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At the end of an area, you think you've dealt with the real boss... but wait! You've merely taken out a stand-in; the real boss was waiting for you to get done with it.
Trick Bosses are usually suspiciously easy, the reason being that the game doesn't want you to screw yourself over on the fake guy before the real one shows up.
A different form of Trick Boss is the type that's actually a challenge... but is a Trick Boss by story definition, as the real boss just wanted to sap your power.
This should not be confused with the boss you beat with a trick
. If the real boss takes down the fake one for you, it's a Bait-and-Switch Boss
Minor spoilers ahoy.
- One of the best examples appears in Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner when you find what you think is Anubis, the mech of the Big Bad, beneath an enemy installation. Oddly, it's missing its iconic wings. After beating it like a red-headed stepchild for a few rounds, you realize it's a fake being remotely piloted with your love interest Ken trapped inside it. Nohman promptly appears in the real Anubis, blows away Leo's Vic Viper and hits you with a Kill Sat, leading to the (very difficult) REAL boss fight against him.
- Chrono Trigger has several of these. There's a fake Flea before the real one attacks in Magus's castle, and the Golem Boss (who never attacks the heroes at all) before battling Dalton on the Blackbird.
- Final Fantasy IV has an example of the latter type of Trick Boss, with the Calcabrina in the dwarf castle. It's a particularly nasty example in the DS version, since Calcabrina can easily kill or seriously injure your characters with just one hit, and if Cecil goes into the following battle against Golbez with anything less than about half his health, that battle is Unwinnable.
- Another variant is Scarmiglione. He goes down fast, then tells you, "Ah yes, you've given me a fine death! A fine death indeed! And only in death can you know the true terror of Scarmiglione!" Presto, instant undead monstrosity.
- Final Fantasy VIII has the fake President Deling. Simple enough, low HP and attack. He bites to attack... okay, that's weird, but nothing to worry about. Then he starts convulsing and "morphs" into the real boss, Gerogero — a giant vomiting zombie that loves status attacks but really hates Ifrit. Your fire-tossing buddy with Boost can turn this into a Breather Boss.
- A frequent occurrence in Final Fantasy XIII. The general rule of thumb is that if you find yourself saying "Hey, that was surprisingly easy." after a boss battle, it was probably the first stage of a Sequential Boss. The end bosses of Chapters 3 and 4 are typical examples. (For 3's, the fact that its Enemy Scan says it uses "powerful lightning based attacks" and it goes down before it uses any should clue you in, while 4's first form is essentially a tutorial on using the Sabouter role.) For the Warmechs in Chapters 7 and 9, you actually end up fighting two of them!
- In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Bowletta (Cackletta's spirit inside Bowser's body) is the latter type of Trick Boss. She's not terribly hard, but your HP will be all but wiped out in the battle's aftermath, so don't use up your healing items!
- Super Metroid has a tiny version of the boss Kraid in the room before you fight the real, two-TV-screens-tall Kraid. This is both an "easy" Trick Boss and a Homage to the original Kraid from the first Metroid game. Also, since (like real bosses, though not as much) he dumps large amounts of health and ammo when he dies, the fake Kraid also serves to replenish your strength for the real thing.
- Similarly, there's a fake Kraid wandering around the lower sections of Kraid's Hideout in the original Metroid. He can be taken out with a mere single missile and has a different palette, but otherwise looks the same as the real deal.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night does a similar trick with the boss Scylla — at first pitting you against a giant serpent (complete with the room-sealing doors of a usual boss fight) before you reach the end of her lair and find it was just one of her hydra-like heads.
- There's also one in the remake of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood: a single Water Hydra with the usual boss life bar threatens you, but when you kill it and climb above it, you find out it was just one head of the four-headed Hydra, and to take the monster out you must destroy its heart.
- In Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Paranoia is a reasonably human-sized boss that comes out of a mirror, throws knives at you, and occasionally retreats into his mirror to shoot well-reflected lasers. Beating him isn't very difficult, and you don't even have to draw a symbol to do it. In the next room, a giant mirror covers most of the wall, and you'd better believe Paranoia takes advantage of this for his sudden rematch.
