If there's one thing Nintendo is famous for, it's creating amazing games with intricately woven stories and creative characters. They tend to throw in a few boss fights to keep things interesting and some of their games feature what are arguably the most difficult boss fights of all time. Whether you are diving into their library on the original Nintendo Entertainment System console or trying out something more recent on the Wii or Switch, you are bound to find a boss at the end of a level or the conclusion of the game who will make things very difficult for you. In many cases, these boss fights are entertaining and help to cap off an amazing story. Sometimes, they aren't as easy and they can take multiple attempts requiring hours of frustration and more than a few rage quits.
Back in the day, people would have to call the Nintendo hotline (which totally was a thing and was even revived for the launch of the NES Classic Edition), but these days, there are thousands of sites on the Internet devoted to helping people overcome a difficult boss fight. We decided to plow through as many games as possible and came up with the boss fights we found to be the most difficult of them all. Since Nintendo launched its first games in 1980 on the Game & Watch platform, it has released thousands of games, including some of the deadliest and most difficult bosses around. If we missed any of your favorites or if you found any of our choices to be particularly easy, sound off in the comments and let us know!
The following acronyms will be used throughout the article: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), GameBoy (GB), GameBoy Advance (GBA), Nintendo 3DS (3DS), Nintendo 64 (N64), Nintendo Duel Screen (DS) and Game Cube (GC).
25 KING KRUSHA K. ROOL - DONKEY KONG 64 (N64)
Donkey Kong 64 was a revolutionary game when it was released on the N64. Fans went wild over the realistic graphics, amazing soundtrack, and fun mechanics. Not only did you get to play as Donkey Kong in a heroic fashion, you could also play five characters.
That last bit came around to be more of a burden when the final boss, King Krusha K. Rool, came out to fight. You had to beat him with each character in a timed match and failing to do so with any Kong meant the whole fight reset. It was a frustrating end to an amazing game.
24 SHADOW QUEEN - PAPER MARIO: THE THOUSAND-YEAR DOOR (GC)
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for the GC may look like a cute and harmless game, but then there's the big boss: Shadow Queen. She is probably the darkest boss to pop up in any Mario title as she comes off as an alternate version of Princess Peach. She also possesses Peach during the battle, making you fight the very person you are constantly trying to save.
The battle is difficult, requiring the player to manage their resources across various stages. The Shadow Queen remains immune to normal attacks for a period of the battle making fighting her a strategic nightmare. She's tough, but also a great character and interesting conclusion to the game.
23 MEWTWO - POKÉMON RED, BLUE, AND YELLOW (GB)
As any trainer will tell you, the crowned jewel of the Pokémon collection is the legendary Mewtwo. He was only accessible after a player completed all the gyms in the game and defeated the Elite Four. Mewtwo could be found at the end of the Cerulean Cave, where you could catch him instantly with a Master Ball.
For those players unfortunate enough to not have a Master Ball, a long and difficult fight awaited them. With his ability to heal himself and psychically defeat pretty much any Pokémon a trainer had on their side, this was one battle many players failed to win their first time out.
22 LAVOS - CHRONO TRIGGER (SNES)
There are a lot of reasons players came to hate Lavos, the final boss in Chrono Trigger. The boss is already difficult to defeat, thanks to his independent body parts, all with their own Hit Points (HP) and attacks, so taking him down is tough. Not only that, Lavos self-heals so the fight can go on for a long period of time.
Once he's defeated, players need to fight and defeat Lavos multiple times if they want to see the various endings the game has to offer. Lavos is a difficult boss in normal play, but for completionists, he's something of a nightmare.
21 SILVER KNIGHT & LASER EYE - SHINING FORCE (GBA)
Shining Force's Silver Knight is the true boss in this fight, but getting to him and getting started with the battle requires dodging Laser Eye. This becomes a problem for most players because it requires time and effort to avoid the giant laser beam that cuts across the map, damaging anyone in its way.
For most players, rushing to the boss means getting taken down a notch or two by Laser Eye, so getting to and fighting Silver Knight is difficult and time-consuming. Most players came to despise Laser Eye in this fight and it's not hard to see why.
20 WOOD MAN - MEGA MAN 2 (NES)
Mega Man 2, like any Mega Man game, features a bevy of difficult bosses. Of all the boss fights you will have to get through to win the game, Wood Man is arguably the toughest and most frustrating for the average player. Wood Man fires deadly leaves at the player while foliage falls from the sky and shields the enemy.
Jumping, shooting and dodging are your friends through this fight, but for players who were in the know, grabbing the Atomic Fire power prior to going into the fight was a must. Without the right power equipped, you were in for a protracted battle that took the fun right out of the game.
19 SPIDER GUARDIAN - METROID PRIME 2 (GC)
Sometimes a boss fight is a direct confrontation with a big-bad that takes time and resources to complete... other times, it's an annoying series of puzzles that require an extensive amount of time, trial and error and a player's sanity to finish. The Spider Guardian from Metroid Prime 2 is the latter.
