December has been a crazy month for me so I apologize for the lack of articles. I had planned a year-end special to be published after Christmas but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I landed on a simple list of some of my favorite boss fights to be published in two parts. I wouldn’t call this a “definitive” list. Rather, it’s some of the best boss fights I feel are the most intimidating, creative or memorably on the NES. I could easily expand this list in the future as well with more options from a variety of other games.
Now, just a quick note before I begin: It’s important to keep in mind that when I was a kid playing NES games regularly, there wasn’t a lot out there to really spoil these fights for me, so nearly all of them were experienced for the first time by playing the game, so I will try my best to convey just how I remember the moment I first encountered these fights.
Without further ado, here are the first five entries in my year end list!
Robot Squares - Blaster Master
The unceremoniously-named “Robot Squares” from the classic NES masterpiece Blaster Master is one of the most interesting bosses, especially fighting this baddie as a kid, I was captivated by its design. The fight starts simple enough, with the square-shaped robot sliding around the room evasively, but then it clones itself, .leaving a deactivated shell of itself on the ground! This continues several times with each spawn of the boss leaving another husk and moving faster and faster as the active, killable husks shift between each other and move around the screen. For a first-time fight, it can feel a little frenetic and kind of insane but the mechanics and design lend themselves well to Sunsoft’s signature top-down game design.
King Koopa - Super Mario Bros. 3
The final battle in Super Mario Bros. 3 is somewhat of a staple moment in Nintendo’s games long history of memorable gaming scenes. It isn’t as downright terrifying as the final fights from Yoshi’s Island or Majora’s Mask, or as explosive and intense as the final duel from Star Fox, but it does leave its mark.
Nyudo Monster - Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu
The elusive Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu is a surprisingly-fun little action platformer and while it is short on the boss fights, The Nyudo Monster, a giant purple cloud beast is certainly a memorable terror. I have an affinity for big bosses and this cyclops is titanic. The fight isn’t too difficult, but this beast left an impact on me.
Shadow Beast Entrance - Contra
This towering icon of the 8-bit era is a fight I worked on perfecting for a long time. Contra is one of my favorite NES games and this fight is easily my favorite boss in terms of design and scale. The sneering xenomorph grin, the shifting tentacles, the constant threat of getting a ring of fire to the face makes this fight a pivotal memory from my gaming youth.
Dracula - Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
The multiphase final duel of the legendary Castlevania III is not only one of the greatest final bosses from the NES era, but it’s also comprised of some truly creepy monster designs. The first phase is pretty straightforward and reminiscent of the final fight from the classic first title in the series. From there, things take a turn for the disturbing when a now-decapitated Dracula’s head joins a floating mass of purple flesh that hovers to the left and right sporting five faces, each individually destroyed with well-placed axes leaving only lifeless skulls in their places. The final phase finds the Prince of Darkness taking the form of friggin' Pazuzu shifting the floor blocks around the room while firing lasers from his eyes! I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself when I finally made it past Death, but when I found this gauntlet waiting for me at the end, I didn’t really know what to think. I was understandably shocked by this fight considering the previous final battles in the series were not exactly epic.