- Also in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, you enter the boss room, oddly with a single Peeping Eye enemy inside. After quickly dispatching it, you wander around the room for a bit... until a GIANT peeping eye boss comes into view, and the boss music kicks into gear.
- In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, the final boss of Sora's story, Marluxia, has you fight a double of himself before entering a vast room and mounting a large Nobody creature.
- This is an inversion, as the fight with Marluxia by himself is much harder than the final fight against his big spaceship thingy. The remake of the game adds an additional form that lives up to its role as the final boss, however.
- In Mega Man 3, the first Dr. Wily you face is actually a robot. He is also the main antagonist of the next three games; however, he doesn't show up until after you defeat Dr. Cossack, Dark Man, and Mr. X, respectively.
- Super Mario RPG has one of these. You assume the Czar Dragon to be an arc-ending boss (it's even a Sequential Boss), but, when you try to claim your Plot Coupon from behind it, it's snatched away.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has Doopliss. (Yes, his name is a spoiler.) He's actually at the physical end of the area, just like a boss would normally be. He turns into a shadowy duplicate of Mario in the middle of your fight with him. After you beat him, it looks like the normal end to a chapter, with Mario getting the Crystal Star and a recap of the events of the chapter... but then the scene returns to the "duplicate" Mario, who is actually the real one. The rest of the chapter revolves around Mario trying to get his body back from the enemy, including a boss battle against him in which he has all your partners on his side.
- In the original Paper Mario, before you battle The Koopa Bros., you have to battle them in a very unconvincing Bowser mecha.
- The 2004 incarnation of The Bard's Tale played this for laughs. After slaying a harmless cellar rat in one strike (and receiving a sarcastic congratulation from the Narrator), the Bard is immediately attacked and set aflame by a monstrous 12-foot tall, fire-breathing rat.
- In an odd instance in Final Fantasy V, Gilgamesh serves as both the trick boss and the real boss during one of the several battles with him. In this case, he starts the battle doing minimal damage, and essentially just letting you whack at him. Then, he fakes you out with what looks like an end-of-battle dialogue before casting protect, shell, and haste on himself and challenging you for real.
- Since Gilgamesh actually casts these spells during his fake-out speech, it's also rather humorously hard to believe.
- Casting "Mute" on him before that point of the battle reduces him from Trick Boss to Breather Boss.
- Balzack in the fourth chapter of Dragon Quest IV. He uses powerful magic, but is easily neutralized with the Sphere of Silence. In the PlayStation and Nintendo DS remakes of the game, he doesn't get the standard "boss music" treatment... his boss, Marquis de Leon, does, and your party has no shot of beating him at their current level.
- The final boss in Metal Slug 2. After dealing enough damage to the Martians' ship, it is beamed up into the mothership... and subsequently used as a death ray by it.
- Likewise, at the end of Metal Slug 3, on defeating General Morden's helicopter, the General is revealed to be a Mars Person in disguise. You then have about a half-hour of playtime to go before facing the true final boss, Rootmars.
- In the mostly unknown Metal Slug 3D, the first boss is a giant cyborg, Lugus. If you empty its life bar, it still shrugs off your bullets and blasts you to oblivion... or at least he tries the latter before its supposed broken "brother", Lieu, shows up and absorbs it, becoming the final boss and level.
- The Alien Leader in the sixth game. You've made your way through hordes of evil aliens, saved your former enemies (the Mars People), even fought a Brainwashed and Crazy member of your group... but the Big Bad is enclosed in a sort of membrane-bubble-egg thing, can't move or attack, and can only summon fewer mooks, while you're armed with the titular tank and ex-enemy soldiers help you a bit too. The bubble bursts, the soldiers cheer you up, epic music plays... until the Leader's eyes glow insanely, shooting lasers that fry your allies, and the monster starts crawling towards you. Epic battle ensues.
- Did GlaDOS seem suspiciously easy to defeat in the first half of Portal 2? Don't worry about that.
