Among many other things, one of the major drawing points of Hollow Knight is its intense series of boss battles that test the player to their limits. I was amazed when playing just how many unique bosses there were to conquer, and each one came with its own challenges and subsequent sense of accomplishment.
It’s a little tricky to rank bosses like these, as it comes down to a myriad of factors: how cool they were to battle, how difficult they ended up being (without being ridiculous, ideally), and personal preference. I’ll only be doing the basic variants of each boss, so don’t expect any radiant or coliseum bosses in this list.
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27 – Soul Warrior
I actually laughed out loud when I found out that Soul Warrior was considered a proper boss, as the fight is over in less than 30 seconds.
There are literally tens of regular enemies that I found harder than this random boss, and both times you fight him (not including the coliseums) are a piece of cake if you’re competent enough
26 – Gruz Mother
Chances are this will be the first boss you encounter on your epic journey, and I’m sure the developers knew this.
It’s simple, with an easy set of moves to avoid, and there’s a good argument to be made that the flies it spawns at the end make for a harder battle.
25 – Moss Charger
It almost feels wrong calling Moss Charger a boss, and I’m pretty sure in the three or four times I’ve faced it I’ve never dropped below half health.
If you know what you’re doing you can just pile on the damage until you kill it, which doesn’t take too long. Heavy Blow also completely removes any challenge from this fight at all, so there’s no excuse to die to it.
24 – Marmu
One of the many warrior bosses you’ll meet on your journeys, and Marmu is by far the most laughable.
At least it serves a purpose by giving you some essence, and it isn’t too hard to get to grips with its move-set. You can even play a game of keepy-ups if you’re bored, so that’s neat.
23 – Elder Hu
It seems almost pointless to have Elder Hu as a bossfight, as his method of sending hammers crashing down in columns is done so much better in other bosses.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy dancing in between the gaps, for I have to put it low down the list for how simple and mundane it is.
22 – Flukemarm
One of the freakiest spawns of hell you’ll ever see, but once you have howling wraiths this fight becomes a bit of a joke.
The whole run up to the fight is pretty disgusting as well, and even though the charm you get for you troubles is pretty good I’d rather leave it if it meant never seeing this nightmare again.
21 – Markoth
I thought it was quite a neat idea to have a warrior boss use a charm against you (Dream Shield), but at the end of the day it’s just a standard mini-boss fight.
20 – Galien
A better version of Marmu, his bouncing blade makes for a far more interesting challenge.
Still not too challenging though, and very skippable compared to the other bosses, but I enjoyed it.
19 – Brooding Mawlek
I hate this boss and its move-set, but personal bias aside it’s a tough battle with a cool environment.
It kinda helps that it isn’t a mandatory fight, so you can come back much later and kick its ass at a time that suits you better (after my first attempts where I died countless times, it felt immensely satisfying to take my revenge as an overpowered little ghost from hell).
18 – Gorb
I like the mechanic where random volleys of blades spews out of him, and the fact that there are three stages of difficulty with more volleys is a neat touch.
17 – Xero
Like Gorb except with targeting blades, which is a nice little challenge on top of it all.
I also dig the background with all the statues, so that gets it a few measly bonus points.
16 – No Eyes
Probably the most memorable dream warrior fight, so I guess you can say No Eyes is the best of a boring bunch.
There’s some cool verticality and platforming to this fight, and you’ll spend the majority of your time dodging rather than piling on the damage – which already sets it apart from the other warriors in a good way.
15 – Crystal Guardian / Enraged Guardian
A mini-boss that unlocks a coveted bench is a neat idea, but its move-set is easily predictable once you’ve fought it a couple of times.
The Enraged Guardian fight is much more of a challenge, as it deals double damage so you find yourself second guessing every move.
14 – Nosk
I don’t think there’s a more terrifying boss in all of Hollow Knight, and I’ll never forget the way my heart sank the first time it transformed into the hideous beast.
It isn’t a particularly fun fight, and once you abuse the ledges it gets a little silly, but the lead-up with a ghost clone running around Deep Nest and the final transformation are enough to knock it up a few places.
13 – Uumuu
One of the only bosses in the game that you absolutely have to beat, it feels like a genuinely impactful bossfight that might catch you out the first few times you attempt it.
Howling wraiths (or Abyss Shriek if you want to progress that far) make this fight much easier, and dodging the electricity isn’t too hard as long as you don’t panic.
12 – Dung Defender / White Defender
I wasn’t expecting to have a dung-themed fight during my travels in Hollownest, but in hindsight that was always going to be an inevitability.
Dung Defender is a cool fight that keeps you on your toes the whole time, and White Defender is a similarly challenging extra fight if you can’t get enough of the turds flying your way.
11 – Traitor Lord
The lore of Traitor Lord is probably more interesting than the fight itself, but even on its own it’s a formidable fight that can catch you off-guard if you’re not careful.
