Persona 5 Royal has recently been re-released on all platforms, breaking free from its PlayStation exclusivity. This game has been special to me for a long while, and I have thought way too hard about many aspects of it, especially the rulers of each palace, which make up the epic boss fights of this game.
Persona’s bosses have always been a step above the bosses in other RPGs, and that’s almost entirely because they’re real people and not just some generic evil monsters. So you might be able to see Kamoshida or Okumura in some people you’ve seen in real life, which makes the bosses themselves all the more terrifying.
Key Info Up Front
- S Tier: Takuto Maruki, Suguru Kamoshida
- A Tier: Futaba Sakura, Masayoshi Shido
- B Tier: Sae Nijima, Yaldabaoth
- C Tier: Ichiryusai Madarame, Junya Kaneshiro
- D Tier: Kunikazu Okumura
Persona 5 Bosses Tier List Selection Criteria
Ranking the bosses based entirely on difficulty would be tedious and completely baseless, so this ranking only takes the general challenge of a boss as a minor factor. For example, I found Kaneshiro’s boss to be pretty tricky. I died a few times while fighting it, which hadn’t happened to any other boss.
However, I watched my partner play through the game, and they happened to grind just a bit more than me and did the boss on their first try. Of course, the bosses are only as difficult as how much you want to grind, so in terms of the challenge factor, I primarily consider what the boss does and think of whether or not that is more challenging than typical.
What I value in these boss fights is mostly the aesthetics, the story, and the buildup behind them, and just generally, how exciting and cool the boss is. In terms of aesthetics, I mostly want the boss and arena to be imposing, something either larger than life or so intimidating that it makes me deeply consider my first move. The story and buildup are not necessarily parts of the bosses themselves, but they should sit in the back of your mind during the boss, something that drives you to fight them.
The excitement factor is vague, but it’s more like a feeling. Even on a second playthrough, I can still find myself enjoying a boss with a lot of excitement, and I still feel that same drive I felt the first time I found out about whatever it was that they did. Characters in the S Tier have gotten almost everything right, their visuals are on point, the story behind them is excellent, and the boss excites me every single time. A Tier has nearly everything the S tiers have, but with one or two things, I find to be a little off, be it the aesthetics being a bit dull or the story just not hitting the same.
B Tier still has some decent bosses, but generally, they’re a little less engaging than the ones above them, or I find they’re maybe just a bit dull. C Tier is kind of like just clocking in on the job, there is some exciting stuff that happens, but for the most part, they’re just not doing too many exciting things. Finally, D Tier is more like that dull day on the job, where maybe you feel engaged for a while, but you didn’t even want to go today.
If you’ve played this game, I doubt I even need to explain this placement. Maruki is a confidant you have access to early on in the game, build a rapport with, and trust as a friend. Then in the third semester, seeing him become an antagonist, not because he’s evil, but because you disagree on a genuinely thought-provoking argument, is fascinating.
I have stayed awake in bed thinking too long about whether I could ever accept a reality where everyone had their happiest ending decided by one man. What if someone else would be more content if I weren’t who I truly wanted to be? Would my own wishes and desires be ignored entirely? Persona isn’t exactly full of morally grey scenarios, it’s more about legally grey scenarios, but this is the exception, and it’s great.
The fight is also challenging, just really hard. I genuinely died several times, and my only complaint is how long this boss takes to retry whenever you fail it, especially if you die in the latter parts of the first phase. There is a lot to think about, and it’s a massive test on the player’s knowledge of baton passing, exploiting weaknesses, and rationing SP. Great stuff all around.
The aesthetics of the fight itself are insane. He feels incredibly imposing while pleading with you to agree without using violence until the bitter end. “Throw Your Mask Away” is such a perfect song, the story built up to this point makes you both fear Maruki’s powers and hate having to fight him. I can’t imagine being anything other than excited to experience this again. This is the best the game gets, and I hope all of Persona 6 is like this.
You might be surprised to see the first boss of the game this high up, but I think there is a reason a lot of people who play Persona 5 get hooked on it immediately: the insanely well-done opening act.
What is incredible about Kamoshida is how he manages to make your entire party upset in different ways, he ruined Ryuji’s track career, abused Ann, and forced her best friend into suicide, and both dismissed Joker and threatened to expel him, which would immediately spell ruin for a kid on probation.
You hate this man, and what drives you, even more, is that he feels so real. This teacher could exist in our real world without any of us knowing, so you really want to take him down.
That first time you hear “Life Will Change” hits so much harder when it’s you charging in to fight Kamoshida. The throne room feels regal and makes you hate peering into this disgusting man’s distorted desires. Yet, you want to get this done because you want to demolish this awful castle immediately.
Every part of this boss’s story is incredibly driving and exciting. The fact that I hate him so much makes it all the more exciting to finally take him down. The entire opening act is just incredible.
Futaba isn’t the boss of her own palace, but Wakaba hits pretty hard regardless. I think the reason I mainly love this palace is the fact that it’s a well-needed breath of fresh air. Futaba herself isn’t evil or aggressive towards you; she’s just a very lonely girl trying to run away from her trauma, and her palace being a tomb reflects this.