- N. Gin from Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped starts in a robot not too different from the one he used in the game before (he even tells the player he'd "made a few modifications" to the old robot he used in Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back), which uses similar attacks to the old one. Needless to say, it goes down after you shoot the same areas, only for it to flee, and dock with a much larger spacecraft, complete with tougher weaponry and a new life bar.
- Several in World of Warcraft, such as Ingvar The Plunderer in Utgarde Keep. After you defeat him, a Valkyr will come and resurrect him as an undead, and you have to kill him again.
- On Heroic mode, Lockmaw in the Lost City of the Tol'Vir becomes this. After he's defeated, Augh, who had previously harassed your party during the fight with him, steals the treasure and must be defeated before you can loot Lockmaw. Thankfully, you can heal yourselves and even try again without having to defeat Lockmaw again if you wipe.
- In the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj, the final boss appears as an enormous eyeball, floating above a glowing pool of shadow. When the eye is defeated, his true body rises out of the ground and starts eating people.
- On Heroic mode, after defeating Cho'gall in the Twilight Bastion, the ground will collapse under the party, delivering them to the Sinestra.
- In Red's Scenario in SaGa Frontier, there is a rush in the final mission. You first kill the "leader" of Black X, which just turns out to be a pawn for Dr. Klein; you then fight souped up versions of the Story bosses over again under Dr. Klein's command and after defeating them, the real boss shows up.
- In Alan Dean Foster's 1984 novelisation of the game Shadowkeep, once the heroes have defeated the Boss, they realize that the giant statue at the back of the room isn't really a statue.
- For Fire Emblem Sacred Stones, beating Lyon only released the Demon Lord. Path of Radiance showed a strange variant when killing Ashnard on Hard Mode only caused him to open up the Sealed Evil in a Can and become an even bigger, scarier final boss. Radiant Dawn has Ashera getting all her health back if you don't have Ike deal the final blow.
- Gradius ReBirth's Stage 4 boss starts off as the Stage 1 boss with seemingly no difference. Once you destroy all the barriers guarding its core, it zooms forward, flies into the background, flips to show its other side, comes back around, regenerates its core barriers, and proceeds to fight you again, this time with more lasers and a nasty attack in which it fires two containment lasers and sweeps the screen vertically.
- Played with at the end of Sonic Advance when you first face Robotnik piloting the bosses from the first levels of Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, which are obviously very easy, before he takes you on in the real final boss. Obviously this is a homage to the earlier games.
- The asteroid field boss in Star Fox 64. The trick doesn't fool a lot of players, considering that the boss still has half its health when it "admits defeat".
- Spyborg in Sector X, on the other hand, has you drain its lifebar, then refills it for its second form.
- Though the savvy player will catch onto its lifebar immediately emptying when it reaches half-health.
- The original gives us Phantron, the Venom Guardian of Path 1. In the second fight, it is VERY easy to beat. Then, you beat it, and take a good look at the health bar and notice that sliver of remaining health. Phantron then grows legs and the music starts over with a Scare Chord... needless to say, Phantron becomes Path 1's That One Boss at this point.
- Mr. X in Streets of Rage 3's 5th stage. After wasting his minions, the top half of him burns off to reveal that it's a robotic clone of Mr. X. The real Mr. X lies in stage 7, having been reduced to a brain.
- Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure has one of these. Unlike the Weaselby fight in 4-6, Weaselby in 5-6 is incredibly frail. It's only then that Weaselby loses his top, so to speak, reveals that Cole is the Man Behind the Man (little crybaby), and then Cole breaks out The Machine to show his teacher that he is more than capable of handling himself.
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii has you fight Bowser in the final level, who's suspiciously easy for being the so called 'final boss', attacking just like he did in the NES days (Bowser bridge, that sort of thing). Until you realize that Peach is really Kamek in a Paper-Thin Disguise, Kamek sprinkles some magic spell on Bowser, and in a just like Yoshi's Island way, Bowser becomes about fifty feet tall and starts chasing you through the castle in a climatic escape sequence.
