Littered across the majority of video games are a collection of boss fights, designed to be tough and memorable encounters that must be defeated before life can continue.
More often than not, they're weaved into the game's narrative, so when the foe is presented as a necessary obstacle to overcome, you aren't even seeing the resolution to your story until they're in the ground.
The satisfaction of seeing a significant enemy fall is glorious. The game over screen has been swatted away, and the hero's might has proven too much for the beast that stands before them. What was once a nail-biting, hair-extracting affair is now a thing of the past, and everything can continue with the knowledge that the enemy cannot come back to bite them.
However, there are instances where the story you were oh-so happy to see unfold gets plucked from your grasp. The villain escapes, deceives or overpowers - through pre-destined or scripted events - and everything kicks back into gear.
Victory was promised, yet depleting the health bar of the following doesn't mean anything, as they were always going to keep coming anyway.
10. Baldur - God Of War (2018)
The epic world of Norse Mythology is the chosen destination for Kratos after leaving Ancient Greece in a far worse state than he found it.
Packaged in with the change of scenery is a new cast of characters, as inhabitants of Norse mythology are introduced to the Ghost of Sparta and the player, although not in the way you'd expect.
The son of Odin and Frigg, Baldur is often depicted as a handsome, revered and profoundly charming man. However, when he comes knocking at the door of the Greek God of War, covered in runic tattoos and sporting a hefty beard, it's clear he's no hero here.
Early in the tale, Baldur (under the guise of 'The Stranger') battles with Kratos in a fight that would put most comic series' fights to shame. We've seen Kratos defeat gods of epic proportions, so when the duel gets bloody, we are immediately aware of the foe's might.
After hammering away with the Leviathan Axe, Kratos overcomes Baldur's freakish power and snaps his neck for good measure. However, as the story would need its villain for future encounters, Baldur returns multiple times.
9. Edelgard - Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Golden Deer Route)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses tells a massively different story depending on the house you choose to oversee in the game's early hours.
Selecting the Golden Deer route, the fight against the mysterious Flame Emperor comes to a sudden halt when the identity of the masked foe is none other than Black Eagles leader, Edelgard. The harmony of the Knights academy within the monastery is interrupted by this realisation, as everyone must now choose a side; Edelgard's Imperial forces or the majesty of the Church of Seiros.
The player will share the battlefield with Edelgard a number of times throughout the game's 50-hour runtime, and each time she and her forces are defeated, the newly discovered enemy will retreat and save her efforts for another day. It seems that victory is never quite granted to the player, and Edelgard's insistence on not dying is thoroughly annoying.
Fire Emblem's gameplay lends itself far more to strategy than to mindless hacking at an enemy 5x the size, so relinquishing Edelgard of her life bar isn't a hard task, although making your way toward her with a full party of combatants still in tact is quite another story.
8. Vergil - Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening
The half-demon-half-angel brothers, Dante and Vergil are destined to bicker forever. Dante's relaxed and comedic aura contrasts Vergil's stoic and serious nature, and so the pair are often butting heads.
Despite the cheesy dialogue present in most Devil May Cry games, there's no denying that their petty sibling rivalry, while childish, has gifted gamers some of the best fight sequences in recent memory.
In particular, the third entry in the series (though first canonically), 2005's Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening saw Dante ascending the holy tower of Temen-ni-gru before facing off with Vergil at its summit.
The fight transpires not unlike other boss fights in the series. Hacking and slashing through the familiar foe while building the combo metre is so darn satisfying, and chipping away at Vergil's health bar before seeing it completely depleted will reward the player with a cutscene.
However, the cutscene that takes place is far from the confirmation of victory that was expected. Instead, Vergil and Dante exchange words before Vergil plunges Yamato into his chest. Dante's attempt at standing results in Vergil planting Rebellion - Dante's own sword - into his abdomen.
The mission ends, and the player's victory has been wiped from existence.
7. Ghirahim - The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword
With 2011's Skyward Sword, Nintendo looked to create a cohesive starting point for the convoluted Zelda timeline. The story had Link and company take to the skies, as the Goddess raised the town of Skyloft far beyond the clouds and from the demonic hordes that lay below.
Being the starting point for the series, the decision to leave the iconic villain, Ganondorf, on the sidelines was a puzzling one, given how the dark lord is as synonymous with the series as the titular princess. In his place, the eccentric, flamboyant Ghirahim was to be the thorn in our hero's side.
Ghirahim's unsettling confidence and excessive arrogance sets him apart from Ganondorf's stoic and reserved nature.
When he is defeated on multiple occasions by Link in Skyview Temple and the Fire Sanctuary, his sudden disappearance following the battles conclusion means the fight doesn't feel like it resulted in a win, as Ghirahim was seemingly only toying with Link during their first two encounters.
The heart container drops from the sky and the dungeon conquered, but the player can't help but feel as if the victory that was promised was plucked from their grasp.
6. Genchiro - Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is not an easy game.
Developed by FromSoftware, the masterful minds behind the brutal Dark Souls series, Sekiro took the pioneering gameplay and devilishly difficult combat encounters of previous games to the Sengoku period of Japan, sprinkling in some new gameplay mechanics of its own.
Duelling Genchiro atop Ashina Castle is a mountain of a task. The pure frustration of repeatedly being mocked by the game over screen fuels the player's desire to spill the blood of Genchiro with their trusty katana.
