Boss battles are some of the most crucial elements of a good game. After a grueling level, navigating endless enemies, traps, and hazards, you finally face down your enemy and confront them for all the marbles. But what good is a climactic battle without some climactic jams? A great song to set the mood can elevate an average boss fight into a memorable set piece, and kick an exciting fight up into the stratosphere of thrilling gaming moments. Here are our 15 best boss battle themes that do the best job of commemorating the most mythic clashes in gaming.
The Best Boss Battle Themes
15. Megalovania – Undertale
Before we rush to the comments, let’s make one thing clear: Toby Fox put all his heart, soul, and determination into every track in Undertale, and ‘Megalovania’ is the cherry on top of a delicious, delicious sundae. It’s only number 15 because of just how well-known it is.
Despite only being available in the game if you undertake the difficult (and heartless) task of killing literally everyone you come across, ‘Megalovania’ is a doozy of a final boss track. An understated riff leads to foreboding bass that pushes to a dam-bursting beat drop when absolutely all hell breaks loose. ‘Megalovania’ is the sound of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
14. Molgera Theme – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Plenty of Legend of Zelda bosses have memorable and unique tracks, but there’s a special mix of mystery and playfulness to the battle against the giant worm Molgera in The Wind Waker.
Four composers, Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, Toru Minegishi and Koji Kondo, had their hands on The Wind Waker’s music, and none of them missed a beat. The jittery rhythm and high pitched tones keep you and Link on your toes, emphasizing the constant motion needed to stay a step ahead of this colossal enemy.
13. Serpent Eating The Ground – Bravely Default
The final boss of Bravely Default pumps a heap of musical theater pageantry into its standard JRPG fare. It’s like The Phantom of the Opera with the power of a god. Choral chants mix with hair-metal riffs and apocalyptic strings to make a track that feels like falling down a slide into a supernova.
The highlight comes midway though, when composer Revo and the band Sound Horizon completely upend the arrangement and turn it into an uplifting rallying cry, picking you up with just as much force as the beginning smacked you down.
12. Vs Sayu – No Straight Roads
No Straight Roads, being a game about music and the liberating power of playing your heart out, places a strong focus on its own score. The standout is this track, which accompanies the boss fight against a Mermaid-themed vocaloid called Sayu. As a song, it’s completely believable as a stellar electronic pop track, the kind of thing that might score the end of an HBO teen drama or blast on college radio before the next album inevitably hits the mainstream.
As a boss track, ‘Vs Sayu’ injects an exciting sense of energy and pathos to the battle – Sayu may be virtual, but the song gives her a presence and personality, making you feel like you’re really struggling against something. No Straight Roads has a bevy of composers, but James Landino and vocalist Nikki Simmons bring their A-game crafting a neon-drenched battle anthem.
11. Hela – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Whereas most of the score in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice takes cues from brutal, bloody, Scandinavian metal, this climactic track flips the script and brings mellow, meditative pace to the final battle. Protagonist Senua, battling inner demons and the tide of the dead to attempt to bring back her departed lover, faces increasingly overwhelming odds as she tries to cut down Hela, queen of the Norse underworld.
The two credited composers for Hellblade, Andy LaPlegua and David Garcia, signify that after a long, arduous journey, the end is finally here. The slow, plaintive opening bleeds into a syncopated, almost disco-like counter-rhythm as Senua faces a ceaseless tide of enemies. It’s not as flashy as other tracks here, but it sells the moment and carries the weight of the whole preceding journey.
10. Apex of the World – Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Who doesn’t love a leitmotif? At the end of two of the four routes in 2019’s best child soldier simulator, your final battle will center around the final clash between former friends Dimitri and Edelgarde, and composers Takeru Kanazaki, Hiroki Morishita, and Rei Kondoh rose to the momentous occasion. Threading the game’s regular battle theme and main theme together into this heightened arrangement, Apex of the World makes you feel like you’re at the end of a Shakespearean tragedy.
Three Houses is a long game, and this final tune brings all those endless hours of bonding with your friends and students at Garreg Mach Monastery to bear in one final crescendo. Strings, keys, and horns all tie together to keep ascending, building a musical tower to heaven on top of which you’ll make your final stand.
9. Guzma’s Theme – Pokémon Sun / Moon
While we almost went with the classic Rival Battle theme from Pokémon Red and Blue, there’s just something special about your boy, Guzma. The leader of Team Skull cuts an imposing figure, and his crusty, trip-hop adjacent battle theme sells the mix of danger and delinquency that Guzma and Team Skull embody.
You still have the classic Pokémon battle trademark of a scramble of notes at the start, grabbing your attention and pulling you into the fight, but the disdainful snarls and fuzzy bass (along with the hovering synth notes just barely obscured by the noise) all set this track apart from the usual Pokémon battle tunes. In a nice bit of narrative subtlety, the song’s arrangement obscures a counter-rhythm that implies the true villains behind Team Skull. For a franchise often decried as a kids’ game, Junichi Masuda’s score brings the goods with class and excess in equal parts.
8. The First Hunter – Bloodborne
While Bloodborne, and the Soulsborne series as a whole, are rife with memorable scores that set the stage for life & death (mostly death) showdowns, the climactic (if not necessarily final) battle of Bloodborne hits particularly different. The composing team of Ryan Amon, Tsukasa Saitoh, Yuka Kitamura, Nobuyoshi Suzuki, Cris Velasco, and Michael Wandmacher step off the gas for this showdown, instead letting the tragedy of a hunt that never ends wash over the player and their final enemy.