Unlike other boss fights, this battle requires morphing Samos into a ball and spinning about a maze in order to trap and bomb the enemy. It takes an unnecessarily long amount of time and patience to complete, which is why many players simply despise this boss fight that isn't a boss fight.
18 THE GRIM REAPER - CASTLEVANIA (NES)
Castlevania is a difficult game. It's full of tough enemies, difficult traps and powerful bosses. One such boss, the Grim Reaper represents the most frustrating boss battle in the entire game. While he isn't the most difficult, beating him is frustrating thanks to the odd controls in the game.
Players are unable to change direction mid-jump, which is counter-intuitive in a video game. This becomes a problem when the player tries to whip and dodge his sickle attack. You have to do this while rarely landing a hit on the boss, making this battle take a long time. This is one of those boss battles that ended with some seriously sore thumbs.
17 CULEX - SUPER MARIO RPG: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN STARS (SNES)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars attempted to blend the Super Mario genre with the Final Fantasy franchise. To do this, it offered an optional boss battle with Culex, which is a direct reference to Final Fantasy. Not only was this boss battle optional, it was difficult to find.
Once a player decided to seek out Culex and fight him, they are in for a tough battle. Of all the bosses a player can fight in the game, Culex is easily the toughest requiring a great deal of preparation, resource management and time to complete.
16 DEATH - CASTLEVANIA III: DRACULA'S CURSE (NES)
Death pops up in most of the Castlevania games and Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was no exception. Oddly enough, Death is considered a sub-boss to Dracula, but that doesn't mean he isn't a tough boss to take down. Like the first game, he employs his most iconic weapon, a spinning scythe, against the player.
Fighting Death requires constant dodging his attacks while rarely landing any blows. When you finally do beat him, he simply takes on his second form: a giant floating head with full HP. The player then has to re-defeat Death with the paltry few remaining HP they have left.
15 DEATH EGG ROBOT - SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 (3DS)
Sonic may have gotten his start with Sega, but he found his way onto Nintendo's hardware with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the 3DS. In the game, you have to battle many bosses, but the worst of them all is the Death Egg Robot manned by Dr. Eggman in the Death Egg Zone.
Getting to Eggman in this zone isn't a problem, but the complete lack of rings on the level means you have to fight him without any rings to protect Sonic. Eggman's attacks are complex and difficult to dodge, making him the toughest boss in the game.
14 SHADOW LINK - ZELDA II: THE ADVENTURE OF LINK (NES)
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a relatively good game, though it changed the mechanics from the first, which angered some fans. One thing it did do well was come up with an innovative enemy nobody could have suspected: themselves!
Shadow Link is the direct opposite of the player, which means he can match you blow-for-blow in a fight. This made him challenging and difficult to beat. Shadow Link was a tough, but beloved addition to the game, which is why Nintendo continues to put him in its Zelda adventures.
13 DRACULA - CASTLEVANIA (NES)
By the time a player finally makes it through the difficult levels and sub-bosses in Castlevania, they finally come face-to-face with Dracula! Fighting the eternal blood-sucker is no easy task, considering players couldn't save their games and return to fight him. Losing against him meant utter defeat so players generally had to play through the game multiple times to get a win.
Dracula's moves and many forms require the player to memorize his patterns and prepare ahead of the fight. Without the Internet as a resource, this meant a lot of players threw down their controllers in frustration as Dracula is one of the most difficult bosses across all of the NES library.
12 MIKE TYSON - PUNCH-OUT!! (NES)
Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! was one of those games almost everyone who owned an NES had in their library. In order to get to the Champ, players had to battle their way through title matches and crazy characters. The game's mechanics are fairly simple: memorize a fighter's patterns and counter them when necessary.
The problem with fighting Tyson is that a single mistake meant an instant KO. One hit from Tyson was all it took to take down the player and that was it. Game over. This meant most players had to repeatedly play through the entire game multiple times before they could memorize the pattern and beat the Champ.
11 DR. WILY'S YELLOW DEVIL - MEGA MAN (NES)
Dr. Wily's Yellow Devil is easily the most difficult boss players will meet when they play through the original Mega Man game on the NES. Yellow Devil is unlike any of the bosses who came before in that he is large, throws pieces of himself at the player and has a pattern that is difficult to memorize.
Players would meet up with this guy completely unprepared for the fight. This resulted in most players getting stomped and having to play through again in order to fight the Yellow Devil, only to fail time and time again. This was one tough boss players came to despise.
10 PRIMAGEN - TUROK 2: SEEDS OF EVIL (N64)
When you are playing a game all about hunting and snuffing out dinosaurs, you might expect the final boss to be... well, a dinosaur. Unfortunately for players of Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, the final boss battle ended with a weird-looking alien creature that in no way resembled a dinosaur. Disappointed players not only had to contend with a weird boss, he was extremely difficult to beat.
Primagen is a telepathic alien who attacks the player in multiple phases with giant mechs and nukes. Each phase increases in difficulty and requires the use of heavy weaponry with limited ammunition to beat.
9 GIGA BOWSER - SUPER SMASH BROS. MELEE (GC)
When players run through the adventure mode on Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GC, they eventually get to Bowser. Fighting Bowser and defeating him doesn't result in the normal trophy acquisition and happy ending--no, Bowser falls,. but the trophy transforms into a giant version of Bowser stacked with horns and new powers.
Giga Bowser is about five times the size of regular Bowser, he shoots fireballs and can freeze you. It's an incredibly difficult fight, especially considering you just took the time and energy to defeat Bowser. When you finally do win the battle, his trophy is destroyed, never to be seen again.
8 MEGA MASHTOOTH - THE LEGENDARY STARFY (DS)
Fighting Mashtooth in The Legendary Starfy on the DS is one of the most difficult boss fights Nintendo has given us. You start by battling him in a relatively normal way, but he then takes your bunny pal, eats him and grows wings to become MEGA MASHTOOTH! The boss flies off and Starfy heads out after him.
This is when the battle gets really difficult. You have to ram into him multiple times to defeat him, but he enjoys shooting meteors and ramming you throughout the fight. He even chucks a planet your way, making this one of the most epic fights on the platform.
7 MAJORA - THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORA'S MASK (N64)
The final boss fight in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is one of the hardest in the whole franchise. Once you finally get to him, he must be battled in three phases: Majora's Mask, Majora's Incarnation and Majora's Wrath. Each phase of the fight requires the player to utilize all of the skills acquired throughout the game.
Majora's various manifestations utilize other Boss Remains to attack the player, which requires a quick dodge from the various ranged attacks. The play speeds up as time progresses making it necessary to repeatedly button mash until your fingers nearly break. It's difficult, but a great conclusion to an amazing game.
6 ANDROSS - STAR FOX 64 (N64)
One of the biggest reasons players didn't like having to battle Andross in Star Fox 64 is that he's pretty terrifying. Imagine playing against this guy when you were a kid: he's gigantic, can eat your ship and is generally horrifying to look at. He required phases to bring him down, starting with the giant form.
Once you blew up his mechanical hands and giant head, he would reveal his true form: a giant pulsating brain. Defeat this form and he goes down by setting the detonation sequence requiring you to flee through a maze. While this proves impossible, your are eventually led out by your character's father who disappears at the end.
5 GANONDORF - THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER (GC)
The final battle against Ganondoft in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was the first time players could engage in a sword fight against the franchise's ultimate enemy. At first, your blows miss him entirely as he is able to dodge everything you throw at him. Princess Zelda is off to the side shooting light arrows at him so you can engage when he is stunned by one.
After he is about halfway depleted, the battle changes and Ganondorf removes Zelda turns Zelda against the player. You then have to dodge her arrows while continuing to fight the battle. By the end, it take a sword blow to Ganondorf's head to win the fight.
4 GIYGAS - EARTHBOUND (SNES)
Defeating Giygas in Earthbound was one of the most difficult battles kids had to undertake in the 1980s. When you finally reach this rather weird and exotic enemy, it's anyone's guess how to defeat him. At times, he is invincible to any of your attacks, while others, he is susceptible to Paula's Pray ability.
This is one of those battles that required the use of a strategy guide or the Nintendo hotline. If you didn't have those, you had to rely on trial and error to defeat him, which was never fun and always took time. Ultimately, it takes nine Pray uses to defeat him, but without knowing that going in, most players were lost.
3 MOTHER BRAIN - SUPER METROID (SNES)
Any fan of the Metroid series will tell you, Mother Brain is a real pain when you finally make your way to that battle. The battle begins with the player shooting at the giant brain in a jar while dodging missiles on a tiny platform. She then becomes a flying brain who attacks the player relentlessly.
Eventually, she hops into a giant mechanized battle suit. The player then needs to battle this new, more powerful version of the enemy. Eventually, Metroid comes in and saves the player who gains the Hyper Beam used to finally defeat Mother Brain. The player is then gifted with the realization that they were playing a female character all along!
2 GANON - THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME (N64)
This battle begins with Link facing off against the legendary Ganondorf, but he doesn't remain in that form for long. After dodging and deflecting his energy blasts, Ganondorf is stunned and the player fires a light arrow into him. You then have to repeat this process until he is defeated, but it doesn't take long before he transforms into his beast form, GANON.
The fight against GANON begins with him kicking away your sword. This leaves you with the Megaton Hammer, which you need to bash GANON's tail. Do this enough and he is stunned, but you have to continue repeating this for a time before you can finally recover your sword and defeat him.
1 BOWSER - NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. (WII)
The first time players got to fight Bowser in Super Mario Bros., all you had to do to defeat him was jump over him. In New Super Mario Bros., Bowser is back and much harder to defeat. When you first confront him, you have to evade a series of gigantic fireballs. After this, you confront Bowser.
You defeat him exactly like you do in the first game! Then, he is brought back to life and the real battle begins. You then can only fight Bowser by running away. You then have to deal with lava, tiny platforms and giant fireballs. Eventually, you find a switch and cause his castle to collapse on top of him.