Bosses have a number of ways to announce their presence, but nothing quite says "Boss Battle" like splashing a banner across the screen to say:
Or vice-versa. This is very, very popular in Japanese media (they actually took the idea from the old Chinese action movies, where every main character, hero or villain, generally had his name stated below onscreen in his first introduction on the movie), and found in most 3D Console RPGs, as well as in certain anime and manga (where it's a handy way to introduce new characters), it has been parodied from time to time. Despite the name, this is not limited to video game bosses. It often accompanies a Mook Debut Cutscene.
This is NOT simply when a game precedes a boss battle with a caption; that falls under Boss Warning Siren. This is when the boss has a unique subtitle to it.
See also Dramatis Personae, and Adjective Noun Fred.
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Anime and Manga
Putting onscreen the name of the Robeast during its first appearance used to be very popular in the Super Robot Genre. Noteworthy examples are:
The show applies this to both the Quirky Miniboss Squad as well as its leader and whenever the heroes combine into a new and bigger kind of Humongous Mecha, the name of the new form is displayed onscreen.
In first movie, it also happens after the three Generals and Viral combine their Dai-Guns (Dai-Gunkai, Dai-Gunten, Dai-Gundo and Dai-Gunzan II). The name-tag says "Dai-Gun Doten Kaizan".
In the second movie's final battle, we get Tengen Toppa Solvernia (Nia), Tengen Toppa Enkidulga (Viral), Tengen Toppa Yoko W Tank (Yoko), Tengen Toppa Twin Vulcan (Jorgun & Balinbow), Tengen Toppa Kidd Knuckle (Kidd), Tengen Toppa Ainzaurus (Iraak), Tengen Toppa Sozoshin (Zorthy), Tengen Toppa Moshogun (Makken), Tengen Toppa Grapearl (Gimmy and Darry) and finally Tengen Toppa Dai-Gurren (everyone else) all get epic entrances complete with their own respective subtitles. And then they combine to form Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. He gets a subtitle too, of course. Notably, most of the mechs are introduced so fast that there's no opportunity to mention them onscreen, so the subtitles are the only way to know their names. There are two mecha in the final battle without Boss Subtitles, the regular old Lazengann and the curiously unnamed Tengen Toppa Lagann.
This also applies to characters important enough that their name is a chapter name. In fact, this is necessary for some undubbed characters, as it is the only way to spell their name correctly when it is written in English. As an example of both variations: Great Whirlpool Spider Squad.
The early episodes of Digimon Savers did this with newly-encountered Mons instead of the usual Digimon Analyzer scene. Tradition prevailed and the analyzer scenes were back by episode eight or so. Digimon Xros Wars did it near-constantly with every Mon instead of anything resembling a Digimon Analyzer; it even repeated the subtitles for characters outside Xros Heart / Blue Flare whenever they showed up in multiple episodes, the practical upshot being that they were displayed almost ever time repeat villains like Lilithmon, Tuwarmon and DarkKnightmon showed up.
Great Teacher Onizuka slipped in and out of this depending on how many new characters were being introduced. The manga also had more detailed versions for primary antagonists like Principal Uchiyamada and Teshigawara.
All characters in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo receive a captioned name when they first appear, no matter how irrelevant they are to the plot. One character in the American dub lampshades this. "Get those Japanese words off of me!"
Mahou Sensei Negima! occasionally made use of this trope. It's even lampshaded at one point when Misora is trying to maintain a secret identity... a task which might've been easier if a caption displaying her full name and even her seat number hadn't shown up. An annoyed Misora immediately asks what it's doing there and tries to shoo it away.
Done to much greater effect in Chapter 300, where everyone gets their own subtitle—some 28 characters in all.
Tentai Senshi Sunred, being a parody of Sentai shows, has these for everybody — hero, villain and human alike. They're accurate, but goofy considering the creatures they're describing are just going about their daily lives.
All the suspects, their ages, and occupations are displayed in this manner for Detective Conan, which has obvious character-recognition applications, especially when you need to introduce 2-5 characters a week for a fresh mystery.
Legend of Galactic Heroes also does this for every character, even the major ones at least once per season. The format is usually the former, with the 'Descriptive Sentence' denoting military rank as well as position within government (i.e. Chief Minister Of Internal Affairs, Fleet Admiral William Von Ribbentrop. Note: This is not an actual character, in order not to spoil). This is a courtesy extended by the producers to the viewers, as it's another case of Loads and Loads of Characters.
