The best Zelda bosses are easily the ones that can combine the theme of their dungeon’s design with the dungeon’s new item in a creative, combative way. Among all of the greatest encounters Link faces in his many adventures, many boss enemies are not as fondly remembered as others. So while you’ll find plenty of lists out there of the Legend of Zelda series’ best boss fights, let’s take a look a some of the series’ overlooked and underrated boss fights!
5. Gohma (The Wind Waker)
Gohmas are one of the more peculiar reoccurring Zelda enemies. Before The Wind Waker, Gohma appears as a boss in The Legend of Zelda, Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time and Oracle of Seasons. In each of these previous fights, Gohma appears as a giant spider with one central eyeball that Link simply strikes to defeat. Contrasted with these spider-like designs of the past, The Wind Waker’s Gohma appears as a huge centipede/scorpion creature that is many stories tall, residing inside Dragon Roost Island’s volcanic mountain.
The Ghoma fight in The Wind Waker stands out because it takes Link’s first all-new item in the game, the grappling hook, and uses it in a huge, open, vertical space. Instead of simply hitting Gohma’s eye like in previous games, Link must first swing above the monster to latch on to the dragon Valoo’s tail to drop a rocky ceiling onto Gohma’s head, breaking its armoring shell. Only after breaking its shell from the top level of the volcanic battle area can Link finish the fight at the lower level, latching onto Gohma’s eye with his grappling hook and slicing it with his sword. All of this, of course, while dodging Gohma breathing fire or swinging its massive claws. It all blends together to create one of the most exciting first bosses in the Zelda series.
Part of the reason Blizzeta is such a great boss fight has to do with the dungeon it’s found in: Snowpeak Ruins. Snowpeak Ruins is my personal favorite dungeon in Twilight Princess, because it took the decades-old Zelda dungeon formula and twisted it with a new narrative-driven approach. Instead of slugging straight through the dungeon, Link has to gather items for Yeto and Yeta in their snowy mansion, trying to find the bedroom key for the couple. Instead of finding the key, Link finds food for Yeto’s soup, making it tastier and tastier with each addition. It’s because the player becomes somewhat attached to this yeti couple that the boss Blizzeta is so shocking and fun. After finally getting the bedroom key and heading into the bedroom, players get the biggest jump scare of the whole series when Yeta reveals herself to be a terrifying monster to Link with an Exorcist-style head spin, shattering the bedroom windows and transforming into Blizzeta.
Link uses the ball and chain, one of Twilight Princess’ all new items, that he finds in Snowpeak Ruins to take down Blizzeta, dodging impaling ice spikes and body slams from the monster. Because the ball and chain is the only item that works against Bizzeta, there is not just one critical weak point for the boss, which does make the fight a little easy. However, this also lets the player use the new item from any point in the arena, adding tension to timing heavy attacks with the ball and chain at Blizzeta. After defeating Blizzeta, instead of killing Yeta, she is returned to her normal self and reunited with her lover, Yeto, completing their brief story arc in the game. Like the Fyrus battle in Twilight Princess, I like when boss fights end with the creatures turning back into good guys rather than simply dying and disappearing. Then, in one of the more adorable moments in Zelda history, Yeto and Yeta hug and embrace as recovery hearts fill the cleared stage. The narrative-driven approach and heavy combat of this boss fight don’t get enough credit for innovating on the tired and true Zelda dungeon formula.
Scaldera is the most recent entry on this list, so it might be a bit premature to declare this an underrated boss fight. However, since Skyward Sword’s release, many point to Koloktos or Demise as the best bosses of the game. Even though it’s hard to contend with those picks as stellar boss fights, Scaldera doesn’t get nearly enough attention from fans. As the first one-and-done unique boss fight of the game (not counting repeat Ghirahim battles), the battle with Scaldera offers a combination of familiar Zelda tactics and brand new ideas.
