Borderlands 3 has officially released and just like previous entries, it’s packed to the brim with bosses. While players can and certainly have been farming them endlessly for loot, these bosses are meant to be one of the game’s greatest challenges. Because of that, we are looking back to see which of these big bads is the best of the best. Before we dive into our list, it’s important to layout our criteria for deciding the rankings.
We are strictly focusing on how the quality of a boss during the initial playthrough of Borderlands 3. Since certain endgame character builds can essentially nuke bosses, modes such a True Vault Hunter or Mayhem will not be considered. Additionally, we are not just judging a fight based on its difficulty, but the overall design and how it fits into the game’s story. There’s more to a boss fight than how challenging it is. Finally, we will not be including the second Mouthpiece fight or the Carnivora.
(Warning: Spoilers Below!)
17. Billy the Anointed
F@$k this fight, f@$k this dude’s stupid area of effect attacks, and f@$k him summoning badass level bandits.
Whew, I feel better.
Billy the Anointed is the boss of Jakobs Manor and is certainly the most frustrating battle in the entire game’s campaign. Set in a rundown theater, the player will be tasked with fighting a large, purple Goliath that boasts a plethora of magic-based attacks. His main ability involves releasing a huge shockwave that the player can either jump or duck over. The problem is you’re fighting on a slope so judging how to dodge becomes very difficult.
This AoE blast does a stupid amount of damage and can easily down you if your shield is already depleted. He can also throw out fireballs that can be shot out of the air and teleports rapidly around the room making it difficult to keep track of him. If that wasn’t bad enough, Billy is also capable of summoning bass-tier Tinks, which will constantly harass you during the fight.
There’s potential in this fight, but it’s buried thanks to the game forcing you to fight in very narrow aisles or on the exposed stage. Did we mention Billy can sometimes glitch and get trapped in the terrain making him invincible and forcing you to restart the entire battle?
As the first boss in the game, Shiv is ultimately the easiest foe you’ll come across. Because of this, don’t expect a ton of unique mechanics or unique design choices. He’s just a slightly beefier version of a bandit psycho. This doesn’t make him a poorly designed boss, just a forgettable one. However, he does serve as a nice way to get the player up to speed with the basics of dodging, shooting, and using environmental hazards.
For such a late-game boss, I was surprised how underwhelming the Warden was. This battle is less a test of individual skill as it is how much damage your weapons do. Like other Goliaths, the Warden can level up once his helmet is knocked off. This fully restores his health, making him tankier and stronger. However, if you’re able to just kill him before this happens the fight is pretty bland.
We will give some points to the Warden for the well-designed area and posters hyping up the boss. Being constantly reminded to “Not make the Warden angry,” was a nice touch that made the boss feel more connected to the world rather than just another oversized enemy.
For many, Killavolt was the first real challenge in Borderlands 3. Tied to the end of a sidequest involving Moxxi, this shield-bearing Enforcer focuses solely on electric-based attacks. The most noteworthy one involves electrocuting sections of the floor, making it impossible to traverse these areas without being heavily damaged. It’s a nice little trick that would be fine if he didn’t occasionally shock the entire floor. Even though this attack was a bug, it proved to create a very frustrating experience for players at launch.
Thankfully, this has been patched, which is why Killavolt is not at the very bottom of our list. Yet, the boss can be quite the difficulty spike since he can essentially deplete your shield for the entire battle. It also doesn’t help he has the most obnoxious voice in the entire game.
13. General Traunt
Honestly, I was surprised to even see General Traunt in this game. As the second to last boss in Borderlands 3, General Traunt feels completely out of place. While battling against Captain Traunt’s family member is a neat way to connect to previous plot moments, his implementation is sloppy. He lacks the over the top swagger of the captain and is essentially just a reskin.
As for the fight, don’t expect anything difficult or inspired. General Traunt utilizes Shock and Corrosive weapons, but his attacks are quite simple. He takes a few moves from his brother, which can make the battle feel quite familiar. Traunt might have been better if he showed up earlier, but as the second to last boss, General Traunt does nothing but disappoint.
12. Katagawa Ball
For as entertaining as Rhys and Katagawa’s feud is, the Katagawa Ball fight is comically bland. Despite boasting three health bars, this boss is extremely easy to deal with thanks to the ample cover and weak attacks. It’s pretty difficult to die to this foe, especially in the final stage where it just chases you around the map.
