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Easy Levels, Hard Bosses
"Because while the regular enemies are a breeze to kill, the bosses will bend you over and *bleep* with mayonnaise, and just shove their hand up *bleep* with their fingers out *bleep* *bleep* *bleep* *bleep*, and trust me when I say you'll never look at a pencil the same again."

Some video games have bosses that are disproportionately hard compared to the levels before them. Regardless of whether the levels are simple or Nintendo Hard, the bosses are more difficult compared to the skill and effort needed to reach them.

Reasons for this can vary. Perhaps the developer wanted to make a dueling game against a boss, pumping up the Just Here for Godzilla factor. Others simply include a large amount of bosses in their games, such as in RP Gs.

A Sub-Trope of Boss Dissonance.

Compare Boss Game, SNK Boss.

Contrast Hard Levels, Easy Bosses, Mooks but No Bosses.

Try to avoid giving examples of That One Boss here.

Examples:

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     Action Game  

  • In La-Mulana, once you have a healthy number of Life Jewels, the Body Armor, and the EXP-doubling Scripture, it's nearly impossible to die unless you do so on purpose. That is, until you face a boss...
  • Green's level in Gunstar Heroes. "Gee, that was a short level, and this boss doesn't seem that tough... wait, what?"
    • Like most bosses, he fights more aggressively and does more damage on higher difficulties. Unlike most bosses, he also takes on more forms depending on the difficulty, further tipping the scale for this level on hard and especially expert.

     Beat Em Up  

  • Most of the levels in Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms are painfully easy. The bosses, on the other hand, are just painful.
  • Streets of Rage... Ugh. Streets of Rage. All of the bosses were better off taken out with the specials than losing lives over, which made the Boss Rush at the end even worse, when specials are disabled.
  • No More Heroes lets you slice up mooks with relative impunity. The first boss will tear you up if you rush him the same way. It just gets worse from there.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game is notorious for this. Most of the levels are pretty standard until you reach the boss, who feels like they have more health than all of the enemies in the level combined. Bonus points for the last level which has THREE tough bosses at the end and the last two have to be beaten consecutively without healing.
  • Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage has simple levels that involve beating up rioters. The boss fights are either introductions to Elite Mooks or pit you against super villains with powerful attacks who are hard to beat unless you know their Assist Character weakness (even then, you're still in trouble if you screw up or forgot them); Shriek's the only one who isn't immune to being snared by webs. And then there's Muzzoid, who is very difficult to beat without an exploit.

     Fighting Game  

  • Soul Calibur 3
    • The Chronicles of the Sword mode is like this, with mostly easy battles against random soldiers and difficult battles against difficult AIs with powerful weapons and stage effects stacked against you. The final battle is particularly trying, as it is only hard because you fought a whole slew of enemies without a chance to heal, and the stage you fight in eliminates your blocking ability (plus your enemy has Soul Edge).
    • Of course, all the "real-world" fighters show up as optional minibosses, typically tough because they're always Level 60. Then a random dude named Ende fills that role in the final stage, even though Nightmare's hanging out there as that stage's Lv. 60 canon fighter. While Nightmare's presence might foreshadow about the boss to come, Ende is not explained.
    • Go back to a normal fight after the final battle chronicles. Just do tales of souls. It is one of the more screwed up feelings in the world to go from sliding across the floor on your teeth, even if you are using the cheapest moves known to man, to the unrecognizable feeling of actually being able to hit the enemy.
    • For the most part (except for Aege 2, Girardot 2 and Abelia 2, who are endgame-ish bosses with super armor, and even then some), all fights can easily be won by spamming anti-AI moves.
  • Boss fights in the entire Street Fighter series are hard. Akuma in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo easily takes the cake as the hardest, although Street Fighter 1 Sagat, Street Fighter Alpha 3 Final Bison, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Gill, and Street Fighter 4 Seth are also very hard. The fights before them are cakewalks, mostly.
  • Azazel from Tekken 6 is probably the best example. The rest of the fights are a breeze. He is almost impossible to beat.

