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Every boss needs their own unique soundtrack. It acts as a calling card, and allows players to experience wonderful, or terrifying, memories of nostalgia once again. Certain tracks are so prolific that they’ve become staples for other games in the future, setting a standard that is often used in part to spawn even better musical masterpieces. Without music, a boss is only half of what they could be. Half the experience usually comes from the incredible tunes being blared at your ears, and the best fights have awesome music to go alongside them. After you’re done reading this, please do go listen to these tracks in full.
10 / The Hierophant / Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter’s soundtrack is equal parts emotionally stirring piano, coupled with harsh electric undertones. This mixture allows for moments of extreme peace, leaving the player to ponder the world around them, while also being completely able to instantly kick it into fifth gear if need be. The Hierophant is one of the moments when the game decides to up the ante (so to speak), and bombard the player with chiptunes, and heavy drums. As a track, it matches the fight perfectly. Attacks are made with a similar ‘electric’ vibe, as the Drifter dashes around them. But it manages to keep itself restrained, not giving too much in the form of enjoyment. The track is deliberately subtle in its execution, making sure that the player isn’t overexcited by the retro-electro music.
9 / Cerberus / Dante’s Inferno
Despite EA’s venture in epic poetry being a tad short lived, Dante’s Inferno was a surprisingly enthralling hack and slash. The game was complete with beautiful choir-infused songs that really defined the bosses as Dante made his way through the various layers of hell itself. One of the notably powerful tracks was Cerberus, the guardian of Gluttony. Starting off with Latin singing, the track maintains this ironically holy air to it as the player hacks away at this disgusting beast with a scythe. Sadly it’s a little short lived, being only two and a half minutes long, and doesn’t build on the initial opening. But coupled with the fight, the two are far more poignant.
8 / Team Magma/Aqua Boss Battle! / Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire
Pokemon has always had this innate charm to its music. The chirpy, cheerful soundtracks evolved over the years to become some of the best feel good songs you can listen to, however they could still rock intimidating, and captivating, boss music. While the remake of Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire was all well and good, the original soundtrack still remains the better of the two. Especially the Team Aqua/Magma Leader fight music. Opening with deep drums, and a distinct, powerful bass line, this is one of the better tracks from the collection. It moves through with a menacing trumpet solo, that only goes more harsh the longer the battle goes on. This singular track really defined both Archie & Max as villains (and heroes, depending on the game), and gave the battle gravity.
7 / Cove Siren Battle / Darkest Dungeon
Darkest Dungeon is oppressively dark, with music to match. It’s moody, evil, creepy, and downright fantastic in its composition. While each area in the game has unique music, the most outstanding parts are, without a doubt, the boss tracks. Even though the Final Battle is a near second for this spot, the Siren manages to just trump it. Based upon the Cove Battle music, the Siren battle track changes it up by adding new elements. With some vocals sung by Jennifer Chao, and more of a slow build up toward the middle of the track, the Siren battle neatly defines Darkest Dungeon’s soundtrack. It manages to make the inclusion of vocals seem natural too, without ruining the atmosphere constructed by the rest of the songs that make the game what it is.
6 / Nameless King / Dark Souls III
Hailed as one of the all-time toughest Souls bosses to kill, the Nameless King’s soundtrack is equally as daunting. Filled to the brim with powerful, sweeping orchestral movements that twist, and turn along with the fight. If intimidation could be measured on a scale in some way, then the Nameless King would be clocking in at a solid ten out of ten. Every aspect of the battle doesn’t skimp on the theatrics. From the opening where the undead sovereign rides in on a dragon, to the part where he’s forced to dismount, and kill you himself, it’s all part of the experience. Much like other From Software tracks, the Nameless King’s morphs through several stages. The latter stages often amplify the intensity, mirroring how the boss has powered up, or gotten tougher in some way. There’s an incredibly clear change between the first phase, and the second. Drums suddenly become obvious, and the strings become a touch more complex in their structure. All this creates a fight that is unforgettable, and a piece of music that leaves you reeling.
