In the four-decade history of MMOs, there lie world bosses, raid bosses, and super bosses that haunt gamers' nightmares to this day. Battle videos included!
Battle of the Titans: Conquering the 10 Hardest MMORPG Bosses in Gaming Lore
Outside of Souls-like games, there is no gaming genre with more brutal bosses than the MMORPG. Since the earliest titles in the 90s, the genre has been notorious for its epic battles against unforgiving foes. We've scrolled back through MMO lore to find the bosses that still hold up to scrutiny today for their damn-right ruthless mechanics.
The Top 10 Hardest MMORPG Bosses of All Time
Each of these battles is known for its epic storytelling, high levels of intensity, and coordination requirements, making them unforgettable experiences for players who managed to overcome the odds.
1. World of Warcraft's C'Thun -- "The Kraken Meets the Eye of Sauron"
C'Thun, one of the "Old Gods" of Azeroth is one of the most notorious bosses in the history of World of Warcraft. This gigantic, tentacled creature is the final boss of the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj Raid and required players to use all of their abilities to the fullest through skill and focus alike. The battle against C'Thun is a true test of coordination, with players needing to carefully manage their positioning and timing to avoid the boss's devastating attacks.
If you've ever played D&D you'll know how devastating a beholder's eye beams can be. C'Thun's eyebeam makes a beholder's seem no more dangerous than a stern look. And that's not to mention its Giant Eye Tentacle, Ground Rupture, and Mindflay attacks -- many of which did ludicrous amounts of nature and shadow damage.
Death is close...
2. Final Fantasy XI's Absolute Virtue -- "Who Says Healers Can't Be Tough?"
Before the beloved Final Fantasy XIV, we had its predecessor MMORPG - Final Fantasy XI. While it never reached the lofty heights of A Realm Reborn, it still had its share of terrifying bosses. Absolute Virtue, in many ways, was the pinnacle of them all.
A floating angelic foe, defeating this constructed behemoth was a damn-right frustrating experience thanks to the combined hell of its enrage timer and healing abilities. Endless forums are filled with suggested strategies for Absolute Virtue, though few of their authors ever actually managed the feat. Players had to keep the damage flowing lest Absolute Virtue heal itself, all the while knowing that every second that went by was a step closer to its damage and resistances increasing.
At-the-time Global Online Producer and Lead Game Master Sage Sundi said it would take 18 hours to defeat Absolute Virtue. Which, of course, is ridiculous. If the battle went on as long as 30 hours, Absolute Virtue would use Benediction and heal nearly all of its health. Still, Absolute Virtue was eventually defeated by Eden Linkshell in 2006.
We want you to remember that "18 hours" for later, as we have rather graphic evidence of just what that can do to a Final Fantasy XI gamer.
3. EverQuest's The Avatar of War -- "Spartan Discipline Required"
Sometimes, size matters. The Avatar of War was positively enormous and had a range of devastating attacks. Known in EverQuest communities as "The mother of all tank and spank fights", this towering, demonic warrior, styled of Aires himself, requires players to coordinate multiple strategies to take him down.
Found in Kael Drakkel, The Avatar of War spawns upon the death of The Idol of Rallos Zek. The fight features a range of unique mechanics, including players' need to destroy the boss's protective crystals and manage a range of powerful debuffs. Highly resistant to fire, successful strategies are nearly always dependent on ice-based attacks and cold lures.
4. Final Fantasy XIV's Odin -- "Valhalla Awaits the Worthy"
Another massive unworldly creature that challenged the mettle of MMORPG players is Odin -- a level 50 Elder Primal found in Urth's Fount. A black-clad knight mounted on his eternal steed, Odin's essence was contained within his giant sword Zantetsuken.
There are multiple factors that make Odin such a powerful boss. The first is his protective shields that must be broken through before players can even begin to chip away at his health. The second is his array of debuff spells, each with different nerfing effects. Upon reducing him to ~5% health, Odin begins to charge his ultimate, giving combatants a small window to finish him before he uses Zantetsuken to instantly eviscerate every player in the arena.
5. Realm of the Mad God's Oryx the Mad God -- "Welcome to Bullet Hell"
For those who haven't heard of it, Realm of the Mad God is a free-to-play bullet-hell browser MMORPG released in 2011. Unlike many browser games, Realm of the Mad God was a hit with players and critics alike. Bullet hell games are known for their fast-paced chaos at the best of times, but the battle against its titular character and final boss was next level.
It was a true test of reflexes, requiring players to dodge and ungodly barrage of deadly projectiles while simultaneously dishing out damage to Oryx and Oryx's powerful lieutenants. And naturally, those barrages would constantly vary their spread, pattern, and direction. It also required forward thinking as players would need to zip through portals across the three different stages of the boss battle while anticipating projectiles on the other end.
