As a latecomer to the Soulsborne series, here are the three most difficult experiences I had playing these amazing titles.
Alright, I've recently been replaying through Sekiro. I did a 100% playthrough that involved defeating all the bosses, including the optional ones. So I thought I'd give my ranking on all the bosses in order from the easiest to the hardest.
Just for clarification, the bosses need to drop a memory that you can use to enhance your attack power. So there are no minibosses here! I'll use a tier list to break up all the bosses and then give brief descriptions of my experience with the boss fight.
Okay, let's get into it!
#14 - Folding Screen Monkeys
It's hard to even consider this encounter a boss fight. The Folding Screen Monkeys is hands down the easiest encounter you'll have throughout the entirety of this game. The only time this fight could be considered even remotely challenging in any sense is when you first attempt it. This is only because you haven't worked out the pattern. Once you do, this joke will be over in a heartbeat.
#13 - Divine Dragon
For me, this was one of the most disappointing boss battles. Throughout the majority of the game, you know that the Divine Dragon is the catalyst for all the major events. It is the reason (supposedly, I'm no lore expert) that Kuro has the Dragon's Heritage. So the prospect of facing it was exciting. Unfortunately, this battle was just a gimmick. It felt more or less like an interactive cutscene when you compare it to the usual Souls style boss battles. It's definitely worthy of being labeled as the second easiest boss.
#12 - Lady Butterfly
I don't know if I'm in the minority when it comes to this one. I've heard horror stories of people really struggling with this boss. I found Lady Butterfly to be a bit of a pushover if you apply a little bit of aggression with her and you slap her out of her aerial BS with a shuriken. Once you apply those two very simple strategies, she falls faster than a bag of potatoes.
#11 - Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa
This is the first real boss the game offers, and it isn't a very challenging fight. Once Gyoubu storms in and starts swinging his wonder rod all over the place, just sprinkle a few firecrackers and get to work. This boss did offer some sort of initial challenge when I first started as it can be hard to read how much reach he has with his power pole. His sweep attacks, at first, can be difficult to avoid, especially if you're just getting the hang of the game. Once you've died to him a couple of times, you'll beat his ass into tomorrow.
#10 - Corrupted Monk
I think Corrupted Monk would have placed higher on the list had his encounter come earlier in the game. At the time of fighting him, you should have had plenty of practice with precise deflects and jumping sweep attacks. That's really all this encounter has to offer.
#9 - Headless Ape
After defeating The Guardian Ape, this rematch feels fairly recycled. Sure, FromSoft tried to mix it up by throwing a second giant ape into the mix, but it sounds and looks more intimidating than it actually is. Depending on when you face this boss, your attack power will likely be more than sufficient when taking care of the inept sidekick monkey. As for the Headless Ape, its combo attacks open it up for the ol' spear thrust attack more often than in the original fight. This makes it extremely easy to build up posture damage quickly. If you do not pace yourself, however, you can be easily overwhelmed.
#8 - True Corrupted Monk
In my very first playthrough of the game, I remember struggling a lot with this one. However, when I picked up the game over a year later and came across it again, I didn't die once to it. If one struggles with deflects, then this can be a pretty difficult fight as it's the first boss that requires three deathblows. However, once you realise its moveset is nearly identical to its apparition counterpart, then you can make pretty quick work of its first phase. Rope up to the tree once it disappears. This will allow you to get an aerial deathblow, making the second phase virtually non-existent. The third phase is when the centipede comes into play. It looks more frightening than it actually is. If you use a butt-tonne of fire and avoid the poison, you'll get through it pretty easily.
#7 - Great Shinobi Owl
Owl can be a pretty difficult fight before you start to read his moves. It's quite intuitive the way FromSoft designed his battle. Fundamentally, his design is anti-shinobi. He'll stop you from healing, it can seem like he anticipates where you're going to move, and on top of that, he has access to various shinobi tools. It took me a few attempts to learn his pattern and retaliate appropriately. Although I didn't spend days on this fight, Owl is definitely no pushover.
