Suikoden, as a series, gets far too little love. Although not as popular as other major JRPG franchises like Final Fantasy or the Tales Series, its stories, characters, music, and gameplay elements are some of the best the genre has to offer. Whether its dynamic narratives centered on war, betrayal, and destiny, deep characters with complex motivations, beautifully moving soundtracks, or the ability to recruit and fight with a whole freakin' army, the series offers a unique twist to the classic JRPG formula.

Today, we look at a classic staple of the genre, however, in the form of boss battles. Across its five mainline games from 1995 to 2006, Suikoden has a plethora of boss battles, from eerie mist monsters to knights of the enemy kingdom. Some of these fights are boring, one-sided affairs, but others are grand, high-stakes encounters which are both challenging and memorable. This list will count down the top 10 boss battles throughout the series taking into account gameplay aspects, atmosphere, and the overall scenario or moment surrounding the fight.

A few notes: Firstly, this list will only cover main series games, which means no entries from Tactics, Tierkreis, and Woven Web of a Century. Also, I've decided to exclude all final boss battles from this list, as this list would be filled with those otherwise. Finally, and this is an obvious one, major spoilers for the whole series follow.

Before we begin, a few honorable mentions:

15. The New Queen's Campaign (Suikoden V) - The series of battles between the remaining Queen's Knights Alenia, Zahhak, and Galleon, although fairly easy, is an important turning point for the story.

14. Bone Dragon (Suikoden II) - Yuber summons this monstrous, challenging fiend when you try to reclaim Greenhill.

13. The Masked Bishop, Yuber, and Sarah (Suikoden III) - Chris' party faces this trio of villains after Yun's sacrifice. Your first full-on encounter with the Destroyers, this is a memorable battle.

12. Graham Cray (Suikoden IV) - One of the final bosses of Suikoden IV, it is not the hero's party that faces Cray, but a separate group led by strategist Elenor, who confronts her former apprentice.

11. Neclord (Suikoden I) - An emotional encounter atop the vampire's castle, with excellent music to match.

Now, onto the list!

Starting out this list is the Fire Rune Incarnation from Suikoden III. This fight happens around midway through the game, after your three main protagonists thus far, Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe, all converge in the Flame Champion Hideaway and learn the truth about the Flame Champion you've been chasing thus far--that he's long since passed away, and someone else has to take up the mantle of Flame Champion.

While the fight itself is not very challenging, it earns its spot on this list for taking place after a pretty big plot reveal that turns the game on its head, and more importantly, brings your three heroes together. After all, up to this point in the game, Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe have all been walking different paths, sometimes intersecting, and sometimes even directly opposed at one another (for context, the Grasslands and Zexen Confederacy, which Hugo and Chris lead, respectively, have been at war). This fight, bringing together representatives from different, opposed factions, is pretty symbolic of the theme of Suikoden III, and the whole series in general.

Note: There's also a pretty cool battle with the Masked Bishop and his crew directly after this, with the True Fire Rune at your disposal, but you're not actually requried to win it.

Very late in Suikoden I, after a daring mission to close the floodgates at the Floating Fortress of Shasarazade, Sonya Shulen blocks your path. As this is towards the end of the story, Sonya represents the last gasp of the Scarlet Moon Empire, whose tyrannical rule you've been opposing. She is also the last of the Six Great Generals, who you've defeated throughout the course of the game, and is one tough boss battle.

Part of the difficulty of the fight with Sonya is in the game's structure--as you've fought another boss earlier in the dungeon, the Shell Venus, it's entirely possible inexperienced players will have used up all their strongest spells on that boss, leaving nothing for Sonya. At the same time, as this is the first Suikoden, where players are limited to one rune per character, there may not be a large number of healing options available, especially when Sonya is pummeling your entire party with magic attacks every turn.

The difficulty of this fight, combined with the atmosphere and music, makes for an amazing boss battle, as the Fortress of Shasarazade burns down around you. After you defeat her, you're also treated to an emotional set of cutscenes, with Viktor saving Sonya and Sanchez betraying your army and mortally wounding Mathiu.

The Poison Moth is the first of two optional boss battles to make this list, and represents a huge moment of fanservice for fans of the series. In an optional mission unlocked after loading save data from the first game to Suikoden II, little Ko of Banner Village is kidnapped by bandits. The player character Riou decides to team up with Tir McDohl, the player character of the first game, in an attempt to rescue him.

