Boss fights have been one of the pillars of The Legend of Zelda series since its inception. Link enters a dungeon, finds a new weapon, and often uses it to take out the big baddie that’s established residence there. It’s a solid formula that’s worked for over three decades now.
Not all Zelda bosses are created equally, though. Many are easily forgotten. Others, like Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple guardian Morpha…well, we just wish we could forget them. Of course, we’re here to celebrate the bosses that often defined the games they were in and helped establish The Legend of Zelda as one of the greatest series in gaming history.
You might also notice that some of the better Zelda games, namely Breath of the Wild and Link’s Awakening, aren’t represented on this list, while some of the more maligned games in the series do show up. The bosses on this list don’t necessarily hail from the best Legend of Zelda games, but they are among the most unique and creative in the history of this in the storied franchise.
15. Crayk – The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
With its low overall difficulty level and emphasis on using the DS’s touch screen controls, Phantom Hourglass isn’t well regarded by many Zelda fans. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with the ways Nintendo intelligently used the handheld’s two screens as the basis for one of the series’ most unforgettable boss fights.
Crayk turns invisible on the bottom screen, but on the top screen, you can see the room from his point of view. You have to use the top screen to figure out exactly where Crayk is so you can shoot an arrow at his eye and turn him visible before going in for big damage.
14. Helmasaur King – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Zelda series started in 2D, and while those early games are all-time classics, most of the bosses from that era honestly haven’t aged that well. However, Helmasaur King, the first boss in A Link to the Past’s Dark World, is still a standout all these years later.
First, Link has to use bombs or arrows to remove the giant lizard’s mask. It’s only then that you can expose this boss’ weak point and finally go in for the kill. It may sound simple, but that combination of action and puzzle-solving became the template for most future boss fights in the series.
13. Vaati – The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
The Minish Cap is an oddball Zelda game for a few reasons. Capcom handled development instead of Nintendo, it’s the final fully 2D “classic” Zelda game to date, and it’s one of the few games in the series that doesn’t even mention Ganondorf.
The evil sorcerer Vaati may not get as much love as Ganondorf, but he is the star of this epic multi-stage final boss fight. This battle requires Link to use all of the abilities he’s acquired during his adventure just to survive. That means dividing himself with the Four Sword to take out Vaati’s four eyes simultaneously before shrinking himself to enter the mage’s arms and deal damage from the inside out.
12. Gohma – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Gohma is far from the toughest Zelda boss (he’s actually the very first dungeon boss in Wind Waker), but he makes up for a lack of difficulty with his imposing design and the fact he’s just so much fun to beat up. Gohma may be an absolutely massive, armored, fire-breathing bug unit, but it turns out that armor doesn’t help him much when Link shows up.
The key to defeating Gohma is to hookshot the tail of Valoo (the dragon you’re there to rescue). That will make Valoo drop rubble on Gohma’s head, giving Link the opening he needs to hookshot Gohma’s eye and go in with his sword. This fight is just a fantastic combination of mechanics, environment, and execution.
11. Goht – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
With its 72-hour time loop and complete absence of series mainstay Ganondorf, Majora’s Mask was the first title in the series to break away from a lot of The Legend of Zelda’s conventions and redefine what a Zelda game could be. Some gamers dislike it for that. Personally, I’m a big fan.
While most of the temples and bosses in Majora’s Mask don’t stray from Ocarina of Time too much, Goht is the appropriately giant exception. This massive bull creature charges around a circular arena throughout the battle and the only way to stop it is to change into Link’s Goron form and ram him at full speed. It’s a boss fight mixed with a destruction derby, and it’s a truly unique encounter for this franchise.
10. King Bulbin – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Most of the better boss fights in Zelda history focus on creative uses of the various items Link finds. King Bulbin isn’t one of those fights. Actually, the first phase is just a mad dash through Hyrule Field as Link, on horseback, tries to hack away at Bulbin while being swarmed by even more riders.
What really elevates this battle, though, is the iconic duel on the Bridge of Eldin. You only have to hit the king with your sword twice to defeat him, but without any guard rails, it’s easy to fall to your death. There’s a reason why this moment has been immortalized as a Super Smash Bros. stage. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in franchise history.
9. Dark Link – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Dark Link is technically a sub-boss, but this encounter is too cool to leave off the list. You meet Dark Link near the end of Ocarina of Time’s much-maligned Water Temple in what at first seems to be an unusually calm room. It’s only when Link’s reflection in the water goes missing that it becomes apparent that something is amiss.
No matter how you attack Dark Link with the Master Sword, he will counter your moves perfectly. It’s that premise, and the way it forces you to find new ways to deal with such a powerful foe, combined with the set-up that makes this one of the most creative bosses in any Zelda game.
8. Argorok – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Throughout its many installments, the Zelda series has actually been really good about coming up with unique enemy designs. So if a somewhat generic dragon shows up, he better put up one hell of a fight. Thankfully, Argorok delivers.
Argorok starts the fight in the air but can creatively be brought to the ground by latching on to him with your double clawshot and then equipping your iron boots to bring him crashing down. That takes care of the dragon’s armor, but it’s not the end of the fight, as Link spends the rest of the battle using his clawshot to zip around while targeting the weak spot on Argorok’s back.
