Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (2023)

The Dark Souls series is often the benchmark for comparison in challenging games. For a game to be considered hard to beat, it must pass the Dark Souls test. Instead of adding multiple difficulty levels, the developers purposely went out of their way to make the game next to impossible to beat. The Dark Souls legacy continues to live on through the Souls-like subgenre it has spawned.

Related: Demon's Souls: Every Class, Ranked From Worst to Best

The Souls-like subgenre is snowballing thanks to developers like FromSoftware and Team Ninja. With the Demon's Souls remake and Elden Ring at the top of the heap, the Souls-like subgenre is going anywhere. With new IPs and challengers in the genre, players have a solid choice, but they must be prepared for the nightmarish boss fights that are included with them.

Updated May 20, 2023, by Michael Llewellyn: If the recent hit Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty proves anything, it is challenging Souls-like games are here to stay. The games where every fight can prove dangerous, from the smallest grunts to giant bosses, can halt a player's progress if they are careless are exactly why fans come back for more.

The epic boss fights, in particular, are why fans return to the genre. Done right, they are like puzzles to solve where players must tactically watch their opponents, their tells, and their openings. This list has been updated to include more epic boss fights from the Souls-like genre that fans will love to hate or hate love participating in.

17 Zhang Liang The General Of Man - Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (1)
  • Released: 2023
  • Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: Team Ninja

Launched in early 2023, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a challenging Souls-like from the developers of the Nioh series. The game is set in a fantasy version of the Han Dynasty, with Chinese Mythology at the forefront of its narrative. The combat is closer to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, where counters and deflections are the player's main line of defense.

The first boss that the protagonist encounters is General Zhiang. He is far from the most challenging boss in the game, but he's also why many players threw in the towel at Wo Long's launch. The developers released a patch to make the fight more manageable, but newcomers would be remiss if they underestimated the General. He acts as a gatekeeper for the remainder of the game and is a harsh lesson in how the mechanics of deflections and timing work in Wo Long.

16 Second Sister Trilla - Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (2)
  • Released: 2019
  • Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: Respawn Entertainment

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and its sequel Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, are considered Souls-like in their execution. What separates the Star Wars Jedi series from typical Souls games is that players can adjust the difficulty and enjoy the storyline. So in that sense, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order can be viewed as a Souls-light.

Players should not sleep on Fallen Order in the more challenging difficulties because fighting The Inquisitors is entertaining and challenging. The final battle against the Second Sister is a nightmare to defeat. She has different phases with unblockable attacks. The best way to defeat Trilla is to be relentless and interrupt her attacks with force attacks, dodge her unlockables, and deflect when needed.

15 The Delver - Surge 2

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (3)
  • Released: 2019
  • Platform: Amazon Luna, PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
  • Developer: Deck 13

The Surge series is a science fiction Souls-like set in a post-apocalyptic future. As the Warrior, players fight against robotic enemies and cybernetically enhanced humans instead of demons and monsters. The games have a robust limb targeting system and satisfying parrying mechanics.

Unfortunately, The Delver boss in Surge 2 is fast and makes parrying a challenge unless players have created a complete parrying build because of the unblockable attacks. To defeat it, the Warrior must use a Bloodborne-style approach of attacking and moving as quickly as possible. The Delver has three phases, all of which can wipe players out in two hits.

14 The Blindfolded Boy - Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

  • Released: 2023
  • Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: Team Ninja

Where Zhiang Liang, General of Man, is the gatekeeper boss for Wo Long, the Blindfolded Boy is the ultimate final boss. Considering the Blindfolded Boy was a useless companion in the fight against the General, it appears he was holding back.

The protagonist must deflect a circle of spectral swords fired as a projectile and avoid his ice attacks. He has extra phases where the Blindfolded boy transforms, throws fireballs, and creates clones of himself to make the player's life even more miserable.

