What makes a boss fight good or bad?


Community Contributor
Kind of goes with the thread: Boss Fights—who needs 'em?

For me, it's just extremely subjective. If I'm challenged but not frustrated, I enjoy the fight. But those are things that are going to vary by player.

Last week I fought probably the hardest (for me) boss I've ever taken on. Strangely it was in Craftopia. I should state up front that I'm playing on Hard and that I fought him as soon as he became available as opposed to grinding to get a little stronger.

(Feel free to skip my account of the battle in the next few paragraphs and just give your own answers)

The boss had a variety of different spells he cast, and all of them were fatal, so you had to be dodging during the damage portion of the spell. And there was no time when he wasn't casting these spells. There would be a few seconds when the spell was warming up, and then the damage would hit. So you would have to take those warm-up couple of seconds to attack and do some damage, but get back to dodging before his damage hit you. The worst spell dragged you toward him and drained your stamina (which you need to do anything, including dodging). If you used your flying equipment (griffin wings or jetpack) and got more than about 10 feet off the ground, he insta-killed you with a special spell that couldn't be dodged.

I got 3 ability head-shots in at the beginning of the fight, which did over 300k total damage, and I could barely tell that his health bar had changed. After that I couldn't use the bow because I was constantly being drawn in too close for a headshot, and my melee attack was stronger (about 2000 damage) than a body-shot with the bow. Plus, it's a lot easier to dodge coming off of a melee attack. If I died, I went back to the spawn location, and it was a couple of minutes travel to get back to him (frustration), and he had regained about half the health you had taken from him.

It was just too much for me. I didn't like it. When I finally killed him (no idea how long it took) and got my drop, I had no interest in starting over even though I need more of this stuff he drops. I should point out that I can probably get a decent bit more powerful than I am now through relentless grinding, but part of that relentless grinding involves fighting this guy. I'll probably do it, but I've decided to fall back for awhile.

But my distaste might be because I wasn't better at it. Are there, do you think, some non-subjective aspects that make a boss fight either good or bad? Like maybe using a variety of things you've learned along the way? Or just what are your thoughts?


Community Contributor
(Note, these are all for required boss fights. Do what you want with optional boss fights.)

The A number 1 thing: do not invent a new game for the boss fight! It should be some sort of ultimate version of what you've been playing. (I'm looking at you, Risen!) Changing up the tactics some is fine (like in Sacrifice, when the boss was able to stuck up any souls without going through the ritual to change their allegiance), but don't do things like make some otherwise-useless skill critical to win in a boss fight. Making one helpful is fine if you telegraph it ahead of time, but never critical.

Second: just like anywhere else in the game, overcoming tedium is not an acceptable challenge. Give the boss enough hit points to make the battle feel like something special and for the player to prove they can maintain their attack for an extended period. No more. Testing the player's bladder is not necessary.

Third: if the boss is going to heal or transform into a new boss with even more hit points, telegraph that somehow ahead of time. When these things happen as a surprise, it's pretty demoralizing. (Heaven only knows how NPCs can deal with constantly-healing PCs!)


Community Contributor
(Note, these are all for required boss fights. Do what you want with optional boss fights.)

Love your points.

In other news, I just found out from reading reddit that the boss fight that I described in my first post shouldn't have taken place until I had significantly weakened him by poisoning another NPC. Nowhere in the game does it tell you that, but this is because the game is in Early Access and the story hasn't been added yet. I should stop playing these EA games.
  • Haha
Reactions: Pifanjr and Zloth
I didn't like it
That's the ultimate 'bad' fight for me. Example is Batari, 1 of 2 bosses at the end of Far Cry Primal. It was an easy fight, won it first go by spending ~~20 minutes pumping arrows into her head while dodging her fireball responses. There was no strategy, no tactics, just rinse & repeat a 10-second loop for ~20 minutes, interspersed with ~3 short raids by her minions. @Zloth said it best—"Testing the player's bladder is not necessary" :D

do not invent a new game for the boss fight
This. Please do require me to invent new tactics, change my loadout, be more stealthy, disable some equipment, find a secret route, etc—but don't make it a gunfight if all I can bring are knives, or introduce blitz chess at the end of the checkers campaign. Don't require me to suddenly be a platforming expert or an actions-per-minute whiz.

