Hey folks! So it’s June. We’re halfway through the year already! Who’d have thunk it? The year has gone by quickly, and it won’t be long before we’re seeing 2012, and the end of world roll in! So how to we treat this month on a video game website? If you remember my Mother’s day post last month with the top 10 list, it went down quite well! So why fix what ain’t broke? Just as we’re halfway through the year, we’re all familiar with a video game trend that tends to crop up during the game’s middle stages. I’m talking of course, about the “mini-boss”. Those not-quite final boss material characters that we know and love or hate. The mini boss is a character or group of characters that give us a better challenge than the stock enemies, but are not as brutal as a boss fight. So tday, I’m counting down Video Games Top 10 mini-bosses!
10: Allen O’Neil from Metal Slug
Not a widely known name in gaming, but Allen O’Neil from the Metal Slug series has to be one of the most irritating credit-wasting mini-bosses to ever show his ugly mug in an arcade based game. This guy is basically the antithesis of the Metal Slug heroes, having clashed particularly with Marco and Fio on 4 separate occasions. Aside from having an insane amount of health, he also shares the same abilities of the players. He usually shows up around the mid-point of the pen ultimate level in an attempt to whittle away the player’s extra lives. Armed with a Heavy machine gun, a combat knife and an endless supply of grenades, Allen is a formidable opponent. His quick movement speed and inability to flinch at player attacks makes him a genuine threat to the player.
9: Berserker from Gears of War
You know you’re in trouble in Gears of War when one of these bad-boys shows up. While they don’t tend to be as tenacious or deadly as some of the later enemies players will face, this mini-boss is memorable for a few reasons. One, its strong and immune to pretty much every attack the COG’s throw at it, and built like a house to boot. It’s ramming attack is capable of killing off the player if the aim is good enough. However, the more significant reason is that this mini-boss is when players were first introduced to the almighty Hammer of Dawn in the events of Gears 1. Unleashing sun powered FURY on a target as large and deadly as this delivered a sense of satisfaction pretty much equal to that of the chainsaw kills. If you want to take on a Berserker, remember to have your laser satellite on hand.
8: Robotnik’s Act 1 Robots from Sonic 3 and Knuckles
There have been plenty of Sonic games in the past where a mini boss has appeared sometime during play mid-way through a level, but none are more so significant than in Sonic 3 and Knuckles. For those who remember, at the end of EVERY Act 1 during the game, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles were always forced to face off against a mini boss of some kind. An unmanned robot built by Dr Robotnik, who were no-where near as strong or difficult to beat as the Doctor himself, but still memorable as something to break the simple pace of running and jumping. Each one presented the heroes with different challenges in fighting, whether they be dodging rocket attacks, ice cubes or getting out from being spun underwater. Their design was honestly kind of poor, so much so that they have been overshadowed by the more badass looking bosses of modern day, but the challenge in facing them is what we truly remember. Whether they were defeated using Spike drones, quicksand, or a series of spin jumps, each one of these mini-bosses gave players a run for their money.
7: Metal Mario from Smash Brothers
When Metal Mario was first introduced in Mario 64, very few expected the metal mode to make a come-back return in Super Smash Bros. When Metal Mario appeared as a mini-boss during the single player mode of the game, he turned out to be one of the most tenacious opponents in the whole game. The absolute INSANE about of damage that had to be inflicted upon him before he could fly any sort of reasonable distance turned out to be a real burden for players, especially on advanced difficulties. Couple that with his inability to flinch at attacks, the best tactic to face him with would have been a quick hit and run-style. However, the level that players were forced to face him on was a painfully small battlefield, barely enough to put distance between the player and this unrelenting enemy.
6: The Tank from Left 4 Dead
The Left 4 Dead series doesn’t really feature anything that really passes as a final boss, and the Tank is often viewed as probably the biggest threat of the game. When the Tank music suddenly starts playing, the player/s must quickly co-ordinate with their allies in regards to how they intend to take the bastard down. I classify him more as a mini-boss because he has the UNCANNY ability to spawn halfway through a level, usually at the most inconvenient points. It is during the Tank’s onslaught that an infected team is at its most effective. Truth be told, the Tank garners a HUGE amount of attention when placed on the battlefield. So much so that other infected like the hunter, charger and smoker can take advantage of the confusion to pick off the survivors. The Tank himself has so much health that a lone survivor cannot possibly hope to defeat one alone. The only advantage is a slightly faster running speed, but when this is coupled with the fact that the common infected zombies are constantly hitting and impeding character movement, the Tank suddenly becomes a lot scarier.