13 Valiant Gargoyle - Elden Ring

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (5)
  • Released: 2022
  • Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: FromSoftware

The regular giant Gargoyles in Elden Ring can be problematic and challenging to defeat. However, the Valiant Gargoyle is a nightmare because a second Gargoyle will appear in the second phase, meaning the player will have two giant monsters to deal with.

Related: Elden Ring: The Best Weapons For An Arcane Build

The Gargoyles are fast and powerful and will give chase when trying to create some distance. To make matters worse, when focusing on one Gargoyle at a time, the second will attack with a poisonous gas with a large area of attack. The bosses can be found in Siofra Aqueduct. Thankfully, the fight can be made easier if one has completed the D questline in Elden Ringso they can use his brother as a summon in combat.

12 Pontiff Sulyvahn - Dark Souls 3

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  • Released: 2016
  • Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
  • Developer: FromSoftware

Pontiff Sulyvahn stood out as one of the more difficult bosses in Dark Souls 3. This imposing foe is found just after the Church of Yorshka bonfire in the Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. The size of the room he is seen inside restricts player movement, adding to the challenge.

Sulyvahn has long combos, making it challenging to study his moves. His favorite attack is the sweeping motion. It is not the longest in Dark Souls, but it does inflict a great deal of damage. Wielding a magic and fire sword, Pontiff Sulyvahn's thirst for power shows no limits.

11 Laurence, The First Vicar - Bloodborne

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (7)
  • Released: 2015
  • Platform: PS4
  • Developer: FromSoftware

Bloodborne from FromSoft is possibly the most challenging game on the PlayStation 4. Stylistically, the combat is distinguishable from Dark Souls, where speed and timing are vital. The difficulty is attributed to its boss fights, including Laurence, The First Vicar.

This boss is accessible in The Old Hunters DLC, so not everyone has faced him. In many ways, this foe is like the Cleric Beast but uses fire attacks for added damage. Laurence, The First Vicar is fought in three phases with increasing difficulty. Having good fire resistance going into this fight is recommended.

10 Dreamer/Nightmare - Remnant: From The Ashes

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (8)
  • Released: 2019
  • Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: Gunfire Games

The Dreamer/Nightmare boss is fought in two phases, with Dreamer first and Nightmare following soon after. As the final boss in Remnant: From the Ashes, Dreamer/Nightmare can be defeated by players who use moves, such as fire, that deliver damage over time.

It is recommended to try Dreamer/Nightmare solo. The co-op increases the difficulty of the bosses in Remnant From the Ashes. Attack the head of the Dreamer and the chest of Nightmare to inflict the most damage.

9 Ancient Dragon - Dark Souls 2

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (9)
  • Released: 2014
  • Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
  • Developer: FromSoftware

Many enemies guard this dragon atop the Dragon Shrine, but the encounter with the boss will leave many players dumbfounded. The Ancient Dragon is as charismatic as he is powerful.

Related: Elden Ring: How to Beat Loretta, Knight of the Haligtree

Players should watch for the area of effect attacks when he breathes fire onto the platform. Do not stand under him for too long, as he will try to crush enemies with his foot, sometimes leading to an instant kill. If players time their attacks and look for the opportune moments, this boss can be defeated over a long and arduous battle.

8 Flamelurker - Demon's Souls

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (10)
  • Released: 2009 and 2020 for the remake
  • Platform: PS3 and PS5
  • Developer: FromSoftware and Bluepoint Games

Passing through the fog gate, most players would not expect to encounter this fire demon lurking in the underground temple. When facing a boss engulfed in flames, one knows it is not an easy fight ahead.

When the Flamelurker strikes, he inflicts tremendous fire damage. So players will need a high fire-resistance rating. His area of effect attacks are devasting; his range is even more so. Watch out for his dangerous leap attacks. It is one of the most challenging foes to predict in a Souls-like.