In Shakugan no Shana, it's standard practice for both Flame Hazes and the Crimson Lords they hunt to have titles like this, such as "Margery Daw: Chanter of Elegies", or "Supreme Throne: Hecate".
Starting from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's the Belkan Knights looks to be akin to this with all the Wolkenritter's having subtitles like Shamal's "Knight of the Lake", Vita's "Knight of the Iron Hammer" and Zafira's "Beast of Shield". Their leader Signum even have two in "Blazing General" and "Knight of the Sword". Their weapons and unison devices also have their own names and subtitles but that will deserve it's own list.
In Bleach, whenever a new captain or lieutenant was introduced during the Soul Society arc, a small panel appeared on screen: [Name of character] [Captain/lieutenant of division [insert number here]]
In Kill la Kill, every character gets HUGE RED BLOCK CAPITAL TEXT announcing their names and titles whenever they appear for the first time, and sometimes repeatedly for added drama. Nui Harime leans and sits on her subtitles. As a sidenote, the same HUGE RED BLOCK CAPITAL TEXT appears not only for characters, but also for many attacks, locations and events.
Happens in Scott Pilgrim, with "bosses" like The Evil League of Ramona's Ex-Boyfriends, since the book's plot is halfway between a romance manga and an old-school Beat 'em Up. The other characters get these as well, with one of the running gags being "Knives Chau: 17 Years Old".
The characters are also able to read them, as Roxie objects to her caption classifying her as Ramona's fifth Evil Ex Boyfriend.
Scott is shocked when Knives' subtitle finally changes to "18 years old". He comments on Ramona's age being listed as "Unknown," and he reads "Knows everybody" off of Comeau's box.
Protagonist example, The Authority are introduced using a mix of these and a Batman Cold Open. Midnighter's subtitle ("Night's Bringer of War") is probably the best of the lot.
The X-Men and The Avengers loves this too. Usually they go "Name, Codename, power, short description". The description can often be completely tangential, odd, or just funny. Examples:
"Scott Summers, Cyclops, Optic Blasts, leader of the X-men. Owns a jetpack."
"Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler, Teleportation, fan of Errol Flynn movies."
Marvel does this with all their team books.
"Dilbert introduces specialized or one-shot characters with a caption at the top of the strip.
Clash of the Elements: In a use of this trope not related to video games, the author uses titles for both the Inner and Outer Guardian fights in the story. He also uses them again in Movie 1 whenever The stronger members of the Subspace Army appear.
Done in the opening scenes of Zoolander with the main characters. Played with later on when David Bowie (playing himself) also gets a subtitle despite being little more than a cameo.
Hugo Stiglitz from Inglourious Basterds randomly gets some, just to show how Badass he is. Later in the film, some important Nazi figures are pointed out, but in a much more subdued way.
Done in Kill Bill, with the accompanying code name for the assassin. This was in fact a homage/another nod from Tarantino to the old Chinese action films, which generally portrayed the villains (and also the heroes) with their names onscreen everytime they are introduced in the movie
An unusual "serious literature"-type movie example: The Merchant-Ivory film The Golden Bowl (adapted from a Henry James novel) had a caption: "The London home of ADAM VERVER" followed by "America's first billionaire."
In the classic silent version of Robin Hood, each character gets a caption with their name as they're introduced. Given that Douglas Fairbanks wrote, produced, and starred in the film, which was technically titled Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, it's amusing but not surprising that Robin Hood's caption is the only one which also lists the name of the actor.
Boss Subtitles and humorous, one-sentence descriptions introduced each of the Wonders during their first major TV appearance in That Thing You Do!. They also played a major plot point: one of the band members had the line "Careful, girls—he's engaged!" under his name. It proved to be the final nail in the Wonders' coffin.
The Crew in the Steven Seagal film Submerged are introduced like this.
Burn Notice does this every episode with the client and the antagonist, and frequently plays with it. For instance, if Michael is reluctant to take on a client, the subtitle "Character Name: The Client" will show up when he finally gives in. The antagonist will also sometimes have their job title slide off the screen to be replaced with a comment another character has made about them. Two particular examples are "Undead Spy"note due to a case of No Onecould Survive That and "Probably Not An Alien"note due to a crazy client who believes the target is an alien. Another one comes from an episode where Michael and a gang member are on the run from a Russian criminal. The gangster comments that the Russian is a hardass, and wonders aloud what hardass is in Russian. The subtitle then shows up for the Russian, with some Cyrillic characters followed by "(hardass)". There's also Fiona's, "Forget that, anyone who messes with a fifteen year old girl is nothing more than a bloody pervert!" Cue recycled subtitle: "Felix Cole: Pervert". It's also used to dramatic effect at two points. The subtitle for Simon is simply "?" and Management gets no subtitle at all.
