Easy Levels, Hard Bosses

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"Because while the regular enemies are a breeze to kill, the bosses will bend you over and *bleep* with mayonnaise, and just shove their hand up *bleep* with their fingers out *bleep* *bleep* *bleep* *bleep*, and trust me when I say you'll never look at a pencil the same again."

Some video games have bosses that are disproportionately hard compared to the levels before them. Regardless of whether the levels are simple or Platform Hell, the bosses are a hurricane compared to the skill and effort needed to reach there.

Reasons for this can vary. Perhaps the developer wanted to make a dueling game against a boss, pumping up the Just Here for Godzilla factor.

A Sub-Trope of Boss Dissonance.

Compare Boss Game, SNK Boss.

Contrast Hard Levels Easy Bosses, Mooks but No Bosses.

Try to avoid giving examples of That One Boss here unless the level preceding that boss is especially easy.

Examples of Easy Levels, Hard Bosses include:


Action Game

  • In La-Mulana, once you have a healthy number of Life Jewels, the Body Armor, and the EXP-doubling Scripture, it's nearly impossible to die unless you do so on purpose. That is, until you face a boss...
  • Green's level in Gunstar Heroes. "Gee, that was a short level, and this boss doesn't seem that tough... wait, what?"
    • Like most bosses, he fights more aggressively and does more damage on higher difficulties. Unlike most bosses, he also takes on more forms depending on the difficulty, further tipping the scale for this level on hard and especially expert.

Beat Em Up

  • Most of the levels in Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms are painfully easy. The bosses, on the other hand, are just painful.
  • Streets of Rage... Ugh. Streets of Rage. All of the bosses were better off taken out with the specials than losing lives over, which made the Boss Rush at the end even worse, when specials are disabled.
  • No More Heroes lets you slice up mooks with relative impunity. The first boss will tear you up if you rush him the same way. It just gets worse from there.

Fighting Game

  • Soul Calibur 3
    • The Chronicles of the Sword mode is like this, with mostly easy battles against random soldiers and difficult battles against difficult AIs with powerful weapons and stage effects stacked against you. The final battle is particularly trying, as it is only hard because you fought a whole slew of enemies without a chance to heal, and the stage you fight in eliminates your blocking ability (plus your enemy has Soul Edge).
    • Of course, all the "real-world" fighters show up as optional minibosses, typically tough because they're always Level 60. Then a random dude named Ende fills that role in the final stage. This is not explained.
    • Go back to a normal fight after the final battle chronicles. Just do tales of souls. It is one of the more screwed up feelings in the world to go from sliding across the floor on your teeth, even if you are using the cheapest moves known to man, to the unrecognizable feeling of actually being able to hit the enemy.
    • For the most part (except for the endgame bosses with superarmor, and even then some), all fights can easily be won by spamming anti-AI moves.
  • Boss fights in the entire Street Fighter series are hard. Akuma in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo easily takes the cake as the hardest, although Street Fighter 1 Sagat, Street Fighter Alpha 3 Final Bison and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Gill are also very hard. The fights before them are cakewalks, mostly.
  • Azazel from Tekken 6 is probably the best example. The rest of the fights are a breeze. He is impossible to beat.

First Person Shooter

  • Metroid Prime.
    • Retro Studios themselves said that the bosses were meant to be the challenge and that the rest of the game was meant to be easier. Perhaps less extreme than many of these examples, but it's more noticeable on Hard mode for sure.
    • A more Fake Difficulty example would be the titular Final Boss's second form. The basis of the fight it to wait for Prime to create a pool of phazon and use the phazon beam on it, however, on hard it will delay this for minutes on end hoping to get a few hits in on its shockwave attack. And to make it worse, most players will be low on health after the first form and while the shockwave is easy enough to dodge, it will end up spawning Metroids close to death along with the pool making getting a clear shot on it that much harder.
    • Prime 3 was likely developed with the same modus operandi: Most of the game is somewhat simple, but the bosses (especially the Leviathan Guardians) can be very difficult to beat. Prime 2, however, is Nintendo Hard from beginning to end.
  • The 2012 Syndicate remake is one of the most... guilty... ever. The levels are more challenging than most other games, but not too bad once you get the hang of the gameplay mechanics. The bosses, however, are completely insane even on the "Normal" difficulty setting. The final boss in particular is on par with the likes of General Raam in terms of frustration.