5: Vyers from Disgaea
Yvers, the Dark Adonis. What can we say about this goofball? Oh, besides “Mid-Boss”. Disgaea is a well known franchise of tactical RPG games that often makes a point of parodying numerous elements of anime and JRPGs. Vyers himself is seen as a joke not only by the main characters of the game, but also the game itself. Vyers is a demon in search of beauty and power. He is one of the first consistent characters to crop up at various points in the game, similar to Captain Gordon’s team. His goal, like every other demon in the netherworld is to become the Overlord, a title which he must face off against the protagonist Laharl for. When Laharl describes Vyers as a stepping stone on his ascension to Overlord, he dubs him with the moniker of “Mid-Boss”, a title which Vyers clearly resents, but sticks anyway. This in game joke eventually translates itself into a running gag, even in the anime adaptation. Even so, as a mini boss in the game, he is still a half-decent challenge. But he is by no means the toughest enemy Laharl will ever face. Vyers himself is subject to terrible luck throughout his evolving quest to rid himself of that title.
4: The Hunters from Halo
Like Left 4 Dead, Halo is not a series that really focuses on the notion of “Boss battles”, like many FPS series. That said however, the Hunters have always been a standout enemy in the Halo universe. Their devastating power is one thing, but the fact that players must always face TWO at the same time can be a living hell, especially on Legendary difficulty. Long time fans of the series will also note how the Hunters have evolved as enemies since the initial release of Halo 1. In the first Halo game, the Hunters were not a HUGE threat. They were formidable, but completely beatable. Simply getting behind the buggers and shooting for all its worth seemed to work. However, after Halo 2, the Hunters learned to turn around with a shield bash. But even then, they were slow, and still fairly straightforward to beat with a few well paced sniper rounds. Then ODST and Reach changed things. The Hunters suddenly became bigger, stronger, and more dexterous than they were before. Suddenly, taking on a Hunter pair became a REAL challenge. Their near impregnable armour, their close range shield bash and long range plasma cannon makes every hunter a forced to be reckoned with. And remember, there’s always more than one.
3: Star Wolf, from Lylat Wars
“Can’t let you do that Starfox”. How many times did we have to go through this? Every time the Starfox team seemed close to reaching a final boss or objective for a particular level, these guys had to show up to spoil the party. Having to face a team that was made up of pretty tough stuff during a mission that often had other objectives at first seemed annoying. Multiple play throughs however, often alerted players to when they would decide to swoop on in. The Star Wolf team, comprised of Wolf, Leon, Pigma and Andrew, (for the sake of this article) were always tough cookies. Mostly because their Wolfen ships were small, and had pretty much the same capabilities as Starfox’s Arwings. What’s more annoying is the number of times Fox has to make a pass at them to shoot them down. Their movements were hard enough to keep up with. Coupled with the fact that they were ALWAYS tailing your team-mates, and that they constantly had to be saved made the Wolf team annoying in more ways than one if you were aiming to obtain the in-game medals. Wolf was by far the most annoying because he was always tailing the player themselves. If you want to give these mini-bosses a thorough beating, you’d best master those Barrel Roll and Somersault skills.
2: EVERY SINGLE POKEMON TRAINER IN THE WORLD
If the Pokémon series were to follow the enemy-to-final boss flow of enemy characters, then the Gym Leaders and Elite Four would be bosses, the Champion the Final Boss, Stock enemies the random encounters and the mini bosses? EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE POKEMON TRAINERS FIXATED ON FIGHTING YOU FOR THE CRIME OF MAKING EYE CONTACT. Seriously, every single Pokémon trainer in the games can be considered a mini-boss. They tend to be tougher than the stock enemies you’d find in the long grass, and all of them pop up at points you really wish they wouldn’t. The most notorious of these are the Rival Trainers, like Blue, Silver and Cheren, the criminal teams like Team Rocket and Team Galactic, and those trainers who would constantly call for re-matches. Like Joey and his top percentile Rattata -_-. These trainers alone don’t pose too huge a threat, but when the player is forced to face one after the other, and random encounters, many players often have reason to avoid eye contact if their team is too beaten down. Random trainers are most certainly memorable for being there when you just wish they weren’t.
1: Dark Link from Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Quintessential mini-boss, and probably the best known and remembered throughout gaming history. Dark Link’s appearance in the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time was a battle that not many players will soon forget. The bad-ass notion of having to face an evil equivalent of oneself really worked in favour of an adventure game like Zelda. What many people may not be aware of is that Dark Link’s first appearance was actually in Zelda II, as the game’s final boss. This was intended to be a form of “self-struggle” to promote Link’s character development. The notion however flopped simply because it was introduced too late. However, in OoT, Dark Link stood out so much more. Not only because of the character himself (who was bad-ass in his own right) but also the environment in which Link fought him. That pure white room has become something of a symbol for internal struggle and besting oneself. This battle was the most memorable experience in that god-damn water temple. Be honest, how many of you HONESTLY remember the vivid details of fighting Morpheus, the final boss in the Water Temple? Dark Link stood out so much more, not only because of the battle itself, but what his appearance stood for. Inner struggle. Dark reflections. Good vs Evil. Everything that we enjoy seeing in the deep recesses of our minds.