I can’t think of another fight in the game that forces you to use Shade Cloak (other than Radiance), so there are already some bonus points for that. Other than that, Traitor Lord acts as a bit of a damage sponge that takes a bit too long to take down.
10 – False Knight / Failed Champion
If Gruz Mother wasn’t the first boss you found, then it would have almost certainly been False Knight instead. This means that False Knight isn’t necessarily the most challenging boss, but it’s certainly a memorable one.
There are lots of cool aspects to this fight, like how you can hit the meteors back at him or that you don’t get soul from hitting his armour, but the fact it’s so easy knocks it down a few places. Luckily, if you’re looking for a challenge you can fight the dream boss equivalent “Failed Champion” instead, so at least the option is there.
9 – Broken Vessel / Lost Kin
Deep in the ancient basin resides a pretty horrific boss fight, and the fact you get double jump for beating it means you have to conquer it no matter what. It might be an annoying fight at first, but once you learn the move-set it becomes quite a fun challenge.
The dream boss equivalent “Lost Kin” is a complete nightmare though, and it feels at least five times harder than the original. I can’t dock it points for that, however, so overall it’s a really great boss that I look forward to whenever I venture down into the depths.
8 – The Collector
Other than Nosk, The Collector is easily the boss that freaked me out the most on my first playthrough. A creature made of void that screeches in delight at your suffering, it truly is the stuff of nightmares.
You can’t really attempt to fight it until your nail is strong enough to one-shot the enemies he spawns, but once you get to that stage it doesn’t get much easier. I found him to be an extremely challenging boss in all of my playthroughs, but it felt immensely satisfying taking him down each time.
Points deducted for giving Grubs and a map to all the Grubs as a reward for beating him – that had to be the most worthless prize they could have given for such a tough battle.
7 – Soul Master / Soul Tyrant
It’s slightly embarrassing to admit, but I’ve always found both variants of this boss to be extremely challenging – even the “basic” version that you need to beat to reach the ending of the game.
He’s such a slippery devil that seems to be just out of reach at all times, and his attacks pack a real punch if you’re not awake enough to dodge them. Howling Wraiths makes it much easier, and once you finally beat him it takes a huge load off of your shoulders.
6 – Hornet (both times)
A fight so good and a character so compelling that they’re going to make a sequel based on her, Hornet manages to convey a lot of backstory and motivation for the little dialogue and interactions she has.
Both fights are really good, but I particularly like how the second one builds off of the first in subtle yet challenging ways to completely change the strategy of the battle. Hollow Knight is especially good at the little details, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in these fights.
5 – The Hollow Knight
The “Final Boss”, except not really. Even though the fight itself if engaging enough, it’s the lore of the Hollow Knight himself that really intrigued me when I played – on my first playthrough I had no idea that he was infected with the Radiance plague, and when he started stabbing himself it was unbelievably unsettling and nearly put me off my stride completely.
However, as a final boss it did feel like a bit of a let down (at least, until I found out there was a “True” ending). It’s over fairly quickly and his moves aren’t too crazy, but I’ll never forget the intensity of my first battle with him.
4 – The Watcher Knights
Same as with “Uumuu”, The Watcher Knights are a set of bosses that you absolutely have to beat if you want to claim a Dreamer and beat the game – but this fight was ten times more challenging and rewarding.
You can help yourself slightly with the chandelier trick to reduce the army from 6 to 5, but even then the fight will test you to your limits. Ideally you’d be fully levelled up before you faced them, but even then their unpredictable move set and strength in numbers makes this a battle for the ages.
3 – The Radiance
One of the most intense fights in gaming history, and the fact you have to unlock it via a “true ending” makes it that much better for me.
I really like how this fight pushes you to your mechanical limits, as you’ve really got to master every spell and attack type before even considering taking the fight on. It’s one of those bosses that you can brag to your friends that you’ve beaten, and you can’t say that about many final videogame fights.
2 – Mantis Lords
In terms of the the uniqueness of the arena and the enemies’ move set, the Mantis Lords fight is definitely my favourite of the “main” Hollow Knight bosses.
It feels like an intense dance with your opponent, and you have to be in tip top shape to dodge all of their attacks. It gets twice as hard after you beat the first boss, though, as stage two of the fight doubles the blades coming your way. In terms of the vanilla, base game, this is the best boss fight.
1 – Troupe Master Grimm / Nightmare King Grimm
A boss added by a free DLC, and I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted the epic battle that was about to unfold when they stepped inside Grimm’s tent.
His move set is absolutely insane, and it’s easily one of the hardest bosses of the game. They take it a step further with “Nightmare King Grimm” if you want to fully beat the DLC, and that might just be the hardest boss fight I’ve ever endured. If you want a tough-as-nails boss fight that you’ll remember forever, Grimm is the one for you.
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