Shadow of the Colossus: The 16 Colossi Ranked

Shadow of the Colossus

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains information on how to defeat many of the colossi.

In my opinion, Shadow of the Colossus is one of the greatest games of all time. On paper, it sounds pretty dull. It’s just 16 boss fights. That’s it. But when you actually play it, you discover it’s so much more than that. Its scope, atmosphere, emotion, gameplay and sheer awe-inspiring visuals make it an experience like no other.

As I have recently played Shadow of the Colossus for the fourth time and love lists, I thought it would be only natural to combine the two and make a list that ranks all 16 colossi from worst to best. Because, why not? It’ll give you something to do while you eagerly await the release of The Last Guardian which is sure to come out any time now…

Before I begin, I’d just like to say that this game is fantastic throughout and even though a colossus is ranked low, it’s still really good. It’s kind of like ranking Victoria’s Secret models or the seasons of Breaking Bad. So, without further ado, the list:

#16. Colossus 8: Kuromori (Wall Shadow)

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This is a grueling, sometimes annoying, battle whereby you have to wait for Kuromori, the lizard, to climb the wall of the ancient arena in which you’re battling him, shoot him off with an arrow and make sure you don’t die as you quickly make your way to the bottom to stab him while he’s down.

What makes it so annoying is that you can only do a little bit of damage before he comes to and you have to climb back up the sides of the arena to start the whole process over again. Also, he shoots some kind of death mist at you that rapidly depletes your health; you can be dead in seconds if you don’t hustle. Often, your health will go down significantly and you have to wait around like a moron for it to regenerate. Kuromori isn’t even very impressive in appearance. This battle serves as the worst experience of the game, although the worst of the best is still pretty good.

#15. Colossus 15: Argus (The Sentinel)

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The fifteenth colossus happens to be number 15 on this list. This far into the game, you’d expect the colossi to better, more interesting, with a unique strategy to defeat them. However, it’s disappointing when you find yourself in front of Argus.

Yes, he’s pretty gigantic, but he looks almost identical to two other colossi, Valus and Barba. Visually, there’s nothing new. The arena is kind of a nice touch here, but the way in which you use it and gain access to Argus is kind of uninspired. Basically, you wait for him to hit a panel which gives you access to another level. Then, you wait for some rocks to fall which you can use to gain access to yet another level and eventually Argus himself. Like the Kuromori battle, this is a grueling battle and it can be tedious waiting around for Argus to act. Simply, it seems like the creators were running out of ideas at this point.

#14. Colossus 4: Phaedra (Equus Prime)

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This battle is kind of interesting in that you have to hide from horse-like Phaedra in tunnels underground and then sneak up behind him as he bends down to look for you. It’s sort of neat in that it goes against your impulse to face the colossus head on.

Other than that neat tidbit, the battle feels very bland. And often, even when you do what you’re supposed to do, Phaedra doesn’t bend down to look into the tunnels which is required to defeat him. Once you do get on top of the colossus, the battle doesn’t get any more exciting. I’ve played Shadow of the Colossus four times, and each time I’ve replayed it I always forget about this colossus. Probably that’s because Phaedra is very forgettable.

#13. Colossus 6: Barba (The Goliath)

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The fight with Barba is unique in that it’s one of the only ones to take place inside. As you sneak into what seems like an ancient temple, Barba breaks through a wall and starts chasing you. This sequence is pretty exciting; if you go too slow, running and climbing over stone barriers to the end of the temple, you’re toast.

Once you get to the end of the line, you must hide beneath a stone structure, a similar strategy to that of the Phaedra battle. This presents one of the many pleasant ‘ah ha!’ moments of the game. You have to jump on his beard as he’s hunched over looking for you. It’s a pretty fun battle, and I have no real complaints about it other than that it’s just not as good as the rest of the battles and slightly forgettable, although less so than Phaedra.

