This is a guide dedicated solely to ranking all of the bosses in Hollow Knight. It is not a walkthrough or a strategy handbook, it is simply meant to rank how good or bad each individual boss is.
Today, I will rank each boss in Hollow Knight. On a scale from F to S, I will give a score for each boss as well as a description. This is strictly my opinion on the matter, and I will be judging each boss by its appearance, contextual placement, and the fight itself. Now, let us begin.
The Gruz Mother is one of the first bosses you encounter in the game, found in the Forgotten Crossroads. As such, it is a very simple fight. She does not take a lot to kill, and her only attack is flailing herself violently about the arena. Design wise, Gruz Mother is simple, and her only function in the main game is to service a roadblock. Being a larger version of an already pathetic enemy, Gruz Mother can’t help but be stuck in the tutorial zone.
Vengefly King is found in the upper reaches of Greenpath, holding captive the lovely and powerful Zote the Mighty. This fight is simple, the only attacks it has being a sweep and the ability to summon smaller vengeflies. Like Gruz Mother, the Vengefly King is merely a roadblock, but admittedly it is a cool looking roadblock. In Godhome, however, you fight two of them, and that makes the fight a bit more interesting, though not enough to warrant anything higher than a C.
While being horrendously ugly and an absolute pain in the ass early on the in game, Brooding Mawlek isn’t actually that bad of a fight. Found in the Forgotten Crossroads, this fight is hidden away behind a breakable door and way too many spikes. It’s just engaging enough to keep some sort of momentum going, and it has a wide enough range of attacks to keep you guessing. While not the most intricate fight, the Brooding Mawlek serves as a decent fight that warrants you a Mask Shard.
The False Knight is probably the first boss you’ll encounter in HK, being found in the center of the Forgotten Crossroads. This being said, False Knight is one of the easiest fights in the entire game. It’s quick and it has maybe two different attacks. I give him a B+, however, because it has an interesting design and a nice backstory. The False Knight is actually just a maggot who hid itself inside the armor of Hegemol, one of Hallownest’s Five Great Knights. As such, you brutally murder it and take the City Crest to access the City of Tears. However, False Knight doesn’t stop there…
That’s right, the False Knight has another form. In Hollow Knight, certain bosses you kill end up having Dream Variants, which are found by returning to the original arena and using the Dream Nail on their bodies to access another world where you fight a harder, faster version of the original. False Knight’s variant is the Failed Champion, which is nothing more than the same boss with faster attacks, more health, and the ability to deal two mask damage per hit. While not the most inspired, the Failed Champion is engaging and one hell of a ride the first time you encounter him.
Hornet is a recurring boss who appears twice: once in Greenpath, by the Mothwing Cloak, and again in Kingdom’s Edge, by the King’s Brand. Her first fight is startling, because she is one of the fastest things encountered at that point in the game. She jumps around, shooting that damn nail everywhere, screaming about a guy named “Shaw” or something. Her second encounter is the same idea, just quicker and with the added effect of occasional spike traps conjured up by Hornet. As a boss fight, Hornet is fun and erratic enough to keep the player guessing. As a character, she’s dynamic and mysterious, like most things in the world of Hallownest. As such, Hornet earns an A, maybe even an S if she finally gave us Silksong where is it Hornet YOU BASTARD WHERE IS THE GAME
Okay here’s the first boss I really don’t care for. It’s a bigger version of an already annoying enemy variant found in Greenpath, and there isn’t much to say about it. It’s super easy to cheese (just keep hitting it back until it dies when it charges you) and only has two attacks. Boring, uninspiring, and generally just a nuisance.
I hate this thing. Flukemarm is a giant, writhing mass of flesh hidden within the Royal Waterways, the second worst area in Hollow Knight. It gurgles and spits like a dying dog as soon as you enter the arena, farting out a bunch of annoying, dogass flying enemies that harass you like homing missiles. Unless you’re properly prepared (i.e. you have good nail damage) this fight is a real bastard. Otherwise, it’s just disgusting. I hate this creature and I wish it didn’t exist. I also wish the people who call this thing a milf stopped existing, too.
Sisters of Battle Ranking: A
I include these two in the same section because of how similar they are. The Mantis Lords are three enemies found at the bottom of the Fungal Wastes in the Mantis Village, guarding the pass into Deepnest (A.K.A. the area of Hollow Knight that doesn’t need to exist). First off, there aren’t many HK bosses as cool as this one. You walk up to these guys, whip out your sword, and engage them in a deathmatch style cage battle. The first phase is just one of the Lords, while the second is the remaining two. It’s intense, it keeps you on your toes, and it’s badass. I love these guys. The Sisters of Battle are a variant of the M. Lords encountered in the final Pantheon of Godhome, the only difference being that the second phase involves all three Lords instead of just two, and wow that gets way more chaotic than you’d think. Either way, the M. Lords are a cool, engaging boss fight that deserve a solid A ranking.
