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I was buoyed by the ongoing promise of a boss fight with a giant spider that kept appearing over the horizon like the bedroom eyes of a courtesan peering coquettishly over her fan...Through tedious multitudes of chambers the game went "ooh, it could be in the very next rooooom! I guess you'll only find out if you keep going, won't you?"

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On occasion, a game will tantalise the player with an obvious encounter, but will not (yet) let the player actually fight the enemy they're being teased with. Perhaps the enemy is in a visible, yet currently inaccessible area, or behind glass (which could lead to a later discovery of the enemy missing from behind the pane...) — or maybe it disguises itself as a Cutscene Boss, but suddenly roars back into an actual encounter later on. They could even appear before their fight in gameplay, but never being defeatable until you're supposed to kill them. This could be to build anticipation for the encounter, or to make the player anxious; played well, it can gloriously set up a Climax Boss.

Can include Final Boss Preview. Contrast The Unfought, where a hyped-up enemy is never battled. Often overlaps with New World Tease.

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As a trope discussing delayed encounters in media, this trope is Spoilered Rotten, with many of the following examples containing free-flying SPOILERS, including for end-game content. You have been warned.


Examples include...

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • Right after Batman frees Catwoman from The Riddler in Batman: Arkham Knight, Riddler bursts in with a Mini-Mecha and a horde of robots. After defeating the robots, Riddler — who spent the whole fight on the sidelines covered by a Deflector Shield — retreats underground and informs the duo that they must "earn the privlege" of fighting him. This means finding and solving his 243 riddles scattered throughout the city, all while he taunts and insults you over the city's intercom. The whole thing seems to be designed to make the satisfaction of finally beating him up all the sweeter.
  • God of War: At one point during the Challenge of Hades segment in Pandora's Temple, the player passes a huge set of locked doors. Later, in the end of the Challenge, these doors unlock and immediately something starts to hammer them from behind. After passing a Save Point and walking through a door that closes behind, it becomes obvious to the player that the room he/she is returning to is actually a Boss Room. When the player reaches the gate, the doors swing open and suddenly we're facing a frikin' gigantic cyborg minotaur.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: The Skull Kid is an altogether tangible threat; you know from early on that he's on top of the Clock Tower, teasing you as you gaze from the Astral Observatory or just playing merry hell with the nearby planetoid. But you can't even reach the platform you need to get up onto without completing a trading quest to gain access to the flower that can boost you up to it in Deku form; and even then, you can only paff at him with a magic bubble to get your ocarina back, as he's otherwise invincible. Come back having freed the Four Giants, though, and you'll soon reach the final encounter. Subverted slightly, as you fight Majora's Mask itself, it having previously controlled the Skull Kid and just discarded him to lay into you.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The boss of the City in the Sky can be seen when you first arrive, and later serves to cause a Broken Bridge.
  • In Mega Man Legends 2, a giant, dinosaur-like Reaverbot lurks about in a large room visible through the windows in the hallway of the first floor of Saul Kada Ruins. If you stand for too long in front of the window and it's nearby, it will poke its head in to attack you. Later, you'll see just how large it actually is as an Invincible Minor Mook that you can't damage, but gives you a sample of its attacks. Later, once you make your way into a certain place and activate something there, said critter will then be damageable and the Boss Fight starts immediately as you enter the room it was in.
  • Tomb Raider (2013): Played straight with the Stormguard Oni. You'll encounter the Oni several times throughout the game - during early encounters, you won't even see its face and will be spending most of your time avoiding its attention as it smashes Solarii into red gravy. Even in the major battle with the Stormguard you have towards the end of the game, the Oni seems to turn into a Cutscene Boss as the bridge you are both on is blown away and the battle is averted. You finally get to truly battle the behemoth in the final area of the game.