     First Person Shooter  

  • Metroid Prime:
    • Retro Studios themselves confirmed that the bosses were meant to provide the game's challenge while the rest of Prime was meant to be easier, in order to keep the player from feeling too intimidated to explore the world freely. This had the added benefit of significantly toning down the game's FPS elements and making it feel like a true entry in the Metroid series, which had been following a similar design philosophy for nearly two decades (see below). Perhaps less extreme than many of these examples, but it's more noticeable on Hard mode for sure.
    • A more Fake Difficulty example would be the titular Final Boss's second form. The basis of the fight it to wait for Prime to create a pool of Phazon and use the Phazon Beam on it; however, on Hard it will delay this for minutes on end, hoping to get a few hits in on its shockwave attack. And to make it worse, most players will be low on health after the first form and while the shockwave is easy enough to dodge, it will end up spawning various species of Metroids along with the Phazon pool, making getting a clear shot on it that much harder.
    • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was developed with the same modus operandi: Most of the game is somewhat simple (with the exception of some scripted instances of high action that involve large numbers of normal enemies, usually Space Pirates of some kind), but the bosses - especially the Leviathan Guardians - can be very difficult to beat. This leaves Metroid Prime 2: Echoes as the only game in the trilogy that averts this, due to it being Nintendo Hard both level-wise (especially because of the presence of Dark Aether) and boss-wise.
  • The 2012 Syndicate remake. The levels are more challenging than most other games, but not too bad once you get the hang of the gameplay mechanics. The bosses, however, are completely insane even on the "Normal" difficulty setting. The final boss in particular is on par with the likes of General Raam in terms of frustration.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution is like this if you're trying to go for a Pacifist Run. While the bosses are easier if you've heavily specialized in combat, try to face down even the first boss carrying little more than a stun gun and the pistol you picked up from some mook and you're in deep trouble. Unlike the rest of the game, which allows for many different play styles, Violence is the Only Option in boss fights. This was one of the most common criticisms of what was otherwise a heavily acclaimed title, with many people feeling that it went against the rest of the game.
    • The inverse is true if you specialize in combat; the distressingly common frag mines and gas grenades are usually more than enough to drop most any boss.
    • All that said, the first, second, and fourth bosses have resources or alternate options on hand to let you beat the boss if you specialized in stealth or hacking if you take the time to look, leaving only the third boss (the one where directly applied violence really IS the only option) for you to deal with. Depending on choices you've made and if you bought the DLC, this can be either That One Boss or a fight that lasts about five seconds.

     Hack And Slash  

  • Any of Koei's button mashers certainly qualify. In Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and spin-offs, expect to kill mooks as if they were ants, but if anyone with a name shows up, you're in for a boss fight. Depending on difficulty, it can range from a Curb-Stomp Battle where you are the stomper to one where you are the stompee.
  • Sengoku Basara, being an Alternate Company Equivalent of Samurai Warriors, works the same way. Well, with the exception of Naoe Kanetsugu, who is billed as a boss, has a health bar, an intro, and can be duelled in the third game, but has the health and damage of a regular mook. He's never anything more than a Mid Boss, though.
  • Diablo III is a particularly bad offender. Normal mode is a joke, with the bosses being the only real possibility of dying, but this never really changes until the highest difficulties. Oddly, the hardest enemies in the game are not the actual bosses but rather the elite monsters that randomly spawn in the higher difficulties, which are an order of magnitude harder than anything else in the game.
  • Torchlight II is often this for melee-oriented characters. Due to melee weapons having Splash Damage, you can knock down all but the largest packs of enemies like so many bowling pins. However, with the bosses, they're able to squash you with a few well-placed attacks, since you don't have the benefit of having a bunch of allies to back you up and distract the boss.