Even with the Lunar base arena and visual design, the Katagawa Ball is uninspired. There’s just nothing terribly special or challenging about this boss fight, regardless of which Vault Hunter you’re running. Despite having no balance issues, it just doesn’t have the impact that other bosses do. There’s a good chance you’ve killed this boss so fast you cannot even remember his attacks.
11. The Graveward
There are three Vault monsters in Borderlands 3 and the Graveward is absolutely the worst. Set on a platform that can tilt, you’re tasked with taking down this massive treefolk. The Graveward has a comical amount of health and it can be tricky to figure out where to shoot him the first time around. He’s also shockingly easy for a Vault boss, as most of his attacks can be easily dodged.
That being said, the arena and his visual design are superb. I love that he can move the arena, forcing you to either take cover in a hole or risk falling off to deal more damage to him. But him being a static boss limits how exciting this battle can actually be. Graveward isn’t a bad boss, just a painfully mediocre one that doesn’t do anything too special.
Another early boss, Gigamind is floating, angry brain in a jar. Don’t let his size fool you, Gigamind is a tough foe with a rather hefty bag of tricks. Not only do his tiny drones launch a variety of attacks, but the Gigamind can craft a shield that drastically reduces incoming damage. Since his critical spot is on his back, this foe forces you to really explore the arena and stay on the move.
It’s an incredibly lively fight that walks the line between engaging combat and Borderlands’ wacky aesthetic. The only issue is because this fight is early on, it can be an absolute slog if you have bad weapons.
How much you struggle with this fight will entirely depend on your positioning and if you have a corrosive weapon. GeneVI3VE is a mechanized foe that has access to a variety of abilities such as forcefields, bouncing balls of death, rockets, and drones. There’s a lot to manage in this battle and it’s easy to get overwhelmed your first time. GeneVI3VE can deal a high amount of burst damage, making her very difficult at times.
Her high mobility separates her from a lot of the other bosses, forcing players to switch up their tactics. It’s a frantic, kinetic fight that is rarely seen in the Borderlands franchise. GeneVI3VE puts the player on the defensive, which is something a super powerful boss should do. The only real downside is you can just stand in a corner and pretty flawlessly remain unharmed by a lot of her attacks.
8. Captain Traunt
For as silly as Captain Traunt is, I rather enjoyed his boss fight. Utilizing both fire and ice attacks, Captain Traunt can prove to be quite tricky the first time around. His fireballs create large pools of lava that burn you if touched and his ice can drastically slow down your movements. It’s a terrific balance of abilities that will keep you on your toes. Traunt can also summon ice walls that not only act as cover, but a brief shield to block incoming projectiles.
Adding to the fight is the small squad of regular Maliwan soldiers that will harass you from the side. This forces the player to always be mindful of their surroundings, as there are a lot of area denial abilities in Traunt’s arsenal. Combine this with the amusing voice acting and beautiful arena to get one entertaining boss battle.
It may surprise some to see Tyreen this low, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a great boss. As the final foe in Borderlands 3, Tyreen can put up quite a fight thanks to her insanely high damaging moves. Just the shockwaves from her walking around deal a ton of damage. Her other moves include calling down massive columns of fire, rotating beams of death, large fireballs, and doing an ariel energy beam attack.
All of these give her a lot of variety, but the problem is once Tyreen lands she is a pushover. With minimal attacks on the ground, Tyreen’s attacks can be easily dodged leaving her open to attacks. It doesn’t help that once she is stunned you have to climb onto her back, which is a frustrating experience by itself.
However, since you’ll need to battle Varkids and other horrors during the fight, Tyreen can prove to be a difficult boss to bring down. Sure, she’s not the top boss in Borderlands 3, but Tyreen is an enjoyable final encounter that almost lives up to all the hype she builds around herself.
Mouthpiece is a perfect example of how an early game boss can be implemented. This crazed bandit fights in a large arena surrounded by deadly speakers. Utilizing a shield and submachine gun, Mouthpiece forces the player to strike when he is taunting or use certain abilities such as FL4K’s pet to distract him. It’s a nice early challenge that forces you to do more than just pump endless amounts of bullets into him.
The arena also gets a special mention, as the speakers are a nasty hazard and one of the coolest in the game. Expertly balanced, Mouthpiece gives players just enough time to run out of the way before they go off. If you do die, the Tink littering the arena can help you get a Second Wind and keep fighting. Even though this battle doesn’t last long, Mouthpiece leaves a lasting impact and sets the bar for the rest of the game’s bosses.
