Boss Challenge

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A particularly difficult challenge that must be overcome in order to continue or finish the game, which serves as a milestone in the gameplay activity.

A boss challenge is a capstone of gameplay activity. Boss challenges (games may have more than one) are unique because they present a trial that does not spring from the natural progression of previous challenges. For example, the difficulty may be increased significantly, the player might have to resort to new tactics, or there might be additional conditions/restrictions on the player’s actions. As the name implies, the player may also have to face the boss, an opponent that is substantially different from previous ones in terms of size, power and vulnerability. Often, the boss challenge is present in the context of some other form of segmentation. For example, the last level of a series may contain the “boss”. This level would be considered a boss challenge; succeeding here is a climax to the player’s activities in previous levels.

Some questions that may help determine the degree of a Boss Challenge, if answered affirmatively:

  • Is the difficulty of the challenge considerably higher than that of previous challenges?
  • Does the player have to come up with new gameplay strategies, different from the ones used previously in the game?
  • Is the challenge at the end of the level? (i.e. beating the challenge means finishing the level).

This ontology entry used to be called Boss Level


Strong Examples

Donkey Kong Country

Each of the regions in Donkey Kong Country is completed only after defeating a boss in the final level for that region. Beating this boss gives one access to some bananas as well as passage to the next region to be explored. Also, at the end of the game, there is an ultimate boss that must be defeated to get to the ultimate banana hoard. The first boss is rather simple to defeat, but they get progessively harder as the player advances further in the game.

Diablo II

In Diablo II, there major bosses separating each major world segments, as well as a layering of bosses throughout every aspect and explore-able area of the game. The game title itself is the name of the last Boss, Diablo.


An old school MMORPG, EQ can be considered the predecessor to World of Warcraft. Throughout the game players encounter Bosses (often called "nameds") that are more difficult than the normal creatures fought along the way. Bosses are typically in a lair and have special abilities that make the fight more challenging, for example, the war God Cazic Thule has a Death Touch ability-when engaged in combat kills someone instantly every minute. The various special abilities requires players to strategize on how frequently to heal their allies, when to use certain kinds of damaging attacks, and the best spot to fight the Boss.

Knights of the Old Republic

This RPG is broken up into actual different worlds, which the player can hyperspace-jump between. The player must complete the main plot line of each world before defeating its boss and retrieving a piece of the Star Forge.

Final Fantasy VII

After every segment of story there is a boss fight. There are also a couple of optional bosses to fight.

Diddy Kong Racing

In this game there are challenge boss racers at the completion of each "world". In addition, each boss gets progressively more difficult with game progression until the final boss, Wizpig, in which one must be practically flawless to beat.

Lost Planet

On each level you must defeat a boss at the end and with each increasing level the boss becomes more and more difficult.


After reaching the end of a level, the music changes the environment and enemies disapear and a large enemy (the boss) enters the field of view. This is a strong example because there is a clear distinction between difficult enemies, such as transport ships which take several hits to destroy, and the boss. In addition, the bosses of R-Type and shoot 'em ups in general have a different attack mechanic that other enemies in the game.


Pokemon is a strong example of a game with Boss Challenges. Usually in every town, the player must defeat the gym leader. Each gym leader has different types of Pokemon such as Water or Fire and different strategies are necessary for defeating each one.


In Ikaruga you have to fight through several stages and at the end of these stages there is a definite Boss Challenge. The Boss Challenge will be in the form of a large enemy ship that you will have to attack in a certain manner in order to defeat.

Final Fantasy X

Usually after defeating a dungeon, or even right in the middle of a dungeon, the party has to fight a boss to advance in the story. The boss is usually of a higher caliber than the monsters in the dungeon and usually has a cutscene involved in introducing it. Some bosses include Lord Ochu and the many forms of the main antagonist, Sin.

Donkey Kong

Kong appears in every level; he conveniently manages to escape, until the last level – the boss challenge – where he can finally be defeated. Defeating Kong in this case requires using a different tactic, releasing all the bolts holding up the structure, rather than simply climbing up.

Viewtiful Joe

At the end of each level, Viewtiful Joe has to fight the level boss, which usually appears in a distinct location, though it is usually connected with the rest of the level. There are eight bosses: Charles the 3rd, Hulk Davidson, Grane Bruce, a Joe Twin, Alastor, Fire Leo, King Blue and Captain Blue. The first five bosses you play at the end of each level. In the last level the player has to go through each previous boss challenge again, and then the other three new bosses to finish the game.