Averted right at the end of Ocarina of Time when the final boss rears up in front of you and the bold letters plainly and simply state "GANON", as if the game itself were incapable of describing the horrendous monster in front of you as anything else. Following games do the same thing with their final bosses. They did it again in Skyward Sword, except several times. The Imprisoned is only known as such, and when you fight it's true form, it is only listed as DEMISE, which takes on an even deeper meaning when it's revealed that Demise is Ganon before he was Ganon.
Used in a tongue-in-cheek fashion in Banjo-Tooie, with unusual bosses like "Giant Wobbly Inflatable Thing Mr. Patch", "Visually-Impaired Welding Torch Weldar", and "Self-Important Angler Fish Lord Woo Fak Fak".
Diablo III has gotten into the act. Random unique enemies will have a title under their health bar in place of attributes like most special enemies. For example, in Act II you can run into "High Cultist Murdos, Cruel and Powerful Cult Acolyte" or "Ashek, Diminutive Fallen Fighter". As a reference to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, there's "Nightmarity, Generosity In Death" and "Midnight Sparkle, Nightmare Is Magic".
In Sonic Adventure 2, the GUN robots take it a step further: their name is accompanied by scrolling text that shows a list of their technical specs (which, while irrelevant, are perfectly readable).
The two versions of Sonic Unleashed do it differently: The HD version by Sonic Team merely shows the bosses' names, all of them using the same font, while the Wii/PS2 version by Sonic Team and Dimps takes a cue from Sonic Rush Series and read "Boss Battle: vs. [Boss]", using a different font for Sonic bosses and Werehog bosses.
Done for party members in Final Fantasy VI, except it only shows the description. You get to name the characters yourself.
Similarly, the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV does it for all party members the first time you meet them, while the boss encounters show the name of the boss at the beginning.
Viewtiful Joe has bosses such as Dark Fiend Charles III, Aquatic Terror Gran Bruce, Blade Master Alastor, Serial Killer Android Miss Bloody Rachel... pretty much every boss has a subtitle, including King Blue and Dark Hero Jet Black.
Wild ARMs 2, with a silhouette against a blood-red screen and an ominous intro theme to go with them.
Throughout one of the bonus mission pack missions in Guild Wars, which was a pastiche of kung-fu movies, every boss character is introduced in this way.
Metal Gear Solidloves this to bits, following the 'Character Name' - 'Voice Actor' format. Main characters like Snake or Raiden even get big music stings to go with them. Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance parodied it with the more standard boss variation and 'The Monster From Another Dimension - Gurlugon'.
Holding a button when this occurs will display the character's motion-capture actor instead of the voice actor.
This is actually based on a common practice in many Japanese dubs of Hollywood movies, which would often display the name of a main actor whenever they first appeared on-screen next to the name of the seiyū voicing them.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker also features the more traditional variant. Compulsory bosses and the Monster Hunter creatures get one on a red-tinted screen with a special font while the Extra-Ops vehicles have no screen tinting and use a larger version of the subtitle font.
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon makes good use of this. A personal favorite is "Wartime Kabuki Robot KASHIWAGI." The final boss is "The Fairy of Love and Dreams D'ETOILE." From Goemon's Great Adventure there's "Ukulele Hawaiian GODS OF WIND AND THUNDER." What else would you expect from a series like Ganbare Goemon?
The Touhou games do this whenever the protagonist reaches the boss battle at the end of a given stage. Which isn't to say that it's just stage bosses that get titles; the protagonists have them in the character select screens, midbosses have their's in the profiles, they even show up in the spinoffs! Not prose works, though.
Darius (and its sequels) introduces the stage's boss with this: "WARNING! A HUGE BATTLESHIP (boss's name) IS APPROACHING FAST."
The .hack videogames show special animations before you fight the eight phases, the first of which is Skeith: The Terror of Death.
Before a boss appears in Gunstar Heroes, you're given a warning that names the boss and their attacks. A lot of them tend to have silly names and attacks, but that won't stop them from beating the crap out of you if you don't know what you're doing.
