Ranking the 10 Best Bosses in Dark Souls 3

Apparently gaming in 2020 is the year of FromSoftware for me, as the first half which already included Bloodborne and Sekiro has now added 2016’s Dark Souls 3 to the mix. Perhaps it was Soulsborne fatigue, or maybe it was all that’s changed in the 4 years since it came out, but I found DS3 to be my least favorite of all the Soulsborne titles so far (still TBD on Dark Souls 2 and Demon Souls). Overall it was still a very solid game that provided plenty of fun smashing giant bosses with massive greatswords for 50 or so hours, but it played more like a refined Dark Souls than anything that had something new to say. Lacking the foreboding atmosphere and trick weapons of Bloodborne or the incredible precision of SekiroDS3 felt oddly dated and almost a little rough, while also lacking the sense of wonder and amazement that makes that first trek through the original Dark Souls so memorable. Fortunately, though, DS3 manages to pick itself up from some early game stumbles and really gets rolling around the halfway mark, maintaining a high level of consistency throughout the rest of the main game and two excellent DLC packs.

So let’s take a fond and highly subjective look back through the best (and worst) that the journey of a thousand deaths had to offer.

For more on my Soulsborne-ian exploits, be sure to check out my rankings for SekiroBloodborne, and Dark Souls.

Dishonorable Mention: Iudyx Gundyr

gundyr

First bosses in FromSoftware games tend to draw me in completely, making me invested from the start, but Iudyx Gundyr just made me yawn. The transition from warrior to mutated monstrosity halfway through showed promise and gave me hope that this was signaling what I’d be seeing a lot of throughout the game, but even that was rarely used again.

Design: 3
Difficulty: 5
Approximate Deaths: 3
Rating: 4

Honorable Mention for Looking Cool: High Lord Wolnir

wolnir

There’s something incredible classic feeling about the gaudy and massive High Lord Wolnir. From the enchanted chalice that you grab to take you to his mythical chambers to the obvious glowing weak points, Wolnir is a fun but not overly original take on what we have come to expect from Dark Souls. He gets special bonus points for completely negating my usual tactic of running underneath the boss and smashing them in the grown since he’ll just trample/smother you to death.

Design: 8.5
Difficulty: 5
Approximate Deaths: 2
Rating: 7.5

Honorable Mention for Dragon Simulation: Darkeater Midir

midir1

When you first encounter Midir, it’s a fairly standard timing of your running to safety in between flame bursts and then knocking him off a massive bridge encounter, but when you locate him at the bottom of a hidden abyss, things take a turn for the interesting. Typically, games get dragon fights wrong by making the dragons too easy to kill and stripping the act of the drama/epicness it deserves (I’m looking at you, Skyrim). A far more different tact is taken here, as Midir has so much health that he’s seemingly impossible to kill. After only 5 attempts or so, I gave up and started summoning all the help I could get only to find that the summoned helpers either died super quickly, or, in one very amusing case with a cranky, chronically sitting spirit, refused to fight the massive beast entirely. With maybe just the slightest tweak in difficulty/health this could’ve made it into the list proper, but the sheer amount of time required to slowly chip away at a health bar as bottomless as the pit you found him in quickly turns the encounter into feeling more like a chore than fun.

Design: 8.5
Difficulty: 10
Approximate Deaths: 20 (before giving up)
Rating: 8

10) Abyss Watchers

abyss

A friend of mine who has loved Soulsborne games for far longer than I have kept telling an underwhelmed me to just wait until I got to the Abyss Watchers, and I’d see the promise the game held. He was correct, as the Abyss Watchers with their strange infighting ways served as a course correction marker approximately 15 hours into the proceedings. Plenty of the early bosses utilized having to fight multiple foes at once, but this one pulled it off the best, as you never knew which side a newly risen watcher would be on.

Design: 8
Difficulty: 8
Approximate Deaths: 5
Rating: 8

9) Pontiff Sulyvahn

pontiff

Often times, a boss reminding me of another Soulsborne creation brought me great joy, and this was the first instance of that in DS3. While not as deadly as Martyr Logarius, Pontiff Sulyvahn was still a fun and somewhat frantic fight with his large flaming sword and propensity for calling spirit doppelgängers that helped keep the momentum going after the Abyss Watchers and confirmed the game was indeed back on track.

Design: 8.5
Difficulty: 8
Approximate Deaths: 3
Rating: 8

8) Yhorm the Giant

yhorm

This may just be my most controversial entry on the list as it appears that fans are torn on the relatively gimmicky nature of this battle, but I absolutely loved it. Starting with Siegward showing up to partner for the battle and ending with successfully wielding the storm ruler and utilizing its wind-gust fueled weapon arts to fell the giant felt like a cool, lore heavy changeup to the standard boss battles. Even though the storm ruler does manage to take down Yhorm in a mere 5 or 6 gusts, the 10 second charging time means you’re constantly on the edge of your seat waiting to see if you can unleash the next devastating slash before you’re within Yhorm’s considerable grasp.

