It’s hard to believe that just 25 years ago the first Final Fantasy game came out on the Super Famicon. Now, after 16 (by my count) numbered installations in the series and countless other spinoffs Square Enix has become synonymous with JRPG. I love the hundreds upon hundreds of hours of joy these games haven given to me. So, as my humble thanks to Square Enix I’d like to showcase the best 25 bosses in the mainline series.
25.Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Amber, Garnet, Jet Bahamut
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is now known as the sequel nobody wanted. But, to those who gave the game a chance, it offered a fun, fast paced battle system with a surprisingly robust creature raising mechanic to fill in as a third party member for Serah and Noel. It may not have had much else going for it, but it had that – fun combat.
All qualms with the game aside, the final battle, which surprisingly isn’t who you’d expect it to be (tell me if that sounds familiar) can be both an intense challenge of awareness and reflexes as well as an awesome nostalgia fest. Jet Bahamut sits back, immune and unable to be targeted, while applying offensive buffs to one Bahamut while alternately tossing defensive buffs on the other. What really makes the first stage of the battle interesting is the buffs cannot be removed, so it can be difficult to manage offense and defense at the same time.
Once the Amber and Garnet Bahamuts are dispatched, the player can finally take on the Jet Bahamut. The imposing dragon sadly is more bark than bite because, despite having a couple fairly hard hitting attacks, the battle is too straightforward to truly make the player sweat. However, you fight three Bahamuts – at the same time. I feel that reason enough to put it onto the list.
24.Final Fantasy X – Biran and Yenke
“Leave Kimahri, Yenke. Kimahri is small Ronso. Kimahri so small can’t see Yenke and Biran’s faces.”
Some fights are memorable not for the difficulty, but the emotional investment. In Final Fantasy X, one of the most gripping entries in the franchises illustrious history, the battle between Biran and Yenke is that exact culmination of overflowing feelings. From the moment Kimahri shyly apologizes to Yuna for the first time, the demure blue beast becomes akin to a brother. It’s easy to root for the “undersized” Ronso who gets bullied by Biran and Yenke several times throughout the game, so whenever Kimahri finally stands up for himself it’s a transcendent type of fight that many can relate to in some way.
I’ve never been a fan of those instances in Final Fantasy where certain party members are taken away or forced into a fight; but having Kimahri fight on his own was the only way that scenario could have played out to my satisfaction. The symbolism is clear: stand up for oneself. Yet to see such a strong warrior so denigrated definitely shows that size and strength doesn’t always translate to being assertive.
The actual fight itself, from a strategic and difficulty standpoint, isn’t necessarily a standout. Yenke moves in to block attacks against Biran, who casts spells. Attacking while both are close together is a dangerous task, but overall this fight is more about the triumphant feeling for a lovable party member. And believe me when I say I was cheering my friend on as much as I was engaging in a battle.
23.Final Fantasy IX – Garland
“Life is connected, one to another… If you trace the root of all life, there exists one source. The same can be said for memory. All life constitutes an intelligence that holds memory beyond experience.“
Following one of the triumphant moments in Final Fantasy’s illustrious history, where Zidane is distraught after learning his destiny only for his friends to show him he isn’t alone, you fight a series of battles until you reach Garland. Not the final boss, or even to last boss in this sequence of events, I still cannot help but remember the emotions I felt when I confronted the matrix-like architect.
Zidane’s fight with Garland is a perfectly constructed metaphor for him fighting his destiny. The buildup is the biggest reason why I love bashing his face in – plus I always thought Kuja was kind of lame. Final Fantasy XII’s protagonist should have been Balthier instead of Vaan and Final Fantasy IX’s antagonist should have been Garland. Still, it’s a fun fight full of emotion.
Being overly aggressive is the only real way to lose this fight. Garland has several magical attacks that can hurt if not properly prepared for, but simply casting reflect makes this fight much more manageable. Like some battles I’ve already talked about, and some I will discuss later, often the bosses that remain with me are those centered around a strong narrative and not necessarily the most complex of fights.
22.Final Fantasy VI – Ultros
“Delicious morsel! Let me get my bib!”
Final Fantasy VI, even with the comedic moments interspersed throughout the story, is a bleak game. Halfway through the story Kefka destroys a large portion of the world and takes his self-appointed throne, doling out his twisted sense of justice from the heavens. It’s with that atmosphere of despair that the instances where Ultros, the one liner shouting purple octopus, really adds levity to a game in desperate need of it.
The party first meets this strange mini-boss at the Lethe River where his humor is more impressive than his combat ability. In fact, only the last encounter where he is accompanied by Typhon does the player feel challenged at all. But that’s not the point of the Ultros fights. The reason Ultros is in the game is to offer humor – and he’s really funny.