    Action RPG 
  • Dark Souls is extremely fond of showing off bosses before the player fight them.
    • Just after leaving your cell in the asylum, the Stray Demon can be seen in a cavern through a small window. It is impossible to fight this boss until the character leaves the asylum and returns.
    • The Hellkite Wyvern will land on a bridge directly in front of the player quite a while before it can be fought.
    • The Depths contains a miniboss in the form of a giant rat. You can see the creature through bars in several different areas before fighting it.
    • The Iron Golem can be seen from the roof of Sen's Fortress.
    • In the Demon Ruins, the Centipede Demon can be seen clinging to the wall near the second bonfire.
    • Seath the Scaleless also counts, as the first time that you fight him, he's impossible to kill. You must destroy his MacGuffin in a different area before fighting him for real.
    • Similar to the Hellkite Wyvern, the dragon Kalameet will briefly touch down in front of the player long before he can be fought.
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    Fighting Game 
  • Blaz Blue Chrono Phantasma: The end of Azrael's Arcade Mode teases Ragna trying to go all out (activating the Azure Grimoire) against Azrael, who gets excited as the two go to jump at each other... and then the game ends. The story mode rendition of this event, however, subverts this; Ragna does start activating his Grimoire, but — due to his Character Development (about not throwing his power so easily) — he stops it midway, then goes to mock Azrael, who expected a bigger fight out of him. (Kagura then takes Ragna's place.)
  • Mortal Kombat: The first game would allow you to sneak a glimpse at an extra character who wasn't on the roster being down to fight, appearing rarely before fights to offer hints as to how he could be fought himself. By doing specific things in a specific order, one could finally fight Reptile. Also, the last endurance match is always fought in Goro's Lair. During the second round, you can hear Goro growling and stomping around offscreen as you fight.
    • Mortal Kombat II did much the same with Noob Saibot, Smoke, and Jade, with each having hints on the specific tasks needed to fight them. Their presence was also hinted at when other opponents were fought in the Living Forest.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: A meta-example — Snake & Sonic were massively hyped up for the release of Super Smash Bros Brawl, but they had to be unlocked in-game, and two out of three methods for doing so involved fighting them for the privilege. And a subversion in-game — Snake appears very early on in a brief cutscene, during which you see his cardboard box shake a little bit. It's not until much later in the story that you encounter him properly, unlocking him for gameplay.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Subverted twice in Bioshock Infinite.
    • Throughout the game, you see or have close encounters with the incredibly powerful opponent called Songbird, but you don't actually fight it. Near the end it looks like you're finally about to have your long-expected battle with it, but it turns out that you can bring it under your control as a devastating ally by playing a short tune. And again, after you lose the device that controls it and it does attack you, Elizabeth uses her powers to effortlessly defeat it.
    • You see the Big Bad Zachary Hale Comstock at least once on the deck of an enemy ship early on and find many other references to him, so you naturally assume that the end of the game will include a huge Boss Battle with him. Imagine your surprise when your character finally meets him in person and you end up drowning him in a pool of water in a Cut Scene.
  • Quake IV:
    • During most of the last third of the game ("Operation: Last Hope") Kane keeps crossing paths with a giant gorilla. This gorilla is fought at the end of the level "Data Networking Security" as the last Mid-Boss before the mook-infested "Nexus Core" and the Boss Battle against the Makron in "The Nexus". Speaking of which...
    • The Makron itself appears at half-game, in the level "Nexus Hub", right after Kane activates the control panel and makes quick work of two Stream Protectors. This fight cannot be won and leads straight into the infamous Stroggification scene, provided Kane does enough damage to it. The Makron is spotted again in the "Nexus Core" level, and finally fought (and finished) for real in the last level, "The Nexus".
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein has Heinrich appearing in the opening cutscene. The campaign consists of B.J. preventing this resurrection which happens as the last battle in the game.
    • Wolfenstein has Hans Grosse, who's seen in a Bar Brawl which takes place at a cutscene in the middle of the game, then at Deathshead's castle where he appears as Strasse's bodyguard and seemingly executes Caroline Becker, and then is fought at the very last level when he gains a Powered Armor.
    • Wolfenstein: The New Order has two examples: the first is either Wyatt or Fergus, whom you fight at the end depending on which one you chose to sacrifice in 1946. The other is, of course, Deathshead, whom B.J. meets in 1946 and is responsible for extracting either Wyatt or Fergus's brain, and by 1960 he becomes a General and the last enemy you face.
  • Unreal Tournament 2004: The opening cutscene of the single-player ladder features the leaders of each of the "Godlike" tier teams (ClanLord for Iron Skull, Malcolm for Thunder Crash and Xan for The Corrupt) plus Juggernauts leader Gorge before you face them in the ladders: Gorge at midway of the team ladders and Lord, Malcolm and Xan as one of the final bosses depending on how well their teams did against you.
    • Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict has Apophis and Selket appearing throughout the entirety of the Ascension Rites (though only in cutscenes), only to be fought at the semifinals and finals respectively.
    • Unreal Tournament III: Akasha is found at the opening cutscene and at the cutscene preceeding Act III: The Liandri Conflict, before finally appearing as an opponent (first as part of the Black Legion team, then as a solo opponent) in several missions of Act V: Disposable Assets.

    Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game 
  • In Vindictus, there is a major boss fight against a giant polar bear. A couple missions before the encounter, he breaks open the roof of a cavern you're fighting in and roars at you for a bit before moving off.
  • World of Warcraft has a number of examples; during the Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm expansions, the respective Big Bads had a habit of popping up during the levelling process long before they were added to the game as killable bosses, while back in Burning Crusade the raid boss Magtheridon was visible through the floor of the Blood Furnace, a 5-man dungeon.

    Platformer 
  • Cave Story: Misery will occasionally appear just to stir up trouble and get the player wondering if they can shoot her yet, though she is often a Bait-and-Switch Boss. Oddly, the player can do this to themselves with Balrog — a dialog option in your first encounter will mean that you won't need to fight him there, though you will have to later on.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man X: the ending narration of the third game mentions that X has to destroy Zero to save mankind. It foreshadows the fifth game, where X vs Zero is the Climax Boss of the game — especially in the bad end route, where Zero turns Maverick and X has to destroy him before he wreaks havoc.
    • In Mega Man ZX Advent, 1/3 into the story you'll meet the "Enemy Mega Men" in the end of 2 stages (Aeolus and Siarnaq in Rospark's level when they come to retrieve a Model W, Thetis and Atlas in Chronoforce's level since they wanted to get a good look at the new competition). Like Grey/Ashe, they're also participants in the "Game of Destiny", but none of them are in any mood to fight at the moment (Siarnaq just wants to get the Model W and finish the mission, Atlas doesn't think the newbie is worth her time and punctuates that by dropping them into the water to fight Chronoforce, Thetis isn't in the mood to fight, and Aeolus thinks he's giving them a small mercy to grow stronger in preparation for their proper fight).
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid Fusion:
      • Subverted with the SA-X. You are clearly told to run like the Dickens whenever it appears, as it is strong enough to kill you within seconds and, even when you get a weapon that can affect it, you cannot deal it any damage; merely slow it down. However, in the end, you'll get the battle you truly wanted.
      • Nightmare appears in the background when Samus leaves Sector 5 for the first time. It flies around in the background as you progress, causing rooms to shake violently. However, you cannot fight against it immediately — it is only after an explosion occurs in Sector 5 and Samus is told to investigate the ruined sector when you can finally revisit the area and start the actual boss encounter there.
    • Super Metroid: A statue depicting four creatures guards the entrance to a late-game area. By the time you visit this statue for the first time, you'll likely have defeated one of these bosses, causing its coloured gemstone to fall away and that part of the statue to fade from gold to dark stone. It's easy to guess that you need to defeat the other guardians to open the way, especially since the most prominently depicted creature is Ridley, whom you've already fought and weren't able to defeat yet.
    • Metroid Prime: During the escape after defeating the Load-Bearing Boss of the first level, Samus walks into a large basically empty room, then looks up and sees Meta Ridley on a ceiling beam spreading his wings and roaring down menacingly. Instead of fighting, he chooses to escape the ship too. He is glimpsed again once later from a distance, before finally forcing a showdown with Samus just before she gains access to the final area.
  • Sonic Adventure:
    • Amy Rose's story and gameplay consists of being hunted by, and running away from, E-100 ZERO, a robot specifically designed to end your run and capture the small bird you're carrying. While you can temporarily slow it down in action stages, you can only really defeat it in your final encounter. Justified in that Amy can't access the tough robot's weakpoint without the electrified fences in the boss arena.
    • E-102 GAMMA's story will, at one point, lead you into a cutscene wherein your "big brother", E-101 BETA, is being rebuilt in a funky new form, in what probably registers as robotic Body Horror for poor Gamma and Beta. E-101 BETA Mk.II is the last boss for Gamma, to be fought much later.
      E-102 GAMMA: "THIS IS THE WRONG ROOM."
    • Sonic's ineptitude will provide Dr. Robotnik with all the Chaos Emeralds he needs to mutate his pet Eldritch Abomination into stronger forms. He starts in his Chaos 0 form, ramping all the way up to his Perfect Chaos form once he absorbs all 7 emeralds. Chaos 1 appears in a cutscene, but is never fought; Chaos 3 and 5 are never even seen since Chaos absorbs two Emeralds at once in both cases to skip right to Chaos 4 and 6.
  • Sonic CD had Metal Sonic swoop down at the start of Collision Chaos Zone, kidnap Amy, and fly off. The next time he shows up is when you race against him in Stardust Speedway Act 3.

