The Most Difficult Hollow Knight Bosses

Hollow Knight is one of the best Metroidvania games to see release in a very long time. It took a lot of inspiration from the Dark Souls franchise while managing to carve its own path in the world of video games. As you venture around Hallownest, you’ll encounter many bosses, and very few of them are not punishingly hard.

We always love the story of an indie developer creating a smash hit, so we like to talk about Hollow Knight as much as we can. What we’re going to do today is take a look at some of the most challenging boss encounters in the game (which is really saying something).

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Updated on January 21, 2022, by Jessica Filby: While many are still waiting anxiously for Silksong, which will hopefully come out this year, the idea that Hollow Knight will be available on Steam Deck proves how popular and amazing this game still is. Even if it can be an incredibly challenging game to play and complete! The real challenge comes from the bosses, and it’s common knowledge that many players struggle when coming up against some of these horrendous enemies. So here are some to look out for and what you need to keep in mind when you inevitably face them.

Brooding Mawlek

the brooding mawlek boss in hollow knight

You can find the Brooding Mawlek in the Forgotten Crossroads.

Although this boss can swipe at you when you get close, it’s not fast enough to stop you from getting in a few quick hits before running away. However, the problem with this strategy is that it is also able to shoot projectiles, meaning that you’re never really safe.

It’s not the hardest routine to get the hang of, but we feel that as a mini-boss it can get pretty difficult. At the end of it, the main character is rewarded for their bravery with a Mask Shard, making the Brooding Mawlek worth taking on.

Tips For Defeating The Brooding Mawlek

  • Get close to the Brooding Mawlek, swipe at it a few times, then run away when it raises its claw
  • It can use the slash attack while deploying other attacks, so watch out
  • Consider using charms that lengthen your nail, like Mark of Pride
  • When it shoots the large blast of acid that lands on you, wait for it to reach its highest point of trajectory, then dash away


Hollow Knight Boss Markoth mid battle

Markoth is the seventh boss in the Pantheon of the Knight.

One of the most important aspects to note about Hollow Knight Bosses is that they usually have a certain pattern. Master that pattern, and you’ll master most bosses you come up against. That’s entirely the case for Markoth.

He’s not the toughest boss in the game but can still pack a punch if you’re not expecting his revolving shield or projectiles. Nevertheless, after a few deaths or hopefully a few bits of damage that can be recovered, you should begin to notice these patterns and adapt to perfectly destroy this pain of a boss.

Tips For Defeating Markoth

  • Try to simultaneously keep an eye on the shield and projectiles
  • Practice in Ascended mode
  • Focus on hitting him with Great Slashes to stay further away
  • Get comfortable staying in one spot

Hornet (The Rematch)

Hollow Knight Boss Hornet battle

Hornet can be found in Kingdom’s Edge.

Hornet is a mysterious character. Now we know that she’ll star as the protagonist of the second game, we’re excited to learn more about her story.

While Hollow Knight’s first battle against her is a little challenging, it isn’t too hard when compared to the second battle. Her special weapon is capable of pulling off moves with much more range than most enemies. This is not to mention the spiky traps strewn across the arena, which reduce your mobility in a tense situation.

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Tips For Defeating Hornet

  • Hornet has two new moves during this fight that you won’t have seen before: she can parry your attacks, and she can set up spikes in the air that will only disappear when you hit them with your Nail or spells
  • Vengeful Spirit (and its upgraded version, Shade Soul) are both very useful for hitting Hornet from a distance and clearing the spiked balls out of the area
  • When you stagger Hornet, you have an okay amount of time with which to heal/focus
  • You can nail-bounce on the spikes

Great Nailsage Sly

Hollow Knight Boss Great Nailsage Sly mid battle

Great Nailsage Sly can be found at the top of the Pantheon of the Sage in Godhome.

The Great Nailsage Sly is one of the few bosses you can actually call cute, even if they do have a weapon that is bigger than them and can pack a punch that will shock even the most seasoned players of Hollow Knight.

Nevertheless, Great Nailsage Sly is quick, deadly, and will become incredibly annoying to fight. He’s so quick that learning any sort of pattern takes a lot amount of practice and probably, (unless you’re incredible at the game) a lot of deaths.

Tips For Defeating Great Nailsage

  • Watch out for the second phase! Luckily he’ll only have one move throughout this
  • Try the charms: Unbreakable Strength, Quick Slash, Shaman Stone, and Sharp Shadow
  • Shadow Dash through his ground attacks and follow up with a shade soul
  • Jump on top of Sly when they’re doing their cyclone slash and nail pogo off of it.

Failed Champion

the failed champion boss in hollow knight

Failed Champion can be found in the room just right of the Ancestral Mound by crashing through a wall.

The False Knight is the first main boss that you will come across, meaning that he’s not particularly difficult to take down. However, if you return to the arena and strike the remains of the boss with the Dream Nail, you’ll be granted entrance to the Failed Champion fight.

This boss battle is a lot more difficult, forcing you to deal with an enemy that is constantly launching themselves around the arena (while projectiles rain from the sky), not to mention trying to hit the guy at the same time!

