VR Zelda Month: Top 10 Bosses

VR_Zelda_Month

One of the five most important pillars that are widely regarded to hold up a Zelda game (the other four being items, dungeons, music and sidequests), the noble boss fight is frequently a source of adrenaline-charged highlights throughout the Legend of Zelda series. It is very common to call to mind a particularly well executed encounter from a particular game almost immediately when the name of said game is mentioned, such is the potential impact of a boss.

This list of my personal favourite boss fights was a real headache to put together. I second guessed myself time after time as to what bosses deserved to get in and in what order I should put them. I went for atmosphere and fun factor above everything else, NOT difficulty. The list of course deals with events that happen at the end of dungeons, so spoilers are naturally very much afoot. It’s worth saying that I’ve taken final bosses out of the picture here, because that would just be unfair, right?

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VR ZELDA MONTH DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome. Spoilers may follow.
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10. Barinade – Ocarina of Time

The boss of Jabu Jabu’s Belly isn’t exactly the most epic of battles – the room in which it takes place isn’t impressive by any means and Barinade itself hardly looks good – but by the time you reach the parasitic party pooper you’ve already seen plenty of its handiwork and even dispatched a few of its extremities, so there’s a noticeable sense of fulfilment to the meeting. But above all, the fight with the mutated electric anenome is just a lot of fun. It isn’t too easy, it isn’t over too quickly and the Boomerang is put to good use. Plus there’s plenty of electricity everywhere. A boss fight done right.
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9. Zant – Twilight Princess

Zant is perhaps one of the most controversial characters in Zelda history. Throughout most of Twilight Princess he challenges for the title of the most imposing villain in the history of the series, especially after he treats your companion Midna with such contemptible malice halfway through the game. By the time you finally confront him in the Palace of Twilight, which he has so unceremoniously invaded and claimed as his own, he has fallen apart at the seams and become something quite different from what the player may have initially expected. But while his blatant villain decay from a serene badass to a clinically insane spinning knife guy might make him a rather disappointing character, it makes for one heck of a boss battle. Zant’s lack of mental stability and overflowing power combine to create a fight that spans a number of rapidly-changing locales from earlier in the game, each with a unique twist. The crazy music adds to the kind of weirdly exciting atmosphere you just don’t get anywhere else in the series and it’s still great to be able to pay Zant back for that horrendous attack on Midna.
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8. Helmaroc King – The Wind Waker

Speaking of payback…

The Helmaroc King is a grade-A douchebag and the least likeable bird creature I think I’ve ever met in a videogame. In The Wind Waker he snatches up your little sister, while you watch helplessly, mind you, and then throws you out to sea to drown without so much as a second thought when you attempt to rescue her. When you finally get the chance to face the avian menace in battle with a weapon powerful enough to defeat it, the catharsis that comes from smashing its bullying evil-incarnate face in is great indeed. The bastard shows up again in Four Swords Adventures, where he lacks the emotive backstory but makes neat use of the connected GBA feature that defines the game.
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7. Skeldritch – Spirit Tracks

Skeldritch is quite simply one of the most inventive multi-stage bosses I’ve ever fought in a Zelda game and my favourite DS Zelda boss (only just, though – see the honorable mentions). As the overseer of the final main dungeon in Spirit Tracks, Skeldritch (known as Capbone in the European version of the game for some reason) provides a pertinent reflection of your nearly-completed journey. While Link has spent the majority of the game up to that point rebuilding the Tower of Spirits section by section, the creepy skull-and-spine behemoth resembles a tower he must knock down section by section. The way this is achieved, namely through a clever and satisfying combination of the Sand Wand, a projectile item, some catapults and Skeldritch’s own attacks, elevates the foe beyond mere symbolism and into this top ten.
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6. Four Links – A Link to the Past (GBA)

The original SNES A Link to the Past has some pretty memorable bosses (some for all the wrong reasons – Mooollddoorrmm!!!). But my representative LttP entry comes from the game’s GBA port. The remastered version features an entire additional dungeon that is unlocked by playing through the accompanying Four Swords game with at least one friend – and said dungeon is a blast to play through. Multiple bosses from the game reappear in slightly reimagined forms throughout the labyrinth and then, at its end, our hero Link must face not one, not two, but four distorted versions of himself. Each colour of Link is fought one by one, each adding a new attack to his repertoire, until finally the incredibly powerful, beam-spewing purple Link takes the floor. The fight is a nice (and difficult)  twist on the classic Dark Link foe that takes place in an amazing room marked with a very cool Four Sword insignia.
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5. Slime Eel – Link’s Awakening

If you’re scratching your head at this one, go play Link’s Awakening. Few Zelda games get the feeling of hitting an enemy’s weak spot quite as emphatically right as that portable gem. Just look at the Slime Eel. You want to slash that weak spot right now, don’t you? Don’t you? Now exposing it isn’t the result of any cliched armour-breaking or anything like that, but rather requires some shrewd spacial manipulation. The eel is practically wrapped around the boss room, popping parts of its body out of multiple holes at once. Link must use the hookshot to pull out its face and slash madly at the weak spot as it recoils, all the while avoiding its ever-present spiked tail. The fight feels fresh despite relying on a classic item and as it finishes, the serpentine beast crucially issues the first of what will be quite a few eerie warnings about the nature of the island Link has been exploring.
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4. Vaati – Four Swords Adventures

