Twelve rounds. Twelve enemies. At the end of it, the promise of massive riches — or you can bow out in the middle and still get a pretty decent prize. This is the Skyward Sword Boss Rush: an optional part of the game, but one of the reasons I find myself going back to it long after I’ve finished.

Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!

Skyward Sword is not the first Zelda game to feature a Boss Rush or at least a semblance of one. A Link to the Past had you face off against a few bosses before finally reaching Ganon, and in The Wind Waker, you faced shortened versions of all the bosses again in Ganon’s Tower. There is some form of a “rush” in many of the games, whether it’s the bosses you fight, a rehash of dungeons, or an optional challenge area where you really put your skills to the test, but Skyward Sword’s version is unique and my favorite for several reasons.

First off, you can select which boss you start with, meaning you have a bit of control over the experience. You can pick your most difficult enemy first and do what I did, which is use a Guardian Potion to reduce damage during that first battle, or you can pick the easiest and challenge yourself later on. There are no healing items throughout the battles, and if you’re fighting them consecutively, you carry the damage with you to the next fight. When you die, it’s over, and you return to the Thunder Dragon Lanayru to begin again. 

Your Battlemaster, the Thunder Dragon Lanayru.

The second feature I enjoy about this challenge is the timer function. When I first tried this battle mode, my only goal was the Heart Piece, which you obtain four fights in. I was convinced I’d never make it that far so the timer never mattered to me. But as I got better, I started watching the clock. How quickly could I finish the battle? Would I beat my last time? Eventually, I came back to this arena and went eight rounds to get the Absurdly Sturdy (Hylian) Shield, then all twelve rounds once I’d finished the game and beat Demise.

After beating Skyward Sword in Hero Mode on stream, I decided I would do the Boss Rush so I could consider the game beaten 100 percent. It took me a number of tries, but I kept at the fight both out of petulant stubbornness and because I knew once I did manage to complete it, the feeling alone would be worth it.

I wasn’t wrong. That feeling of watching Link perform that fancy corkscrew jump to drive the Master Sword into Demise’s chest was incredibly powerful, and it was even better that I got to share it with my stream chat. I was filled with relief that finally the fight was won, but I was also filled with encouragement. If I did it once, I could do it again. That feeling has actually encouraged me to learn a few tips and tricks for the battles so since then I‘ve gone back and improved my times on a few fights, or just my skill at the game. I‘m not a gamer by profession, and I‘ve never attempted to speedrun anything, but the tricks discovered by others have definitely improved my enjoyment of the game and of this section of it in particular.

I’ve had a few people who’ve asked me what I get out of the challenge. It’s optional, and I’m not attempting a speedrun or go for any record, so why keep going back?

To be honest, I really don’t know. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body, so I’m not doing it to challenge anyone other than myself, but maybe that’s enough. Perhaps the feeling of accomplishing the Boss Rush in a faster time is what drives me, getting a new personal best time or just a fight with no hits. I still have yet to accomplish the entirety of the rush without a shield or any potions aiding me, and I don’t know if I ever will, but I keep trying. There’s a skill involved, especially in Skyward Sword where everything is motion controlled. I’m unsure if I will ever have the skill of a professional gamer or speedrunner but that doesn’t matter to me.

What matters is the feeling of accomplishment I get after getting a better time, or of finishing the challenge altogether. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so attached to Skyward Sword as a Zelda game. Boss Rush aside, no other game has given me such a huge sense of accomplishment when I played it and has kept giving me that satisfaction despite multiple playthroughs. There are numerous ways to tackle the game, as well as the Boss Rush, and that keeps me engaged. Completing the task is such a rush that there are times I come back to the game when I’ve had a rough day. The adrenaline and sense of satisfaction is an instant mood booster.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a speedrunner or professional gamer by any means. I’m just a casual player who likes a challenge, and the Skyward Sword Boss Rush is a good place to find it.