Ōkami has Boss Scrolls, with a illustration of each enemy (including bosses) when fighting them for the first time along with their name in Japanese (regardless of whether the game is the English version), right when Boss Subtitles would normally occur. It also has this for many characters when you first meet them. Including a slip of paper.
When someone important shows up in Killer7, they get one of these. Even if they're scheduled to die in a few moments (take a bow, Toru Fukashima and Trevor Pearlharbor). This also happens when a new version of a Heaven's Smile appears for the first time.
The Warriors introduces each new gang with a quick shot of the gang and their tag.
Every installment in the House of the Dead series does this with its bosses, having a name (Until Overkill, taken from Tarot cards.) and picture of the boss come up, with its weak points helpfully pointed out. Justified in the first two games as being a file collected at the beginning of the game, and even shown as opening the file or book to the relevant entry. In The House of the Dead 4, James stores boss data in a sleek PDA.
Fable II introduces new enemies using little cutscenes, going from standard "Bandits" when the hero is young and "Commandants" when things get tough.
Every boss in From the Abyss. Most of them will also have a pre-fight taunt after the subtitles fade, the only exception being the penultimate boss, the Abyss Cocoon (which is a giant beating heart).
Ikaruga: Before encountering a stage end boss, a red warning is displayed on the screen stating "The big enemy is approaching at full throttle. According to the data, it is identified as Butsutekkai. NO REFUGE"
I Wanna Be the Guy does a parody of an Ikaruga boss fight with Robirdo, complete with the same warning screen and BGM.
For Thunder Force V: "ALERT! The enemy is dead ahead! Area Guard Name: _____", and a small description (like "It died three times a and was reborn twice" for Armament Armed Arm) and for the final boss: ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! with the voice-over devolving into static, repeatedly saying "caution."
Radiant Silvergun has boss battle complete with message "Be attitude for gains:" followed by 3 tips which don't, for the most part, seem to make any sense.
For shmups, the trope might as well be called the "Warning screen", though not all warnings give a title for the boss.
A variation of this is played in Touhou 11, where Okuu's nuclear-themed spellcards are preceded with two scrolling strips that say "CAUTION".
The Yakuza games do this almost every time an important character is introduced, boss fight or otherwise. Of course, this being a series set in modern-day Japan, most of the subtitles are fairly mundane, which sort of makes it funnier.
Not typical in World of Warcraft, but happens sometimes. Mainly, Illidan Stormrage, "The Betrayer". Also, Kael'thas Sunstrider, "Lord of the Blood Elves" or Kil'jaeden "The Deceiver".
Pokémon Rumble has a basic one for its bosses (class, then the name). The Battle Royales give a hint of what Pokemon it is beforehand with a sihouette, almost meaningless stats (as you progress in the game they'll always be Legendaries), and the typing.
Star Fox 1 for the SNES has an unusual example of this. Every major boss is given a subtitle in the manual, such as "Advance Scout Mother Ship: Attack Carrier", and "Special Close Orbit Robot: Phantron". There are no names or subtitles given during gameplay, but instead features an elaborate ending sequence that shows each of the bosses faced during the course which gives just the name and some meaningless stats.
The 3DS remake of Star Fox 64 adds these, using the first format. The only exception being Sector X's boss which only shows the Boss Name. It averts the All There in the Manual that the original had where most boss names were concerned.
Every time a new type of enemy appears in Bayonetta, it's accompanied with a short cut scene and a Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame that gives the name and class of the enemy. The enemy's name is then displayed over a picture of their halo (with stronger and more powerful angels having more elaborate halos), and the freeze frame zooms out to reveal their image within "The Hierarchy of Laguna", before the book flies away and the scene cuts back to the action. This is also used to remind the player to put on an appropriate Oh Crap face when Umbra Witch: Jeanne finally appears after fighting her at least three times prior, and Dea: Jubileus
The Golem enemy, being a mechanical beast rather than an angel, doesn't get a halo behind its name in its subtitle introduction. It still appears in the Hierarchy, however.
Jeanne also has no halo, but unlike the Golem, she doesn't appear in the Hierarchy of Laguna (for obvious reasons) and her subtitle simply appears on screen.
