I had one major goal in mind this past weekend. After over 3 weeks and several hundred deaths, it was time to finally beat Dark Souls and earn my important and totally not made-up Badge of Gaming Courage that surviving the brutal punishment nets you. Upon completing several household tasks, I had built up the necessary personal accomplishments for the weekend that would allow me to lock myself in my gaming room until I emerged a Dark Souls master without feeling bad about myself. Finally, at 11:30 P.M. Sunday night, the ultimate boss was vanquished, the fire was re-linked, and I found myself wanting to go again. Despite having just completed the most challenging gaming quest I had faced in quite some time, I just wanted more of it.
I immediately tore into the auto-starting New Game Plus to tackle the Undead Asylum once more and realized just how far my journey had taken me. Eventually, it was time to sleep and move on to other games, but I cannot wait to one day revisit the world of Lordran to face-off against those now familiar bosses/instruments of death while experimenting with new builds and play-styles. Sure, there were plenty of tremendous trials throughout, but the true highlight was the satisfaction of completing the Herculean task of studying and defeating an area’s boss that I hadn’t felt since Shadow of the Colossus. To properly honor their standing among gaming’s treacherous foes, here is my list of five favorite bosses in Dark Souls.
5) Asylum Demon/Stray Demon/Firesage Demon
The three variants of the initial boss serve as brilliant progress markers for your journey. Encountering the Asylum Demon about two minutes into the game when all you have at your disposal is a broken sword is the perfect “oh shit” jolt needed to get you in the right mindset for your quest. Instead of standing your ground and fighting this un-winnable fight, you’re forced to learn that it’s far better to run away until you can find an advantage. Upon returning to the Undead Asylum about midway through your run, the Stray Demon’s increased damage and newfound long-range blasting ability force you to spend a fight constantly in motion waiting for the right moment to strike. Finally, the Firesage incarnation takes everything you’ve previously mastered and envelopes your battlefield with environmental impediments to ratchet up the difficulty to new levels. Each version presents its own unique challenges, and each let’s you know your skills are growing as needed.
4) Capra Demon
The Capra Demon was the first time I thought I might not be able to finish this game. Whereas the first several bosses only cost me a couple of lives, the Capra Demon managed to swiftly slaughter me at least a dozen times. The confined spacing, attack dog companions, and previously unseen speed of this boss immediately knock you down a peg or two just as you’re starting to think you’re getting the hang of things. Without a doubt, facing off against the Capra Demon was when I learned what a Souls game truly was.
3) Gwyn, Lord of Cinder
After somehow managing to get past 20 or so other bosses, it’s all been building up to this moment, and Dark Souls does not fumble the execution. Unlike most of the previous bosses, Gwyn is more human than demon, but he possesses an extremely long sword with devastating range and speed that makes it almost impossible to take a breath. Throw in the epic march to Gwyn’s chamber featuring 5 deadly Knights, and you get a truly fitting climax that leaves you feeling accomplished and hungry for more.
This optional boss fight is perhaps the most tense in the entire game. In her standard form, Priscilla is one of the easier foes to deal with, but when she turns invisible, expect the palpitations to start. One of the most memorable experiences in a game full of them, was holding my breath watching the snow for footprints to emerge so I could swoop in and attempt to land a hit or two before she pulverized me with her scythe for ignoring her warning to flee.
1) Great Grey Wolf Sif
This very good boy was both the most magnificent creature you’re forced to take on (truly reminding me of the sorrow of the previously mentioned doomed Colossi) and the most interesting battle itself. Sif’s unparalleled combination of speed, range, and move set put your stamina and reflexes to the ultimate test. I couldn’t get enough of this fight, and kept “just one more”-ing until I willed myself to victory with the slightest sliver of health left at 1 A.M. one fateful Saturday. R.I.P., Sif. You were truly too good for this world.