Zelda Boss Rush Part 3

With part 3, we're getting into the territory of good bosses that don't quite hit their full potential. Maybe there's a cool mechanic that redeems an otherwise lackluster boss, or maybe a fun fight that could clearly have been something more. Not exactly disappointing, then, but not a full success either. Let's call them Mid(ddle of the road) Bosses.

Today introduces several new games and the list's first final boss. Which poor Big Bad could it be?

70. Armogohma (TP)

There are definitely some controversial picks on this list, but I think Armogohma as the worst boss in TP is about as accepted as it gets. It's a giant eyeball spider that has very little to do with its dungeon and makes an unconvincing effort at fighting back. TP has great boss themes, but Armogohma's isn't even particularly memorable.

Still, TP is good enough at making dramatic fights that even its worst one is still better than a solid chunk of the series. Armogohma may be lacking in... most things, but you have to give it that it is absolutely massive and that attacking it with statues is unique.

69. Lanmolas (aLttP)

Lanmolas fails the fighting back test about as hard as a boss can. They're three worms that jump out of random points in the sand and spray dirt around. Sure, the dirt is dangerous, but it's not even clear that they know you're there, let alone that it's meant to be an attack.

Thankfully, they're an extremely fitting boss for a desert dungeon and fighting three bosses at once is memorably unique. Sometimes atmosphere is enough.

68. Dera Zol (FS)

All of the bosses in FS try to make use of the four player co-op in one way or another, with varying degrees of success. Dera Zol's attempt basically consists of occasionally spawning three phantom copies of itself, so all the players could attack one and someone would find the real boss. It's unique, but not very interesting, and the rest of the fight just has you charging it with the Pegasus Boots until you've pushed it into freezing water.

67. Armos Knights (aLttP)

This was the first Zelda boss I ever fought, and quite possibly the first from any game. I like the idea of facing off against a small army like this a lot, but since most of their attacks aren't directly targeted at you, they feel more like an automated defense system that a battalion of hostile knights. They also don't feel connected to the Eastern Palace. I think they might've worked better either with a miniboss or enemy that foreshadowed the fight.

That said, the second stage of this fight is unforgettable if you don't know about it going in.

66. Shadow Nightmare (LA)

LA's six-stage final boss is the lowest ranked on the list. As much as I love multi-stage bosses, LA squanders it by reusing four previous bosses (Aganhim, Moldorm, Lanmolas, and Ganon) from aLttP and the regular gel enemies from LA itself. The final stage, Dethl, is the only one that's truly new, and it's just some spinning arms that aren't particularly threatening.

If this had been a warmup fight before the real Big Bad, I'd probably have ranked it significantly higher. There's nothing inherently wrong with its design, other than that the boss room is a little small, but it's not new and interesting enough to succeed as a final battle. Even if it makes thematic sense for Link to face off against nightmare versions of aLttP bosses, surely they could at least have new abilities to shake things up?

65. Phantom Ganon (OoT)

And here come a block of bosses where I love the idea, but not so much the execution. Phantom Ganon ends a spooky dungeon full of ghosts and unnerving music by attacking you from a ring of paintings while imitating the Headless Horseman. It's a brilliant concept for a boss that, on paper, is one of the best in the series.

Unfortunately, the game's camera isn't really up to rotating as quickly as you'd want it to for this fight to work, and poor Phantom Ganon has to move pretty slowly in order to give you a chance of fighting back. Once you've knocked him off his horse, you're transported to the Hylian Open and have to defeat him in a singles tennis match. This section works well, but later iterations of Phantom Ganon would do it better, which leaves the original back here at #65.

64. Gouen (FS)

Gouen is another tennis boss, although this time you have to parry its attacks with your shield, and you can only hit them back if the fireball matches your player color. It isn't a terrible idea, but shield tennis is less fun than sword tennis, and Gouen also suffers from being possibly the least intimidating boss in series history. Sure, it looks scarier when it's in full flame form, but it almost never is, and it looks like a dust mite at all other times.

Gouen's relatively okay ranking is almost entirely because it's a co-op boss. Parrying its attacks back and rushing in to kill all the little flames before they regroup is more fun with a friend than it would be on your own, even if the core idea for the boss still isn't anything special.

63. Mothula (aLttP)

Mothula was one of the bosses this list was built around, because it's my defining example of a boss that I like better in concept than in execution. A giant alien moth that shoots psybeam at you is the pefect conclusion to Skull Woods, and the spikes should've given it a fun sprinkling of bullet hell.

But then they went and made the floor move in random directions, and that pulls a cool concept into frustrating territory. You need to keep track of the floor direction, moving spikes, Mothula's attacks, and Mothula itself all at once, which is too much to feel fair in this small of a room. If you're not paying attention to any of the threats for practically any time at all, you're going to take damage. You have enough health by this point in the game that you'll probably win anyway, but when so much of the incoming damage doesn't feel fair, the fight isn't satisfying.

62. Head Thwomp (OoA)

Head Thwomp is a spinning series of faces that shows more sides the further you are into the fight. It behaves differently depending on which one is in front, and you're challenged with playing basketball using bombs and its head in between main attacks. It's a fun concept that can get a bit frustrating due to the imprecise nature of OoA's platforming and your dependence on lucky spins to get more bombs, but the fight mostly works. It gets a lot of points for fitting its dungeon, too. It makes great use of the items you have and meshes perfectly with puzzles about needing dungeon items to show specific colors.

61. Facade (LA)

If this was a list of boss designs instead of boss fights, Facade would've made the top 10. I absolutely love the idea of a creepy disembodied ghost face that taunts you. Plus, it's the boss of the Face Shrine. How can you fit your dungeon better than that? And in isolation, it lives up to its promise by moving around the room and throwing objects at you poltergeist-style. The trouble is that regular rooms in aLttP already did that multiple times, so dodging and blocking Facade's floor tiles isn't anything new. It's a fun and highly memorable fight, but there's so much missed potential.

My ideal version of Facade would have a greater variety of items to throw at Link, some ability to return thrown bombs, and would play with the lights to set up surprise attacks and really sell the malicious spirit angle. Unfortunately, while Zelda has returned to ghost bosses in later games, I still haven't seen one like that.

The list so far:

61. Facade (LA)

62. Head Thwomp (OoA)

63. Mothula (aLttP)

64. Gouen (FS)

65. Phantom Ganon (OoT)

66. Shadow Nightmare (LA)

67. Armos Knights (aLttP)

68. Dera Zol (FS)

69. Lanmolas (aLttP)

70. Armogohma (TP)

71. Hot Head (LA)

72. Margomill (LBW)

73. Frostare (FSA)

74. Stone Arrghus (FSA)

75. Cubus Sisters (PH)

76. Pumpkin Head (OoA)

77. Grinexx (LBW)

78. Vitreous (aLttP)

79. Kholdstare (aLttP)

80. Barinade (OoT)

81. Cyclock (PH)

82. Arrghus (LBW)

83. Moldorm (LA)

84. Slime Eye (LA)

85. Slime Eeel (LA)

86. Dodongo (OoT)

87. Dodongo (OoS)

88. Big Moldorm (FSA)

89. Blaaz (PH)

90. Big Poe #1 (FSA)

91. Aquamentus (LoZ)

92. Aquamentus (OoS)

93. Morpha (OoT)

94. Moldorm (LBW)

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