7. Twinrova – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time is full of memorable boss battles, but Twinrova stands out as the best temple guardian boss in the game.
The first phase of the battle requires Link to absorb this pair’s elemental attacks (fire and ice) with his newly obtained mirror shield before reflecting them back at the sister who controls the opposite element. That’s not the end of the battle, though, as the sisters combine into one entity for the final showdown. This time, Link has to absorb each element three consecutive times before firing back at Twinrova and finishing the job with some truly satisfying sword strikes.
6. Stalblind – The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds really doesn’t get enough recognition for being an excellent spiritual sequel to the beloved A Link to the Past as well as one of the better showcases of stereoscopic 3D on the 3DS. That technology is used to power Link’s best new skill in this game: the ability to turn himself into a flat piece of art and do his best sidescroller impression.
That ability is essential for a lot of the game’s puzzles, but one of its best uses is found in the fight against Stalblind. This massive boss uses a shield to block Link’s attacks, but Link can turn himself flat onto Stalblind’s shield, which confuses the enemy and forces him to put the shield on his back. That’s the only opening Link needs in this simple, yet brilliant, boss fight.
5. Puppet Ganon – The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
While many Wind Waker fans think the final battle with Ganondorf is the best in the game (and one of the best in the series), it’s ultimately a fairly simple fight, even if the setting is quite dramatic. Puppet Ganon is just a much more strategic encounter, and I’d argue that the setting is even better.
First, this is a really cool incarnation of Ganon unlike anything else in the franchise. It probably wouldn’t even work in another game, but here, Wind Waker’s cartoony style gives the puppet boss an especially creepy vibe. It’s really rather haunting watching this entity’s limbs dangle limply as it moves around the room before morphing into its even freakier spider and worm forms. It’s also ingenious how each of the forms requires you to use skills gained throughout the game to put this puppet away forever.
4. Stallord – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The fight against Stallord doesn’t even feel like a traditional Zelda boss fight, but that actually works to its advantage.
Stallord is certainly one of the cooler-looking bosses in the series (it’s a giant demonic fossil protruding from the sand), but the creature is no match for Link’s trusty Spinner: a top that kind of acts like a skateboard. Even Nintendo couldn’t resist cashing in on Tony Hawk. The Spinner is mostly used to ride rails, but in the first phase of the Stallord battle, Link uses it to dodge enemies and crash into the resurrected fossil. The second phase is even better, with Link riding the spinner up a pillar to take down Stallord’s floating, fireball spewing skull.
3. Koloktos – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Though it was well-reviewed at launch, a lot of gamers have turned sour on Skyward Sword over the last decade for a simple reason: its motion controls were unreliable. Still, there’s a solid Zelda game under the frustration, and when the controls do work, they really enhance the game. So far as that goes, Koloktos is the prime example of Skyward Sword at its very best.
To defeat this six-armed automaton, Link first has to use his newly acquired whip to remove the arms Koloktos uses to guard his weak point. Deal enough damage, and Koloktos then grabs six swords for each of its hands. You’ll again have to use the whip to remove his arms, but this time, you have to pick up one of the swords it drops to slash at the weak spot for massive damage. It’s an oddly visceral and satisfying boss fight that stands out even when compared to the best encounters in the series.
2. Majora’s Mask – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Between the magical masks, 72-hour time loop, and the ever-looming threat of the moon crashing into everything, Majora’s Mask is one trippy game. It’s fitting, then, that the final battle against the titular villain is truly psychedelic. After stopping the apocalypse and entering the moon, Link finally comes face-to-face with Majora’s Mask. The first phase just sees the mask floating around a hallucinatory room, but for the next two phases, the creature sprouts legs and, finally, tentacles.
There are actually two ways to defeat Majora’s Mask: the strategic way or the badass way. The first method requires switching masks and strategies and quickly moving around the room while carefully avoiding attacks. The second method, which is arguably more fun, is to obtain all 23 masks in the game and collect the all-powerful Fierce Deity Mask for your efforts. That mask allows a nearly invincible Link to just beat the hell out of Majora’s Mask in a couple of minutes. No other Zelda game ends quite like that, but then again, there’s no other Zelda game quite like Majora’s Mask.
1. Ganondorf/Ganon – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
There might be some bias here for those of us who grew up playing Ocarina of Time, but more than two decades later, this boss fight still holds up remarkably well.
First, there’s the atmosphere and sense of foreboding. After several dozen hours adventuring through Hyrule, gathering the seven sages, and breaching Ganondorf’s castle, you finally confront the face of all evil in the land…and he’s eerily playing his theme on the organ. Admittedly, the first phase of this fight is kind of silly (it’s basically a game of tennis as Link and Ganondorf exchange a ball of energy back and forth), but where this boss fight truly stands out is in its second phase. It’s there that you confront Ganon: a towering pig beast wielding two massive swords in an arena surrounded by a ring of fire. The strategy here is pretty simple (just get behind him and strike his tail repeatedly until Link can land the killing blow) but it’s such a cinematic moment and satisfying conclusion to a classic game that it’s hard not to consider it the best boss fight in franchise history.