Greetings, vocal video game fans. We're back with a long overdue edition of the TenSpot Readers' Choice. A while back, we named our top ten boss battles of all time, a topic that generated much feedback from our readers (as you can imagine). We didn't name our ten bosses based on any one criterion--it wasn't just hardest boss, or most stylish boss, or boss who wouldn't shut up long enough to fight you. It was really a collection of all of those elements and more that brought us to our decisions. In short, the bosses we picked were, to our minds, simply the most memorable we'd ever played against.
As usual, you guys had your own opinions about our list. We got a ton of responses (almost 8,000 in all) when we opened up voting for our reader-selected version of the top ten bosses of all time. Some of you gladly agreed with the ones we picked, while others of you were only too happy to tell us we were wrong. Now the votes have been tallied and the comments assembled, and so we present to you the TenSpot Readers' Choice: Top Ten Boss Battles.
The biggest surprise on this list is that two of the winners weren't even on our ballot--they won simply by being written in by an overwhelming number of people. Obviously, those two are really popular, since enough of you thought of them to beat out the bosses that actually appeared on the list. Anyhow, read on to see the top ten boss battles ever, as chosen by you, the reader. And as always, you can direct any comments or criticism to us.
Super Mario Bros. (NES)
How could this one not make the list? Bowser is the first boss that many, many gamers remember fighting, and that fact alone makes him worthy of inclusion here. Nevermind that he's also devious, hard to kill, and looks totally evil.
"The final appearance of Bowser in Super Mario Bros. was easily one of the most feared and frustrating bosses of all time. Many a seasoned Mario player can recall that the only sure fire way to take down big Bowser was to get a fire flower and maintain it all the way up until the climactic battle, because by then Bowser was sporting a hammer-throwing cranium to impede your path to that oh-so-beautiful axe. The only problem with this was you had to make it all the way through the most intense castle in the game without getting hit once to do it." -Tuch Lawson
"You put a big fire-breathin', horn-prickin', shell-shockin', minion-using dragon against someone with strength, speed, courage and who looks cool in red. 'Nuff said" -Mr. Magic
"Come on, he's only got to be the most classic of all bosses. When you think original gaming console, the one you first played and grew up with, surely the NES comes to mind. When you think NES you have to think Mario, the first great mascot. Then of course follows the stubborn princess-stealing Bowser. Legendary gaming company, timeless hero, infamous enemy." -Rachel
"You had to go through about ten minutes of an insane level filled with many mini-Bowsers, each having their own attack. Then finally you got to the last Bowser only to find that he employed all the tactics from the previous Bowsers. If you didn't find that one magical opening spot for you to crawl through, it was all over and everything you had done for the past ten minutes would be wasted in 5 seconds." -Gordon Ng
"Bowser was the beginning of a revolution. He kind of began it all for the Super Mario Brothers. This guy isn't all flashy and technical; he's just plain tough. That's what makes him the best." -Jenna
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
What else can be said about this one? Ganon is one of the most classic and memorable bosses ever to rule a video game, and the Ocarina of Time fight with him is his most amazing appearance yet. It's no wonder you guys voted for this one in force.
"This is what a boss fight is supposed to be--using everything, your wits and the environment as well as the right weapons, to win." -Jamie H.
