When bosses go bad: The worst video-game bosses of all time

We stick the boot into gaming’s worst bosses; from the laughably limp to unfairly hard.

  • Armadillo Boss — Ninja Gaiden II (Microsoft, Xbox 360, 2008)

    Ninja Gaiden II contained plenty of bad bosses, which ran the gamut from too easy to too hard. But by far the worst offender was the giant armour-plated Armadillo from Chapter 7. Unless you block at the right moment, this guy will kill you by self-destructing ... after you’ve already beaten him. Talk about low. This has to be one of the cheapest tricks we’ve ever seen from a video game boss. Why not just punch us in the nose, pour beer down our trousers and steal our girlfriends while you’re at it? The next time we see a real-life armadillo, we’re dropkicking it onto a highway. Just try and stop us.
  • Mutoid Man also helped pioneer the tedious ‘limb-removable’ battle, which sees you whittling away at your adversary’s extremities one part at a time. We truly hate this. Ridiculously, the mutated numskull continues to fight on even after you’ve blown his entire head off. Usually a decapitated boss spells victory in a video game, but not so with Mutoid Man. You have to keep plugging away at him for what feels like another hour.

    Beating Mutoid Man was definitely an achievement — but so is scaling Mt Everest with live electrodes attached to your genitals. We’re not sure either venture is worth the effort.

  • The Colossi — Shadow of the Colossus (Sony, PS2, 2005)

    Shadow of the Colossus is a game that consists almost entirely of boss battles. Every foe you meet is a gargantuan powerhouse of twisted horn and muscle, with no pint-sized underlings to hamper the sense of fear and awe. These ancient goliaths are some of the most beautiful and striking creatures ever to grace a video game — which makes their callous butchering at the hands of your ‘hero’ all the more tragic. That’s right; we’re including the colossi on this list because they actually made us feel bad for killing them.

    Presumably, if Wander hadn’t wandered in on some half-arsed quest to resurrect a dead strumpet, the majestic beasts would have plodded the earth for all eternity. Instead, every last one was reduced to lifeless rubble — including the gentle giants that actively tried to avoid you. It made each ‘victory’ taste empty and bitter-sweet. There be giants, no more.
  • At the feet of every great video game hero lays the battered remains of a great video game boss. They’re the essential Yin to your protagonist’s Yang, the driving force behind the adventure, and the yardstick by which our gaming skills are measured (and eventually mastered).

    Ever since the Phoenix mothership burst into arcade parlours in 1980, the boss has been an enduring staple of the industry. Where would Link be without Ganon? Or Cloud without Sephiroth? Or Kratos without vital internal organs? (Not a ‘boss’ per se, but he really seems to hate those things.)

    From Jumpman’s first tussle with Donkey Kong, to Solid Snake’s mental showdown with Psycho Mantis, the boss battle has provided some of gaming’s most memorable moments... along with its fair share of headaches.

    It seems that for every thrilling boss finale, there’s a tedious boss fizzer, along with scores of cheap tricksters and dirty fighters. Often, the climactic showdown will be more trouble than it’s worth, and may even ruin the game they 'star' in.

    In the following slideshow, we take a look at some of the worst bosses ever to limp onto gamers’ screens. Whether due to poor programming, hammy dialogue or a botched design, these bad guys are bad for all the wrong reasons. Some are piss-weak posers, others are shameless cheats. A few simply fail to be menacing in any way whatsoever. Whatever the flaw might be, they’re all broken in one way or another — a bit like the controllers they’ve caused us to hurl away in disgust.

    So instead of the most diabolical video-game villains of all time, we're proud (kinda) to present the worst video-game bosses of all time.

  • Dobkeratops — R-Type (Irem, Arcades, 1989)

    Dobkeratops (AKA Doppelganger, AKA Krell) is one of the most instantly recognisable bosses in video game history. We have no idea why this is. Allow us to list the reasons why Dobkeratops is an irredeemably rubbish boss.
    1. The character design is clearly a rip-off of H.R Geiger’s Alien, complete with gooey belly-burster and prehensile tail. Originality = zero.
    2. He is insultingly easy to beat — simply fire your Force weapon into his stomach and he’s dead within 30 seconds. (Lieutenant Ripley would have eaten this guy for breakfast.)
    3. ‘Dobkeratops’ is a stupid name, even by 1980s video game standards. Is he supposed to be a Bydo alien or a crap dinosaur? We fully sympathise with his need for an alias — if we were called Dobkeratops, we’d want one too.

    All in all, Dobkeratops is a talentless hack who in no way deserves the fame he somehow achieved; a bit like Miley Ray Cyrus (who happens to have equally ferocious chompers. Gnuk.)
  • A gratuitous pic of Samus. (We couldn’t find another screen grab of the bad guy.)