    Eastern/Western Role-Playing Games 
  • A variation is used in the Neverwinter Nights 1 Original Campaign. Gradually, through the various "episodes", you get at first hints and then knowledge about "The Ancient Ones" and "The Creator Race" until the final Boss Battle.
  • Pokémon Gold and Silver. In the cellar of the Burned Tower which appears in the second generation games, and their remakes, the player will first encounter the three Legendary Dogs Raikou, Entei and Suicune... who then promptly flee, requiring you to search the land for your battles with them.
  • In Strange Journey, halfway through Sector Delphinus, you will find a statue of a demon. There isn't anything else you can do except progress through the story until the spirit returns to the statue, at which point you face Asura.
  • Tales of Vesperia: The Quoi Woods have a path which at one point runs in front of a dense barrier of trees - not dense enough to hide the massive, multichromatic insect monster behind them. You won't be able to reach the Chimera Butterfly until later on, when you improve your Sorceror's Ring.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • Metal Gear Solid: You will, at one point, run into a tense standoff with Sniper Wolf; the problem is that you won't have a sniper rifle at this point, so you'll have to come back for this battle when you acquire one.

    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil: In the Gamecube REmake, Lisa Trevor appears several times, guarding or patrolling areas, before her actual boss encounter — being dealt heavy damage before this fight will only knock her down for a while, and she'll soon be up on her feet again. This makes it important to avoid her early on.

    Wide Open Sandbox Games 

    Non-Game Examples 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The show has said numerous times that the Avatar must defeat the Fire Lord in order to restore stability in the world. It finally takes place in the last season's finale, where Aang defeats Ozai by De-Power-ing him.
  • ROM: Space Knight. In-Universe, ROM was often compared to the Hulk, at which point ROM would inevitably look off pensively and think to himself that one day, he would have to encounter this creature that men call...The Hulk." This went on for quite a while, until the Hulk was just about to be sent off to the Crossroads (in Incredible Hulk #300) so they had to get to the ROM/Hulk fight quickly, squeezed into half an issue of Hulk. Read more here.

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