is no walk in the park, with a never-ending gauntlet of brutal enemies blocking your path. And waiting for you at the end of each area are terrifying bosses that will no doubt have you dying more than twice. But these battles don’t always have to end in defeat if a shinobi has the right strategy to outmaneuver his opponents. We’ve compiled expert tips and tricks, videos, key items to use, and boss strategies for all the toughest encounters.Before getting into each of the bosses, be sure to remember these tips for all of your big battles:
- Most tough enemies have a large health pool, and will be faster to take down by breaking their posture. However, most boss posture regenerates quickly – especially at high health. Try to focus on getting careful hits in to chip away until their health falls to around half, and then press the attack to raise their posture when it heals slower to increase your chances to breaking the meter long before their health fully depletes.
- Unless you see the warning sign of a perilous attack, try to overcome your fear of meeting an attack head-on, and block it instead of trying to dodge away. Crazy-looking attacks like dropkicks, animal swipes, and projectiles can all be blocked and even parried – which can damage an opponent’s posture. However, dodging covers very little ground compared to other From Software games, and while it has its uses against pinpoint vertical attacks and thrusts, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
- Certain humanoid bosses will try to counter-attack constantly, but you can use this to your advantage with an “aggressive defense”. Once you have the rhythm of their counters, you can attack, parry, and attack in a rally that will benefit you in the long run even if you’re constantly getting blocked, since you’ll be raising their posture meter the entire time with well-timed deflections.
- Later game bosses will deal a ton of damage with their attacks, and blocking them – even with perfect timing – can still wear down your own posture. Look for opportunities between engaging them to hold down the defend button, as it will rapidly reduce posture damage.
- Watch enemy movements as closely as you can – sometimes the simple act of raising their sword or taking a specific stance can clue you into their next attack, and can allow you to prepare for what will happen next. Certain bosses will react differently depending on your distance – and you can also use this information to ensure you’ll be ready for specific types of attacks.
The massive horseback rider, Gyoubu Oniwa will announce himself as you try to leave the Ashina Outskirts for the front gate leading to Ashina Castle, and is one of the first two bosses you can encounter.
While he may look intimidating, Gyoubu’s attacks are rather limited to his massive spear, and even riding around on horseback, you don’t need to worry too much about chasing him down as you might think. For this fight, it’s imperative that you purchase Robert’s Firecrackers from the Crow Memorial Mob, and it’s also worth exploring the optional Hirata Estates memory to get the Loaded Axe or Flame Vent, so that you can gain the Prosthetic Esoteric Text from the Sculptor. Gyoubu’s horse is extremely susceptible to the firecrackers, and they can be used to not only stun the boss to let you score free hits, but will also raise Gyoubu’s posture meter, which is essential to defeating him after you’ve carved off over half his health.
Gyoubu will often charge in close to circle you while heaving his massive spear down or using large swings that you can predict and deflect by watching his movements – but every so often he’ll also gallop away – and either charge back, or use his spear at range thanks to the rope its tied to. During these moments of ranged attacks, you’ll find that he leaves his guard down – letting you grapple in close by hooking onto his helmet. With the Prosthetic Esoteric Text, you can invest in an early skill that lets you attack while grappling, which can be used to great effect in this situations to get in close and attack while he’s busy pulling his spear back.
The enigmatic elder shinobi known as Lady Butterfly hides in the burning temple, deep in the forgotten memories of Hirata Estate, an optional area to explore early on in your adventure. She is one of the first two bosses you will likely encounter, and will quickly force you to adapt to Sekiro’s aggressive parry and posture system.
This particular fight is sure to be fast and furious, and you’ll want to adapt to an aggressive playstyle to constantly build up Lady Butterfly’s posture meter. However, this enemy will constantly dodge out of range onto invisible wires before either tossing shurikens, or leaping down for an unblockable grab or strong axe kick. Make sure you’ve got a full stack of Spirit Emblems, as you’ll want to employ your Shuriken Thrower while Lady Butterfly prepares to jump down. Timing this correctly will send her crashing down, and while it won’t deal major damage, it will do a lot more posture damage, and leave her vulnerable on the ground to a quick follow up attack. When she’s grounded, watch for her string of combo attacks, and learn the rhythm to parry each strike and jump over her unblockable sweep.
