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Celebrating The Boss Battles Of Hades

Few games place as much care on their boss battles as Hades does. From the Furies to the big man himself, every victory is earned.

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Hades Boss Battles

Hades may be talked about as the roguelite for people who bounce off of roguelites, but it is still a difficult game to master. Every chamber is filled with undead shades and restless spirits that would love nothing more than to send Zagreus back to the House of Hades. No matter the combination of weapons, items, and gifts from the gods, Zagreus eventually has to face the most difficult challenges of the Underworld: boss battles. Every boss in Hades is memorable, with screen-filling attacks and multiple phases to master.

Though Hades only has four boss arenas, there is tremendous variety within every battle. Players will find some opponents easier to defeat than others, but every single one is a tremendous showcase of great design. As Hades finally celebrates its release on the Xbox and PlayStation family of consoles, it is a perfect time to detail what exactly makes each boss battle great.

***Spoilers To Follow***

Hades
*straightens up* Yes, ma’am

Megaera / The Fury Sisters

Tartarus is Hades‘ first challenge, a shifting series of chambers that players will spend more time in than any other biome in the game. While most basic enemies in Tartarus will not pose much of a challenge to players, they will eventually be forced to reckon with Megaera before they can cross into Asphodel. A whip-wielding, one-winged devil, Megaera is the first real roadblock in Hades and a great preview of how the game eventually subverts expectations.

Unlike any of the minibosses that Zagreus will undoubtedly face before confronting her, Megaera is Zag-sized (maybe a little taller). At first, this causes the player to scoff; how tough can this fight be, when the enemy is on Zagreus’ level? But once the battle begins, it’s a white-knuckle brawl until the very end. Megaera is fast and relentless, constantly summoning smaller enemies to do her bidding and gaining new attacks as her health dips lower. Her arena has traps to contend with, too, just one more thing for Zagreus to deal with. For many players, Megaera is the pressure point that forces them to consider new battle strategies.

But Hades isn’t content to let the Megaera fight grow stale. After making it through Tartarus enough times on his quest to see the surface, Zagreus will eventually enter the boss chamber only to be greeted by a completely different character: Alecto, and eventually, Tisiphone. After all, Megaera is a Fury Sister, one of three, and it only makes sense that she’d eventually pass the burden of battling Zagreus off to one of her siblings eventually. Each sister has distinct attack patterns and even unique arenas, and even though Zagreus has to pass through all of Tartarus every time he mounts an assault, there comes a point where he never knows which sister he’s going to fight. There’s just enough tension to keep things fresh.

But there’s more! Just when players have mastered every form this battle might take, Hades throws in one more twist: the Extreme Measures condition. This condition, activated on the Pact of Punishment before a run even begins, forces Zagreus to battle all three Fury Sisters at once. He still only has to defeat one Sister, but her fellow furies act as backup during the battle, throwing way more Zagreus’ way than he’s ever had to deal with previously. While Megaera may be the first boss battle in the game, it is a worthy fight for how it grows and changes over the course of the entire game.

Bone Hydra

If Megaera and her sisters exist to keep Zagreus guessing, the Bone Hydra is the opposite. Lifting its head out of a pool of molten lava in the final chamber of the fiery Asphodel region, the Bone Hydra initially feels extremely intimidating. It even makes an appearance in the amazing animated trailer. But while it is gigantic and powerful, the Bone Hydra is kind of a pushover. After making it through the difficult terrain of Asphodel and its tough enemies, battling the Bone Hydra feels like a breeze.

The fight is simplistic compared to the Furies. Instead of darting around the arena, the Bone Hydra sits pretty much at the top of the screen, slamming down its head for attacks or shooting out beams that can be easily dodged past. There is some complexity later in the fight; when Zagreus takes out about one-third of its health, an unbreakable shield forms around the Bone Hydra as it summons extra heads as reinforcements. The shield remains until the other heads are dealt with, but it’s a distraction technique more than anything truly dangerous. With the right set of boons and a little knowledge of where the backup heads will spawn, the Bone Hydra fight starts to feel rote much more quickly than the Fury Sisters.

Eventually, the Bone Hydra displays some variety in its attacks, but the core of the fight largely feels the same. Mechanically, once the player knows what type of Hydra they’re facing, they can engage accordingly with either long-range attacks or well-timed close-range strikes. The fight feels familiar after just a handful of attempts.

But this is by design. Zagreus, ever witty, lovingly taunts the Bone Hydra before every battle. After dozens of victories, he even bestows the Hydra with a nickname: Lernie. From then on, “Lernie, the Bone Hydra” is displayed prominently over their health bar for every subsequent battle. While it may not be the most satisfying fight in the game, battling Lernie starts to feel like visiting an old friend. Sure, they might be a little prickly since every time Zagreus visits things get a little smashed up, but it’s always fun to catch up.

Asterius Theseus

Theseus and Asterius

In a game full of tough battles, the fight that caps Zagreus’ journey through Elysium is consistently one of the most brutal. Even before reaching this final arena, Zagreus can get a taste of what he’s in for when he battles Asterius, the Bull of Minos, as a miniboss. Asterius is a formidable foe, with wide, sweeping attacks and a powerful charge that deals massive damage. Asterius acts like a skill check; if the player cannot defeat Asterius on his own, how can they possibly fare against Asterius and the Champion of Elysium together?

