Warning: Spoilers Ahead! This post will contain descriptions of Cuphead boss fights, including some of the final bosses.
Cuphead has become a game known for its difficulty and variety of boss opponents. Both of these ingredients make it a perfect candidate to discuss which bosses gave me the most trouble in my recent playthrough of the game on PC.
Interestingly, as I’ve looked at other players’ lists regarding the same, I’ve come to see that the lists can vary greatly from player to player. I think this highlights how Cuphead manages to attack the player from multiple angles, disrupting a plethora of player preferences.
For instance, you won’t find Dr. Kahl’s Robot or Beppi the Clown on my list. Both are commonly cited on similar lists as hair-pulling walls that suck up a lot of time. However, I got through both of those bosses without too much effort, although the Robot does take some extreme concentration to get through the bullet-hell end phase.
What you will find is the five bosses I personally had the most trouble with. I’ve ordered the bosses from throw-an-insult-or-two to throw-your-controller levels of frustration. In addition, I’d like to saw that this list is properly categorized into three tiers: the lowest tier would be numbers 4 and 5, tier 2 would be number 3, and tier 1 would be numbers 1 and 2. I’d also say there is a huge degree of jump between tiers 1 and 2, as the last two entries of this list really made my life difficult (and I hate both of the respective bosses for it).
With all of that out of the way, here are my top 5 most difficult bosses in my playthrough of Cuphead.
5. Rumor Honeybottoms
Rumor Honeybottoms reminds me of the vertical Donkey Kong Country levels in DKC2. The biggest parallel is also what makes both respective stages difficult – the upwards platforming.
Rumor Honeybottoms begins with a police-bee throwing out projectile bombs as you navigate the platforms going from the top of the screen to the bottom. Next, you can get several variations of attacks that involve the bee taking up one side of the screen while firing off some homing projectiles. This includes homing missiles that snake up the screen and also balls of energy that slowly follow you as you navigate the platforming peril. In the final form, Honeybottoms transforms into a large airplane, taking up the bottom of the stage and spewing homing missiles upward towards the player, while also using a huge saw to swipe the entire side of the stage.
While Rumor Honeybottoms was not a ridiculously difficult boss to defeat, its forms are made all the more difficult by the platforming RNG the player must account for in dodging the plethora of homing objects used. This is a slight foreshadow to later entries on this list, but the RNG platforming really ramps up the difficulty, as you cannot “learn” the pattern of the platforms that you would in a traditional platformer, or even as you use trial and error for the boss itself. You are a bit at the mercy of what you are given.
In addition, the homing projectiles are often difficult to deal with. Nearly everything shot at you will have some magnetic effect. The large energy balls in particular are very troublesome if you are not adept in parrying off the tops. When the two balls corner a player into the top or bottom of the stage, you can easily lose one or two HP, all the while not doing any damage to the boss.
With the platforming and homing projectiles requiring some technical play, the third form includes both of these elements, but also throws in the huge, hard to avoid saw swipe attack. This leaves the player with low HP in a really tough spot. Furthermore, the third stage is also a difficult place to really get maximum value out of a super attack, making damage hard to come by, and drawing out the fight to require all the more dodging.
4. Djimmi the Great
My only plane level to make the top 5, Djimmi makes life hard with the variety of attacks he can dish out, as well as testing your shrink-plane dodging skills.
Early in the fight, Djimmi deploys a random set of attacks out of a treasure chest. This includes gold/treasure spewing all over the place, cat statutes spinning around, or even swords that criss-cross along the screen. He then departs, leaving you to navigate a side scroller where you break part of a pillar to fit through tiny gaps. He then reappears in a sarcophagus, shooting out fast moons that bounce up and down, along with a steady stream of ghosts. He retreats and reappears as a marionette with a gun, along with his turban shooting out projecticles all over the screen. Finally, he appears as a giant head with several pyramids spinning the middle of the screen, requiring proper placement to avoid getting hit.
I think the key upper of difficulty is that the Djimmi is a tough target to get shots on. While his final form is difficult to miss, you often find yourself wanting to switch weapons to bombs to get through the phases quicker, but that makes dodging all the more difficult. His sarcophagus stage has a small target in particular.
His random attacks also make the game very shmup-like. Especially his first phase, where the attacks come from a lot of directions and can be different from run to run. Navigating the pillars isn’t so tough, but dealing with the marionette’s bullets, along with the turban, make the fourth phase a daunting dodging task (again, made more difficult if you are trying to get in damage consistently).
While I would say that Djimmi and Rumor were difficult, they were not at the same tier of difficulty as the next bosses on this list.
3. The Devil
The Devil, as the final boss, is certainly intimidating, but I felt pretty good having beaten every other boss so far in the game. But, as the final boss, The Devil is certainly a challenge and presents some very difficult phases to navigate.
Phase one has The Devil summoning fireballs, bouncing bubbles, and flames, all of which fly across the screen at your position. This happens while little devils run across the stage back and forth. Occasionally The Devil will attack with both arms at the same time from either side of the screen, which require a jump and a dash to properly avoid. A spider head attack is probably the easiest to avoid as it drops down for a few seconds, and the snake attack has The Devil back you completely into one corner. You just hope there isn’t a little devil spawning there at that moment. The second, third, and fourth stages all involve jumping from platform to platform, avoiding falling flaming poker chips, dodging projectiles, and avoiding bombs that take up big portions of the platforms.
