With the advancement of technology so advanced now that every game looks as good as a Hollywood movie, it’s important that we savor the games of yesteryear. There’s nothing quite like a bit of retro gaming, especially if you’re a gamer over the age of 30 who remembers a time when a Super Nintendo, Sega MegaDrive or PlayStation 1 release was something to anticipate with no internet access and TV coverage to hype the release. Waiting for a Resident Evil, Zelda or Sonic game took a lot of patience back in the 90’s.
Something that was extremely exciting back in the 90’s was the end of level boss. We’d seen them in the 80’s with R-Type, Final Fight and the original Mario and Sonic games, but the 90’s really started to push the limits of what the technology could do. Remember the boss from Axelay appearing from the flames, or the Tyrant stalking you across the helicopter pad in the original Resident Evil? They were awesome (not to mention terrifying), and here we salute five of the very best of that era.
Bowser from Super Mario World (1992)
Bowser is a Princess-kidnapping dinosaur with attitude, and as an end of level boss – and final boss- he takes some beating. We’re used to battling him in beautiful 3D arenas in the likes of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, but the first time his appearance was truly awe-inspiring was when he turned up at the end of Super Mario World, and the Super Nintendo wowed us with Mode 7 graphics, allowing Bowser to come flying right at the screen, prompting the gamer to sit back and gasp. Sitting inside what can only be described as a clown-faced flying Koopa car, Bowser vs Mario back in 1992 was something to tell your friends about, and you needed a good 3-4 strategies to win the battle, whereas before all it took was running underneath him or tricking him. He became more and more of a pain in the backside from this point on, and that’s why we love him.
Goro from Mortal Kombat (1992)
Forget the awful 1995 film and the sequels, the Mortal Kombat games were cool and violent beat-em-ups that defined the decade and spawned so many rip-offs and spin-offs. The franchise is still going, albeit with not the same impact that it had in the 90’s, when parents were trying to get the games banned for being too bloody and violent. Say the words “Finish him” to any gamer over the age of 10 and they’ll greet you with a nod and a smile. Mortal Kombat is legendary.
One of the reasons for its notoriety is because of final boss Shang Tsung’s right-hand beast Goro, whom you have to defeat to get to fight for your freedom and complete the game. That would be great if he was human. But no, Goro is like something from the beast Greek mythology tales, or a Ray Harryhausen film from the 60’s. A huge, four-armed monster with frightening strength, Goro made you fight desperately rather than intelligently, and if he caught you, he stomped on you. Literally. Pure 90’s gaming gold.
Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 (1999)
The Resident Evil series splits so many people down the middle. Some love the retro beginnings to the series, where survival horror is the name of the game and it plays out like a game version of a George A. Romero zombie movie. Others prefer the later additions to the series, which became more about action, and less about suspense. That’s a debate for another day.
The first three releases of the game hit the PlayStation One between 1996-99, and they were absolutely terrifying. Anybody who says otherwise is lying or already dead. Check their pulse. The silence was as frightening as the zombies and mutations that stalk you throughout the three games, but that all changed with the arrival of Nemesis is the third game in the series. This new and improved version of the Tyrant from the original game had clearly watched a lot of horror movies as a kid, as he appears at points during the game – often without warning – and literally chases you around the game until you put him to ground using your array of weapons. Run out of ammo and clean underwear at your peril. Never has the option of “Fight with the Monster” or “Enter the Police Station” seemed such a stupid question to ask.
Mother Brain from Super Metroid (1994)
Super Metroid holds the distinction of being one of the coolest action-adventure-shoot em ups of all time, and also being one of the hardest. If you know anybody who has completed the game with ease, tip your hat to them or buy them a beer, because they deserve it. Never have so many lasers, bombs and bad guys come flying at a hero throughout a game as much as this one. Poor Samus Aran. Only Sigourney Weaver has had a tougher time in the world of science fiction as a female hero.
Mother Brain was a horrible end of level boss. A giant brain that devises evil schemes from inside a jar and commands an evil army of space pirates from inside of it, Mother Brain comes face to face with Samus at the end of the game and gives her hell, connecting itself to a giant robot-dinosaur suit and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Samus. IGN named it the 9th best villain of all time, stating that it would win an ugly contest every time. When she finally disintegrates at the end of the fight, gamers breathe a giant sigh of relief.
Trinexx from Zelda III: A Link to the Past (1991)
The game that raised the bar for every RPG that has followed since, the third Zelda game was absolutely mind-bogglingly huge when it arrived in 1991. Game worlds were never this vast, colourful and engaging, not to mention full of characters good and evil. It really set the standard for sandbox games. You literally felt like you could wander off and have an adventure, something that wasn’t possible before this little wonder came along.
There are a ridiculous number of great end of level (or dungeon) bosses in A Link to the Past. Too many to mention, really. But one that stays long in the memory is Trinexx, who awaits our hero at the end of dungeon 7 in the Turtle Rock area of the Dark World. He’s the last boss before you can enter the final dungeon and meets the final bad guys, and beating him reunites Link with Zelda, your… Actually, what is she? Your destiny? Childhood sweetheart?
Who cares? She’s a Princess and needs saving.
Trinexx really makes you work for your reunion with Zelda. A giant stone turtle with two additional protruding heads that use fire and ice as weapons respectively, Trinexx needs to be taken care of quickly or he becomes extremely hard to kill. The ice head soon makes the ground impossible to walk on, and that’s when the fire head takes care of you. By the using fire against ice and vice versa, the two heads are quickly destroyed… And that’s when Trinexx decides to come at you in the form of a giant snake, changing direction at will as he tries to mow you down. There is no sense of achievement quite like the moment that Trinexx explodes and Zelda comes down to thank you.
You’re welcome, Princess.