"I still vividly remember this fight. I had played the game in about 15 hour blocks. The night was creeping up on me and I was starting to wear out. I had finally made it into Ganondorf's lair and no one was going to stop me from finishing the game right there and then. As I finished solving the puzzles and entered where I knew I would face Ganondorf (in whichever form he may be), I wiped my brow, got a drink of water, and buckled myself in for the fight of my life. Then as I began to battle Ganondorf I realized that I was dealing with a relative pushover. I could hardly contain my disappointment and angrily took out my feelings on his sorry hide. When he was gone, I was told to run out of the castle. This gave me a little hope because no game ever ends with the hero running away. Expecting a challenging series of puzzles I realized that I was at the front of the castle. While rationalizing this fault and reminding myself what a great game it had been, all of a sudden the music got about three notches scarier. Then I heard the lightning. This game was far from over. As the lurking horror of Ganon came into view it was an instant adrenaline rush. Link took out his sword and it was fighting time. Then Ganon took me out to school and back. I couldn't believe it. Should I feel happy that there was a challenger or be horrified that I would now have to complete the whole last level again?" -Jackson Rudd
"I've always been a Zelda fan and I think that Ocarina of Time is the best game ever made. Part of the reason why it's the best is that the Ganon battle was so extraordinarily epic (the music, the size difference, the swords clanging, the lightning, and the overall urgency about everything). The only thing that comes to the atmosphere created in Ocarina of Time is the Ganondorf battle in The Wind Waker." -Mr. Bond
"Ganon showing up in pig form after escaping the collapsing castle was an unexpected surprise. It was an epic ending to an epic game. In fact just talking about it makes me want to go replay it right now." -MFH
"It was the ultimate fight of good and evil, and when you were just pumped that you defeated the last boss and you beat the game, all of a sudden you had to run for your life. But after fleeing for your life and protecting the princess, you were taken by I again and had to fight another boss who was stronger and harder to beat than any other boss in the entire game!" -Frodo
Super Metroid (SNES)
The end of Super Metroid went from an awesome little nostalgia trip to one of the most poignant and epic battle scenes of the 16-bit era. This is truly a boss battle for the history books, as you've noted below.
"I think the final battle with Mother Brain in Super Metroid was memorable for several reasons. First there was the nostalgia factor in fighting her first form. Then came the shocker...she mutates into a giant bipedal fiend from hell. Everyone knows that the whole "baby Metroid saves Samus" thing was an awesome experience but what made that rewarding was the battle that came after it. You start to gain the upper hand thinking "This isn't so bad." Then comes the death ray--the one that drains four energy tanks per shot. The one you can't defend against. The one that leaves you helpless to watch her begin to charge it up again and think to yourself "What the hell do I do now?" The hyper beam used to finish her off and the subsequent escape was icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned. She was the first real boss that I made me think, if only for an instant, "I can't beat her. I'm screwed."" -Stephen LeTrent
"Mother Brain was an incredibly climactic battle in a game full of memorable boss fights. Her initial form lulled many players into a sense of false confidence with more of the same from the first Metroid. That's when Nintendo dropped one of the ugliest scariest bosses of the 16 bit era in our laps. The tense fight along with the beautifully scripted near-vaporization and triumph of Samus still get my heart pumping just remembering it and certainly earn Mother Brain a spot on any list of top bosses." -Daniel Combs
"The entire point of your mission comes crashing down when you see your adopted "son" come and suck the life out of you. You press on because the mission is bigger than one metriod. Once you see the huge beast mother brain is you know you are going to need some help--help from a most unlikely source." -Mike Doogles
"The entire battle was great...but the part where the fully-grown Metroid larva saves Samus always amazed me. Also when the Metroid gets killed--I remember I almost felt for that Metroid. Samus then stands up, coursing with energy and anger, and avenges the Metroid with the newly discovered hyper beam turning Mother Brain into dust. And of course there was the classic escape sequence too. A perfect end to a perfect game." -Adam Jewss-Gaines
"Mother Brain has to be on the top 10! First of all it took a lot of missiles and life to kill it. Second of all the drama during the battle with the giant etroid saving Samus was amazing! How many SNES games can actually bring a tear to your eye?" -Matt
Street Fighter II (Arcade)
This guy defines the word "cheap." Bison had such a leg up on the other characters in Street Fighter II that he seemed nearly unbeatable at first. It took real practice and dedication to finally wipe the floor with him.
