The Hardest Dark Souls 3 Boss To The Easiest, Ranked [DLCs Included]
For most, boss battles constitute the biggest selling point of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls games. No matter how gripping or nail-biting the journey to the fog wall might be, it is the mysterious enemy at the end of each area that defines it. There are rare instances, however, where certain enemies and obstacles along the way will prove to be a greater challenge than the area’s boss itself. The difficulty of boss fights doesn’t always increase in proportion to the player’s progression through the game. Dark Souls III is no different in this regard. Not all of the game’s bosses require summoning phantoms and you needn’t prepare to die every time you traverse that fear-inducing barrier.
To help players new to the series decide where to opt for co-op and where to fly solo, here’s a ranking of the Dark Souls III boss battles from least to most difficult. This goes without saying, but there are spoilers ahead. We’ve tried to keep the description of each boss as comprehensive as possible with hints pointing to key elements and puzzles, so if you enjoy the series’ trademark obscurity and uncertainty, you might want to steer clear.
Update: We’ve added bosses from the two DLCs!
25. Deacons of the Deep
Seasoned gamers will agree that “mob” bosses are hard to get right. They either turn out to be infuriatingly unfair, or boringly easy. The Deacons of the Deep are, in our books, an example of the latter. Once you figure out the obvious “secret” to defeating the slow moving herd of spell-casters, all you have to worry about is the curse debuff the boss hits you with during the second phase of the battle. If you have a weapon that excels at crowd control, you will most likely be able to finish the fight way before that becomes a threat.
24. Yohrm the Giant
It was disappointing to see one of the most intimidating boss designs of the game be reduced to a simple puzzle. It’s not that the fight isn’t enjoyable. From a lore and setting point of view, it actually constitutes one of the best moments of the game, especially if you follow through with a certain NPC’s questline. That doesn’t, however, change the fact that it doesn’t feel like a boss fight. The only reason this machete-wielding Lord of the Profaned Capital isn’t at the very bottom of the list is that his puzzle isn’t as apparent as that of the Deacons.
If you’re playing online, messages left by other players are likely to lead you directly to the item needed to down the boss, though once you have it, you’ll have to equip it and figure out how to use it on the boss, all in the middle of him trying to squash you.
23. Ancient Wyvern
The Ancient Wyvern isn’t all that different from Yohrm the Giant. The puzzle in this case is slightly different in that it involves working your way through an entire area, the only challenge being the serpentine critters hiding around every corner. The game itself offers you hints on how to kill the boss this time around, and you can avoid fighting any of the snake-men if you time your rolls right. It is the large enemy with the chain-axe guarding the ladder at the end that earns the Ancient Wyvern a spot above Yohrm the Giant.
22. High Lord Wolnir
High Lord Wolnir is supposed to be an easy boss, though I’m ashamed to admit this was the first boss in the game that made me want to pull out my hair. The skeleton king’s weakness is quite apparent from the get go, but if you aren’t quick to take down his weak points, he summons an army of skeletal minions and a giant sword with a devastating AoE attack. It’s a good thing that his attacks take out his minions as well, or the fight would have been an absolute nightmare.
Then there’s the deadly gas/smoke that he spews from his mouth and that also envelops the lower part of his torso. In my first playthrough, the boss would insist on keeping one of his weak points close to his torso, making it nearly impossible to continue striking at it with a melee weapon. It seems this wasn’t intentional as one of a recent series of updates appears to have solved the issue. When he rears his head to fill the arena with gas vomit, either run the other way or right under him. If you opt for the latter, watch out for his charging attack, as that may trap you in the smoke around his body.
21. Vordt of the Boreal Valley
The strategy with Vordt is clear as soon as one sets eyes upon him. This boss is no different from the many gigantic monsters that seasoned Dark Souls players have faced throughout the series. Stay between his hind legs and you shouldn’t have to worry about much. Even in the second phase, barring the triple-charge, there is very little blocking and dodging to be done against this boss. The fight should be even easier for ranged characters as the boss crawls slowly towards the player at the beginning of the fight, allowing for three or four free hits.
20. Iudex Gundyr
If I had to pick the hardest first boss in the Dark Souls series, I would go for Iudex Gundyr without hesitation. For series veterans, the fight should take no more than a couple tries, but for the uninitiated, some of his more unpredictable attacks might prove to be too difficult to dodge.
The second phase, which sees a snake-shaped black mass erupt from Gundyr’s back, makes his attacks slightly slower, but through their first couple of tries, players are likely to miss his halberd sweeps as they shift their attention to the tar-like symbiote. Unless you have a handle on parrying going into the game, you might want to resort to the much safer block-and-roll strategy to find counterattack opportunities. The boss is vulnerable to fire in the second phase, so keeping your distance and using firebombs is an equally viable approach here.