Hack And Slash

Platform Game

  • Kirby:
    • Seen in a few of them; some Kirby games have easy stages, in most of which it's a breeze (or a Spring Breeze) to either avoid all enemies or simply suck them all up, and bosses which are comparatively hard. In general, though, the difficulty of bosses in the series depends heavily on what power you bring with you—with the right one, most bosses are much easier than their level, while without one they tend to be comparatively hard.
    • And, by extension, the Subspace Emissary portion of Super Smash Bros.. Brawl, with fairly standard stages (barring a slew of Goddamned Bats and Demonic Spiders) and absolutely brutal bosses, especially Tabuu. Your Mileage May Vary, though.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: In general, the bosses are significantly easier than the levels themselves. But then you have these mofos...
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
      • Chemical Plant Zone: Good morning, Sonic. Today we have a heaping helping of Bottomless Pits, stupid sidekicks, and bosses rendered intangible by taking damage. Please take care not to fall into the bottomless pits by going through the boss as a result of your sidekick hitting it moments before you do.
      • Metropolis Zone: 7 damaging eggs orbit the boss at high velocity, making Robotnik dangerous to hit from every angle. He gets easier over time, as each time you damage him, he loses one of his eggs. Still, if you don't die getting rid of his protection, the chances are high that you'll lose all your rings in the process. And if you jump up into the air to land the eighth and final hit, not expecting any additional tricks from the mad doctor, you'll find yourself on the wrong end of a lethal Frickin Laser Beam.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon has rather easy levels, but the boss of the first world is freakishly tough, and after that they just get tougher and tougher.
  • Iji plays this pretty straight; unless you're trying to get some of the Unlockable Content, playing on Ultimortal difficulty, or trying out a Self-Imposed Challenge, you can get through most levels in your sleep. The later bosses, though, ramp the difficulty up to the point where even a maxed-out Normal difficulty Iji can have trouble with the likes of Sentinel Proxima or General Tor. (On the other hand, Elite Krotera isn't particularly hard, and Annihilator Iosa is an Anticlimax Boss once you know what to do.)
    • On the other hand, Proxima isn't that hard if you just use the environment to kill it. Its armour only becomes a nightmare if you try to kill it without using the environment for that, and many players are tempted because of the bonus you get for doing it the hard way.
  • Wario Land 4, World, and Shake Dimension. 4 just had slightly more difficult bosses than the easy levels, Shake Dimension had about 1 easy boss and 4 that to some fell into That One Boss, and World... has more bosses than levels. It managed this by having four worlds, two levels per world, one boss at the end of each level, one at the end of each world and a mini boss fought up to three times per level. And the bosses were pretty complicated.
  • Mischief Makers: Some of the stages can be frustrating, but most are fairly simple matters. The bosses, however? Especially the late-game ones? Don't worry, we'll have the comforting tea ready for you when you inevitably get your behind handed to you over... and over... and over again.