5. Katagawa Jr.
This might be a controversial choice, but hear us out. Katagawa Jr. may be an obnoxious villain, but his boss battle felt wholly unique. Unlike most bosses, Katagawa Jr. prefers to keep his distance and remain on the move for the majority of the fight. Having him jump around the arena forces you to be mindful of the terrain, along with where he could land next. Since his shield recharges, it behooves you to use the various environmental hazards against him.
Katagawa Jr. also summons several clones of himself, which only increases the challenge as the fight progresses. Since the clones will digitize when shot, you can use this to quickly locate the real Katagawa Jr. if you’re paying attention. It’s a nice detail that rewards players for not getting tunnel vision when fighting the clones. Unlike other bosses, Katagawa Jr. relies heavily on deception and projectiles.
Understanding how to exploit this and track his movements gives the battle another layer that most Borderlands 3 fights are missing. Our only complaint is we wish he wasn’t so weak and easy to kill. After figuring out his movement pattern, we were able to kill him rather quickly. But this doesn’t detract too much from what was a terrific boss fight.
The first Vault monster you face can be quite intimidating. Don’t let his cliche name fool you, the Rampager is surprisingly difficult and quite cinematic. Boasting three phases, (each tied to a different element) the Rampager is a fast-moving, hard-hitting boss that can knock you down if you’re not careful. His main attack is a wave of fireballs that can be easy to dodge if you’re far away but inflict heavy damage if they connect. Because of this, you’ll need to keep your distance for the majority of the fight.
However, with each phase, the Rampager becomes more aggressive and gets a new attack. This keeps the fight from feeling stale, especially once you get to the end when he starts jumping all around the arena. Did we mention the battlefield is literally collapsing around you? The Rampager is a perfect example of how to do a beast-style foe and still make it interesting.
With most boss fights taking place in large, open arena’s, Aurelia fighting the player in a cramped room instantly sets her apart from others. This limited space makes battling her quite tricky since her ice tornados and storm cloud roam around the room. Aurelia also boasts a number of ranged attacks including icicles and a firearm. Finally, she is able to construct snow walls which distorts the terrain and limits traversal even further.
Yet, what separates Aurelia from everyone the list is who she is. For the unfamiliar, Aurelia was actually a playable Vault Hunter in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. This gives her a unique connection to the player that no other boss possess. She was one of us and now we get to see what a true battle between Vault Hunters looks like. Aurelia is also a superb villain, that will make you absolutely hate her. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see more of her in Borderlands 3.
2. Pain and Terror
Coming in second
Penn and Teller is Borderlands 3 at its best. Set in a massive arena, battling this duo and the Agonizer 3,000 is an absolute pleasure. This mechanized monstrosity will constantly keep you moving thanks to the saw blades, heated floors, and rotating chainsaw. You’ll always find yourself running around the arena, narrow dodging hazards and gunfire while crowds of bandits cheer you on.
It perfectly encapsulates what you think a game show in the Borderlands 3 universe would feel like. You even get to pick your own intro music before the battle!With the best boss arena in the game, fighting to save Tannis just adds an extra element to the entire fight. Pain and Terror may not be the greatest boss in Borderlands 3, but they get damn close.
While I absolutely love Pain and Terror, Troy is definitely the best boss in Borderlands 3. This is thanks to not only the mechanics of this fight but the massive story implications surrounding it. Storming the Calypso Twins’ fortress with all your allies really sets the stage. The fate of Pandora rests in this single boss battle, giving it far more weight than anything else you’ve previously fought. We also get to see Troy finally succumb to his desire for power and anger at his sister, as he literally siphons energy from her the entire fight.
It’s gruesome but perfectly encapsulates how Troy views the constant abuse from his sister. For the entire game, we’ve seen Troy slowly rebel against his sister’s control. Desperate to be viewed as anything but a parasite, his final moments involved him literally stealing power from Tryeen. For all the bravado, we finally get to see that Troy was everything his sister believed him to be.
All of these story elements are then elevated by the amazing boss battle that is a perfect balance between challenging and fun. Troy’s attacks resemble ones you’d see in a hack-and-slash as he vaults around the map with his sword. Each strike sends out a wave of orbs you’ll have to dodge or destroy. But these strikes also leave him open to damage, so a nimble player can punish Troy during this phase. It may not be the most difficult boss in the game, but it’s a perfect storm of story and gameplay weaving masterfully together.