Had this been a list of the most memorable Final Fantasy moments, Ultros would oddly be included as well. The opera scene has been lauded ever since the game’s release and it’s truly the pinnacle of the SNES JRPG era. Ultros inserts himself at the most innocuous of times, including the most famous scene from the best Final Fantasy game. It perfectly sums up just why Ultros is both so unique and necessary for Final Fantasy VI. His fights may not have been very difficult, but the game simply wouldn’t have been the same without the cute-ish little guy.
21.Final Fantasy II – Emperor
“You have braved the bowels of Hell to reach me. But the hand of man, which deals in false justice and forsaken love, can never hope to defeat the lord master of hell!”
The original Final Fantasy II on the NES had, respectably, not much of a story or character development. It’s understandable given the time. So the remake for the PSOne (or many other incarnations) which added much more dialogue and updated the gameplay, graphics and audio, is very much appreciated by me. One can quibble over certain changes, and I for one would love to play the original version unchanged. However, it’s hard to deny that the alterations overall don’t make for a much more palatable game.
Even with the overhaul, the narrative of Final Fantasy II isn’t on par with most of its successors. As such, the final boss being a conqueror of hell seeking vengeance on the party doesn’t strike the same emotional chord of a Kefka or Sephiroth. Still, for its time, the reincarnation of Emperor Mateus was pretty badass.
He only has a few attacks capable of causing tremendous damage, but what really makes him a fearsome foe is the fact that his attacks drain HP from the player creating a battle of attrition. An underpowered team might run out of steam because it can’t dish out enough damage to finish him before MP and items are used up. Retrospectively the Emporer is a somewhat forgettable final boss; but at the time I’m sure he stood out. Also, I love his character design.
20.Final Fantasy IX – Tantarian
Tantarian is an optional boss many might not remember well or be overly fond of, but something about the uniqueness of the fight sticks out to me. It’s definitely not the most difficult optional boss, nor the most emotionally invested opponent. Yet, when I think about the fight, I remember one unlike any other I can remember.
Supposedly you can fight this boss earlier in the game than when you go to save Garnet (Dagger, if you like), but whenever I played I didn’t. Tantarian is a creature inside of a book and must be provoked out – literally – by successfully landing a physical attack that amounts to the right damage. There is a mathematical formula for coaxing Tantarian out, but for all intents and purposes it amounts to attack while keeping your party healthy until you see him. When exposed, the creature’s defense is drastically reduced and he only casts bio. However, if you hit him with anything other than a magical attack he will retreat back into his book (which he will do regardless after a certain amount of time).
Tantarian isn’t overly complicated or trying, but he is different. Just like Final Fantasy IX. There have been dozens and dozens of bosses in the history of Final Fantasy, so any boss that is different from all the rest deserves some recognition.
19. Final Fantasy XIII – Barthandelus
“Fulfill your Focus and gain eternal life!”
In one aspect, the antagonist of Final Fantasy XIII is a little clichéd and forgettable. On the other hand, he is a decently menacing foe who offers a challenge to the party as well as the frustrations/satisfaction that normally only comes when you’ve faced a mid-boss several times only to finally defeat him for good.
The player encounters Bathandelus three times, and each time his attacks change – thus the player must change his/her strategies as well. Whether needing a relentless assault (puns!) to cancel his super powerful Destrudo spell or avoiding his widespread status ailments, each fight can be an adrenaline pumping exercise in paradigm management. Personally, I think the second encounter (out of three) is the best overall because in the first his attacks are powerful but straightforward while the third encounter the party will likely be too powerful for him to be a real challenge.
Okay, so I’ll admit that Barthandelus doesn’t really have anything truly special about him or his fights. In fact, the boss I wish would have been here was the fight against Cid Raines. Cid Raines changes his tactics depending on your paradigm, a fantastic idea. Sadly, Cid proved to just not be tactically difficult enough, so Barthandelus is the standout boss of the game. Still, while I understand those who just don’t enjoy Final Fantasy XIII, the Big B (as I call him) weirdly is reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy bosses while giving a new, action oriented way of battling.
18.Final Fantasy IV – Bahamut
“The Hallowed Father… The First Sire, Hallowed Father to all Eidolons, watches over his children from on high. So indomitable is His strength that He has never known defeat. None could hope to emerge victorious against Him, save perhaps a warrior capable of rising to the heavens in order to deliver the felling stroke.“
The genesis of Bahamut can be traced to the original Final Fantasy, though that incarnation was only the basis for what Bahamut would become. The second Final Fantasy offered the first real glimpse into how Bahamut would be seen and utilized in games to come. But it wasn’t until Final Fantasy IV until I finally felt that Bahamut had become what we know and love.
The god of Eidolons is an enemy not to be reckoned with. He will cast MegaNuke and kill at least a couple of your party members every time, so it’s a constant tug-of-war of recovery and attack. Plus, it’s just disconcerting to see a countdown. The music for the fight is fantastic, the challenge is very good without crossing the threshold of being truly nerve-wracking and, well it’s bahamut – the king of all Final Fantasy summons.
In each game, Bahamut is often only the second or third strongest summon; but of the recurring summons in the franchise (Ifrit, Shiva, Odin, etc.) Bahamut is always the strongest. What’s your favorite Bahemut? I always fall back on Bahamut Zero.
17.Final Fantasy XII – Yiazmat
Either you love the Yiazmat fight or you hate the very idea of it. The last Elite Mark in Final Fantasy XII has over 50 million HP – yeah that isn’t a typo. To some, it’s a ridiculously long and tedius boss whose only real trick is to take forever to beat. And I admit, had Yiazmat hard a normal superbosses amount of HP, say a measly 5 million HP, Yiazmat probably wouldn’t be on the list. But, as some bosses are insanely difficult to test player’s skill, this fight is there to test a player’s dedication – and I respect that.
The Yiazmat fight is truly unique. There are traps around the coliseum the player must avoid as well as maintaining the right distance from the fearsome dragon. If the party is too far, it starts buffing itself and casting instant death spells. If you are too close it destroys your party with tremendous physical attacks. After his HP dwindles below 50% something very frustrating happens: damage is capped at 6999. When at 10 health bars (10 million HP), he uses Growing Threat (ironic as it takes 40 million damage before you are a threat) to increase its stats and at just 5 bars left it casts Reflectga. But, what separates this fight from any other I can recall is the ability to save in the middle of the fight.
Saving is a risky proposition. While you’re gone Yiazmat might cast regen, making it impossible to outdamage his health regen. However, in a fight that likely will take three hours, stocking up on provisions and saving your progress is a must. Almost as if to ridicule you there is a “round counter” for each time you save during the fact. The Yiazmat battle is one of excess. At the core is a very intriguing set of gameplay elements that challenges the player and adds in a risk/reward mechanic. However, it’s simply just too much. To me, I adored this fight and the perseverance required; but I fully understand those who abhor this superboss for the ages. Regardless of how you feel, this is a boss that is memorable to anyone who has faced it.
16.Final Fantasy V – Gilgamesh
“Enough expository banter! Now we fight like men! And ladies! And ladies who dress like men! For Gilgamesh…it is morphing time!”
Quite simply, the Gilgamesh incarnation in Final Fantasy V is not only the perfect example of what a mid-boss is, but also the best version of Gilgamesh to date – as it should be because he is integral to the story. Much like Ultros in Final Fantasy VI, the samurai offers up hilarious one-liners to add levity to the game. But, unlike the comical purple octopus, the mid-boss in V has real character development and occasionally actually challenges the player.
The first encounter with Gilgamesh is in Castle Exdeath, where Galuf mops the floor with him on his way to rescue his comrades. After that, the party runs into him several times and undergoes some decently challenging battles – though no special tactics are required. If you’ve play Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the fights against Gilgamesh are a mirror image of Naked Snake’s encounters with Ocelot (quite possibly where Kojima got the idea). By the end of the game, its clear Gilgamesh gained respect for the party and it’s reflected in the easy battle.
In Final Fantasy V Gilgamesh is an interesting mix of sobering character progression and comical relief. His character design is easily one of the coolest in all of Final Fantasy and the idea that because he was banished to the void that the Gilgamesh seen in the other games could be the same character (and indeed his growing sword collection and Dissidia story info). Gilgamesh very well be my favorite video game character (definitely Final Fantasy), and in Final Fantasy V we see the true arc of the strange samurai.
15.Final Fantasy X-2 – Angra Mainyu, Tawrich and Zarich
“A terrible fiend that has awakened from slumber beneath the desert sands. Bent on destroying all it encounters, it is a fiendish fiend indeed.“
Before there was Final Fantasy XIII-2 there was Final Fantasy X-2. Okay, so you probably knew that if you could count. Anyways, while nobody was dying for a sequel to XIII, quite a few people were pleased to see one of the best games in the series receiving another treatment. Then people saw what it was like, and many didn’t give it a try. From a gameplay perspective, there are a lot of similarities that can be drawn from X-2 to XIII, and that’s not the worst thing in the world.
There aren’t many monsters in X-2 with a unique design – most were just palette swaps from X – so whenever you see this massive thing, immediately you know you’re going to be in for a difficult time. The single biggest threat is its Perdition’s Flame attack, which deals unbelievable damage. But, as if that wasn’t enough, Angra Mainyu has two arms with unique abilities of their own. Tawrich is immune to magic attacks and riddles the party with status effects while Zarich, who is immune to physical attacks, lowers the party’s stats and MP. Oh, and Angra Mainyu is smart enough to not cast Flare on somebody with Reflect cast.
