Zelda Bosses
Image: Nintendo Life

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, Jim gets bossy...

Note. This article discusses certain elements of some Regional Phenomena boss battles, including tactics and screenshots. If you are still maintaining an internet blackout for the game, then we suggest tackling them before coming back to this article.

Reading through all of the reviews in the run-up to Tears of the Kingdom's release date, one promise seemed to ring loud and clear: You are going to see that Game Over screen. And you're going to see it a lot.

For the most part, that statement is difficult to deny. This take on Hyrule might not actually be any more brutal than those which have come before, but the layers of exploration and gradually-scaled enemies do mean that when this world hits, it hits hard.

In my 70-odd hours of playtime so far, I have been beaten by Bokoblins, squished by stones, weakened by weather fronts, and I'd rather not mention the number of times that I have confidently leapt from a Sky Island, bullishly holding 'R', only to have slightly botched my aim as I watch Link smush, inelegantly, onto a rock.

All of this, however, is to do with the world itself and the number of creative options that I now have at my fingertips. It's difficult to measure whether a Zelda game is necessarily getting 'more challenging' in this respect because each of us can make the game easier or harder depending on how we go about completing certain tasks. We've all seen the videos of players taking down a Gleeok with a Zonai orbital laser, after all.

Zeldan Ring. Who said that? — Image: Nintendo Life

Bosses, on the other hand, are a different matter. Sure, you might have taken on one big bad with different armour and weapon loadouts to me, but for the most part, we will have gone about each one in a similar way.

In this respect, I found Tears of the Kingdom to be more difficult than Breath of the Wild. I was unlucky enough to see the 'Game Over' screen on far more occasions across the Regional Phenomena bosses than I did between the Divine Beasts (with some exceptions, of course — curse you Thunderblight Ganon), culminating in a final boss fight where I watched Link die again and again and again...

What's more, a look through Twitter in the game's opening weeks confirmed that I was not alone in this either (thank the lord):

None of these come too close to the Dark Souls-level of difficulty that some hardcore gamers look for in a boss battle these days; but after dying three or more times on each encounter (apart from on The Wind Temple's boss — that was a breeze... sorry), I couldn't help but notice that the difficulty had overall stepped up a notch from Breath of the Wild's dodge>Flurry Rush>repeat battle formula.

The new Sage system brought me that little bit closer to a 'classic' Zelda dungeon experience. Prince Sidon's watery projectile or Yunobo's rolling charge isn't quite the same as finding a boomerang or a hookshot and knowing that this is the only way to beat the upcoming boss, but it sure is closer than the BOTW approach of saying "You have a stick, right? Congratulations, you have everything you need to beat the game".

With the joy of finally defeating Tears of the Kingdom's final boss still beating in my heart, I decided to boot up my save file on A Link to the Past that I was playing through before the latest Hylian adventure took over my life. After getting my bearings and navigating through the next dungeon on my list (Skull Woods, if you're curious), I realised that, despite this step up in difficulty, modern-day Zelda bosses have got nothing on what we used to deal with.

Taking on Mothula in this dungeon, I was reminded of just how much the focus of Zelda boss battles has changed over the past 30 years. This is not a challenge of remembering attack patterns, periodically loading up on health and chipping away at your enemy whenever you have the chance. Instead, my tactic was more along the lines of run, risk taking a swing, miss, repeat.

Mothula provides quite a nice point of comparison to Tears of the Kingdom's Queen Gibdo, the boss of The Lightning Temple, in fact — the Zelda team sure does love its terrifying moth creatures. Taking on the giant winged creepy crawly in Link's latest adventure is no walk in the park, but after dying a couple of times and respawning right outside of the battle area, I felt like I knew all of the necessary beats to win with confidence. And I was right.

Several attempts into this mid-game boss in A Link to the Past, meanwhile, and I felt like I was definitely missing something. Tears of the Kingdom taught me that if I was struggling, I should run to make some space, heal up and go again, but no such offer is available in the SNES's Skull Woods. You either land all of the hits perfectly and manage not to get whacked by flames, spiked walls, and moving quicksand, or you swiftly die and are dumped back at the start of the temple.

And of course, this has always been the case. I poured hours into defeating Phantom Ganon in Ocarina of Time's Forest Temple, The Minish Cap's Vaati still gives me nightmares and the less said about the entirety of Zelda II the better.

The perk of Tears of the Kingdom's approach is that the whole game feels that bit more accessible. A lot of people will have made it to Moldorm in A Link to the Past and, having been thrown from the roof of the Tower of Hera for the 304th time, turned the game off and never wanted to touch it again. The comparative ease in modern-day Zelda's bosses makes this all the less likely and I enjoy that.

I absolutely do not want the next Zelda game (whatever that may be) to require me to pour hundreds of attempts into a Gohma-like boss just to keep up with the punishing #gudgamer mindset that worked so well for the likes of Elden Ring (which, coincidentally, I really enjoyed), and I would be very happy if TOTK's level of variety in its boss battles is here to stay. But it's always worth a reminder of how far we've come, right?

So yes, Tears of the Kingdom's bosses might be a step up from those that we previously saw in Breath of the Wild, but my oh my do we have it easy compared to what the series has thrown at us previously.

How do you think TOTK's bosses stack up to what we have seen before? Are you a fan of this new style? Leave your thoughts in the comments.