Brace Yourselves, Tarnished: Revisiting the Greatest Soulsborne Boss Battles - Part I: Dark Souls

June 10, 2024
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With the looming arrival of Shadow of the Erdtree, the hotly anticipated DLC for Elden Ring, the Lands Between are about to be injected with a fresh dose of challenge. But before we dive headfirst into this new expansion (and we have to do something before as it is not released until June 21st), let's take a few moments to revisit the unforgettable boss fights that have defined FromSoftware's Soulsborne legacy. From the grueling dance with Ornstein and Smough in Dark Souls to the heart-pounding hunt for the Orphan of Kos in Bloodborne, these encounters have tested our reflexes, shattered our controllers, and ultimately left us exhilarated (or perhaps slightly masochistic).

Here I wanted to indulge myself a bit and deep-dive into the best (subjectively, of course) boss battles across Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring. What makes these clashes so memorable? Is it their awe-inspiring design and lore or the intricate mechanics that demand mastery? The answer is all of that and more, so prepare to relive the triumphs and tribulations of these epic encounters, and get yourself pumped for the fresh gauntlet of challenges that await in Shadow of the Erdtree.

A Dance with Darkness: Top 5 Dark Souls Boss Fights

Ah, Dark Souls. A game that has spawned countless memes, countless hours of frustration (and triumph!), and a dedicated community that plumbs its depths for lore and challenge. It’s my very favourite game, you know. But one of the aspects which truly elevates Dark Souls from a difficult action RPG to a legendary experience is its boss fights. These encounters are meticulously crafted spectacles that combine atmosphere, music, enemy design, and attack patterns to create unforgettable moments. Here's a look at the top 5 Dark Souls boss fights that perfectly encapsulate the essence of the game:

5. Ornstein and Smough:

This iconic duo fight is a brutal test of combat strategy and adaptability. Confined within the cramped confines of Anor Londo's cathedral, you face a lightning-fast Ornstein wielding a spear infused with the power of thunder, and the devastating Smough, a slow but powerful giant wielding a massive hammer. The contrasting fighting styles of these two adversaries create a chaotic dance of death. Learning to manage their aggression and exploit openings is a key part of the challenge. The second phase, where one absorbs the other's power and transforms into a monstrous being, ups the ante even further. The sheer spectacle and challenge of this fight solidify Ornstein and Smough as a legendary encounter in the Dark Souls hall of fame. And yet, there are even better encounters.

4. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder:

The final boss of Dark Souls is a shell of his former self, a fading Lord of Cinder clinging to the dying embers of the First Flame. The music in this fight is particularly memorable, with its melancholic strings and powerful crescendos perfectly capturing the weight of Gwyn's desperation. The fight itself is a spectacle. Gwyn's lightning attacks and aggressive parrying tactics force you to be on your toes. The setting, atop the Kiln of the First Flame, adds to the atmosphere of a world nearing its end. While some may find Gwyn's attack patterns a bit predictable compared to other bosses, the fight's thematic weight and its place within the narrative of Dark Souls elevate it to a truly climactic encounter. Of course, if you’ve mastered parrying in the game, this final battle is a cinch. Praise the sun.

3. Manus, Father of the Abyss:

Deep within the DLC expansion Artorias of the Abyss, you face the source of the Abyss itself – Manus, Father of the Abyss. This grotesque creature is a manifestation of the darkness that corrupted Artorias. The fight takes place in a nightmarish abyssal realm, a fitting stage for such a monstrous foe. Manus's attacks are a chaotic barrage of sweeping claws and powerful dark magic. The second phase sees Manus unleash even more devastating attacks, requiring precise dodging and well-timed attacks to overcome. The sheer scale and spectacle of this fight, combined with the lore implications and the desperate struggle for survival, make Manus, Father of the Abyss a truly unforgettable encounter, and a worthy champion - and perhaps the most difficult boss from this first Souls game.

2. Sif, the Great Grey Wolf:

Few encounters in Dark Souls tug at the heartstrings quite like Sif. This loyal companion of the fallen Knight Artorias is a noble creature forced to defend its master's grave. The encounter takes place in a beautiful forest clearing bathed in moonlight, adding a touch of bittersweetness to the fight. Sif's attacks are a mix of powerful swipes with its giant sword and agile leaps. The most heart-wrenching aspect of the fight is Sif’s limping, a consequence of a past injury (which, if you explored the game you will be aware of). Defeating Sif is a bittersweet victory, a testament to both your skill and the unwavering loyalty of this magnificent creature. Let’s be honest - it’s bloody sad. 

1. Artorias the Abysswalker:

Descending into the abyss is never a good idea, and your encounter with Artorias perfectly exemplifies that. This legendary knight, corrupted by the very darkness he sought to contain, is a haunting figure cloaked in tattered armor. The desolate arena reflects Artorias's tragic descent, with the broken remains of his Greatshield scattered across the floor. The melancholic music sets the stage for a desperate dance of blades. Artorias's attacks are a whirlwind of unpredictable fury, forcing players to stay aggressive while maintaining a healthy dose of caution. His agility and powerful leaping attacks keep you on your toes, making every dodge and parry a heart-pounding experience. Artorias's fight is a masterclass in boss design, weaving a narrative of fallen glory into a challenging and rewarding encounter. (Bonus points for the many "YOU DIED" screens Artorias will likely cause on your first playthrough!). For anyone remotely awake throughout the main game, actually coming face to face with Artorias is enough, let alone having to fight him. 


Later this week we'll continue our trip down Soulsborne lane with a look at memorable bosses from the fabulous Bloodborne, and at the week's end, Elden Ring. Goodbye for now, fellow Tarnished.

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Luciano Howard

I've been gaming for 35+ years on the Commodore VIC-20 to the PlayStation 5 and pretty much everything in-between. I enjoy all kinds of games but if I had to pick a couple in particular, I'd say I adore Mario and love Dark Souls. I can talk about either an awful lot should you want to!