Boss (video gaming)

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A boss fight from Guacamelee, in which the player characters (the two characters in luchador outfits) must keep ahead of the giant rampaging creature on the left while dodging obstacles and other enemies.

In video gaming, a boss is a significant computer-controlled enemy.[1] A fight with a boss character is commonly referred to as a boss battle or boss fight. Boss battles are generally seen at a climax of a particular section of the game, usually at the end of a stage or level, or guarding a specific objective, and the boss enemy is generally far stronger than the opponents the player has faced up to that point. For example, in a combat game all regular enemies might use pistols while the boss uses a machine gun.[2] A boss enemy is quite often larger in size than other enemies and the player character.[3] At times, bosses are very hard, even impossible to defeat without being adequately prepared and/or knowing the correct fighting approach. Bosses take strategy and special knowledge to defeat, such as how to attack weak points or avoiding specific attacks. A final boss is often the main antagonist of a game's story.


The first interactive game to feature a boss was dnd, a 1975 role-playing video game for the PLATO system.[4][5] One of the earliest dungeon crawls, dnd implemented many of the core concepts behind Dungeons & Dragons.[5] The objective of the game is to retrieve an "Orb" from the bottommost dungeon.[6] The orb is kept in a treasure room guarded by a high-level enemy named the Gold Dragon. Only by defeating the Dragon can the player claim the orb, complete the game, and be eligible to appear on the high score list.[4]

A 1980 example is the fixed shooter Phoenix, wherein the player ship must fight a giant mothership in the fifth and final level.[7]


Bosses are usually more difficult than regular enemies, can sustain more damage, and are generally found at the end of a level or area.[8][9] While most games include a mixture of boss opponents and regular opponents, some games have only regular opponents and some games have only bosses (e.g. Shadow of the Colossus).[10] Some bosses are encountered several times through a single game, typically with alternate attacks and a different strategy required to defeat it each time.[9] In games such as Doom and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, an enemy may be introduced via a boss battle, but later appear as a regular enemy, after the player has become stronger or had a chance to find more powerful weaponry.[citation needed]

Boss battles are typically seen as dramatic events. As such, they are usually characterized with unique music and cutscenes before and after the boss battle. Recurring bosses and final bosses may have their own specific theme music to distinguish them from other boss battles. This concept extends beyond combat-oriented video games. For example, a number of titles in the Dance Dance Revolution rhythm game series contain "boss songs" that are called "bosses" because they are exceptionally difficult to perform on.[citation needed]

Specific boss types[edit]


Miniboss in the 2015 video game Broforce

A miniboss, also known as a middle boss, mid-boss, half-boss, sub-boss,[11] or semi-boss, is a boss weaker or less significant than the main boss in the same area or level. Some minibosses are stronger versions of regular enemies, as in the Kirby games.[citation needed] Other video game characters who usually take the role of a miniboss are the Koopalings (Super Mario series), Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda series), Vile (Mega Man X series), and Allen O'Neil (Metal Slug). There is also a subtype nicknamed the "Wolfpack Boss", for its similarity to a pack of wolves, often consisting of a group of very strong normal enemies that are tough to defeat on their own, but a group of them can be as difficult as a boss battle.

Final boss[edit]

The final boss is typically present at, or near, the end of a game, with completion of the game's storyline usually following victory in the battle.[12][13] The final boss is usually the main antagonist of the game; however, there are exceptions, such as in Conker's Bad Fur Day, where the final boss is the antagonist's alien pet.

Scorpia stated in 1994 that "about 98% of all role-playing video games can be summed up as follows: 'We go out and bash on critters until we're strong enough to go bash on Foozle.'"[12] Final bosses are generally larger, more detailed, and better animated than lesser enemies, often in order to inspire a feeling of grandeur and special significance from the encounter.[citation needed]

In some games, a hidden boss, referred to as the "true" final boss, is present. These bosses only appear after the completion of specific additional levels, choosing specific dialogue options, or after obtaining a particular item or set of items, such as the Chaos Emeralds in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. These bosses are generally more difficult to defeat. In games with a "true" final boss, victory leads to either a better ending, or a more detailed version of the regular ending. Examples of a "true final boss" include Indalecio in Star Ocean: The Second Story and the Moon Presence in Bloodborne.


Foozle is a term, used by the 1990s,[12] to describe a cliché final boss that exists only to act as the final problem before a player can complete the game.[14][13]


  1. ^ Burt, Andy (2008–4). "No More Heroes: The Killer Boss Guide", GamePro vol. 235, pg. 66.
  2. ^ Thompson, Clive. (8 May 2006) Who's the Boss? Archived 8 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Wired. Retrieved on 2008-03-22.
  3. ^ "The Top 7... Big Bosses, GamesRadar". Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b Gary Whisenhunt, Ray Wood, Dirk Pellett, and Flint Pellett's DND Archived 7 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. The Armory Archived 27 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2008-04-08.
  5. ^ a b dnd (The Game of Dungeons) Archived 13 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.. Universal Videogame List Archived 3 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2008-04-09.
  6. ^ The History of Computer Role-Playing Games Part 1: The Early Years (1980–1983) Archived 18 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine.. Gamasutra Archived 6 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2008-04-07.
  7. ^ Sterbakov, Hugh. (5 March 2008) The 47 Most Diabolical Video-Game Villains of All Time. Gamepro. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
  8. ^ Thompson, Clive (6 May 2004). "Tough Love: Can a video game be too hard?". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  9. ^ a b "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 30.
  10. ^ Roper, Chris (2005). "Shadow of the Colossus Review". IGN. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  11. ^ "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: Sub-boss". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 41.
  12. ^ a b c Scorpia (August 1994). "Scorpia The Avatar". Scorpia's Sting. Computer Gaming World. pp. 29–33. Archived from the original on 2 January 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b Kaiser, Rowan (13 July 2010). "Stop Killing the Foozle!". The Escapist. Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  14. ^ "Looking Evil". Scorpia. Archived from the original on 7 April 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2018.