FSA has some pretty hectic boss battles, particularly if you play the game with three friends, but the fight with Vaati towards the end of the game sticks out in my memory for a number of reasons. Firstly, the battle has buckets of the foreboding tone that a lot of the Four Swords Adventures bosses just have naturally thanks to the game’s native art style, only turned up to eleven. Secondly, the method of defeating the grotesque wind mage combines old and new mechanics to great effect. Throw bombs into the tornado he rides, then deliberately fall into the boss room’s central pit, negotiate some underground platforms and launch yourself out of a cannon so that you can plant your sword directly into his eye from above. All of this would only have been half as memorable, of course, without the utter distrust of my allies promoted by the greedy multiplayer central to the entire game. I wasn’t just fighting Vaati – I was fighting the devious tricks of my siblings, all of whom were after my Force Gems. It’s never easier to cover up your treacherous intent for explosives than when bombs are required to beat a dangerous boss anyway. “Oh, it was an accident!” Yeah, sure.
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3. Goht – Majora’s Mask

In terms of boss battle fun factor, Majora’s Mask‘s battle with Goht just has to take the cake. No doubt partially inspired by the Sonic games, the battle sees you don the Goron Mask and roll around a massive circular arena trying to catch up to and ram the mechanical colossus to cause damage. The monster takes a lot of punishment and gives plenty of it back in the form of lightning blasts and dislodged stalactites, all of which must be dodged as you keep an eye on your magic meter, topping it up with scattered green jars in your constant high-speed pursuit. Like all the bosses in Majora’s Mask, there are multiple ways of defeating Goht – If you feel so inclined, you can actually bypass the chase altogether and simply stand in the doorway of the boss room, shooting Goht with arrows as he passes by. You need to beat Goht multiple times to 100% the game, so this is a genuinely explorable, if less fun, alternative tactic.
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2. Koloktos – Skyward Sword

The opinions on the various aspects and elements that make up Skyward Sword are many and varied, at least according to any basic internet search. Yet you’ll find one of the most widespread consensuses of all SS topics when it comes to discussing the Koloktos boss fight. It’s just plain awesome and few people are ready to deny that. An animated golden statue with Buddhist visual overtones, six arms and multiple deadly bladed weapons is cool enough, but the way you beat it is what makes the fight stand out. Use Link’s whip to disarm the enemy, then pick up one of its absolutely titanic swords and hack away at its body. This battle makes you feel like you can take on anything and finishing it leaves you wanting more.
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1. Argorok – Twilight Princess

It just doesn’t get any more epic than this, at least as long as final bosses are out of the picture. At the end of a simply incredible floating dungeon, you corner the wyvern menace that has been terrorising the oddball sky-dwelling locals for so long. The weather suddenly worsens as you approach a large circular arena decorated with sky-piercing pillars, each one crying out to be scaled using your newfound Spider-Man abilities. Thunder and lightning crackle in the distance as you borrow the services of your peahat friends for one last time to get just that little bit closer to the vile beast. Then you seize a vulnerable moment to latch onto it, stabbing at it mercilessly and repeatedly with the Master Sword while grand music swells in the background. The fight may be as easy as any other Twilight Princess boss, but nothing matches it for atmosphere, and that makes it my favourite boss battle from the Legend of Zelda series.

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Honorable Mentions
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Odolwa – Majora’s Mask
As the first boss of Majora’s Mask, Odolwa is supposed to be the easiest of them all to fight, and he is, but when compared to other initial boss battles in the Zelda series he is not only a real challenge but damn creepy too. The gigantic tribal warrior chants in a decidedly distant low register while calling forth swarms of shadows and killer bugs, which you must contend with while also trying to dodge massive sword swipes and damage him. If I didn’t already have seven heart containers before facing Odolwa thanks to all the sidequests in Clock Town, I might have really struggled on this one.

Ghirahim – Skyward Sword
One of the coolest things about Skyward Sword‘s pre-release marketing is that it pulled an almost Hideo Kojima-like bait and switch regarding the boss of the game’s first proper dungeon. What turned out to be the boss of the desert-themed third dungeon was shown off in a very forest-y room that never actually appears in the final game, leaving many Zelda veterans to expect it as they opened the last door of the Skyview Temple. Only to be greeted by the very camp, very capable main antagonist of the entire game instead. Well played, Nintendo, well played.

Cragma – Spirit Tracks
This may sound odd, but just about everything about the Cragma boss fight from Spirit Tracks‘ Mountain Temple, from the look of the guy to the surrounding room to the amazing music, reminded me of the Banjo-Kazooie series on N64 (mostly Banjo Tooie). That is absolutely miles from being a bad thing. Fighting Cragma is just as much fun as any of that series’ boss battles thanks to the inventive multi-stage combat required to take him out.

Twinrova – Ocarina of Time
The final boss of Ocarina of Time before the real final boss, Twinrova is the amalgamation of twin witches Kotake and Koume, who are hinted at as being Ganondorf’s, err, surrogate mothers? Yeah, they’re creepy. They also look absolutely ghastly and their cruel actions towards the Gerudo Sage of Spirit Nabooru only add to their vile profile. Their boss fight makes good use of the always-fun mirror shield in a two-phase, two-element battle that is a little on the easy side but enjoyable nonetheless.

Stallord – Twilight Princess
I’ve seen many online top ten lists that have this guy at number one, and while I can’t agree with that myself, there was just no way I could leave him out of this article altogether. The Stallord boss battle almost manages to single-handedly justify the inclusion of the otherwise rather situational Spinner item in Twilight Princess and, perhaps surprisingly, is one of very few Zelda bosses that come back in another from after you think you’re finished fighting.

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