The Scaldera battle arena is unlike any other in a 3D Zelda. Instead of being on an open, circular platform like the majority of 3D Zelda boss battles, this fight happens on a long, narrow platform that reduces the amount of safety zones to take refuge in. Beginning with a mad dash to the end of the narrow platform, the tone is set from the start that this battle will be a unique one. However, taking down Scaldera requires a couple of familiar Zelda strategies. Lifting a page from Ocarina of Time’s King Dodongo battle, Link has to roll bombs (or throw them) into the mouth of Scaldera as it inhales, preparing to launch fireballs. Using Wii Motion Plus to aim the bowling bombs is just the first instance of motion control enhancing this boss battle. This will crack Scaldera’s armoring outer shell, like in the aforementioned The Wind Waker Gohma battle. Once the shell is cracked, Scaldera falls, revealing its eye as a weak spot for Link’s sword. This is where the Wii Remote with Wii Motion Plus steals the show, as players have to aim their stabs carefully to hit the weak spot. Mindlessly flailing the remote will just result in smacking the hard shell of the boss, unless its shell is completely removed. After hitting the eye enough times, Scaldera is defeated and the fight is over. Combining elements of previous boss fights, taking place in a unique arena, and utilizing 1:1 motion controls easily makes Scaldera the least appreciated boss in Skyward Sword.
Majora’s Mask is in no short supply of fans. Recently voted as Zelda Informer’s Zelda Versus Champion among our readers, there are plenty of amazing things to say about the game. However, one of the common complaints about Majora’s Mask is its lack of dungeons, and therefore its lack of boss fights. With only four main dungeons and one final endgame dungeon, it’s certainly a far cry from Ocarina of Time’s nine main dungeons. You’ll rarely find one of Majora’s Mask’s main four boss fights in a list of best Zelda bosses, but I think its first boss, Odolwa, deserves a spot at that table.
Firstly, on style alone, Odolwa has one of the coolest character designs of any Zelda game. Dubbed the “Masked Jungle Warrior,” Odolwa is surprisingly one of the first humanoid swordsman designs featured in a main dungeon boss. His body is covered in colorful tribal paint, matching the rainforest motif of the Woodfall area in Termina, and he dances to a tribal drum as he fights, clearly all inspired by a South American, Amazonian aesthetic. Odolwa is also extremely quick and very hard as Majora’s Mask’s first boss. Spinning around the arena, jumping high above the ground and wildly swinging his massive sword towards Link, he can be tough to take down when you only have three recovery hearts. Where the battle really shines is in the sheer number of ways you can inflict damage to Odolwa. With arrows, sword, the Deku Mask, and bomb flowers all being effective against Odolwa, there is a real variety in gameplay and the types of attacks you can pull off. Similarly to Blizzeta on this list, there’s a lack of one critical weak point on Odolwa to exploit, so it feels more rewarding to take him down using your own wits and tactics. Odolwa is my pick as the best first boss in the Zelda series and the best boss in Majora’s Mask.
I’ve literally played through Ocarina of Time from start to finish at least 15 to 20 times, and it only struck me on my latest run last year how under-appreciated Barinade is. Relative to the rest of this list, Barinade isn’t necessarily the best boss fight out of these five, but it gets the most undeserved hate by a long shot. Frequently making appearances on lists of the worst Zelda boss fights, I can’t seem to really grasp why. I understand criticisms of Jabu-Jabu’s Belly as a dungeon, with a gross anatomic art direction and biological architecture, but the fight against Barinade itself is surprisingly challenging, fast-paced, and interesting.
Barinade takes a familiar Zelda boss design, Arrghus from A Link to the Past, with a central polyp/jellyfish figure surrounded by several protective, smaller polyp/jellyfish that need to be picked off one by one before attacking the central, larger one. Instead of using the hookshot like in A Link to the Past, Link uses Ocarina of Time’s redesigned boomerang in an open 3D space to sever the creature’s tentacles and then take down the small jellyfish. Barinade has some of the fastest attacks of a 3D Zelda boss, including firing electric shock beams, spinning the armoring jellyfish wildly, and then retreating back into the surface of Jabu-Jabu’s Belly to protect itself. This powerful pattern quickly dwindles Link’s recovery heart count, making the fight the most challenging of Young Link’s adventure in Ocarina of Time. This fight gets a lot of negative attention, I think it deserves higher praise and recognition for also influencing The Wind Waker’s Kalle Demos boss fight, straying further away from the older Arrghus design.
Do you have a personal favorite overlooked/underrated boss fight? Anything I left off this list? Leave a comment and share your picks!