These assbags are just annoying. Found at the end of the Trial of the Conqueror in the Colosseum of Fools at the peak of Kingdom’s Edge, these overgrown bastards spit acid at you in random directions, likely hitting you in the face. Given that there are two, the random spread of acid is made even more omnipresent. They floating around like pinballs, waiting to get killed, and upon one dying the other flies into a rage and speeds up, shooting acid more frequently and at higher speeds. While not the hardest, like many bosses before it these guys are just larger versions of a smaller enemy that are just plain annoying to deal with.
Hive Knight is a side boss found in The Hive, a hidden area inside Kingdom’s Edge. The Hive Knight, while not very difficult, is a fun little miniboss with a fun and cute design. Being a loyal protector to his deceased Queen Vespa, he fights like mad to defend the last vestiges of his home. And, when you defeat him and plunder what lay beyond, upon your return you find the spirit of his Queen beside him, thanking you for releasing him from his duty. What a great boss fight.
I actually really like this fight. Not because it’s super hard or intense, because it’s not. Both Broken Vessel and it’s Dream variant are quite easy, having only a few attacks but being engaging enough to keep the player interested. Rather, I like it because of the lore behind it. Found in the lowest parts of the Ancient Basin, guarding the Monarch Wings, the Broken Vessel was formerly a creature just like the Knight (i.e. a Vessel), but was killed and taken over by The Infection. As such, when you enter the arena, you watch its deceased body get taken over by a bunch of little infection forms. No matter what you do, no matter how many you kill, the corpse of your former brother rises to fight you. And after the fight is over, and it falls to the floor again, it reaches out in one final, vain attempt to beg for mercy. What a tragic fight this is.
The interesting thing about Nosk is that no one really knows what the f**k it is. Found behind a breakable wall somewhere in Deepnest, Nosk is a creepy, malformed creature that lures its prey by assuming a false form. In this case, its you: the Knight. For Nosk, I feel that describing the actual fight to you isn’t really important. Rather, let me describe how you end up even getting there: imagine yourself walking down a dark, silent corridor. Then, in the distance, you see yourself. But when you approach, it flees deeper into the darkness. You follow, wondering what it is you saw. Without knowing it, you are led down into this unknown abyss, following yourself for reasons you can’t understand. As you follow it, you hear a sound behind you: something’s slammed down. It’s a door. You’re locked in. You keep moving forward, more doors closing behind you as you go. And then, as you enter a large room, filled with the deceased corpses of Vessels and bugs alike, the final door closes. And as the music comes in, terrifying and primal, you see yourself across the room. But it begins to change. It twists and snaps, turning into this massive, multi-legged organism whose origins are too terrible to be named. Then, the fight for your life begins, deep inside an old, dark tunnel where your dead body will never be found again.
It’s an S from me.
Some sick bastard at Team Cherry thought that giving Nosk wings, one of the most disturbed and horrifying creatures in all of HK, was a good idea. Safe to say, it’s wretched. The fight itself functions like a crossover between Vengefly King and Nosk, which is a weird combo. I don’t really know how to feel about the fight itself, which is found only in the final Pantheon in Godhome (and now Nosh is impersonating Hornet), but because it’s Nosk and it has wings, I like it by default.
The Collector is a hidden boss locked in the Tower of Love on the eastern side of the City of Tears. The Collector is a disturbed, freakish amalgamation of Void that collects and fondles a variety of creatures all of Hallownest. The Collector, in fact, is the thing that imprisoned all of the Grubs around the map. The fight is creepy, introduced very well, but is not the most difficult fight out there. In fact, it’s super easy. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it does make it less memorable. However, due to the Collector’s excellent build up and appearance, it earns its ranking.
There was a time where I thought the God Tamer was the hardest thing ever. To be fair, it isn’t easy. All the God Tamer is is just a rehashed Watcher Knight with more mobility and attacks with the added feature of a useless sidekick. But I’ve fought it enough times now that it doesn’t bother me much anymore. However, this thing is annoying. Found at the end of the Trial of the Fool, one of HK’s hardest challenges, it serves a mediocre boss to a more impressive gauntlet, and for that it earns a C.