Sure, on paper this optional boss fight doesn’t sound revolutionary. This wasn’t the first part to have multiple body parts that functioned independently. However, what makes this fight so awesome and memorable is the perfectly balanced difficulty. Normally it’s automatic to just attack the extra parts until they go down and focus on the real boss; while that is the goal here, it feels so much more hectic because you are constantly fighting off what feels like three bosses. While this fight doesn’t have much of an emotional impact, it’s just one of the most fun times I can remember having fighting a boss in Final Fantasy.
14.Final Fantasy VII – Sephiroth
“I am the chosen one. I have been chosen to rule this planet.”
Here we go…There are two schools of thought in regards to the Sephiroth fight: Either you think it was disappointingly easy for how hyped his skills are or the sheer ecstasy of killing him makes it one of the best bosses in history. In reality, it’s more in the middle.
The battle takes part in 2.5 stages. The first you face off against Bizarro Sephiroth. Certain body parts are immune to magic attacks while others are immune to physical attacks; the core is invulnerable while the arms are still alive; the head regenerates health –the fight sounds much more complex than what it boils down to sadly. Sephiroth’s stats are supposed to increase based on your level and even if you cast Nights of the Round (Most powerful summon in the game, and longest) on Jenova. It all sounds great, but a couple Bahamuts or other area spells all but demolishes Sephiroth’s first form. The second form, Safer Sephiroth, is slightly cooler and more difficult but still ultimately a letdown. He attacks in a fairly predictable pattern with most attacks being targeted at only one person. Even his Heatless Angel attack, which reduces the party to 1 HP, isn’t that threatening as if you don’t block it (which isn’t too hard) you have time to heal up. Had Sephiroth immediately attackes after Heartless Angel, putting more impetus in blocking, maybe this form would be more difficult. All in all, it’s not an automatic win – it’s just a boss that fails to deliver the immense challenge it was built up to be.
The “final” form, just Sephiroth, is purely cinematic. You can’t lose. I actually like that though I’d rather have seen a hard one-on-one battle.
Though some like to be hipsters and say Final Fantasy VII isn’t a great game and that Sephiroth is a terrible antagonist, the truth is both the game and villain belong with the absolute best in the franchise. There’s an emotional impact in defeating Sephiroth that’s possibly unmatched. However, while certain mechanics of the fight itself are cool I can’t help but weigh how easy the battle is compared to much more difficult ones before and after. I understand if Sephiroth is your number one, but I simply don’t remember the actual fight as much as I do the story surrounding it.
13.Final Fantasy V – Exdeath/Neo Exdeath
“I am Neo-Exdeath, all memories…dimensions…existence, all that shall be turned to nothing, then I too can disappear, for eternity!!!”
Let’s get this out of the way: I love Gilgamesh. Exdeath vanished Gilgamesh to the void. This is a factor in his placement on the list. My list.
Power corrupts absolutely. Hadn’t Exdeath ever heard this phrase? Truly, Exdeath was presented as an overwhelming opponent wielding a power possibly too great for anybody – but he controlled it. It was inevitable that the void would consume Exdeath, but it was still really cool to see it play out. Plus the fight was pretty fun.
Exdeath isn’t actually all that menacing as long as you have a Ribbon or two. His main threats are turning the party to Stone or Frog, but aside from that it’s fairly straightforward. After Neo Exdeath crawls out from the void it’s a whole new ballgame. There are four body parts, and it’s up to you how you dispatch them. Do you take out the front section because it has low HP, or leave it since it doesn’t pose a huge threat? Do you leave the back section and rick getting destroyed by a constant barrage of Meteor spells? Neo is relentless and attacks with physical, magic and status ailment attacks. It can be hard to breath, and sometimes defeating a section can make the rest of the fight even harder. What’s more, the boss scales with your level meaning he remains a challenge at almost any level.
Final Fantasy V is known for its job system and by extension its combat. As a final boss, Exdeath and his subsequent twisted form Neo exdeath, you have a great challenge and all of the other trapping to make for a memorable villain. As if to punctuate the fight, the background is the only animated on in the game.
12.Final Fantasy IX – Ozma
Ozma is FFIX’s super boss, and it only has about 55,000 health. It’s not a menacing looking fiend or a fearsome dragon, just an odd little sphere. Nothing about it would lead you to believe it would be the hardest fight in the game, but if you suffered through the multiple efforts to defeat Ozma you assuredly remember it – and respect it.
Like many of the optional bosses in Final Fantasy, certain elements and preparations can make this fight much easier – but still difficult – however, if you aren’t using a guide or wiki this encounter can be maddening. If you happen to fight him with a character with a level multiple of 5 (which I didn’t) he will cast Lv5 Death, which you can avoid with the proper gear. If you have a character level ending with a multiple of 4 (which I didn’t) he will cast a weak Lv4 Holy spell. Even if you fulfill both of those conditions Ozma’s constant full regeneration of its health and his devastating attacks makes it tough regardless. Most frustrating is the fact that you can only get one attack off at a time. As Ozma’s ATB is filling if you select an attack his gauge will automatically fill up all the way. So, in essence the 55,000 feels like 55 million (ok, maybe not if you’ve faught Yiazmat).