19. Oceiros, the Consumed King
Compared to Vordt, this scaleless dragon is quite the challenge. However, considering you encounter him as part of an optional route through the last quarter of the game (unless you decide to take a certain shortcut), with a good handle on rolling, blocking and looking for counterattack opportunities, it should prove to be nothing more than a speed bump. The second phase of the battle sees the Consumed King lose whatever sanity to which he had been clinging on, charging at you on all fours. The strategy throughout the battle remains more or less the same – you chase him around and hit him from the rear.
18. Curse-Rotted Greatwood
This bloated abomination is quite the pushover once you identify his (quite obvious) weak points. You do need to cater for weaker enemies running around during the first phase of the fight, though the Greatwood’s sweeping strikes and stomps do a good job of periodically wiping them off for you. There is also the matter of being able to hit the aforementioned weak spots. Your strikes have to be precise, or they’ll just bounce harmlessly off his woody exterior.
17. Aldrich, Devourer of Gods
Judging by the number of players looking for assists to take down this Lord of Cinder during my first playthrough, I wouldn’t be surprised if many didn’t agree with the Devourer of Gods being so low down the list. Personally, I found this to be one of the easier fights in the game. This slow-moving, slug-like excuse for a boss would have been a complete pushover had it not been for one very deadly attack that has taken the lives of more than a few fellow phantoms. If the boss aims upward with his magic bow and you aren’t close enough to wail away at him, you better start running in the opposite direction, as the storm of arrows that follows can sap away your entire health bar in the blink of an eye.
16. Champion’s Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf (Ashes of Ariandel DLC)
The only way this battle can prove to be a challenge is if the player tends to turtle through its first phase, which is more or less an NPC duel punctuated with a small pack of wolves. The right weapon or spell, of which there are many, can make short work of the Champion’s Gravetender, who calls upon the Gravetender Greatwolf at around half health. At this point, the best strategy is to attack aggressively with the aim to take down the Champion’s Gravetender before his canine friend joins the fray. Like Sif from the original Dark Souls, the Greatwolf can do quite a bit of damage, but his attacks are fairly well telegraphed and equally easy to punish.
15. Crystal Sage
Several posts on online forums around the web would suggest this spell caster can be quite a nuisance against certain playstyles. My guess would be that a purely spell-based build might struggle in the second phase of the boss fight, but any and all melee characters should find the Crystal Sage to be a breeze. The second phase sees the boss spawn several copies that can be struck down with one hit each, though you might not need to, depending on the location of the original. You should easily be able to tell the original apart from the copies from the color of their spells. The original also tends to spawn the farthest away from your location in the arena.
14. Old Demon King
The biggest problem with the Old Demon King is his enormous health pool. His attacks have a long windup and are quite easy to dodge. The best times to go in for big damage against this optional boss is when he spews a continuous fire stream or waves his club in the air to bring down a storm of fireballs. Keep your distance till he throws one of these two attacks, and you should have a risk-free (yet long) battle on your hands.
13. Abyss Watchers
The Abyss Watchers encounter makes for one of my favorite fights in the Dark Souls series. It’s packed with a couple of unnerving surprises and a relentless, agile opponent with a moveset reminiscent of fan-favorite Knight Artorias from the original Dark Souls. The first phase of the battle starts you off with a solitary opponent who is then joined by another. When the third Abyss Watcher spawns, the fight transforms into a unique battle royale with all three enemies duking it out against each other and you. This is the best opportunity, in addition to the very beginning of the fight, to strike the original Abyss Watcher down. The second phase sees the original reborn with full health and a sword buffed with fire. He adds a few more attacks to his moveset, where each attack has more reach and deals more damage, but he can, as before, be backstabbed and parried.
12. Spear of the Church (Ringed City DLC)
Perhaps the most versatile boss on this list, the Spear of the Church could be the easiest or hardest fight in the game if you’re playing online. A la the Old Monk from Demon’s Souls, this battle sees another player summoned as the boss. It isn’t exactly like a PvP duel, given the summoned player’s health points get a boost for each summon you take into the fight, and that they aren’t allowed to use their Estus Flask.
