Dark Souls bosses are some of the best-designed enemies in the history of gaming. Period. Change my mind. You can’t. Here are my favorite ones.
Ornstein & Smough
You can’t talk about Dark Souls bosses and NOT bring up O&S. Honestly, they might be the most memorable battle of the Dark Souls series. They complement each other in such a satisfying way, Ornstein sprinting with that sword-spear and Smough waddling behind with the biggest hammer I’ve ever seen. And you know, the fight wouldn’t be the same without that backstory.
Ornstein is the captain of the Four Knights and an honorary dragon slayer, full of honor and respect. Then there’s executioner Smough who couldn’t be more different. Smough wanted to be a knight just like Ornstein, BUT he started eating the bones of people he killed which, turns out, is frowned upon in most places!
Sister Friede & Father Ariandel
Everyone hypes up Ornstein & Smough, but I can’t overlook this dynamic duo. The Sister Friede & Father Ariandel fight consists of three-phases, each crazy different and thematically beautiful. ALSO they have that Dark Souls backstory I love so much.
Sister Friede was the first Ash to enter the Painted World (where Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel takes place). The inhabitants of the Painted World want to burn it down so they can make a new world, but Sister Friede doesn’t want that. Friede convinces Father Ariandel to prevent the world from burning. He does this by constantly flailing himself! Bleeding into the world and stopping the flames! Fun!
The battle with Knight Artorias is so classically Dark Souls, it hurts. He is incredibly designed, he’s got a cool battleground, AND that crazy sad BACKSTORY!
Knight Artorias is one of the Four Knights, just like Ornstein. He discovered the ability of abysswalking and earned himself the title of Artorias the Abysswalker. Eventually, Artorias was overtaken by the power of the Abyss, but just before he became fully corrupted, he sacrificed his great shield to protect his wolf companion, Sif (who happens to be the next boss on this list). In defeating Artorias, you are preserving the knight’s honor and freeing him from the darkness he once sought to destroy. It’s sort of beautiful.
Sif, the Great Grey Wolf
It’s a HUGE WOLF holding a HUGE SWORD in his HUGE MOUTH. This is everything I’ve ever wanted.
What I like most about this fight is how bad it makes you feel. Typically, as you start to lower their health, the bosses in Dark Souls get stronger and start whipping out new moves. But with Sif, they actually get progressively weaker. Sif starts to limp and miss attacks. It’s hard to watch. What’s worse is Sif doesn’t even WANT to kill you. Like I said before, Sif was Artorias the Abysswalker’s companion. They were the good guys! Now, he is guarding Artorias’ grave to ensure that no one else follows in his footsteps.
Let’s get a little bit sadder. There’s an opportunity for you to rescue Sif earlier in the game and if you do, an alternate cutscene plays before the boss battle. Sif approaches the player, knocks them down, then recognizes their scent. Their face changes, they howl, and then sadly pick up Artorias’ old Greatsword. And then, we all cry.
Slave Knight Gael
Many people consider Slave Knight Gael the last boss of the Dark Souls series. And BOY, this fight is everything a final boss battle should be. He’s got multiple phases, each one building on the last, his battleground is BEAUTIFUL, his soundtrack is SICK, and his animation is one of the best of the Dark Souls bosses. And YOU KNOW, he’s got that backstory!
It’s a little confusing if you aren’t familiar with the game, but basically, Gael is trying to create a new world and he needs the dark soul to do it. So he’s been out there consuming any soul he can… just like YOU. And that’s my favorite part. You’re killing someone for doing the same thing you’re doing. Can you call yourself the good guy?