The first time you pick up Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, you’ll probably think of it as a badass ninja game. Or perhaps you have heard of it as 2019’s Game of the Year and the best action-adventure game. But its greatest asset, in my opinion, is the challenge gamers hardly expect from it. Only a few minutes into the game, you feel like you’re in over your head. However, that highly devastating number of trials and errors before finally grasping the combat system makes Sekiro’s journey truly memorable, along with the fantastic art design, compelling music score, thrilling atmosphere, and level design that keep encouraging you to keep going.
When the mechanics finally click, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice orchestrates a never-ending stream of exhilarating fights. All it takes is one mistake to die, which makes it all the more exciting to push through. And the cherry on top is the enemy, whose design and moves are unique, fun, and challenging to beat. But as much as enemies pose challenging, heart-racing battles, they barely come close to the next level duel you encounter with the bosses. These duels are so challenging that they can take hours to complete. Most of those hours, you’ll likely spend gushing out streams of blood and meeting a fateful, bitter end. But the minute you take down a boss, it’s like a heavenly way to end the pain and suffering.
With 12 total main bosses, each brutally magnificent in their unique ways, we finally came up with our definitive list of all bosses in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, ranked by difficulty.
12. Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa
Regardless of how spectacular the bosses in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are, one of them had to come last. Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa is one of the bosses you first encounter as a newbie, which can pose a challenge since you’re still getting used to the mechanics. However, you should find him pretty easy to beat once you jump onto a second or more playthrough.
Still, he deserves props for teaching you the ropes, specifically how to time parries and use grappling hooks on bosses. He’s also susceptible to firecrackers, which is a great way to learn the specific prosthetics that can be used to attack the weak spots of future bosses.
11. Folding Screen Monkeys
At first, the Folding Screen Monkeys in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are painful head-scratchers to beat. It’s like a mental gymnastics puzzle, trying to figure out the best way to take down all four elusive monkeys. And you can’t exactly solve the puzzle by staying in one place for too long because they’ll have no issue making your life difficult. And so, it quickly turns into a rat chase, with the rat hopping from one place to the next in terror.
But, as it turns out, taking down all four monkeys is a pretty neat concept that an NPC probably already told you; you just forgot or paid no mind. Each one has a weak spot that ties to their abilities. Stealth is the best way to avoid spooking them. And once you catch them, all it takes is one or two hits to put them out of their misery.
10. Divine Dragon
Perhaps it’s the too-high expectations gamers had for Divine Dragon. Overall, the fight was a little disappointing. On the bright side, though, Divine Dragon probably has the most gorgeous spectacle; it would have ranked higher were this a list of the best visual designs.
Maybe the developers focused too much on the beauty and completely forgot about the difficulty aspect of it. Because all it takes is a couple of slow swings and shooting lightning while grappling a tree, and you’d have sent the Divine Dragon back to where it came from.
9. Genichiro Ashina
Genichiro Ashina’s first encounter isn’t as hectic as the second phase precisely because he gets a boost of lightning designed to send out shock waves that destroy anything in their path. It’s also one of the most exhilarating battles because, more often than not, you have no choice but to battle your fears and stick to close quarters, lightning bolts be damned.
Genichiro Ashina is among the most popular boss fights, causing the biggest social stir. That’s because most gamers lose count of how many times they die. In the end, though, all your effort pays off because the boss fight teaches you Sekiro’s deflecting playstyle. And once that clicks, you should have no problem sending him to his grave.
8. Corrupted Monk (and True Monk)
A corrupted and True Monk are, more or less, one and the same person. One wide slash from her, and your health bar (and posture) will pay the price. You’ll likely spend forever beating the Corrupted Monk. However, she has a wide variety of attacks that make her vulnerable. Plus, she, too, is susceptible to firecrackers.
By the time you cross the bridge and get to the True Monk, you’ll have an easier time beating her. Because, in actuality, the Corrupted Monk trains you up for the second phase, plus additional stats to boost.
7. Lady Butterfly
Next up, we have Lady Butterfly, a long and painful score but worth it in the long run. She’s pretty fast, making it difficult to deflect her attacks. She has devastating combos, and as if that weren’t enough, she has magic effects too. Consequently, you’ll be running around the arena like a deranged animal.
Perhaps it’s her aging appearance that makes you underestimate her. Or she’s simply too good. Rest assured, a fast kill won’t work here, and you’ll have no choice but to patiently study her moves and only strike when it’s most optimal.
