Boss battles have long been considered the ultimate test of skill and determination in video games. Anticipation builds as you prepare to face daunting opponents, your heart pounding with excitement. However, there are cases where the path leading to these highs leaves a deeper and more lasting impact.
While most games add some novelty to their boss battles, there are missions within these games that even still surpass the final showdown in terms of sheer brilliance and memorable experience. It becomes apparent that these extraordinary missions go beyond the traditional boss battle formula, presenting unique challenges, introducing innovative mechanics, and proving that it can be more about the journey than the destination.
10 Horizon Hero Dawn – Womb of the Mountain
In Horizon Zero Dawn, you follow the brave protagonist Aloy on an exciting journey to discover the truth behind her mother’s identity and the mysterious machines that roam the land. Throughout The Womb of the Mountain, you are captivated as Aloy discovers ancient ruins and battle waves of machines.
Missions like these build anticipation for the climactic encounter with the main antagonist, Hades. However, the final boss battle against the Hades-protecting Deathbringer pales in comparison to the epic exploration and character development experienced throughout the game. It leaves you longing for a more satisfying and impactful conclusion to Aloy’s quest.
9 Spider-Man 2 – Mysterio’s Funhouse of Doom
Spider-Man 2 offered a diverse and reimagined rogues gallery, including a clever take on Mysterio, who was rewarded with his own subplot. While the previous three missions were masterful, the boss fight ended in an anticlimactic gag. In the boss battle – which takes place in a convenience store – you unexpectedly defeat Mysterio with a single hit, turning his high theatrics into a comical moment of triumph.
The Funhouse of Doom mission specifically focused on stumbling upon Mysterio’s secret apartment hideout, navigating his labyrinthine traps, and even battling killer clowns and twisted Spidey duplicates. Alas, it was all overshadowed by an unceremonious and brief encounter later in the game, making the moment rather forgettable.
8 Assassin’s Creed 2 – Castle Infiltration
The Castle Infiltration mission in Assassin’s Creed 2 showcases the game’s stealth mechanics and gives you the chance to test the assassin’s ability to run free against complex structures and architecture. That alone would be enough to beat the boss battle against Rodrigo Borgia, where you fight an aged antagonist to the death in some sort of underground cave.
The work put into the previous introductory missions builds up the tension and immerses you in the engaging narrative. However, the final encounter with Rodrigo Borgia is unpleasantly underwhelming in comparison, failing to deliver the same level of excitement and satisfaction as, say, the Castle Infiltration mission.
7 Red Dead Redemption 2 – Train Robbery
Red Dead Redemption 2 presents an outstanding open world experience and one of its outstanding missions is the Train Robbery. This mission allows you to plan and execute a daring train robbery, overcome various obstacles and engage in intense gunfights.
However, as the mission progresses to its finale, the encounter with Micah Bell, while emotionally charged, falls somewhat short of the same level of excitement and strategic depth found in earlier stages of Train Heist. While the emotional stakes are high, the gameplay mechanics and intricacies that contributed to the mission’s initial brilliance feel somewhat watered down.
6 Mass Effect 3 – Citadel Siege
The Citadel Siege mission in Mass Effect 3 involves gathering a team, planning a defense, and rallying allies to fend off the Reaper invasion. The sheer scale of this mission, combined with the emotional connections built throughout the game, creates a sense of urgency and camaraderie.
That said, the boss battle against the Reaper Sovereign is a bit lackluster, failing to capture the same level of intensity and satisfaction as the previous mission. You are left wanting a more memorable and impactful conclusion to the battle for the survival of the galaxy.
5 Final Fantasy 14: Stormblood – The Royal Menagerie
Final Fantasy 14: Stormblood’s The Royal Menagerie mission takes you on a journey through the far reaches of a fantasy realm. As part of a daring rescue mission, you face a series of thrilling encounters with a variety of fearsome enemies while navigating treacherous environments.
Despite the great setting, the final boss battle against Shinryu, while visually stunning, feels mechanically repetitive and doesn’t match the excitement and variety found in the previous mission.
4 Halo: Reach – The Winter Contingency
The Winter Contingency mission in Halo: Reach serves as an introduction to the game’s epic action. As a member of the Noble Team, you explore a vast, war-torn landscape and engage in intense clashes with Covenant forces.
The mission showcases the game’s excellent level design, immersive atmosphere, and introduces you to a variety of gameplay mechanics. Either way, the boss battle against the Zealots, while challenging, doesn’t capture the same level of excitement and strategic depth as the opening mission.
Metal Gear Solid’s Assault on Shadow Moses mission is a masterclass in stealth gameplay and narrative tension. As Solid Snake infiltrates a heavily fortified island, you face a series of challenges, including surveillance cameras, sentry patrols, and cleverly designed puzzles.
The mission showcases the game’s trademark mechanics and intricate level design. Unfortunately, the boss battle against Liquid Snake is a bit of a letdown in comparison, lacking the same depth and creativity as the previous mission.
2 Batman: Arkham Asylum – Arkham Mansion
Shortly after exiting the second secret Batcave in Arkham and before you’re forced to take out Victor Zsasz, you discover Arkham Manor in what could be considered one of Batman: Arkham Asylum’s most action-packed sequences. After rescuing hostages from a library full of thugs, experience a transformative experience as you take on the role of young Bruce Wayne and relive the traumatic moment of his parents’ murder.
Within this altered reality, you find yourself in what appears to be a two-dimensional level where you fight against skeletons and avoid a giant scarecrow. All of this is then humiliated when, later in the section, all it takes is a perfectly timed throw of the batarang to destroy the level’s final enemy, Victor Zsasz.
1 Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Sink or swim
In Uncharted 3’s Sink or Swim mission, you take on the role of charismatic treasure hunter Nathan Drake, who finds himself aboard a sinking ship. This particular mission perfectly encapsulates the stunning sets that the Uncharted series is known for.
While the boss battle against Talbot provides a satisfying cinematic conclusion to the mission, it falls a bit short compared to the dynamic gameplay and variety of challenges found in the intro. The encounter with Talbot relies more heavily on scripted sequences rather than offering the same level of action and player freedom previously found in the mission.
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