Real Time Strategy

  • While clearing maps in the Dawn of War II campaigns is not necessarily easy, especially if the enemy have a lot of Elite Mooks or vehicles (or worse, a way to replenish their forces), they pale in comparison to the bosses. These things tend to be Damage Sponge Bosses and Flunky Bosses, with at least two special attacks that can kill entire squads if they're in the wrong place and, unlike every other enemy, they don't become easier to kill with each level, some of the later-game bosses being even more difficult to kill at level 20 or 30 than the ones fought at level 5.
  • Heroes of Mana:
    • Standard enemy monsters are about the same strength as your units. Type matching will almost always win the day against regular enemies. However, boss enemies are a different story. About 1 in 3 levels have bosses. Most are actually not that bad. However, some of the recurring bosses become extremely powerful later on in the game. Take Celestan, for example, the most frequent Recurring Boss in the game. His attacks do a very large amount of damage, first of all- he can kill most units in three hits in his later appearances. Also in his later appearances, his attacks have a 100% chance of confusing the unit it hit, which makes them simply wander around uselessly. His range is also obscene, reaching across 5 blocks or more. On top of that, his HP level is enormous- in the 3000s, compared to the average unit's 300-400. The only way to effectively defeat him is to summon lots of units and simply swarm him. Even surrounded by hordes of other units, it sometimes takes him minutes to die.
    • Never mind the final boss. After going One-Winged Angel on you, she is the only creature on the stage. This should be fairly simple, but the boss will. not. die. The only real course of action is to summon all the units you can and swarm her. This would be fine except her attacks do enormous damage, and she also occasionally causes a massive explosion that heavily damages everything within a large radius of her. "Heavily" as in, either kills the units or puts their HP so low that another attack will instantly do them in. Also, by this point in the battle, you will likely have harvested all available resources, so if too many units die you will too. Not only that, but at the end, you have to send the main character in to attack. If he dies, it's game over, so all you can do is bring him in and hope you can kill her before she uses an enormous attack.

