With the release of Dark Souls 3’s final DLC, The Ringed City, the long-running video game series filled with wonderfully detailed locations, astounding backstories, and encounters that pushed players to their breaking points has officially reached its conclusion. While hard to say any single aspect truly really defines Dark Souls, the brutal bosses the players had to face represent probably the most famous (or infamous) aspect of the series. And, now that it’s all over, we thought it an appropriate time to look back at some of the best fights from the whole franchise.
Since each respective boss within the games is a culmination of what makes Dark Souls so phenomenal of an experience, they tend to attract a ton of passion from the community, which makes ranking them a challenging task regardless of how quickly you completed each encounter. That said, here are our favorite bosses from Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Dark Souls 3, including the DLC bosses from each title:
8. The Bell Gargoyles (Dark Souls)
Widely known as the first real encounter in the Dark Souls series, the Bell Gargoyle is essentially the boss professor who teaches you everything you need to know about how each of the game’s boss fights would play out. Not only does it teach you that Dark Souls would never be fair by introducing a second Bell Gargoyle once you reached the halfway point, but it provides an opportunity to learn how to successfully mix dodges, blocks, and short chains of attacks until you whittle down your opponent.
7. Smelter Demon (Dark Souls II)
Regarded as one of the most frustrating encounters in Dark Souls II, the Smelter Demon is an optional boss located outside of the Iron Keep who continuously deals fire damage no matter how well-equipped you are going into the fight. The further you reduce his health, the more fire damage he deals, meaning that you’re always losing health regardless of your combat strategy. While fire resistant gear and a helping hand certainly offer an advantage, the Smelter Demon remains the OHKO king of Dark Souls 2.
6. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder (Dark Souls)
The final encounter of the original Dark Souls game, Gwyn, Lord of Cinder serves as one of the original lords who vanquished the Dragons and began the entire cycle of rekindling the First Flame which sits at the very core of the Dark Souls series. While relatively predictable with his sword strikes, Gwyn isn’t one to ease up on his attacks to give you room to breathe, making parrying one of the most viable strategies against him. It’s a tough fight to nail down, but boy does it make for some intense moments.
5. Slave Knight Gael (Dark Souls 3)
Added to Dark Souls 3 recently with the final downloadable expansion, The Ringed City, Slave Knight Gael combines the best of both Dark Souls and Bloodborne into a fast-paced and erratic boss encounter that holds its own against some of the best fights in Dark Souls. A three-phase fight like Sister Friede from Ashes of Ariandel, Slave Knight Gael features a distinctly different moveset with each passing phase that progressively does more damage the further you lower his health. This encounter is intense, frustrating, and rewarding, which makes sense considering he’s the last boss of the Dark Souls series.
4. Ornstein and Smough (Dark Souls)
Ornstein and Smough together represent the classic encounter lurking at the heart of everyone’s first Dark Souls experience. The pair, who pop up about halfway through the original game, are a true test of one’s combat prowess. What’s great about this fight is how each of their movesets directly complements the other’s major weaknesses, which makes surviving this encounter solo one of the most challenging things Dark Souls can throw at you. With gorgeous armor design and stellar music to keep the stakes held high, these two remain the best multi-boss encounter of the entire series.
3. Sister Friede (Dark Souls 3)
The elder of the three sisters from the Stable Church of Londor, Sister Friede and her boss encounter are the redeeming piece of Dark Souls 3’s otherwise shallow downloadable expansion Ashes of Ariandel. Instead of taking place over a single, predictable phase, Sister Friede introduces fast-paced, multi-phase encounters to Dark Souls in a way similar to some Bloodborne fights. Continuously, you think you have her beaten only to see her rise again with a completely different and more dangerous moveset for you to learn.
2. Sif, the Great Grey Wolf (Dark Souls)
Sif, the loyal companion of Sir Artorias, can be found guarding her master’s grave located in the Darkroot Garden, fighting off those who seek to claim his ring to freely travel the Abyss. Since Sif lost Artorias to the darkness of the Abyss, players who have saved Sif’s life in additional content from the Artorias of the Abyss DLC will be met with a friend who’s reluctant to fight you, which really pulls at the heartstrings. In a way, killing Sif to claim Artorias’s ring will always feel bittersweet, making it one of the most memorable encounters in Dark Souls for years to come.
1. Artorias the Abysswalker (Dark Souls)
Knight Artorias is the most iconic boss encounter in the entire Dark Souls series. He’s an opponent who offers you little room to counter his relentless attacks. With a damage buff that allows him to take out your entire health pool in one combo, he’s a boss who challenged even the most experienced Dark Souls players back when his DLC for the original Dark Souls first came out. Thanks to his excellent backstory and challenging encounter, Knight Artorias serves as a shining example of the best the Dark Souls series has to offer to date.Photos via Bandai Namco Entertainment