5 / Mastermind / DOOM
The hard-hitting, guitar fueled majesty that is DOOM’s soundtrack is one of the best video game & metal albums to date. Filled with gritty riffs, incredible solos, and enough harsh notes to kill a man, the boss tracks are no different. While BFG Division may stand tall as one of the best tracks on the album, the final boss battle theme is nothing short of glorious. It’s dark, and compelling in the best of ways. It’s unclear how Michael Gordon made guitars sound like growling demons, but he (and his team) did. The Mastermind track is a culmination of the game’s note shredding madness, with an initial build up that only whets the appetite. This then instantly rewards the patient as everything is dropped into overdrive. The guitars shred harder. The drums beat faster. The one guy doing synth in the background is likely having a headache trying to keep up. There’s no prisoners here, and there’s no stopping this beast of a soundtrack either.
4 / The Opened Way / Shadow of the Colossus
Nobody has quite matched the grandeur that Team Ico managed to create in the Shadow of the Colossus soundtrack. Even though the individual Colossi didn’t have separate tracks, the sheer power of ‘The Opened Way’ is absolute. It’s a singular sound that confers so much about the landscape, what you’re fighting against, and the odds against you. Many tracks, both before, and since, have tried to master the seemingly illusive art of conveying the size of an enemy through music. Shadow of the Colossus’ soundtrack is one of the few to nail the formula. The track itself is very emotive, with these resounding chorus’ that are extremely catchy to hum. But more than that, the track manages to balance the feeling of hope against the idea that you’re hopelessly overpowered by this behemoth before you.
3 / Ludwig the Accursed & Holy Blade / Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
Bloodborne’s soundtrack is worthy of its own list, much like every game on this countdown, but the Old Hunters DLC soundtrack somehow manages to one up every song within the base game. Ludwig is infamous anyway, but his soundtrack is nothing short of art. The opening cello movement is chilling, and sets the tone for the rest of the fight. It mirrors the very nature of Ludwig, and just how far he has really fallen. The first half, the Accursed, aims to scare you. With intense strings, and vocals that sound like they’re trying to stalk you. The crescendos arc in violent ways, with distinct dips that allow for a gradual build toward the far more incredible second half. The Holy Blade section of this track, around four minutes onwards, focuses more on underlying ferocity, until it crashes down on the player in waves. Everything just comes together to create this symphony that instills absolute fear in any Hunters heart.
2 / Ganondorf, King of Evil / Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
There are few bosses that come close to the critical acclaim that Ganondorf from the Legend of Zelda series has garnered over the years. He’s renowned for his swordsmanship, evil, and scheming ways; but thankfully his soundtracks are similarly as menacing. Wind Waker’s is especially pressured, because of his aggressive attacking style, and the sense of panic pushed onto the player from the water pouring down around them. This is one of the shorter pieces that the Wind Waker uses, however, it’s entirely warranted. Unlike other boss tracks it manages to make this final battle feel like a desperate race against time. The song itself moves through multiple phases, despite not having a clear divide between a boss phase. It begins with the use of orchestral drums, which is then instantly backed up by the brass section. This coupled with the fact you fight alongside Zelda wielding the Hero’s Bow, and that you just fought through Puppet Ganon directly below, makes for a fantastic ending note for one of the best Legend of Zelda games ever made.
1 / One Winged Angel / Final Fantasy VII
Sephiroth is right up there as possibly one of the greatest video game villains ever made, and Final Fantasy VII’s name still holds the same respect that it did back in 1997. The game is so popular that Square Enix confirmed about a year ago that they’re working on a ground-up remake of the game. Given that Final Fantasy has had some creatively wonderful, and terrifying, bosses over the years, it wasn’t easy picking out one that could justify having one of the best pieces of music is gaming. But the ‘One Winged Angel’ track played during the players final fight against Sephiroth, as he literally channels his inner godhood, is truly magnificent. If Final Fantasy games do one thing well, it’s that they set the stage for some awe-inspiring battles. This one is no different. As Sephiroth transforms himself into new, abominable, forms, the music keeps itself as the only constant in a battle for the world. Not only was this track notable for its usage of choir singing, it was also commended for the dramatic overtones it managed to portray. It’s perfect for Sephiroth. It’s grand, powerful, and dominates the fight. There’s very little break to be found in this music, and the high point marks a clash between a demi-god, and a group of fighters to decide the fate of the world.
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