Just like the entire game, the uniqueness of Ozma is one of the main reasons he stands out. But the fight is also just very challenging. I really appreciate that it has no set attack pattern or perfect party composition. Truly this fight is highly flexible and because of that it’s more difficult because a guide can only help you so much. Also, you get the Ozma Tetra Master card, which is good because I suck at that minigame.
11.Final Fantasy X – Yunalesca
“It is better for you to die in hope than to live in despair. Let me be your liberator.”
The story of Final Fantasy X may be the best in the renowned series – it’s certainly up there regardless. Just as was the case with the Biran and Yenke fight, the emotional trappings of this fight and the beautiful thematic resonance makes this encounter really stand out – except unlike the Ronso bullies it has the feel of a true boss battle.
Yunalesca is a great boss specifically because (without preparation) she is difficult to defeat and one must learn through defeat to best her, but she isn’t cheap or overpowered. For one, Aeons are all but worthless. The first stage of the battle her attacks take away your buffs while she casts status affect magic on you. Upon beating her for the first time she casts zombie on the entire party, as well as regen and other healing magic – which of course hurts you. This can certainly be remedied quite easily; however, in a stroke of evil genius her third form casts Mega Death, wiping out your entire party unless one is still a zombie or you have auto-life cast.
Once you know the machinations of the fight it becomes fairly easy, but the first time you go up against her it’s a wonderful mix of confusion and revelation – like figuring out attack patterns for bosses in Mega Man. Still, even if this were an easy fight from the start the poignancy of it all and the ambiguousness of Yunalesca true intentions makes this immediately memorable in a game full of instances that are similar.
10.Final Fantasy IV – Zeromus
“My hatred will not be stanched until it has consumed all else! You shall be next. Come! Pass into this darkness I have wrought!”
When people recount the best villains of Final Fantasy it’s usually either Kefka or Sephiroth, and for good reasons. However, just like Final Fantasy IV is sometimes forgotten as a legitimate contender for being the best game in the franchise, so too does Zemus (who turns into Zeromus) get lost in the debate for best villains. Which is a shame, because he definitely belongs in the discussion.
Zeromus is a surprisingly simple fight. Attack and then heal for a few turns. That’s how powerful his spells are. I love that the battle begins almost like a standoff – he won’t do anything until you use the crystal. This does give you time to buff, but it will likely be removed fairly quickly by his Black Hole attack. Even though it’s easy to give up on buffing because it won’t last it’s very integral to keeping your party alive and dishing out enough damage to defeat Zeromus. Like Neo Exdeath, this fight has the only animated background. And it also has one kickass song to accompany the fight.
The Zeromus battle is a hard one to rate. It isn’t a complex battle, but it’s hard. So much of what makes a great boss battle is a complex attack pattern/multiple stages and Zeromus doesn’t offer that. It’s simple a well calibrated fight against the somewhat forgotten badass in the Final Fantasy franchise.
9. Final Fantasy VIII – Omega Weapon
Omega Weapon is easily Final Fantasy VIII’s toughest boss – it even says so after you defeat him. Without the right preparation the player has little hope of defeating him, and even if properly prepared the super boss proves a tremendous challenge. You feel like a boss after defeating this super boss.
Omega Weapon will periodically cast LV5 Death, meaning you’d better have immunity to death or you will be decimated. Also, he absorbs all elemental damage so it’s extremely easy to accidentally heal him. Omega’s attacks all hit very hard, but surprisingly there is an attack pattern. After casting Meggido Flame, which does exactly 9,998 he will use Gravija, which shaves 75% of everyone’s health – but it doesn’t kill. So, you can actually use this moment to deal out some extra damage or gather yourself. Still, his last attack is one that if it hits will instantly KO a party member regardless of immunity to death. Somehow, even though there is an ebb and flow to this fight, it still manages to be very tough and a lot of fun.
As far as super bosses go, Omega Weapon clearly belongs near the top. It has a lineage similar to Bahamut that makes it immediately cool. It’s a difficult fight. It rewards you. You learn the fight – what to do and what not to do. It’s an accumulative effort that’s befitting of being high on this list.
8.Final Fantasy – Warmech
The original Final Fantasy, released in Japan on the Super Famicon in 1987, though simple compared to later iterations in the franchise surprisingly resembles its sequels quite a bit. The mechanics are far more basic and often lacking, and the game is one of the hardest in the series with the final boss – Chaos – being no exception. However, Final Fantasy has created a reputation for giving the players optional fights, often more difficult than story bosses, to both challenge their skill and reward their bravery.
