The Legend of Zelda. It’s the greatest game franchise in history. It’s games are, well, legend, and so are its boss battles. This list is my attempt at ranking the greatest, that is to say, the most fun, the most epic, and the most memorable, boss battles in Zelda history.
10. Gleeok (Legend of Zelda)
Gleeok is the multi-headed dragon which appears in different forms (with different numbers of heads) in three of the original Legend of Zelda‘s dungeons. You first encounter the two-headed form of Gleeok in the game’s level 4 dungeon.
Much like the rest of the original Zelda, Gleeok is a true challenge. The player is required to hack off each of its multiple fast moving heads, and the battles grow more intense as more heads are chopped. The heads you manage to separate from Gleeok stick around the room you’re in, attacking with fireballs. Battles with Gleeok are a struggle to stay alive, and a perfect example of the rewarding difficulty the original Legend of Zelda is so famous for.
9. Agahnim (Link to the Past)
The first portion of Link to the Past builds the dark wizard Agahnim up as your great adversary, before you’re sent to the Dark World and it is revealed that Ganon is actually the source of the evil you’re trying to combat. Fighting your way past Agahnim and discovering the game has only just begun is a true thrill.
This particular battle is memorable not only for its setting and story importance, but for introducing Zelda players to a now common series trait, “tennis” or “Dead Man’s Volley.” This brilliant mechanic requires the player to bounce back his or her opponent’s energy attacks with carefully timed sword swipes in increasingly quick succession, until the enemy can no longer keep up, and is struck by his or her own energy ball.
8. King Bulblin at the Bridge of Eldin (Twilight Princess)
King Bulblin is a recurring minor enemy in Twilight Princess, but it’s his cinematic jousting match with Link at the Bridge of Eldin that has stuck with many gamers. As Link, you chase King Bulblin down on horseback after he kidnaps Colin, one of your village’s children. In desperation following your slaughter of his minions, this enemy will lead you to Twilight Princess‘ now famous bridge scene.
In a game full of great horse-mounted combat, this battle stands above the rest. You must aggressively charge and hack at Bulpin while he presses back riding Lord Bullbo, a massive warthog-like creature. This battle concludes with King Bulblin being flung off the bridge. The scene is so spectacular, it was even recreated in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
7. Igos du Ikana and his Bodyguards (Majora’s Mask)
If it’s been awhile since you last played Majora’s Mask, you may miss-remember the game as being a brief, four-dungeon affair. While it is true that the game has only four proper dungeons by Zelda standards, it does have a number of quicker mini-dungeons which the player must explore to complete the game.
My personal favourite of these mini-dungeons is the Ancient Castle of Ikana, which is guarded by Igos du Ikana and his Bodyguards, all three of whom are giant skeletons, or Stalfos. The battle begins with the curtains of Igos du Ikana’s throne room being drawn closed as deep, ominous music rumbles. This sets up a thrilling battle which requires you to reopen the curtains (with fire, of course) so that light can get back in and be reflected back at your opponents (a weakness of theirs). Aside from the light, however, there’s not a lot to the fight except hack-and-slash swordplay and gymnastics, the gameplay highlights of 3D Zelda, in my opinion.
6. Dark Link (Ocarina of Time)
Dark Link is probably the second most famous villain in Zelda history, and his infamy is due almost entirely to his presence in Ocarina of Time. Link’s villainous alter-ego is actually “just” a mini-boss, appearing in the latter part of Ocarina‘s infamous Water Temple.
As you move through the Water Temple, you become accustomed to going from one dark-blue hall to another, until you open up a door that appears to lead to some kind of alternate realm, one which looks like it exists outside the rest of the game you’re playing. You know something good, or something terrifying, is coming. The walls are a milky white, the music is quiet, and a bare tree sits ominously between you and the exit on the other side. Move through the room and nothing pops out, nothing confronts you. When you reach the other side, you find yourself locked in this room. When you turn around, you will find that you are suddenly facing down anything but your typical Zelda boss. This is no dragon, or great beast, or twisted knight. This is you, this is Link, in shadow form.