  • Escaped jeep convicts (Capcom, 2006, Xbox 360)

    We really, really hate these guys.
  • Seth — Street Fighter 4 (Capcom, Arcades, 2009)

    We could have filled this whole list with beat 'em bosses, but Seth from Street Fighter 4 is definitely one of the all time worst. Like Jinpachi Mishima from Tekken 5, he is a shameless cheat who habitually employs cheap tricks and ridiculous combos to gain the upper hand. He also nicks all the other characters' best moves — a ploy we’ve hated ever since Shang Tsung did it in Mortal Kombat. So he’s not just annoyingly hard, but also unoriginal. To this day, we’ve only managed to beat the bugger a handful of times. [We should point out that Chris is rubbish at Street Fighter and always has been. The only move he can pull off is Blanka’s electric attack. — Ed.]
  • Metroid Prime — Metroid Prime (Nintendo, GameCube, 2002)

    When a game is named after its final boss, you know he’s going to be pretty badass. Metro Prime was no exception. After facing off against the penultimate Meta Ridley, we didn’t think Samus’ first GameCube outing could possibly get any harder. How wrong we were. The titular Metroid Prime is easily one of the toughest game bosses of all time, and a bit of a pain in the bum to boot. We especially despise his first form, which requires you to use colour-coded laser beams to land any damage. As if that’s not bad enough, some of his attacks temporarily blind you, which is the cheapest trick in the book.

    Much like Mutoid Man, the battle is so overwhelmingly difficult that it sucks all enjoyment out of the experience. Many a gamer has hung up his or her controller at the gates of victory; never to complete their mission after coming so tantalisingly close. Beating Metroid Prime requires lots of patience and more than a little luck — two factors that do not belong in any FPS game. Metroid Prime was so infuriatingly tough, that it completely put us off playing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
  • General Raam dying, yesterday.

  • “I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and kill them.” — Private Joker, Full Metal Jacket.

  • Jinpachi Mishima — Tekken 5 (Namco, PlayStation 2, 2005)

    Beat 'em up bosses are notorious for being big fat cheats, but Tekken 5’s Jinpachi Mishima is truly in a class of his own. The old geezer exploits every cheap trick in the book to snatch victory from your grasp, time and time again. Unless you get in quick with some well-timed combos, his unblockable barrage of attacks will make mincemeat of you in seconds. Our brutal showdowns with Jinpachi Mishima left us bleeding from every orifice, including our ears (courtesy of the wailing J-rock soundtrack). To this day, we still feel violated, and we pray daily for his removal from Tekken 6.

    Jinpachi Mishima, we hate you like the Devil himself.
  • Did we mention how much we hate these guys?

  • For reasons we can’t quite fathom, Irem seems inordinately proud of Dobkeratops. In addition to appearing in numerous sequels he has also been a frequent cover star on R-Type game boxes and arcade flyers. Go figure.

  • General Raam — Gears of War (Microsoft, Xbox 360, 2006)

    The head honcho from Gears of War was a wholly forgettable adversary. Despite fatally shish-kebabing one of your squad mates, General Raam failed to leave a lasting impression of any kind. He’s just kind of... there. To our knowledge, he doesn’t utter a single line of dialogue throughout the game — not even a half-hearted “doooooom!” to fit in with his Boomer buddies. The fact he looked nearly identical to all the other Locusts didn’t help matters either. (The climactic train fight was a bit rubbish too.)
  • We’re assuming this Jinpachi Mishima wallpaper art was a practical joke on Namco’s part. Only the most unhinged sadomasochist would enjoy staring at this on their computer all day.

  • Outrageously, the game later pits you against two of these pesky buggers. Both of which explode when you kill them.

  • Seth manfully showing off his lack of genitalia. At least we’ve got something over him.

  • Original R-Type arcade flyer, featuring Dobkeratops.

  • Mutoid Man — Smash TV (Williams, Arcades, 1990)

    Mutoid Man is another poster-boy of the retro shooter era. His status as a hard-as-nails adversary is legendary amongst old school gamers, who share tales about the gruelling battle like a gaggle of geriatric war heroes. However, like most wars, the casualties sustained (particularly to our wallets) rendered the victory pointless.

    Don’t get us wrong; we love a good challenge as much as the next gamer, but Mutoid Man took things to a ridiculous extreme. The amount of pocket-shrapnel he amassed over the years is enough to rival most countries’ GDPs (there’s probably a ‘Mr. Shrapnel’ joke in there somewhere, but we’ll leave that to the über-dorks). Call us big girls’ blouses if you must, but Mutoid Man was simply too tough for mere mortals to handle.
  • R-Type MSX computer box cover, featuring Dobkeratops. (At least, we think it’s Dobkeratops.)

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