#12. Colossus 11: Celosia (Flame Guardian)

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The battle with Celosia is a nice change of pace for he’s the smallest of all the colossi. Even so, he’s still about the size of an elephant, but exceedingly quicker and more deadly. The area in which you fight him is also unique; it takes place both inside, in a small temple, and outside near a shallow lake in a deep pit beneath the bridge you use to access the vast land.

The series of events that lead to Celosia’s defeat are both creative and challenging. You must make him charge into a tower housing a cauldron of fire and pick up a stick that drops as a result. You then light the stick and walk toward Celosia, holding the fire so that Celosia backs up, falls off a cliff and breaks the hard shell on its back, giving you access to his vulnerable spot. It’s a fairly enjoyable fight, but it can be incredibly annoying when Celosia charges you. Often, he charges you as soon as you get up and this can occur five, six, seven time in a row or more. The battle can try your patience at times, but when you do recover from these hits, it’s good fun.

#11. Colossus 12: Pelagia (Great Basilisk)

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Pelagia is one of the larger colossi who lives in a large lake. You battle him with half of his body above water and half of it below. To defeat Pelagia, you have to actually control his movements by hitting things on the top of his head that resemble teeth. This is a very neat and unique aspect of this colossus. You ‘steer’ him to one of many stone structures, you hide, he looks for you and you jump on his stomach as he does so.

It’s a fun battle, but can get annoying when he shoots you with energy blasts or when you fall into the water and have to swim around him to climb his back which can take time. Also, this battle just doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor of others.

#10. Colossus 10: Dirge (Sand Tiger)

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Quite possibly, this is the hardest puzzle to solve in the game. Once you know to shoot Dirge in the eye, it almost seems like a no-brainer. But, because you’re running away from the earthworm as he chases you, you never think to look back at your opponent. And you can’t see his eyes unless he’s chasing you. This is one battle where using Agro is mandatory. In order to fire an arrow at Dirge, you have to ride backwards on Agro as the horse gallops away from the colossus.

It’s an incredibly exciting experience when you’re battling your foe on the run and when Dirge crashes into the sand after being hit. However, the excitement fades a little when you’re stabbing Dirge who’s knocked out, defenseless and motionless; you’re ‘kicking him while he’s down’, essentially. Also, the battle loses points for having a solution that most people would just stumble upon by pure luck.

#9. Colossus 9: Basaran (Storm Echo)

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It’s fitting that Basaran is right in the middle of this list because this battle is so bittersweet. On the one hand, it can be infuriating trying to ride away from this giant tortoise-like colossus with Agro while trying to avoid the crazy energy blasts he fires at you. It’s also really frustrating trying to lure Basaran over one of the many geysers that pepper the landscape; this can take one minute or it can take ten minutes. On the other hand, it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling when you see the water from the geyser make Basaran lose his balance and tip over, allowing you to climb, traverse and eventually defeat him. It’s also both fun and challenging trying to run across his back because there’s very little hair to grab. This is a tough fight, but when you succeed it’s quite satisfying.

#8. Colossus 7: Hydrus (Leviathan)

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Hydrus is the only colossus who swims throughout the entire battle. This makes it really difficult to grab onto him as he’s underwater for much of the time. You have to time it just right when he surfaces to grab onto to his fur, sometimes waiting for minutes to do so.

When you do manage to grab on, it’s a thrilling experience trying to hold on for dear life as the eel-like colossus plunges under water again and again. You get a very small window of time to run toward his vulnerable spot and attack before he brings you under again. It can get a tad annoying getting into position to grab Hydrus and being shocked by his electricity is no picnic, but it’s still a unique, exciting and challenging battle.

#7. Colossus 14: Cenobia (Destruction Luster)

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Cenobia is another small colossus, almost as small as Celosia. In fact, they look almost exactly the same and both seem to have anger issues as they can’t wait to charge you like an angry bull. The trick to defeating Cenobia is to stay off the ground completely. To achieve this, you have to traverse a series of ruins until you crash through a big wall, riding one of the tall pillars, and have a stone structure fall on the colossus.