Additionally, the Judicator you meet at the beginning of the fight periodically summons two Painting Guardians to aid the Spear of the Church. While these are fairly easy to kill, you will have to manage the same while dealing with the Spear, and you can’t avoid the Painting Guardians, since they can heal the Spear. If the summoned Spear comes packing their own healing miracles, you might have a long fight on your hands. Another threat to look out for is the Ritual Spear Fragment. The Spear of the Church can use this unique item endlessly – without any FP cost, but after a short cooldown – to summon lightning spears in a straight line along the ground. Used the right way, this can help create mixups or in defending Painting Guardians.
For those who choose to take this boss on offline, the Judicator summons the NPC Halflight, who, even with his Frayed Blade, isn’t much of a challenge if you approach the fight with a little caution. The best attack window would be the one after he uses the Ritual Spear Fragment and takes out his bow. When he takes out his shield, though, it is best to avoid directing any parryable attacks at him.
11. Dragonslayer Armor
This boss would have been quite easy had it not been for the possibility of timing mishaps in the second phase of the fight. When you hear one of the two dragon-like creatures hovering on either side of the arena charge up an attack, it is safer to wait for it to land. They are extremely easy to dodge, but if you’re caught by one in the middle of landing a hit on the Dragonslayer Armor itself, the massive damage from that attack, along with a hit from the boss is likely to make short work of your character’s health, no matter how many points you put into the Vigor attribute.
A shield with good lightning resistance is highly recommended for this fight. You will still have to dodge his shield bashes, as not only can they break your guard, the knockback from one of his stronger bashes can send you careening over the narrow arena’s edge. The best way to force the boss into attacks that can be easily punished is repeatedly moving away from him to either edge of the narrow bridge.
10. Dancer of the Boreal Valley
The Dancer is the definition of unpredictable. This boss will make you second-guess every dodge and counterattack. Her moveset is vast and some of her windups are deceptively short, which makes it harder for one to decide how to react. The Dancer moves around the arena with an eerie calm that is likely to bait players into circling to her rear for some easy hits. It’s a sound strategy, but one that requires constant vigilance as the boss is quick to turn around and punish button mashers with a sweeping strike or overhead smash. Her attacks deal ridiculous amounts of damage in both phases of the battle. The grab attack in the first phase and the seemingly endless, dual-sword whirlwind in the second are two that can potentially sap all or most of your health.
Given the deceptiveness of her attack animations, I’d advise equipping a greatshield going into this fight, at least the first few times.
9. Lorian, Elder Prince and Lothric, Younger Prince (Twin Princes)
The Twin Princes don’t constitute your typical dual-boss. The first phase of the fight will pit you against Lorian, who has the annoying habit of teleporting behind you, flaming greatsword flailing. While his attacks are fairly easy to dodge, a shield with good fire defense should prove to be invaluable for those times when he mixes it up a little. Once Lorian is down, his younger brother, being the pest that he is, will revive him and occasionally dish out one of two spells at you as Lorian carries him on his back.
That doesn’t sound like much more to deal with, and it isn’t. It might seem a little daunting, having to take down the boss all over again, but the fight doesn’t really change all that much. The only problem is that the fight will only end when you take down Prince Lothric, as he can indefinitely revive his elder brother. Good thing is, Lothric rewards you a with a fair bit of time to deal massive damage to him every time you take down Lorian, and if you attack from Lorian’s rear, you can always sneak in a few hits even while he’s riding piggyback. Also, unlike the notoriously infuriating Throne Defenders boss fight from Dark Souls 2, only one of the two – in this case, Lothric – can revive the other, and past the first revival, Lorian never returns with full health.
The one thing that makes this fight harder than most others is Lorian’s incessant and unpredictable teleportation. The boss will, at times, teleport behind you multiple times in quick succession, catching you off-guard while you’re trying to take a drink from your Estus or running to safety.
8. Pontiff Sulyvahn
Pontiff Sulyvahn takes inspiration from the Dancer’s variation and combines it with a sliver of Champion Gundyr’s relentlessness to become an all-round nightmare against players with more aggressive playstyles. Getting up close and personal against this dual-wielder can be daunting, especially if you haven’t completely mastered those roll timings or aren’t confident with your parries. He does give you considerable downtime, but the pattern isn’t as predictable as it is with other bosses.
At times, Sulyvahn will refuse to take a break between swings, which keeps one guessing whether it is safe to go in for a couple hits. At the halfway point, after a high-damage AoE attack, the boss will begin summoning a phantom clone of himself. This is when you should start wailing away on him like there’s no tomorrow. With enough damage, you might even be able to take out the phantom before it starts attacking, prompting the boss to attempt another summoning at a later point – your cue to land some more free hits.