The Crystal Guardian a side boss found in Crystal Peak, guarding a bench. It’s quick, simplistic fight that involves a lot of jumping over and in between lasers. The second version, the Enraged Guardian, is found just above the original arena and is the same fight, just quicker and more lethal (two mask damage, like the Failed Champion). While not the most complex fight, the Crystal Guardian and its alternate form are fun, and I enjoy them.
Uumuu, or properly Uuwuu, is a large jellyfish creature found in the Teacher’s Archives in Fog Canyon, serving as the guardian to Monomon, one of the three Dreamers. The difficult thing about Uumuu is that unlike literally every other boss in the game, this one is a waiting game. Quirrel, a recurring character in the game, helps you defeat the boss by exposing its soft, inner core which is normally blocked by the stronger, outer core. Only then can you attack it. Otherwise, you have to run around and avoid its electric attacks. In Godhome, the fight involves you shooting explosive jellyfish at the boss, which works a lot better. Either way, Uumuu is a subpar boss and a lackluster choice for the guardian of a Dreamer.
Design wise, I really like how this one looks. As for the fight itself, it can be very stressful, especially in the main game. The Traitor Lord is found in Queen’s Gardens, guarding the way to the White Lady and the first half of the Kingsoul charm. The Traitor Lord, given the name, was a traitor to the Mantis Village and the Lords there after he embraced the infection to become stronger. The Traitor Lord has a wide variety of attacks and is very quick. It also deals two mask damage per hit. You have to fight some of the lesser mantis warriors before the Lord himself shows up, and that can be a problem given how much damage he does. However, Cloth is there to help you! Albeit she doesn’t do much but yell and jump around. Either way, the Traitor Lord is a badass, fun boss fight, on par with the Mantis Lords.
This fight is very annoying. However, it is very funny, and fun. Zote, who you find captured by the Vengefly King, when freed, won’t do much after that. However, if you find Bretta and continue his questline, you’ll unlock a house in Dirtmouth. In that basement of that house, you’ll find a statue dedicated to Zote. When hit with the dream nail, you are plummeted into a weird, sexual fantasy world where Zote is king and he’s just as strong as he thinks he is. And he is certainly strong. Flailing around like an idiot and screaming like a madman, Zote falls from the sky and sits on you, summons little Zote creatures to help him, and does everything in his power to run you into the ground. Even to this day, he still gives me trouble given how erratic he is. However, this is one of the more unique fights in the game, and given it involves an overpowered fantasy version of Zote, it earns an A.
The Soul Warrior is more like a miniboss, appearing twice in the Soul Sanctum and twice in the Colosseum of Fools. It’s a very simple boss, kind of like a dumbed down version of the Soul Master, and for that reason it doesn’t impress me much. The Soul Warrior is a run of the will miniboss with not a lot to say, and for that reason it earns a C.
Soul Master Ranking: B (left, Soul Tyrant; right, Soul Master)
The Soul Master is the main boss of the Soul Sanctum, a subarea in the City of Tears. The Soul Tyrant is its Dream variant. I like the Soul Tyrant more than the Soul Master mainly because the S. Tyrant is far more engaging and entertaining than the Soul Master. The Soul Master becomes quite bland after you fight its ethereal counterpart, but it is still a fun boss (it also has a very nice introduction and history behind it). I like them both, but Soul Tyrant takes the cake here.
The last remaining member of the Five Great Knights of Hallownest, formerly known as Ogrim, the Dung Defender is found within the Royal Waterways in a s**t infested pipeline guarding a large valve. While most bosses in HK are very serious, the Dung Defender is a dopey, ridiculous character who’s just here for a fun time. He throws s**t at you, dives in and out of s**t, rises up and casts more s**t everywhere… really it just involves a lot of s**t. He’s laughing all while you two are fighting it out, and when he’s defeated you can return to talk to him again, being one of the few bosses who do this. Dung Defender is a fun, ridiculous fight and I love it a lot.
The Dream variant of the Dung Defender. One of the more unique alternate versions of a base game boss, the White Defender is a thoughtfully redesigned, faster and more lethal version of D.D. He has new moves, more health, and flings s**t like no one else. Found beneath D.D.’s arena in his dreams, the White Defender might be one of the best Dream variants in the game.
Just about everyone and their mother who’s played HK will tell you that the Watcher Knights suck f**k. It’s true: these guys are tough. There are six of them, appearing in pairs, and the fight doesn’t stop until all of them are dead. They’re quick, relentless, and unpredictable. I myself harbor a lot of hatred for these guys. However, after fighting them for so long, and learning how they work, I’ve come to respect them. They’re found in the City of Tears guarding Lurien the Dreamer in his tower, and there aren’t many others more worthy as guardians.
