I went into Elden Ring wondering if FromSoftware would possibly be able to fill such a massive open-world game with the kind of difficult boss fights that have (in their own way) come to define the Soulsborne games and many of their spiritual spin-offs. After all, with so many options available to players and so many potential ways to “cheese” those epic encounters, surely Elden Ring‘s bosses would ultimately end up being just a touch easier than some of the hardest bosses we’ve seen in the studio’s previous games.
Well, I’m…oh…let’s say “happy” to tell you how wrong I was. While Elden Ring offers you a surprisingly generous number of ways to overcome some of its toughest boss battles, quite a few of the boss fights in this game could easily be considered some of the toughest boss fights that FromSoftware has ever crafted.
If you think that sounds like blasphemy, that’s because you haven’t tried to beat the absolute hardest boss fights in Elden Ring or the dozen or so other encounters in this game that could have easily made this list.
15. Full-Grown Fallingstar Beast
While there are a lot of boss fights that could have fit into these lower spots on this list, Full-Grown Fallingstar Beast ultimately got the nod here due to its aggressive attack style and strong defenses.
Unless you’re playing as a certain type of mage who can safely ride around on Torrent while slowly wearing this boss down with spells, you’re going to quickly discover that this thing can not only withstand an incredible amount of damage but can close the gap on you in a second. There are very few ways to “safely” attack this boss in melee range, and the few attack windows that do open up are immediately followed by massive attacks that are incredibly difficult to avoid.
This is the kind of boss that is seemingly powered by your frustration, which also means it’s the kind of boss that often becomes more difficult the more you try (and fail) to beat it.
14. Dragonlord Placidusax
This secret boss is incredibly easy to miss (you’ll need to access a hidden area before the boss fight with Maliketh, the Black Blade and choose to lie down in a grave in order to reach him), which really just means that relatively few Elden Ring players have gotten the chance to take on one of the hardest dragons in the game.
The fact this boss is able to teleport and move so quickly across the massive arena you fight it in is certainly part of the reason why this fight is so frustrating, but it’s really this dragon’s sweeping melee attacks and devastating AOE abilities that ensure you’ll rarely have a moment to breathe. The few windows of attack this thing offers you are incredibly easy to miss amidst the chaos of everything that is happening.
While there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to beat this boss if you’re properly prepared for what is to come (more on that in a bit), this fight will definitely be a nightmare for anyone who struggles with dragon encounters.
13. Black Blade Kindred
While most players will probably encounter/try to fight this boss way too early due to the fact that its arena is accessible via an easily accessible portal, even late-game Elden Ring players will struggle to take down this absolute nightmare.
To be honest, I find Black Blade Kindred to be a pretty “cheap” boss. His hits deal an absurd amount of damage (even compared to other late-game bosses), and his health pool is comically large. To make matters worse, he utilizes a somewhat complicated attack pattern that takes a long time to read and solve.
A massive investment into your character’s Vigor will help make this fight a little easier, but there are relatively few shortcuts in this encounter.
12. Fire Giant
I sometimes joke that I’m more worried about Soulsborne bosses that are closer to my size than the ones that are as big as mountains, but Fire Giant is undoubtedly one of the toughest “giant” bosses that FromSoftware has ever created.
While you’re going to be relying on the classic strategy of staying as close as possible to this giant’s feet to avoid its incredible reach, this boss is more than willing to roll out of the way of your attacks and force you to enter its danger zone. Even worse, the Fire Giant regularly conjures dangerous flames that not only turn former safe zones into death traps but make it even more difficult to close the gap whenever he decides to roll out of harm’s way.
To top it all off, this boss’ massive health pool and absurd resistances mean that you’re likely going to find yourself wondering if you’re actually doing any significant damage to it. This is a great example of a well-designed boss that is still tough as nails.
11. Margott, The Omen King
We previously talked about whether Margit is too tough, but it has to be said that the fight against Margit’s” true form” will leave you nostalgic for the relative ease of that early encounter.
