At this, the tail-end of what the fans have begun to dub “Zelda Month”, I wanted to offer my own paltry praise and tribute to the massively-entertaining and immersive series of games known as The Legend of Zelda.
I have been playing a little bit of Triforce Heroes with my friends, and I got to thinking: Zelda has some really fun and memorable bosses. Only in this most recent game have we been able to use other players to team up and defeat them, but the variety of settings, monsters, items, and, for lack of a better phrase, ways to expose and exploit weaknesses, have become pretty ingeniously inventive since the first game’s release in 1986. Add spectacular graphics and wide fields of movement to the mix, and you come away with much more challenging battles.
So today, I thought I’d give you my top ten favorite boss fights across the whole series.
I’m sorry to say, and don’t hate me for this, there will be no 2-D battles on this list. I haven’t played many of the earlier games, and most of the ones I have tried didn’t grab me the way 3-D Zelda games have. I think that is mostly due to how I was introduced to the series in the first place, with Ocarina of Time.
I love Oracle of Seasons and Ages, but those are the only ones I’ve beaten. And I digress.
Here we go!
At the very top of the list, we have the final boss battle in Majora’s Mask.
If you’ve obtained the Fierce Deity Mask, the fight is insultingly easy, but it makes my number ten spot because it’s fun, fast-paced, and batshit insane.
Majora’s first form is the mask itself, hovering around the arena while shooting beams at you and bringing the mask-remains of the former bosses to life to distract you.
Once you’ve sufficiently slashed that, Majora grows limbs and a head with a single, large eye as its second form, and it darts around and dances wildly while a silly, distorted version of its theme plays in the background.
The third and final form bulks Majora up like a body builder, and gives it shocking whips that grow from its hands.
This is the hardest stage of the battle, but again, not that hard for boss standards and certainly not for those of final bosses. But because the rest of the game is fairly challenging, Majora’s Mask can be forgiven in this instance.
9) Ganon (TP)
Zelda games fall under two categories most of the time: those in which Ganon (Ganondorf) is the villain throughout, and those in which Ganon hijacks the plot away from another villain (usually by way of Villain B attempting to summon him). Twilight Princess is probably the most egregious example of the latter, and while the battle with Zant was epic and challenging and I feel bad for not putting him here, some room must be made on this list for the king villain of the entire series.
Of all of the Ganon/dorf fights, this game has my favorite. The first stage involves fighting a possessed Princess Zelda, doing the classic light attack volley. Then, a massive wild boar charging at you, and you have to alternate between your human and wolf forms to defeat him. The wolf form is one of my favorite mechanics introduced in any Zelda game, and pitting a beast against a much larger beast and still coming out on top is very satisfying.
In the third stage, you are chasing Ganondorf on horseback across a wide stretch of Hyrule Field, with Zelda reprising her role from the final battle in Wind Waker by firing light arrows to slow him down.
Being able to use your sword while riding is a great upgrade from the last game, and you can either beat a path to Ganondorf or lag behind, slashing at his virtually ineffectual minions. It’s really fun.
Just avoid energy beams, as they will sting.
Lastly, you fight him mano-a-mano, applying the sword techniques you learned from the Hero’s Shade throughout your journey. The only one you really need is the finishing blow, which you will be made to learn anyway, but the introduction of specific sword and shield techniques to the gameplay adds thrills and even a bit of skill to your battles, especially this one. Ganondorf can move and block fairly well, so being able to roll behind him and slash at his unprotected back can really help you.
Really, this game added a lot of good things. Some people say it’s just a rip off of Ocarina of Time with more story and better graphics, but I don’t think that’s fair. It’s not the most creative entry in the series, but it’s definitely not a straight-up rehash. A beefed-up, though still flawed, spiritual sequel is what I’d call it.
Ocarina of Time presents: Whack-A-Mole!:
7) Armogohma (TP)
I was tempted to put Gohma from Wind Waker here (Zelda has quite a few Gohma incarnations across the series, actually), but as fun as it is to hook on to a dragon’s tail with a grappling hook and swing over a giant beetle-centipede lava monster’s head, angering the dragon and unsettling the rocks on the ceiling and crushing said monster (yes, really), you know what’s more satisfying?
Squishing a spider!
The Armagohma fight in this game is a nice and familiar retread of the Gohma fight in Ocarina of Time, but, as you might have guessed from the gushing in the Ganon section, incorporates new elements for a relatively challenging battle.
