Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

The Final Encounter: The Hardest Video Game Bosses I’ve Ever Fought

It’s a bit of a shame that most of my childhood memories are of video games. I’ll often stare glass-eyed at my parents when they mention an anecdote from a family vacation taken when I was ten, but I can immaculately recall my team of Pokemon from the installment of the series I possessed at the same age. It’s a problem I imagine is unique to the geek-hearted.

Among the most vivid of these memories are the devastating defeats doled out to me by various video game bosses. As a child who only had the pocket money to rent games and not to buy them, nothing frustrated me more than having the progress of my adventure stymied by an impossible boss fight. Today I present to you a rogue’s gallery of such adversaries. I hope that by sharing my pain I can come to terms with the emotional trauma these pixelated nightmares have caused me over the years.

Terapin, Breath of Fire 2


Terapin reduced to me tears when I was young. The point where Ryu and his party reach Capitan and delve into the city’s well is the point where most of my save files of Breath of Fire 2 unceremoniously end.

Every element of the game surrounding this encounter is set up to propagate failure.  There are several minibosses lurking around to soften you up. The enemies in the field are difficult to grind for levels because they poison you constantly. The boss fight itself is a surprise, so at least in the first attempt you won’t be prepared for it. Worst of all, you’re stuck with goddamn Sten and Nina in your party. Never has failure been such a holistic experience.

With two attacks that hit all of your party members for massive damage, Terapin is no slouch. His ability to mind control Ryu and have him one-shot another party member is particularly unfair and a potential encounter ender. All in all, this boss gets four controller-smashes out of five.

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Verminator, Secret of Evermore

It’s kind of humiliating that in a game boasting as many epic screen-spanning bosses as Secret of Evermore, the villain I had the most trouble defeating was a mangy rat.

Honestly, I don’t recall much about this guy save for the fact that he kicked my ass at least seven or eight consecutive times. Gamefaqs informs me that the Verminator can’t be hit by normal attacks from you or your dog, which might explain my youthful frustration. As a kid, I lacked the foresight to level up my alchemy adequately, and I imagine ticking away with double-digit Crush and Hard Ball spells failed to impress the king of rats.

Three controller-smashes out of five. This number has the potential to rise if my repressed memories ever resurface.

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Magic Master, Final Fantasy VI

I’ll freely concede that I used the Moogle Charm to sneak to the top of the Tower of Fanatics. The temptation of snagging a Gem Box early into the second half of the game proved too alluring, and I figured I could crush the boss lurking on the final floor as handily as any other. Alas, much like Icarus who flew too close to the sun, the hubris of my ascent sealed my demise.

What makes the Magic Master so frustrating is that he’s relatively easy to K.O. He can only use magic, making him specifically vulnerable to the Berserk spell, Wall Rings, and a handful of other loopholes that make the player feel obscenely clever. It’s relatively easy to slug through the whole encounter with scarcely a scrape.

That is until the Magic Master wipes your entire party with a single cast of Ultima. He’s scripted to cast the spell when his hit points hit zero, and unless your party is obscenely high level (or, as I learned later, has Reraise cast on them) it will cause a game over.

Whoever designed this boss hates children. Five controller-smashes out of five.
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  • Apparently you can Rasp Magic Master to death, which prevents him from casting Ultima, too. I think that’s how I first beat him, since I remember Rasping “Atma Weapon” to death too.

  • I eventually beat him by using the Palidor esper right before he died. It makes all your characters use the “jump” command as if they had the Dragoon Boots equipped, allowing you to avoid the final Ultima. Ten year old Radiostorm would have never figured that one out though.

  • I second Terapin. That is the ONE boss that haunts my childhood dreams, and I’m in my 30’s now. The word “epic adventure” for me will always evoke a scene of descending into a well, and meet the most horrifying monster of the deep ever, and THEN have that monster control your mind before it eats you!

    Magic Master, not so much, I was actually lucky in a sense, because I accidentally stumbled upon various usages for the Jump attack long before this boss, since I like dragoons, so by the time I get here, using a jump trick on him was not even something I do consciously (Palidor is always equipped one someone).

By Mathew
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer