Most Satisfying Main Bosses in Sekiro
(Note: Only the main bosses will be featured here. As I have not played the Shura ending, the main bosses associated with it aren't mentioned. Also, there will be spoilers.)
There are many lists and arguments over which bosses in Sekiro are the hardest, but for me it wasn't about how difficult each boss was to defeat, but the learning curve and change of mindset they gave me to feel confident carrying on through this challanging game. Ultimately, that satisfaction after many tries - and, on the occasion, many hours - when it just clicks, when you know the boss's patterns, can see their attack tells, can understand their rhythm. I think this is where the game truly shines: in the satisfaction of understanding the enemy so well that you're no longer struggling (as much) but finally getting into your own rhythm with the boss and the parrying feels incredible.
In ascending order, here is my list of the main bosses who gave me the most satisfaction to defeat.
12. Divine Dragon
Mostly a gimmick fight, it nonetheless felt satisfying in the first stage to deathblow one of those annoying Old Dragons of the Tree and sweep its buddies into oblivion. In the second phase, parrying that gigantic sword and the final lightning attack felt incedibly powerful, and the animation of gathering the divine dragon's tear strangely emotional.
11. Corrupted Monk and True Monk
I grouped these two into one because although the fights are different in their ways, they provided the same sense of satisfaction.
For the Corrupted Monk, parrying her relentlessly felt good, but I always ended up with low posture and never instinctually knowing when to jump or mikiri counter her perilous attacks. So instead I cheesed her with the Mortal Blade. I heard snap seeds were good against her but, that resource being precious, I of course panicked and wasted them.
For the True Monk, seeing those three health bars was certainly intimidating, but the poison she spits out in her final stage was where my impatience got the better of me and kept getting me killed.
With both the monks, I found myself chastising my impatience more than feeling the satisfaction of beating them. Patience is probably my biggest flaw in playing this type of game, and maybe one day I'll learn to conquer this, too.
10. Lady Butterfly
Unfortunately I was scared of her, so I beat her when I was overleveled. It felt like I cheated and I wish I'd spent more time on her sooner because I think she would have taught me a lot about parrying earlier on in my game - especially since, at that point, my misunderstanding of Sekiro's unique and powerful mechanic was making me avoid it as much as possible. I strongly advise against this.
9. Demon of Hatred
So you've spent the whole game getting out of Dark Souls habits and learning to parry perfectly? Then it's the perfect time then to give you a Souls-like boss! By now I was loving the parrying system, so coming up to a boss where there is very little opportunity for it suddenly didn't feel satisfying at all. I'd say for Demon of Hatred, the most crucial aspect for satisfaction was learning each of his moves and tells. Even though this process is true for every boss, mastering Demon of Hatred's was the most rewarding because his first two phases become surprisingly easy - though the amount of times I panicked and died in the final stage when his posture bar was full is infuriating. It also felt powerful to have the confidence to use two Yashiriku's whilst fighting him. Considering how possessive I was with the snap seeds during Corrupted Monk, it was a true show of how far I'd come. In the end, I'd say I felt frustrated relief rather than satisfaction when I defeated him. I was also disappointed you weren't rewarded by being able to explore again beyond the arena. But maybe the true reward is that you got to free the Sculptor - and I certainly felt freed of him. Then again, you can always just make him jump off a cliff, which could be satisfying considering the level of frustration he may be giving you.
8. Headless Ape
Apart from the Folding Screen Monkeys, this was the only main boss I killed in one try. (Yes, embarrassingly tht includes the Divine Dragon as my brain decided not to process the fact you can parry his sword.) Sparks, the spear, and parrying made easy work of Headless and his girlfriend. Also, you get a lovely two prayer beads, increase in attack power, and the bestowal ninjutsu. Pretty satisfying rewards if you ask me.
7. Owl (Shinobi)
Having spent a lot of time practising parrying, Owl felt so satisfying to fight. A true clash of swords...and trying not to get your healing frozen, or get poisoned, or have your posture broken.
6. Folding Screen Monkeys
I wasn't sure where to place this gimmick boss, but here feels like a good spot. It was a lot of fun finding and using different techniques for each monkey. In a game which can feel like a boss run, this was a calming change of pace, especially as, for me, it was the next boss I encountered after defeating Genichiro. An extraordinary foe indeed.
5. Guardian Ape
I found this boss really fun. (Eventually.) One of my major issues is that if the fight is long I panic and want to get it over with, and so I make more mistakes and end up drawing the fight out even longer. But once I figured out (or got frustrated, cheated, and used a guide...) that parrying its second-phase huge downward attack and spearing out the undying bug gives huge posture damage, I started to feel pretty powerful. I also liked baiting certain attacks out of him in order to control the fight to my benefit.
4. Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa
I remember seeing him on his huge horse with his massive spear and wondering what the game expected from me. I quit and didn't play for two days. However, when I got back to him, intimidation dissolved into fun when I used the grappling hook to fly through the air and wail on him, used the prosthetic spark to scare his horse, and jumped over that huge spear. The satisfaction comes with this being the first real chance where all the new things you've learnt are being incorporated into a boss fight. Overcoming intimidation and defeating him made me realise that within all the struggle, there would be fun to be had in this game.
3. Owl (Father)
Harder than his previous incarnation, I spent many tries just learning his moves. He does huge posture and vitality damage, but he also gives plenty of warning, and so once I learned to calm down in his second phase I eased into that satisfying feeling of understanding each of his tells and being able to respond accordingly. Sekiro rule number one: stay calm.
2. Genichiro, Way of Tomoe and Isshin, the Sword Saint
Having struggled with Genichrio's first fight, it felt incredibly satisfying parrying Genichiro until his stamina broke. The quick win gave me a huge boost... and then Isshin crawls out of him. For me, Isshin was one of those bosses where I ended up learning his move-set so well that my final deathblow-run felt hugely satisfying; parrying and dodging and performing combat arts at (mostly) the exact right moments. Also, the distinct variety of each of his forms made each phase satisfying on its own to beat. Defeating Isshin felt bittersweet, but he was a worthy final opponent.
1. Genichiro Ashina
I admit, Genichiro took me about 5 hours to defeat, and he became my parrying partner. I never became frustrated with him because each run wasn't about defeating Genichiro but learning, and this was something I carried with me through the rest of the game. Genichiro was a better teacher than Hanbei (sorry Hanbei), and when I dealt that final deathblow part of me was sad to see my educator go...a tiny part. On the run in which I defeated him I felt calm and aggressive. I was no longer panicking or scared of him because I understood each and every one of him moves. And you know what? After this fight I became a much better player. The satisfaction of beating Genichiro comes when you realise the game feels completely different. I understood parrying more, I was no longer struggling, terrified of combat, and spending an eternity trying to stealth-kill my way through. I felt god-like when performing parry-deathblows, and mikiri counters had become simple(ish). And when I came upon a boss giving me trouble, I remembered how insurmountable Genichiro had seemed; I remembered that if I could defeat him, I can defeat anything Sekiro throws at me.
Stay calm, observe, learn, and perservere. Do not be afraid of failing again and again whilst practising parrying and the mikiri counter. Through all the pain and deaths of learning, this game is worth it for that amazing, satisfying feeling when you finally get it right and flow through the battles like a true shinobi.