In her second phase, things will get a bit more hectic, as she’ll summon phantoms that will try to poke you on all sides as she waits to strike from above. You can try running around the arena to outpace them, but you can also use Snap Seeds to quickly dispel large groups of the phantoms. It’s better that you do this when possible, as Lady Butterfly will eventually snap her fingers to turn them into a swarm of blazing butterflies that amass above the arena before launching themselves at you – and they cannot be blocked. With that in mind, be sure to explore the Great Serpent’s Valley to grab a bunch of Snap Seeds.
The young and desperate commander of Ashina’s forces, Genichiro Ashina has gone to great lengths to secure his prize, the young Lord Kuro, at the top of Ashina Castle. He is likely the third boss you’ll face, and an extremely tough fight – boasting not two but three different phases!
There’s no easy trick or item to turning the tables on Genichiro – you’ll need to become well-versed in using an aggressive playstyle while watching to see what moves Genichiro is preparing, and act accordingly to deflect or dodge before getting back into the fight. He’ll also employ a large variety of unblockable attacks or long combo attacks that you’ll need to learn to know what’s coming. In particular, watch for him to hold his sword back behind before launching into a long string of attacks starting with two swings, a spin, and then 7 rapid strikes – timing these with perfect parries can go a long way to breaking his posture. He can also leap into the air before stabbing downwards: and will thrust at you in the first phase, but may also try sweeping in the second and third phase.
His bow can also hit you by surprise if you aren’t careful, but remember that standing or jumping, you can still deflect the arrows – but his long draw will deal a lot of posture damage, and expect him to always roll forward for a slash after shooting several arrows at you. Try to use a Shuriken with the Chasing Slice skill to quickly close the distance on him if he goes to retreat and fire arrows, as he often won’t be able to defend quick enough. If he runs to the side of you, be ready for unblockable attacks – a grab if he runs to your left, and a sweep if he runs to your right.
Unfortunately, the stakes get raised even more in Genichiro’s final phase, so you’re going to want to practice conserving your healing gourd and at least one resurrection until the final phase. In addition to being even more aggressive and using more unblockable stabs, Genichiro will also employ a leaping electric attack – either slashing or using his bow. Be sure to use an Eel Liver to mitigate the damage from these attacks – because you’re going to want to leap up into the air as well and soak the blow. So long as you get struck in the air, you’ll have a quick moment to slash back and stun Genichiro, dealing a ton of damage and leaving him vulnerable for a moment.
The lone defender of the Sunken Valley’s watering hole where the Lotus of the Palace lies, the Guardian Ape is a wild and unpredictable opponent in more ways than one.
Arguably one of the most frustrating bosses you’ll encounter, this crazy ape utilizes a lot of moves that are fast, frantic, and hard to get a read on. The worst offenders are easily his upwards slash as he drags his left hand along the ground, and his two-hit attack with his right hand bringing it sweeping back and forth. Both attacks come with such force that they’ll knock him off balance – but don’t be fooled. When he swings himself onto his rear, there’s a good chance he’ll quickly swing around and slam both fists down where he was sitting to catch you off guard – so give it a moment before pressing your counter-attack. When he performs his uppercut, he’ll fall onto his back, but quickly lash out in all directions around him before getting up, so hold off attacking for a few moments.
Sometimes, the Guardian Ape will break off his attack to run away and start strafing – or he may just reach into his rear for a nasty surprise, and try to literally dunk on you with a massive amount of feces. Even if you aren’t hit directly, it’s easy to get caught in a poison cloud, so break into a sprint and rush up to attack while he’s busy engaging in monkey business. You may also notice at range that the sword hilt on his neck becomes targetable – allowing you to grapple quickly to him and attack using the Prosthetic skill. Another trick to remember is that as a beast, Shinobi Firecrackers can stun him if used in moderation – just be careful if he stands on his hind legs, as he may slam down after being stunned.