6. Guardian Ape
Going neck to neck with the Guardian Ape is like willfully signing up for futility. See, most fights eventually end because you have studied your enemy’s moves long enough to develop the perfect counterstrategy. But Guardian Ape’s moves are somewhat all over the place. Add to that his tenacious, aggressive attacks and breakneck speed.
You may retreat to a distance you presume is safe, only for him to grab you and slam you down like a toy. If deflecting worked for the other bosses, it’s pointless here because how can you evade a giant ape’s angry fist tantrums, punches, and belly flops? At least in the second phase, he uses a sword, so you can at least try to deflect them. It is still a nightmarish battle, though.
5. Headless Ape (and His Bride)
Remember prosthetics and weak spots? Well, the Headless Ape is another beast, and you can save yourself some precious time by using three to four firecrackers. But that’s only if you manage to crack the case. Otherwise, the Headless Ape duo can be excruciating to take down.
Around 10-15 hits should get the job done. At the same time, the Headless Ape’s bride will likely need a little maneuvering since she’s always behind the headless one. Without the firecrackers, though, the duo can be tricky to manage.
4. Great Shinobi Owl
There’s an emotional backstory between the Great Shinobi Owl and the main character, Sekiro, or Wolf. The Owl is Sekiro’s foster father and mentor. He found Sekiro looting on a battlefield, took him under his wing, and taught him everything he knew to protect his Lord. As you can imagine, fighting the Owl isn’t easy. He uses a bunch of ranged weapons to chip away at your health. And takes a step further to prevent you from using recovery items to heal.
Additionally, the Owl can occasionally disappear in a cloud of smoke mid-fight. Plus, he can use his bag of tricks to tip the scales in his favor. Despite the Owl’s numerous perks, he’s not unbeatable. It may take a while, but you’ll soon learn his patterns, precisely the rare points when he leaves himself open to attack.
3. (Emma and) Isshin Ashina
Soon after defeating Emma, you’re sent straight into yet another challenging boss battle with Isshin Ashina. Fortunately, his attacks are quite similar to Emma’s, so you’ll have a reference point to pick from. Isshin Ashina can lunge forward at a moment’s notice, taking away your chances to recover. He can also change combos midway, thus forcing you to pay close attention throughout the fight.
Like Emma, Isshin Ashina has three unlockables that cause massive damage, leaving you no choice but to go aggressive. Then, just when it feels like you’re close to crossing the finish line, Isshin Ashina releases his inner god of fire, lynching everything in its path. If you happen to die, you’ll have to redo Emma’s fight, then try to take Isshin down again. It’s an intense battle that, when it’s over, actually leaves you heaving a sigh of relief.
2. Demon of Hatred
But Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn’t done with you yet. Going up against the Demon of Hatred is one of the game’s true tests of patience and sanity. Constantly dying is normal here. I’d be surprised if you didn’t die at least five times. It’s also an example of a fire discharger that is extremely hard to evade.
If you've played Bloodborne or other FromSoftware titles, Demon of Hatred might be easier on you. This monstrous demon can take its toll on you thanks to delayed, violent stomps and AOE attacks. But, in solidarity with other similarly devastated gamers, make sure to hold on and rinse and repeat the good old block attack strategy. Who knows? You may get lucky and survive long enough to avoid its circle of fire.
1. Isshin, the Sword Saint
Oh, it gets worse (or better?) It’s unanimous on the socials that Isshin, the Sword Saint, is the bane of most players’ existence, but in a good way. And to top that off, every other aspect of the fight still offers a top-notch experience, from the beautiful setting to the exceptional music score. In the first phase, it feels like going up against a master samurai. Forget predictable timing. Isshin, the Sword Saint, changes up his game so constantly that it’s hard to keep track of his attacks. That, and a steady stream of varied combos that can easily throw you off your game.
Additionally, you’ll find that most bosses streamline their attacks to teach you a specific skill, whether timing deflections perfectly or identifying weak spots. But Isshin, the Sword Saint, throws everything at you, which makes sense, given that it comes toward the end of the game. He’s way faster and has a wide variety of weapons, including a semi-automatic gun he can wield simultaneously with his sword. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice obviously wanted to go out with a bang, and it does so perfectly with one of the longest and most difficult bosses the game has to offer.