The Legend of Zelda

Every level (dungeon) in the Legend of Zelda has a boss that must be defeated. The first dungeon holds Aquamentus who shoots beams at Link. This creature is usually mistaken for a dragon but, more than likely, was meant to resemble a Hippocampus from Greek mythology.

Mega Man

The entire game is structured around boss battles. Each level is listed according to the boss you must fight at the end of that level (i.e. Cutman, Iceman, etc). The boss is always fought in a room at the end of the level, which also serves a continuation point of you lose. All abilities in the game are acquired by defeating bosses (Cutman gives you cutting power, Iceman gives you freezing power, etc).

Sonic the Hedgehog

Every few levels Sonic has to battle Dr.Robotnik. In each fight Sonic must find and exploit Dr. Robotnik's weakness in order to progress in the game. Dr. Robotnik usually appears piloting a crazy machine, with different machines having different weaknesses.

Super Mario Bros. 3

In SMB3 for the NES, the player must fight a boss at the end of each world. The bosses are all koopa kids with various abilities with the final boss being Bowser.

Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando

Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando thare is one final boss at the end of the game that players must defeat to beat the game. It is a giant blue animal that looks like a cotton ball with a mouth. It jumps around and tries to bite you. If you have strong enough weapons and enough ammunition it is easily defeated, but that is if you have those things.

Metroid Prime

Samus fights numerous boss battles throughout the game. Each boss battle is distinctly recognized as a boss since they; having their own fighting arena, reward the player with a special item if defeated, and the music changing to a more intense tone. When Samus scans the bosses, the information received also implies that the creature she is facing is indeed a boss.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World is a good example of boss challenge because there is a boss at the end of each world. Each world has its own castle occupied by one of the koopas. Each koopa must be defeated in his or her own way such as being pushed into lava or jumping on his or her head. The final and most difficult boss is Bowser, who sits atop his ship and attacks Mario with a variety of projectiles. The game also has mini bosses in some of the worlds called Reznors, 4 triceratops that sit on a ferris wheel.

Dead Rising

This game is a great example of a boss challenge because all the bosses are psychopaths (as opposed to the normal zombie opponent), they all have thier introduction cutscene, a health bar with the name of the boss appears over the enemy's head, and it says the name when you take a photo. Also, another way you a given a good sense of a boss challenge is by getting achievments for defeating and photographing psychopath bosses. The final boss on overtime mode is the first time you shoot the turret on the back of a hummer as your female companion drives away from a prototype tank with several attacks. After the first boss fight you fight the pilot of the tank which forces you to fight totally unarmed. There is a lot of stress on doing well in the game by finding good items but this makes you do something new.

Crash bandicoot: Warped

Crash Bandicoot is a clear example of how the the bosses in each level embody a particular theme of each stage while challenging the player to develop a strategy of moves to defeat the boss. Also, as the boss is defeated in each level, the player gains new moves and abilities such as jumping, running, and spinning. The boss challenge allows the player to accomplish the level's goal through a limited set of abilities, but after the boss is defeated, the player is rewarded with new and improved moves.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner

Zone of the Ender: The Second Runner is a strong example of the boss challenge because it is clearly segmented into levels, and at the end of every level is a cut scene followed by a difficult fight that usually requires some trick to overcome and is followed by the player being rewarded with a new "program", or weapon.

GTA San Andreas

GTA San Andreas is a strong example of the game with the Boss Challenge. Even thought the game does not have the strictly defined levels the whole game could be seen as one level as a whole. In the end of that level (the game) there is a main Mafia Godfather that is quite difficult to kill and requires different strategy to eliminate than the other mafia members. Following this pattern of thought GTA San Andreas could be seen as a strong example of the game with the Boss Challenge.

Weak Examples

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4

In every level of this game the player must pass a mission that is a competition. This is similar to a Boss Challenge because it is a challenge in the game that is more difficult that the others. Also, there are available "pro challenges" for the player to try that are similarily more difficult.

WarioWare Inc: Mega MicroGame

In the story mode of WarioWare Inc, the Boss stages do not consist of a boss that has to be beaten, while the challenge of increased difficulty, which requires new strategies to be complete, is the minigame itself.

Dig Dug

In each level of Dig Dug, if the enemy the player leaves for last is one of the dragons, it will transform into a faster, more powerful enemy. This does not always happen in the early stages of the games, but is permanent after level 5. This forces the player to not leave the dragons until the end, unless she wants to face a boss.


