The last few years have been a challenge in and of themselves, yet some of us still go looking for more punishment by facing boss fights in our favorite hobby. The good news is that 2023 steadily lifted the curtain on a fine selection of main-stage menaces. Some provided sheer difficulty, others spectacle. A few even dared add a dash of horror. Here are our picks for the best boss fights of 2023.
Colgera - The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Colgera, Scourge of the Wind Temple is likely the first boss fight most players faced in Nintendo’s open-world Zelda sequel. And what an encounter this sky-soaring centipede brought. Taking place entirely in the air, the Colgera fight demonstrated that difficulty isn’t the only mark of a memorable boss.
This epic sequence sees Link plummeting through the air before rising again on wind currents, dodging whirlwinds and seeking openings to shatter Colgera’s vulnerable inner rings. An undeniably cool premise was perfected by the phenomenal accompanying score. Strings rise and fall erratically like the winds, with a pan flute narrating each flurry of action. In the fight’s ultimate stage, elements of Wind Waker’s Dragon Roost Island theme dramatically enter the mix, blending a beat of nostalgia into an already stellar struggle.
King of Puppets – Lies of P
Lies of P is crammed so full of unforgiving, borderline unfair boss fights that it feels like a merchant trying just a little too hard to prove the value of its goods. What’s your flavor – an infuriating, spinning clown; a band of bastard bandits; or a demonic, laser-spewing archbishop? We’ve got any and every type of pain you could ask for!
Our vote for a favorite, however, has to go to the mid-game King of Puppets. Not only is this an important fight from a narrative standpoint, it’s a mechanical and visual feast too. The first stage sees you dodging around an oversized mechanical sovereign who looks like the Burger King mascot on the come down after too many puppet-powering steroids. He’s a large, unwieldy foe that forces you to get up close and under him to deal damage.
Overcome that and you’ll face Romeo, King of Puppets. This slender figure dramatically reshapes the duel, throwing out varied combos and closing the distance rapidly with acrobatic scythe swings. For added grandeur, the showdown takes place before a baroque opera house stage, flames licking at the arena edges as the duel progresses.
Ketheric Thorm – Baldur's Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t short of fearsome foes for its heroes (or anti-heroes) to face. Few, however, make such a memorable impact as Ketheric Thorm. An immortal being barred from death to serve Myrkul, god of the dead, Thorm sounds like an out-and-out villain. But the more you learn of his past, the more pitiable he becomes. His ruinous decisions are the narrative crux of Act 2, and the cause of the blight which has smothered the land in shadow.
The eventual boss fight with Thorm definitely meets the build which precedes it. You face him first atop the peak of his outpost, with Thorm fighting as a paladin. A victory there sees you hounding him down into the depths below. Amid the pulsating walls of the Mind Flayer colony, he rises as the Apostle of Myrkul, a towering skeleton with ragged wings and dangling incense braziers.
Defeating this undead avatar offers two-fold relief: victory over an immensely powerful foe, and release from the suffocating shadow curse. With Ketheric Thorm down, players finally have the chance to see sunshine again and reach the titular city itself.
Jack Krauser – Resident Evil 4
This year’s retelling of Leon’s European holiday did a mostly fantastic – Salazar’s goo-vomiting new form excepted – job of remixing the original’s boss fights. Knife-wielding mercenary Krauser received one of the most exciting shake ups. Tossing its previous quick-time cutscene format to the wind, his first encounter now plays out as a tense one-on-one duel. The two former squadmates, Leon and Krauser, face off in the depths of the castle, trading knife swings and barbed insults aplenty.
Krauser’s later fight is no less thrilling. To actually confront him, you first need to navigate a maze of traps, fending off his surprise strikes in the process. The final clash is as bare-chested as ever, and even Krauser’s bizarre weakness to knife damage in the original gets a nod via Leon’s counterattacks. Best of all, when Krauser is eventually down and out, you get to claim his blade for yourself. A fine trophy indeed, rookie.
Croustalion – Sea of Stars
This year’s love letter to JRPGs of yesteryear hit all the right notes when it came to boss design. Sabotage studio’s Sea of Stars is full of gigantic, multi-layered collages of sprites creating some of the most awe-inspiring monsters possible in pixelated form. And none more thrilling than final boss of the obligatory-but-optional arena fight sidequest: Croustalion.
This gigantic crab is actually present during all fights in the Port of Brisk’s newly constructed colosseum, chilling out as a backdrop of jagged rocks and shipwrecks before springing into the ring for the ultimate showdown. A challenging gimmick of launching two treasure chests that deal party-wide damage or heal Croustalion forces you to make tactical decisions on how to spend your elemental attacks to prevent them casting. But Croustalion’s crowning glory is that once defeated, it shrinks down thanks to you removing a curse, and is so thankful it joins your ship’s crew, basking on a deck railing for the rest of its days. We love a good enemies to friends storyline, and Sea of Stars is chock full of them.
What foes did you find fun in fighting during 2023? Ensure you’re ready to face the fiercer threats of 2024 by equipping HyperX gaming gear! You'll find no finer armaments with which to duel next year's naughty list.