• Boss battles define Dark Souls, from hidden optional challenges like Gwyndolin to legendary foes like Nameless King.
  • Moonlight Butterfly’s difficulty lies in its arena & RNG, while Lud & Zallen require surviving Frozen Reindeer to reach them.
  • Prepare for epic fights against Darkeater Midir & Black Dragon Kalameet, as they test skills & endurance in Dark Souls battles.

If there is one single calling card that could encompass the entire Dark Souls series, it would almost certainly be a reference to boss battles. FromSoftware has gone from a relatively fringe developer to being one of the top AAA developers in the world in large part due to their willingness to craft lots of brutally challenging boss fights for their players to overcome.


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Dark Soulsput this style of game on the map (although it all began with Demon’s Souls) and to this day many of the series’ boss battles are legendary. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re all mandatory. In fact, FromSoftware likes to stash some of their most challenging bosses in areas that players don’t even need to find before finishing the game. Just because these bosses are optional doesn’t mean they won’t make for worthy challenges.

Updated March 24, 2024, by Evan Regan: The Dark Souls series has never been shy about throwing brutally-difficult bosses at its players during moments when they don’t expect it. There will always be a major boss at the end of an area with its fog door visible well ahead of time, but these bosses don’t necessarily operate that way. Many optional bosses in the Souls series come out of nowhere, and offer up some of the stiffest challenges in the franchise. This list has been updated with a few more of those bosses, particularly ones from Dark Souls 2, which has a ton of purely optional boss fights that will completely break players who aren’t ready for them, and even some who are.

14 Dark Sun Gwyndolin

Dark Souls

Dark Sun Gwyndolin Cropped

Dark Souls
September 22, 2011

Action RPG

Gwyndolin is Lord Gwyn’s youngest child, but due to being born under the sign of the moon, Gwyn raised him as a daughter to prevent his ascention to Gwyn’s heir. As such, Gwyndolin is hidden away in Anor Londo, and can easily be missed if players don’t know where to look. Surrounding the second bonfire in Anor Londo are a series of statues, including one of Gwyn himself. If players enter this room while wearing the Darkmoon Seance Ring, Gwyn’s statue will disappear, and a statue of Gwyndolin will appear in its place.

Players can either pledge allegiance to Gwyndolin’s Blades of the Darkmoon here, or they can attack the statue, revealing an illusory wall and the path to Gwyndolin’s boss room. The fight takes place in a seemingly endless corridor, and while it isn’t exactly hard by the standard definition, it can be a struggle just to reach Gwyndolin, let alone damage him. He relies on ranged attacks and forces the player to hide behind pillars recessed in the walls for protection. Once his attacks are avoided, it becomes an all-out sprint to reach Gwyndolin and attack him before he teleports away.

13 Moonlight Butterfly

Dark Souls

The Moonlight Butterfly lurks in the recesses of the Darkroot Garden

The Moonlight Butterfly’s difficulty is weighted heavily by the RNG that players face while fighting it on any given run. Between its laser beam attack and its charge-up AOE while perched on the arena’s bridge, this boss can easily wipe out a player’s health in a matter of seconds.

Maybe the hardest aspect of this boss is its arena: a thin stone bridge with doors at either end and the player trapped in the middle. It’s very easy to tumble off the bridge accidentally, and because the Moonlight Butterfly hangs around the fringes, locking onto it can throw off the direction of a dodge roll and send players falling to their deaths.

12 Lud & Zallen

Dark Souls 2

Lud & Zallen are the other two pets of the Ivory King

Dark Souls 2
March 11, 2014

Action RPG

By the midway point of the Crown of the Ivory King DLC, around the time when they discover the Frozen Wastes, players will have already fought Aava, The King’s Pet. So of course, the next step is to fight the King’s other two pets at the same time.


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Lud & Zallen can be found in the furthest reaches of the Frozen Wastes. When players get Lud’s health down to 50%, Zallen will appear. Zallen has a berserk attack that will regenerate its health and increase its damage. It’s a heck of a time, although not nearly as difficult as surviving the Frozen Reindeer that litter the path leading up to this fight.

11 Capra Demon

Dark Souls

The Capra Demon and his hounds can corner players in an instant

The Capra Demon becomes a bit of a pushover once players know the trick to beating him, but prior to that, when they first wander into his painfully small arena, this boss can be a nightmare. Ask any Dark Souls veteran and they’ll tell you: it’s not just the Capra Demon himself, it’s the dogs.