Following the defeat of the Kraken (release it!) you can either move on to fight the fourth fiend, Tiamat, or take on the imposing Warmech. The vast majority of enemies in the original Final Fantasy were typical fantasy monsters – even the bosses usually followed the same trend – so to behold a large, mechanized war machine not only brought uniqueness to the fight, but also slightly intimidated you. Having played almost every Final Fantasy game, I can’t help but retroactively loving this fight for foreshadowing the fantasy/steampunk theme so many of the games would implement.
The final boss, Chaos, is certainly the most difficult encounter in the game as he randomly casts powerful spells the player has seen that wreak havoc on even the most well prepared party, making it difficult to even attack him. But Warmech is no pushover. Indeed, if you aren’t careful his powerful attacks (I believe the hardest hitting in the game) will lay waste to the entire party, forcing the player to think defense first. Even more troubling is its constant health regeneration. Warmech may be just as fun of a fight as Chaos and nearly as important to the series and the trends that developed and continue into each new entry to date. Superbosses, thank Warmech for existing.
7.Final Fantasy VII – Ruby/Emerald Weapons
Final Fantasy VII actually has two super bosses, and they are inextricably tied to one another. At first I thought Ruby Weapon was invincible and that Emerald was impossible, but eventually I learned. However, I must admit I had to consult a guide to beat Ruby because who would have figured out only one party member could start the fight, thus prompting Ruby to emerge. Still, both Ruby and Emerald are rightfully synonymous not just with Final Fantasy VII, but with optional bosses in general.
First, Emerald Weapon. Much like Ruby Weapon, your first attempt to defeat Emerald will absolutely fail without a guide. Not having the underwater material equipped means you have 20 minutes to beat Emerald, and if you employ the Knights of the Round (which I ultimately did) then you had better be maxed out or close to it because the timer – if I remember correctly – continues while the animations play out. Emerald has several interesting abilities. One is it has an attack that does 1,100 damage times the amount of material you have equipped, meaning unless you implicitly equipped your party with less it will always KO a player. Also, it releases two eyes that do a ton of damage and if you choose to continue attacking Emerald it will immediately use Revenge Stamp doing thousands of damage to the entire party. I, like many players, came up with some combination of: Knights of the Round and mimic and also Final attack and Phoenix. It’s a tenuous line of constant attack with the possibility of defeat because the battle is out of your hand for large stretches of time, but it’s exhilarating nonetheless. Emerald Weapon is more a test of patience and dedication to strengthening your party; whereas Ruby is about strategy and skill.
Upon finally coaxing Ruby Weapon from his slumber I decided to try my same attack pattern for defeating Emerald. Little did I know that Ruby has a trick up its sleeve for that. It is possible to temporarily paralyze the superboss, but if it isn’t and it’s hit with a Knights of the Round it will automatically counterattack with Ultima. Try and guess how my first “real” attempt at fighting him went. But you know what? I appreciate the Square was thoughtful enough to realize how popular Knights of the Round would be and to make it a double-edged sword to defeat Ruby. Awareness is the key to defeating this superboss, and I love it.
There are certain elements that I feel absolutely must be in a Final Fantasy game for it to feel complete. One of them is powerful superbosses. Ironically, turning in the Earth Harp (Emerald Weapon) and Desert Rose (Ruby Weapon) gives you some pretty sweet stuff. Unfortunately, if you are strong enough to defeat these denizens of the deep then you won’t find much use for them. If you’ve beaten both of these bosses, then you have my respect as a true Final Fantasy fan. If you haven’t, then you are really missing out.
6.Final Fantasy XII – Zodiark
Even with all of the dark protection gear in the world Zodiark’s devastating attack can instantly KO a party member. Darkja is so powerful it can literally Blind a KO’s party member. Meat Zodiark, your worst freaking nightmare.
The beginning of the fight is relatively straightforward – as straightforward as not being able to prevent automatic KO’s is. Focus physical attacks and healing downed party members as necessary. This sounds easier than it is because I cannot express how scary Darkja is, his second strongest attack. Once his health is around 50% he will begin casting Magik Shield, which is a nuisance because while up it’s impossible to dispel the buffs he puts on himself. He hits hard enough without stat increases, trust me. Having a strong secondary party is key so your primary party has a chance to regroup. Scathe is a widespread attack that can level an entire party, so keeping proper distance and positioning is key. Once Zodiark is around ¼ health your best chance to kill him is now, as a powerful enough Quickening can beat him. He changes his elemental weakness, so one must be wary of that. If you are unable to get that one big damage spike, he will enrage and do much more damage while putting up Reflect and Wall that will send all your damage right back at you. At that point he is so close to dying, and you probably are too, that it’s unbelievably simple to kill yourself. Zodiark is an evil, evil boss fight.
