Boss battles are an integral part of any RPG: they’re a chance to test your skills and strategy, to see if you’ve put in enough time to come out on top. While these games always include plenty of mandatory fights, many also feature superbosses. These are usually the hardest fights in the game, often locked behind special quests or hidden until you roll credits and start freely exploring the world. We’ve compiled a list of the best ones here, but be aware that there are spoilers for their respective games since that can’t really be avoided when talking about them. Also note that we limited our picks to one superboss per franchise, otherwise this entire list would just be Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. Here are the 10 best superbosses in alphabetical order.
Black Rabite (Trials of Mana)
The Black Rabite appears in several Mana games, often requiring you to jump through serious hoops like defeating 999 regular Rabites before it appears. The Black Rabite in the Trials of Mana remake is perhaps the best instance since you can approach it with any character and get a slightly different battle each time. Defeating it gets you the Chain Ability, a powerful skill that makes all magic casting free.
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Caroline & Justine (Persona 5)
The Velvet Room twins help you in various ways throughout Persona 5, but it’s eventually revealed that they’re meant to work against you. If you’re on New Game Plus, you can take the opportunity to actually battle them. The fight happens in phases, with the twins rotating through sets of devastatingly powerful attacks and magic. In Persona 5 Royal, their combined form Lavenza is the one you’ll face, but a double boss is definitely more intimidating. If you do want to take on Lavenza on PlayStation 5, don’t expect a free upgrade to that version of the game.
Culex (Super Mario RPG)
Super Mario RPG is a pretty cutesy game for the most part. Bosses include the usual Mushroom Kingdom thugs and the weapon-themed Smithy Gang. Then there’s Culex, a distinctly Final Fantasy-looking villain who lives in a dimensional rift inside a home in Monstro Town. This was developer Square Enix’s way of bringing their usual fare into Super Mario RPG, pitting the Italian plumber and his friends against a crystal-wielding, multi-dimensional being. If you manage to win, you get the Quartz Charm, which reduces all damage taken by half.
Dullahan (Golden Sun: The Lost Age)
In folk tales, the dullahan is a headless horse rider that terrorizes the countryside. In Golden Sun, Dullahan is a headless, living set of armor that exists purely to challenge the party to the most intense boss fight in the game. There’s no story around this one: you simply enter the Anemos Inner Sanctum and find yourself in a duel with a living set of armor. The battle is relentless, as Dullahan summons a sword made of purple lightning and even teams up with Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx. Defeat this dastardly armor, and you’ll gain the ability to summon Iris, the strongest Mars deity in the game.
Freya (Star Ocean 3)
Freya, along with a few others on this list, fits into the category of “cutesy little character that will absolutely demolish you.” Her battle comes at the end of the Urssa Cave Temple, an optional dungeon that’s hard enough to clear on its own. Then you have to face Freya, who has the highest attack stat of any boss in the game — you can get shredded no matter how high of a level you’ve reached. With attacks that are nearly impossible to outrun, this fight requires both endurance and strategy.
Lingering Will (Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix)
Kingdom Hearts has featured excellent optional bosses since the very first game in the series, but Lingering Will is generally considered the hardest of them all. It originated as a boss battle in Birth by Sleep and met its demise at the end of Kingdom Hearts 3 — that’s why fighting it during the interim of Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix feels so special. This Keyblade wielder uses powerful combos, mimics Terra’s ultimate move, and even enters a rage state that gives it a second sword. Furthermore, it can bind Sora to prevent him from attacking or using magic. Winning this tough fight gets you some stat boosts, but bragging rights are the real prize. We’ll see if the developers find an excuse to bring it back for Kingdom Hearts IV.
Nebilim (Tales of the Abyss)
Professor Gelda Nebilim is tied into the backstory of Jade, one of Tales of the Abyss’ party members. There’s a mythological quality to her throughout the game as a result. Once you collect all Catalyst weapons, you’ll be able to trek through a blizzard to the split mountain where Nebilim’s replica resides. It’s the toughest fight in the game, as she’s able to use all the same skills as your party members, including their ultimate abilities. At least you can steal the game’s best Core off of her.
Nokturnus (Dragon Quest VI)
Like any well-established RPG series, Dragon Quest is full of superbosses. Nokturnus has appeared in other Dragon Quest games, but Dragon Quest VI is where he first showed up, killing off a bunch of innocent folks in a castle. You’ll actually be able to face him after beating the game, but his ultra-high defense means you’ll spend a long time whittling down his health. Beating him unlocks a special cutscene during the game’s credits, and that scene changes if you manage to take Nokturnus down in 20 turns or fewer.
Pringer X (Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness)
The penguin-like Prinny serve as mascots for the Disgaea series, so taking an evil robot version of one of them is already a fun twist. Then there’s a second twist: any special attack used on Pringer X will only damage it the first time, forcing you to rotate through all of your skills if you hope to take it down. Oh, did we mention that you can fight Pringer X again, but with a whole squad of robot clones with max stats by its side? That special attack immunity applies to the whole crew, not just the one you specifically attacked. Yeah, it’s a hard fight.
The Weapons (Final Fantasy VII)
Picking just one game from the massively popular Final Fantasy series is difficult, much less picking a single superboss from some of those games. All of Final Fantasy VII’s Weapons are classics: Diamond, Emerald, Ruby, and Ultimate are all deadly in their own right. Diamond is the only one you have to fight in most versions, and that’s a good thing since they all have high attack power and defense. Emerald Weapon is fought underwater, putting a time limit on the fight unless you bring a special Materia with you. Ruby Weapon can straight-up eject characters from the fight, and Ultimate Weapon will escape after a few rounds, repeatedly moving around the world map. Thankfully, there are great rewards for defeating these living tanks, such as Cloud’s best weapon. Here’s hoping they’re just as epic in the Final Fantasy VII Remake trilogy.