No Eyes is a Warrior Dream found in Stone Sanctuary, a dark place shelved deep within Greenpath where this ancient warrior of yore was laid to rest. Having torn out her eyes to stamp out the visions that the Radiance was tormenting her with, No Eyes went mad with fear. No Eyes is arguably one of the creepiest bosses in gaming. The fight itself is fairly simple: there are a bunch of platforms, and you have to jump from platform to platform to avoid thorns. However, large, white spirits bearing the face of No Eyes bob up and down the arena, forcing the player to move. No Eyes herself just teleports around, waiting to get hit. The more she’s damaged, the more projectiles that spawn. What makes this fight creepy isn’t just her backstory, but the arena and the fact that no music plays when you fight her. It’s just her discordant, eerie singing. For the sheer presence this fight has, I give it an A.
Galien is one of the harder Warrior Dreams. Found in Deepnest, Galien had gone there to test his strength but met a more unfortunate end instead. As for the fight, Galien just floats around, waiting for you to hit him, but his massive, spinning scythe slams around the arena, trying to hit you. The more damage he takes, the more projectiles he spawns (up to two extra ones, smaller in size and less erratic). Galien can be tough at first, but he’s easily mastered. For what it’s worth, Galien’s an alright boss fight. He also looks pretty cool!
I like Markoth a lot, despite how difficult his fight can be. He’s found in Kingdom’s Edge, and is largely considered to be the hardest Warrior Dream. He has a shield that floats around him (two if he’s low enough) that he spins around from time to time. Otherwise he’s shooting swords at you while you run around trying not to die. He can be tough, especially in the second half, but I enjoy his design and character a lot. He’s an A for me.
Marmu is a Warrior Dream found in Queen’s Gardens and is a bubbly, joyful little catterpillar guy who just likes to bounce around and have fun. He’s silly, cute, and ridiculous and I love him. He’s only a B because his fight only involves you hitting him at the right times, bouncing him back, until he dies. Otherwise, however, he’s great and perfect and must be protected at all costs.
I don’t hate Xero, but I don’t love him either. He’s an alright boss, found in the Resting Grounds just below the drop out of Crystal Peak. His fight involves you dodging his sword throws as he floats around, gaining two extra blades once you get him low enough. The fight is just engaging enough to be serviceable, and while I like his name and design, Xero is a mediocre Warrior Dream.
F**k this a**hole. Without Shade Cloak, Elder Hu is one of the hardest Warrior Dreams there is. Found in the Fungal Wastes not far from the Mantis Village, this old bastard should’ve stayed in his grave. Having Shade Cloak is the key to this fight, because once you have it he’s a complete joke. Without it, he’s a reaction time gauntlet and I hated it. Because of the memories I have associated with this geezer, he gets a C. Beyond that, he’s alright. But f**k you, Elder Hu.
Okay, while not the most complex fight (how many times have I said that now?), Gorb is pretty funny. He’s an overcompensating big brain with his head too far up his own ass and I love it. Found at the top of the Howling Cliffs, Gorb is one of the easier Warrior Dreams who just shoots spikes at you while he waits to get hit. Sheerly because of his ridiculous character, Gorb gets a B.
Found in the Pantheon of the Master, Oro and Mato (two of the nailsages found in the main game) join forces to serve as the final obstacle in the first trial in Godhome. I give them a C+ only because they feel like a slightly faster, more varied version of the Watcher Knights and that’s always bothered me for some reason. Design wise they aren’t that special. Really these guys just aren’t that interesting to me, but I don’t hate them.
Here’s a good one. Paintmaster Sheo serves as the final boss of the Pantheon of the Artist in Godhome, and he’s a fun boss. He is the other nailsage found in the main game, and his fight revolves around him beating you to death with a paintbrush. He has a wide variety of attacks, all different colors with varying animations and affects. He can thrust with orange paint, rain down a bunch of purple pain, shoot out a bunch of red paint and slam down on the floor. He’s quick, tough, and very unique. I like Sheo a lot.
Okay, this guy is tough. That little guy who sold you stuff in Dirtmouth? Yeah, he’s the final nailsage, and by far the toughest. You learn of his true nature very late in the main game, and he gives you a charm after you’ve met all the other sages, but he doesn’t do much more than that. However, in Godhome, Sly takes his place as the final boss in the third pantheon, the Pantheon of the Sage. He’s quick, ruthless, and totally unpredictable. Beating him on Ascended was a real challenge and I enjoyed it a lot despite how tough it was. Sly makes you think quick, respond quicker, and attack just as fast. And just because it’s Sly we’re talking about here, the guy who sold you basically everything you could ever need, he gets an A.