This is another battle whose strategy is counterintuitive. There’s no use trying to fight Cenobia head on; he’ll just charge you every time. So, you have to use your wits and your parkour skills to use Cenobia’s own tactics against him as he knocks over all the ruins, something you need him to do in order to proceed. It’s a great concept, level design and challenge overall.

#6. Colossus 1: Valus (The Minotaur)

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This is the player’s first introduction to the colossi and it nearly takes your breath away. After you do some introductory climbing, you come to a clearing within some rocky cliffs. You hear some faint rumbling and then a giant minotaur holding a club appears on screen, making you look like a speck of dust as it takes up nearly your entire field of vision.

This is one of the greatest moments in video games and sets the pace for one of the greatest, if not the greatest, video game of all time. Yes, this puzzle is one of the simplest to solve and once you do, Valus himself is fairly easy to defeat compared to the rest of the colossi. You just stab him in the calf and he stops in pain, allowing you to climb up with ease. But it’s the first boss you battle and acts as somewhat of a glorified tutorial. It’s just challenging enough for an introduction to the gameplay while serving as a delightful indicator of things to come.

#5. Colossus 2: Quadratus (Taurus Major)

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Quadratus takes everything that is good about Valus and makes it a bit better. He presents a fairly simple challenge much like the first colossus, but at this point in the game it’s still more about impressing the player with visuals more than with brain-teasing puzzles. This is also the player’s first introduction to a four-legged colossus and the experience of running across said colossus from head to tail and back which is always thrilling. If the first colossus doesn’t convince you of this game’s brilliance, this giant behemoth will certainly do the trick.

#4. Colossus 16: Malus (Grand Gigas)

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There are really no flaws to the battles with Valus and Quadratus, but they just don’t contain the awe-inspiring moments like the last four colossi, starting with Malus. This is the final colossus you must fight in order to save the maiden, Mono. You think you’ve seen everything as you approach the final confrontation, but you really haven’t. The battle has a very different tone to it from the start; after you lose Agro (a moment that may actually make you shed a tear), things get dark, physically and tonally. Wind picks up, the sky gets dark, thunder and lightning explode and off in the distance an absolutely enormous colossus looms over the land in front of you.

This battle is so big it has two parts. First, you must reach the colossus who’s hundreds of yards in the distance by hiding behind barricades and in underground tunnels, all while Malus shoots energy blasts at you. You need very quick reflexes or else you’re toast. This part is incredibly intense and almost makes you feel like you’re in a movie. The second part of the battle occurs when you reach the base of Malus and have to climb for what feels like forever until you finally reach some fur you can grab. After this, you must shoot certain areas of Malus with arrows in order to manipulate his movement to gain access to different areas of his torso and head. Again, this takes lots of speed and precision. And then you get to his head; few moments are more epic than seeing the boy hold on for dear life, trying to stab this giant while looking down at the ground that feels like a mile away.

It’s difficult to describe the scope of this battle, but it’s like fighting a moving skyscraper. Falling from Malus can result in a very long climb to the top which can get annoying, but altogether it’s a fitting end to a wonderful game.

#3. Colossus 13: Phalanx (Trail Drifter)

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This is the second of two colossi that fly through the air which makes Phalanx one of the most exciting bosses to fight. One of the great things about this battle has nothing to do with the colossus himself, but with the location of the battle. Most of the other fights take place in fairly depressing locales; there’s a lot of grey tones, fog, cloudy skies, etc. Here, you meet your foe in a bright and sunny desert landscape and this point alone makes the battle feel special and strangely welcoming.

And it only gets better when the gigantic, flying sandworm comes bursting out of the desert and into the air. Once you shoot his big sacks of who-knows-what that are attached to his underside, Phalanx loses altitude and drags his many wings against the ground. You have to ride Agro, who’s essential to this battle, beside these wings and jump onto them, making you feel like Indiana Jones in the process. Running on top of Phalanx as he flies through the air is exhilarating. You may not get a better sense of adventure throughout the game than while you’re flying high above the desert, trying to take down this gigantic beast that extends far into the distance. It’ll take you minutes just to go from tail to head, but it’s sheer enjoyment every step of the way.