- Zuma's Revenge! has this with the final boss.
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has Dongorongo. The battle is fought with Link and Gongoron, in which Link is stuck on one side of a sand pit, and Link has to wait until Gongoron knocks the boss over to attack. After you defeat it, the door leading to the pure metal opens, a bridge appears, and Gongoron leaves to get the pure metal for you. After you cross the bridge, the boss gets up. Cue the second phase of the battle.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has Levias, who is revealed to be controlled by another creature known as Bilocyte. It helps that both have Boss Subtitles.
- In Pokémon Colosseum, after you defeat Nascour, your team is fully healed, and you have to face Evice, AKA Mayor Es Cade.
- This is actually a tradition in the Pokémon games; despite the name, the Elite Four actually consists of five bosses, the last of whom is the Pokémon League Champion. You have to defeat all five in a row to beat the game. Particularly in the first generation, the existence of a fifth boss was a surprise, revealed only after you defeat the first four. (The Champion is always someone you've met before, but it was a particularly big deal in the first generation because the Champion was The Rival.)
- In Pokémon Black and White, you already know who the Champion is before you enter the league. Then you find out N beat him, forcing you to face SEVEN bosses instead of the usual five. Of course, you're not supposed to defeat one of them...
- And then as soon as you've beaten N, the real Final Boss and Team Plasma leader, Ghetsis, comes at you. That's right; a Trick Boss for a Trick Boss.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge, there's a type-2 twist. You end up going through what appears to be The Very Definitely Final Dungeon (complete with death-traps, a fight against the Quirky Miniboss Squad, AND a mid-level duel with a Giant Spider), and then take on Oogie Boogie himself in his iconic casino. Surprise! It's really his Living Shadow there to keep you distracted while he works out a plot to kill Sandy Claws and take over all the holidays. (Although the fact that you haven't used all the Holiday Doors yet is a clue-in.)
- In Viewtiful Joe 2, Alastor (after taking care of Big John) only has an orange healthbar. And once defeated, the black film powers him up for another, harder, go.
- Red Skull in Captain America and the Avengers is ridiculously easy to deal with, but once you deplete his lifebar, "he" turns into a huge robot with a vast array of attacks that battles you while the real Red Skull watches cackling in the safety of an impervious (until the beaten robot falls onto it) glass dome.
- They pull a similar trick at the end of X-Men. Magneto seems to be a pushover at first, but it's actually Mystique in disguise; once you defeat her, you have to fight the true Magneto, in all his glory, and he is a terror. (Especially if Mystique tricked you into using your Mutant Attacks, which are a limited supply, especially since you likely used a lot of them in the Boss Rush in the final level.)
- The second-to-last Soviet mission in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. In the first part of the mission, you are supposed to backstab the Allies' forces coming to the peace conference, which is, by all means, suspiciously easy for a late game mission. After you wiped out the Allies, however... Cherdenko decided that You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and wished to get rid of you because you knew too much.
- WarioWare Twisted has an epic version of this for Kat & Ana's boss. You are a spaceship shooting fingers to pick (and destroy) noses (picking noses is a staple for the series). The boss appears to be a giant nose with a set of eyes above it. Destroy this nose and the pupils will fly out of the "eyes" and the "eyes" will move down, revealing that they were just nostrils for an even bigger nose.
- Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time has the Elder Princess Shroob, who is unknowingly released from the Cobalt Star after you beat the first Princess Shroob.
- Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter has a pirate-version of an average mook as the first boss. You can simply kill him in one hit, just like you did to all of his comrades earlier. Well, guess what? His ghost (who is three times your size) appears and sends small armies of ghost mooks your way. Good luck.
- In Ys Seven, after you have defeated the Maiden of Demise and are preparing to celebrate your victory, a giant Eldritch Abomination shows up out of nowhere.
- In Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, Fortinbras appears in giant snake monster form and Soki has to fight him in full on Black Oni mode. Normally, this would be the end of it, until Fortinbras reveals he was just messing with you to get rid of Soki's ace in his sleeve, appearing in human form for the real final battle against the entire cast, which is way harder.