Oh yeah, Zodiark’s attacks ignore shield. I forgot to mention that.
Without a doubt, Zodiark has to be one of the most difficult boss fights in the series. Seriously, you can prepare specifically for his Darkja attack and it still will often KO a party member. Between the brutal attack and constantly switching defense, if you wanna beat the best Esper in the game you had better be prepared and have quick reflexes. Just thinking about this fight brings a smile to my face…and a scowl.
5.Final Fantasy – Chaos
“But I will be reborn once more. So even as you die, again and again, I shall return. Born again in this endless cycle I have created!”
The original final boss of the Final Fantasy series, how ironic then that he claims immortality? After fighting the four fiendish incarnations of Garland’s twisted soul, the player finally confronts the demonic beast known as Chaos, the remnants of what is left of the power hungry Garland. In the late eighties, devils and the like were becoming increasingly common as major, even endgame bosses, so what helps set this one apart from the rest?
For one, the beautiful art design of Chaos really helped created a malevolent visage – it sold the entire story. It’s hard to breathe life and personality into 8-bit graphics, especially ones with highly complex designs, but Square always seemed to be at the forefront of visuals in the genre. Factor in the foreboding music in the background and arduous journey to the final showdown, and Chaos proved to be a well rounded fight worthy of capping off Final Fantasy.
In the end, the reason the Chaos fight is one of the most memorable is the ever important nostalgia factor. To be sure, Chaos is a very difficult fight in a difficult game; but one cannot discount how significance the original final boss in the most prominent JRPG franchise ever is. The encounter may not have been the most strategic or dramatic the series has seen, but it was the first. And it still holds up pretty well today.
4.Final Fantasy X – Lord Braska’s Final Aeon
“I can’t hear the Hymn so well anymore. Pretty soon, I’m gonna be Sin. Completely. I’m glad you’re here now. One thing, though… When it starts, I won’t be myself anymore. I won’t be able to hold myself back. I’m sorry.“
You know how some movies, often mysteries, get better each time you watch them because you understand the basic plot and can spot seemingly insignificant details you didn’t notice the first time through? Final Fantasy X is like that, except a video game. The story is complex and incredibly touching, and it serves that the final boss – well, real final real boss – evoke a confusing mix of sadness and terror. Trying desperately to stop Sin, Tidus stares down the perverse remains of what used to be his father, Jecht, now as Yu Yevon’s monstrous final aeon.
This battle is special because it’s such a grand combination of a final boss battle and a cinematic experience. Highlighting the cinematic elements is the ability for Tidus to talk down his father, trying to appeal to what humanity might be lurking in the depths of the beast. But you can only use this twice, so saving it towards the end, which Jecht is enraging, not only makes logical sense but also feels like the most appropriate time for Tidus to plead to his father. Beginning the fight Lord Braska’s Final Aeon is accompanied by two Yu Pagodas which act as healers, undoing any negative status ailments and giving health back to Jecht. It’s a good idea to take them out, but unfortunately they reappear in a few turns. Not only must you continuously fight Jecht and destroy his two pagados, but also you must stave off the statuses Ject inflicts upon you – namely petrification. Once you’ve done enough damage, the boss pulls a nasty sword from his chest and starts causing massive damage. Damage which also delays the party’s turns.
Also, while one can use Aeons against Lord Braska’s Final Aeon you must remember that he is appropriately named. Jecht will deal massive damage to your Aeon, so it might be better to save them. In all, with the emotional swings throughout the last segment of the game, how fun the fight is and how amazing the end is, this fight is definitely one of the most memorable in the Final Fantasy series. Sure, many might just recall fighting Tidus’ father and not the “proper” name, but in a way that proves how unforgettable he is.
3.Final Fantasy VIII – Ultimecia
“This is reality. No one can help you. Sit back and enjoy the show”
If this were a list of the top 25 Final Fantasy dungeons, Ultimecia’s Realm surely would be number one. In fact, while the Ultimecia fight stands on its own, the series of boss battles leading up to her fight and the Mega Man-like choice of what order to fight them in to gain abilities adds a unique twist to dungeons. When entering the witch’s gothic inspired realm, the player’s party is stripped of all abilities. Depending on what boss you face, you will regain a specific power. It’s reminiscent of starting a game fully powered up to get an idea of what you could become (think Dragon Age or Chrono Cross) and then stealing away all that power. Even though these bosses are not a part of the Ultimecia fight, I cannot separate them from the final showdown. It’s one incredible package.
