that generates when the core hits the ceiling or floor.
  • Heart of Darkness - The Dark Lord in the final chapter. You can't harm him, though, and once you beat the last of his shadowy spawn he politely exits the screen.
  • General Tor of Iji jumps back and forth from foreground to back, with his most devastating attacks unleashed when he's in the background. He can only be injured when he's in the foreground, though.
  • Similar to the above, M.A.C.E. from Intrusion 2 will jump into the background and fire out a huge laser and Macross Missile Massacre spam, while immune to attacks... Unless he uses yellow missiles, which can be shot back at him to harm him.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy - Both Mike Tyson and The Guy's second form. Interestingly, Tyson is one of the first bosses you can fight.
  • Kirby Super Star - Wham Bam Rock.
    • And in Kirby Super Star Ultra, Wham Bam Jewel.
    • Partial examples: Ado from Dream Land 3 and Adeleine from The Crystal Shards. Both characters are artists whose drawings come to life, and most of the battle is actually against previous Kirby boss characters that they summon while they hide behind their easels. Ado/Adeleine only come out to assault Kirby personally at the very end, at which point a single attack defeats them.
    • Come to think of it, many of the end-of-planet bosses in Crystal Shards do this (Adeleine is end-of-stage).
    • Every single boss in Kirby Triple Deluxe spends time in the background for some of their attacks. The final boss in particular remains like this for almost the entirety of the battle, exclusively using Attack Drones (Which are also what you need to attack) to fight you until the last phase.
  • La-Mulana - one of the last boss villain's slightly more disturbing forms.
  • Belial, the episode 2 boss, from Lemegeton.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons sees Link fighting the last note  boss - a dark dragon - in a side-view arena, requiring him to leap onto the dragon's claws to slash at its head.
  • Monster Party - the last boss.
  • Mega Man X and X5 have the last form of Sigma be one of these, with only the head and the two claws being foreground objects. X2 and 3 pit you against similar bosses at the end of the introductory stage, though they're much less of an obstacle.
    • X7 features a miniboss in Tornado Tonion's stage that follows you up the tower (he's in the center and you move around the outside of the tower), only his claws and head can hurt you and be hurt. Sigma's final form is an enormous body that's fought in space, with your characters on floating platforms. He teleports around and unleashes several varieties of projectiles both far away and up close, and has a rushing punch attack. X and Axl can shoot him at almost any distance, while Zero has to either reflect certain projectiles or wait till Sigma punches to score hits.
    • Rangda Bangda, Sigma's second boss in X1, is the background.
      • Rangda Bangda is "revived" into a smaller, yet deadlier Boss in X5, and Sigma's One-Winged Angel from the same game is also this; it's one of his largest forms in the series!
      • Rangda Bangda shows up again in Mega Man Zero 4, although it's a lot smaller and mobile this time. Still in the background though.
    • Several bosses in the original series were coded as background objects, due to the limitations of the NES graphic engine, but the best example is probably Gamma, the final boss of Mega Man 3. Only the very top of its head was vulnerable (and only to two weapons, and aside from its weak spot and its hands, it didn't inflict Collision Damage.
  • Many bosses in the Metal Slug series of games are of this type. Metal Slug 5 had a rather awesome final battle in the form of a gargantuan flying demon wielding a scythe.
  • In Muramasa: The Demon Blade, the final boss of the standard ending to Momohime's story is a giant statue of the guardian of heaven, Fudo-Myoo. As two lesser deities try to attack you, you must disrupt the barrier protecting various parts of Fudo-Myoo's body by destroying the lesser deities. It's made harder by the fact that large rocks are constantly threatening to crush you and the two deities have some powerful attacks that they will happily unleash upon you.
  • Ninja Senki - the dragon boss at the end of Scene 8 behaves much like one.
  • Noitu Love 2 - Penultimate Tango.
    • Also in the first Noitu Love, the battle against the enormous Omega Darn. The battle takes place on a helicopter circling around the boss, and to defeat it you must fire super missiles at it while avoiding the rockets, lasers and lightning it shoots at you.
  • Mephistos from Purple goes this after growing disproportionally.
  • The first boss of R-Type III would assault the player with shots in the background, coming into the player's plane of view to unleash a Macross Missile Massacre.
  • Humongous Mecha Coyote in Road Runner's Death Valley Rally.
  • In RosenkreuzStilette Freudenstachel, the first Iris Stage boss is - surprise - Count Michael Zeppelin, who attacks Freudia (and Pamela) from the background and serves as a Breather Boss for That One Level. Oh, and did we mention the fight is similar to Gamma from Mega Man 3?
  • Seiken Densetsu 3 has Zolan, the werewolf, who is so large he dwarfes the tower which formerly held the mana crystal, his prison. Add to that his impressive claws and absurd special attacks and you can get ready to pack the healing magic out.
  • The first form of the Death Egg boss for Sonic in Sonic 3 & Knuckles tries to crush you with his mechanical fingers.