     Platform Game  

  • Kirby:
    • Seen in a few of them; some Kirby games have easy stages, in most of which it's a breeze (or a Spring Breeze) to either avoid all enemies or simply suck them all up, and bosses which are comparatively hard. In general, though, the difficulty of bosses in the series depends heavily on what power you bring with you — with the right one, most bosses are much easier than their level, while without one they tend to be comparatively hard.
    • The challenge mode in the first game is a shining example of this considering that while the levels are tougher, but still manageable, most of the bosses go from Breather Boss to That One Boss, with the third boss Kaboola being the most prominent example. This makes the Boss Rush at the final level Mt. Dedede that much more difficult.
    • Miracle Matter of Kirby 64 is one of the more infamous examples due to making Copy Abilities near worthless. This is all coming after Breather Level Ripple Star. He's so hard that he makes the True Final Boss into a Post Final Boss at the same time.
    • And, by extension, the Subspace Emissary portion of Super Smash Bros.. Brawl, with fairly standard stages (barring a slew of Goddamned Bats and Demonic Spiders) and absolutely brutal bosses, especially Tabuu. Your Mileage May Vary, though.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon has rather easy levels, but the boss of the first world is freakishly tough, the second is considered to be the game's personal That One Boss, and the third is able to be both a Breather Boss and a Climax Boss at the same time.
  • Iji plays this pretty straight; unless you're trying to get some of the Unlockable Content, playing on Ultimortal difficulty, or trying out a Self-Imposed Challenge, you can get through most levels in your sleep. The later bosses, though, ramp the difficulty up to the point where even a maxed-out Normal difficulty Iji can have trouble with the likes of Sentinel Proxima or General Tor. (On the other hand, Elite Krotera isn't particularly hard, and Annihilator Iosa is an Anticlimax Boss once you know what to do.)
    • On the other hand, Proxima isn't that hard if you just use the environment to kill it. Its armour only becomes a nightmare if you try to kill it without using the environment for that, and many players are tempted because of the bonus you get for doing it the hard way.
  • Wario Land 4, World, and Shake Dimension. 4 just had slightly more difficult bosses than the easy levels, Shake Dimension had about 1 easy boss and 4 that to some fell into That One Boss, and World... has more bosses than levels. It managed this by having four worlds, two levels per world, one boss at the end of each level, one at the end of each world and a mini boss fought up to three times per level. And the bosses were pretty complicated.
  • Mischief Makers: Some of the stages can be frustrating, but most are fairly simple matters. The bosses, however? Especially the late-game ones? Don't worry, we'll have the comforting tea ready for you when you inevitably get your behind handed to you over... and over... and over again. This is even worse if you're trying to get an overall grade of A on your record and all of the gold gems, which for boss fights come from a No Damage Run. To top it all off, you actually need get these things if you want to see the best ending.
  • Similar to the Metroid Prime games, most of the 2D Metroid games are of this kind: the levels are huge and are filled with enemies that die in a few hits while the bosses themselves have heavily damaging attacks and later bosses having attacks that are very hard to avoid.
  • Mega Man Zero has relatively easy levels. Thing is, they're very short so you can get the real challenge: the bosses. This game is infamous for its difficulty, and for good reason.
  • Mega Man & Bass changes between this and Hard Levels, Easy Bosses depending on which character you choose. Playing as Bass makes the levels a breeze, since he has a Double Jump, dash, and the ability to fire in seven directions rapidly. However, his arm cannon can't charge up, meaning that bosses are a good deal harder since you deal very little damage per hit. Also, the rapid fire is completely useless there, since bosses have Mercy Invincibility.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit 2 has much easier levels that Jazz Jackrabbit 1. If you play the charackter Jazz it's often possible to skip large parts of the levels with the helicopter-ears and even if you play through them it is a piece of cake. The Bosses however can be as tough as in the first game. Most play with Puzzle Boss in that they have some kind of shield you have to destroy first, and the later do even double damage (that is nasty in game with Mercy Invincibility).