- The NES Godzilla Creepypasta has Not-Ghidorah replaced by a Dorat which gets taken down by two slashes from Solomon. Then Chimera shows up.
- The battle against the Queen of Hearts in American Mcgees Alice. Turns out the boss you thought was the Queen was just a puppet... that the real Queen was wearing on one of her tentacles.
- ALLTYNEX Second pulls a monster of a switch in the final stage. The game pits you against ALLTYNEX, the Big Bad rogue Master Computer. After defeating it, it then summons the true Final Boss, Satariel, from an Alternate Universe.
- In the Xbox 360 mode of DoDonPachi Saidaioujou, you fight both Hibachi and Inbachi. Once you defeat Hibachi, she will suddenly get shot down by a laser from behind and you will fight Inbachi shortly after.
- House of the Dead 4's final boss, The World, transforms into its Type Gamma form after its initial lifebar is depleted.
- At the end of Triggerheart Exelica's second stage, the Boss Warning Siren sounds and a large ship appears, but the boss music doesn't start yet, hinting that this is not the real boss.
- In Quake II, after defeating what appears to be the Makron, you find that it was just his Humongous Mecha, then the fight with the real Makron begins.
- Resident Evil 2 has this in the A scenario's second fight with G. After defeating its easy initial form, it transformed into a six-legged Lightning Bruiser with More Teeth than the Osmond Family, becoming That One Boss.
- Resident Evil: Code: Veronica has a similar example where you briefly fight Alexia's first form a second time before she completely goes One-Winged Angel.
- Dark Cloud has Toan's ally Osmond (a space astronaut/engineer) create a colossal military cyborg to combat the terrifying Dark Genie, who actually takes the form of a funny-looking fat monster with an immature personality to boot. It effortlessly beats the Genie up, shrugs off its strongest attack, then fires a laser that instantly kills it... oh wait, that "Dark Genie" was just a mouse that absorbed some of the real deal's abilities! The real deal is an immortal shapeless deity that uses its power to just tie the cyborg up and blow it away...
- In Mission 9, after beating Orchidee II and taking the elevator down to the next room, the boss's remains drop from the ceiling and reform into a Spider Tank.
- In the final mission, upon depleting Löwenzahn II's lifebar down to a third, in case you didn't notice, it breaks down and falls into the central pit like the first one, only to rise from the ashes as a robotic phoenix. Luckily, unlike Orchidee II, its life bar doesn't refill for this form.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV:
- The "Dance of the Dead" quest. You're just going around destroying Macabre hordes, and you get down to the last one. Save your game before fighting it, because when you defeat it, Fiend David shows up to tear you a new one.
- "Corpse Disposal" has you fighting Corpses in Shinjuku. All of them go down without incident, but upon killing the last Corpse and triggering quest completion, a Hunter shows up to discover that you've finished the quest for him. He gets furious and takes a Red Pill, transforming him into the demon Dullahan, who fights you immediately.
- The final Terminal that the Terminal Guardian is protecting: At first, he dispatches Barong and Rangda. Once those two are down, longtime Megami Tensei fans will realize why he picked those two specific demons: Because he then leaves and comes back with Shiva (the series-traditional result of fusing Barong and Rangda), who you fight next.
- Shin Megami Tensei II: Like how in the first game you fight Michael on the Chaos route, Asura on Law, and both on Neutral and the Final Boss(es), this game has them replaced with Satan and Lucifer, respectively. However, as is well known by now, neither are the Final Boss. After getting past whichever you have to fight, you must fight YHVH, AKA the SMT version of God Himself.
- Darius II has you fight the Japanese World War II ship Yamato at the end of the Earth stages. Destroy it to reveal the true endboss of the current stage: A giant hermit crab.
- Shovel Knight has the Tinker Knight, whose first phase is easy, especially if you one-shot him with a Mobile Gear. Once defeated, the ground collapses and you enter a new boss arena, where the Tinker Knight is now driving a massive juggernaut.