"He is the hardest fighting game boss I ever met. The first time I fought him I was amazed by his power and annoyed by his moves (particularly the one where steps on you). Beating him on the hardest level was the greatest challenge I ever faced in a 2D fighting game." -Roger
"Most of Street Fighter II was pretty easy. Even on a harder difficulty, I would usually have little trouble with all the other characters. Yet whenever I reached this psycho-powered freak he would always finish me without breaking a sweat. Bison is truly evil, in his intentions and his style of fighting (stupid psychocrusher!)." -Phil
"I guarantee you more continues have been used fighting M. Bison than any other boss ever!" -Keith Wojciech
"Bison was a fiendishly hard boss fight, especially for all of us blossoming fighting game players who cut our teeth on games like Karate Champ. His AI was nearly flawless and you had to be either extremely good at throwing or extremely lucky. I'm still not sure which I am, as Bison just trounced me again today." -Stu Moody
"Bison fights cheap. Really cheap. He is fast, strong, has strangely long reach on his kicks, and can do gravity-defying air moves where he stomps on your head or does a flying punch into your back. And then there's that flaming corkscrew thing which takes off a ton of life even if you block it...it's just the most annoying thing ever. That however is exactly why it feels so good to beat him--it takes experience, precise skill, and often times a bit of luck to emerge victorious when the odds are so unfairly stacked against you." -Joey Bliley
"M. Bison is the ultimate enemy. Capcom designed Bison to be the ultimate killing machine complete with unstoppable special moves that other characters could only dream of. During the final battle (especially on the hardest difficulty), Bison floats through the air like a feather and unleashes a barrage of attacks like a German blitzkrieg." -Kyle Buying
Metal Gear Solid (PSX)
When we made our original list, we thought Mantis might not have been the hardest boss, but he definitely had the most unique tricks (as you'll see in some of the stories below). A novel boss is still a great boss.
"No one knew right away that they had to change their damned controller...no one." -Carey Peck
"Mantis played crazy mind games with you. Metal Gear Solid was the second game I bought after I got a Playstation. I read the manual to find out how the system worked and learned that it could overheat and that a screen would indicate this. Well, after playing for 10 straight hours to get to Pyscho Mantis, when the screen turned black I shut off the system and prayed I hadn't already broken it on the second day. After three times of this, I just let it sit and found out in shock that it was Mantis playing mind games. I lost three hours of work the first time and when I finally got to fighting him it took a while to figure out that problem. His mind games make him more memorable than any boss ever." -Jason Falsone
"'I see you like Castlevania.' Enough said." -Andrew
"The atmosphere that Mantis set was just excellent. The whole mind-reader thing was really enhanced by the memory card/controller vibrate trick. He just exuded spookiness." -Christ Leidich
" Mantis was a misunderstood psycho. Very honourable and very sad. We all loved his tricks." -Seeking_Agony
"suaceB eh edam ruoy rellortnoc nrut otni na gniyonna tey evitcidda gniht ot esu nehw gnithgif mih. (Because he made your controller turn into an annoying yet addictive thing to use when fighting him.)" -Kevster
Final Fantasy VII (PSX)
Seriously, what's with you guys? Sephiroth got literally five times more votes than the second place boss, Bowser. Despite some truly evil shenanigans, Sephy remains the most revered boss character ever.