    • Earlier on in the Lava Reef Act 2 boss, Eggman initially behaves this way by launching missiles at you from a distance until you reach the dueling point.
  • Spawn for the SNES has Malebolgia hanging around in the background, tossing lightning bolts as you fight the real boss, the Mad One. Fortunately, Malebolgia doesn't seem to care much if he hits you or Mad One and will damage him for you if you stay out of the way.
  • Lil Horn (Also known as the Meat Golem) in Super Meat Boy. Unlike most background bosses, Lil Horn is surprisingly easy: he has the same attack pattern no matter what.
  • The Z-Master from GaoGaiGar in Super Robot Wars W is laid over the background of the stage. The unit that represents him in battle is placed on the tile that is his eye.
  • Tails' Nightmare 2 has Tails Doll's final form. To hurt him, you have to fly up to his gem.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time inverts this by featuring a Foreground Boss: Shredder manning a laser turret at the end of the Technodrome stage, with the battle presented from Shredder's point of view. The player defeated him by throwing his Mooks into the screen.
  • Wario Land: The first game, Virtual Boy Wario Land and Wario Land 3 feature background final bosses - respectively, a Genie in a Bottle, another genie, and Rudy the Clown.
  • The World Ends with You boss Ovis Cantus can barely fit on the screen... and that's just because he's crouching. However, he still swings his arms and fires energy spheres in an attempt to squash the player.
  • Yoshi's Island: Baby Bowser's amped-up magical form, as shown in the header picture. Unique in that he uses the powers of SuperFX to slowly stomp toward the foreground, looming larger and larger. Also unique in that instead of a Colossus Climb or other attempt to exploit his large geometry, the fight consists of the two of you shelling each other (with actual eggshells, no less) over long background distances. You need to use the shells to knock him back, or else he destroys the platform you're standing on.
  • The third-to-last boss of Gradius Gaiden, the Heavy Ducker, occasionally swoops into the background and tries to assault you from there with shots.
  • Both of the Red Dragons you fight in the Dungeons & Dragons Capcom games are of this form.
  • The final boss of Super House of Dead Ninjas, Abargus, takes up almost the entire screen.
  • Walpurgisnacht at the end of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica spinoff game Grief Syndrome.
  • In the flash game Project Inthri 3, the boss Nemor has 4 forms. In the third form, he becomes a huge background boss with two phases. The first phase consists of him trying to crush you with his fists, and the second phase has him firing bullets from his eyes and trying trying to hit you with lightning strikes.

3D examples

  • The Dollmaker alias Doctor Bumby from Alice: Madness Returns.
  • The nightmare sequences in Batman: Arkham Asylum work this way, with a variant; you can't let Scarecrow see you, or it's Game Over.
    • Also, Poison Ivy.
  • Multiple bosses in Bug!.
    • The giant horned lizard stayed in the background at all times, and you had to launch boulders at it.
    • The giant octopus would stay in the background, grabbing fish and throwing them at you until you hit three of them back at him.
    • The Abominable Snowbug would chuck massive snowballs from the background for the first half of the fight, and again when it threw massive snowballs that split into five.
    • Queen Cadavra would spawn baby spiders from the background, as well as fire at the floor with her eight machine guns, before attempting to body slam Bug.
  • The bosses in Bully are the Clique leaders. For the Nerds, you do not fight him himself, as he obviously wouldn't be able to hold his own against someone like Jimmy, who has up to that point beaten up three whole cliques (And probably a few prefects if you're lucky enough). Instead, he uses his inventions to get you at range, so the boss fight is actually taking out his inventions to force him to surrender, having no weapons left.
  • Castlevania: Curse of Darkness Final boss is (surprise surprise) Dracula. His second form tends to stay very far away from your platform and shoots at you. The only way to damage him is to hit him when he slashes at you with his claws.
  • In Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, the battle with N. Gin works this way.
  • The final boss of Dead Space qualifies.
    • Also, the Leviathan, in the middle of the game.
  • The castle boss in Donkey Kong 64 is a wooden mockup of K.Rool held behind the castle's parapets. The only way to attack it is by launching your Kongs out of a barrel cannon.
  • The final boss of Doom 2 could qualify to an extent. Rather than a sprite like other monsters in the game, it actually makes up one of the walls of the last chamber. Its attack method is to fire cubes at pre-determined locations, spawning monsters (which can telefrag you if you're not paying attention). The only way to win was to fire rockets through the small opening in his forehead.
  • The giant boss battles in Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi function like this. You either have to throw Ki blasts at them when they are far away, or wait for them to do a melee attack so you can attack them directly.
  • El Shaddai has the Fire Nephilim fought at the end of Chapter 5. Just like a normal Nephilim, but much bigger and much more dangerous. It's so big, Enoch cannot actually defeat it it's eaten by a much bigger Nephilim that used to be one of the Watchers. Luckily, that one's not fought, it's vaporized in a cutscene.