Unlike any previous boss encounters, Zagreus must bring down both two health bars to emerge victorious and progress to the surface. Theseus and Asterius, former enemies turned allies in the afterlife, are relentless and brutal, the perfect combination of slow, powerful melee attacks and quick, difficult-to-avoid ranged attacks. It is up to the player to determine how to tackle this fight. They can focus on damaging both foes equally, or try and whittle down one before focusing on the other. But no matter what strategy the player lands on, there are wrinkles to the fight that take it from “difficult, but manageable” to “how am I supposed to deal with that?” Mastering this fight and overcoming the challenge is a magnificent feeling.

Every boss starts using different tactics and attacks after a certain percentage of their health is gone. But the way that this is implemented with Theseus feels like a delicious betrayal of everything the player has come to know up to that point. By the time the average player reaches this boss battle, they have probably died and tried again dozens of times. They likely have tactics they feel comfortable using, and Olympian gods whose boons they prefer over others. So when Theseus calls on the aid of Olympus after losing about half of his health, it feels personal. However, the fickle nature of Zeus and the other Olympians is well-known, so Zagreus can only act shocked for so long. After all, if the Olympic gods are willing to lend their boons to the son of the god of the underworld, how much more willing must they be to grant their powers to the founder of Athens?

Even without the help of Olympus, Theseus is a maddening enemy. He turtles behind a shield and throws a spear with unbelievable range. Combined with the might of Asterius, players have their work cut out for them to eke out a victory. But repeated victories against the duo yield some of the most hilarious dialogue in the game, as Theseus is revealed for the egoistic poseur that he is, and Asterius comes to appreciate his own contribution to their dynamic. Even the most skilled Hades players balk at facing Theseus and Asterius at less than full power.

Charon

Charon

Bonus boss! Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx, is an optional boss with a fantastic reward upon emerging victorious. To trigger this fight, the player must have already beaten the game at least once. Upon visiting Charon’s shop, there is a small chance that an interactable bag of loot will appear behind the skeletal shopkeeper. If Zagreus tries to steal the bag, Charon will transport the both of them to a boss arena and the battle begins.

While not a particularly difficult fight in terms of attack patterns, choosing to face Charon is a risk. His attacks are incredibly powerful, and since players may choose to fight him early given the option, they may not have many powerful boons or upgrades available. But the risks are often worth it. Defeating Charon not only yields an enormous amount of cash that can be spent in later shops and Wells, but it also gives players a Loyalty Card that knocks a percentage off of all prices going forward.

Charon preys upon the greedy, but for the skilled, provides a worthy challenge and great rewards. He’s entirely optional, and choosing to fight him can end a run prematurely or massively improve a player’s prospects upon victory.

Hades Final Boss
It was inevitable that we’d fight this guy at some point

Hades

No matter how skilled the player is, or how quickly they make it through Tartarus, Asphodel, and Elysium, all roads in Hades lead to Hades himself. Zag’s dad is imposing, having taunted him at every turn, throwing every conceivable obstacle his way. But eventually, like Thanos deciding to handle the Avengers, Hades has to deal with Zagreus himself.

Taking place in a snowy field just outside the entrance to the Underworld, the fight against Hades is utterly brutal. By the time Zagreus confronts his father on any given playthrough, he has likely amassed a huge store of boons and other benefits, but even the most kitted-out player is in for a reality check against the god of the dead. Hades attacks with wide sweeps of his trident, and summons exceptionally powerful enemies with incredible frequency. Dodging his attacks becomes crucial, as the fight feels exceptionally long and exhausting.

With the right mix of aggression and damage avoidance, the player will whittle Hades down to a final sliver of health. The impending victory brings a rush of adrenaline, but that feeling quickly turns into a gut punch as Phase 2 begins. Hades is not about to be humiliated by his own flesh and blood, and so his health bar refills and the next part of the battle commences. Everything that was tough about the first phase is back and made more difficult, and players who want to win this fight and see the story progress will have to rely on every skill they have mastered up to that point. A truly punishing battle, victory against Hades feels incredibly rewarding. Players are treated to a beautiful view, and precious bits of dialogue with Zagreus’ real mother, Persephone. It is only by defeating Hades multiple times that the true ending of the game is revealed. Every time victory is achieved, it feels like a real accomplishment.

Victory

Every boss battle in Hades requires patience to learn and skill to master. Even with God Mode engaged, the fact that every boss employs multiple tactics and even additional phases can break a seasoned roguelike player. But with persistence, a little luck, and a lot of time, defeating Hades and reaching the surface is bound to happen eventually.

Cameron Daxon is a video game evangelist and enthusiastic reader. He lives in Los Angeles, California and once nearly collided with Shigeru Miyamoto during E3. His favorite game is Bloodborne, but only when he’s not revisiting Super Mario World. He’s also in the writer’s room for YouTube personality The Completionist and other places on the internet.

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