Dark Souls 3 is a brutal and cruel game that will knock even the most skilled player down a few pegs, but nothing epitomizes this better than the games bosses. There are 19 big baddies standing in the way of your Dark Souls 3 completion, each one with their own tricks and attack patterns you will have to memorize. Ranking some of these battles was not easy, as many are wholly unique and offer some truly memorable experiences. Others, however, rely too much on dumb gimmicks that sap some of the epicness away that many of these bosses possess. It’s important to note we are not simply ordering them on a scale of difficulty, but everything the battle itself encompasses. Atmosphere, music, design, battle mechanics and challenge are all factors we will take into consideration when making our choices. So sharpen your sword, draw your bow, and refill those Estus Flasks, because we have a bloody journey ahead of us.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead… Obviously.
19) Curse-Rotted Greatwood
In theory, the Curse-Rotted Greatwood should be an interesting fight as the design alone of the tree is pretty fantastic. However, once the battle actually begins you soon realize how rudimentary this fight actually is. The whole idea of attacking specific weak points as the only way to deal damage robs a certain sense of accomplishment from the battle. Given the massive, slow size of the tree, it’s fairly easy to attack the various spores along his body until he eventually dies. This design choice also hinders his move set, as his attacks are just as sluggish and easily predictable. There is no challenge in this boss fight once you figure out how to actually cause damage to him, which isn’t a hard task to discern. Even the acid he leaves on the ground barely causes any damage and can be easily shrugged off by the player. While he does literally send you plummeting into an underground pit with him, it’s not enough to save this boss fight.
18) Yhorm The Giant
Oh cool! A boss fight with a giant that wields a machete that size of a bus, this is going to be one tough fight! Or it would be if he wasn’t so laughably easy to beat and has one of the weirdest design choices made in recent memory. See, Yhorm here can’t really be hurt in any conventional way, as every single weapon does a pitiful amount of damage to the big guy. The only way to realistically take him down is by using a weapon located in the boss room itself called the Storm Ruler. Basically, this weapon fires a giant wind-based attack once charged that pretty much stuns Yhorm upon hit. This essentially results in you being able to stun lock him until he keels over or just dodging his clearly telegraphed moves while you power up the sword. What’s worse is the sword is on the other side of the room and the game offers basically no explanation on how to use the sword. I’m not asking for the game to hold my hand, but if you are trying to introduce specific mechanics into the fight, helping explain this to players might help. The only reason this fight is higher than the Shame of the Ents is because you can have Seigward fight by your side.
17) Vordt of Boreal Valley
The first real boss of Dark Souls 3 is a fairly rudimentary one in both design and concept. Effectively it boils down to, a giant monster you will end up stabbing in the butt several dozen times until he dies. There’s nothing wrong with that and for one of the earliest bosses, it’s understandable. He will put your reflexes to the test with his second stage, as the giant frozen baddie will come charging at you with reckless abandon again and again. The addition of frost damage was a nice touch, as it offers another layer of problems to manage while fighting him. It doesn’t help though that the area you fight him in, along with the music, are extremely basic. There’s really nothing special about this boss, but there’s nothing terribly off-putting about him either. Vordt is just a bland encounter.
16) Iudex Gundyr
Surprised to see the tutorial boss this high on the list? Truthfully, Gundyr is just the right type of introductory boss for a game like Dark Souls 3. He is easy enough that veteran players won’t have to spend any real time on him, but just difficult enough to act as a gatekeeper to new players. Dark Souls has always been a series that prides itself on offering difficult challenges, so having Gundyr showcase this to newcomers is needed. He not only tests your ability to dodge, exploit, and recognize attack patterns but will force players to think on their feet. By having his second stage be so radically different from his first, the fight will greet many a newbie with the “You Have Died” screen. Not to mention the arena you fight him in is really beautiful. He is not higher up on this list, due to how easy he is for any veteran player.
15) High Lord Wolnir
Another “attack its weak point for massive damage” boss fight, that is only saved by the awesome creature and level design. Basically, this fight boils down to removing three bracelets off of Skeletor’s arm until he gets dragged back into the abyss. Thankfully he doesn’t just sit there and take it as he has quite a variety of attacks that can easily kill a player. His most notable involves stabbing a massive sword in the ground for a giant shockwave that does an immense amount of damage to any careless player. What makes this fight interesting is that you are basically surrounded in total darkness and the only real light is coming from the very bracelets you’re destroying. I rather enjoyed the aesthetic details on this boss fight, as the design itself overshadows the simplistic way of killing him.