What follows is a very cool moment, where you fight your way through a dungeon using Tir's absurdly powerful Soul Eater Rune and dishing out Riou and Tir's aptly named Double Leader Attack. At the end, you face the Poison Moth, which has poisoned Ko. While it is a challenging fight by itself, what makes this moment really great is how it ends--with both Riou and Tir unleashing the strongest spells from their True Runes. Afterwards, you get a few cutscenes with Tir meeting some friends from the first game, and the ability to recruit Tir into your party. The nostalgic wave of emotion from this mission, and the recruitment of possibly the most overpowered party member in the series, earn this fight a place on this list.

The Ashtwal Mountain Guardians are the penultimate boss battles in the (unfortunately) last main installation of the series. Named after figures from Sumerian mythology, Enmesharra, Girtablulu, and Gudalim confront Freyjadour, Lyon, and Zweig's parties, respectively.

While these fights don't bear much story significance or come with any cool, plot-changing moments (they are presented as normal, run-of-the-mill monsters), they make this list primarily for the way the Ashtwal Mountains themselves are set up. While other games in the series present moments where you have to split your party into two or three, it's usually for one small section, or one specific boss battle. The Ashtwal Mountains, on the other hand, as the final dungeon in Suikoden V, require you to form three parties, and constantly change between these parties back and forth, fighting monsters and managing equipment, as the parties set up switches and open paths for each other. This presents a unique situation where the player is forced to use a huge chunk of their army to navigate this confusing dungeon.

The boss battles at the end are simply the cherry on the top. Boss battles in Suikoden V are very rarely challenging, especially because some characters are overpowered. However, as you have to split your party up, this forces you to use some less obvious characters, which can make the fights against the Guardians that much more difficult.

The Water Dragon attacks the party near the midpoint in Suikoden III, when they approach the resting place of the True Water Rune, and is, in this writer's humble opinion, possibly the hardest non-final-boss battle throughout the whole series. Appearing with nine Ice Crystals, the Water Dragon can wipe the floor with your party if you aren't prepared.

What makes this fight difficult is a combination of the powerful magical attacks the bosses pepper you with, along with their sheer number; it's not often Suikoden games place you in situations where your party of six is outnumbered. Focusing on the crystals individually can wear your party down, but going after the Dragon directly with magical attacks is difficult if the party is physically-oriented, and dangerous too, given the True Fire Rune's ability to damage party members in the wrong position.

Defeating the Water Dragon, however, earns the player quite the reward. After an emotional conversation with the dying Wyatt, the player acquires the True Water Rune.

This is the first truly challenging boss battle in the series. While clearing out the abandoned Toran Lake Castle early on in the first game, the player's party (not quite yet an army) comes across the Zombie Dragon. As this is at a point in the game without access to greater customization, such as other characters, advanced runes, or sharpened weapons, this fight can be very difficult, especially to non-veterans of the series who don't know know what to expect.

The Zombie Dragon is capable of unleashing a powerful breath attack that damages the entire party, and as you may not have a designated healer yet, the player may be forced to burn through their supply of medicine quite quickly. It's doubly difficult as the characters in your party for this fight, particularly Gremio and Tai Ho, aren't exactly powerhouses you'll be using for most boss fights. Persevere, however, and you're given the series' first, and perhaps most iconic, headquarters in the form of the Toran Lake Castle.

Ah. Neclord. Veterans and longtime fans of Suikoden will recognize the vampire as one of the series' rare recurring villains, who's long time rivalry with gruff swordsman Viktor, vampire hunter Kahn, and former leader Sierra comes to a head near the end of Suikoden II.

While Neclord himself is kind of a cartoony villain in the middle of a world filled with more realistic antagonists with shades of grey, it doesn't make him any less iconic. The player first encounters him in the first game, where he kidnaps Tengaar and forces you to rescue her in a battle atop his castle, a very cool fight in its own right. Thought dead, he returns in Suikoden II, now plotting to take over the city of Tinto.

The second and final fight against him is epic in every sense of the word. There's a lot of emotion running high, as Viktor, Kahn, and Sierra all have very real, personal grievances with the vampire. The location and music for this fight (seriously, Gothic Neclord is an amazing piece of music) help build the atmosphere. Neclord himself proves a challenging foe, with powerful attacks that can damage the whole party.

At the end of it all, you get one of the most satisfying scenes in the game, with Sierra taking back her Blue Moon Rune, and Viktor and Kahn avenging their village and grandfather, respectively, by vanquishing the villain once and for all.

Suikoden IV is looked upon as something of the black sheep of the series, and for many valid reasons. As the first game without creator Yoshitaka Murayama's influence, there were a lot of negatives--the size of the party was toned down, explaration was made difficult because of wonky sailing mechanics, and while there's a lot of meat to the overall story about the Rune of Punishment, the presentation and execution can fall kind of flat.