He isn’t just Grimm. This is Troupe Master Grimm, alright? We’re talking about the coolest, most badass motherf**ker in all Hallownest, and the guy doesn’t even live there! You summon him from the Howling Cliffs and do his dirty work by collecting scarlet fire to feed this weird ass kid of his. And you know what? I don’t even care about the kid, but because it’s him asking me? You’re damn right I’ll do it. But then, you get to fight him. And that’s some cool s**t right there. The music, his design, the sound of the fight, everything about it is perfect. The arena is cool, his attacks look cool, and he’s fun as hell to fight. I love the hell out of Grimm, and it isn’t a proper fight with him if you don’t bow.
The short answer? Yes. Just yes. The long answer? This motherf**ker is one of HK’s hardest bosses. Like, really hard. He’s ruthless, man. Two mask damage per hit, faster attacks, more erratic, thick as hell? The Nightmare King is Grimm as his best, and in the dream world you better believe it’s the best he’s got. The pinnacle of the Grimm Troupe questline, culminated in one final fight that took me maybe thirty attempts to beat. But I loved every second of it. NKG makes you think, engages you with the game in a way few other bosses force you to. His entire arena is this massive, red dreamscape filled with fire and madness and it’s so cool. And besides, just look at him! How is this not an S+?
There’s nothing quite like a final boss that’s been hyped up for the whole game, pretending to be this great, powerful being that cannot be beaten, but when you get there you realize that whatever it once was, is no more. The Hollow Knight, the thing that is literally in the game’s title, is nothing more than a ruined, pathetic shell of what it once was. After having destroyed all three Dreamers, the door in the Temple of the Black Egg is unlocked and you find HK inside. He’s chained up, watching you. Once all four chains are broken and he’s unleashed, the fight begins. This sad, desperate music begins to play as you fight this once mighty god in the place of his imprisonment, the place where he willingly resigned himself to try and contain The Infection that has ravaged Hallownest for so long. But something broke inside of it. The Infection took over this Vessel, your kin, and now it wants nothing more than to die. As you fight it, once it gets low enough it begins to stab itself, trying to end its life. It flails around, covering in sores from The Infection, in one last desperate attempt to fulfill the promise it made to its father and creator who now lies dead at the top of his ruined palace. But it could never be. You are made to kill the Hollow Knight, take its place, and assume the place it should have filled. And that’s what you do. You lay this ancient god to rest, and do what should have been done long ago. I love this final fight, and knowing the lore behind it just makes it so much more tragic. It earns an A, even if it isn’t the hardest fight ever (which, really, is kinda the point).
This is what The Hollow Knight was meant to be: a perfect, pure Vessel, made in the image of the Pale King, powerful enough to contain The Infection and save Hallownest. But it is merely a dream, a distant one, on the fringes of the world in Godhome, where it defends the fourth Pantheon, the Pantheon of the Knight. The Pure Vessel is a more refined, lethal version of The Hollow Knight. It’s a beautiful redesign, and a ruthless final boss for Pantheon 4. Two mask damage per hit, faster attacks, and a set of vicious moves that can tear you to bits in no time. Space for healing is minimal, and time to think is even more scarce. But there’s something about the Pure Vessel which is so alluring, so mysterious, that I can’t help but give it an A despite how much grief this bastard of a boss fight has caused me. Pure Vessel, without a doubt, is one of HK’s hardest bosses, and a reminder that what could have been was something so great, so perfect, that it seems unreasonable now to have ever believed it could have been.
The final, final boss of HK. When the Voidheart charm has been acquired, and you choose to use the dream nail on The Hollow Knight when it gets pinned down by Hornet, you find yourself in a sunlit realm above the clouds. And what do you find? This, the thing that has caused all of the pain and ruin in Hallownest; the cause of The Infection, of the terrible dreams and the unbearable Light; the moth-god of ancient times, returned again to Hallownest to claim what is rightfully its own. And the Radiance is tough. Two mask damage, a flurry of swords and beams from everywhere, and four phases of fighting back to back. It is, quite literally, the light at the end of the tunnel. Radiance is tough, but its such an interesting entity that I feel it deserves an A.However, in Godhome, there’s something far worse that exists. When all four Pantheons are beaten, a bell sounds at the top of the realm. Above, there sits the final challenge in all of Hollow Knight, the hardest trial in the game. And at the end of it all, of every boss in Hollow Knight, stands the ultimate boss: Absolute Radiance. And it is here I will end, for I’ve yet to make my way to Abs Rad, but when I do, I will be sure to chronicle my experience with it here.