7 Yamata-No-Orochi - Nioh

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (11)
  • Released: 2017
  • Platform: PC, PS4, and PS5
  • Developer: Team Ninja

Yamata-no-Orochi is a boss appearing in Nioh. The Nioh game series is known for its snake bosses and creatures from Japanese legends, and Yamata-No-Orochi is a little of both.

As a multi-headed snake, Yamata-No-Orochi starts with two heads (white horns), then five heads (red, blue, green, yellow, and purple horns), and finishes with a final head (red and black horns). Each snakehead has unique resistances, adding to the complexity of defeating this serpent.

6 Yatsu-No-Kami - Nioh 2

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (12)
  • Released: 2020
  • Platform: PC, PS4, and PS5
  • Developer: Team Ninja

Despite being one of the first bosses you encounter in Nioh 2, Yatsu-No-Kami provides the most significant challenge for players. His toxic sweeping attacks should be answered back with long-reaching weapons. Regardless, users must strike the head and the arms to defeat this foe.

Yatsu-no-Kami is weak against lightning, which should be taken advantage of. Players will also need poison resistance, antidotes, and luck to defeat this terrible enemy.

5 Orphan Of Kos - Bloodborne

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (13)
  • Released: 2015
  • Platform: PS4
  • Developer: FromSoftware

Judging by the Orphan of Kos' size, it would appear to be one of the easier bosses to fight. On the contrary, the small stature makes his attacks less pronounced. Orphan of Kos seems impervious to attacks since it is not easy to stagger him.

Related: Every Soulsborne Game, Ranked By Lore

The Orphan of Kos has varied attacks, making him a challenge to study. The Orphan Of Kos is one of the Great Ones players must defeat. His unpredictability suggests he is the most challenging boss in Bloodborne and perhaps Souls-likes history.

4 Maliketh, The Black Blade - Elden Ring

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (14)
  • Released: 2022
  • Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: FromSoftware

Maliketh, The Black Blade, is one of the most dangerous bosses in Elden Ring. Like many fights in the game, he has two phases, with his second form being significantly more challenging than the first.

Maliketh can be found at the Crumbling Farum Azula. He is swift with lethal precision and is considered a Legendary boss. Thanks to his speed, he is difficult to predict and can kill the player with one or two hits. However, players adept at parrying will find an opening that makes the boss vulnerable to a big attack.

3 Guardian Ape And Brown Ape - Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (15)
  • Released: 2019
  • Platform: PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One
  • Developer: FromSoftware

Thought the headless Guardian Ape in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was difficult? Try fighting two at the same time. Once players get the first Guardian Ape down to half health, the Brown Ape gets tagged in for an extra challenge.

Trying to combat two apes capable of doing a 4-thrust, double feet smash, and a treacherous sweep slash is less than ideal. After defeating one Guardian Ape during the first encounter, FromSoftware throws two into the equation.

2 Malenia, Blade Of Miquella - Elden Ring

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (16)
  • Released: 2019
  • Platform: PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One
  • Developer: FromSoftware

The most challenging boss fight in Elden Ring is against Malenia, Blade of Miquella. She is located at the Brace of the Haligtree and is an optional fight. The Demi-God boss fight includes two phases that feel like fighting two separate - and powerful - bosses in succession.

Malenia is capable of inflicting Scarlet Rot. She is relentless in her attacks and highly resistant to most attacks and spells. Her most damaging attacks can be interrupted with Frostbite and Bloodless magic.

1 Dragon Slayer Ornstein & Executioner Smough - Dark Souls

Souls-Likes: Ranking The 17 Hardest Boss Fights (17)
  • Released: 2011
  • Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
  • Developer: FromSoftware

Whenever developer FromSoftware decides to throw in two bosses, players know they are in for a battle. Appearing in the original Dark Souls, many users were taken aback by this encounter. For some, it took seemingly endless tries to beat Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough.

Depending on which boss is slain first, the survivor will absorb his partner, giving him more damage with lightning or increased range. Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough are arguably the most challenging bosses in Souls-likes history.

More: Longest FromSoftware Games, Ranked

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