Genchiro's attacks are persistent and damaging. The player will have to make full use of the block button, waiting patiently for the opportune time to counter one of his many attempts at stealing that elusive victory.
Depleting two of his health bars will mean a transformation into his 'Way of Tomoe' form. Taking one final health bar from him and the battle is over. Genchiro is defeated, and the player will be rewarded with the coveted 'Shinobi Execution' screen they've been longing to witness.
In a cutscene that follows, Genchiro will rise to his feet and depart the arena by jumping from the castle's peak. His resurrection leaves the player feeling thoroughly robbed of the win.
5. Sinistar - Sinistar
The video game arcades of yesteryear are depleting in number as home consoles dominate the interactive medium. The desire for 'one more turn' is present in abundance in a multitude of games across several platforms, yet the difficulty of titles in the arcade cabinet was all the more frustrating, as the player would be at a financial loss every time they saw the game over screen.
Coins weren't the only thing 1982's Sinistar robbed, however, as the victory over the colossal skull-faced behemoth was snatched from the players hands when they least expected it.
Sinistar's construction takes up a portion of the game, and once 20 crystals are collected by the on screen enemies, the towering foe pops onto the screen. Sinistar is fast, elusive and profoundly frightening. Unloading a barrage of firepower onto him will only do so much, as any contact with Sinistar results in a screen urging the player to insert more coins.
Enemies are constantly looking to rebuild and resurrect Sinistar, so defeating him is largely down to luck, as even the most skilled of pilots will waste funds in the quest for victory.
If that's not daylight robbery, I don't know what is.
4. Dr Wily - Mega Man 3
Dr Wily and Mega Man, it seems, are destined to battle it out forever.
The Blue Bomber's third outing, aptly titled Mega Man 3, saw Mega Man once again return to foil the plans of his co-creator, Dr Wily by conquering 8 all-new robot masters before arriving at the villains lair.
Wily's cunning knows no bounds, and his first duel with Mega Man after the hero defeats the 8 bosses from the previous title is evidence of this, as the Wily that pilots a large mechanical robot turns out to be a puppet.
The victory has been swiped from the grasp of the our hero, and the player need only look to the game's true final encounter to regain victory over the series' iconic foe. Mega Man 3 isn't the first (or the last) in the series to rob the player of victory, but the way it toys with the player's victory makes it the most memorable.
Wily's last stand is to take control of Gamma, a giant mechanical being designed initially to be a peacekeeping robot. With Dr Wily at the helm, Gamma becomes a troubling task to overcome, but use of the Top Spin attack will steal victory back once and for all.
3. Saren - Mass Effect
When you're not engaged in a slew of side activities or romancing Ashley (don't @ me) for the billionth time, the main story in Bioware's space epic, Mass Effect, will require your attention in order to see the credits roll.
While Mass Effect's charm is in the character development and the relationships you forge with the crew of the Normandy, the narrative presented is more than enough to keep the player's attention. At the forefront of the mission is Saren, a former Spectre gone rogue, partnering with the reapers in their quest for galactic dominance.
Commander Shepard comes face to face with Saren on Virmire. After a brief conversation where the enemy unveils his motivations and Shepard reasons with him, the two engage in battle. Saren will use a chunky shield to deflect any attacks, but once reduced to half of his health bar, the foe will flee and save his energy for another day.
Saren is a necessary component of the game's final stages, so to kill him off on Virmire wasn't an option, but the ease of depleting his health bar makes the fight feel like it should have resulted in victory for the player.
2. Beatrix - Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy's last outing on Sony's debut home console came in the form of Final Fantasy IX, an epic tale about the harsh realities of war and a return to the medieval setting similar to that of 1994's Final Fantasy VI.
Beatrix is a boss that the player will encounter three times during their romp across Gaia. In each encounter, the party will engage in battle against the General, yet victory is not possible as depleting her HP only results in her premature departure.
The third time the party locks horns with Beatrix, is perhaps the most infuriating, as there's already the expectation of the victory being robbed since it's happened before. Sure enough, by whittling her health down to a suitable level, Beatrix will become bored of the encounter and a single use of Climhazzard will reduce the entire party to a single hit point.
Unwinnable boss fights didn't start with Beatrix, and they certainly didn't end with her. They're often an interesting way to emphasise the might of the enemy that stands in the players path.
The frustration with this encounter, however, is that the victory wasn't nabbed from the player once, instead happening 3 separate times.
1. Leon/Squall - Kingdom Hearts
Disney's unlikely crossover with Japanese role-playing giant Final Fantasy was the stuff of dreams for fans in the west, and Sora's journey through a smattering of Disney worlds lived up to the hype.
After arriving in Traverse Town, Sora, now wielding the Keyblade, runs into Leon and Yuffie. To fans of the Final Fantasy series, the pair will look familiar, and after a brief conversation with Leon about the power of the sword Sora possesses, the two engage in combat.
The tranquil town music is replaced by its intense battle theme as the Keyblade's might is tested by the iconic Gunblade. Leon's constant brooding and stoic aura leads the player to believe that this fight is not one that can be won, but the encounter can result in victory with well-timed attacks and strategic use of potions, but the win matters little, as Sora will fall down in exhaustion.
There's a score of tough boss fights that litter the Kingdom Hearts series, and Leon quickly becomes an ally, so the game snatching this victory from the players clutches isn't a huge loss, but the feeling of overpowering Final Fantasy VIII's hero would have been a great one.