Unfortunately if you think that’s all there is to the fight, phase two will throw you for an even bigger loop, as the rules of combat are completely changed. In this new version, the Guardian Ape will move in zig-zag pattern that can throw off your tempo, and will surprise you with quick lunges with his new sword. Luckily, his long sliding slash makes him vulnerable if you jump past him, and his thrusts often follow up with a long dropping slash that you can deflect to stun him, exposing his neck and allowing you to drive the Loaded Spear deep inside for a huge amount of posture damage. However, if you see him put his head on his neck when he gets up, sprint far away to avoid his scream of horror that can easily kill you if you aren’t wary.
The hidden guardians of Senpou Temple’s Illusive Realm, the Folding Screen Monkeys are an unorthodox team of bosses that will prevent your access from reaching the Divine Child and the Mortal Blade.
Your opponents in this match are four very weak monkeys – however the hard part isn’t killing them: it’s catching them unaware. Each monkey has a different strength and weakness, which you’ll need to learn how to turn to your advantage. The purple monkey has great eyesight, the green monkey has excellent hearing, the orange monkey will sound an alarm for the others, and the final monkey is invisible. Trying to chase them is almost always futile, so instead you’ll need to use trickery to get the job done.
Note each of the buildings that house this boss arena – one has a waterfall which deafen all other noises, one has a door that blow in a wind to douse all lights, and the largest building has a gong out front, and a darkened attic space. By carefully chasing the purple monkey into the darkened areas and then approaching from another angle, you can silence it. You can also chase the green monkey into the waterfall room and then drop in from above, or wait until he’s in front of the gong, and stun him by ringing it to defeat him. With both of them defeated, you need only sneak up from behind to kill the orange monkey. Finally, turn and look behind you to spot a series of white footprints from the invisible monkey, and look for where they end and swing your sword to kill it.
A ghostly phantom that has corrupted the people of Mibu Village, far into the Ashina Depths, the Corrupted Monk is a standard and straightforward boss that can pack a serious punch.
Despite having only one health bar, the fight with the Corrupted Monk can be a tough one due to the relentless attacks of the Corrupted Monk and the high amount of health and posture this enemy poses. Because of this, you’ll have to commit to slowly chipping away at their health until posture damage starts to stick. Thankfully, there are a couple of tricks you can use to even the odds in your favor. Because the Corrupted Monk is a phantom, you’ll be able to use Snap Seeds to deal straight damage to the monk (much like how they were used to defeat Lady Butterfly’s phantoms). However, despite looking like an apparition, Divine Confetti won’t deal that much extra damage to this boss.
To survive this boss, you’ll also want to use Gokan’s Sugar to reduce the posture damage you’ll take, as the Corrupted Monk will often do several spinning attacks that can break your defenses if you aren’t careful. Many of the Monk’s longer attacks usually come with a small amount of downtime to let you get your own hits in, just be ready for some of the spin attacks to end with either a thrusting or sweeping attack that you’ll need to dodge or counter.
The surrogate father and master of the Wolf, the great shinobi known as Owl will make his dramatic return to Ashina Castle after you’ve found all the ingredients to reach the Fountainhead and claimed the Mortal Blade. Depending on your choice in this encounter, you’ll be forced into a fatal confrontation.
Owl is an very large and imposing figure with a giant weapon to match, and can deal a ton of damage if you aren’t careful, or deplete your posture quickly – so be sure to hold guard in between attacks to quickly lower your posture meter. He employs a variety of shinobi tactics – including shurikens, firecrackers, and other annoying tools. The biggest pain to deal with is a quick bomb toss that will disable your ability to heal yourself if you get caught in the gas. Try to punish this move by dodging around to his side away from the gas and attack his back. He may also throw two shurikens before doing a leaping vertical strike – which will leave him open if you sidestep the slide and counter with your own attack.
Don’t be fooled when he begs for mercy – as he’ll just create a smoke cloud to begin phase two, and routinely hide in the shadows to strike or toss anti-healing bombs. He’ll also swap out his jumping shuriken attack with poison bombs, requiring you to constantly fight in different parts of the arena or risk getting poisoned. Above all, avoid getting hit with the anti-healing bomb at all costs, as it gives you more chances to strike back when he’s open. If you are under the effects of the bomb, he’ll press his attacks even harder to take advantage of your inability to heal.