Two of them, specifically, will charge players the second they cross through the boss’ fog wall. It’s an immediate distraction from the boss, who also begins closing ground quickly but can get lost in the background. The trick, now widely known, is to run past all three and up the stairs at the back of the room. It’s the only way to separate the dogs from the boss and deal with them one-on-one.

10 Ruin Sentinels

Dark Souls 2

all 3 ruin sentinels from dark souls 2 in their golden armor

Found at the midway point of the Lost Bastille, the Ruin Sentinels are a squad of three giant statues armed with shields and halberd-like weapons. They’re surprisingly fast for their size, and the layout of the arena makes it difficult to keep an eye on more than one of them at a time. Players can lure one up to the platform where they start the fight, allowing them to kill it one-on-one before tackling the other two, but even then, two against one still isn’t a fair fight.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid the fight entirely; it’s just very elaborate. Players must first defeat the Pursuer in the Forest of Fallen Giants, then take the bird’s nest to the Lost Bastille. Down a path to the left they’ll find an Antiquated Key. Head back to the Lost Bastille’s first bonfire – accessed by killing the Flexile Sentry in No Man’s Warf – and go forward until they encounter a pair of dogs and a Heide Knight. Smash the planks on the right, unlock the door behind them, go down the hall, and use a Pharro’s Lockstone on the slot in the room ahead. Past a couple of illusory walls, this path will reveal an elevator that takes players to the area past the Ruin Sentinels. With all that said, it may actually take less effort to just fight the boss.

9 Sir Alonne

Dark Souls 2

Sir Alonne has an army named after him

Many of the most epic fights in the Dark Souls series play out against giant monsters whose sheer size makes for an epic achievement when they’re finally taken down. Sometimes though, a showdown between two warriors bearing nothing but swords and armor can be just as epic.

Enter Sir Alonne, found in the memory of the Old Iron King in Dark Souls 2‘s Crown of the Old Iron King DLC. Alonne is such a badass that the Iron King named his army after him, and this fight reinforces that decision. Alonne is fast, skilled, and capable of parrying the player’s attacks with ease. This fight is a true test of skill in a way that few are and awards a special death animation to players who defeat Alonne without taking damage.

8 Champion Gundyr

Dark Souls 3

Champion Gundyr should not be taken lightly

Dark Souls 3
March 24, 2016

Action RPG

Players encounter this boss’ first incarnation at the conclusion of Dark Souls 3‘s tutorial, and when they stumble upon him again in the game’s late stages, that familiarity may cause them to take this fight lightly. That will prove to be a mistake, likely around the time when Champion Gundyr crushes them beneath his halberd.

Here players are fighting Gundyr at the height of his abilities. He moves faster, hits harder, and is generally far more aggressive than his corrupted counterpart Iudex Gundyr. This fight will strain even the most experienced players, all the more so with the awareness that they’ve already defeated this warrior ringing in their minds as Champion Gundyr schools them repeatedly.

7 Vendrick

Dark Souls 2

Dark Souls 2 Vendrick walking in a dark room

Few bosses are more optional than King Vendrick in Dark Souls 2. The once proud King of Dranglaic, Vendrick has gone hollow, and now wanders lamely in a circle, moaning as he drags his massive greatsword behind him. He is completely non-hostile and will only attack players after they attack him several times first.

Players can fight Vendrick when they first meet him, but it is not advisable. His defense is unmatched, and he deals a ton of damage. Players are better off venturing into the various Giant’s Memories by using the Ashen Mist Heart, and collecting as many Giant’s Souls as possible. For every Soul of a Giant players have in their inventory (there are a total of 5 in the game), Vendrick’s damage reduction is cut in half, making him a much easier kill. Or, players can avoid the fight entirely, as they only really need the King’s Ring from the room he’s in. However, killing Vendrick means players will later find the Soul of the King in the Shrine of Amana.