Of all the best boss themes, ‘The First Hunter’ does a masterful job of not intruding on your battle – the melancholy notes lift you up, but never barge in or drown out the action. It’s a dance for two, and no one, not even the musicians, want to interrupt it.
7. Final Sin – DOOM Eternal
All hail Mick Gordon. The man is a heavy metal impresario, and after bathing DOOM 2016 in his bloody, feral power chords, he returned for Doom Eternal and brought the mother demon of all tracks to the final boss fight of the 2020 smash hit. The Icon of Sin towers over you, making you feel like you’re staring down hell itself, and this track reinforces that feeling while bringing the energy and aggression to push you into fighting the big ugly so-and-so.
The way ‘Final Sin’ ebbs and flows with guttural growls, air raid sirens, and unceasing churning guitar combine into a song that sounds painful, in the best way. So much of modern DOOM games is about entering a brutal, bloody flow state – Final Sin draws you in, whips you into a frenzy, and turns you loose.
6. The Greatest Jubilee – Bayonetta
Of all the games that end with you and your friends fighting and killing God, Bayonetta has got to be the most fabulous. The operatic vocals and instrumentation sound like Beethoven’s been resurrected, and the song’s various movements each feel like they could be the final, climactic moment.
Bayonetta has a host of composers: Rei Kondoh, Norihiko Hibino, Masami Ueda, Takahiro Izutani, Akemi Kimura, and Yoshitaka Suzuki, and it sounds like every single one devoted their energy to making the final song, the soundtrack to the Almighty, as all-powerful as possible. They succeeded.
5. It Has To Be This Way – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
How could a song be this good? Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is so chock full of top-dollar action and songs that it’s basically a Bollywood action movie. The action is lightning-quick, and the way that lyrics only kick in after you’ve maximized your momentum makes the moment you click the whole song into gear all the sweeter.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a big, loud game, as subtle as a nuclear tank on spider legs, and yet its clear-eyed sincerity elevates it beyond simple camp. Jamie Christopherson’s arrangement on ‘It Has To Be This Way’ crystallizes this full-throated rejection of subtext as a concept and punches it to death at a million punches per second.
4. Live & Learn – Sonic Adventure 2 Battle
Look, Crush 40’s ‘Live & Learn’ might sound like disposable early 2000s pop-punk, but you have to understand a crucial fact: Early 2000s pop-punk was really good. On its own merits, ‘Live & Learn’ is a fun little jam, the kind of thing that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack, the real shining moment for the song is when it plays in the climax of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when a TV show’s theme song plays during a climactic fight, it is the hypest thing that could possibly happen. The same is true for video games, like when Elden Ring did it. In SA2B, when Sonic and Shadow team up and use the chaos emeralds for one final fight, it’s the coolest thing every 10-year-old has ever imagined, all happening at once. Timing the fight to finish right as the singer howls a triumphant “Oh yeah!” is just icing on the cake.
3. A Beautiful Song – Nier: Automata
Keigo Hoashi’s score for Nier: Automata has no weak tracks– every one is atmospheric, textured, and feels like an organic part of this living mechanical world. The standout track accompanies an early boss fight against the delusional robot Simone, who has cobbled together a more “beautiful” form for herself from robot and android bodies. The track, with lyrics in a fictional language that still impart a sense of existential longing and pain, contrasts haunting vocals with industrial, crunching instrumentation – it’s tough to feel lofty romantic thoughts when you’re being pulled down by your physical body after all.
The best part of ‘A Beautiful Song’ is how it guides the tempo of the fight. Simone times her attacks to the movements of the song – for this fight alone, Nier Automata becomes a rhythm game. It’s Simone’s song, and you’ll have to dance to her rhythm. Good thing it’s a total jam.
2. One Winged Angel – Final Fantasy VII
We couldn’t really make a list of the best boss songs without paying tribute to what’s perhaps the single most iconic boss song ever. Long-time Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu’s arrangement here is impeccable. ‘One Winged Angel’, the ominous, world-ending theme song for Final Fantasy VII’s uber-villain Sephiroth, encapsulates the feeling that you’re witnessing something far greater than you. The alarm siren wail of those opening notes, the cataclysmic impact of percussion, and the so-cheesy-it’s-actually-good gregorian monks just literally chanting Sephiroth’s name all coalesce into something impossible to ignore.
After FFVII, the Final Fantasy series spent a long time chasing the high of Sephiroth as a ubiquitous final antagonist, and ‘One Winged Angel’ absolutely contributed to that sense that he was truly The Man. Other tracks on this list are scary, or exciting, or just real toe-tappers. ‘One Winged Angel’ is awe-inspiring.
1. Megalomania – Live A Live
In Live A Live, the 1994 Japan-only Super Famicom time hopping JRPG that was finally released to the rest of the world in 2022, ‘Megalomania’ plays in every boss battle. Every time ‘Megalomania’ plays, it is the hypest thing that’s ever happened in a video game. The original’s limited sound files do nothing to hold back composer Yoko Shimomura’s sense of scale and drama behind every climactic encounter. The tempo of the song is urgent without feeling rushed, and full of gravitas without falling under the weight of its own drama.
Toby Fox was inspired by ‘Megalomania’’s energy and power when writing ‘Megalovania’, thus making this the only track on the list to inspire another track on the list. ‘Megalomania’ has it all – a great hook, a sense of danger, and the sense that, were this song to be played in the club, the vibe would only improve.
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