Boss Appreciation Week: More memorable bosses of yesteryear

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We continue our week of looking at big boss battles with a stroll down memory lane.

Most of the games I play now are high score games that don’t rely on a specific end-level bosses but more on racing against the clock or just continuous levels until you die. Most of the bosses I remember are from my early console days. So while we’ve covered the Sony bad guys already this week, I’m going to have to take the high road and just list out some of bosses I remember the most from my gaming prime.

Firebug and The Joker, Batman (NES)

Batman NES

The Joker to my Batman, The Firebug.

Outside of Super Mario Bros., one of the first NES games I played the hardest and struggled with was Batman. The game itself looked great, sounded great and played well. It didn’t really follow anything from the 1989 movie but it was Batman, so who really cares? Each level was challenging enough, so when you finally made it to the last two bosses, you were exhausted and a little bit scared. The last boss was, of course, The Joker, but before you got to him you had to beat his bodyguard, Firebug. Once you beat him you moved right on to the Joker, so it was a double dose of boss battles. Looking back at it, there’s nothing to particularly difficult about beating the Firebug or The Joker, but I remember the real problem was keeping your lives and ammo up high enough that you could take some damage to continue. By the time I made it to the last two guys, I usually had little health and maybe one life left, if that, so when I screwed up and missed the pattern, I was toast and had to start all over. As if that wasn’t enough, you were only given a limited number of continues so if your thumbs were sore by the time the Joker danced in the pale moon light, well, you’d probably have to start all over again.

Dr. Wily’s Robots, any NES-era Megaman (NES)

Megaman

Dr. Wily's bosses were always tougher than they looked

Megaman was huge game during time on the Nintendo and I loved playing all of those games. I remember Megaman 3 the most but all the Megaman titles from the NES days had some of the most difficult boss battles ever devised. Taking on all of the level bosses was hard enough and took you a long time…then you had to beat them all AGAIN, and only then did you move on to Dr. Wily. But wait…Dr. Wily has more robotic tricks up his sleeve! Right when you thought you were making progress, another robot monster was attacking you. You’d duck, dodge and jump, throwing everything you got at these guys and you’d beat them. You and your friends would cheer, down a can of Jolt and think you were finally moving on to Wily himself…but you’d be wrong. The parade of bosses you had to go through before you got to Dr. Wily was seemingly endless, which actually made defeating the final Dr. Wily all the more rewarding. Completing any Megaman game was a chore and one that was deserving of an ego trip. And if I can say so myself, to this day, the NES-era Megaman games are still some of the most difficult games you’ll find out there.

Psycho Mantis, Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)

Psycho Mantis Metal Gear Solid

Psycho Mantis made a boss battle a real experience

Metal Gear was the first game I finished on the NES outside of SMB, and from that point on I was a Metal Gear franchise follower. When Metal Gear Solid came out on the Playstation is was nothing short of the best game ever. It looked incredible, had awesome cut-scenes, awesome weapons and robots, and a ninja…what more could you ask for? It was the first game I remember playing that felt like a movie, and being such had some of the best characters ever seen in a game, and that includes the bosses. I remember playing MGS with my friends for weeks, trading the controller back and forth when one of us died. It was a real team effort despite MGS being a single-player game. All the bosses were pretty standard until we got to Psycho Mantis, which was unlike anything prior in the game and like nothing else we had experienced in gaming up to that point. During the battle we were all yelling and going nuts just trying to learn his pattern but then Mantis starts rambling off the names of games I had on my Playstation…WTF?! It was shocking and then the screen starting flashing some VCR-style commands and we just couldn’t figure it out. As often as we tried, we couldn’t beat him and we had to get some help from the almighty internets. Once there we learned we could plug the controller into the Player 2 port and defeat him that way. Psycho Mantis could very well be the first boss that made the video game a complete experience rather than just memorizing some patterns…and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! (NES)

Mike Tyson's Punch Out

Pay attention or Mike Tyson will knock you on your ass fast

You could argue that every opponent in Punch-Out was a boss, but there was no bigger, badder boss in the game than Iron Mike himself. Personally, I had plenty of trouble getting through Mr. Sandman AND THEN Super Macho Man before getting a go at Tyson. By the time I got to Mike Tyson I was so jacked and tired that I couldn’t think straight, and if you’re not paying attention you will get beat. Instantly. Like with any boss, the first time you face them you spend time trying to learn their pattern so you can survive. Well, Mike Tyson doesn’t really give you all that much time and knocks you out with one punch. After two punches you’ll probably get KO’ed and obviously at three punches it’s a TKO and the show is over. So while the first time I reached Tyson was a milestone in my personal gaming history, it was short lived as I failed to beat him and was sent back to the previous fighter…of who I failed to defeat. I’m not sure I’ve ever made it back to Mike Tyson since that time in grade school. Sure, you can go directly to him with the code but there’s not a lot of pride in that. If you don’t start with Glass Joe, make a stop at Soda Popinski and play drums on King Kippo’s gut then you’re not really enjoying Punch-Out.

So many bosses, so little time

Those four bosses are some of the ones I remember the most but there are oh so many more that I remember and even more that are just straight up near-impossible. Reaching Gorro in Mortal Kombat was always a high point, The Boss from MGS3 was intense, fighting Dracula in Castlevania was momentous and whatever that thing was at the end of Ninja Gaiden was unthinkably hard…and those are just some on the top of my head, there are countless others I’ve since forgotten. But most memorable are the bosses that really kicked your ass and put your gaming skills to the test. So many years, so many games, so many bosses.

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Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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