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Recurring Boss Template

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You've decided to play through a game series you like. After the third game, you start to notice a pattern: some of these guys look or act suspiciously similar to a boss from the last few games, possibly even sharing similar moves and patterns to a scary degree in spite of no official relation existing between the both of them. You have discovered the Recurring Boss Template.

This is when a game series seems to reuse a specific boss formula in some way, but with something changed, often repeatedly throughout the years. The new boss is very much an Expy of an old one, at least appearance and gameplay-wise. In fact, it may even be the same guy wielding or piloting a "different" contraption that behaves much like their older ones. It doesn't matter if it has more attacks than the one you fought last time, or if it is a completely distinct character or equipment of its own; on practice, this is still the same Cosmic Horror you faced two games ago, just under a different paint job.

The reason why this happens may vary. Maybe the developers do want to establish some sort of connection between those fights. Maybe the battle itself is pretty popular, but the devs don't want to commit themselves to having the same character appear over and over. Or maybe they just like the formula enough to bring it back all the time, turning it into some sort of tradition for themselves and the players.

Similar to, but not to be confused with Recurring Boss and Legacy Boss Battle, which are simply one character, machine, creature, or species of creature that gets the boss spot more than one time.


  • Kirby:
    • Kirby games traditionally have Whispy Woods as a boss, but if he doesn't appear, and sometimes even if he does, you can bet there will be some tall, tree-like object with a similar appearance, name, and attack pattern. Examples include King Golem, Wicked Willow, Floaty Woods, Flowery Woods, Clanky Woods, Yggy Woods, Parallel Woods, and Tropic Woods. In fact, Kirby: Squeak Squad is the only main series Kirby game not to have some variant of Whispy Woods.
    • There's an entire archetype of "Knight" bosses, from the four so far with Knight in their name (Meta Knight, Dark Meta Knight, Galacta Knight, and Morpho Knight), variants of those (Dark Meta Knight's Revenge, Mecha Knight, Parallel Meta Knight, etc.), to slightly more esoteric ones (Metal General and Security Force). They share a common tendency of being much more fast-paced and erratic than other bosses, shimmying back and forth and sometimes attacking without any warning, and even outright blocking attacks, forcing you to pay close attention to their patterns and get your hits in during their own attacks rather than after.
    • Kirby Star Allies has the Three Mage-Sisters, Francisca, Flamberge, and Zan Partizanne. Despite all appearing in the same game, they use variations of the same Magic Knight-style moveset: swinging their weapon of choice at Kirby, performing a Dash Attack, using magically-charged attacks, and firing an elemental Wave-Motion Gun from a second weapon that they only bust out at half health. They also each have an elemental weakness that can be exploited — if Kirby or an ally uses the correct elemental attack when the Mage-Sister is readying her special weapon, it'll backfire on her and leave her stunned for several seconds.
    • The series seems to love using either limbless cyclopean Eldritch Abominations or Teleport Spam wizards as the final bosses, the first example being Nightmare in Kirby's Adventure. Starting with Drawcia in Kirby: Canvas Curse, these bosses often share identical attacks involving raining balls of paint (or some equivalent) and firing beams out of portals. They also tend to share one of her attacks where she grows huge and fiery, then charges into Kirby. Marx and his Soul variant from Kirby Super Star have some recurring attacks as well; namely, his attack where he sends out four cutters and the one where he splits into two balls of energy and has them charge across the arena individually. Super Smash Bros., from the same creators, also uses some of these patterns with Master Hand, Crazy Hand, Tabuu, Galeem, and Dharkon.
  • House of the Dead:
  • Metal Slug comes with a recurring Mini-Boss template, whenever you fight Morden's dragon, Allan O'Neil, whose arrival can be expected whenever you reach an area with two platforms on either side. Even in 6, where O'Neil is absent, has the Controller boss (faced right before the Final Boss) being fought in a similar arena.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • The Legend of Zelda frequently has bosses that either:
  • Gradius games tend to involve Recurring Bosses, but near their ends, they have variations on a "gun wall" boss, variations on a boss whose legs the player must duck and weave through, and variations on the organic Anticlimax Boss.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • There are similarities among the bosses at the start of Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI, and Final Fantasy VII. You know, the ones where you have to refrain from attacking halfway through the battle.
    • IV, V, and VI all have bosses who rely heavily on Quake and may have abiltiies to remove Float (The White Dragon, Catastrophe, and the Dirt Dragon, respectively).
    • IV has several bosses in the form of "main boss and two flunkies," such as Baigan, the Magus Sisters, and the CPU. For these bosses, it is unwise to kill off (both of) the flunkies first: not only will they be revived to full health by the main boss, but in the case of the CPU, said revival is accompanied by a devastating attack. VIII takes the formula and changes it up a bit: in fights such as the NORG Pod and Mobile Type-8, the flunkies are invulnerable, serving mainly as sources of Muggable items and Drawable magic for the player in addition to whatever they do for their bosses.
  • Mega Man
    • Mega Man (Classic). Doctor Wily. Big, two-stage mecha with Teleport Spam second stage.
    • Mega Man X. Sigma. Two- to three-stage boss, first with a robot body with lightsaber/twin claws/a spiked throwing shield/energy scythe/whatever, then more on the level of One-Winged Angel variants.
    • Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX. Various characters. A human form, followed by a One-Winged Angel. Reversed for Omega and Albert.
    • There's quite a variety of Devils to be seen throughout the entire series. Whether they're Yellow, Green, Black, or Rainbow, they are all able to split themselves into globs to launch at you and form into various weapons. They also tend to be That One Boss; the exception is in Mega Man X: Command Mission, where they're demoted into regular enemies. That being said, if you purposefully beef them 2 of them up by hitting them with the attacks of their own element, they not only get healed but become stronger as well at the benefit of increased experience and FME: the effect is cumulative and once you power the experience-increasing variety to the point where killing one will practically guarantee a level-up for the entire cast, they can easily kill anyone in 1 hit and get a boatload of turns to easily do so as well. Although usually at that point, they rarely if ever take advantage of their massively powered up status and actually attack you and instead opt to run away on their next turn, taking the EXP with them.
  • Metroid games have a few examples of this. For example, the final bosses of Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission have a similar early attack pattern (walk slowly forwards, stop, swing their claws in a huge arc) and weak spot (in the chest), although the one in Zero Mission spices things up a bit by also firing missiles and lasers.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Most games are guaranteed to end with a melee battle. You can try to shoot The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but she'll deflect your bullets, strip you of your gun, and force you into CQC. It's not just melee battles, either. There is almost always the following;
    • Battle against a giant robot that must be taken down with missiles (Metal Gear Rex/Metal Gear Rays/The Shagohod/Metal Gear Ray/Metal Gear Sahelanthropus)
    • Battle where you use a sniper rifle (Sniper Wolf/Vamp/The End/Crying Wolf/Quiet)
    • Battle against someone in a maze-like area (Vulcan Raven/Fatman/The Fury/Raging Raven/Eli aka Liquid Snake)
    • Battle against an opponent who can hide from you and attacks from above (Gray Fox/Vamp/The Fear/Laughing Octopus/The Skulls Parasite Unit)
  • The first boss battle in a Raiden game is usually against a duo of machine, with one appearing slightly before the other.
  • Several bosses' gimmick(s) have actually been reused in different expansion packs in World of Warcraft. Such as, for example:
    • Mind control. Mostly used by Jammal'an and first by Arugal.
    • Gruul petrifies the party and shatters them if they're too close. Later in Wrath, another boss does the same thing. In Cataclysm, Ozruk does the same thing again.
    • Brutallus and Argaloth share the same model and a very similar Meteor Slash mechanic (an attack that must be absorbed by several people stacking up to split the damage, then switching off after a while), albeit with Argaloth being a considerably simpler fight.
    • Sapphiron's ice bomb mechanic and the required LOS cover is reused in the Sindragosa encounter. The two also happen to be reanimated blue dragons.
  • Kingdom Hearts has several of these, most notably the giant "leader" boss who summons lesser foes from the ground and the "armor" boss who's made up of mechanized limbs that attack both together and separately.
  • Major Stryker has three templates, each used once in each episode, though with differences.
  • Castlevania has several:
    • Dracula himself. Aside from his varied One-Winged Angel forms, his first form always uses Teleport Spam while throwing fireballs. Dracula's "potential hosts" from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow as well use the teleport and fireball routine, although one switches it up by using an axe and siccing a demon familiar on you.
    • Dracula's aide, Death, often uses different tricks from game to game, but he always summons mini-sickles out of thin air to hunt you down.
    • Golems and giant armors as major blockades in your path or as proper boss fights. This kind of enemy is massive and slowly walks back and forth while dealing very powerful attacks at close range. Particularly notable was the final boss of Dawn of Sorrow, Menace, which was about 3 times the size of the Final Armor enemies. Even Dracula discarded his usual transformation in favor of this template in Order of Ecclesia.
  • Contra has quite a few.
    • The Gun Wall boss of the original game is reused many times in the series, usually as a early-game boss or a minor obstacle.