There is only one pair of enemies in the game not to get an introduction: Gracious and Glorious. These two are upgraded versions of Grace and Glory, two enemies that have likely already achieved status as Demonic Spiders for the player. Without this introduction, it's possible for the player to not even notice that these are new, more powerful enemies and have no idea why they're getting their ass handed to them even moreso than usual.
The Infinite One: Father Rodin. After defeating him, you can read his description to find out where the name "Infinite One" comes from.
Every single enemy in the game, with the exception of bosses, will attack during their 'Boss Subtitles' cutscene, and will hit you if you don't move out of the way once the cutscene ends. It's also worth mentioning that no matter how perfectly one dodges this first attack, Witch Time will never be activated against it.
This has carried over to Bayonetta 2 as well. But it's not just for the angels... Players will be reminded to crap their pants when they see Devourer of the Divine: Gomorrah. The demons also show up in their own book as a parallel to the angels' "Hierachy of Laguna"!
This features returns in The Wonderful 101, as yet another parallel to its predecessor, Bayonetta.
All enemies are given names, subtitles, and highly detailed, almost Pokédex-like◊, descriptions when first encountered. Bosses are given an accompanying "WARNING!" buzzer to let you know they're a real threat. Platinum Robo is also given an enemy style introduction, as both its origins and intentions are unknown.
That's not just the main characters, either! Every single one of the 100 heroes (115, if we're including secret characters) has an intro and subtitle when recruited just like this◊.
Skies of Arcadia does this for the Valuan admirals... and their ships. And the Gigas.
Colin McRae: Di RT 2 uses a variation of this as its 'One To Watch' feature: Immediately before each individual race, the game shows you the name and vehicle of whichever participating racer the game has chosen as most likely to win, making him/her your primary challenger for the rest of the race. There's even a chance that the game can pick you as the One To Watch, letting you know just how much of a speed demon you are.
In Grand Fantasia, this happens frequently, no matter what part of the world you are in and no matter where the boss monster appears. It also occasionally has a WARNING tacked onto the front (to let you know that a monster on the other side of the continent is coming to get you), accompanied by an ominous bell chime. More often than not, five minutes later there will be another message popping up to let you know that the monster has been defeated.
Live A Live has enemy subtitles. At the beginning of every battle, the game introduces each enemy by showing their name at the top of the screen.
The Guardians from Rayman 2: The Great Escape get this. Even Umber.
No More Heroes did this (with the exception of the first boss) when ever you entered a boss fight. Starting with a digitize voice announcing the boss's name and a quote from them. The sequel uses a different approach, in reverse; The boss' name gets revealed after the battle is won, along with the subtitle stating that they are defeated.
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War: Starting with the player's Galm team, whenever a new boss-level squadron appears, their name and emblem appears on the screen during the introductory cutscene. This is also the case with the interviews, showing the character's callsign, their full name, and their squadron's name.
Magical Doropie has Boss Intertitles. After the Boss Warning Siren sounds and the boss appears, the game cuts to a screen with the heading "ALERT!! Big Enemy!!" Underneath this is shown a short data file on the boss. Concluding this screen is a "message for you from your friends."
The Valis series has experimented with several different versions:
The TurboGrafx-16 version of Valis II has Boss Intertitle screens. "Warning!! A strong warrior (Adjective Noun Fred) is coming here!" The Japanese PC versions preceded each Boss Battle with a subtitle describing the boss in a (English) sentence that could be quite bizarre, e.g. "Heizen was manipulated by his occiput!"
The PC-88 version of Valis said "Be carefull (sic)! (Boss's name) is coming," followed by a line of proverbial advice.
Super Valis IV showed the name of the "dominator" and its area, followed by its signature ability or weakness.
Clock Tower 3 has this. First, it shows the title of the boss, then underneath, a count of their victims shows. The count disappears and is replaced with their extremely exaggerated prison sentence in years, which then reduces to 0 as the bosses health meter fills up. The bigger a sentence, the more health the boss will have.
Toaplan's Batsugun has simple boss subtitles, consisting only of a flashing "WARNING" label, the stage number and the boss's name.
Used with every single character in the Lego Adaptation Game Lego Marvel Superheroes. Justified in that there are so many characters in the game (most of which are playable) that having the name tags show up helps players remember who they are. It also helps for storytelling purposes; nearly every character is already familiar with the other characters they meet, so showing the name tags avoids any "Hey it's Wolverine!" "Yes I am Wolverine" moments.
The Taleof ALLTYNEX has these for every boss, which includes the description or code name of the boss alongside the boss name itself.