#2. Colossus 3: Gaius (Earth Knight)

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If I was to show someone what Shadow of the Colossus is all about, I’d show them this battle. It gets everything right and is second only to a personal favourite of mine. Gaius provides everything you want in a colossus battle. Visually, Gaius is probably the most impressive colossus; just watching this monolith of an enemy come toward you from off in the distance is a treat. I hate using the word ‘cool’, but that’s exactly what Gaius is: cool as hell.

The third colossus also manages to provide a perfect level of difficulty. It’s not too challenging that it becomes frustrating and it’s not too easy that it becomes boring. The goal here is to get the insanely tall knight to smash his sword against a strategically placed plate that lies within a relatively soft ground. The force that this produces breaks a part of Gaius’ armour, allowing you to climb his arm and gain access to his vulnerable spots. Obviously, the ‘coolest’ part of the battle is running up his sword after he smashes it into softer ground. Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to prompt this action, but it’s worth it to see little Agro climb aboard Gaius’ own weapon and make the long, nerve-wracking climb, one of the game’s best, to the top of Gaius as he’s trying to shake you off. The creators took everything great about the game and put it into this colossus.

#1. Colossus 5: Avion (Delta Phoenix)

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If Gaius represents everything great about Shadow of the Colossus, Avion represents everything great about gaming in general. This battle is one of the most exciting moments in gaming history. It takes place in a lake full of ruins. Your goal is to stand on one of these ruins and shoot arrows at Avion, a humongous bird-like creature. This upsets him so much that he takes flight and heads right toward you; your goal is to jump at precisely the right time so as to jump on the colossus in mid-flight. This act alone is nothing short of breathtaking and provides the player with a huge sense of achievement. You’re now flying through the sky on top of a giant bird while holding on for dear life. The rest of the battle, unless you fall off, takes place in this fashion.

Somehow, you have to make your way to each of Avion’s wings and his tail, where the vulnerable spots are located, without falling off. This is difficult considering the colossus is always moving and his wings are always trying to shake you off. At certain points, his wings turn over completely, leaving you hanging from the minimal fur found in these areas. And, still, they keep flapping. This battle can leave you feeling completely helpless and inconsequential at times, but this only makes it that much more gratifying when you finally get your bearings and take down this worthy adversary.

Moments like these don’t come around in gaming very often, but when they do, it’s the stuff of which dreams are made. All game designers should aspire to this level of gaming magic.

About author

Glen Ilnicki
Glen Ilnicki 271 posts

Glen has been reading comic books and playing video games his whole life. His unhealthy passion, however, is for film. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.

1 Comment

  1. Mighty587
    September 18, 04:08 Reply
    I agree with this list wholeheartedly. If I were to order them they would be very near this order. The last four especially. Hydra may be a little higher for me because the whole water fight aspect was really cool, but those last 4 are for sure the best. Malus is just so different from all the others, and is easily the most memorable final boss in all of gaming for me. Phalanx was a little annoying to get onto, but he really was in an awesome location and gas a beautifully designed model. And once you get on him he is super fun. Gaias is exactly what Shadow of the Colossus is all about, and either him or Valus are the best ones to show to people to introduce them to the game. And then there is Avion. Oh Avion. Honestly my favorite boss fight of all time. Even though I fell off him so many times and got super frustrated and didn't really understand the fight for a while, he is just such a pretty colossus. Very majestic. And the fact that the fight takes place on land, water, and air just made it so appealing. I haven't played the game in about 8 years, and I forgot most of the colossus until this article reminded me of them all. But besides Malus and Valus, who are easily the two most unforgettable ones because they are the distinct final boss and the first colossus you meet, Avion easily pops into my head as the third just because his fight was so much fun.

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