I think the story really carries this one. Futaba’s story was a very well-handled and relatable plotline about wanting to hide away from your problems rather than facing yourself, Persona 4 style. Speaking of Persona 4, the fact that Shadow Futaba essentially does the exact opposite that the Shadow characters in that game do is fascinating. She’s trying to show Futaba the truth about her mother and herself.
I don’t know if I would have preferred a boss against a Shadow Futaba who’s just fighting you out of fear, but for some reason, the general aesthetics and vibe of this fight don’t quite hit the mark for me. I think it’s because most of the screen is visually uninteresting. There’s Shadow Wakaba herself, who is just a giant monster with a human head, and the background is just flat yellow out in the middle of the Desert.
This is also the easiest boss by far, only ever using wind and physical skills, both of which can be easily nullified or reflected with the right build. The excitement of saving Futaba, the story, the buildup, and only gaining Futaba as a party member mid-battle are all great, though.
Shido is… Strange. He’s the main antagonist for the game, given that he’s who got Joker wrongfully convicted in the first place, and yet when I fight him, all I’m thinking of is how much I wish I could hate this man more. Sure, he is evil. He’s a corrupt politician trying to take the world for himself, but isn’t that all he is? He feels utterly evil with no other reason to exist. The screen time he’s given only tells us the bare minimum of his character, with no real backstory or explanation for why he wants to take over the political world.
What he does succeed at is aesthetics. Every phase feels more intimidating than the last, and “Rivers in the Desert” is such a great track that I think many people who haven’t even played a Persona game love it. The story leading up to it, in general, is pretty good. You’ve had to struggle through fighting Akechi after his betrayal and going through the insanely imposing boat palace, so this feels like the final frontier, and it delivers on the challenge too.
I’m struggling to think of why it isn’t higher up other than that Shido doesn’t get much time to be his own character. I guess it just comes down to that and personal preference. I like it when the characters I’m fighting feel real and have motivations for their actions. While there are undoubtedly corrupt politicians, I think they could have created one with far more depth.
Sae is a boss I don’t have too much to say on. I think this boss would be more fun with a far more significant RNG mechanic because, as it stands, her gimmick boils down to giving herself free buffs through the fight, then you find out she’s cheating, and you give yourself buffs in return. If you had to gamble and either earn big rewards for it or take significant losses, I feel it would have been a much more memorable and fun boss.
The story up to this point is just continuing how you’d expect after the Okumura arc. Considering Persona 5’s flashback storytelling style, putting the present right at the end of this palace, you know more or less precisely how it will go. Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s also not particularly difficult, given that I’ve seen most people take her out with almost no issue whatsoever.
The aesthetics throughout are excellent. I love the flashy lights of the casino and wish it was Joker’s stage in Smash. Otherwise, I think I mostly remember Sae as being a decent boss with not too much in the way of striking design or a cool gimmick. At this point, I’m excited to get to everything that comes after, but she is still just a fun and neat addition to the game.
Yaldabaoth (or Jaldabaoth) is the god of control and antithesis to everything the Phantom Thieves stand for. The game has been building up to his reveal ever since Igor said “My Velvet Room” instead of “The Velvet Room” at the very start of the game, and for what it’s worth, I think the reveal is incredibly well done. The fight against the cup feels dreadful seeing it heal up constantly, and having to crawl your entire way back fighting some of the most brutal enemies in the game certainly feels very climactic.
My real issue with Yaldabaoth is that he feels a bit generic. What is it with JRPGs and having you fight some random god you haven’t heard of until just now at the very end of the game? One often overlooked factor that makes many Persona villains great is that they are human. I don’t just mean species; the bosses are real people living real lives, making fighting them so much more different and highly unique.
Suffice it to say I don’t feel any humanity from Yaldabaoth, he’s born out of humanity’s desire to be controlled, and while that is neat as an opposite to the ideals we have fought for this whole game, it does make him rather one-note. The aesthetics are mostly on point, and everything is ideal for a finale. I just think the fight itself lacks impact. I feel cool using Satanael to shoot a hole through his head, but I don’t feel much more.
Madarame is a pretty important character in the story; he’s the first big target for the Phantom Thieves; he isn’t just someone they know and despise. He’s a significant figure in society, and changing his heart could help many people.
While he is a turning point, and I feel at least a little excited to fight him, if only because I love Yusuke, there isn’t too much to it. The boss’s design is neat, with a multi-segmented array of paintings instead of a single colossal enemy. Still, the area you fight in is just a previous area you already spent some time in, and the fight itself borders on being just a bit too gimmicky for my taste.
Every single segment has different affinities, and then in phase two, he splits off again, forcing you to deal with even more affinities, and it’s all just a bit much. I think a more straightforward boss fight that focused on him modifying your party member’s affinities using his painting skills would be a bit more focused and a stronger overall idea, he does an attack similar to this, but you rarely see it.
