Koei Tecmo’s Nioh kind of came out of nowhere and grabbed us hard with its blend of samurai action roleplaying and From Software-style brutality. Borrowing from From’s Dark Souls series, Nioh nonetheless has an identity of its own, and carves a bloody niche in the pantheon of all time great action games. A demon- and ninja-filled jaunt through 15th century Japan, Nioh has no shortage of terrific and challenging boss fights to keep protagonist William on his toes. They’re an extremely varied bunch, ranging from duels with senpais to stabbing giant skeletons in the ankles.
This list covers all the mandatory bosses, both mid-level and end-of-level, as well as the majority of optional bosses. There are a handful of additional bosses not listed here which are accessed depending on which weapons and character builds you’re focusing on, but these all take the form of duels, and your tactics will depend on the context in which you’re fighting them. Also worth noting, some of the bosses here are fought more than once, and their difficulty level and place on the list has been decided based on the difficulty of their first appearances; otherwise like a quarter of the list would be made up of various Onryokis.
Olivia White is one of the people that make up Owl Cave, the adventure game dev studio responsible for Richard & Alice and The Charnel House Trilogy. You can find her at @owlcavedev or on the web at http://www.owlcave.net.
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1. Derrick the Executioner: Derrick's more of a tutorial than a proper boss. Just attack him for a bit, blocking and dodging his simple attacks. Then as soon as the game prompts you to use your living weapon, bam, that's the end of Derrick. As long as you're slightly careful about not attacking recklessly, you won't lose to Derrick. Beware, though, when you encounter him near the end of the game, he's a lot more powerful, albeit no more complex. Just wait for him to charge or attack, then stab him in the back.
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2. Onryoki: The first proper boss of the game, Onryoki is a nice primer for how some of the bigger boss fights are going to play out. In the first half of the fight, he'll spin his balls and chains around, so keep your distance here, then rush in when he's tired out. Once his health's down, his chains will break and he'll use the balls as projectiles. Simply keep an eye on whenever he walks over to grab one of them, then back away and dodge. He's slow and it's easy to get behind him, so dodge around him and backslash to deal a lot more damage. If at any point you see Onryoki begin to leap into the air, back away fast; his slam does a huge amount of damage, but when he lands you'll have a massive window to attack his head and break his horns, weakening him.
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3. Tachibana Muneshige (fake): Kelley-as-Muneshige is a breeze. It's a standard duel fight where the boss will occasionally boost himself with his Raikon guardian spirit, meaning lightning defense works well here. You fight him shortly after Nue, so keep your defensive equipment from that fight. This fight's just a case of chipping away at his Ki, landing attacks when he's open and blocking when he's not. A standard introduction to the game's duels.
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4. Great Centipede: The poison in the arena poses more of a threat than the Centipede itself. You can run around using the air filtration machines to temporarily clear the poison away, or you can stock up on antidotes and just power through it. The centipede's weak and easy to fell; attack his body and it'll fall away, making him shorter and easier to avoid. Simply attack him whenever you get an opening, which is often.
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5. Joro-Gumo: One of the game's easier bosses, Joro-Gumo kindly advertises her weak spot by having a huge glowing abdomen. Simply keep side-stepping and slashing at this until she protects it with her legs. Her attacks are pretty weak and can be easily blocked without much Ki loss; just be careful attacking her directly from the front because she can grab you. Once she covers her abdomen with her legs, attack her anywhere because her grab is disabled.
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6. White Tiger: White Tiger's dead easy as long as you resist the tactic that works on most bosses. Basically, do not attack White Tiger from behind, ever. He can grab you with his tail, and will do so almost any time you try and get a backslash in, so the additional damage isn't worth the risk. If you stick to his front or sides, it's pretty easy to just block or soak up the damage he deals, and punish him during his big openings.
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7. Marume Nagayoshi: Nagayoshi promises he'll give it all he's got to complete your samurai training, but frankly he doesn't put much effort in. He'll just go at you with typical swordsman stuff; blocking and dodging before circling around him and punishing him with backslashes will take him down quickly, and he's quite easy to wear out, meaning you can pull off grapple attacks regularly.
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8. Ii Naomasa: Another standard duel with a guy who simply wants to fight you for fun. Ii uses a spear, so he's very easy to dodge and sidestep around, and he tires easily, so grapple moves can be used to great effect. By this stage in the game, you should have your blocking and dodging down pat so Ii isn't much of a threat, and taking him down feels like the sparring between pals that it's supposed to be.
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9. Oda Nobunaga: You might expect Nobunaga to be one of the game's biggest challenges, but he's really not. At first he can be a bit overwhelming, summoning a guardian spirit which can change its element, cycling through air, earth, water, fire, lightning at will, preventing you from preparing any real resistance to his elemental damage. Keep your distance when he's using ranged elemental attacks, then dodge and attack when he goes toe to toe with you. You only need to take off about ? of his health bar before the fight's over though. In co-op especially, this one's a breeze for how late in the game it appears.
Summon: Yes, but only because of the level itself.
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10. Hattori Hanzo: Your buddy, the famed ninja Hattori Hanzo, wants to test your ninja skills because of course he does. What follows is a fairly laborious fight, but one that's not too hard to best as long as you keep on your toes. Hanzo blocks, a lot, and makes use of his many ninja skills, so the key is doing the same. The fight's really designed to let you test out the advanced Ninjutsu abilities, so do that. There's not much scope to get behind Hanzo, so wear him down with abilities and guard breaks and you won't have many problems.