"One of the most dramatic boss fights in gaming history. This had to be one of the toughest as well. You can barely touch Sephiroth because he is so deadly. The graphics were intense and the battle capped off what was one of the most memorable storylines in history. And the one on one between Cloud and Sephiroth brought tears to my eyes." -DeathX87
"The story behind Sephiroth was amazing. At first you idolized him, then you pitied him, and finally you hated him because...he killed Aeris! All throughout the game I picked all the romantic things to say to Aeris so she and Cloud could make beautiful music together. But my hopes were shattered and all throughout the rest of the game I hoped against hope there would be some way she would return, but she didn't, and so Sephiroth had to pay for that alone on top of all that stuff about taking over the world " -Steve Williams
"He has style, class, looks, personality, and difficulty!" -Albert
"No words can really describe why Sephiroth was the coolest boss of all time. Not necessarily hard, just cold, calculating, and worst of all very charismatic. He is the bad guy that even heroes cheer for, the mightest of all bosses. Sephiroth rules all." -James
"It wasn't the fight itself that made Sephiroth so incredible but the fact that he was there almost from the beginning of the game casting a menacing shadow all the way up until the finale." -John Tumminaro
"It was the culmination of hours and hours of gameplay, a multilayered fight that forced you into a situation you never had to deal with before: The splitting of your group into two teams, both of which were necessary if you wanted to beat down on Sephiroth... The music was great, the battle truly of epic proportions, and Sephiroth's moves as powerful as expected. And then a one-on-one showdown between the hero and the villain, with Cloud's ultimate attack ending the fight for good. Booyah!" -Bruce Bohannon
"One of the few times you start out completely admiring a boss (9999 damage!) and then when he kills Aeris you want nothing more than to put him to death. Or maybe I just get too into games." -Brent Phillips
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (NES)
Iron Mike is probably the hardest boss of all time, and he also holds the honor of being the only boss on this list based on a real human being. No wonder he showed up here.
"No matter how much I played this game I was unable to beat Mike Tyson. Even today I can't. In my mind, he will be the hardest boss of all time and also the most fun to fight. The adrenaline that runs through you when Mike is about to knock your lights out is just amazing" -Mike
"He's probably the hardest boss anybody has played against. There is only a very limited number of players who have the ability to beat Mike Tyson in this game. This just isn't seen in other games." -Anil
"He's too fast, too fast! It took me months and months to beat him. Good thing they invented passwords--I wrote it down so often I think I still rememberit..." -Alex Demsey
"I give Mike Tyson the nod because everyone from the NES generation has tried to master Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! at least once in their life! Tyson was both a pain in the butt and frustrating to beat. However, trying to beat Iron Mike was just too addicting to stop! The story line is great as you work your way up the ranks with boxing's best (Great Tiger and Bald Bull were fun to fight) then trying to slug it out with one of the most powerful boxers of our time makes Mike Tyson the best video game boss ever." -Carl Hatt
"Mike is, well...what is there to say? There's actually a learning curve, and it takes time. I personally haven't beat Tyson...yet. But it's on my life's goals list." -Greg
"There have been some great bosses but I would have to agree that Mike Tyson was the most memorable in my mind...in video games at least. When it's years and years and years later and you still remember the pass code to get to Mike Tyson by heart (007-373-5963) you know it's a hell of a game!" -John
Serious Sam: The First Encounter (PC)
He's damn near the biggest boss ever, and he's also one of your favorites. Funny how that works, huh? This guy towers over all the rest.
"Watching hundreds of monsters coming at you while at the same time running away from a 650 foot boss has no equal in terms of size or intensity (on higher difficulties of course.)" -James
"This monstrosity is so frickin' huge that no one would even think of trying to kill it! It smashes huge beautiful environments to bits and can crush you like a bug. It takes keen intellect to figure out the puzzle in defeating him but since Ugh-Zan is rather stupid you can finish this guy off without getting that hurt, but it takes a long time. In the end if you beat him without cheats, seeing his huge carcass falling to the earth in front of you is very satisfying." -Lincoln Smith
"Ugh-Zan is a beast through and through. He plows through the city like it's a child's play set and all you can do is run like hell, firing as fast as you can without slowing yourself down, and hope he doesn't catch you." -Jason Rodzik
"The guy was massive. I just sat staring at him as he came towards me the first time I played it. I knew they would end the game big but that was freakin' huge." -Steve Jones
"I remember the shock and fear when first saw this boss. I felt powerless as he came closer to me and seemed to get bigger. I shot him like crazy and nothing seemed to work until the space ship came under him and destroyed him. Ugh-Zan is without a doubt the biggest boss I have ever fought." -Chris
"Ugh-Zan had it all going on to become the greatest boss I've ever taken on. This guy was off the charts for shock value and on-screen presence. When you see him beam in and start smashing up the landscape you figure you're in for a cinematic pause...until you see the health bar and the huge beast starts walking towards you. Turning around and seeing the saucer parked over the pyramid was almost enough for a pee-your-pants moment that has been almost unknown in the world of shooters recently." -Mike Mukavetz
Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Kefka is one of the two bosses that won through the write-in ballot, meaning he wasn't on our main list of nominees. That means he's a serious favorite. Sephiroth may win the popular vote, but Kefka's supporters are really serious about their own evil dude.
