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Hollow Knight: The Hardest Bosses, Ranked

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Rhett Roxl is a professional writer who has been gaming for as long as he can remember. He merged both passions together to become a writer in the game industry in 2020.

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Marshall is a seasoned writer and gaming enthusiast based in Tokyo. He's a prolific wordsmith with hundreds of articles featured on top-tier sites like Business Insider, How-To Geek, PCWorld, and Zapier. His writing has reached a massive audience with over 70 million readers!

Hollow Knight is a well-loved Metroidvania game for many reasons–its level design, the challenge, and how incredible the bosses in the game are. These bosses can be terribly challenging. We’ve ranked the 15 hardest bosses in ascending order, and covered a few strategies you can employ to slay them in battle.

Note: A boss is only mentioned once, regardless of how many variations it has–even if its two variations are arguably some of the toughest encounters in the game. This is so we can explore the other bosses who are also challenging in their own right, and because boss variations remain somewhat similar. The second ones are only stronger, faster, and add in just one or two new attacks. That said, let’s get started.

No Eyes

No Eyes from Hollow Knight.

A peculiar boss fight, No Eyes herself isn’t necessarily tough, it’s the circumstances of the boss fight itself that makes this encounter somewhat of a drag. No Eyes won’t directly attack you, but the arena will be littered with spirits that will glide across the room.

To make things easier for you, linger in the middle of the arena until you can find an opening to hit No Eyes with your Nail or with a spell.


Nosk from Hollow Knight.

Nosk is a hidden boss you can encounter by destroying a breakable wall in Deepnest, located in the western area of the room left of the Hot Spring. You’ll need Monarch Wings to reach this area.

Nosk is definitely a challenging boss and arguably has the best introduction as a boss in the game. He is quick and unpredictable, and some of his attacks are very difficult to dodge. Both corners at the bottom of the middle platform are good places to hide when Nosk is charging around the arena. If it is charging from the right, hide on the bottom left side of the middle platform, and the other way around.

Your best spells to employ against Nosk are Desolate Dive or Descending Dark and Howling Wraiths or Abyss Shriek. You can use the former spells for when it is charging at you because it activates your invisibility frames, disabling it from damaging you for a short period of time. You can then use the latter spells to damage him while Nosk is on the ceiling or when it stands in the middle of the arena to spew its blobs of infection and you’re at the bottom corner of the middle platform.

Traitor Lord

Traitor Lord from Hollow Knight.

The Traitor Lord is an interesting character lore-wise. He also happens to hit like a speeding truck. Most of the Traitor Lord’s attacks deal two masks worth of damage. It also doesn’t help you much that the Traitor Lord’s movements can be swift considering his bulky figure.

One of the best things you can do when fighting against this boss is to equip the Sharp Shadow charm. Dashing towards the Traitor Lord is the best strategy you can use against many of his attacks. Having the Sharp Shadow charm will increase the length of your Dash and it will damage the Traitor Lord if you dash through him.

White Defender

White Defender from Hollow Knight.

The White Defender is the dream variant of the Dung Defender. The fight remains somewhat similar to the original, but the White Defender is more powerful, faster, and even uses new moves.

If you were able to defeat the Dung Defender with ease, you’ll only need to make a few adjustments to defeat White Defender. One of his new moves is when he slams his arms on the ground and summons spikes to sprout upward from the ground. When he throws his dung balls at you, he’ll also occasionally curl into a ball and bounce around the arena along with the dung balls.

Efficiently defeating the White Defender requires a delicate balance between using melee attacks and spells. Use spells liberally when fighting him and constantly push at him with your nail so your Soul will fill up faster. It’s recommended that you equip the Quick Slash charm for this fight.

Throw a Shade Soul spell at him before he throws his dung balls at you and you’ll be able to destroy them and damage White Defender at the same time. You can also perform a Howling Wraiths or Abyss Shriek as he surfaces from the ground after he spends a few moments burrowing underground.

Lost Kin

Lost Kin from Hollow Knight.

The Lost Kin is the dream variant of the Broken Vessel. His movesets and attacks remain the same, but this time, he is much faster and his attacks are more relentless. The Infected Balloons that spawn during the fight also do so at a much faster rate and there can be about 6 of them at once.

