5. Man-Eaters – Demon’s Souls
Before Demon’s Souls released in North America, the game piqued my interest at my local college GameStop. The cover art intrigued me, and, as I began researching deeper into the game, the premise sold itself. Thus, without much knowledge, I pre-ordered the game, unsure of what to expect but eager. Like most of us who sailed on the maiden voyage of Demon’s Souls, I cursed the difficulty and died numerous times. When I ran down the thin and near-infinitely towering platforms into the Man-Eater demon, I encountered what I believe to be the most difficult battle in Demon’s Souls. One Man-Eater, a terrifying gargoyle with a devastating repertoire of attacks, was nearly enough to topple me; however, about halfway through his life bar, a second, equally daunting Man-Eater appears. Not only does the player have to battle two Man-Eaters, albeit one partially defeated, but he/she must do so against one of the toughest foes in the game. I am unsure of the time I required to topple the duo threat, but I can confirm the pure joy and excitement that coursed through my veins once I finally felled the second Man-Eater.
~ Evan Schwab
4. Gwyn – Dark Souls
Gwyn, Lord of Cinder, is the final boss in Dark Souls and he is a nightmare. He’s one of the few bosses who is the same size as your character and it’s jarring. You spend a majority of the game fighting creatures much larger than yourself. It’s immediately a red flag when the final boss, who is typically the toughest, is your smallest boss yet. Gwyn is exceptionally difficult. He has a fire sword and easily closes the gap between you and him with arcing sweeps. His speed makes it incredibly hard for you to be far enough away to use your estus flask. He also has an unblockable grab move that can instantly kill you.
The fight is not only difficult but tragic as well. Note the musical difference in this fight as compared to earlier boss fights. No resounding orchestra, no booming chorus, just a lonely piano. This fight isn’t supposed to be triumphant. Rather, it’s meant to be sorrowful. You are fighting a formerly great man who has been corrupted and lost his purpose. He doesn’t even know why he fights you, but must by instinct defend his area. Besides, defeating him isn’t truly “winning” the game in the traditional sense of the word. After killing Gwyn, you can kindle the flame with the knowledge that you will continue a cycle that will restore the world, but eventually corrupt you. Or you can refuse to kindle the fire and rule over a dead and decrepit world. Neither is a preferable option.
3. Artorias the Abysswalker – Dark Souls DLC
What makes Artorias truly difficult to fight is that he fights like the Chosen Undead; rolling out of the way of attacks, using lunges, attacking frantically. Despite his swaying behavior and immobilized left arm, Knight Artorias is no laughing matter. A knight that once served Gwyn and has since been corrupted by the Abyss, Artorias will prove to be a difficult fight for those who don’t keep themselves 100% focused during the duel.
Artorias’ blade does a scary amount of damage, combined with its size and Artorias’ speed, getting out of the way is near enough 90% of the fight. It’s learning his attack pattern that is key, as going for a heavy handed approach will only lead to death. The corrupted knight is also able to surround himself in darkness, not only performing an AoE attack, but also making himself more powerful in the process.
The interesting aspect to this fight is how similar Artorias is to the Chosen Undead, using similar strategies players would use, such as running lunges and dodging rolls.
2. Ludwig the Accursed – Bloodborne DLC
Ludwig is the first boss you encounter in the Bloodborne DLC and by far the most difficult in the entire game. Ludwig appears as a monstrous abomination, most resembling a large horse with too many legs. His charge is almost a guaranteed instant kill. He has massive sweeping attacks, a bizarre arcane projectile attack, and he will leap into the air and land on you with devastating force. It took several attempts to even lower his health bar halfway.
But at that halfway mark, something changes. According to the game’s lore, the hunters who resisted their beasthood the most became the most horrific beasts. When his health is lowered enough, a cutscene appears and a glimpse of the old Ludwig appears. He stands up and uses his Holy Moonlight Sword and his title changes from Accursed to Ludwig the Holy Blade. The fight’s completely different now. Ludwig towers over you with new found grace and skill. He sweeps out broad arcs with his sword and now has large area of effect arcane attacks. I don’t know how many times I tried and failed with Ludwig, but I was never more elated than when I finally slew Ludwig the Accursed.
1. Ornstein and Smough – Dark Souls
Ornstein and Smough are by far the most difficult enemies you face in Dark Souls. It’s the only instance where summoning Solaire isn’t very helpful. They work together extremely well. Ornstein is quick and can speedily attack you. Smough is slow, but hits harder. While you’re busy avoiding one, the other usually attacks and kills you. The worst part of the fight happens when you kill one of them. The other grows stronger and absorbs the power of the one you killed. He is restored to full health and is twice as hard to defeat. This is a fight that requires a few dozen attempts.
They are also both excellently designed. The gold of their armor matches well with the decor of the cathedral. You can tell they have a shared history by the way they leap down into the cathedral in perfect coordination. Finally, the choral music for this fight is epic and memorable. They both have great lore as well. Ornstein was one of Gwyn’s four knights and is called a dragonslayer. Smough was an executioner who wasn’t allowed to be a knight because of his cannibalistic tastes. All in all, Ornstein and Smough is one of the most talked about and memorable fights in any FromSoftware game.