Once you reach the Fountainhead Palace, you’ll have to deal with the entrance guard, the true form of the Corrupted Monk.
The good news is that the monk will take a lot more posture damage and has less health than before. The bad news is that the fight is now split into three parts, and each phase has something new to deal with. Since the Corrupted Monk is no longer a phantom, Snap Seeds will no longer have an effect, but Firecrackers can stun the boss for a few moments. There are also multiple branches that hang over the bridge where the fight takes place, and with enough speed and luck, you may be able to perform a Shinobi Deathblow from above on the boss during the first two phases. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait for the opening of the moves you’ve seen before – and run from the copies that appear in the second phase.
In the final phase, a giant centipede will emerge from the Corrupted Monk’s body, changing the fight in a big way. In addition to using way more spinning attacks to break your posture, the Corrupted Monk will also perform an unblockable attack to spit gross stuff on you, dealing a lot of terror damage in the process. However, if you’re quick, you can dodge or sprint around behind the boss when you see it coming, and attack from behind.
For those wishing to unlock a different ending to Sekiro, a return trip to a much harder Hirata Estates will put you face to face with an optional but much harder version of the Great Shinobi – Owl.
This version of Owl is much faster and deadlier – even without his anti-healing grenades. He’ll frequently use massive strikes, chasing slices to follow shurikens, and a rolling sweep attack that’s hard to punish. You’ll also need to watch out for a powerful smokescreen of damaging firecrackers, as they’ll stun you while he prepare to strike you from behind the explosions – usually with a powerful thrusting attack. If at range, you’ll want to backpedal and wait for him to charge forth, or try to sprint through the cloud before it ignites if you’re close enough, then hit him from behind.
Many of his attacks will also vary depending on your position an actions, and since he’ll have a lot of health and posture, you’ll be in for a long battle of slowly carving his health down to makes the posture damage stick. When he rolls into a position with his sword raised, he’ll either bring it down overhead or fake into a horizontal slice if he senses you moving to his sides, so you’ll need to wait as long as possible to bait out the overhead strike before sidestepping to punish it.
In his second phase, he’ll summon his own own spirit, which will fly around the arena. He’ll frequently take the time to vanish after throwing out firecrackers, and then leap out of the owl spirit for a surprise jump slash that can happen almost anywhere. He’ll also summon the owl to him, and set it ablaze before it soars toward you. Be sure to quickly hop over it, and then be ready for his follow-up perilous attack that he likes to plan while your distracted, and quickly perform a Mikiri Counter to stop him cold.
The great guardian of the Divine Realm that rests above the Fountainhead Palace, the Divine Dragon is a bit of a strange fight, but is still a dangerous one if you’re unprepared.
Before you can fight the Divine Dragon, you’ll need to take out a swarm of Old Dragons of the Tree. They aren’t exceptionally dangerous, but will try and swarm you while belching poison gas everywhere. Thankfully, it won’t be long until a few branches appear around you, letting you grapple up and perform Shinobi Takedowns that will let you swing their bodies around to kill the others around them. Focus only on the white ones and avoid the blackened ones and they’ll quickly dissipate.
Once the Divine Dragon itself appears, you’ll want to remember your fight with Genichiro, as lightning is the key to this battle. The Divine Dragon will try pushing you back constantly and sending shockwaves from its sword that you must dodge until you can reach the branches surrounding it. Look for the sparks of electricity to grapple to a branch as it gets electrocuted – and you’ll be send high into the air to send the lightning straight at the dragon. Just be mindful of the waves of force the dragon will swing at you between attempts, and dodge as best you can until you’re able to deplete the dragon’s health with electric strikes.
One of the last optional boss fights you can take on, you’ll find the massive Demon of Hatred rampaging across the Ashina Outskirts gate where you fought Gyobu – once night has fallen across the land. To reach him, you’ll need to head down from the castle back towards the Dilapidated Temple to find a warp point.