14) Crystal Sage
He’s just a big scary mage and that’s about it. While the Sage offers some relative challenge, especially once he starts summoning clones of himself around the area, he is a fairly straightforward boss fight. When he appears, run over and stab him until he vanishes – rinse and repeat. This isn’t exactly innovative or terribly memorable, but the cool plague doctor inspired design and his second stage push him a bit above some others. There really isn’t anything else to say about this boss fight, it’s just not that memorable.
13) Champion Gundyr
Doing his best 1980’s slasher impression, Gundyr returns from the dead for another chance to kill you! Much in the same way the Crystal Sage was just a big wizard you had to fight, Gundyr this time around is basically just a big angry knight. He doesn’t have that noticeable of a second transformation this time around and offers a fairly challenging boss fight for those who are not used to more PvP centric duels. While the idea of fighting him again is fun, he really isn’t offering anything new or different to the player. It basically comes down to memorizing his attack patterns and exploiting some of his rather telling attacks sets. The concept of fighting a stronger version of him is really cool, but I feel as if they could have done way more with this fight.
12) Deacons of the Deep
This one of those rare occurrences where the style and design for the boss far outshines the actual fight itself. Acting as a mob boss, the Deacons mass hoard of angry , slow moving pyromancers is a really fun concept for a boss. Having to fight your way to the “possessed” one just to inflict some damage on the life bar. It challenges the player psychologically as diving into a massive group of angry enemies is normally the last thing someone wants to do in Dark Souls 3. Yet, it works wonderfully for this boss fight as it subverts your expectations about what a boss fight should be. The only real issue is that this boss is really, really, easy for any melee based character as the various pyromancers have basically no health. I do have to admit, the music for this battle is wonderful and a real standout. Also, you get a Pope Hat after the fight and honestly who wouldn’t want that.
11) Oceiros, The Consumed King
This fight is just weird. I mean the battle itself is difficult, as Oceiros has some fairly powerful spells at his disposal. His second stage switches everything up as the dragon barrels down at you with impressive speed and pretty much turns completely manic on you. However, the actual fight itself isn’t why I placed this boss fight so high. No, it’s the weird unsettling nature of Oceiros himself, as he spends basically half the fight cradling an invisible baby. Yes, you heard me right. INVISIBLE. BABY. It’s creepy and is only magnified by the horrible cries of said invisible, probably demon baby that echo during the fight.
10) Old Demon King
Congratulations Dark Souls 3, you made me feel bad about killing a boss. The Old Demon King is not only a fairly powerful boss fight but has my favorite ending to one on this entire list. See, when he reaches about 5% health, the King will actually fall to his knees and his flames just turn to embers. You can tell just by his position that the guy has basically accepted defeat and is just waiting for you to kill him. Great, now I killed an old man who probably had a family of little demons to come home to. Thanks, Darks Souls.
9) Ancient Wyvern
Yes, I know I said gimmicks in these boss fights are stupid and pointless but this fight’s conclusion is way to entertaining. Personally, I am not sure why this is even really classified as a boss fight, as you basically just avoid his fire and fight your way to some scaffolding. Ending the fight by plunging your weapon into its skull is so incredibly satisfying.
8) Dragonslayer Armour
Remember how I said that Gundyr was just a big angry knight, well this is his more pissed off brother. Probably. Armour overall is a challenging boss battle due to the sheer power and damage he can output The big guy fully has the capability to two shot a player and it doesn’t help that he is backed up by that giant flying monster of his.Oh, and did I mention that the entire fight is on a small ass bridge that he can easily knock you off with a strong attack? Ya, it’s not a terribly easy fight, but man is it rewarding to see him go down.
7) Abyss Watchers
This fight took me longer than I would care to admit, but the entire dynamic around it is amazing. It starts out relatively easy as the boss fight seems like it will be a simple duel until various other Abyss Watchers start rising from the pile of bodies scattered around the room. Fighting multiple enemies is tough enough, but the ability to have the various Abyss Watchers fight each other offers an interesting layer of depth rarely seen in a Dark Souls game. It’s totally possible to just have the allied Abyss Watcher lower the bosses health down to 50% without you barely doing any work. Though once his second stage kicks in be prepared for a fiery fight.
