Boss battles can serve a few different purposes in games. They can change up the pace and often the scenery; they can serve as convenient punctuation between a game’s acts; they can work as a skill-gate, ensuring players are ready for the challenges ahead; they can even offer a sort of breather by allowing players to focus on just one enemy.
The many bosses in the DOOM universe are no different – except they also tend to scare the pants off of players, and look cool as Hell doing it.
5. The Barons of Hell
In 1993, gamers were plenty used to boss battles. They could be tough, they could be frustrating, they could even be a little shocking, but rarely could they be considered scary.
Then DOOM happened.
Try to put yourself in the mindset of someone who had literally never fought a boss battle in a first-person perspective before – for the vast majority of players, that was the case when DOOM first arrived on the scene. That made the Barons of Hell, the twin bosses at the end of Episode 1: Knee Deep in The Dead, quite likely the very first time most gamers of that era experienced such a terrifyingly intimate battle.
The setup is a big part of the experience: A few smallish rooms offer some demons to take out (some with the help of exploding barrels), lulling the player into a sense of complacency beforehand. A long hallway ends in a platform that lifts the player up to a nondescript new room. Then suddenly, two doors open and out pop not one, but two of the biggest, nastiest creatures seen in the game yet. Try to flee and you’re quickly cornered by barely seen Spectres at the points of what you quickly realize is an uncomfortably small, pentagram-shaped room. And the floor is literally running with blood.
That kind of face-to-face terror was like nothing players had seen before. Even to this day, it’s an incredibly effective setup for one hell of a boss fight – or two.