#6 - Guardian Ape
This can be one of the most challenging experiences in the game when you first come across it. His health pool feels quite large and his attacks are unpredictable, ranging from sloth-like and easy to dodge to lightning quick strikes and retreats. The Guardian Ape has two grab attacks that absolutely kill if they land. On top of all this, if you try and create too much distance, he's going throw crap at you. Literal crap. When you finally beat him, it feels like you've evolved into a true shinobi, only to have that feeling violently ripped away when it comes back from the dead cradling its severed head. It's definitely one of the coolest boss battles I've seen in a Souls game. The reaction I had when it came back to life is an experience that I won't forget.
#5 - Emma the Gentle Blade/Isshin Ashina
These two cheats are grouped together since their fights happen consecutively. Emma initially felt pretty difficult to deal with, but when you start booping her with Ichimonji Double, then her posture fills up pretty quickly. What makes this fight extremely difficult is Isshin. His moves are lightning quick and he has a plethora of Ashina combat arts that bonk hard if they land. When you finally get him to the second phase, he just lights everything on fire and starts swinging his hellblade around as he tries to cook your shinobi ass. I died several times to Isshin.
#4 - Genichiro Ashina
Dude, Genechiro. This is the first real skill check for the player. Because of this, he makes number four on this list. Genichiro is no joke and you cannot relax for a second in this fight. Once you have played him enough, he isn't all that difficult, but the journey getting there is a long one. His bow will make quick work of you if you allow it to land, and his attacks will rapidly fill your posture metre. I won't spend too long here as I have another article where I detail my woes facing this menace.
#3 - Demon of Hatred
There is no easy tactic when it comes to this fiend. It's git gud or move on. This burnt orangutan jumps into the air, calls down fireballs, zips around the arena and will try to headbutt you if you get too close. There are certain things you can do to make it slightly easier, but there are no easy wins when it comes to the Demon of Hatred. After an uncomfortably high amount of deaths, I finally had enough knowledge of his moveset to really beat him. Malcontent is invaluable here.
#2 - Genichiro/Isshin the Sword Saint
Genichiro is pretty easy here, especially after battling him earlier on. Isshin is an asshole. He is hands down the cheapest and scummiest asshole this game has to offer. His attacks are quicker than his counterpart from the Shura ending. When you finally learn how to deal with his moveset and take one of his lives away, he then pulls out a freakin' gun. Isshin literally brought a gun to a sword fight. On top of that, he somehow found a spear on his travels and starts swinging that around to. Now if all this sounds like it's too much, wait until you get to the third phase. He goes all Thor, God of Thunder and starts to shoot lightning out of his butthole. This, however, is actually a blessing in disguise as it's not entirely difficult to redirect and get a few cheap pokes at him when he's stunned. Yes, I died many times to the Sword Saint.
#1 - Owl (Father)
I cannot begin to describe how woeful my experience with Owl was. I initially thought he was going to be more or less of a carbon copy of his earlier counterpart, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Now in truth, it probably took me longer to defeat Genichiro than Owl, but that's because the former is placed quite early on when one is still getting the finer techniques down. Owl (Father) is an endgame optional boss that you can face by revisiting Hirata Estate after receiving a certain bell in the game. It's a given that you can face him very much prepared with the ninth prayer necklace, high attack power, hours upon hours of deflect experience, mikiri counters, sweep jumps and he can still just absolutely stomp you. He has an absolutely absurd amount of counter attacks if you go aggressive on him, so I found the easiest way to dispatch him was to let him be the aggressor. He has a fairly limited number of offensive moves, so you can learn how to chip away at him during those moves. His second phase was not that much more difficult than his first. The Owl is pretty easy to avoid when it goes full phoenix on your ass trying to incinerate you. Owl (Father) will absolutely clap if you give him any room whatsoever.
And that's it! I may make another list for minibosses because some of them were harder than a good chunk of these bosses. But tell me if you agree, I would love to hear from you.