5. Veran (Oracle of Ages)
Two of Link’s toughest adventures appeared on the GameBoy Color with the Oracle games. Oracle of Ages‘ final boss, Veran, stands as one of the hardest challenges between the titles.
The fight consists of Veran flipping through an incredible five forms, beginning with Possessed Ambi and then switching to her True Form before randomly cycling through Beetle, Bee, and Spider forms. Every stage is a struggle which requires serious ingenuity just to get through, and taken together the battle is one lengthy slog.
4. Ganondorf (Wind Waker)
The hardest part of putting this list together was preventing the temptation of allowing the various Ganon/Ganondorf final-boss battles to completely dominate. There’s nothing quite like heading into the final boss fight of a new Zelda game and knowing Ganon will be waiting for you, but having no idea what new twist or trick will await, or what forms your foe will take. I’ve limited myself to only two appearances of the King of the Gerudo.
Wind Waker is a controversial game, its graphics were reviled by the fan community when the game was first shown, and criticisms have lingered regarding its few number of dungeons, generally easy gameplay, and late-game fetch quest. There is little doubt, however, that Wind Waker boasts one of the most epic final battles in Zelda history. Ganondorf’s tight character design, the expressiveness of the characters which Wind Waker‘s art style allows for, and the uncluttered waterfall scene you fight in, all contribute to a pure and intense fight.
That is all to say nothing of the final blow. Wind Waker concludes with the most satisfying sword swipe in Zelda history, but I’ll save the gory details for players to discover on their own.
3. Armos Knights (Link to the Past)
It may seem questionable to put a game’s first boss fight so high on this list, but I consider the battle against the six Armos Knights in Link to the Past to be some of the finest action in Zelda history.
In the dungeon leading up to this fight, you get your hands on your bow, so you know it will be extremely useful, if not necessary, in the battle to come. It’s a simple and elegant weapon to use from the overhead perspective: line up with whatever you want to hit, and fire away. That’s where the brilliance of the Armos Knights comes in. They dance around, stomp, and generally make it a mental workout to keep pace. There’s a subtle strategy in taking down the knights, too. Do you focus on one at a time, clearing space to make your battle easier as you go, but leave yourself vulnerable to an extended altercation with the final, tougher Armos, or do you spread the pain around, and mostly avoid his wrath?
2. Majora’s Mask (Majora’s Mask)
The final boss battle of Majora’s Mask is another one of those vintage Zelda multi-form wars that seem to go on and on. In Majora’s Mask‘s appropriately trippy final boss battle, you must take on the mask itself.
The first form of this boss is simply called “Majora’s Mask.” Here, you must fight with tentacles and the masks of the bosses you’ve already beaten in the game. Things escalate rapidly from there, with the fast-moving second form, known as Majora’s Incarnation, taking on bizarrely long arms and legs. The battle concludes with the mask becoming Majora’s Wrath. This form is more human in shape, but there are now two whip-like arms to contend with.
1. Ganon (Ocarina of Time)
This battle stands as perhaps the most singularly epic in gaming history. After finally breaking into Ganondorf’s chamber, you see your expectant nemesis playing a massive pipe organ, Zelda hangs helplessly suspended above him. Ganondorf’s study fades away as he flies into the air, and the battle begins.
Things kick off with some of the previously mentioned Dead Man’s Volley. Hitting Ganondorf with his own energy will knock him back, allowing you to strike him with Light Arrows, which in turn allows you to hack away with your sword. After a number of rounds of this, your enemy will send his own castle crashing down around you.
This is followed by a mad dash for what seems like safety. Of course, waiting for you outside the ruins of his castle is Ganon in his final, massive pig form. Lightning cracks, and Ganon stretches back to reveal his true, awesome power.