Boss (video games)
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In video games, a boss is a significant computer-controlled enemy. A fight with a boss character is commonly referred to as a boss battle or boss fight. Bosses are generally far stronger than other opponents the player has faced up to that point, and winning requires a greater knowledge of the game's mechanics. Boss battles are generally seen at a climax of a particular section of the game, such as at the end of a level or stage, or guarding a specific objective. A miniboss is a boss weaker or less significant than the main boss in the same area or level, though more powerful than the standard enemies and often fought alongside them. A superboss (sometimes 'secret' or 'hidden' boss) is generally much more powerful than the bosses encountered as part of the main game's plot and often an optional encounter. A final boss is often the main antagonist of a game's story and the defeat of that character provides a positive conclusion to the game.
For example, in a run 'n' gun video game all regular enemies might use pistols while the boss uses a tank. A boss enemy is quite often larger in size than other enemies and the player character. 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 avoid specific attacks.
Bosses are common in many genres of video games, but they are especially common in story-driven titles. RPGs, FPSs, platform games, fighting games and shoot'em ups are particularly associated with boss battles. They may be less common in puzzle games, card video games, sports games, and simulation games. The first video game to feature a boss fight was the 1975 RPG dnd. The concept has expanded to new genres, like rhythm games, where there may be a "boss song" that is more difficult. In MOBA games, defeating a map boss usually requires help from the other players, but it brings various benefits to the team, such as buffs, or lane push power. Some games, such as Cuphead and Warning Forever, are centered around continual boss fights.
The first interactive game to feature a boss was dnd, a 1975 role-playing video game for the PLATO system. One of the earliest dungeon crawls, dnd implemented many of the core concepts behind Dungeons & Dragons. The objective of the game is to retrieve an "Orb" from the bottommost dungeon. 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.
In the mid-2010s, boss battles began receiving individual theme music with lyrics describing the boss's motivation and themes, pioneered particularly by Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Final Fantasy XIV.
Bosses are usually more difficult than regular enemies, can sustain more damage, and are generally found at the end of a level or area. 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). Some bosses are encountered several times through a single game, typically with alternate attacks and a different strategy required to defeat it each time. A boss battle can also be made more challenging if the boss in question becomes progressively stronger and/or less vulnerable as their health decreases, requiring players to use different strategies to win. Some bosses may contain or be composed of smaller parts that can be destroyed by the player in battle, which may or may not grant an advantage. 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.
Boss battles are typically seen as dramatic events. As such, they are usually characterized by 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.
Specific boss types
A miniboss, also known as a "middle boss", "mid-boss", "half-boss", "sub-boss", 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. Others may be a recurring version of a previous boss, who is either weaker than previously encountered or is less of a challenge later in the game due to character or equipment progression. Other video game characters who usually take the role of a miniboss are the Koopalings (Super Mario series), Vile (Mega Man X series), Allen O'Neil (Metal Slug), and Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda series, though he appears as a final boss in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link). There is also a subtype nicknamed the "Wolfpack Boss", for its similarity to a pack of wolves, often consisting of a group of strong normal enemies that are easy to defeat on their own, but a group of them can be as difficult as a boss battle.
A superboss is a type of boss most commonly found in role-playing video games. They are considered optional enemies and do not have to be defeated to complete the game. However, not all optional bosses are superbosses. They are generally much more powerful than the bosses encountered as part of the main game's plot or quest, more difficult even than the final boss, and often the player is required to complete a sidequest or the entire game to fight the superboss. For example, in Final Fantasy VII, the player may choose to seek out and fight the Ruby and Emerald Weapons. Some superbosses will take the place of the final boss if certain requirements are met. This is common in fighting games such as Akuma in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Some superbosses can also yield special items or skills that cannot be found any other way that can give a player a significant advantage during playthrough of the rest of the game, such as added experience or an extremely powerful weapon. For example, the "raid bosses" from Borderlands 2 give rare loot unavailable anywhere else. Some superbosses in online games have an immense amount of health and must be defeated within a time limit by having a large number of players or parties working together to defeat the boss. Examples of such superbosses can be found in games like Shadow Fight 2 and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. Toby Fox's games Undertale and Deltarune both feature superbosses in the form of Sans the Skeleton (only accessible by making it to the end of Undertale's "Genocide Route") and Jevil (only accessible by locating a set of keys to free him from a prison cell), respectively. Some major video game series have recurring superbosses such as the Ultima Weapon and Omega Weapon in Final Fantasy.
The final boss, last boss or end 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. 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. 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.
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, or doing a series of tasks in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. 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 the Radiance in Hollow Knight, Indalecio in Star Ocean: The Second Story, the Moon Presence in Bloodborne, and Zero in Kirby's Dream Land 3.
Foozle describes a cliché final boss that exists only to act as the final problem before a player can complete the game. 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.'"
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