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Top 10 Most Memorable NES Minibosses

Revisit the controller-snappers of your youth!

Top 10 Most Memorable NES Minibosses

By Jeremy Azevedo
Everybody remembers the final bosses of all the classic NES game: Bowser, Red Falcon, Gannon, Mother Brain, Dr. Wiley. But what about the lesser bosses… the assistant managers of evil in the department store of adventure? What about them, huh?

In honor of the middle management monsters of gaming’s past, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most compelling minibosses of the NES era.


Former baddies at the law offices of Hippo, Birdo, Woodman and Sachs.

Birdo (Super Mario Bros. 2)


Quite possibly the most disturbing example of cosplay ever conceived.

Just what the hell is a “Birdo” anyway? A transgender reptile/bird/mammal thing that spits eggs out of it’s gaping snout as an act of aggression? Eggs that never hatch? What sort of creature would do something like that? How do they reproduce, by getting mustached plumbers to re-fertilize them by chucking the eggs back at them or something? Whatever the hell it is, Birdo shares the important distinctions of being both the first openly bi-curious video game character and the first miniboss to ever have a “nerdcore” metal song written about it:


Dodongo (The Legend of Zelda)


Wait, what? I don’t remember the old bearded dude saying that…

The Zelda series has always had great minibosses, but my personal favorite has always been the Dodongo. Sure, unicorn/dragon things and one-eyed crabs are all fine and good, but nothing beats the self-congratulatory feeling of shoving a live bomb up the hungry snout of a triceratops that “dislikes smoke”. Despite the fact that the Dodongo encourages kids to experiment with feeding explosives to living creatures, thus creating many future serial killers, it still ranks as one of the most memorable minibosses of the NES era.


Ridley/Kraid (Metroid)


In the future, pirates have eschewed eye patches, peg legs, and opposable thumbs.

I don’t know how an inside-out turkey vulture ever came to be the lieutenant in command of an army of space pirates, our how a fat ass dino-boy with a rockin’ green mullet and a spiky belly came to be second in command, but that’s where things stand in the Metroid universe, apparently. Oh well, Metroid was never known for it’s overwhelming sense of realism. Case in point: This is a game that features a female bounty hunter that doesn’t look like this:


A far cry from Samus Aran, to be sure.

Abobo (Double Dragon)


Abobo: head like a meatball, heart like… another meatball?

Abobo may just be the most unfortunate looking thug to ever appear in a fighting game to this day. With a head like a giant meatball, accented by a truly bitchen handlebar mustache, Abobo looks like a grotesquely muscled leather daddy in purple capris. His comical appearance won’t stop him from kicking the shit out of Billy and Jimmy Lee, so be sure to attack first and laugh later when confronted by Abobo.


The Giant Robot Wall Thing (Contra)


This is probably the only boss you will get to see without the Konami code.

Contra is notorious for making otherwise sensible little dudes swing their controller like a helicopter blade, smashing it to bits. Surviving hordes of enemy soldiers that can kill you with one hit can really raise your blood pressure to alarming heights. Luckily the most common boss in Contra was a wall. A wall that just sort of stood there, shooting just out of your range, giving you a moment to cool your thumbs. The best part about it: The red dude flying ass over teakettle off the roof when you bust a cap in his ass.

Koopalings (Super Mario Bros. 3)


This is why the Koopalings were never seen again after Super Mario World.

What could be better than Bowser as a boss in a Mario game? How about Bowser’s seven illegitimate children? Larry, Roy, Lemmy, Ludwig, Iggy, Wendy and Morton Koopa Jr. made their first appearance in Super Mario Bros. 3, offering no explanation as to how they came to exist in the first place. Perhaps the 7 mushroom retainers in the first Super Mario Bros. were actually midwives? That would explain why Bowser is so intent on kidnapping Princess Peach… she probably has some real child-bearin’ hips underneath that camisole.


Bubble Man/Wood Man (Mega Man 2)


Mega Man super happy fun time disco hour yeah!

Mega Man had so many wacko enemies that it’s hard to pick just one. After 8 traditional Mega Man games, there are not a lot of excuses that could be made for the fact that two of the absolute worst robots appeared in only the second game. What could be more useless than fighting people with leaves, like “Wood Man” (Which is kind of a funny name in and of itself)? The answer would be bubbles. That’s right, Bubble Man seriously tries to kill you with bubbles, which you in turn go on to try and murder other robot men with in later stages. Great job with that one, Capcom!

The Kelbeross (Ninja Gaiden)


It’s actually "Kerberos", but you know how the Japanese are with the letters R and L…

Ninja Gaiden, while not as difficult as Contra, was a bit of a controller smasher as well. To this day, the series is known for its high level of difficulty and totally awesome bosses. To me, the most memorable boss in the first (and second) game was not one of the several human assassins that you fight early on, but the nasty pair of dog-like monsters that guarded the gate to the final, supernatural-themed level. The Kelboross look like the aborted fetuses of an English Mastiff on HGH, only slightly more animated.


Vampire Bat (Castlevania)


The bat, notable for it’s overwhelming crappiness.

What a stupid ass enemy the Vampire Bat is. Basically this is a larger version of the suckiest enemy in Catlevania, the bat. Sometimes physically comprised of several of the aforementioned bats, this flying turd shows up to waste your time in every goddamn Catlevania game, which is funny because most of the other enemies are variations of Universal Monsters. We’ve got Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Werewolf… why no Creature From the Black Lagoon, Mole Man or Mr. Hyde? Even the Hunchback of Notre Dame or the goddamn Phantom of the Opera would have been better. Nope, instead we get a big ass piece of shit bat to whip into oblivion probably just because it was easier to draw.

King Hippo (Punch Out)


A fine art portrait of the glorious King Hippo.

King Hippo is the raddest miniboss ever. How cool is it to discover that this seemingly invincible fighter can be defeated by pantsing him and then wailing on him while he tries to pull his drawers back up? Protip: This works pretty well in real life too. Seriously, King Hippo was so memorable that he went on to appear in the popular Nintendo cartoon show/commercial “Captain N: The Game Master” as one of the chief idiot bad guys. On top of all this, the guy is a real good-time Charlie about the whole “getting his ass whipped by a cracker-ass midget” thing. I think it’s about time King Hippo’s corpulent yellow flesh and maniac laughter (classic quote: "Ha Ha Ha! I’m the king! Ha Ha Ha!") was updated for a modern era. I refuse to play another Smash Bros. game until he becomes a playable character.

Got any old school gaming stories to share? Feel free to add them here! Butthurt that there’s no Sega Master System games included? Too bad, I never owned a Sega!