Armagohma is bigger and more spider-like than ever, but with the help of the Temple of Time’s item, the Dominion Rod, you can bring her down quickly. Literally. When she crawls up onto the ceiling, shoot her in the giant eye on her back with an arrow. When she falls to the ground, Link can use the Dominion Rod to take control of one of the nearby giant statues and crush her weak spot with its hammer.
The only part I don’t like is when you finally break her hard exoskeleton, she turns into a bunch of gross mini-spiders, led by a main spider that apparently made up the eyeball on her back. This is gross and mildly annoying, but once you get here, you know you’re basically in the clear.
6) Hellmaroc King
Spoilers: It’s a giant flying chicken.
In Wind Waker, you take the most awesome hammer in the entire series and smash a giant monster chicken in the face! How cool is that?
This villain was a bit more personal for me than most others. It appears a few times before you fight it, once when kidnapping Link’s little sister and then again catching you just before you can rescue her, only to fling you out into the sea to drown. Sure, it’s technically a lackey, but the game got me to build up a vendetta against this stupid giant chicken and boy is the conclusion to that plot satisfying!
First, you goad the bird into trying to attack you, causing it to bury its beak in the ground and trap it momentarily.
The hammer then chips away at its protective mask, until you can finally do more damage to the chicken itself. Meanwhile, dodge its gliding swipe attacks and gusts of wind, which will blow you into the painful spikes ringing the arena if you aren’t careful.
It’s not the most fun battle in the whole series, but it’s definitely one of the most satisfying.
In Twilight Princess, you come upon an old, dilapidated mansion in the mountains and meet two yeti, a husband and wife, who hold one of the pieces of a cursed mirror that you need.
The yeti are nice and obliging, but the husband is preoccupied with making soup for his sick wife, and his wife can’t remember where she put the key to their bedroom, where the mirror shard lives, and you have to follow her baffled directions several times before you get it right. It’s a dungeon in practice, but not in name.
Eventually, Yeta the yeti will lead you to the bedroom and unlock it. In a case of complete tonal whiplash, the sweet yeti takes a look at the mirror and goes full-on Gollum over it.
This boss battle involves using a spiked ball and chain to chip away at the moving ice chunks that encase Yeta. The boss will go up on the ceiling, so watch the reflection on the floor and dive out of the way as she attempts to crush you with each ice chunk. Once that is done, you have a brief moment to break the ice, and eventually, you will attack the center chunk and free Yeta.
I love the music, the fight style, and the nice, helpful character who is corrupted and forced to battle you. It would be more emotional and dramatic in a movie, I think, but it works well in the game.
The moral of the story (and the theme of this list, so far): smashing things is fun.
4) Twinrova (OoT)
I really like witches and natural element-based powers, so why not combine the two? Elemental witches!
In the last temple of the game, the Spirit Temple, you fight Koume and Kotake, Ganondorf’s mothers(?), who can shoot beams of fire and ice respectively. When Koume fires you (pun intended), target Kotake and let the mirror shield do the rest. When Kotake gives you the cold shoulder, target Koume.
I just love turning the enemy’s powers against them; it’s a more epic version of “Stop Hitting Yourself.”
After about three or four successful deflections, the witches will combine into this delightful thing:
She still has two staffs, one per element, and you just have to let her hit your shield three times with the same element, and it will create a blast strong enough to knock her to the ground…I guess because at least half of her is weak against either element? Then, hop over to the platform she’s on and smash! (your hammer does more damage, so I use that)
It’s relatively simple, but very fun, and combined with the cutscenes, it makes a nice conclusion to your journey through the Spirit Temple and your dungeon/temple run in general.
…But she is kind of creepy too.
Speaking of using your enemy’s power against itself…
The whip seems a little lame compared to most dungeon items, and switching between it and the sword when you need to slash immediately afterwards can be a bit annoying, but it makes this fight a fan favorite, and one of the most memorable in all of Zelda, for one major reason: you rip off your enemy’s arms, steal its sword, and then beat it to death with it.
Koloktos is a giant golden automaton reminiscent of an ancient Buddhist deity, bearing multiple arms and swords. It sits still at first, striking at you and then chucking blades at you when you get too far away. But once you do enough damage, it gets up on legs as well. It can also summon up zombie bokoblins to hurt you.
