Boss rush

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Space Harrier, released in 1985, features one of the first boss rushes in video game history.

A boss rush is a common trope in video games where the player is expected to re-fight all the bosses from earlier in the game. Different games handle this in different ways, but the most common approach is to fight them all in a gauntlet without giving the player a chance to replenish their character or save the game. This trope was pioneered by Sega in the mid-1980s, but, by the late 1980s, it was adopted by several other game developers.

There are several variations of the boss rush. The most primitive form is to simply have the player re-fight all of the bosses, unchanged, in sequence, like in Space Harrier. Some games will make the bosses weaker since they have to be defeated non-stop, like in Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja. Some games make the bosses even harder to account for power-ups the player has collected through the course of the game, like in Fantasy Zone. Other games leave the bosses in their original form, but they're much easier to defeat because the player has become stronger throughout the game, like in Chrono Trigger. Some games give the player limited replenishment between bosses, like in Mega Man 2.

I enjoy boss rushes when the player's character has grown more powerful and the bosses are unchanged, like in Chrono Trigger. By the time you reach the boss rush, you're so powerful, you can defeat the first couple bosses with a single hit each which serves as a reminder for how far you've progressed in the game. However, I don't care for boss rushes when your character is still just as weak as the first time you fought them, like in Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja. I'm usually okay with boss rushes where the bosses are supercharged to provide a match for the developed character, like in ActRaiser, but I do see this as a bit of laziness on behalf of the developers.


This is a list of games which are important to me that feature a boss rush.

Title Released Notes
ActRaiser 1990-12-16 Bosses are faster than before.
Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja 1988-04-?? Bosses are a bit weaker, some are zombified, and the order is different. Player's character doesn't become more powerful as they progress in this game.
Bonk's Adventure 1989-12-15 Health may be replenished between bosses.
Bonk's Adventure (Game Boy) 1992-11-27 Player can choose order, and bonuses are awarded after each boss.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2003-05-06 Has an unlockable boss rush mode.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance 2002-06-06 Has an unlockable boss rush mode.
Chrono Trigger 1995-03-11 You have to re-fight each of the bosses, in the same order, but they have the same stats from your first encounter, so they're a lot easier to defeat.
Double Dragon (NES) 1988-04-08 You have to fight two Abobos and Chintais before the final boss. Slightly easier because you'll have unlocked better moves.
Double Dragon II (Game Boy) 1991-12-??
Fantasy Zone 1986-03-20 Bosses are more powerful, but you'll have more upgrades.
Final Fantasy 1987-12-18 You have to re-fight the four elemental fiends and they're more powerful.
Final Fantasy IV 1991-07-19 Just the four elemental lords.
Illusion of Gaia 1993-11-27
Kirby's Adventure 1993-03-23
Kirby's Dream Land 1992-04-27 You get to choose the order.
Kirby's Dream Land 2 1995-03-21
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 1991-11-21 Has a boss rush of just the light-world bosses in slightly more dangerous environments. However, they're very easy because you're much more powerful at this point.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 1993-06-06 Has a miniboss rush.
Mega Man 1987-12-17 The six robot bosses are fought in a basic square room as part of the last couple levels. They are unchanged, but you have are guaranteed to have the optimal weapon to fight them.
Mega Man II 1988-12-24 You have to re-fight the eight robot bosses, each in a basic square room. You can choose the order, but you have to fight them all with out weapon recharges and only a single large health boost after each boss.
Mega Man III 1990-09-28 You have to re-fight the eight robot bosses from Mega Man II, two per stage. You also have to re-fight the eight robot bosses from Mega Man III in any order with only a single large health boost after each.
Mega Man IV 1991-12-06 The eight robot bosses.
Space Harrier 1985-12-?? Different order, but they're unchanged, so this is quite difficult.
Trojan 1986-04-?? Bosses are reused all throughout the game, often like a boss rush.
Undertale 2015-09-15 Only in certain styles of play.
Wonder Boy In Monster World 1991-10-25
Wrath of the Black Manta 1989-11-17 In the Japanese version you have to fight all bosses in any order, in the US version you only have to fight one boss of your choice.