6. Final Fantasy XI's Pandemonium Warden -- "Infamously Sickening"
Remember when we said we wanted you to remember the final Fantasy XI boss saying Absolute Virtue would take "18 hours"? This is why.
While many of the hardest MMORPG bosses have the ability to sicken players' in-game characters, but that's normally the end of it. One notorious battle against the Pandemonium Warden in 2007 involved a team of 40 veteran players attempting to take him down. After 18 gruelling hours, players were reportedly fainting and vomiting.
Pandemonium Warden is a shapeshifter, switching between Greek deities, demonic forms, and even battle tanks. Each required a different strategy in a seemingly endless cycle of punishment. Square Enix received such bad press for the incident that Pandemonium Warden, Absolute Virtue, and their other MMORPG super bosses have been perma-nerfed ever since.
7. World of Warcraft's The Lich King - "The Justice of the Grave"
Even if you've never played WoW, you're on an MMO gaming website so you've probably heard of the Lich King - the ghoulish combination of an older lich and the fallen prince Arthas.
You know you're a boss to be reckoned with when there's an entire expansion named after your wrath. The Lich King is the titular final boss in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. To this day, he's the most powerful undead creature in the king of MMOs. As formidable as he is iconic, The Lich King never fights alone. He summons an army of undead minions that barrage players as they try to focus their attacks on him.
Success is never guaranteed against the three levels of the Lich King boss fight. But for players to stand a chance they must deal with the boss's Necrotic Plague debuff while tackling waves of undead enemies. Additionally, the battle features a dramatic final phase, where players must race against time to defeat The Lich King before he unleashes his most devastating attack. And MMO gamers being MMO gamers, they went beyond mere Heroic Level difficult and often also switched off the buff granted for the battle. Just to flex.
8. FFXIV's The Epic of Alexander (Living Liquid) -- "Hasta la Vista, Baby"
Those who came of age in the 90's knew Living Liquid as the Pepsiman, but those from the 80's could only think of one thing - Terminator 2: Judgement Day. A silver, shapeshifting being with no fixed mass, Living Liquid required players to deal with countless blobs while keeping damage at a maximum.
36 teams managed to beat Living Liquid in his first month, which is more than we can say for a lot of these bosses. Still, with a 4-million player count at the time, it's only a tiny fraction. Successful strategies required players to act as bait with everyone temporarily fulfilling the purpose of the tank apart from the hard-hitting DPS classes. Even healers would have to draw Living Liquid's rage in the hopes that they'd be able to dodge his attacks long enough for the damage dealers to work their magic.
9 & 10. World of Warcraft's Nefarian and Vaelastrasz the Corrupt -- "Two for the Price of.,. Oh god no!"
We've grouped Nefarian and Vaelastrasz together because they're both found in the Blackwing Lair raid. Nefarian is the final boss and earns his place on this list due to his high damage output and complex mechanics. He takes two forms: the humanoid, Lord Victor Nefarius, and his full dragon form, Nafarian.
Even before the 40-player take-down can be attempted, an invulnerable Nefarian shadow bolts, mind-controls, and fears random players while they attempt to deal with summoned drakonids. After defeating 42 drakonids, the next stage of the battle begins wherein dragon-form Nafarian instantly casts Shadow Flame on the entire party. As phase 3 begins, all the drakonids are respawned forcing players to dish out AoE spells while desperately preventing their healers getting swarmed. While the Nefarian storyline goes all the way back to WoW's original form, his legacy is still felt in Dragonflight.
Meanwhile, Vaelastrasz the Corrupt is a dragon tainted by Nafarias who deals a range of deadly abilities and devastating AoE attacks. His sweeping Cleave and Tail Sweep abilities can easily knock out entire parties forcing them to find moments of safety in a battle that offers little solace. What's more, his Burning Adrenaline debuff does more than just exhaust its target, it turns them into a time-bomb wherein they must split from the rest of the party -- breaking the all-important formation the fight demands.
The strategy with Vaelastrasz is all about dealing blows hard and fast. It's a time critical damage-fest best completed with a DPS focused party. Healers simply can't keep up. Leave it up to World of Warcraft to put two of the hardest MMORPG bosses in one raid.
That's a list of the hardest bosses in MMORPG lore, but what about a boss that was meant to be invincible, but players broke the game to defeat him anyway? Check out the epic tale of Kerafyrm the Crystal Sleeper Dragon in our list of 4 Times MMORPG Players Achieved the Impossible. Stay tuned to MMO Games, as next month we'll bring you 10 more of the most brutal raid bosses in the history of the genre.