5. Jagger Froid - Super C
Big bosses are an iconic trope in gaming. The bigger, the badder, the better! Jagger Froid (a truly odd name) is one of those legendary 8-bit bosses whose face you’ve seen time and again on box art and in reference to other creatures in the Contra series. In Contra III, his horrific visage was the inspiration for the first phase of the final bout with the “vile Red Falcon”. The multi-faced array of the first phase to the (I would call it ‘goofy’) sub-boss theme leads into a rumble followed by the tense boss theme as Jagger’s face emerges from a gaping hole. It’s not a tough boss for being so late in the game, but it is a memorable fight with a pretty intimidating lead in for its time.
4. Jaquio - Ninja Gaiden
Like the Castlevania games, Ninja Gaiden is far more well-known for the difficulty of its stages rather than its bosses, but the final boss rush of the first title in the series will certainly test you. This multiphase fight consists of a few simple engagements followed by a creepy alien beast that seems like it’s out of an entirely different game. The fight is straightforward, but dodging Jaquio’s barrage of fireballs is quite the task, even for a seasoned gamer.
3. Gamma - Mega Man III
The first time I faced Gamma as a kid I swore it was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in a video game. This massive mech that marks the final challenge of the Blue Bomber’s third outing is one memorable engagement. The only reason he’s not higher is, despite its size and presentation, there really isn’t much to him! The first phase has you quickly dispatching a weak small robot resting on the lower half of Gamma’s head, and when it’s dead, the massive mech’s horned helm drops revealing the full, brutish face of Wily’s new prized creation. Watch out for its spiked fist, jump up the platforms and give a few Hard Punches and that’s all she wrote.
2. Tutankhamunattack - Life Force
I’m no Egyptologist, but I would hazard a guess it isn’t written that somewhere inside the body of a remote interdimensional alien planet-sized organism in space lies an Egyptian temple with a massive Tutankhamun head! That’s okay though, because Life Force rocks and after a pretty tough fifth stage (with epic theme music), the famous boss beat kicks in as you slow down and find yourself at a dead end against a wall. Tut’s lifeless face protrudes from the wall when suddenly the entire room begins to quake. The boss music intensifies as the walls and ceiling begin to crumble brick-by-brick, forcing you to think fast and dodge the deadly falling objects and after the wall is gone and it is only your ship and Tut’s head against the blackness of space, color returns to the gilded monstrosity and as his eyes open a ring of floating orbs spin wildly around him, blocking your attacks as he spits clusters of bullets towards you. This is an NES boss! The build-up, the execution and the challenge are all there and it all works so well… and speaking of build-up...
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1. Mecha Dragon - Mega Man 2
You’ve successfully shut down Dr. Wily’s eight robot masters and you are ready to face him in his menacing mechanical domicile but before that, you get two things: The greatest theme music on the NES and arguably the greatest boss battle on the platform, too. When you finally get indoors inside a dark hangar, you leap across platforms to find the pace shifts. You are no longer in control as the screen slows into an auto-scroller and from below a giant robot dragon shatters the sparse blocks behind you and proceeds to chase you across a row of isolated platforms until you reach the end of the line; three small, floating blocks separate you from instant death and the merciless Mecha Dragon begins his barrage of fireballs that are as big as you. Fortunately, refuge lies at the top block, where knock back sends you safely to the block below and it puts you in prime position to get the most out of the boss’s ultimate weakness: Boomerangs!!! I remember vividly my first encounter with Mecha Dragon and it remains one of my fondest gaming recollections, as such this fight tops my list of favorite NES boss battles
This concludes this series! I will have another review next week of an obscure title that will likely be more confusing than anything. In the meantime, thanks for reading. What are your favorite NES boss memories? Please share them as I would love to hear what you think. Until then, Happy New Year!