The player reaches the end of a series of songs and must beat a final song before entering the next section of the game. This is a weak example because it is not clear who or what the boss actually is. The song may be more difficult than the others but there may be other non-boss songs that are difficult. The boss is not represented by any recognisable entity such as in Donkey Kong or Mega Man.

Gears of War

Though Gears of War have at least two boss battles the game consist maninly of wave challenge. Gears of War can still be catergorized as containing boss challenge segmentation because you have to defeat bosses in order to keep the game progressing, but it is a weak example because the majority of gameplay is spent fighting large numbers of enemies.

Heroes of Might and Magic II

When playing heroes there is always a opposing cpu that has a main character that is the highest level and the boss of the cpu's kingdom. You have to defeat this "boss" in oder to win the game but he is not a clear defined boss battle set up by the designer to lead up to as a climax but rather an all powerful cpu that must be delt with in order to win. You can defeat him in the first two minutes and still not win but you can't win without beating him.

Halo 2

This game's boss challenges does not involve an opponent that is at the end of the level. Hunter's are the boss type opponent in this game and they are an enhanced version of the enemies. They do not have the power of a boss from a normal game. These bosses are also too easy to defeat and they are not the goal of the levels. They are more of a stepping stone to beating the level/game. Usually, bosses mark the end of a level and objective of a mission, and in Halo there are a variation of enemies that are more of a challenge to defeat and can reappear at different levels.

Resident Evil 2

There are enemies that are more powerful, such as the tyrant in the second round of the game that could be considered boss-like. At the end of both games you fight a final William that could be considered a boss fight even though there is not distinct signal such as a life bar or anything to obviously seperate it from the rest of the game except for narrative.

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

This game has various opponents that a player has to progress through to beat the game, however, no particular player is considered a "boss" and the aspects of a boss challenge do not exist precisely because each character is of equal status on the hierarchy of players to choose from. Furthermore, the last character a player battles in 1-player mode is always random and only the degree of difficulty changes slightly as the player progresses through the game.

Dark Messiah

Dark Messiah features poorly thought-out Boss Challenges, especially the last one. By picking the correct spells and spamming potions, you can essentially flamethrower the final boss and his flying undead wyvern to death while under an invulnerability effect. As the player knows the game will end soon, he will not conserve his resources, and the only reason why one would lose is by not mashing potion hot keys fast enough.

Call of Duty 3

COD3 considers not to have the challenge of a final boss or any type of boss for that matter. This game relates to the idea of World War Two where is there not really any goal of killing a certain being or boss. Throughout the gameplay, your character is there to help clear a building or a certain piece of land. Once a certain area by accomplished by completing all the mini tasks, the player will stop gameplay, watch a cut scene and continue towards another area. There is no existance of any type of Boss in this game.

Goldeneye 64

The closest thing to a boss in this game is the guy you have to kill at the end. However, he appears merely as an additional enemy that spawns after you kill a bunch of henchmen in that level. He doesn't have his own room or introductory scene. He just pops up and you have to chase him around the same area you've been playing in the whole time. The only thing that makes him different from his peon henchmen is that he requires more shots to kill.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

There are no real "Bosses" in Oblivion. Some quests contain stronger enemies at the very end, but these are less boss characters and more finer detailed enemies. They might be high leveled than the generic enemies in the area, but the only real difference is that they have a name. They are still the same form of character instance as the random generic enemies players might find elsewhere.

WarCraft III

There is no clear boss in this game as you really are meant to destroy all opposing forces. There are Heros in the game which could be considered a boss but truly you can just state these characters as a stronger unit then any other in the game. Sometimes you are made to run away from a boss in order to obtain the given objective. Also to win the round there is no one person that you are required to kill, thus this takes away the final boss aspect of the game.

World Of Warcraft

The progression of this game is in part propelled by zoned instances each containing one or more bosses, the farther into the game and the deeper into the end game content you delve the more these instances become your milestones. Before the expansion the top boss fights were in places like AQ40 and Blackwing Lair. Although these boss fights help you to progress thru the content and in some ways are the final content of the game, more then 80% of the time I spent online was killing either other players or creatures roaming around. This could be a weak or strong example depending on if you are an end game player or not.

Relations with other elements of the Ontology


Challenge Segmentation


Donkey Kong. Shigeru Miyamoto (1981) Nintendo: Arcade.

Viewtiful Joe. Capcom (2003) Capcom: GameCube.

WarioWare Inc: Mega MicroGame$. Nintendo (2003) Nintendo: GBA

Dig Dug. Namco (1982) Atari: Arcade