Thankfully, getting rid of the Infected Balloons without removing your focus on the Lost Kin can be fairly simple. Equip the Defender’s Crest charm and the cloud around you should take care of any Infected Balloons that will fly your way. Keep your focus on the Lost Kin. Match his speed. You should be able to put him down in no time just as you’ve put down the Broken Vessel.

Soul Tyrant

Soul Tyrant from Hollow Knight.

Like all dream variations, the Soul Tyrant’s movesets and attacks are the same as that of the Soul Master’s. The only difference is that he is much faster and stronger this time around. He also summons 6 orbs around him now instead of three.

Healing can be very difficult during this time since the Soul Tyrant will rarely give you any breathing room, especially during his second phase. Your Soul is much better spent on spells so you can deplete his health bar much faster. Although there are a few instances during the fight where you are given a little leeway to heal. The best time to do this is after he glides across the arena with his orbs circling him. Once you’re able to dodge away from this, use this minuscule time to heal.

Paintmaster Sheo

Paintmaster Sheo from Hollow Knight.

Paintmaster Sheo is a Nailmaster and a considerably challenging boss. Shadow Dash can be very useful during this fight since it can allow you to dash through Sheo’s paints. He also has a tendency to jump around. When he does this, you can use Abyss Shriek or Howling Wraiths to deal significant damage to him.

His two attacks that you should watch out for are his Great Slash and his Paint Spear. Dodge away when he’s about to perform his Great Slash, which is indicated when the paintbrush turns purple and he raises it above his head. Once he slams his paintbrush, watch out for the splashing paint. For his Paint Spear, you can jump upwards or dash through using Shadow Dash to avoid being damaged.

Brothers Oro & Mato

Brothers Oro and Mato from Hollow Knight.

Brothers Oro & Mato are Nailmasters who wait at the top of the Pantheon of the Master. You first fight one of them alone, Nailmaster Oro, and then both of them at the same time.

Their melee attacks are easy to read since they telegraph them quite well. This should allow you to know exactly when to dodge away or dodge towards. They also leap in the air a lot before slamming their Nails downwards. This is a good opportunity to damage them with Howling Wraiths or Abyss Shriek.

Both of their attacks are the same, except for their Nail Arts. Oro uses Dash Slash while Mato uses Cyclone Slash. You can dodge the Dash Slash by jumping upwards or dashing towards it if you have the Shade Cloak. For the Cyclone Slash, it is better that you remain on the ground away from Mato since his trajectory will send him upwards. Be careful, though. Once he reaches his peak height, he will then slam his Nail on the ground.

Sisters of Battle

Sisters of Battle from Hollow Knight.

The Sisters of Battle is a variation of the Mantis Lords boss fight. The difference is that during the Mantis Lords fight, the second phase will only have you battle two Mantis Lords at once. In the Sisters of Battle fight, all three of them will attack you at the same time during phase two.

Their movesets and attacks remain the same, but the fact that the three of them attack you at the same time makes this battle more challenging than it already was. Using Shade Cloak and Descending Dark are very useful during this fight. Be liberal with your spells. Don’t worry about focusing your attacks on one Sister. Attack whoever you can, whenever you can. The battle will progressively become easier as soon as you drop one sister.

Hornet Sentinel

Hornet from Hollow Knight.

The Hornet Sentinel is the ultimate Hornet boss fight. It is this variation of Hornet where she utilizes everything she has at her disposal. She is faster, stronger, and uses new attacks during this fight.

Equip the Quick Slash charm for this fight. Melee attack her as often as you can while dodging her attacks when she’s on the offensive. Bombard her with spells once you’ve filled up enough souls. The only time you should be healing is when she’s staggered. You should also remember to get rid of her spikes as soon as she puts them up as those can create unnecessary blockages in the arena and they will damage you.

Great Nailsage Sly

Great Nailsage Sly from Hollow Knight.

The Great Nailsage Sly–yes, the same Sly who runs the shop at Dirtmouth–is arguably one of the toughest bugs in the game. Don’t let his small stature fool you. This boss is immensely strong and can defeat you easily if you’re not careful.

This boss fight is all about timing and learning his attack patterns. One thing to keep in mind is that Sly uses almost every single attack the other Nailmasters use, including their Nail Arts. With that in mind, employ the same strategy you’ve used when fighting the other Nailmasters. Use your spells liberally and when most effective. For example, use Abyss Shriek when you’re below him as he’s doing his Cyclone Slash attack.