    • The Final Boss of the original Contra, a giant heart with mook-spawning capsules, is a good contender for the most-reused boss in the series.
    • The Final Boss of the arcade Super Contra (a skeletal dragon-thing with snake-like arms) is a close runner up.
  • The Darius series has two of them:
    • (Insert Word Here) Fossil, a coelacanth. Starting with King Fossil from Darius. Usually the first or second boss in the game, and appears in almost every single one of them.
    • Great Thing. A sperm whale with a load of cannons attached to it, and often the Final Boss in every Darius game he's appeared in. And he's usually incredibly difficult in each game he's in. In Darius Twin, he's an optional second-to-last boss, and is the only boss to have his own specialized music separate from the normal boss music.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog usually has one of two things for a final boss (though not necessarily the True Final Boss), either a giant walking robot, as seen in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Heroes, Sonic Rush, and Sonic Advance 2 (though there it can't move), or the final boss is a flying serpent like robot, as seen in Sonic Adventure, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Sonic Unleashed, and Sonic Colors. The True Final Boss is usually a fight where you use Super Sonic. As such, you are always invincible, and you merely need to chase/get to the boss while keeping hold of as many rings as possible. These bosses generally involve merely dashing forwards and slamming either yourself or one of its own attacks into it, regardless of whether it's one of Eggman's machines or an Eldritch Abomination.
  • The Dark Souls series tends to have the final boss be a non-traditional, underplayed boss fight with a tragic character, in direct opposition to the common "epic" final bosses in most games. This was initially averted in Dark Souls 2 with Nashandra; Vendrick fits the mold perfectly, but is a Optional Boss instead. Scholar of the First Sin changes this, however, with Aldia, the True Final Boss.
  • Devil May Cry series:
    • There's a trend of using Blob Monsters as an aspect of some late-game bosses, but the true form of Arkham in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, and V's familiar Nightmare in the Wolfpack Boss fight of Devil May Cry 5 are both meant to evoke the original Nightmare from the first game. The dark colors of their slimy appearance are nearly identical, and all three are the penultimate bosses of their games. Arkham is a different entity but he also shares the original Nightmare's penchant of releasing parts of its blob body to distract you. And although V's Nightmare is not the exact same boss as the original by virtue of being a Literal Split Personality, it shares some similar attacks and the same weak spot.
    • Nelo Angelo/Vergil has his fair share of gameplay imitators in the games past Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening. Fittingly, all of them have the same "Angelo" suffix on their names.
      • In Devil May Cry 4, Angelo Credo's fighting style is a souped-up version of the Alto Angelo armors, but on the harder difficulty modes, he also shares a few obvious traits with Vergil via the use of Summoned Swords circling around the playable character. This is on top of Alto Angelo and Credo Angelo having Teleportation or Flash Step abilities just like Nelo Angelo/Vergil.
      • Devil May Cry 5 has the Proto Angelos and Cavaliere Angelo as thematic Suspiciously Similar Substitutes or variants of Nelo Angelo. The former are the Elite Mook versions of the recurring boss, sharing almost identical appearances, the same One-Handed Zweihänder fighting style, defensive gimmicks, and several moves. The latter is a boss who was designed to be an upgrade to Nelo Angelo, but ended up being a Sucksessor instead. Both are armored humanoid BFS wielders who can block your attacks, and can teleport. Cavaliere Angelo is also a demonic suit of armor that contains a living being inside powering it. Fittingly, this one contains an ex-servant of Mundus in Trish.
  • Toontown Online did this all the way through 2008. The lower half is the same since 2003, the jumping was used for the V.P. and C.J. fights, and once more, the undercarriage was used until 2006. Because of this, the C.E.O. never uses his undercarriage, not even one bit.
  • All games in the Shadow Hearts series have a boss based on Tamacoss from Koudelka. It's a grotesque ball of flesh with limbs sticking out, and the upper body of a Creepy Doll on top. Examples include Orb Chaos from Shadow Hearts, King Tamakos from Covenant, and Tamaris from From the New World.
  • In Bionic Commando for the NES, all of the bosses save for the Albatross are based on one of four templates: the Platoons and their commanders, the "Pi-Pi-Pi" robot, the Wired Gunner, and the Cyborg Soldier. The remake has more variety, but still uses each area boss template twice, with the only unique boss being Master D.'s gunship near the end.
  • 4/5ths of the bosses in Haggle Man 3, one of the games collected in Retro Game Challenge, are the same boss - screen-sized masses of flesh and skulls that slowly crawls towards the player while firing shots out of the three main faces that also serve as their weak spots - only differentiated by the different Attack Drones they're accompanied by and the second to last boss deploying a secret fourth head after the first three are destroyed.