     Real Time Strategy  

  • While clearing maps in the Dawn of War II campaigns is not necessarily easy, especially if the enemy have a lot of Elite Mooks or vehicles (or worse, a way to replenish their forces), they pale in comparison to the bosses. These things tend to be Damage Sponge Bosses and Flunky Bosses, with at least two special attacks that can kill entire squads if they're in the wrong place and, unlike every other enemy, they don't become easier to kill with each level, some of the later-game bosses being even more difficult to kill at level 20 or 30 than the ones fought at level 5.
  • Heroes of Mana:
    • Standard enemy monsters are about the same strength as your units. Type matching will almost always win the day against regular enemies. However, boss enemies are a different story. About 1 in 3 levels have bosses. Most are actually not that bad. However, some of the recurring bosses become extremely powerful later on in the game. Take Celestan, for example, the most frequent Recurring Boss in the game. His attacks do a very large amount of damage, first of all- he can kill most units in three hits in his later appearances. Also in his later appearances, his attacks have a 100% chance of confusing the unit it hit, which makes them simply wander around uselessly. His range is also obscene, reaching across 5 blocks or more. On top of that, his HP level is enormous- in the 3000s, compared to the average unit's 300-400. The only way to effectively defeat him is to summon lots of units and simply swarm him. Even surrounded by hordes of other units, it sometimes takes him minutes to die.
    • Never mind the final boss. After going One-Winged Angel on you, she is the only creature on the stage. This should be fairly simple, but the boss will. not. die. The only real course of action is to summon all the units you can and swarm her. This would be fine except her attacks do enormous damage, and she also occasionally causes a massive explosion that heavily damages everything within a large radius of her. "Heavily" as in, either kills the units or puts their HP so low that another attack will instantly do them in. Also, by this point in the battle, you will likely have harvested all available resources, so if too many units die you will too. Not only that, but at the end, you have to send the main character in to attack. If he dies, it's game over, so all you can do is bring him in and hope you can kill her before she uses an enormous attack.

