What would Dark Souls be without its legendary boss fights? Whether it’s their magnificent orchestral backing, teeth-grinding difficulty, fascinating creativity, wonderful design, or just the way they always feature as a suitable climax for some lethal little labyrinth, the bosses in Dark Souls are undoubtedly the core of what makes Dark Souls great.
But some of those bosses in Dark Souls do stick with us more than others. Some of them hang around within our memory for years, whilst others get replaced by trivia about pencils and thoughts along the lines of “must call Dave on Thursday”.
Quelaag presides more prominently than her sister Najka for most people. The Gaping Dragon is more of an icon than the later appearance of the Dragonrider. And the ethereal prowl of the Boreal Dancer probably sticks with most more than the Caprus Demon ever did.
But let’s see how they stack up. Raise your shields and allow your twitchy urge of self-perseveration to take over, this is the Top 10 Most Memorable Bosses In Dark Souls.
THE DUKE’S DEAR FREJA
As you descend through the thick cobwebs of Brightstone Cove Tseldora, you know there’s a big spider coming. It couldn’t be more obvious. There’s been little ones already (by which I mean about five-foot at least), but you can just smell the impending doom of the huge Momma spider boss getting ever more prominent, as the webs get thick enough to stand on and the caves get darker, deeper and more deadly. They might as well have stuck up signs saying “EIGHT-LEGGED BOSS MONSTER AHEAD – ROLLED UP NEWSPAPERS RECOMMENDED.”
And yet the out of all bosses in Dark Souls the reveal of Freja still manages to be horrifying, even though you’re expecting something along those lines. Perhaps it’s the specifics of her arachnid body. Crooked, deformed and with two hideous heads at either end of her abdomen, this colossal creepy-crawly scuttles towards you with gleeful hunger, her oversized legs hunched around carapace figurelike bars on a cage. Or perhaps it’s her full name of “The Duke’s Dear Freja,” which conjures all sorts of unnerving imagery and ideas. Or maybe it’s the fact she can tear you in half with the beams of magical energy fired from her mouths. Yeah, that might be it.
I was filled with disappointment with the first boss of Dark Souls III. A big guy in armour with a silly name? That’s it? The other two games began with monstrous mega-titans dropping in to stomp you into mulch, and all you’ve got is a chunky bloke in a tin can?
So I hacked at him for a bit, when suddenly his top half exploded into a black tangle of demonic evil the size of a fat hippo and made the kind of noise that no living being should ever have to hear.
I barely had time to whimper for my mother before the hippo blob went for me, and within moments, I was respawning back at the previous bonfire with a noticeably flatter head. That’ll teach me to get complacent, or to think I can predict the terrifying minds of From Software. Next time I’ll remember there’s one thing you can’t do in a Dark Souls game: think you understand it. Iudex Gundyr may be a trick, but it’s a trick that works. For that reason, he deserves to be here.
Yep. Pinwheel. You didn’t mishear me, you didn’t go to a different article. Out of all bosses in Dark Souls, Pinwheel is definitely a favourite of mine, because he’s the only Dark Souls boss that makes people laugh. He’s the Magikarp of the series, or perhaps the Mysterio, going down so easily that he’s almost no different from the regular enemies you fought on the way there.
I genuinely thought I’d encountered some sort of glitch when I dismembered him with a couple of attacks, or that the developers were screwing with me. Was he about to be replaced by a better boss? Was he faking his wounds? Would he keep coming back if I didn’t fulfil some criteria?
No, Pinwheel just sucks. But he’s kind of endearing for that reason, the little kid in the big boys’ club. After being badly abused by every foe you encounter throughout Dark Souls, finding a boss who’s weaker even than you is an oddly amusing moment, especially when you know that the big, bad Nito is coming up soon in the terrible Tomb of The Giants. When you meet Pinwheel, just kick the idiot into the gutter and move on, chuckling as you do. It’s not immoral, he’s a necromancer.
THE NAMELESS KING
What, you think the final boss should be the most challenging fight? How wrong you are. It’s the bosses in Dark Souls that you don’t have to fight that you should feel nervous about because the greatest suffering is always that which we hunt out ourselves.
Considered by most to be the hardest boss in Dark Souls III, The Nameless King knows what he’s doing when it comes to a bit of fanfare if nothing else. Climb to the top of Archdragon Peak and ring a bell the size of a small apartment to summon a chaotic storm, inside of which this madman dwells. Perhaps the worst thing is that this demigod tricks you at the start. To begin with, you fight his giant dragon / hawk / cockatoo mount thing, which isn’t too much of a challenge to bring down. It’s got some decent offence, but not much health and telegraphs most attacks pretty clearly, allowing you to roll out the way without difficulty.
But it’s only after you kill this oversized pigeon that you realise that the fight isn’t over. The towering figure on its back (who looks like a combination of Sauron, a homeless man and a heavy metal album cover) steps down, picks up a lightning spear with which you could spear AND roast an elephant in seconds, and then goes berserk. Turns out The Nameless King is the son of Gwyn, the final boss from the first Dark Souls game, and it really shows, as he unleashes a torrent of electric attacks that would make Thor feel inadequate. Challenge this hard boss at your peril, because this is where the men are separated from the boys.
HIGH LORD WOLNIR
I don’t pretend to be particularly wise, but even I know that when you see a skull-themed chalice emanating pure darkness that you should turn and run like the dickens. And the one at the bottom of the Catacombs Of Carthus is no exception. Giving it a careful poke will take you to a long, barely-lit room where you’ll search around blindly for some sort of sign that AAGH GIANT SKELETON RUN RUN RUN!
God, the appearance of High Lord Wolnir gave me a shock. A skull five times bigger than the player lunges forward in the darkness, two bone hands reaching out hungrily, glowing gold bands rattling on his wrists. Turns out that you can finish him off by shattering those bands and dodge-rolling away from all his slaps and poison breath, but that initial intimidation had me sprinting in a panicky terror the other way up the room, with Wolnir dragging himself along in slow, grinning pursuit. It takes a lot to make a classic skeleton boss frightening, but From Software managed to make it hold weight again.