In an RPG, a boss battle is like a punctuation mark at the end of a dungeon or event. They can be a defining moment of a game, creating tense feelings in a player who may not have been expecting a tough battle or driving the narrative through an encounter with the primary antagonist. You tend to remember boss battles more than others, and you usually spend a lot more time in a boss battle than your run-of-the-mill encounters.
This is what makes a great boss battle soundtrack all the more important. The change from the standard battle theme to something more intense can give the player a real feeling of “shit just got real.” Below are ten examples of some of the greatest boss battle themes.
Warning: This list contains mild to severe spoilers, read at your own risk.
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Uploaded by SNESosT
When this song starts, you know you’re in for the real deal. The rockin’ beat of the synthetic instruments playing the foreboding melody of this song really gets you amped up. You can just feel the intensity of this boss battle just from the song, and if you haven’t been properly training or preparing for a tough boss fight this is certainly going to be the song that heralds your Game Over. I hope you saved recently!
Fight With Seymour
Final Fantasy X
Uploaded by CrazyMan03
Nobuo Uematsu really knows what he’s doing, and this is why he’s considered one of the most legendary video game composers in the business. Final Fantasy X features one of the greatest boss battle themes in the entire series, “Fight with Seymour”. The spine-tingling electronic buildup at the beginning of the song that leads into the operatic vocals and finally into the intense percussion just gets you fired up when the blue haired antagonist of FFX engages you for what promises to be a challenging battle.
The pacing of the song keeps it upbeat, but the underlying theme of a dark and foreboding ambition really sinks in as the song progresses. There’s nothing bad to say about this song, except that it only plays once or twice in the entire game.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Uploaded by VGMOST
With a title like “Best Friend”, how could you predict such a dark and ominous song would follow? This song plays as you battle the boss at the finale of the first half of Persona Q. In a game as difficult as Persona Q you know to look forward to bosses, and the game adequately warns you as you approach the chamber of each boss, providing a save point and a chance to return to the shops and heal up. However, when “Best Friend” starts playing at the beginning of the battle with this boss, you know something is seriously different.
Compared to the previous bosses, this one is no joke, and you better take it even more seriously than the others. The dread this rock song instills in you will haunt you every time you hear it afterwards, even with the tinges of hope it might include with its more upbeat sections.
Battle! (Gym Leader)
Pokemon X & Y
Uploaded by utuber6061backup
Pokemon games are about a journey through the land, taming wild creatures and bonding with them as you face the challenges of the gyms and the threat of the organized crime gangs you might encounter along the way. This journey culminates at the Elite Four, where you’ll battle to become the champion of the league. This song is the anthem that plays as you battle your way through those Gyms, facing their various themed leaders.
The introduction of this song can get your skin crawling in anticipation of the challenge you’re about to face from some of the most skilled trainers in Kalos. The meat of the song keeps up a steady toe-tapping beat and the uplifting music can help you focus on overcoming the difficult battle you’re in. The excitement as it builds into a full fledged anthem can instill you with the confidence you need.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
Uploaded by wpellot
Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series! This tag on the cover of the North American and European versions of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne has spawned a meme that echos across the internet. However, Dante’s addition to Nocturne added one of the greatest battle themes in the series to the game. The first time you meet Dante you’ll have to fight him, in a very unexpected encounter.
When the song fires up you know the Devil Hunter means serious business, capable of clearing out your entire team in a single round if you aren’t careful. In a game as unforgiving as Nocturne, this is a serious threat. The rock tune is very befitting of both games, I could easily picture Dante flipping around and juggling a half dozen demons with his signature stylish skills in his own game as well as I can picture the Protagonist of Nocturne facing up in turn-based combat with him.
Uploaded by Zapper101
Right from the beginning of this song you can feel the intensity, and it never drops. Nobuo Uematsu didn’t screw around when he composed this brilliant piece for Lost Odyssey. Lost Odyssey can be a very punishing game if you aren’t prepared properly for what lies ahead of you, and bosses are the prime example of such preparedness being mandatory!
When you hear this song kick in, you’d better hope your immortals are healed up and your mortals are well prepared to support them — or else you’re in for a beating that the main character, Kaim, will never forget. The frantic beat of the song is really emphatic about how desperate the struggle you’re about to face could be, and it really sets the tone for the boss battles.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Uploaded by Napon [OST Uploads]
This is both the first vocally driven track and the first non-turn based RPG to pop up on the list. Xenoblade X plays this track whenever you engage in combat with one of the optional bosses wandering around the world of Mira. Ranging from small to exceptionally large, these creatures are all deadly for one reason or another — and without proper care you can find yourself walking directly into the maw of a particularly deadly monster without realizing it.
Hearing this song start up as you’re wandering around the world gives you a sense of panic as you try to gauge what your best option would be, running away or standing and fighting. The vocals are gorgeous, and you just can’t help but sing along once this song buries itself into your ear. Just let the beat carry you as you struggle against the hostile world of Mira.
Battle of Tribulations
Bravely Second: End Layer
Uploaded by EightGiratina
I knew I wanted to include one of the various boss themes from the Bravely series but I had a hard time choosing, they’re all so good. I settled for Bravely Second‘s “Battle of Tribulations”, as I feel it emphasizes the mood of the battle the best. As your party struggles in battle with one of the various new Asterisk — symbols of power that grant you the ability to use special jobs — holders in the game.
The frenetic pace of the drums and the sense of desperation the song gives off is augmented with its operatic vocal backings and glorious guitar riffs. As the song goes on, you notice that there is an underlying tone of hope that builds the more you listen to it. This song just has the perfect blend of emotional messages in it that makes it so fitting for a boss fight. Instant classic.
The Edge of Green
Uploaded by James Turner
Radiant Historia is one of those RPGs I never hear people talk about in conversations regarding the best RPGs of all time. I don’t think enough people give this game the credit it deserves, and this track is a perfect example of what the game is capable of.
This boss theme is mellow compared to my previous entries, featuring both piano and violin synchronizing in perfect harmony over a heart-pounding beat that leaves you ready to do battle with the deadliest foes. Yoko Shimomura’s composing work is brilliant and this is just another note on the ever expanding list of fabulous work she has done.
Uploaded by Hawelo92
You know you’re in for a bad time when you hear this glorious track. Honestly, I had a hard time settling on a song to pick from Undertale, as all the boss songs are just so great. They are all perfectly thematic for their respective boss along with the tone of the story at that particular point in the game. I decided to go with “Megalovania” for a couple reasons.
I feel as if this song really drives home my point about a boss song setting a mood that should make a player feel like something serious is about to happen. Additionally to my previous point, I feel as though this song is one of the best composed in the game, as well as being memorable for having appeared in Toby Fox’s other work. It is simply overall just a great track, and the battle that goes with it is one of the most well coordinated and intense fights in Undertale.
These are just a fraction of the great selection of boss tunes out there to find in all the various RPGs available to us. Did I include your favorite game? Share some of your favorites in the comments.