Top 5 Retro Final Bosses (2020)
You’ve shelled out your hard-earned cash on a brand-spanking new game, gotten through the first few levels, built up your skill and routed all the henchmen. Now all that stands between you and that satisfying, sweet release of the credits screen is the dastardly Final Boss. Yes, it’s tough to even think of any game that doesn’t boast some sort of a final foe for you to defeat – and in the case of most games, particularly in days gone by, the Final Boss was the biggest showpiece of the entire caper.
Wouldn’t you feel short-changed if you took down a load of megabosses, and fought your way to the end of a challenging run-and-gun game, only to be confronted with a teensy pushover of a last opponent? You couldn’t have ended Street Fighter 2 by fighting Dhalsim, could you? In the case of final bosses, bigger and meaner is definitely better. Here, we take a look at the Top 5 Retro Final Bosses, showing that even primitive hardware can throw up some of the most cataclysmic battles ever.
5. Mike Tyson (Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!)
First and foremost, I could hardly think of a more frightful boss in any video game, let alone a Nintendo one. As fiendishly difficult as the majority of this game is, you’d still have to say that Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out is a whimsical, charming enough game. Racist as hell, but still charming. Like an elderly man whose demeanour is a bit “of his time”, let’s say.
Of course, the title of the game itself doesn’t exactly conceal the fact that one of the baddest men on the planet is waiting for Mac at the very end. Now, I hasten to add that this game was released prior to many of Tyson’s less savoury moments. The rape and the earbite and all that. Still, fighting Tyson in this game can’t be too bad, right? You’re a good gamer, so it’ll be tough but manageable one would think?
Dead wrong, of course. Will Smith thought he could beat Mike Tyson, and you can imagine how well that went. For the first 90 seconds of your fight, every single goddamned punch that Tyson throws at you, all at lightning pace, will knock you down immediately. It’s not exactly unheard of to lose the fight in a matter of seconds, which makes this a pretty realistic portrayal.
If you can get past that onslaught, then Tyson hardly lets up, throwing devastatingly ferocious uppercuts (and you must read that in his voice) your way. These come with only the tiniest wink to tell you which direction you need to haul your ass to in to avoid the train before it flattens you.
Despite what your Xbox might tell you, there aren’t an awful lot of truly great achievements in games. Beating Mike Tyson is one of them though, especially if you can do it in one round. Once the sponsorship deal ran out, Mike Tyson’s sprites were replaced by some no-mark named Mr. Dream. True, he fought in an identical way, but it just wasn’t the same. Some men just carry that gravitas, and Iron Mike is definitely one of them.
4. Mana Beast (Secret of Mana)
Nothing beats a Final Boss with a bit of emotion behind it. To give some of the backstory – with the powerful force of Mana running out in the world, malevolent beings seek to reawaken the Mana Fortress and rule the world. Having pulled the powerful Sword of Mana from its resting place, the hero of Secret of Mana tries to restore the balance of Mana to the world before the evil Empire can use Mana for their own evil deeds.
Now I’ve said Mana an awful lot of times there, although I never found out what on earth it means. I suppose that’s the “secret” they keep talking about. Anyway, the baddies succeed in reawakening the Mana Fortress and destroying the Mana Tree, prompting a beast of pure Mana (the, ah, Mana Beast) to come into existence and try to take down the Fortress, and probably the entire world with it.
To save the world, the hero must take down this understandably angry Mana Beast, despite the beast innocently trying to save all the creatures of the world – even more than that, destroying the Mana Beast consigns one of the party members, the jovial sprite child, to the other world.
Isn’t that so bittersweet? Atop the Mana fortress, with all other enemies defeated, it falls to the hero to take the Mana Sword (infused with – you guessed it – Mana) and defeat the humongous Mana Beast before it flushes the world down the swanny and goes back asleep. The Mana Beast caps off my favourite ever game, and it’s a pretty damn big SNES sprite to boot.
3. Liquid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)
In truth, you battle Liquid Snake many times throughout the course of Metal Gear Solid – and, if we’re being fully honest, you’d have to say that there’s no real way that he could survive even one of the battles he has with his twin brother, Solid Snake. But you must understand that he’s no mere man – he’s Liquid Snake. And because he’s got a far less embarrassing name than his brother, you can tell he’s… I wanted to say hard, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.
Firstly, Solid Snake blows Liquid’s Hind-D gunship out of the sky by lashing it with about 20 Stinger missiles. The helicopter eventually spirals out of control and hits the ground, exploding in a hellacious ball of fire. Fair enough, he possibly managed to eject. Next, he pilots the formidable Metal Gear REX, which Snake then takes out with, oh, probably 40 Stinger missiles this time. Half of these missiles directly impacted Liquid’s face, mind you.
The whole nuclear-equipped walking deathmobile explodes in another fiery blast, launching Solid Snake towards the wall and knocking him out, while somehow sparing Liquid. At this point, you’ll think there’s no point in asking questions anymore – but watch out, because after Solid Snake wakes up, it’s a nice half-hour lecture from Liquid.
After displaying a very shaky grasp of genetics, a bunch of wangst regarding his father Big Boss, and best of all, the Super Baby Method, eventually his next dastardly plan is revealed. Having somehow fashioned a bomb in all the confusion, Liquid’s rigged the device up to love interest Meryl and has it set up to blow in 10 minutes. All weapons cast aside, it’s time for Les Enfants Terribles to have their final battle, in a pure bout of hand-to-hand combat.
