TA Top Five: Dark Souls Bosses

By Marc Hollinshead,
Anyone who has been a gamer in the last two console generations is probably aware of the Souls series. These titles pose a unique challenge in that they ask you to overcome death, death and more death in order to reach the end. The series has certainly amassed a huge following over the years and there are those who also show extreme bitterness towards the games. While Xbox gamers haven't been able to experience Demon's Souls and Bloodborne, the Dark Souls trilogy has enraged many, and also provided immense feelings of accomplishment thanks to the gruelling boss fights.

That is why this list is here today. Although the DLC for Dark Souls III is yet to come, the Dark Souls universe has sadly been given its third and final game. Many bosses have been fought over the course of the series (that have also smashed us to pieces), but some of them have shined proudly over the rest. This list sees the very best that Dark Souls has to offer, and because there are so many to choose from, five honourable mentions have made it onto the list! Instead of focusing solely on difficulty, this list is a combination of the bosses with the most interesting lore, mechanics, aesthetic and everything else in between.

Honourable Mentions (in no particular order)

Sir Alonne - Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Sir Alonne

Residing in the memory of the Old Iron King, Sir Alonne engages the player in a frightful duel and is extremely quick on his feet. From the music, the elegance of Alonne himself, to the amazingly silky smooth looking floor, this is easily one of the best bosses of Dark Souls II, even if he is from one of the add-ons. He's a great combination of a boss who is challenging, but definitely conquerable.

Great Grey Wolf Sif - Dark Souls

Sif's tale is a tragic one, and the fight against him mirrors this. This lone wolf, wielding a giant sword in his mouth, will fight till the death to keep his master's grave safe from harm. Upon reaching very low health, Sif will limp across the arena and pathetically attempt to strike you with his last ounce of energy. This is one fight where the boss you are up against isn't evil. He is just a loving companion to his deceased master who desperately wants to remain at peace, and you have just come to the wrong place.

Abyss Watchers - Dark Souls III
Abyss Watchers

These nasty warriors are likely to be the first brick wall you hit in Dark Souls III. Their moveset shares a striking resemblance to that of a particular boss from the original game, and the lore behind them is rather tragic as well, like many of the characters from the series. Forever locked in a cycle of killing each other, to then raise up and repeat the process for eternity, you decide to crash the party and throw yourself into a fight with three of the watchers. The result is a bloody and fiery battle with a beautiful and saddening theme playing in the background.

Four Kings - Dark Souls
Four Kings

These guys are truly menacing when you first encounter them. Fighting them in pure blackness completely disorients you as you race towards them, and the fact that more of them spawn if you don't kill the current one fast enough makes for a frantic and tense fight. All this takes place while a frightening theme plays over the top. They are one of the few bosses of Dark Souls that are genuinely scary to fight. I have no shame in saying that my heart was beating faster than ever when I literally fell into nothingness to face these monstrosities.

Soul of Cinder - Dark Souls III
Soul of Cinder

The final boss of Dark Souls III epitomises everything that Dark Souls is: a challenging but fair fight. From a lore perspective, the Soul of Cinder is literally everything that came before (without spoiling anything) and his erratic fighting style constantly keeps the player on their toes. Making it to this point is a reward in itself, but finally overcoming the last hurdle of the game is satisfying to say the least. This boss was the perfect way to end the series.

Top Five

5. Fume Knight - Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Fume Knight

This hulking warrior is arguably the hardest boss in Dark Souls II. When I finally beat this beast on my quadrillionth attempt, my hands were sweating, my heart was pounding and I screamed "YES!" as I triumphantly watched him fall to the floor. The Fume Knight, also known as Raime, leaves no room for error and demands that you learn his moveset inside and out. If you make one mistake, you may as well as kiss your victory goodbye as it is can be extremely tough to recover. The satisfaction of beating him makes the pain worth it and he reminds you that bosses in Dark Souls aren't to be trifled with. Oh, and I did I mention that if you don't destroy the idols outside his arena, he heals himself if he goes near them?

4. Manus, Father of the Abyss - Dark Souls

The abyss plays a huge part in the lore of the Dark Souls universe and this monster is the father of it. When the chosen undead travels back in time to Oolacile, they will eventually go into the depths of the abyss and face off against Manus. He looks horrific, and he fights in a ridiculously aggressive manner. There are some interesting lore theories about Manus if you decide to search for them, but one thing's certain; don't tread lightly around him. His freakishly large hand and dark magic will rip you to shreds. You may also get the chance to bring a certain canine companion with you to tip the odds in your favour as well...

3. Nameless King - Dark Souls III
Nameless King

In the short time that Dark Souls III has been released, the vast majority of the community have agreed that this formidable foe is the hardest boss in the game. Although he is actually optional, you will definitely want to at least reach him because the fight is high on the epic scale. Flying in on a giant storm drake, he will hurl lightning bolts at you and take pleasure in slaughtering you with his giant spear. If having to take down the drake isn't hard enough, you will have to face the king one on one afterwards, and he is quick to get the words "You Died" on the screen. Dying will mean that you have to fight him AND the drake all over again so this is almost like two bosses in one. An enormous feeling of relief came over me as I struck the final blow on this foe, and yet I can't wait to face off against him once again. Also, that ashen haired helmet is to die for.

2. Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough - Dark Souls
Ornstein and Smough

When talking about Dark Souls to a new player, this is probably the go-to boss. The infamous duo are the bane of almost all players of the series because of their design and high difficulty. A regal, yet epic tune plays as you fight them, and you will most likely die within seconds of encountering them for the first time. The fight is probably one of the hardest first-time fights of the entire series, and so once they're both dead, you'll probably spend a few minutes crying tears of joy. What makes the fight better is that when either Ornstein or Smough die, the one who is still alive will absorb the soul of the other and become even more powerful. Seeing a humongous Ornstein slam his backside into you isn't the best way to go. For all new players, once you get to a giant room with a fog gate at the end in Anor Londo, prepare to die...a lot.

1. Knight Artorias - Dark Souls
Dark Souls DLC

Remember the grave Sif was guarding? It belonged to this guy. This is also the boss of which the Abyss Watchers are reminiscent. Artorias and Sif probably share one of the saddest stories of the series and it has caused Artorias to become an extremely well respected character and boss. When you come across him in Oolacile years before the main game, he is completely consumed by the abyss that he and Sif fiercely fought against, and he's definitely a foe to be reckoned with. Even with a completely useless left arm, he still manages to be a huge challenge. His haunting moans and aggressive fighting style make this a very memorable fight and his death scream at the end gives the impression that you've released him from this misery. Artorias provides a tough but rewarding duel that, when overcome, is boundlessly satisfying.

If you are a Dark Souls fan, did your favourite make the list? Did your worst even make the list? The beauty of this series is that everyone has different experiences of the boss fights so there are many different favourites across the three games. Personally, I love those oddly soothing footsteps of the Dancer of the Boreal Valley. With Dark Souls III still to give us new bosses in the DLC, we are hoping for something great to end the series.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.