The recent remaster of FromSoftware’s hit game Dark Souls has brought a new generation of gamers back to Lordran in search of adventure and challenge. Known for its punishing difficulty, even minor enemies will take multiple attempts at vanquishing before the player can find an effective strategy. Dark Souls‘ bosses take this quality to a new level, filling videos and forums with tales of frustration at “impossible-to-beat” foes that can crush players with a single strike.
The difficulty of these bosses arises from a composite of several factors, including their damage potential, their speed, and peripheral elements such as additional enemies or environmental challenges. Chosen Undead beware, none of the bosses on this list are for the faint of heart.
10 Bed of Chaos
The Bed of Chaos is a unique entry in that it is not a particularly damaging or fast-moving boss. Indeed, for the duration of the battle, the creature sits in only one place, attempting to skewer the Chosen Undead with gnarled roots, sharp branches, and bolts of orange lightning. The Bed of Chaos is arguably the worst boss in Dark Souls.
The difficulty in this fight is that the floor gradually disintegrates beneath the player throughout the encounter, and one wrong step leads to instant death. Not only will this cause the player to forfeit all their hard-won souls, but even the nearest bonfire is very far away, requiring tedious backtracking to try the fight again. Spatial awareness, stamina management, and even old-school platformer skills make this boss a challenge like no other in Dark Souls.
9 Centipede Demon
Guarding the road to Lost Izalith is a massive, lumbering boss known as the Centipede Demon. With limbs formed of grotesque insects, this enemy’s environment is a challenge in itself. Taking place in a massive lava pit, there are only so many places the Chosen Undead can safely stand while fighting this boss.
Making matters even more difficult, the Centipede Demon will frequently keep its distance, approaching only to hurl a lightning-fast punch before retreating across an untraversable field of magma. If the demon closes the distance, players need to beware of its tail, which, if severed, will transform into a minor centipede enemy, further adding to the fight’s difficulty.
8 Gwyn, Lord of Cinder
The conclusion of Dark Souls’ central narrative brings players to fight with Gwyn, the powerful god who linked the First Flame and brought an end to the Age of Ancients. With no summoned enemies or environmental hazards, the Lord of Cinder’s difficulty is all in his raw power and speed. Gamers who have made it this far without mastering the parry mechanic are in for a long fight, as Gwyn is a master swordsman with long-range and high-damage attacks that can inflict fire status on the Chosen Undead.
If given the chance, he will also string together quick combos on the player, which causes staggering and a temporary inability to fight back.
7 The Black Dragon Kalameet
Seen in the background throughout the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, the legendary Black Dragon Kalameet can be fought in the Royal Woods after being shot down by Hawkeye Gough. Here, the tried and true strategy of attacking a giant boss from underneath becomes practically useless, as the Black Dragon will either fly away from the player or simply stomp them to bits.
Kalameet will utilize his long-distance Mark of Calamity attack for gamers hoping to employ a ranged strategy, which renders the player doubly receptive to damage. The dragon’s fire-breathing attacks have the unique property of dealing magic and physical damage, which no shield in the game will fully block. The yellow-black texture of his flames also has the consequence of briefly obscuring player vision. Even a successful dodge can result in temporary disorientation while the nimble dragon relocates for another attack.
6 Capra Demon
An optional boss, the Capra Demon’s challenge resides in its environment, enemy speed, and the presence of additional foes. Perhaps the most difficult element of this battle is how little space there is to fight. The boss “arena” is no larger than any of the other small cloisters in Lower Undead Burg and is half taken up by an obtrusive set of stairs. The Capra Demon is also quick for its size, able to close distance with the player in only a few strides no matter where he is in the room.
What’s more, immediately upon entering the boss room, the player is beset not only by the dual-wielding demon but by a pair of Undead Dogs. This makes the tiny room feel even smaller and makes every movement count against this challenging boss.
5 Gravelord Nito
Deep in the Catacombs, Nito the Lord of Death awaits players who would challenge him for his soul with a grueling battle. One of the most challenging elements of this encounter is that only two hits from the Gravelord will render the player poisoned, and his most powerful attack, “Death Wave,” fills the player’s toxin meter when it is blocked. He will also summon a legion of attacking skeletons to besiege and distract the player.
Tread carefully, and be sure to carry plenty of Remedies or Blooming Purple Moss Clumps to allay the Gravelord’s toxic effects. Unconventional Dark Souls character builds like DEX Pyro may stand a better chance against the fire-susceptible Nito, but all Undead should be prepared for a harrowing fight.
4 The Four Kings
Suspended in the Abyss, the Four Kings is another boss made more difficult by the presence of other enemies. In this case, however, the boss itself replicates roughly every forty seconds. On its own, the Four Kings’ area-of-effect and melee-based attacks aren’t anything noteworthy by FromSoftware’s standard. But once two or three of these ethereal emperors start hacking and slashing at the Chosen Undead, the tides of battle become almost impossible to turn in the player’s favor.
Making things even more difficult, the Four Kings have the most health of all bosses in the Dark Souls game.
3 Knight Artorias
Only available in the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, the Artorias boss fight quickly became a fan-favorite, rich in Dark Souls lore and representing the pinnacle of Souls-style combat. In many ways, fighting the Knight Artorias feels like fighting a human enemy who’s mastered all of Dark Souls’ combat mechanics.
His attacks feel endless in variety, and he telegraphs his actions very subtly, making it almost impossible to anticipate or counter his moves. Artorias will also, like the player, employ buffs throughout the match to strengthen his attacks, easily making him one of the most challenging bosses in the game.
2 Dragonslayer Ornstein & Executioner Smough
High in the towers of Anor Londo, two colossal knights await the player, Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough. This pair is relentless, with long-ranged halberd and hammer attacks that can easily kill an unprepared player with a single strike. Ornstein and Smough are also deceptively fast for their size, able to leap across the arena to strike combatants with ease.
If the player fells Ornstein, Smough becomes exponentially more powerful for the final phase of the fight, and vice versa. For this, it’s recommended to whittle down the health of both bosses before going in for the kill. Those who are victorious are rewarded with either Ornstein or Smough’s Set, considered among the best armor in Dark Souls.
1 Manus, Father of the Abyss
The final boss of the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, Manus stands the test of time as one of the most difficult bosses in gaming history. Relentlessly aggressive and far faster than his hulking size might suggest, Manus simply does not stop attacking.
Most bosses will have patterns of engagement that allow for pacing and a momentary breakaway to heal with an Estus Flask. Not so with the Father of the Abyss, who will never let up once the battle is initiated, attacking with both physical strikes and Dark Magic. Like Artorius, Manus needs neither environmental gimmick nor summoned hordes to enhance his difficulty, and for that reason holds the spot for Dark Souls’ most challenging boss.