This boss fight is similar to the battle against Margit in a lot of ways, but this version of the epic enemy is significantly stronger, much quicker, and now utilizes a devastating AOE “lighting arrow” attack (as well as a few other AOE tricks) that will leave you constantly searching for ways to stay alive long enough to figure out how you’re supposed to avoid Margott’s powerful attacks and get close enough to do any real damage.
Margott is an absolutely relentless boss who will leave some players wondering whether it’s finally time to respec.
10. Astel, Natural Born of the Void
I’m glad that the fight against this boss is so cool, but because it would have really sucked to die against a less interesting boss as many times as I did against this one.
Astel is basically a Lovecraftian dragon who is able to produce a series of devastating magic attacks that are as annoying to avoid as they are powerful. This is one of those bosses that have unique ways to punish you both at a distance and whenever you’re able to get close, which means that there are relatively few ways to approach this boss fight that will work for everyone.
This is really that classic kind of optional Soulsborne boss that is just waiting out there to punish players who suddenly feel a little too confident in their abilities/build.
9. Godfrey, First Elden Lord/Horah Loux, Warrior
This fight was a little tricky to rank simply because I actually think that the battle against Godfrey is tough but fair. It’s a challenging encounter, but it’s one most people will be able to get past by that point in the game.
Once Godfrey morphs into Horah Loux, Warrior, though, things start to get pretty ridiculous. As if it wasn’t bad enough that this boss is capable of one-shotting all but the toughest of builds, he’s also able to produce massive AOE attacks, leap on you from great distances, and even deal a respectable amount of frost damage that can quickly turn into Frostbite.
This is really a great example of the “you haven’t even seen my final form” school of boss fight design.
8. Commander Niall
This boss doesn’t look like much when you first encounter him, but believe me when I say that the fight against Commander Niall will be a progress roadblock for the vast majority of Elden Ring players.
It’s hilarious that Commander Niall feels the need to summon two very tough assistants as soon as this fight begins, because he’s more than tough enough on his own to qualify as one of the hardest bosses in the game without their help. The only thing worse than his naturally high attack power and absurd defenses is the fact that his hard-to-time attacks often deal a hefty amount of frost damage and lightning damage. It takes a very long time to win this fight, which means that you’re much more likely to make mistakes at some point during the battle as it drags on.
I really can’t oversell just how difficult this fight is. If you don’t have a ton of health and some great armor, there’s a very good chance this is going to be the fight that finally breaks you.
7. Mohg, Lord of Blood
I’m already hearing some Elden Ring fans argue that this fight isn’t that difficult and can be “cheesed” somewhat easily, but let me warn you now that all but a few players will find themselves laughing at the idea that they’re actually expected to be able to beat this boss.
It turns out that “Bleed” effects are quite powerful in Elden Ring, which is good news for anyone working with a Bleed build and bad news for anyone trying to beat this boss that is capable of dishing out tremendous amounts of Bleed damage in so many ways. This boss has access to a nearly unavoidable ability that instantly deprives you of most of your health, and that ability isn’t even the worst part about this fight. There are a couple of items you can grab that will make this boss battle slightly easier, but using them is like relying on band-aids to treat a severed limb.
I actually love the way this fight is built around such a specific mechanic, but the idea of ever trying to battle this boss again fills me with dread.
6. Starscourge Radahn
I had almost as tough of a time ranking this boss fight as I did trying to win the fight itself. While I know many players consider this to be the hardest fight in the game by some distance, I think that some of Elden Ring’s later encounters ultimately raise the bar in terms of overall difficulty.
Nevertheless, this fight is absolutely as tough as you’ve heard it is. Essentially a “gimmick” boss battle (at least by Soulsborne standards), this fight first requires you to cross a battlefield while Radahan pelts you with giant spears and a rainstorm of arrows. Even if you manage to get close to him while summoning the various NPC allies that can assist you in this fight, you’ll soon find that Radhan’s massive attack range and absurd speed mean that he’s able to crush you before you can even start to understand how you’re supposed to get close enough to him to deal any damage.
Oh, and just when you think that you’re finally making progress against Radahn, he launches himself into the air, turns into a meteor, crashes somewhere near you, and somehow becomes even tougher to deal with. It really doesn’t matter when you fight Radahn or what kind of character you’ve built so far; this fight will break you.