One thing it absolutely nailed, however, was the optional mission involving Ted. An important story character in the first Suikoden, Ted is given a bit of backstory in Suikoden IV, which takes place some 150 years before the first game. Here we see how, after taking possession of the Soul Eater Rune, Ted gives up his rune to the mysterious Fog Ship Guide in order to run away from his destiny. However, after being inspired by Lazlo, the hero of Suikoden IV, he fights back, and with the help of Lazlo and Lino En Kuldes, takes back the Soul Eater Rune from the Fog Ship Guide in a truly epic scene.

Ted's unexpected appearance and backstory, combined with the Fog Ship Guide's eerie, unsettling design make this fight the most memorable from this game. The fact that the Fog Ship Guide uses the Soul Eater Rune itself against your party makes it all the cooler. The overall surprise and execution of this fight earns it a high place on this list.

#2: Gorudo

If Neclord is the kind of villain you love to hate, Gorudo is a villain you just hate. Late in the game, when completing a mission in Rockaxe Castle, the selfish captain of the Matilda Knights Gorudo stumbles upon the hero Riou and his sister Nanami, unleashing a volley of arrows that mortally wounds the latter (or so it seems). This sequence of events is witnessed by former-friend-turned-antagonist Jowy, who in his rage, teams up with Riou to take on Gorudo.

The scene excels as a beatiful callback to the first few hours of the game, where Riou, Nanami, and Jowy ran away from their hometown together and fought just to survive. Now, even after war and fate have separated the three, we see that their bond of friendship is still as strong as ever. Using the Buddy Attack together with Jowy and unleashing the strongest spells of his Black Sword Rune after you've waged war against him for the greater part of the game is a dramatic moment. Decimating the coward Gorudo with your former friend make this fight one of the most satisfying, but the surrounding events of Nanami's seeming death make it simultaneously somber as well.

You knew this was coming. The Mad Prince himself, Luca Blight takes the top spot on this list, and quite easily. After all, no other fight throughout the series quite measures up to the clash against Luca Blight, which in this writer's opinion, is not only one of the greatest boss fights, but one of the greatest scenes in video game history.

Luca is presented as an absolute madman. As the leader of the Highland Army, he has committed many despicable acts, from burning villages to the ground, to ordering the execution of his own general for disappointing him, even to making villagers squeal like pigs for his own amusement. Prior to this iconic fight, your army attempts to corner him with an ambush attack on the battlefield, but he manages to escape, not with the help of magic or trickery, but on account of being one strong SOB. With no other options, your army teams up with a strategist from the Highland Army, who also sees Luca as nothing but a bloodthirsty monster. You set up a trap--in the middle of a night raid, your army ambushes him.

What follows is a true testament to just how much of a threat Luca presented. First, you assail him with a volley of arrows that takes out his horse, many of his men, and even manages to wound him. Afterwards, you attack him with eighteen of your strongest warriors, including your army's top generals. After Luca survives these fights, he still manages to slink away; it takes one last trap in the form of an amulet filled with fireflies and another volley of arrows before Luca reaches his breaking point. He challenges the hero Riou to one final duel; after being defeated, he gives one last speech about his achievements before finally going down for good.

I've been using the word a lot, but these scenes are really nothing short of epic, a flurry of battles where, even as you overwhelm and outnumber Luca at every turn, it still feels like you could lose at any moment. The gameplay elements are topnotch as well--you face off against Luca with three parties led by your generals, and each fight is difficult with Luca moving several times per turn, either hacking away at your party with sword strikes or striking whole groups of your party with fire magic. He's tough too, resisting magic and often evading and counterattacking your physical attacks. If unprepared or underequipped, Luca can make short work of your parties.

The gameplay, scenes, and surrounding elements to this fight all add up. The Chase, as background music, is great at setting the tone, the overall atmosphere is intense and suspenseful, and the story significance--how the fall of Luca Blight is a turning point in the overarching narrative of the game, as Jowy becomes the new central antagonist--all make this fight truly the most memorable in the whole series.

And there you have it, this writer's opinion of the top 10 best and most memorable boss battles throughout the Suikoden series. Narrowing this list down to just 10 entries was difficult given the plethora of deserving battles, which just goes to show how many cool boss encounters this series has gifted us.

Hopefully, more people, most especially fans of the JRPG genre, take the time to try this gem of a series; in the meanwhile, its small but devoted fanbase will continue to stubbornly support and celebrate the series in their own little ways, still not losing hope that one day, news of a Suikoden VI will arrive.

List by Rex915 (04/03/2019)

Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.

Have your own Top 10 in mind? Create and submit your own Top 10 List today.

Would you recommend this Top 10 List? Yes No