Grey Prince Zote

Grey Prince Zote from Hollow Knight.

Grey Prince Zote is the dream variant of Zote the Mighty. This version of Zote is incredibly strong and unpredictable. Defeating this boss requires precision, and most importantly, patience.

Spells are useful for this fight, especially Desolate Dive or Descending Dark. When he flails around the arena, jump upward and nail-bounce on him until he falls on the ground. As he falls, use Descending Dark to inflict extra damage and to negate the damage that should come from the waves.

The best way to end this fight quickly is to make your melee attacks as powerful as possible. That said, equip charms such as Fragile Strength, Quick Slash, and Mark of Pride. End this fight as soon as possible since it will become more complicated the longer it drags on.

Nightmare King

Nightmare King from Hollow Knight.

The Nightmare King is the more powerful version of Troupe Master Grimm. All of his attacks remain similar. Only this time, like many other boss variations, he is much faster, he now deals two masks worth of damage instead of one, and some of his attacks have new variations.

Shade Cloak and Descending Dark are the two things that are most useful during this fight as they will allow you to dash through attacks and be invincible for a short period of time. Healing is almost impossible to do during this fight, except for when he is staggered transforms into a colony of bats for a few seconds.

Take note that not only is Nightmare King faster but his attacks also move at a much more rapid speed.

Focus on your melee damage when thinking about which charms to equip. Your spells should only act as reinforcements to your melee attack, which should be your main priority. Melee attack Grimm whenever you get the chance and blast him with a spell when you have enough Soul.

Pure Vessel

Pure Vessel from Hollow Knight.

The Pure Vessel is the uncorrupted, prime version of the Hollow Knight. He is much faster, more powerful, and his attacks are more potent in this form, making this battle way harder than the original, which is already a significantly difficult boss fight.

His attacks remain similar, with a few slight changes that make them harder to deal with. For example, his triple slash now has a wider and taller reach. His Focus now spawns orbs around the arena that explodes after a few seconds. And instead of throwing balls of infection at you, he will now summon daggers at you that cover a vertical arc.

The attack he uses more often than the others is his triple slash move. Whenever he does this, jump upwards and nail bounce on him. You can cause more damage to him by ending this combo with a Descending Dark.

Although the Pure Vessel is immensely fast, his attacks are also widely telegraphed, which should give you enough time to react to them. Familiarize this boss’s attacks and melee attack him only when there is an opening. Save your spells for Descending Dark openings. If you have many souls to spare, bombard him with Shade Soul. Only heal when the Pure Vessel is staggered.

This battle is all about familiarity and persistence. There is very little chance you’re going to defeat him after merely two to three tries. Keep at it and be patient, and you’ll eventually slay him.

Absolute Radiance

Absolute Radiance from Hollow Knight.

Absolute Radiance is the more powerful variant of The Radiance. This boss is encountered at the end of the Patheon of Hallownest. Absolute Radiance is the most difficult boss fight you’ll ever encounter in the game. Her moves are similar to that of The Radiance, but they’re much more resilient, they move much faster, and her final phase is different as well.

Your best bet to defeat Absolute Radiance more effectively is to equip charms that will allow you to gather Souls faster and make your spells more powerful such as Soul Catcher and Shaman Stone. The Abyss Shriek spell is your best friend for this fight. Whenever you get the chance, assault Absolute Radiance with Abyss Shriek as much as you can.

Shade Cloak and Descending Dark can also be very useful for this fight since there are attacks Absolute Radiance uses you’ll never be able to dodge away without these two, like her pillar attack.

Keep attacking her with your Nail while dodging the attacks she throws at you. Once you’ve saved up enough Soul, you’re in the proper position, and there’s an opening, use your Abyss Shriek.

The hardest part of this fight is the third and final phase. You’ll be forced to jump from pillar to pillar to climb upwards and reach Absolute Radiance. As you’re climbing, she will fire energy beams at you. Before these beams can damage you, a trajectory of light will mark where the beam will hit. This should give you an opportunity to know when and in which direction to jump.

Once at the top and at the end of the fight, just remain patient and hit her with your Nail when you can while avoiding the orbs she throws at you. Once again, use Abyss Shriek when you can. Keep at it and you’ll be able to defeat her eventually.