5. Crucible Knight Ordovis
Duo boss fights are usually some of the toughest fights in Elden Ring, and this battle against Crucible Knight Ordovis and his good buddy Crucible Knight show why two bosses are almost always tougher than one.
This boss fight has been compared to the famous battle against Ornstein and Smough in Dark Souls, but I actually find this boss fight to be much worse than all but a few Soulsborne duo battles (with the exception of one that we’ll discuss in a bit). These guys are absurdly tough, deceivingly quick, and often know how to attack you in conjunction in a way that makes it almost impossible to get safe hits in on them.
Having to fight even one of these aggressive knights is often challenging enough, but being asked to battle two of them is just a reminder that Elden Ring is not the kinder and gentler FromSoftware game some fans would have you believe it is.
4. Radagon of the Golden Order/Elden Beast
Final boss fights in Soulsborne games sometimes fail to live up to the standards of the many boss fights that precede them, but the battle against Radagon and the Elden Beast is guaranteed to test you regardless of where you’re at by that point in the game.
Mechanically speaking, Radagon is a fairly straightforward boss who just happens to hit very hard and regularly produce frustrating AOE attacks that can end you in an instant and counter even the best-laid plans. In phase two, Radagon morphs into the Elden Beast: a massive creature with the ability to produce a nearly constant stream of AOE abilities that have made even the best and most dedicated Elden Ring players rage quit and (at least temporarily) walk away from the game.
Either of these fights would have been worthy final encounters, but the fact that you have to beat both of these bosses back-to-back to beat the game makes this one of the hardest final fights in FromSoftware history.
3. Godskin Duo
I honestly don’t even want to justify this fight’s existence by acknowledging it, but there’s no way to talk about the toughest fights in Elden Ring without talking about the Godskin Duo.
The Godskin Duo fight sees you face off against two bosses that share one health bar. The gimmick here is that one boss will always resurrect the other almost immediately after they “die.” That means that you’re only offered just a precious handful of seconds to focus on just one of these already individually tough foes, and that also means that you’re almost constantly forced to find a way to survive against their devastating duo attacks that fill most of the confined space you’re forced to battle them in.
I straight-up hate this fight. It’s honestly a poorly designed and cheap encounter that demands that you use every cheap tactic in your own arsenal to overcome it. Still, it absolutely deserves a place on this list.
2. Beast Clergyman/Maliketh The Black Blade
The Beast Clergyman part of this boss fight is tough enough to be worthy of a lower spot on this list, but it’s insulting to call the fight against Maliketh anything less than one of the hardest fights in Elden Ring.
Maliketh is able to fly across the arena in a way that can be extremely difficult to properly keep track of. When he lands, he usually delivers hits that can not only kill you an in instant but actually reduce your total health even if you manage to survive them. The only hope you have of beating him is to perfect your defensive techniques and learn to love those few seconds when you may actually be able to deal even a little bit of damage to this boss.
The most impressive thing about this fight is that it’s actually quite “balanced.” This battle is all about learning the patterns and mastering your own timing, which is exactly what a difficult Soulsborne boss fight should come down to.
1. Malenia, Blade of Miquella/Malenia, Goddess of Rot
The battle against Malenia might just be the toughest boss fight that FromSoftware has ever created. That’s not an exaggeration. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this fight might actually be broken.
Malenia’s incredible speed and anime-like attack patterns are more than enough to defeat 99% of Elden Ring players, but even top-tier FromSoftware fans will struggle to find a solution for the fact that Malenia can actually heal herself with every blow she lands. Yes, you heard me right. Malenia restores a significant portion of her health every time she lands an attack, and she will land a lot of attacks. Some of the absolute best Elden Ring players have spent days trying to beat this boss, and I honestly think this is the one boss in the game the vast majority of players will simply never be able to beat.
You don’t technically need to beat Maleania without getting hit, but that’s basically what you’ll need to do if you ever want to dream of beating this boss. I commend the Elden Ring team for trying something this bold, and I kindly ask that they never think of designing a boss like Malenia again.