The exterior of the boss is very hard, so once it puts a cage around its weak spot (can you guess where?), the only way you can get to it is by using something just as hard and massive. This is where the real fun comes in, but you have to be quick on your feet. Even if you manage to detach one or two arms, Koloktos has a wide range for its powerful swipes, and you have to balance staying in range so you can attack while also not getting completely clobbered.
Hearts will burst from any pillars Koloktos destroys. These will be your friend.
Then, when at least one arm/sword combo hits the ground, pick up the blade and go to town. Bowl over bokoblins, or go straight for the boss. Whatever you do, it is absolutely essential that you cackle maniacally.
This fight is made all the more enjoyable by the vastly-improved motion controls (improved since Twilight Princess, which was not designed with them in mind to begin with). If only you could also hit something in real life, I think this fight would be damn near perfect. As it stands, it’s pretty satisfying.
I give this one major points for creativity, and for being the most fun sword fight of all of the games. This boss even gets a little bit creepy when you hear the girlish, childish giggle it lets out upon defeat (~4:40 of the video above).
Short, but sweet, and without a doubt my favorite boss fight in Majora’s Mask.
He’s not the prettiest boss, but he packs a wallop.
Goht charges around the track/room as a giant mechanical bull, and you must don the Goron mask to roll out and give chase. Every time you slam into him, he will send chaotic bolts of lightning back at you, as well as place extra obstacles in your path, from falling stalactites to kicked up bombs.
The nice thing is that you don’t need to worry about running low on energy; the room is full of green energy pots, and all you have to do is roll into them and keep on going.
I’ve heard some people call this fight difficult, and I guess that’s because it’s a rare instance of controlling a racing object, rather than moving more slowly with a sword in hand. But it’s not rocket science. Hugging the inside of the track will make you go faster, and dodging projectiles is fairly easy when you’re over or under a certain distance behind Goht.
It’s not nearly as difficult as the Goron race track.
I love the hell out of this fight. Majora’s Mask very kindly lets you go back and replay any boss fight that you want at any time, and more often than not, I find myself back in Snowhead Temple, ready for another run with Goht.
After rocking your way through one of the best dungeons in the entire game (Twilight Princess’s Arbiter’s Grounds), and snagging one of the most fun and memorable additions to the LoZ arsenal, the Spinner, you reach my favorite boss of all time.
Stallord the Twilit Fossil comes alive as a towering skeleton creature, held up by several small vertebrae, emerging from a sea of quicksand. In addition to breathing fire and surrounding the outskirts of the sandpit with rotating circling blade traps, he summons up armored but otherwise harmless soldiers to surround and protect his spine, which serves as the weak point.
To defeat Stallord, mount the spinner like a skateboard and latch yourself onto the circular edge that runs around the sandpit. When you see an opportunity, or have to avoid a blade trap or fire blast, detach from the edge and make a beeline for his spine.
You may pinball off of the soldiers, but each one you hit is one less that you will have to go through the next time through. Avoid losing momentum and getting stuck in the pit by hooking back onto the edge whenever possible.
After the traditional three to five good hits, this battle actually gets a part two.
Stallord will fall to the ground, leaving only the head. It will come alive again, levitating, and shoot fire blasts at you some more. Hop back on the spinner and hook onto the ridge along the center pillar. The wall to your right will also have a track, and you must jump back and forth between the two surfaces to avoid being burned.
The blasts will cause Stallord to slow down slightly, so eventually, you’ll end up right next to his head. Jump into him, and then once he is lying helpless on the ground, strike the sword in the center of his forehead as many times as you can. When he gets up again, the blade traps will start to appear more frequently, making the next few hits a little bit harder to land.
Much like the Ghot fight, this boss battle involves staying in motion almost constantly. Riding around on the spinner is inexplicably, ridiculously fun, and it’s a shame that the item has virtually no use outside of its dungeon. Using it in battle is a test of your planning and reaction time more than anything else, but the crunch of breaking apart Stallord’s spine is just as satisfying as striking anything with a sword.
I’m not usually a fan of boss battles that have multiple parts/forms/etc, but I’ll gladly make an exception for my favorite Zelda battle of all time.
Who agrees? Who disagrees? Who’s feeling half and half? Let me know in the comments, and Happy December Holiday!
*The pictures and footage belong to Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto. I do not own nor claim right to any of it.