As you might expect from a near-final boss, the Demon of Hatred is an extremely tough fight no matter how good you are, as you’ll have to contend with a number of extremely large attacks and fiery blazes across three phases. For this reason, it’s absolutely essential that you stock up on Dousing Powder, and get the Suzaku Umbrella‘s fire-resistant properties to shield yourself. Some early attacks, like a long overhead fiery whip attack – can be dodged by sprinting to the side and then in close to attack. Others, like his ability to let loose fiery bombs by sweeping his arm, are best deflected using the Umbrella Shield. If you spot him leaping up into the air, quickly sprint away and jump when he lands, and then grapple back to him in mid-air to avoid the impending shockwave that flies out.
By the second phase, you’ll want to watch out for even more fire-based attacks. When you see the Demon of Hatred sway to the left with his foot raised, prepare your Suzaku Umbrella as he’ll stomp down for a massive trail of flames to hit you that are incredibly hard to avoid otherwise. He may also go into a shake his head and begin to summon fireballs to track you down, which can also be shielded (or you can sprint quickly towards him and to the side to try and outpace him until the fireballs stop to dash in for a strike.
In his final phase, he’ll try to close the gap by spinning in a low sweep followed by a high sweep of fire that will encase you and the Demon in a ring of fire. He’ll often make use of this discomfort by racing forward to grab you with his right hand, and then double back sweeping his fire arm that you’ll need to jump over both times. Since this is a long fight and one of your last – don’t be afraid to use any consumables to gain an edge, and back off when you need to catch your breath from his relentless strikes.
The final boss of Sekiro may begin with Genichiro where you first faced him past the Ashina Castle Reservoir, but the true boss if this four-phase fight is most definitely Isshin, the Sword Saint.
This fight is one big endurance test, which also means you’ll need to get practiced enough to consistently shut down Genichiro in the first phase of the fight. Thankfully he only a few new moves from your previous battles with him – namely the Black Mortal Blade which can deal heavy damage even if you block, but you can also get around his large slashes to hit him from behind. His other attacks are still reminiscent of your last fight, just remember the tempo of his combo attacks to build up his posture quickly and counter any of his unblockable attacks.
The real test begins when Isshin enters the ring. He’s surprisingly fast and deals a ton of damage with his Ashina fighting style. Many of his charge up attacks can deal damage even through blocking, so you’ll either want to have an Umbrella Shield ready, or read the directions of his attacks to dodge around them. Still, perfectly parrying his overhead ichimonji can put the posture damage on him, as can parrying his cross slash when he sheathes his blade (look for the gleam to know when he’s striking!). Note that this move will also adapt to your actions, and you can bait him out of it by moving forward until he goes for a quick uppercut followed by a low sweep – which you bait out and punish every time. If you see him start strafing to your side, get ready to counter his incoming thrust attack.
By his second phase, Isshin will kick things into high gear by pulling a giant spear out of nowhere, which he’ll dual wield along with his sword (and a hidden repeating pistol!). With his new toy, prepare for lots of terrifying jumping slashes and strikes which can come in a long combo string. Understanding how his attacks work are crucial to this fight, as you’ll need to be ready for anything – a quick salvo of bullets followed by a thrust or sweep, a retreating jumping slash that comes after many of his combo attacks. If you see him start to charge up big moves, remember your Loaded Umbrella can save your life against big attacks you aren’t sure how to get around.
When the final phase begins, he’ll invoke the Way of Tomoe and begin utilizing Genichiro’s jumping lightning strikes. Oddly enough, this is actually a good thing, as you’ll be able to reliably counter these with a bit of practice, and frequently stun Isshin to open him up for a ton of damage and increase his posture meter. He’s still got all his other moves too, so play defensively, strike when you see an opening, and keep going for lightning reversals whenever you can to defeat him and beat the game.
If any other sections of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has you ready to commit seppuku, fear not! We’ve got a complete walkthrough for every area, locations of all collectible Prayer Beads and Gourd Seeds, Mini-Boss guides, tips for unlocking every ending – and much more!
Brendan Graeber is a Guides Editor, and once proved IGN could be good at video games by beating Sekiro’s tutorial boss in one go on a livestream. He then went on to create a full written and video walkthrough for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice so you could be good at video games, too. Follow him on Twitter @Ragga_Fragga.