Warning: Major Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Spoilers
You’ve either heard by now or seen for yourself that Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a really, really hard game. For some players, who have spent years developing their skills on Dark Souls, it’s an almost impossible task to unlearn that muscle memory and perform the finger gymnastics that From Software’s latest requires of you.
Combat is a varied, constantly surprising beast. Some fights will ask you to stand your ground and parry every attack, while others will require you to stay on the move to avoid becoming a stain on the floor.
No two boss battles in Sekiro are the same, which is a huge part of why I love the game so much. But the multitude of approaches and strategies required means some bosses are much easier than others, and some will see you screaming to the heavens for mercy, or swearing like a sailor in frustration.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to rank every main boss from Sekiro based on how much of a challenge they gave me. Obviously your list might look massively different to mine, but I would again point out that variety is what makes this such a special game.
I’ll also only be covering the 17 main boss battles, so mid bosses like Jozuo the Drunkard and the Chained Ogre won’t be present, even if they are massive pains in the arse.
17: The Great Serpent
There really isn’t a lot to this fight. While the Great Serpent is a massive, imposing looking foe, all you really have to do is stay out of its way long enough to get to a safe vantage point, where you can then deliver a stealth kill that puts it down in one.
16: Folding Screen Monkeys
The Folding Screen Monkeys are really more of an environmental puzzle than an actual boss battle, in that there’s very little risk of you actually dying. All you have to do is track down the four monkeys and take them out.
While you’re supposed to utilise various methods to corner them so you can get your kills, you can essentially chase them down and use your shuriken to make light work of ’em. The monkey ghosts that spawn to hinder your progress are also absolute pushovers, making this fight a real breeze.
15: Genichiro Way Of Tomoe
The third and final time you tangle with Genichiro (the fella who chops off your arm at the start of the game) is actually the easiest bout with him. He really hasn’t changed up his techniques from the previous time you go toe to toe, so as long as you remember how you dealt with him back them, there’s really no trouble to be had here.
14: Gyobou Oniwa
Gyobou Oniwa is a cool looking fight with a hearty challenge behind it – especially if you don’t have the item you need (which can be quite hard to find if you’ve not been exploring properly).
Even if you do have what you need to stun Gyobou’s mighty steed, this is still a dangerous fight that demands your reflexes, speed, and constant attention.
13: Divine Dragon
The Divine Dragon is a gorgeous, multi-stage fight that’s let down by an insultingly easy first stage. All you really have to do is keep some pushover enemies at bay while attacking some roots and… that’s pretty much it.
The second stage is a little more challenging as the Divine Dragon reveals its true form and busts out some pretty punishing attacks, you still basically just need to keep out of the way and whack those roots.
12: Corrupted Monk
The Corrupted Monk is another foe that looks more imposing than he actually is. With a fairly limited amount of slow, easily telegraphed attacks, it’s really not that difficult to get around him and get your licks in.
Making this fight even easier is the fact that you can use Snap Seeds to damage and stun him, and your firecracker tool will also help keep him at bay. With that said, even one or two mistakes in this fight will cost you most of your health, which earns our monk friend this spot on the list.
11: Lady Butterfly
Lady Butterfly is the first major boss, and if you’ve somehow managed to get by playing Sekiro like it’s Dark Souls, this is the moment that stops. You cannot take this lady out without combining parries and dodges, getting hits in only when you can.
This is a fight where you really need to pay attention to breaking posture rather than whittling the health down, as Lady Butterfly’s speed means getting actual hits on her is nearly impossible. In her second stage, she’ll start summoning illusions that can quickly overwhelm and cause some serious damage.
In many ways, Lady Butterfly is the real test to see if you have the patience for Sekiro. If you can master her, you have what you need to beat anything else that comes your way.
10: Genichiro Ashina
Genichiro Ashina is an epic battle that takes place at the very top of Ashina Castle, and it really demands you stay on your toes. It’s important not to let up your attack in this fight, but you’ll also be severely punished for dodging when you should have blocked, and vice versa.
Just to make things extra fun, our friend is packing a bow and arrow. This obviously makes backing off to heal that much more of a pain in the arse. His final stage can be pretty tricky as he starts throwing lightning all over the place, but if you keep your cool and know what to do, this part isn’t too demanding.
The real pain with Genichiro is having to do the whole thing again if you die, and the stress of making it to his final stage and knowing that is all too real.