6) Lothric and Lorian
Full discloser, this is probably my favorite boss fight in the entire game. Lothric and Lorian are brothers who compliment each other’s attack style wonderfully, offering an interesting dynamic to the gameplay. The older brother, Lorian, is a melee based fighter that has the additional benefit of teleportation. This forces a player to stay alert as he can warp himself anywhere and usually attacks as soon as he appears. Once you defeat the older brother, his younger sibling Lothric will warp himself down and literally piggyback on Lorian. Now you have the fun task of not only fighting the magic wielding Lothric but his brother once again. It’s a tough fight, only matched by the long trek you have to make to the top of their castle.
5) Aldrich, Devourer of Gods
You know how everyone has a boss fight that just takes them forever and seems impossible? Yeah, Aldrich was that boss for me. It doesn’t help that the setting for fighting him is uncomfortably familiar, but he seems to retain the difficulty of the former tenants. Aldrich is a very powerful boss that offers some challenging and deadly attacks that can instantly kill an unsuspecting player. It doesn’t help that his main weak point, the tail, constantly moves and shifts making it hard to get more than one or two hits in. The design alone for Alrich is extremely creepy, writhing and warping his body around the boss room with ease. Much of this fight comes down to if you’re lucky with RNG or not, as his melee attacks leave large windows for you to attack him… However, this is rarely the case as he keeps spamming magic projectiles like it’s going out of style.
4) Dancer of the Boreal Valley
I’m going to be honest. I was extremely cocky walking into this fight. The Dancer’s first stage is deceptively easy as she telegraphs the majority of her moves and offers large windows to inflict some damage. Then she takes out a second sword and lays the smackdown on you. Her combos are excessively long and due to the graceful nature in which she fights, it makes predicting when you have an opportunity to attack very difficult. There is an elegance to this battle that is rarely seen in a Souls game, only amplified by the absolutely stellar creature design. I love this fight as it plays with your expectations in a wonderful way. Which pretty much represents Dark Souls 3 as a whole.
3) Pontiff Sulyvahn
Pontiff Sulyvahn is a pain in the butt. He is an incredibly aggressive, powerful boss that only becomes more challenging once his health hits 50%. While I think this is one of the best battle areas ever displayed for a boss fight, the design for him alone is truly terrifying. Sulyvahn is an imposing figure that only becomes deadlier once he sprouts wings and summons an illusion of himself. Oh, you though this clone was going to an easy one hit kill like the Crystal Sages? Oh child, we can only wish. The clone of Pontiff has a fairly meaty health bar and what’s worse is when you kill it, Pontiff can summon another one! This was a very difficult boss fight, but certainly one of the most enjoyable in the game.
2) Soul of Cinder
Winning the award for the best boss arena, Soul of Cinder is the final battle in Dark Souls 3. This is quite possibly the most diverse move set a boss has ever had in a Souls series, that is sure to keep any player on their toes throughout this bout. With fighting more akin to a highly skilled PvP player, the Soul of Cinder is able to use various weapons and spells that the player can acquire. Every engagement will be different as you might not see him use one of the four weapons at his disposal ever, which lends to the unpredictable nature of this battle. With a stunning design and fantastic music, the final boss fight sends Dark Souls 3 off on a high note. The only reason this guy isn’t higher is due to how easy it can be if he switches to using magic. Seriously, when it pulls put a staff just stay close to him and keep hacking away… Also, he can be stunned for an incredible amount of time, allowing you to pour the damage on
1) Nameless King
Could it be anyone else? The Nameless King starts out in an incredibly epic way, as he literally rides into battle on the back of a freaking dragon. If that wasn’t intimidating enough, you are fighting in a massive storm and the King isn’t just going to watch idly from the back of his beast. Oh no, that would be too easy. Sure, killing his dragon isn’t terribly difficult, but then he decides to absorb its power and fight you himself. His attacks are brutal and quick, offering little chances for the player to recover. The entire setting feels like something out of The Legend of Zelda, as the boss battle just feels grandiose. It’s a battle that will stick with you and offer some incredible challenge for even the most skilled of Souls players. If there was a wrinkle in this boss fight, it’d be that the camera for the first stage is really bad. The Nameless King is hands down one of the coolest looking and most entertaining boss fights in all of the Souls-Borne series.
Which boss is your favorite? Agree or disagree with our list? Sound off below!
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.