If the phantom survives, a safer way about the fight would be to keep your distance and be patient. Sulyvahn mirrors his phantom’s moves with about a second’s delay, so it’s better to bait out one of his slower leaping attacks, or you run the risk of being stun locked by a double-combo. The phantom mostly stays right beside Sulyvahn, fortunately, so you don’t have to worry about being flanked.
7. Champion Gundyr
During my first playthrough, this is the boss that raked in the highest contribution to my death count, forcing me to completely rethink my strategy from top to bottom, and die a little inside, seeing as I was fighting a rehash of the game’s first boss. My Knight died to him a total of nine times, most likely because I insisted on two-handing a greatsword against a boss that gives you relatively shorter attack windows.
There are other bosses in the game that have higher health points, attacks that can bring you within an inch of death, and movesets that are much harder to read, but if there is a boss in the game that rarely gives you time to take a step back and catch your breath, it’s Champion Gundyr. This ironclad, halberd-wielding guardian might not be as quick to bridge the gap between him and you as the Twin Princes, but he will almost invariably leap or charge at you when you try to roll away and heal.
The first phase of this optional battle is no different from that of the Iudex Gundyr battle. The second phase, however, makes for one of the most fast-paced encounters in the game. The boss immediately charges at you with an attack that is deceptively fast and quite a nightmare to dodge until you get the timing just right. After that, it’s one combo after the other, punctuated by shoulder tackles, kicks and stomps. The fight should be much easier for ranged characters and spell casters, provided they can maintain their distance. Melee characters are better off opting for faster weapons for this fight.
If you’re stubborn like me, and want to do more than just defeat him, stick with your heavy weapon, parry his attacks with your shield of choice (or a Caestus), and riposte him to death. His overhead attacks are surprisingly easy to parry, as you can see in the video below.
6. Soul of Cinder
Everything about the Soul of Cinder, from the music to the design of the environment and the boss itself, screams “final battle.” The first phase of this boss fight is basically a culmination of four movesets, each with a different weapon and two accompanied by their own spells. Thankfully, the boss switches between them at fairly regular intervals and with a clear indication. The easiest transformation to punish during this phase would be the one where the boss morphs his weapon into a sorcerer’s staff. It is comparatively easier for your character to get close to him to deal out massive damage when he is casting spells.
Just be sure to run to his rear when he charges up that nasty Kamehameha clone of a spell that the game calls Soul Stream. It’s quite easy to avoid but could take away most or all of your health if you do end up getting caught in it.
The second phase sees the boss regain all his lost health and transform his weapon into a flaming greatsword with larger reach and a devastating five-hit combo that turns you into a stun-locked piñata. While that sounds scary, it actually makes the fight a tad easier, as you have only one moveset to defend against, the attacks have a longer windup, and if you keep your distance, the boss is baited into moves that leave him wide open. For those new to the series, the weapon, moveset and background music that come with this phase are all essentially a tribute to Gwyn, the final boss of the original Dark Souls.
5. Demon in Pain & Demon from Below (Ringed City DLC)
The first boss of the Ringed City DLC definitely isn’t a pushover, with a two-on-one gank kicking off the battle. Thankfully, throughout the battle, the Demon from Below and Demon in Pain alternate between ranged and aggressive melee modes of attack, giving you just enough space to chip away at their health one or two hits at a time. The worst thing you can do here is get greedy. Try to keep both demons in your line of sight at all times and attack the melee demon after the other finishes a ranged attack.
With one or two summons, this phase of the fight becomes an absolute breeze. Yes, the fight has a second phase, where the second demon to die resurrects as the Demon Prince, adding several new melee attacks to his arsenal and nearly doubling his health pool, though like the two demons from the first phase, he too can be staggered and reposted. Based on which demon you killed last, the Demon Prince will hit you with one of two special attacks. I personally prefer to kill the Demon in Pain last, as his special attack is much easier to deal with.
4. Slave Knight Gael (Ringed City DLC)
Arguably one of the most enjoyable fights in the game, your final encounter with Slave Knight Gael will have you rolling and counterattacking like there’s no tomorrow. The fight is quite similar to the one with the Soul of Cinder given the abundance of movesets to memorize, though Gael does recover almost instantly on being staggered. Gael’s moveset through the first phase of the fight, though much less chaotic, tends to be the hardest to read. The best moments to punish him during this phase is when he goes for one of his leaping attacks. In the second phase, a similar leaping attack, a downward slam, and a Way of the White Corona barrage offer easy attack windows. Just remember to watch out for his cloak here, as it can catch you at the end of a roll. The third phase is where the fight gets almost as frantic as the first, with Uncle Gael leaping around like a madman, spawning lightning and homing spells to add to the chaos. Look for the Artorias-style front-flip attack here for an easy punish.