9: Emma, The Gentle Blade
Emma is an optional boss that will come at you with everything she has if you make a certain choice at a critical part in the game. Despite the fact that Emma spends most of the game helping and healing you, she has no qualms about tearing you to shreds here.
Her attacks are rapid, erratic, difficult to parry, and capable of putting you down in just a few hits. Where every other boss on this list so far has a predictable pattern you can eventually learn, Emma does not let you get so comfortable. I hate her.
8: True Corrupted Monk
This guy is basically the same as the Corrupted Monk with a few new bells and whistles, but he can be a real endurance test thanks to the fact that he has three health bars to deal with.
I’ll be honest, I might have put this one higher on the list if I hadn’t found a way to get two stealth deathblows in on him, essentially skipping me straight to the final phase of the fight.
Of course, the final phase is such a pain to deal with that even when I was just faced with one last health bar, he needs a spot in the top 10.
7: Guardian Ape
This damn dirty ape is the most irritating video game monkey since Diddy Kong, but for very different reasons. This monster has some truly devastating attacks, as well as a grab that is near impossible to avoid and capable of ending your run instantly.
Finally removing its head should have been an incredible moment, but this is a From Software game so it of course simply picks up its head, pulls out a sword, and becomes even more challenging than it was before.
6: Headless Ape & Bride
Yeah, the second stage of the Guardian Ape was super fun. Why not make players do it again, but this time in a small arena with another giant ape to deal with at the same time?
Seriously, screw you From Software.
5: Lord Isshin
If you talk to Emma enough during Sekiro, there’s a chance she’ll tell you a little bit about she became so skilled with a blade. As it turns out, Lord Isshin is the one who taught her, and hot diggity damn is that reflected in this punishing encounter.
Lord Isshin follows on from Emma if you make a certain choice in the game, and he basically plays like a faster, much tougher version of her. His attacks are relentless, it’s nearly impossible to back up and heal, and he can come at you with next to no warning from anywhere in the arena.
Oh,and just for good measure, his second phase sees him spew out a number of deadly fire attacks from a great distance. Plus, if you die you have to fight Emma again before you can have another crack at this crusty juggler. Great. GREAT. GREAAAAT.
4: Great Shinobi – Owl
Okay, since we’re in the top five hardest bosses of an incredibly hard game now, it probably won’t come as any great shock to you that Owl is a genuine sack of crap that needs to get in the sea.
His attacks are varied and brutal, meaning attempting to learn his patterns soon becomes an exercise in futility. Any time you think you’ve started to gain the edge, it’s likely he’ll drop a smoke bomb to confuse you, and swiftly follow up by gutting you like a fish.
Not panicking in Sekiro is absolutely key, but the relentless pressure of Owl means endless, blind panicking is exactly what you’ll be doing.
3: Owl (Father)
Hell is empty and all the devils are here.
2: Isshin The Sword Saint
I’m sure you can imagine that boss with a name like “Sword Saint” in a From Software game is going to be delivering a farm fresh arse-whupping straight to your door, and Isshin the Sword Saint does not disappoint.
This crafty devil has it all; quick attacks, three health bars, devastating combos, unpredictable patterns, and a tendency to make me want to sling my controller into the heart of a dying star.
If his first phase doesn’t leave begging you for mercy, don’t worry, his second and third phases see him whip out a spear and lightning based attacks that will utterly annihilate you. The only reason this numpty isn’t at number one is because I was able to keep my cool for a little but longer, unlike the next entry, who caused me to lose my mind with alarming ease.
1: Demon Of Hatred
After an entire game spent trying not to play like it’s Dark Souls, along comes the aptly-named Demon of Hatred, the most Souls-esque boss in the entire game. This fiery bastard made me choke more times than I can count.
This is, by far, the boss that killed me the most times. Maybe you had an easier time of it, in which case: great! Personally, I genuinely struggled with this monster’s massive attacks and (in my salty opinion) unfair hit boxes.
With three health bars and the ability to snuff you out in one hit, this is an endurance test with absolutely no room for error. Dodge when you should’ve jumped, and you’re toast. Try and parry when you should’ve dodged, and your’re finished. Make one wrong move, and your goose is well and truly cooked, my friend.
I’m actively putting off my second playthrough of this game because if I never see the Demon of Hatred again, it’ll be too soon. It’ll be far too soon.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.