Tips For Defeating The Failed Champion

  • You cannot harness Soul from this boss, so consider charms that can fill in lost health, like Lifeblood Core or Hiveblood
  • When he jumps, dash out of the way
  • Don’t waste a second jump midair over the shockwaves if you don’t need to – they’re often low enough that you can jump over them with one leap

Soul Master

the soul master boss in hollow knight

Soul Master can be found at the top of the Soul Sanctum just in the City of Tears.

This boss is constantly teleporting around the screen, keeping you on your toes throughout the entire fight. There’s no stopping to catch a breath against the Soul Master.

If you want to beat him you’ll have to recognize his attack patterns and make sure to get an attack in whenever he leaves himself open. He hits hard as well, so any time you take damage, you’ll have to try to grab a chance to use your Focus and heal some of that precious health. Only mastery of Hollow Knight’s mechanics will see you through this one.

Tips For Defeating Soul Master

  • When the Soul Master uses his attack where he drifts back and forth, you can Nail-bounce on him for some easy damage
  • During the attack where the orange orbs float around, you can easily get a few hits in
  • While this tip applies to almost all bosses, it’s especially true for the Soul Master: if you’re not strong enough, come back later. This game is not linear, and you can wait until you’re more powerful

Soul Tyrant

the soul tyrant boss in hollow knight

Soul Tyrant can be found by returning to the Soul Master’s Corpse and hitting it with the Dream Nail.

When you’ve finally managed to take down the Soul Master, you can choose to go back and take on an even more challenging variant of the boss. Although, only the truly brave should choose to do so.

The Soul Tyrant is equipped with every single attack that the Soul Master boasts, but he performs them even faster. This leaves the player with even less time to dodge and weave before taking a couple of shots for themselves. We wouldn’t blame anyone for choosing to leave this optional boss behind, so it’s definitely one for the completionist players out there.

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Tips For Defeating The Soul Tyrant

  • Since this variation of the boss teleports much faster, you’ll probably have a hard time collecting Soul, so be careful with how much you use and consider some charms that help in that department, like Soul Catcher
  • When he busts through the floor, you need to follow him down to keep fighting. But, you can hang for a moment and heal if you need to. You probably won’t be able to heal during the second phase
  • While his attacks and moves are much better in this form, he won’t perform the fake-out one
  • When the Soul Tyrant is summoning more orbs, you can use some spells on him or strike him with your Nail, but be quick and careful

Watcher Knights

the watcher knights boss in hollow knight

The Watcher Knights can be found on the top of the Watcher’s Spire in the City of Tears.

Anyone that has played through Hollow Knight will know that it’s hard enough taking on just two enemies at a time. However, this boss battle ramps up the difficulty by forcing you to try and best six different knights.

You only have to take them on two at a time, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is difficult on its own, as they chip away at your health. To knock two of them out and see two more reanimate can be very demoralizing, forcing some players to give up entirely.

Tips For Defeating The Watcher Knights

  • Keeping above these knights will work to your advantage because you won’t get stuck between them, so make use of downward bounce strikes and midair dashes where you can
  • Left of the arena, you can find a breakable ceiling if you have the Mantis Claw. Up here, you’ll find a chandelier support that you can break, dropping the chandelier down and destroying one of the knights. This permanently reduces the number of knights you have to defeat to five
  • They attack quickly, so Quick Focus is your friend here
  • Try to do this fight after obtaining the Shade Cloak, as it’ll let you dash through the knights when they corner you

Enraged Guardian

the enraged guardian boss in hollow knight

The Enraged Guardian can be found in the room above where the Crystal Guardian is located.

The first Crystal Guardian fight isn’t too difficult. It taxes you somewhat and tests your skills, but never really pushes them to a level of frustration. When you return to the fight, you’ll find that the Crystal Guardian has now become the Enraged Guardian, presumably angry that it ever lost in the first place.

While its attacks don’t change that much, it becomes much more aggressive, attacking ferociously. As well as this, every single attack causes two points of damage rather than one.

Tips For Defeating The Enraged Guardian

  • A good strategy is to keep close to the Enraged Guardian and use the Shade Cloak to dash through it when it fires the lasers, then attack from behind, but you’ll still need to watch out for the jumping
  • Standing close to the Enraged Guardian actually keeps you pretty safe from many of the ceiling lasers, if you’re careful
  • When you’re close to this boss, you can slash at it like a spam attack if you do it quickly, then move out of the way when you see its hand move to begin the laser attack

Grey Prince Zote

Hollow Knight Boss Grey Prince Zote mid battle

To find Grey Prince Zote you need to defeat Zote in the Colosseum of Fools. Strike the statue in Bretta’s basement with the Dream Nail to start the battle.

It’s worth mentioning that the real challenge here comes from the second encounter with Grey Prince Zote. The first one is pretty easy so the real power of Zote is proven through the second encounter, and power it undoubtedly is.

The main aspect of this battle you need to be wary of is his body slam attack. If you’re not ready for it then this will absolutely devastate your health and probably your own morale too. For Grey Prince Zote the main things you need to know is to never underestimate him, and work on your timings to avoid the shockwave that happens after that horrible slam attack.