Design: 9
Difficulty: 8
Approximate Deaths: 5
Rating: 8.5

7) Soul of Cinder

soul

The Soul of Cinder owes a lot to the final boss from Dark Souls, Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. Just watching him come at you with his longsword from a distance appears eerily reminiscent of Gwyn and properly sets the mood for the ensuing face-off. He’s got a speed and ferocity unlike the other more human-like bosses, and his weapon switching throughout keep things interesting (and reminded me of Isshin in Sekiro), but he doesn’t quite reach Gwyn’s heights because I never felt overwhelmed by his reach or the damage he was capable of doing in one fell swing.

Design: 8.5
Difficulty: 8.5
Approximate Deaths: 5
Rating: 8.5

6) Demon Prince

demonprince

I really enjoyed the central idea behind the Demon Prince. The first phase featuring two demons constantly changing their powers is fun and fast and requires almost playing a shell game to keep track of who is who since the order you defeat them will have drastic effects on the Demon Prince’s final, far deadlier form. The initial phase is just long enough to feel impactful without making it feel too painful every time the fully powered-up and imposing amalgamation Demon Prince starts the cycle of fighting and failure anew.

Design: 9
Difficulty: 8.5
Approximate Deaths: 10
Rating: 8.5

5) Nameless King

nameless

The nameless king with his lightning attacks, dragon mount, and fog bridge felt like you were taking on a god. Phase one on the dragon is incredibly well executed, but the destruction unleashed in phase two makes the fight all the more memorable and worthy of summoning a friend for help. As an optional late game encounter, it further emphasizes one of the greatest strengths of Soulsborne games – knowing you’ll be rewarded for thoroughly exploring every nook, cranny, and illusory wall.

Design: 9
Difficulty: 8.5
Approximate Deaths: 5
Rating: 9

4) Dancer of the Boreal Valley

dancer1

One of the best designed bosses in the entire game, this serpent-like creature embodied the elegance and precision of the dancer it’s named after. Thanks to some fairly confined quarters and rapid, hard to decipher movements, the Dancer makes its mark. Throw in the fact that you’re immediately thrust into this battle after defeating another boss, and a certain level of breathlessness and hopelessness is sprinkled in to elevate the Dancer high up on the list. Similar to earlier prototype realizations, It was also great noticing how the Dancer’s slithering moves served as a springboard for Sekiro‘s memorable Guardian Ape.

Design: 9.5
Difficulty: 8.5
Approximate Deaths: 10
Rating: 9

3) Slave Knight Gael

gael2

As the final boss of the Ringed City DLC, Gael almost felt like what the Soul of Cinder could have been had he reached his full potential. This formidable cloaked foe seems like the unholy offspring Gwyn and Soul would have produced thanks to the fiendish combo of a brutal greatsword, twirling deadly cape, and souls shooting damage adding the range missing from the main game finale. The ash filled surroundings were a huge plus, and his repeated mutterings of the phrase “Dark Souls” instilled that warm and satisfying feeling like when a character in a movie says the name of the movie.

Design: 9
Difficulty: 9.5
Approximate Deaths: 10
Rating: 9

2) Sister Friede

friede

Once again, the DLC provided a world class challenge with Ashes of Ariandel’s final boss Sister Friede (and noted friend and pot smasher Father Ariandel). Compliments of a deadly scythe and dastardly disappearing act, Friede immediately reminded me of Dark Souls‘ Priscilla. Phase two with the world shaking smashes of Father Ariandel was a tense, crowded affair, while phase three with a far deadlier, throat slitting Sister Friede had me on my toes knowing death was always a blink away in a fashion reminiscent of Bloodborne‘s Lady Maria.

Design: 9.5
Difficulty: 9
Approximate Deaths: 15
Rating: 9.5

1) Lorian, Elder Prince and Lothric, Younger Prince

princes2

The two princes are pure Soulsborne boss perfection. They’ve got it all – weapons with insane reach, teleportation, homing spells, multiple phases, resurrections, a creepy incest vibe (you know at least their parents were) and more! Just getting through phase one felt like a worthy battle, but the weird symbiotic relationship between Lorian and Lothric shown in phase two was absolutely bonkers and amazing. This penultimate boss battle was a fitting sendoff before unlocking access to the final boss and your journey’s end.

Design: 10
Difficulty: 10
Approximate Deaths: 20
Rating: 10

princes

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s something oddly comforting about playing a Soulsborne game during these strange and unsettling times. Going in, I knew exactly what I was getting – between 50-60 hours of learning by repeatedly dying to finely tuned deadly foes. Even though I still greatly enjoyed that sense of accomplishment from overcoming adversity through learning and adapting, in the end, I found myself ready to end the fire instead of relinking it once more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s