Good Boss Fights

I guess the main attribute of a good one for me is I should lose first attempts due to lack of knowledge. My job is to learn and evolve new strategy and tactics for the next time. Previously there'd be 1-2 choppers at a base—now he's got 10, so I need a grenade launcher. Or can I sneak around and take some of 'em out on the ground?

Make the fight unwinnable unless I pull off some difficult tactic, like say taking down 3 comms stations so Heavy-heavy reinforcements can't be called. If I'm spotted, that means mortars, so I must already know my exit route and next location. Put in turrets to cut off my easiest approach direction.

In short, make it interesting—give me choices and problems that are satisfying to make and solve.

It's been a while, but I recall all the Command & Conquer / Red Alert final missions were tough but fair. You had to get your strategy right, then you had to implement your tactics well, and there were typically multiple bases or strongholds you had to overcome.

Far Cry 4's final boss fight involved a layered stronghold, roughly the equivalent of 3 fortresses, which themselves were roughly the equivalent of 3 outposts. He had lots of soldiers, we had a rebel contingent to help.
here are some things that make a good boss fight:

1. The objective/task should be made clear to the player. At the simplest just hit the boss and it dies. If the boss has multiple steps/ weakspots to doing damage i expect it to be clear as to what needs to be done. Sometimes some boss fights you could be throwing all your ammo at the boss with no ill effects only to discover you had to do something or hit somewhere but its not properly mentioned so its trial and error. The challenge is to design it in such a way that its obvious, but not insulting to the player. Maybe we see a sequence where we see a npc weaken a particular area or maybe we see a mech with a damaged leg etc.

2. The fight should provide all the tools and resources and thensome to complete the challenge. This is more for FPS games, i absolutely hate games that have tough bullet sponges but not enough ammo/health for prolonged engagements. Additioanlly, give me enough space to move around and fight. if the boss fights are long drawn out affairs, for god sake give players breaks. yes, its a challenge and its going to be an epic fight, but for god sake its bloody annoying. A good way is perhaps have a boss fight through out the level, recently vanquish one of the penultimate bosses had you fighting through the space station chasing him. it gave checkpoints, stockups etc you could chip away at the bosses health as you moved to each area. Plus you got to fight a few enemies along the way. However, some fights with larger mechs didn't give you enough ammo to fight so i had to constantly swap weapons, picking up new ones as i went along.

3. There should be a sense of fairness to fights. One shot instant death attacks are off the bloody table. yeah its plausible and such but it feels cheap and its a middle finger to the player and doesn't feel balanced. That said, if i'm god level power, i should expect a relevant god level fight. To often its lop sided one way or another. its probably why i prefer fights where its a mirror match of sorts as its just you and skill. But when they start pulling out additional advantages and you have none, it kind of feels cheap. its like a school kid making additional rules to a game until he wins. if you're going to do that, give me checkpoints.

4. Don't let technical/visual issues be the issue. Don't you just love it when during a boss fight the camera pans when its stunned and you're expected to rush up to pummel it but because of the dodgy camera angles you can't move properly thus giving it time to recover and screw the player over? How about performing attacks faster then the player can dodge because of gameplay constraints? Stop that stuff. At the most i want is a pan out of the camera of the boss stunned and then zooming back to the player to continue the game. Additionally i don't want camera issues being an issue. More a me/console games thing, but still. if i'm going into a fight, i don't want technical issues/constraints being the issue.

Theres probably a whole load more.


Community Contributor
Far Cry 4's final boss fight involved a layered stronghold, roughly the equivalent of 3 fortresses, which themselves were roughly the equivalent of 3 outposts. He had lots of soldiers, we had a rebel contingent to help.

So did you kill FC4's boss or let him live? I killed him but came to regret it over time and after considering what was shown at the end of the game. I guess a moral question made it more interesting, which is nice.
  • Like
Reactions: Pifanjr