Tips For Defeating Grey Prince Zote

  • Using the wall, double jump up and over the shockwave and slam attack
  • Watch out for him changing directions in the air
  • When he summons the volatile Zoteling bombs, hit them with your nail attack to stop them from doing damage
  • When he spits out the Zotelings, wait until they are fully formed before you take them out

Lost Kin

the lost kin boss in hollow knight

Lost Kin is the second boss in the Pantheon of the Knight. Break the Broken Vessel near the far left corner of the Ancient Basin.

This variant of the Broken Vessel boss is brutal. You have to stay on your toes throughout, employing every ounce of skill you’ve picked up on the way to the fight.

In this boss battle, you’ll have to act on instinct, constantly dodging and using any chance you get to attack and chip some health from your foe. Believe us when we say that this fight will take a long time to complete.

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Tips For Defeating Lost Kin

  • Area of effect charms are the way to go here, whether you want to use Thorns of Agony, Defender’s Crest, or Spore Shroom. This is because the floating balloons are arguably the worst part of this fight, and these charms help with them
  • The Lost Kin spends a lot of time in the air, so you should do the opposite and keep to the ground as much as possible

Pure Vessel

the pure vessel boss in hollow knight

The Pure Vessel can be found at the top of the Pantheon of the Knight.

The Pure Vessel is a tank of a boss, an unpredictable brute that will do a lot of damage when they hit (which they will do regularly as their patterns can be so difficult to get a handle on). The Pure Vessel boss battle is not the hardest in the game, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is brutally difficult.

We found ourselves having to try over and over again just to get the edge on this guy. Seriously, we cannot overstate how difficult this boss can be for a player who is not ready to face them yet.

Tips For Defeating The Pure Vessel

  • There’s a steady rhythm to this fight, and once you get the hang of it, you can exploit it
  • Once you kind of get the tempo of the Pure Vessel’s attacks, you can attack it heavily in between attacks, so long as you know how long that will be
  • Try to strike once and then back away quickly, rather than hanging around for multiple hits. Jumping away quickly is key here


the radiance boss in hollow knight

Radiance can be found by using the Dream Nail on the Hollow Knight when the Hornet holds them down.

The Radiance is easily one of the hardest bosses in the game. Once you’ve managed to defeat him you may think nothing in the game will be harder than this, unfortunately, there are a few that just take the cake.

The only reason Radiance doesn’t land the top spot is because of any other rematches. After fighting the harder bosses, it’s likely you’ll go back to Radiance and find it considerably easier. He’s memorable, tricky, and requires insane skill and patience.

Tips For Defeating Radiance

  • Don’t waste your time with area of effect charms, because the Radiance pretty much only uses ranged moves
  • Radiance enters the arena from the middle, so you can use that to your advantage to get some Abyss Shrieks out
  • Shaman Stone and Flukenest are both very good charms to bring into this fight
  • Shape of Unn is very helpful, as it lets you heal while the Radiance is using her Beam Burst, Sword Rain, and Sword Burst attacks

Nightmare King Grimm

Hollow Knight Boss Nightmare King Grimm battle

Nightmare King Grimm can be found after defeating Troupe Master Grimm and using the Dream Nail on him while he’s asleep in the tent in Dirtmouth.

Nightmare King Grimm speaks for itself when you’re wondering about the difficulty of Hollow Knight bosses, he’s a nightmare. The amount of times this battle has brought players to rage-quit is unreal. He’s ridiculously strong and will force you to watch your health drop in seconds, with no time to heal or even think about what’s going on.

Grimm is just an absolute health vampire and every attack is designed to force you a little closer to death so avoiding these are crucial. You’ll definitely want to perfect the art of running away and avoiding attacks if you want to defeat Nightmare King Grimm.

Tips For Defeating Nightmare King Grimm

  • Try the Mark of Pride, Shaman Stone, Unbreakable Strength, and Sharp Shadow stones
  • During the bats attack, jump early on and dash through the middle
  • Watch out for the trails of fire he leaves behind him
  • The flame spawner only comes out when he is at 75 percent, 50 percent, and 25 percent health

Absolute Radiance

Hollow Knight Boss Absolute Radiance mid battle

Absolute Radiance can be found at the peak of the Pantheon of Hallownest.

If you thought Radiance was a tough battle, then you’ll find Absolute Radiance even worse, along with the entire fanbase. It’s one of the most enjoyable battles in the game and ultimately requires you to understand Hollow Knight inside and out if you want a chance at beating this horrible boss.

Ultimately, you need to have a perfect understanding regarding timings, Essence management, and precision to stand a chance. There’s not much to really explain about this boss, because it’ll get so frustrating that you’ll end up learning everything about him by your fiftieth try.

Tips For Defeating Absolute Radiance

  • Get two hits off as soon as the battle begins
  • Try: Unbreakable Strength, Shaman Stone, Quick Slash, and Longnail stones
  • Worry about defense first
  • Let her come to you, don’t ever chase her
  • You can squeeze between those swords, just be really careful!

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