     Role Playing Game  

  • World of Warcraft:
    • It fits in both the categories, but since the "Wrath of the Lich King"-expansion, it's veered more toward harder bosses. Most "trash" groups can be handled by just using area-of-effect attacks (since both AOE threat generation and AOE damage got a large boost) and become little more than speedbumps to slow the players down between the bosses. There are occasional trashmob groups that do require proper tactics, but they are a minority. One of the stated goals in the Cataclysm expansion was to make Crowd Control relevant again, to prevent players blowing through trash groups. This worked for a while, until higher gear levels outdated the mobs involved.
    • To almost every player between level 20 and 25... Shadowfang Keep. The trash mobs are a joke, since they're pretty widely spaced out. And then you get to the endboss, Lord Godfrey. If you don't stand in front of his Pistol Barrage, he's pretty easy, but since this is probably only the second or third instance dungeon you've been in at this point, you probably will. It will hit the group's tank (heavily armored guy that serves as the damage sponge) hard, and will probably One-Hit Kill the healer.
    • In Mists of Pandaria, this applies to most scenarios, especially on Heroic difficulty going for the bonus objective (which is in most cases to kill the last boss quickly).
  • Romancing Sa Ga 3 seems to be infamous for this. Oftentimes, dungeon monsters will be destroyable without even having to expend any significant amounts of resources, leading the player to believe that they are overpowered, only to encounter a boss fight wherein they may be forced to use all of their item/magical resources, and still end up losing.
  • Po Po Lo Crois is pretty much like this; plenty of boss fights have nearly ten times the HP of a random trash mob and will take plenty of time to kill if you don't use focused attacks, especially when you get multi-hit attacks that total to over a thousand damage, which makes them go much quicker than just having some spike damage while some party members (and summonable espers) constantly put pressure on the boss's HP.
  • Tales of Vesperia falls squarely into this. Regular fights tend to not be much of a problem after you've gotten your party's healer, unless you get ambushed or end up in a massively linked encounter. The bosses, though, especially the ones following Gattsuo, can be out-and-out murder the first couple of times you attempt them.
  • A number of Earthbound bosses could be considered this; the Summers area is fairly easy and enemy-free, but if you attempt leaving it to go to the desert, you encounter the Kraken, who will be more than happy to completely tear your party apart with his tornado attack. The Giant Step cave is fairly easy, seeing as how all the enemies are basically vermin, but the giant ant at the end will (quite literally) chew you up and spit you out.
  • Mother 3 plays this straight; despite a few difficult parts, the mooks in most areas can just be plowed through with a minimum of thought. The bosses, on the other hand, will be more than happy to smash you into dust if you try to brute force them; you have to learn each party member's respective role or you won't make it past the first four chapters.
  • Kingdom Hearts.
    • Strategy hardly matters at all unless facing a boss (and then there's several candidates for That One Boss). This is not true in Expert mode (especially pre-Cure spell) but even then the boss fights are far and away the harder part of the game.
    • Chain of Memories is particularly extreme. Not only does the above apply, but several Sleights enable you to tear through enemies, but relying too much on sleights against bosses can leave you vulnerable as you use up the first card you put into a sleight.
  • Pokémon is pretty prominent in this area, with most gyms and dungeons being easy to moderately difficult at best to manage through, and then the inevitable boss battle which makes most players scream out in rage for one reason or another.
  • Lufia: the Legend Returns makes it quite simple to steamroll through random encounters in the dungeons, especially if you're thorough. Bosses, on the other hand, often possess a ton of HP and powerful attacks, requiring careful usage of abilities and healing to prevail.
  • Chrono Cross. Because your magic is refreshed at the beginning of each battle, you can safely use every spell you have every time, including your healing magic. You're even given the option to use any healing magic you have left after a battle to heal you to full health. So not only is each battle pathetically easy, but the battles don't wear down your health. The bosses, on the other hand, are much harder because there's no easy way to refresh your magic mid-battle — and as such, the bosses can outlast your resources until the battle simply becomes brutal.
    • Also, Chrono Trigger. The game has multiple endings, but to get to see them you have to beat a boss that not just has multiple "cores" (i.e. you have to destroy it more than once), but multiple components per core, each with tens of thousands of HP. Oh, and some of those components can regenerate...
  • Ys: Oath in Felghana has this; most of the dungeons are relatively simple (although things toughen up towards the end), but bosses throughout are capable of slaughtering you within seconds if you aren't prepared.
  • In Treasure of the Rudra, you'll rarely find a regular enemy that can give you any kind of trouble. Then you get to the boss, who can wipe out your whole party in 2 shots.
  • Nearly all of the bosses in Last Scenario can qualify as That One Boss, and although the rest of the level is generally not easy, it's still much easier than what it leads up to. And it's possible to get items that prevent Random Encounters, making the difference that much more obvious.
  • Kingdom of Loathing:
    • It's bosses tend to be substantially more difficult than the mooks surrounding them, at least in terms of combat. Getting access to the bosses may require solving puzzles or gathering items however.
    • Conversely, at the higher-end speed levels, once players have sufficient skills/familiars/items/knowledge, bosses become quite easy to defeat and the rest of the area becomes the major challenging factor, as for the experienced player, every battle is an almost guaranteed win, but the trick is to make it through the area as fast as possible with minimal expenditure of resources.
  • Arc Rise Fantasia has battles that make you feel as though you're ten levels higher than the enemies of the area. But you have to fight loads of them in order to Level Grind to a state you can reasonably take on the bosses.
  • Persona 3 although being a SMT game normal battles can wipe you if the enemy gets first attack or you aren't aware of their attacks/weaknesses, it's the TOWER bosses (not the Full moon bosses) that can truly give you trouble. On both the Journey and The Answer, Tower Bosses comes in groups of 3 or as one major enemy. These enemys have massive health bars, often no weaknesses, party hitting attacks way before you do, self-buffs and party-debuffs, and incredible attack power. While normal fights can be summed up as "Get first attack, attack each enemy with weakness, All-out attack", Boss fights are a grueling affair of barely keeping above death, chipping away at boss health, keeping up with a buff/debuff cycle (especially party defense and -enemy attack, so everyone doesn't get one shot on a single turn), and watching your main character die for We Cannot Go On Without You. And let's not even talk about hard mode.
  • This is one of the trademarks of Shin Megami Tensei. While enemies will quickly kill you for making mistakes, bosses are usually orders harder than the surrounding mooks, the earlier parts of Persona4 and the entirety Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne are standout examples due to the sheer prevalence of Those Bosses.
  • Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean has fairly easy mooks, but, hoo boy, are the bosses tough. One bad hand in the wrong place can screw you over big time. There's a half-dozen bosses that could easily be That One Boss, and most of the rest are no slouches. Origins, meanwhile, is just straight-up hard.
  • While the levels in Dark Souls are genuinely hard, they're pretty manageable once you've mastered the basics of the game's combat system. The minibosses and bosses, on the other hand, are the primary source of (frequent) player deaths.
  • Ni No Kuni tends to have rather easy encounters, but the bosses tend to have hard-hitting attacks that can wear down your health unless you learn how to defend against them. Thankfully, Drippy usually helps players exploit an enemy's weakness during a boss battle, and it is fairly easy to Level Grind in said game.
  • Endless Frontier is explicitly this trope; each dungeon has at least three bosses and each boss is a challenging escapade of multi-hitting attacks and Forced Evasion, whereas enemies are literally there for gaining levels.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has enemies that can be killed in one hit with a medium level weapon and deal 10 damage, and bosses that have 15 times the amount of health as everyone else and can 2-shot you.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. The normal mode fits this trope, with the enemies and environmental puzzles mostly being fairly easy and the bosses mostly being fairly difficult. Goes double for the Ulti-Bed quest, where not one 'real' boss (except a bunch of weak enemies with boss music) are fought and the puzzles are mostly things you can do in minutes, but where Earthwake is arguably That One Boss. Even more so for the final dungeon.
  • Sometimes, Final Fantasy does this. In the fifth game you may end up having a hard time beating the bosses, specially Ex Death. Without a guide, you can spend HOURS trying to figure out how to beat them, and then turns out the boss had the lowest Magical Defense, or could be weakened by destroying his sidekicks first, or by just exploiting their One-Hit-Kill weakness to a certain element paired with a technique.
    • Orphan First Phase, as well as many other bosses, in the 13th game. He would, more than often, cast DEATH on the leader, giving you an instant Game Over. And did I mention there's pretty much nothing between you and him?
  • In A Witchs Tale, regular battles can be challenging if the player doesn't spam Liddell's Ancient Magic—which most players tend to do. The bosses, however, are designed with this in mind and are a lot harder.