Solid Snake eventually wins, consigning Liquid to a 40-foot drop off the side of the fallen Metal Gear REX. Fancy that, Liquid’s still not dead after this. With that ‘certain air of inevitability’, as you’re making your escape Liquid chases after you in a jeep of his own and tries to gun you down. You can deter him by shooting him in the face a copious amount of times, but he will never, ever die from it. It’s only when he causes a massive crash (needless to say, he survives this too) between the two jeeps and approaches Snake menacingly does he finally succumb to the lame FOX-DIE virus and give up the ghost. And then he lived in Ocelot’s arm or something. Well, you’ve got to give him bundles of credit for persistence.
2. Ganondorf/Ganon (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
I’m perhaps being cheeky by naming two separate bosses and grouping them into one, but they’re the same entity – the same experience, if you like. The groundbreaking Ocarina of Time marked the first appearance of Ganondorf, the much more humane form of Ganon – better company at the Hyrule Castle Banquet Table than an overlarge pig, I’m sure you’ll agree.
He’s a clever sod in this game, tricking young Link into opening the Door of Time for him, and then pulling a similar trick by imprisoning adult Zelda to lure Link to his castle. Things would have been a lot better if Link just hadn’t bothered his arse. But that’s not very heroic, is it?
Once you get through all six of the Medallion Barriers, you make your way up some absurdly long stairways as Ganon’s evil theme blares out on an organ. When you finally make it to Ganon’s Chamber, it transpires that the organ was being played by Ganondorf himself. Isn’t that a fine mark of a villain, playing your own sinister theme through your enormous castle as the hapless hero struggles to get to you?
Once Link arrives, Ganondorf hits him with a typically hard-hitting speech, banishes the incessantly annoying Navi for a bit and then begins to float around the arena (disappointingly making the same noise as Link’s far less threatening Fishing Rod) and fires some energy balls at Link. Returning these energy balls with a sword stroke is typical fare for Zelda players, although the wonky frame-rate of the original N64 release can make it a little tough to return them with the bog-standard Master Sword – stick to Biggoron’s products instead.
Once you hit Ganondorf, and put a Light Arrow through his neck, you can score some hits on him. Eventually, he’ll cough up some red or green blood and appear to be defeated. On cue, his castle starts falling to the ground, and Link and Zelda must get out fast.
But oh no! Outside the castle, just when you think you’ve won, Ganondorf reappears and morphs into the terrifyingly huge Ganon, as the real final battle begins. Fire surrounds Link and Ganon, with Zelda cast off to the side and getting top marks in the ‘damsel in distress’ category. To make matters worse, Ganon immediately knocks the Master Sword out of Link’s hand. You’ve got other artillery of course, a nice big hammer for one. But Link didn’t expect that, did he? Defeating Ganon sets up a fine ending sequence, a satisfying conclusion to an incredible game. It’s just a pity you can’t save after doing it.
1. Big Bowser (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island)
It may not be held in quite the same esteem that Super Mario World is, but the beautiful Yoshi’s Island had so many unique tricks that Mario fans can scarcely afford not to play it. The bosses in the castles and fortresses throughout the game are, unfortunately, a little predictable – they’re simply larger versions of the regular enemies, infused with magic by the evil Kamek, who stalks you all throughout the game. He also kidnapped Luigi, but that never seems to get mentioned.
These juicer bosses are still better than fighting Reznor four times, but they’re hardly anything to take your breath away, marvellous as the Super-FX-2-powered sprites looked. But once you finally get to the end of the game and storm Baby Bowser’s room, it looks set up for a clash between you and Kamek. That is, until wee Bowser wakes up and tries to ground-pound you into oblivion. See, he fancies riding on Yoshi in lieu of the tantrum-happy Baby Mario. Given Baby Mario’s horrendous crying, that might not be such a bad deal, but anyway, we can’t say that in polite company.
Once Yoshi hits Master Bowser back with his own medicine, Kamek drops some of his famous magic potion on his young charge, who quickly grows to gargantuan proportions – so much so that he destroys his own castle. How did he get that castle in the first place? Inheritance?
The real battle begins. For a few pregnant moments, as some deliciously tense music kicks in, Yoshi and Baby Mario are left pondering what to do atop the battlements of Bowser’s Castle, as more and more of it falls to rubble. Then, Yoshi’s attention is finally directed towards the sea, as the huge silhouette of Bowser rises and begins to make its way towards our two heroes.
The music really kicks in then, an electric guitar and an organ both going ham as you pick up some large red eggs from helpful balloons that just happen to be floating on by. You gotta blast them at Bowser’s big head out there in the background, and your aim better be true. Bowser will be busy coughing up some fireballs at you, like a cat spitting out a hairball, but they’re not so bad. Where things get dicey is when the big fella gets angered by you smashing eggs off his face and just runs at you at top speed.
If you let Not So Baby Bowser get too close, he’ll simply bulldoze through his own castle and wipe Yoshi and his baby passenger out in one fell swoop. And let me tell you – Mike Tyson, a Mana Beast, Ganon, they wouldn’t be able to stand up to that either. Even Liquid Snake couldn’t survive it. Bowser’s got more staying power than any of them, and you’re crazy if you don’t think he’d turn into a 700-foot tall behemoth just because Yoshi wouldn’t let him ride on his back. He’s the most famous final boss of all, and it was Yoshi’s Island of all games that gave him his finest hour.
19 June 2020