As we’ve talked about in other sections, the Zelda series is big on tradition: It’s why Gohma appears in more games in the series than most bosses. But there’s great and inventive boss encounters, whether you’re fighting Ganon again or some of these big baddies below that we’ve only seen once. Like the dungeons they reside in, many of these encounters are as much about puzzle-solving as they are battle prowess, and these are some of our most memorable encounters.
Koloktos (Skyward Sword)
by Stephanie Sybydlo
Dipping its toes into Eastern myth, the Hero of Legend takes sword and shield in hand to go up against a six-armed automated Asura. Koloktos starts as a stationary adversary that uses its many arms to play both offence and defence. But after three strikes, Koloktos goes on an all-out attack by unsheathing six swords and pursuing our hero on foot. Link must use the recently acquired Whip to literally disarm Koloktos and expose its weakness. However, the Goddess Sword is simply not strong enough to dismantle this gilded golem, and sometimes the best solution is the simplest: Grab a bigger sword and deliver a more crushing blow. Taking down Koloktos is a powerful and exhilarating yet somehow practical experience.
Twilit Fossil Stallord (Twilight Princess)
By Peter Triezenberg
Boss fights in the Zelda games are essentially giant puzzles, usually making use of whatever item or tool Link finds in that dungeon. Stallord is no exception: the key to beating him lies in the underutilized Spinner item, and said item is used to great effect in this battle. First, Link has to dismantle Stallord’s spinal column piece by piece, ricocheting off of his skeletal minions while you try to line up a clean shot. In phase two of the fight, Stallord’s disembodied skull chases you around a giant column, all while the player jumps between the column and the wall to dodge fireballs before knocking him back into the dirt for some well-placed sword slashes. It’s an intense and invigorating battle against a giant skeleton with a sword stuck in his head, and one of my favorite bosses in the series.
Ganon (Ocarina of Time)
By Gino DiGioia
What was the feeling you had when you saw Ganon rising from the castle ruins: this giant pig monster before you wielding two giant blades and your Master Sword cast from the arena, trapped behind a barrier? Your destiny in front of you. Your final battle. Did you run? No, you fought. You took out a giant hammer or the powerful Biggoron’s sword and charged at the beast. Eventually, you were able to weaken him enough to get rid of the barrier and grab your sword. It would have been nice to continue using those devastating other weapons, but only with the Master Sword, the sword of evil’s bane, could you even bring him to a state where you could get through his defenses. The atmosphere, the tension… I don’t know. What I felt, though, was a final battle that triumphs over many today.
Goht (Majora’s Mask)
By Nathan Lee
One of the best parts of Majora’s Mask is being able to play as the different races like the Dekus and Zoras. However, the best was the Goron. Being a Goron with the ability to roll around Termina was actually better than having Epona take you across the map. Snowhead Temple was Goron focused, culminating in an epic boss battle with Goht. Goht is a mechanical… goat (I guess?), and unless you want to sit in a corner and try to hit it with arrows, the best way to do damage is to chase it down with your Goron form and roll into it with your spikes. During the pursuit, rocks are falling from the ceiling, Goht is dropping bombs, and he also tries to blast you with lightning when its health is low. While the 3DS version plays better, the potentially superior Goht is in the original N64 version because you don’t have to deal with the extra annoying battle phase from the 3DS version. Goht is an extremely memorable fight and one of the best in Zelda history.
Demise (Skyward Sword)
By Peter Triezenberg
Skyward Sword is an uneven experience, especially when it comes to boss fights. Some of them, like Koloktos, rank among the series’ best, while others… well, Tantalus is pretty low on the totem pole. Still, I have to give a special shout out to the final battle with Demise, the Akuma-lookalike who serves as the game’s ultimate antagonist after Ghirahim is defeated. The clash between Link and Demise marks the beginning of the ongoing battle against Ganondorf, who is revealed to be a spirit of Demise’s vengeance that haunts Link and Zelda’s descendants. It’s an impactful and epic battle that makes full use of the controversial Wii MotionPlus controls. In fact, I argue that it’s one of the few moments in Skyward Sword that elevated the concept of motion controls.
Majora (Majora’s Mask)
By Nathan Lee
In one of the rare instances where Ganon(dorf) is not the final boss and Zelda is nowhere to be found, Majora’s Mask is a strange game in several ways. After going through this entire adventure knowing that the Skull Kid is only a puppet of the mask he’s wearing, you teleport to the moon to face off against the true villain: Majora. An evil magician who placed his spirit into a malevolent mask, he is the final boss of the game. While the battle is pretty standard for the most part, the atmosphere of the fight elevates it. You face three phases of Majora, with each becoming more and more disturbing. You face the mask itself for phase 1 (with its soul-piercing eyes), a squealing humanoid for phase 2, and a bulked-up version of the previously mentioned humanoid for phase 3 that yells and laughs maniacally. The music that plays also suits each form. This is a fairly long fight unless you collected all the masks in the game and have the Fierce Deity’s Mask. Then you have the surreal experience of destroying the final boss of the game in under 3 minutes.
Agahnim (A Link to the Past)
By Mike Salbato
For the first several hours of A Link to the Past, it would seem the wizard Agahnim will be your main foe, as he’s a formidable opponent and more complex than other foes to that point. He casts two main types of attack spells: One is a lightning storm (clearly he wishes to be a Sith Lord) that cannot be parried, so you’d best avoid it if you don’t want to be fried to a crisp. Sometimes he flings an energy ball, and batting it back into him is the only way to deal damage, so you have to watch for the right tell. Eventually, he creates mirror images of himself, too. It’s one of the first really strategic battles in the series, and is notable for introducing the concept of parrying magic projectiles, which became a required skill in future games’ boss battles. Sadly, unlike Agahnim, future versions of Ganon cannot be parried with a bug-catching net.