Yesterday's bosses almost all fell into one of two buckets. Some of them, like the three Moldorms, were just lame rehashes of existing bosses that didn't expand on the original idea. Others, like Morpha and Dodongo, primarily existed to teach a mechanic, and so fighting them felt a bit like the first time an older kid lets you win a game. It sure was unfortunate that they kept forgetting how to attack, but what's important is that you won, right?
Today's bosses continue a trend that yesterday's Cyclock started: they do something well, but it's not enough to overcome some other major shortcoming. Some of them have terrible designs, others are about as fun as doing taxes. But they've all got a clear speck of strong ideas somewhere that makes you wonder what they could've been with a few more passes.
80. Barinade (OoT)
Barinade joins Morpha and King Dodongo as OoT bosses near the bottom of the list for very similar reasons. Like Morpha, it doesn't look like anything. Like King Dodongo, it's not making a terribly convincing effort to fight back. But Barinade comes out ahead of those two because it is at least unique, and more importantly because the idea of fighting some kind of cancerous monster inside Lord Jabu Jabu is well-integrated with the dungeon. King Dodongo sort of has that as well, since you're told that the Dodongos are causing trouble or whatever, but it's much easier to see why this horrific electric anemone is a problem for Jabu Jabu than it is to understand why the Gorons can't deal with a rolly-polly lizard themselves. Still, let's not give Barinade too much credit - it's only the third boss in OoT, but even then it isn't the best parasite boss you've seen by that point.
79. Kholdstare (aLttP)
Kholdstare embodies two Zelda boss archetypes that I don't like. For one, it's a giant eyeball, which is never very interesting. For two, one of its stages consists of it bouncing around the room. I get that bouncing bosses can be dangerous and require careful timing and positioning, but that's also true of practicing tennis against a brick wall. Bosses should be more dangerous than tennis practice.
Kholdstare nonetheless manages to come out ahead of 15 other bosses because, like Barinade, it fits the dungeon. A giant block of ice that you fight with the fire rod and a bunch of snowballs that slide around with ice physics are both concepts that make sense for the Ice Palace. It also gets a few points for being a boss with two forms, which is always cool. LBW's Arrghus was technically the first on the list to do that, but it stole both forms from aLttP, so I didn't give it much credit.
78. Vitreous (aLttP)
As a bunch of stupid eyeballs, Vitreous obviously fails the same design test as Kholdstare, but it's worse this time because you've just come off of fighting a giant eyeball in the last dungeon. Surely Nintendo could've thought of literally anything else for the next one, right? There are plenty of better monsters in swamps!
Vitreous succeeds in being a real fight, though. I like that it uses the smaller eyeballs as attack drones and can, for some reason, shoot lightning to keep you on your toes. I also like that the main eyeball changes tactics and tries to squish you once it's alone, although that strategy was obviously copied from several earlier bosses in the game. Vitreous would've been much higher on this list if it had just been a giant bear surrounded by bees or even a big Wizrobe that sent swarms of Keese to attack. Anything other than an eyeball, please.
77. Grinexx (LBW)
You might already be picking up on the trend with low-ranking LBW bosses: they're just boring repeats of aLttP's ideas. Grinexx isn't nearly as egregious as Moldorm or Arrghus, but it does feel like it came in the wrong order. aLttP's version of this boss, Trinexx, is a super-cool three headed turtle dragon that won't be showing up for a very long time. Grinexx, then, naturally ups the ante by... removing two of the heads? Using the ice rod to drive Grinexx out of the lava is fun, but after that you're left with what's basically Trinexx with two thirds of the threat removed. It's honestly a little baffling that they didn't just include the other two heads.
76. Pumpkin Head (OoA)
Pumpkin Head's strengths lie entirely in its design. It's Pumpkin Jack and lives in a graveyard, which is as unashamedly Halloween as it gets. Zelda could do with more silly Halloween levels. It's got a whole bevy of skeleton monsters, but they're played seriously most of the time. Let's get some more pumpkin-headed beasts.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Pumpkin Head is worth mentioning. It's the first boss, and as such it's a predictably simple fight that has you stab it a bunch and then throw the pumpkin away. It doesn't have a real offensive threat, and it won't survive for long. Alas.
75. Cubus Sisters (PH)
The Cubus Sisters are the first boss on this list that can be called a character. They're four tricky phantoms that live on the Ghost Ship and convince Link that they're helpless victims who've been trapped there. After he reunites all four of them, the sisters reveal their ghost forms and challenge Link to a battle! It's a great setup that's been done well in tons of other games, and will be familiar to any fans of aLttP.
Oh, but that battle is tennis. Now, tennis battles can be done well, and some of them will actually be quite highly ranked, but there's very little worth mentioning about this particular match. One sister throws a lightning ball at you while the others shoot lasers at nothing. Hit the ball back and repeat until you win. A tragically boring finale for what is otherwise a fantastic boss concept.