Turtling is definitely an option in this fight if that is the kind of playstyle you’re used to. In fact, perhaps the only way you’d have more trouble with Gael than with the top three bosses on this list is if you lost your patience halfway through the fight, which is a definite possibility given his beefy health pool.
3. King of the Storm (The Nameless King)
The mysterious, dragon-riding Nameless King is often called the actual final boss of the game, and rightly so. If his entry doesn’t scare the crap out of you, his second act will. When you down the King’s pet Stormdrake, he goes all Super Sayan, getting a lightning-charged powerup from the soul of his downed ally, reminiscent of the second phase of the Orenstein and Smough fight from the original Dark Souls. His attacks are slightly harder to read than those of the aforementioned duo and some of them are followed up by seemingly endless pokes, each capable of taking away large chunks of your health.
A good strategy with which to approach this fight the first time is to don a shield with respectable stability, and good lightning defense, like the Dragon Crest Shield or, if you invested a fair number of points in Vitality, Havel’s Shield.
Remember that not all of his attacks can be blocked, and neither should you, as the resulting stamina consumption may prevent you from landing hits at crucial points, and the chip damage will rake up over time. Keep your shield up to avoid being caught be surprise, roll through any lightning-powered charges/attacks and punish him right after he rises into the air for one of his two easy-to-dodge, swooping super-pokes.
2. Sister Friede and Father Ariandel (Ashes of Ariandel DLC)
If I had only taken my own experience into account, I would’ve bumped this deadly duo right to the top of the list, but it seems not everyone has had as much trouble with the final boss of the first DLC as with the Kalameet reboot of the Ringed City. Sister Friede and Father Ariandel challenge players with a fight that truly captures the essence of the most popular Souls series bosses, with three distinct phases of increasing difficulty. The battle starts with a one-on-one duel, where your opponent is the calm but agile Friede. Once Friede has been taken down, her father joins the fray, though even with the agile Friede and slow but deadly Ariandel joining forces, the fight is nothing like certain fan favorite dual-boss. For one, Friede tends to keep her distance, and while she does try to heal up once in awhile, both she and her father do share one health bar.
The first two phases are fairly straightforward minus Friede’s vanishing act, which might take a couple of tries to figure out. The third phase, however, can have the best players calling uncle. Once Friede resurrects once more, enveloping her twin scythes with a black flame, nearly doubling her damage, speed and relentlessness, and adding several far-reaching attacks to her arsenal. Try to hit her and she jumps away unscathed; try to run away, and she will chase you down, scythes flailing.
There is a method to her madness that can be exploited for easy backstabs, but she gives you little time to figure out her pattern. Perhaps the easiest way to deal with her across all three phases finding a single attack window, such as the aforementioned vanishing attack, to dole out a combo that keeps her stunlocked for multiple hits. The Ringed Knight Paired Greatswords or Sellsword Twinblades are two weapons that may be able to help with that.
1. Darkeater Midir (Ringed City DLC)
The Ringed City’s rampaging dragon, consumed by the Dark, begins terrorizing the player towards the end of the DLC, filling one with dread at the possibility of a full-blown fight with the winged beast, and boy does the final encounter with Midir solidify that dread. It’s a good thing this boss is optional, as one look through the web will tell you that it has proven to be an absolute nightmare for many, if not most. Unlike the initial, mandatory scuffle with the dragon, which sees a stationary, relatively timid Midir being thrown off the edge of a deep chasm, the actual boss fight turns out to be a long and challenging grind.
What might have made this fight challenging for many is Midir’s tendency to punish players who dare enter his arena with summons. In addition to being one of the tankiest bosses, not just in Dark Souls 3 but in the entire Souls series, Midir has long-range attacks that can make short work of the largest health pools. If your summons don’t coordinate well and stick close to the boss, you will, most likely very early in the fight, be left with an even beefier Midir to down. If you do plan on getting help in your quest to fell Filianore’s corrupted guardian, know that it is best to go in with no more than one phantom.
Contrary to popular opinion, I personally didn’t find this ode to, or improvement upon, Black Dragon Kalameet to be the hardest boss battle in the game, though it certainly was one of the longest. It isn’t just the insanely large health pool – wonky hitboxes and erratic movements make Midir quite a pain to hit, especially on or around the head, where he takes the most damage. Once you’ve figured out his attack patterns and quirks, the fight becomes one of patient repetition, though still oddly satisfying, possibly due to its epic setting and the fact that you’re fighting a dragon.