You know what the say: sometimes good things come in threes! Over the last two weeks I’ve covered my favorite boss battles in World of Warcraft and The Legend of Zelda, and today we’re talking some of the most epic and grueling boss fights ever, from Studio MDHR’s smash hit, Cuphead!
As I’ve covered before, challenging boss fights are frequently one of my favorite parts of video games. A game is often only as good as its villains, and games that can really capture innovative boss mechanics with a good balance of solid design and challenges are typically high on my list of games I love to play. I don’t want things to feel impossible, mind you, but when you take down a boss that is fair but also really hard, what you’re left with is a truly fulfilling and worthwhile gaming experience.
So if you’re like me, and you like a game that can give you a good ole fashioned butt whooping in the best ways possible, then you absolutely need to play Cuphead. This game really came out of left field for a lot of people when it released in 2017, and eventually, it received glowing reviews and accolades at that year’s Game Awards, standing up to AAA titans in the “Action” genre, like Call of Duty and Destiny. And the support this game received was 100% deserved, because it is absolutely amazing – it was a wonderful and charming soundtrack and sound design, beautiful retro art style all supporting a genuinely challenging action platformer with some of the hardest boss fights around. The game has 19 bosses in total, all of which had their own charm and challenges to them – heck, even the two intro bosses gave some people trouble and were a perfect appetizer for the madness yet to come. And as I am want to do, I’ve been thinking about my five favorites, so without further ado (and in no particular order), here are my five favorite boss challenges from Cuphead!
Before we start, I want to send a quick shoutout to the Boss Fight Database YouTube channel, where I got all the footage for the boss fights. Keep up the good work!
Dr. Kahl’s Robot – The only airborne fight on my list is a serious doozy if I do say so myself. The fight with Dr. Kahl’s Robot is insane from beginning to end, but honestly, it’s the final phase that really pushes things to the absolute limit. But before you get there, you’re literally taking the robot down piece by piece, and not unlike other Cuphead boss fights, as you take down weak points the fight just gets harder and harder. Once you’ve overcome bombs with massive explosions that hit you from WAY farther away than they should and your typical side-scrolling aerial dodges and shenanigans, you’re met with honestly one of the most insane phases of any boss fight ever, which sees you facing off against Dr. Kahl himself and his screen-filling electrical storm attacks, moving platforms, and a variety of other mechanics that either can’t be parried or are so fast it’s borderline impossible to do anything other than dodge and shoot randomly until you hopefully prevail. I may or may not have thrown my controller during this boss, and ya know what? I’m not the least bit embarrassed about it.
Grim Matchstick – Aww, look! An adorable dragon that you have to fight, this can’t possibly be that hard, right? WRONG! This fight is insane and infuriating and this cute bastard made me so mad. But, I digress… The standard three-phase approach is used to full effect with Grim Matchstick, with his first phase being your typical dodge stuff, try and parry stuff but if you’re like me parrying usually ends badly – and in this fight, it ended badly a lot. As the fight progresses he quickly fills the screen with more and more fire, fireballs, and fireballs that you can shoot that end up blowing up and turning into even more fireballs – it turns into an incredibly frantic sprint to the finish line against the most adorable dragon boss since Skyrim.
King Dice – In my opinion, the Casino + King Dice boss battle is easily the most grueling boss fight in Cuphead. It’s literally a gauntlet, and a somewhat random one at that, that sees you taking three mini-bosses before you even start to take on the King himself. There are nine mini-bosses in total that you can face off against, which are selected from a random roll of the dice at the start of the fight. These single phase boss are varied, and while they honestly aren’t super difficult on their own, it’s the complete package that can start to wear you down, since you have to take on the three mini-bosses back to back to back before fighting King Dice. And if you fail any of those initial fights, or against King Dice, you have to start from the start of the mini-bosses. This war of attrition battle ends with King Dice firing a stream of walking playing cards at you, which you avoid by parrying the pink cards (which we’ve established I am terrible at), and finding super tight windows to deal damage. This one took me a helluva long time, especially since I was playing at 2am… (Pro tip: Don’t play Cuphead while being sleep deprived!)
Rumor Honeybottoms – I think the thing that stands out the most for me with many of these Cuphead bosses, is introducing new, unique mechanics to an already difficult and complex game, and with Rumor Honeybottoms, not only do you spend the whole fight taking on this angry Queen Bee, fending off attacks, parrying, dodging, damaging the boss in super tight windows, but the entire time you’re basically in a Battletoads-esque level that scrolls up instead of side-to-side, which makes this fight WAY harder than it would be normally. To make matters worse, the platforms that appear during the fight are pretty random, so you can literally die to this boss due to having no good places to jump so taking damage can sometimes be inevitable unless you get a perfectly placed run – which, spoiler alert, never, ever, EVER happens in Cuphead.
The Devil – The final fight in Cuphead is a pretty damn good one, and it does a great job of taking everything you’ve learned throughout the game and saying straight to your face “Ha, you think you’re good at Cuphead? Think again!” It all starts with the Devil asking for all the souls you collected, and you’re like “Nah man we’re good” and the Devil decides he doesn’t like that very much, and BOOM, boss battle commences. You’re then thrust into a battle for your very soul, taking on the Devil’s minions while he turns his hands into cloven hooves attacking you from off the screen, pulling his own head off and turning it into a spider monster thing (which is yucky because I hate spiders), and after enough damage he jumps out of his own skin (like you do) and you jump down into what I can only assume is Cuphead Hell to face off against his true form, a big red Devil that you fight on fie platforms with random stuff flying at you, at the platforms, and two big flying demons spitting magic skulls at you. If it sounds crazy, it’s because it is, and absolutely deserves a place on any list of hardest boss battles around.