The Modern Boss Fight

Boss fights. We can’t seem to get rid of them. It seems like every game these days feels obligated to build up to several intricate, large-scale, and often difficult fights with significant enemies. Traditional boss fights are a remnant of the past, and are no longer necessary in many games. Also, very few games successfully execute a good boss fight, making them a waste of valuable money and production time for most developers.

The new trend in gaming, with some exceptions, is omitting a traditional boss fight and instead making the “boss fight” be the challenging sequence that leads up to the final showdown with the “boss”, which while perhaps difficult, is short and sweet. This approach also lends itself well to games that are trying to preserve some level of realism, as it eliminates the possibility problems like human bullet-sponges.

The game that does this best is Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The two previous Uncharted games had lackluster boss fights at best, but were both flawed in different ways. The first Uncharted tried to use the aforementioned idea of making the challenge be in the journey to the boss, but the journey was underwhelming and unsatisfying. Uncharted 2 had an entire level devoted to killing the final boss, but the boss soaked up an ungodly amount of bullets, and the gimmick used to actually defeat him was uninspired and tedious.

In Uncharted 3, the final sequence leading up to the boss fight is action-packed, cinematic, satisfying, and (almost) devoid of supernatural enemies (one constant flaw in every Uncharted game). The final boss “encounter” lasts all of a minute, but is just as tense and action-packed as the events that led up to it. At the end of the game, I felt fulfilled by the ending sequence, despite having only spent about sixty seconds fighting a traditional “boss”. This is how a modern boss fight should be done, folks.

While there is always room for classic, old-school boss fights that really work (see Rocksteady’s Batman games), it is becoming harder and harder for developers to reconcile their beloved boss fight with the trends in modern gaming.

Which do you prefer? A long, drawn out, but well-done old-school boss fight or a difficult sequence followed by a short boss encounter? Let me know in the comments below.