From the very beginning Ultimecia casts some of the most devastating magic in the game: Flare, Holy, Meteor, Ultima. She doesn’t hold back, even on debuffing the party. She even has an attack which reduces the party to 1 HP – but that’s become common in Final Fantasy at this juncture (get it). After enough damage is dealt she adds literally one of the strongest spells in the history of Final Fantast – Apocalypse. Basically, it’s a beefed up version of Ultima! All this while occasionally drawing the entirety of a spell from you, junctioned or not. It’s possible to defeat her lower half first, and I’d recommend it because Apocalypse is just that devastating. She also has the ability to draw her magical, meaning her next spell will instantly cast. An instant Apocalypse is very easily a game over, man. Once you’ve done enough damage, the fight seamlessly plays into a cinematic fight where you must still attack to continue her dying monologue. It’s a triumphant feeling to be sure.
Occasionally there are bosses who have been hyped to be extremely powerful, only for the battle to be disappointing. Then, there are bosses you think are going to be strong and they utterly destroy you. Ultimecia is most definitely the latter. Even if I didn’t feel her inextricably tied to her dungeon and string of bosses, her fight would remain one of the absolute best in the series and the pinnacle of powerful mages. As an antagonist, Ultimecia is pretty wicked. As final boss, she is a nightmare.
2.Final Fantasy VI – Kefka
“Life… dreams… hope… Where do they come from? And where do they go? Such meaningless things…I’ll destroy them all!“
Kefka Palazzo, the greatest villain in Final Fantasy lore. Transcending to a god-like being of magic, it’s always such an odd sight seeing the heinously evil Kefka adorned with angelic wings and hearing the discordant yet fixating theme. The song is haunting. It starts out as a odd carnival-like melody and blends into something akin to a funeral procession. It’s not the best song in the game, not by a long shot, but it so perfectly encapsulates Kefka.
Immediately Keka starts the battle by casting Heartless Angel, reducing the party to 1 HP. More a gesture of his immense strength than anything, but it still gets the point across. Like you would expect, his arsenal includes the most powerful spells in the game. Eventually he will begin casting a move called Forsaken, which seems ominous but isn’t as powerful as Ultima. Throughout the fight Kefka is tossing status ailments on you and taking negative ones off him, so it’s important to manage the situation. He begins countering every attack with Hyperdrive, forcing you to be more judicial with your attacks. It’s not until he begins to counter with Ultima and use Meteor and Forsaken without charging that the fight truly gets intense. It may be relatively straightforward, but Kefka’s power is matched only by how wicked he is.
Kefka killed thousands upon thousands of people. Halfway through the game he scorched the world and built a tower so he could look down upon the puny, weak humans and obliterate any intolerance for his reign. Rarely does one feel so compelled to throw down with a final boss, and the Kefka fight is one for the ages because it’s so well balanced. Now, of course, it’s possible to kill him in a hit or two with the right equipment and levels; but let’s take the fight for what it is: a chance for vengeance. A chance for redemption. A chance to hope again.
1.Final Fantasy XII – Gilgamesh
“Fools! You face the mightiest swordsman in all Ivalice! You face ME! GILGAMESH!”
This should come as no surprise, but hear me out: It’s the Final Fantasy version of the fight between Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 4.
Your first encounter with Gilgamesh is a huge nostalgia bomb as you find him on a bridge with a reworked version of his theme from Final Fantasy V. It’s exactly as it should be, a test of strength and character. Gilgamesh is accompanied by his faithful friend Enkidu, and together they make a difficult duo. Each time a cutscene appears, where Gilgamesh makes a funny quip and pulls out a different replica sword, he rebuffs himself. It’s important to dispel his buffs quickly because even in the first fight he can deal out some serious damage. Once you’ve beaten Enkidu, Gilgamesh isn’t nearly as threatening. He will run away around 30% health, making you chase him.
The second encounter begins just like the first one did, except Gilgamesh and Enkidu are much stronger this time around and you will constantly be bombarded with long chains of attacks and ailments. It’s very difficult to take out Enkidu, but also important as having two enemies makes it very frustrating to sustain an attack or even heal. Once you’ve dispatched his furry friend, Gilgamesh goes in a rage. The battle is, in a sense, more manageable at this point but it’s also much more dangerous. If Gilgamesh lands an attack that player is almost certainly dead. He attacks with the ferocity of a battle enraged warrior angered by the lost of his companion. Once defeated, he disappears; and as the party turns around they find the Masamune sticking out of the ground – a reward for a valiant fight.
The fight against Gilgamesh isn’t the most complex or the biggest challenge – though it’s not easy by any means. It’s not the most emotionally overwhelming. But it does hearken back to previous Final Fantasies with the most famous blades from many of them being showcased. Gilgamesh is simply a fantastic character, and when you learn that it’s likely the same Gilgamesh in each final fantasy it makes you smile at the thought. Does he have the real versions of the knockoffs he uses? What are his true motives? I can understand those who might disagree with my selection for number one; but for me, while the rest of the list was difficult, number one was pretty easy.
So, what did ya think? Tell me about your favorite Final Fantasy boss.