  • The first time you fight Sin in Final Fantasy X, it's this. The boat that you're on is being dragged behind him by a harpoon in his fin, and it's impossible to touch him except with long range attacks (Wakka, magic, Aeons, etc.).
  • Goblet Grotto plays with this in the fridge level: once you get to the top, a giant Goblet Man will appear in the background and say "I could do with a chilled toad right about now!", but he doesn't actually attack you. A regular-sized hostile Goblet Man does appear in the fridge, but he goes down as easily as everyone else.
  • The final boss of Gunstar Heroes and Gunstar Super Heroes qualify, the second more so though as in the first game, The only time in the first game it goes into the background is when it uses the gems as weapons. Said Gems are weakpoints for both final bosses.
  • The second boss of Jett Rocket, Herzog Aisu, traps you on a narrow platform. You have to do a Ground Pound on the giant flyswatter-type apparatus he attempts to squish you with to defeat him.
  • One of Xemnas's modes in Kingdom Hearts II does this initially.
  • The golem in The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is usually fought in this fashion—from his first encounter to his very last, where you have to climb several stories of building in order to finally bring the pain down on his massive hands.
  • Arguably, Bongo Bongo, boss of the Shadow Temple, in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
  • The first Grimnir fight from Magicka. You can see a giant hologram of him while fighting the mages he summons. After that, he fights the player, mano-o-mano.
  • Technically speaking, in Marvel Ultimate Alliance, at one point, you are going through the Skrull homeworld. Being in space, who should be calmly striding through the background but Galactus. You fight him at the very end of the level, but during it, you have to dodge his attacks and minions.
    • And in the sequel, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, there's the 1 of the 2 Marvel resident Giant-Men (you fight one or the other, depending on who you sided with in the Civil War - going Pro results in you fighting Goliath, a.k.a. Bill Foster, whom the crazy Thor clone killed in the comics, while choosing Anti pits you against Yellowjacket).
  • The Final Battle in Mass Effect 2 is against a giant incomplete humanoid Reaper who can only be harmed by shooting at one of its four weakspots.
    • And if you do Grunt's loyalty mission, it ends with a fight against a Thresher Maw, which stays outside the arena and spits acid at you.
    • In Mass Effect 3, on Rannoch, the quarian homeworld, Shepard discovers that what s/he originally thought was a Reaper base is an actual Reaper. S/he decides to sync up his/her orbital targeting with the entire quarian fleet to blow the Reaper to hell. The fight has the Reaper in the background trying to hit Shepard with its beam while you paint its weak spots for the quarian fleet to hit.
    • Also in the third game, another Reaper appears during the battle of Earth, guarding the Conduit. It is far in the background, but slowly moves closer. Not long after, Harbinger appears behind the Conduit, where it stays and destroys the entire alliance force. This is also a Scripted Battle.
  • The Colony Devil Gundam in Gundam vs. Gundam/Next; its only vulnerable portion being the standard-sized torso mounted atop a giant Gundam head with a Breath Weapon. In addition to Beam Spam and throwing out lots of Assist Characters, it borrows from the 2D version of this trope and will occasionally summon gigantic fists to strike the map (though thankfully there is a warning indicator showing precisely where it's going to hit).
  • In Remember Me, the final boss is large (6-10 meters) and will attack by hitting you with its hands, creating projectiles and summoning other enemies. It is not possible to close distance with him until the finishing cutscene.
  • In Scaler, the pemiultimate boss fight against Captain Buttbreath, er, Bootlick, er, Bootcamp portrays his lizard-form as a giant Leviathan head in the middle of an acid lake. You're forced to avoid his fireballs, fire breath, and attempts to eat you while occasionally transforming into the acid-spitting Fruzard to shoot his eyes For Massive Damage.
  • The final boss in Shadow of the Colossus starts out like this, requiring you to dodge his rain of fire as you find a way to close in and begin your last Colossus Climb.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, you fight the Egg Golem with both Sonic and Dr. Robotnik. The fight as Sonic is a good 3D example and features a Colossus Climb up retracting platforms on the Golem's back.
  • Bowser from Super Mario Galaxy 2, due to him spending the entire game as a giant.
  • The fourth boss in the PS2 game Transformers is Tidal Wave, a massive supercarrier that (before transforming into his robot mode) was actually the very level you were exploring.
  • World of Warcraft has Kologarn, a giant construct with Cognizant Limb and Eye Beams.
  • Orjugan in Ys: The Ark of Napishtim. To damage it, you must hit its bombs back or use the flame magic.
  • Ape Escape 2 has Giant Yellow Monkey. The entire battle is fought on his hands, and you have to wait until he brings you close to his face, at which point he attempts to inhale you, and, if this attack is successfully avoided, becomes open to attack. His weak point is his teeth. Knock all 5 out and you win.


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