     Shoot Em Up  

  • Blast Works is like this. The earlier bosses actually become easier if you manage to hold on to enough firepower, but the later bosses especially obliterate in bulk.
  • Any given Bullet Hell game. Regardless of how difficult the stages get, the boss usually has a much higher chance of killing the player.
  • The Touhou games. It ranges from cases where a player skilled enough to beat the game is unlikely to ever die on the stages (Imperishable Night, Subterranean Animism) to bosses just being the leading cause of death (Mountain of Faith, Undefined Fantastic Object).
  • Silent Scope series, most of the time.

     Simulation Game  

     Survival Horror  

     Table Top Role-playing Game  
  • This can happen in any table top RPG. Some examples below.
    • The Carrion Crown adventure path from Pathfinder opens up with a few very easy encounters and concludes with a Five Boss Rush, each boss increasing notably in power. The Paizo forums were peppered with discussions on whether the last two in particular were even fair for a low-level party, and some players stated that the Final Boss could only be defeated due to D Ms deliberately giving him the Villain Ball. As a genius level wizard and ghost, if he was played with optimal tactics the party would have little chance to defeat him. Details spoilered out: The fight pits a 3rd level party against an 8th level wizard ghost who has just hit them with haunts and has only an offensive spell list memorized. He should be able to simply exterminate one player character per round, starting with whoever is holding his Achilles' heel to prevent it from being used. Instead of focusing on the biggest threats, he spreads the pain around and refuses to use his devastating ghostly touch attacks.
    • The entire Jade Regent adventure path by Paizo loves this trope, with mooks filling the dungeon of the day until a suddenly much-more-difficult boss appears. In one case, a dungeon full of joke monsters like Dire Corbies brings down an out of nowhere fiendish tentacles horror designed for a party three levels above the PCs. In another, mook ninja give way to a flying, magic-using oni attacking in a room literally set up for her benefit.

     Third Person Shooter  

  • Jet Force Gemini is notorious for having easy-ish levels... until the bosses. And they are brutal.

Boss DissonanceBoss BattleHard Levels, Easy Bosses
Boss DissonanceVideo Game Difficulty TropesHard Levels, Easy Bosses

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