I had the most trouble in phase one, and was getting discouraged until I got a deep run that renewed my confidence. Because I was having trouble with the first stage, I didn’t get to build any practice into the second and third stages.
The most annoying phase one attack was definitely the flames. These attack in a circular motion, taking up the screen from top to bottom, but combine with the little devils running around, along with The Devil’s follow up attack, to really make it difficult to not take at least one point of damage. The other attacks are fairly predictable once you learn them, but require a lot of precision to get through without any damage. And I needed to get through phase one clean in order to increase my margin of error in the later phases.
The later form’s falling poker chips were secretly stealing a lot of my better runs. They fall from above, and only barely hesitate, making it difficult to actually jump to the next platform because the gap closes very quickly.
The third form is probably the toughest of the post-phase one forms, as there is A LOT going on with projectiles, multiple enemies, and platforming. Notably, I discovered that using the super at the beginning of this stage was the optimal deployment, as it ended the phase quicker while also clearing out a lot of the flying enemies at the same time.
I worried about The Devil early in the game, especially after some of the more difficult bosses. I thought the final boss would be the worst of the bunch, but luckily The Devil is a tough but fair fight that left me feeling satisfied that I had overcome this monster of a game.
2. King Dice
The penultimate boss, King Dice did not take me as long as the number one on this list, but it was probably the most satisfying knockout. King Dice is actually a boss rush stage, where you fight mini-bosses in between jumping onto a die to move along a roulette board that determines which boss you will face. In this way you can slightly control which bosses you will fight, but it’s also slightly tricky to get the right dice rolls in between the mini bosses. Oh, and then you have to fight King Dice at the end.
Endurance and focus are the absolute key ingredients to surviving this daunting boss rush. As mentioned, timing the dice rolls in between the bosses is critical to setting up the entire run, but you have to be precise in getting the correct combinations to not fight the tougher bosses or hit the dreaded “Start Over” space. Fighting three minibosses then King Dice requires stamina, as letting down your focus for one second could mean two HP lost, when you realistically need 3 or more HP to fight the King (at least I did).
Trial and error is required to find the bosses you are most comfortable with. I eventually settled on the Poker Chips, the Domino, and the 8-Ball. I know the Poker Chips and 8-Ball are some of the easier choices, and the Domino just ended up fitting my loadout. I originally started with the Cigar, Horse Race, and Claw Machine, but after so many attempts I ran low on patience with the Monkey in the Claw Machine (that mini-boss is probably the longest one to defeat).
So not only do you need to figure out the tactical trial and error of each boss, you need to figure out the optimal meta-choice of which bosses to fight. I really, really hated the magician Rabbit, and would say that he could even make this list by himself. I just couldn’t dodge some of his attacks.
King Dice himself is not actually all that difficult, but again, staying focused once you finally get to him can be hard. In addition, if you pick the wrong side and don’t get behind his hand as the cards come dancing out, the parry sequence to pass through the cards is very, very difficult. I don’t think I ever successfully navigated getting through the cards, and thus needed some spare HP to finally finish him off.
1. Grim Matchstick
Oh boy, I really, really despise this dragon. I played a couple of runs right at the end of a play session where I had cleared a couple other stages just to learn some of the phases for next time. Felt that it was a little different with the platforming, but that it didn’t seem out of the ordinary in difficulty. I was so, so wrong.
This boss took me an enormous amount of time. I want to say it took me about two hours (maybe a little more) before I actually got a knockout. It was a little depressing to see that the entire stage took about 2 minutes to beat on the run I did so.
The dragon begins on the right side of the stage with the platforms moving away from him. He spits out fireballs and soundwaves that are mostly avoidable. The next phase sees a line of fireballs marching along the bottom of the screen, occasionally flying upwards towards the player. The last stage is a three headed dragon, equipped with flamethrower, spitting splitting fireballs toward the player.
I think the main difficulty spike stems from the platforming element. It’s not difficult in a Super Meat Boy sense, where you need to be creative and make small gaps or windows. It’s the fact that the platforms are RNG dependent and you cannot learn the pattern at which they will appear. Further, on the second and third phases, you are actually working backwards, jumping toward the left side of the screen.
I generally didn’t have too much trouble learning phase one, but learning the different fireball jumps in phase two was a tad tricky. Mostly, the fireballs jump toward the current location of the player. However, occasionally, they will jump where the player would jump if they were avoiding the normal jumping behavior. This slight deviation could not be predicted but required hedging when navigating the platforming, which again, was different every time.
The third phase was definitely the hardest, as again you are working backwards against the moving cloud platforms. The fireball movements are tricky, and when they explode the little fireballs are difficult to track while platforming (seeing the trend here?). Not to mention that the gigantic flamethrower attack takes up a significant portion of the screen, and you can be stuck above it without a platform to jump toward. All of this while trying to fit in some actual attacks against the boss, backwards. Tough stuff.
So there you have it – the hardest bosses (for me) in Cuphead. Given the great variety of bosses and playstyles, which were toughest for you? Which ones do you agree with? Did you want to give up during Grim Matchstick? Comment below!