6 Black Dragon Kalameet

Dark Souls

Black Dragon Kalameet must be shot out of the sky before players can fight him

There’s nothing like a good dragon fight, and Black Dragon Kalameet gives players exactly that. The build-up to this boss alone makes for an epic showdown once the fight finally happens. Kalameet is visible in the sky multiple times before the fight, yet he cannot be damaged. Players will have to enlist Hawkeye Gough and his massive bow to shoot Kalameet out of the sky, and that’s just so the battle can begin.

Once grounded, Kalameet is a force. His attacks come in wide swings and slams that are difficult to dodge, and his black flame attacks cover huge swaths of the arena in fire. He can also take to the air and attack in flight, which only adds to the challenge. There is no perfect tactic for this fight. Players should come prepared with as much Estus as they can, because they may be fighting for a while.

5 Darklurker

Dark Souls 2

Darklurker likes to make copies of itself

One of the most unique bosses in the series, the Darklurker can only be accessed by joining the Pilgrims of Dark covenant and clearing out three Abyssal Dungeons. Then players will have to return to Darkdiver Grandhal to access the Darklurker fight.


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The Darklurker looks like it was pulled straight from a Diablo cutscene. Equal parts angelic and monstrous, it primarily uses soul magic attacks but has a few abilities that make it stand alone. For one, it can turn invisible, but it can also teleport and will create a copy of itself at around 50% health. Once there are two Darklurkers the fight becomes frantic as players try to attack one of them while avoiding the other.

4 Ancient Dragon

Dark Souls 2

Fighting the Ancient Dragon Dark Souls 2

The Ancient Dragon is a friendly NPC found at the apex of the Dragon Shrine. When talked to, he will give players the Ashen Mist Heart, a key item they can use to enter Giant Memories and collect the Giant’s Souls within. However, truly enterprising players can attack this dragon and tackle one of the toughest fights in the game.


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The Ancient Dragon has the largest health pool in Dark Souls 2, so players need to come equipped with their most powerful weapons and spells. Even then, this fight is a grind, and players will need as much luck as they’ll need skill to survive the boss’ many AoE attacks. Still, while this fight is optional, if players want to collect every Soul of a Giant and fully weaken Vendrick’s defenses, they’ll have to go through the Ancient Dragon to do it. They’ll also get a Petrified Dragon Bone for their troubles.

3 Darkeater Midir

Dark Souls 3

Darkeater Midir can cover the whole arena in flame

Found in The Ringed City DLC of Dark Souls 3, Darkeater Midir is one of the most difficult dragon fights in the Dark Souls series. His attacks come in fast and hit very hard, a number of them are painfully difficult to avoid, and to top it all off, he has a massive health pool to work through.

The worst attack of all is Midir’s airborne flame breath. He’ll take to the air and then spit a gout of flame straight down as he soars over the arena. The flames hit the ground and spread outward. There is no surefire way to avoid this attack, so the best option is to wear as much fire-resistant gear as possible and pray Midir doesn’t rely on it too much.

2 Nameless King

Dark Souls 3

The Nameless King is Fire Lord Gwyn's lost child

Found in Archdragon Peak – an optional area in Dark Souls 3 – the Nameless King is an incredible boss fight both for the moment-to-moment gameplay and for the lore implications that he carries for the entire Dark Souls series. Right from the moment he swoops down on his huge feathered dragon, it’s clear that he’s a formidable foe.

The fight’s first phase is challenging, but nothing noteworthy. Once the Nameless King’s dragon is killed and he absorbs its power – becoming the King of the Storm – the fight becomes nightmarish. He attacks so quickly, launching from one end of the arena to the other. He creates lightning shockwaves that dart along the ground and can send lightning strikes crashing down on the player. It’s a challenge for players just to stay alive while fighting him, let alone trying to land attacks of their own.

1 Smelter Demon

Dark Souls 2

The Smelter Demon fight is pain, enough said

Most Dark Souls 2 players remember this guy, and they aren’t good memories. The Smelter Demon is a painful fight. He’s huge, he hits hard, and his defenses make the damage players dish out negligible. It takes a lot of work just to hurt this boss, that’s without considering the process of avoiding his various attacks.

At 60% health, the Smelter Demon will “stoke his fire,” lighting his chest aflame, which deals AOE fire damage whenever the player gets close. Then, at 50% health, he’ll light his sword on fire, increasing his damage. Thankfully, this fight can be avoided entirely, the downside being that the Smelter Demon guards the only mid-level Bonfire found in the Iron Keep.


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