Skyrim: The 10 Most Difficult Bosses, Ranked


Skyrim, like any role-playing game, features enemies clustered in a hierarchy, the top of which is ruled by the dreaded boss. These encounters tend to be notoriously difficult, and require quick thinking, ingenuity, and decent weapons to overcome. The sprawling province of Skyrim is loaded with such bosses, each one distinct from the other.

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Boss fights in Skyrim typically revolve around key characters and creatures that stand apart from the rest and have special abilities that put them in the upper echelon. Players who square off against these bosses should get a worthy challenge, though not all of them rank the same in terms of difficulty.

Updated on July 23rd, 2021 by Derek Draven: With the announcement of the Elder Scrolls VI by Bethesda, it hopefully won’t be too long before fans can return to the fantasy land of Tamriel. In the meantime, there’s plenty of reasons to replay the most famous chapter in the series, Skyrim. The game is loaded with a colorful and dynamic assortment of creatures and monsters that dish out quite a challenge, even for longtime veterans of the game. Some of these bosses deserve mention despite being a little underwhelming in terms of challenge, but others require a wealth of strategy and perseverance to take down. Which is the hardest boss in Skyrim?

10 Alduin

The dreaded Alduin breathing fire during an attack in Skyrim

By all accounts, the frightening Alduin should be the baddest boss of them all, but by the time the player reaches Sovngarde, the threat is somewhat lessened. There’s still a challenging fight to be had, but it’s not as distinct from other dragon battles as it should be, making Alduin a bit of a letdown in terms of boss encounters.

Further, the three heroes from the Hall of Shor assist in the battle, which makes it a lot easier than it should be. Players disappointed by the ease of the fight can choose from a number of excellent Skyrim mods that affect dragon stats, making it much more challenging, even for more experienced players.

9 The Volskygge Draugr Death Overlord

A Draugr Death Overlord wielding a large sword in Skyrim

The lower tiers of Draugr are only dangerous in high numbers, but as one travels up the hierarchy, the Dragonborn, at one point or another, will come face to face with the Draugr Death Overlord. This is the most powerful of the Draugr variants in Skyrim, but one, in particular, stands tall as the most fearsome.

If the player travels to Volskygge, they will encounter an extremely powerful Draugr Death Overlord with a minimum level of 34. Worse, higher-level players will get to square off against a level 45 version of the Death Overlord, making it one of the strongest boss fights of the entire game.

8 Nightlord Vampire

A Nightlord Vampire attacks the player with magic in Skyrim

Vampires are nothing new to Skyrim, especially after the Dawnguard DLC was released, but they do spawn at various levels, some of which are far more challenging than others. The undisputed king of the dark lords, however, is the Nightlord Vampire, a level 60 foe that can make short work out of any careless player.

Though this vampire does not appear in just one location, they can be referred to as a boss fight, given that they’re at the top of the proverbial vampiric food chain. Killing one requires players to be at a high level, with strong weapons, plus a few tactics on hand to chip away at their health from a distance. Skyrim Players who are just getting started should not wade into vampire territories until later on.

7 Harkon

The Vampire Lord Harkon in his demonic form, in Skyrim

The Vampire Lord Harkon is a much different creature from the regular vampire types found around Skyrim. He’s also a central character in the Dawnguard storyline and serves up quite a challenge. Harkon is immune to several kinds of attacks, and he also benefits from a 50% resistance to frost attacks.

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Fire and ranged attacks work well against him, but Harkon has an ace up his sleeve. He hovers above a blood altar to replenish his health, allowing him to prolong the fight. Players who aren’t equipped with potions and a good set of weapons and armor might find themselves whittled down to the bone by this boss.

6 Ahzidal

Ahzidal the Dragon Priest flaunting his power in Skyrim

The mysterious and ominous Dragon Priests represent one of the hardest enemy types in Skyrim, but thankfully, there are only a few. The most powerful is undoubtedly Ahzidal, who is revealed during the Unearthed questline near Kolbjorn Barrow. His name means “embittered destroyer,” a fitting title for such a challenging boss.

Ahzidal is a level 60 foe with a mastery of the magical arts, and he’ll use them to pummel the player into ruin. He’s also the only Dragon Priest to be fully armored, making him extremely tough. It’s wise to bring along a likable and well-rounded companion to defeat this enemy, especially since the player can loot his armor after defeat.

5 Krosis

Krosis the Dragon Priest wielding frost magic in Skyrim

One Dragon Priest is bad enough, but one that fights with an actual dragon at his side is even worse. Krosis is one of the few Dragon Priests to be located in the wilderness, as opposed to an interior space, and that’s partly to set up the fight against the player. It’s certainly one of the toughest boss fights of the game.

In addition to dodging attacks from Krosis’s Staff of Fireballs, the player must contend with his bloodthirsty dragon. Leveraging the available terrain is difficult, which often leaves the Dragonborn wide open for attack from both foes. At level 50, Krosis is no slouch, and it may be wise to take a companion along to help out.

4 The Forgemaster

The Dwarven Centurions are a challenging enough lot by themselves, but they’re nothing compared to the Forgemaster, a gigantic “Dwemer Animunculus” found in the Dawnguard DLC. This entity breathes actual fire which can linger on the ground and cause environmental damage for players who aren’t careful where they step.

The Forgemaster cannot be damaged by fire, but it does have a 50% weakness to frost-based attacks. The most problematic feature of this boss is the massive health point advantage it has over the Dragonborn since it spawns at a minimum level of 24. Lower-level characters should tread lightly.

3 Naaslaarum & Voslaarum

The combined power of these two Revered Dragons makes for one extremely demanding battle, and the Dragonborn must face them both at the same time for an extra challenge. Under normal circumstances, just one dragon would prove to be a challenging fight, but this Dawnguard DLC affair is a whole other thing.

These dragons employ the Drain Vitality (Gaan Lah Haas) Dragon Shout, which causes time-based damage to the player’s reserves of health, stamina, and magicka for half a minute, which also results in temporary disorientation. It’s best to bring a companion or two along to help out and provide distraction.

2 Karstaag

Karstaag wielding a massive club in Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind gamers are well aware of the infamous Karstaag, and for those who transitioned to Skyrim, this particular boss is something of an easter egg and the second hardest boss in Skyrim. Players can find the creature’s skull in the Glacial Cave, and reanimate the foe inside the Castle Karstaag ruins. Once resurrected, the fight is on.

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Karstaag is a behemoth with a fighting style similar to that of the giants that populate Skyrim. He’s even got the same style club attack, which gave way to one of the funniest bugs in Skyrim history. However, all of its attacks are beefed up, and it strikes much harder. In addition, Karstaag has multiple frost spells active during the battle, which can further chip away at the player. It is recommended that they use the fully amped-up Marked For Death shout to overcome his immense stat buffs.

1 Miraak

A portrait of the Dragonborn Miraak in his full suit of armor in Skyrim

As the first Dragonborn, Miraak has access to pretty much all the powers available to the current Dragonborn and is the hardest boss in Skyrim, though he’s slightly limited in terms of variability and preparation. This makes him behave more like an NPC, rather than a full-fledged character on the same level as the player.

Nevertheless, he cannot be destroyed without expending massive amounts of effort and strategic planning, most of which includes running away to heal in a corner. Of course, the game makes it more challenging by allowing Miraak to repeatedly come back from the brink of near-death, at least three separate times.

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