Role Playing Game

  • World of Warcraft:
    • It fits in both the categories, but since the "Wrath of the Lich King"-expansion, it's veered more toward harder bosses. Most "trash" groups can be handled by just using area-of-effect attacks (since both AOE threat generation and AOE damage got a large boost) and become little more than speedbumps to slow the players down between the bosses. There are occasional trashmob groups that do require proper tactics, but they are a minority.
    • To almost every player between level 20 and 25... Shadowfang Keep. The trash mobs are a joke, since they're pretty widely spaced out. And then you get to the endboss, Lord Godfrey. If you don't stand in front of his Pistol Barrage, he's pretty easy, but since this is probably only the second or third instance dungeon you've been in at this point, you probably will. It will hit the group's tank (heavily armored guy that serves as the damage sponge) hard, and will probably One-Hit Kill the healer.
  • Romancing SaGa 3 seems to be infamous for this. Oftentimes, dungeon monsters will be destroyable without even having to expend any significant amounts of resources, leading the player to believe that they are overpowered, only to encounter a boss fight wherein they may be forced to use all of their item/magical resources, and still end up losing.
  • PoPoLoCrois is pretty much like this; plenty of boss fights have nearly ten times the HP of a random trash mob and will take plenty of time to kill if you don't use focused attacks, especially when you get multi-hit attacks that total to over a thousand damage, which makes them go much quicker than just having some spike damage while some party members (and summonable espers) constantly put pressure on the boss's HP.
  • Tales of Vesperia falls squarely into this. Regular fights tend to not be much of a problem after you've gotten your party's healer, unless you get ambushed or end up in a massively linked encounter. The bosses, though, especially the ones following Gattsuo, can be out-and-out murder the first couple of times you attempt them.
  • A number of EarthBound bosses could be considered this; the Summers area is fairly easy and enemy-free, but if you attempt leaving it to go to the desert, you encounter the Kraken, who will be more than happy to completely tear your party apart with his tornado attack. The Giant Step cave is fairly easy, seeing as how all the enemies are basically vermin, but the giant ant at the end will (quite literally) chew you up and spit you out.
  • Mother 3 plays this straight; despite a few difficult parts, the mooks in most areas can just be plowed through with a minimum of thought. The bosses, on the other hand, will be more than happy to smash you into dust if you try to brute force them; you have to learn each party member's respective role or you won't make it past the first four chapters.
  • Kingdom Hearts.
    • Strategy hardly matters at all unless facing a boss (and then there's several candidates for That One Boss).
    • Chain of Memories is particularly extreme. Not only does the above apply, but several Sleights enable you to tear through enemies, but relying too much on sleights against bosses can leave you vulnerable as you use up the first card you put into a sleight.
  • Chrono Cross is one of the worst offenders. Because your magic is refreshed at the beginning of each battle, you can safely use every spell you have every time, including your healing magic. You're even given the option to use any healing magic you have left after a battle to heal you to full health. So not only is each battle pathetically easy, but the battles don't wear down your health. The bosses, on the other hand, are much harder because there's no easy way to refresh your magic mid-battle—and as such, the bosses can outlast your resources until the battle simply becomes brutal.
  • Ys: Oath in Felghana has this; most of the dungeons are relatively simple (although things toughen up towards the end), but bosses throughout are capable of slaughtering you within seconds if you aren't prepared.
  • In Treasure of the Rudra, you'll rarely find a regular enemy that can give you any kind of trouble. Then you get to the boss, who can wipe out your whole party in 2 shots.
  • Nearly all of the bosses in Last Scenario can qualify as That One Boss, and although the rest of the level is generally not easy, it's still much easier than what it leads up to. And it's possible to get items that prevent Random Encounters, making the difference that much more obvious.
  • Kingdom of Loathing:
    • It's bosses tend to be substantially more difficult than the mooks surrounding them, at least in terms of combat. Getting access to the bosses may require solving puzzles or gathering items however.
    • Conversely, at the higher-end speed levels, once players have sufficient skills/familiars/items/knowledge, bosses become quite easy to defeat and the rest of the area becomes the major challenging factor, as for the experienced player, every battle is an almost guaranteed win, but the trick is to make it through the area as fast as possible with minimal expenditure of resources.
  • Arc Rise Fantasia has battles that make you feel as though you're ten levels higher than the enemies of the area. But you have to fight loads of them in order to Level Grind to a state you can reasonably take on the bosses.
  • Persona 3 although being a SMT game normal battles can wipe you if the enemy gets first attack or you aren't aware of their attacks/weaknesses, it's the TOWER bosses (not the Full moon bosses) that can truly give you trouble. On both the Journey and The Answer, Tower Bosses comes in groups of 3 or as one major enemy. These enemys have massive health bars, often no weaknesses, party hitting attacks way before you do, self-buffs and party-debuffs, and incredible attack power. While normal fights can be summed up as "Get first attack, attack each enemy with weakness, All-out attack", Boss fights are a grueling affair of barely keeping above death, chipping away at boss health, keeping up with a buff/debuff cycle (especially party defense and -enemy attack, so everyone doesn't get one shot on a single turn), and watching your main character die for We Cannot Go on Without You. And let's not even talk about hard mode.
  • Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean has fairly easy mooks, but, hoo boy, are the bosses tough. One bad hand in the wrong place can screw you over big time. There's a half-dozen bosses that could easily be That One Boss, and most of the rest are no slouches. Origins, meanwhile, is just straight-up hard.

Shoot Em Up

  • Blast Works is like this. The earlier bosses actually become easier if you manage to hold on to enough firepower, but the later bosses especially obliterate in bulk.
  • Any given Bullet Hell game. Regardless of how difficult the stages get, the boss usually has a much higher chance of killing the player.
  • The Touhou games. It ranges from cases where a player skilled enough to beat the game is unlikely to ever die on the stages (Imperishable Night, Subterranean Animism) to bosses just being the leading cause of death (Mountain of Faith, Undefined Fantastic Object).
  • Silent Scope series, most of the time.

Simulation Game

Survival Horror

  • Most, if not all, Survival Horror games. The endless zombie hordes can be dangerous at times, but they're really there just to fill out the game and cause players to waste ammo.
  • The Dead Rising series is a good example, the zombies, even with their enormous numbers, are one continuous joke to the player and are hardly a threat, but the series bosses which are survivors who are either insane or evil, are considerably harder and can kill you many times unless you are properly prepared.

Third Person Shooter

  • Jet Force Gemini is notorious for having easy-ish levels... until the bosses. And they are brutal.