"He wasn't the hardest boss but he sure was the coolest. He just made me want to kill him over and over again. His laugh was also cool. Final Fantasy III was made by that character almost entirely" -Justin Arnold
"First you had to defeat a horde of bosses before you even got to the last fight and once there you still had to go through a massive tower of enemies before you even got to Kefka (with no chance to save!). When you finally got to him, he floated down from above to some really epic music and the fight began. Not only was Kefka challenging due to his magic and attacks (mainly his angel attack that brought everyone to one hit point) but if you had chosen your best party members as your first choices and lost them through the boss fights before him, you couldn't get them back. You had to think about keeping your best members alive before you even reached Kefka and those fights before him were not easy either. When you finally defeated him you were treated to one of the best endings to an SNES RPG and you felt you had truly destroyed an evil character." -Kayvon Hejazi
"He was big. He was powerful. But most importantly he was insane. Unlike most of today's RPG bosses, there was no deep reason for what he did. He poisoned an entire castle for fun. He didn't cause a cataclysm to gain power; he gained power then caused a cataclysm, just because he could. By the time you finally got to face him you really, really wanted to kill him." -Alan Twigge
"Kefka is the best villain of all time because he actually succeeds halfway through the game. A villain like that has to make for a great boss battle. Oh, and two words: "Fallen One." Sephiroth has nothing on this guy." -Chris Barter
"I like my bosses evil. Rotten-to-the-core evil. Poison the water supply of a peace-loving village and then giggle like a school girl. Destroy the world with a huge spiritual death ray just because you didn't like the way it looked at you. Bottle up all your rage and then unleash it by delivering the line: "Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate!" and then still be angry afterwards." -Eric Fenstermaker
Metroid Prime (GC)
Like Kefka, Metroid Prime made it onto this list through the write-in form on our ballot. The hulking monstrosity of a Metroid must have left a real impression on you guys (it sure did on us).
"It forced you to think about what weapon would work on her and what strategy to use to hit her with the weapon. A great boss is one that makes you think, not just shoot." -Nicholas Pylypiw
"Ridiculously huge. Ridiculously hard. An epic marathon of boss fighting" -Ted
"The graphics are insane and the boss himself is absolutely massive. Switching between colours for the effective gun is a nice gimmick and creates more of a challenge. Almost every offensive attack is needed for this boss and all defense moves are required too like changing into ball form. It was the best boss fight ever, bar none." -Michael Corr
"Everyone I knew thought the final boss of Metroid Prime would be Meta Ridley. I didn't expect to battle a giant spider-like creature named Metroid Prime. After I beat Metroid Prime in its first form, I thought the battle was over. I already had only two energy tanks left. Then I was freaked out when the true Metroid Prime came out of its shell. Luckily you could get about three energy tanks during the battle. After I had hit it a couple of times it started sending out different types of metroids. I died once. When I finally won I had less than one energy tank left. It was the most challenging and awesome battle ever! The graphics were awesome too! " -monkeynerd
"He's big. He's scary. He shoots nasty balls of energy fire at you. He's also a spider. What more could you want from a boss?" -Kevin Connell
"Metroid Prime just had a great storyline, not just because of the believable sci-fi but also because of the ingenious foreshadowing. I was surprised to say the least when I first witnessed the exo-skeleton fall away from Metroid Prime's initial form...that was also when I began to understand how epic this battle would be. But what really takes the cake is when I first realized the potential of the Phazon Beam in conjunction with the Phazon Suit. Genius mechanics...simply genius." -Daniel
Special thanks to Metroid-Online for the image.