If you’re gonna make every level of your game a boss fight, you had better have variety. And that’s exactly what Shadow of the Colossus does. 16 giant bosses, all with a unique way of getting killed, most of which use their surroundings, whether that be sand, water, buildings, to their advantage. ‘Shadow’ has the most inventive bosses ever. Here they are from worst to best, in my opinion.
Credit to this magnificent, beautiful game for the fact that, out of all the 16 bosses, there is only one bad one. Enter Celosia. And it isn’t just bad, it’s god awful, should have been cut from the game imo. It is the smallest colossus but also the fastest, and if you’re on his level, he is gunna ram you. In a game that hasn’t asked you to pick anything up at all, 10 bosses in, you have to pick up a fire torch from the ground, not knowing how to do that, you’re just gunna get tossed around by Celosia until you die. It is so goddamn annoying. If you’re playing this game for the first time, make sure you look up how to pick that stick up before entering this arena!
There’s not really much to this one at all, the game encourages you to play this hide and seek strategy with Phaedra, but that’s really not necessary. Just jump on it’s back and that’s that. Whatever
Quadratus is the second colossus you take on and it’s honestly just more of a tutorial level than anything. Quadratus just walks around as you shoot its foot and get it to kneel. Then you jump, find it’s weak spots, and stab. That’s about it really. Not bad, but not very memorable. It’s the first colossus you fight whilst riding Agro, which adds some excitement, sure.
This sand-monster is loved by fans, and it is a great concept. The reason it’s so low on the list is mostly due to how short this boss is and how completely atrocious the camera is, but that’s mostly due to the complex gameplay. In this level, you have to run away from Dirge, on horseback, while shooting your bow and arrow backwards, trying to shoot Dirge in the eye, which is a very small target.
The very first colossus. After having gone through the whole game and seeing all these huge colossi based on turtles, birds, sand monsters, and more, it’s hard to rate Valus so highly. With that said, he is not a bad foe. In fact, the first time you see Valus in the game he is so intimidating and daunting like that it’s hard to believe what’s to come after.
Another great entrance, Basaran comes out of its cave and on to the geyser ridden land. This is another fan favourite, but it isn’t a favourite of mine. Wander has to lure him to step on Geysers. It becomes so frustrating. Though once Basaran is down, climbing this becomes challenging in a more fair, less frustrating way.
This is the second of the two dog-like colossi, and thankfully, Conobia is much better. As soon as you enter the arena you get to look around before the colossus appears. Then, at the top of a temple embedded in the mountain, there it is. It comes hurdling towards Wander. There’s no playing with fire bullshit in this one. Instead, you have to ascend the temple ruins, making use of pillars Cenobia knocks down. It’s a lot of platform fun.
I love Barba, but it is the easiest colossus of them all, which is surprising considering his heft. The moment you set foot inside his giant hideout, he comes running at ya. It’s the most adrenaline pumping moment in the game. Scary AF. But you just hide. When he bends down, you jump on his beard and climb up. Nothing to it. Barba is a great colossus, but it would have been nice to have had a little more to do.
This one is King Kong with armour, man. It’s inside this huge colosseum type arena. You know what ever colossus yer heading to is gunna be big because of the size of the area. I was already looking for how to use the area to my advantage before I got to the Colossus, ‘cause by now, you know how it works. Argus is basically a much bigger Valus. So yeah, solid colossus.
This is a lot of people’s favourites. It is great, and it’s certainly the best of the opening few colossi. The first few colossi are general mount and stab levels. Then you start getting to the underwater colossi, flying colossi, and such. This is one of the best of the first batch, and the way Gaius just wakes up from his slumber when Wander makes it to the top of the platform, incredible.
The path to Kuromori is the best. You enter a cave leading to a secret garden (not the secret garden) with greenery and waterfalls. It really is remarkable. Then yer in this colleseum with a lizard type colossus. Not gunna lie, this embarrassingly took me a long time to figure out. Apparently this is one of the easiest bosses to defeat. It can be annoying trying to get Kuromori to climb where you want him to, but the entrance is amazing, exploring the arena and using it to your advantage was great, and once you figure out what you gotta do, yeah, it’s pretty easy.
A colossus that has teeth on the top of its head that you can interact with? Team Ico might have been stretching the novelty a bit with this one. But it’s one of my favourites because it introduces something new and something that is puzzle based, rather than, y‘know, climb the beast, stab its head. You have to find a way to get to its head and steer the colossus by hitting its teeth (e.g. a tooth on the far right makes the colossus head in the far right direction.) Pelagia was one I had the most fun with. Took me ages to find too.
Under-water levels in games have such a bad rep. And maybe they should. Water levels are a novelty and only exist to add to the variety of levels in a game. You’ve got to come up for air, it’s slowly paced. They insufferable. But Shadow of the Colossus ended that stereotype with Hydrus, the eel like colossus. You cling on to its back for dear life, praying to god that you don’t get electrocuted, and you’re constantly being thrown above and below water. All the normal water-level stuff is there; you’ve gotta have enough air, it’s much slower, but here the gameplay is revolutionary.
There’s a reason you’re in the wide open desert area for this one, when you reach the area and Phalanx comes out of the ground, you wonder how long it is. This is the biggest colossus, maybe except for Malus. There are no stakes with Phalanx. He does not attack you and it’s impossible to die, but it is a marvel to look at. The scale of the behemoth flying above you is jaw-dropping. When it comes to slaying the beast, and you have to run along its back it’s like running a 400 meter sprint.
Avion is another flying colossus, only this time you have to strike it mid-air. Avion’s arena is magnificent. It’s dark and gloomy and you can barely see the pterodactyl like monster flying behind the mist. The moment Avion glides down to you and you have no choice but to jump on it’s wing to avoid being knocked out might be the most cinematic moment of the game.
The top spot can’t be anything other than Malus, can it? This is the final colossus and by far the most epic. He is Goliath, almost like a building. Wander climbs Malus for what, like 10 minutes. The game is totally different than it has been up to this point. All of a sudden yer in the middle of a thunderstorm, lightning flashes, cliffs getting blown up, and Malus, shooting fire beams, looks worried for his life more than anything. It’s daunting, everything relies on this. It’s like a battlefield, shit is going off. It has the most intricate climbing, the hardest grappling, everything you learned in the game comes down to this. Malus is the greatest boss fight of all time.