Otherwise, I think Madarame is decently solid. He’s just not too memorable, which is a stark disappointment after just how incredibly unique Kamoshida managed to be.
Kaneshiro is the part of the game where you can feel exhausted from this formula. You’ve already done this twice before, and this time it isn’t even personal, Kaneshiro has not personally wronged a single one of you, just generally has been a bad guy.
This starts to get into the problem where I don’t particularly appreciate how the villains are written. I feel like the entire reason you take down Kaneshiro is that you feel obligated to since what he’s doing is wrong; there are no other motivations from any of the characters to make you genuinely hate the guy. He’s essentially the equivalent of a cartoon villain who does nothing but talk about their evil plans all day and not much else.
What I think is worse is that there was room to make him be something or someone other than a generic money-grubbing villain. For example, he brings up being cheated by society and wants to get back at the people who wronged him. These would be great as character motivations if the writers expanded on them past a single line of dialogue after you’ve already defeated him.
The aesthetics are alright. I think the bank itself is imposing, and fighting in the vault at the heart of a flying palace is pretty great; I can’t praise the boss for too much else, he is somewhat challenging if you haven’t been messing around in mementos all too much, but if you have, then he’s pretty much a pushover and a complete footnote on your journey.
You know why Okumura is here. I don’t think I’ve met a Persona fan who genuinely thinks any palace is worse than Okumura’s, and it’s for a good reason. The spaceship aesthetics are cool at first but get super samey and boring since it all boils down to metal and space with little in between. This holds for the boss itself, and while the timer is neat in that it adds a lot of pressure, it also does not freeze during cutscenes or dialogue, making it a lot harder to take in the story and enjoy it.
Every good thing this boss could have had going for it is sapped by the position it has to take in the story. The Phantom Thieves are being manipulated and baited into taking on Okumura, and both you nor they have any interest in taking this man down. He’s just such a generic and evil character, and it’s genuinely strange seeing him act friendly in the third semester since the only personality you know from him beforehand is hating his employees.
At least this boss is somewhat challenging. I think the waves of enemies and the gimmick of needing to take them out in under two turns is a bit much, though. There isn’t too much in the way of challenges that test your damage output in just a turn or two, and this is the only example of the game pushing the player on that in the entire game.
I wouldn’t call Okumura a failure of boss design or anything. He serves his purpose in the story, and so does the palace. But, unfortunately, it’s all supposed to feel a little bit bad and very exhausting. I wish the story didn’t come to a point where it even needed an incredibly uninteresting boss fight. But I don’t know. That would probably take a whole rewrite, so that may be asking for too much.
I wanted to dedicate some honorable mentions to pointing out the excellent “bosses” that fit outside the definition of a palace ruler since there are a few optional bosses and some required encounters that border on the edge of being minibosses.
Caroline and Justine have quite the neat optional encounter going for them; it’s just a shame that almost no one will see it because, for some reason that still wholly eludes me, Atlus chose to limit this boss to New Game+ only.
Fighting the velvet room attendants is a neat way to change up their usual role. They aren’t usually antagonistic, but they’re also not always friendly, generally somewhat aggressive or demanding towards the protagonist. So this fight can be seen as a slightly cathartic one to let off some steam after a whole game of these two twins bossing you around.
It’s a rather fun and unique boss, where for once, the boss uses a ton of almighty attacks and debuffs against you, which has probably been your strategy for a while. Although I wish this boss were more accessible, most people aren’t going to do a new game+ playthrough, and if they do, it will be a very long while after their first playthrough.
Persona 3 and 4 Protagonists
Now, this is certainly a neat little bonus. Fighting the protagonists of the previous few games in the canonically dubious velvet room is a fun and exciting way to sprinkle in some optional content and some good fanservice.
They’re not that hard. If anything, I wish they abused their wildcard status a bit more and kept swapping between like eight different Personas constantly throughout the whole battle, but what we got are enjoyable and excellent encounters that I think any fan of the series will enjoy.
The fan-favorite detective Goro Akechi has two boss battles, one as his rank eight confidant event, where he says, “You won’t be able to defeat me unless you actually fight with lethal intent” and then, sometimes, gets decimated by some late-game or DLC personas.
That isn’t the fight most people remember having with Akechi, though. The main one is on Shido’s boat; before you can secure your route to the treasure, Akechi tells you all about him, his true story, and how much he hates you. If you’ve done his confidant up to this point, him hating you is no surprise, but the ability to fight you tooth and nail to the death is new.
This was the most challenging part of my original playthrough of Persona 5. I remember barely scraping by this fight, using every last item I had to reflect some magic damage and keep Joker alive. However, this fight is highly engaging, and the impeccable voice acting when Akechi calls forth Loki is still burned in my mind to this day. Fantastic fight. It would be an A tier, but unfortunately, Akechi is not a palace ruler.
Questions and Answers
Question: Does Persona 5 have a lot of bosses?
Answer: Yes! There are nine palaces and even more optional and unique bosses to fight along the way.
Question: Who is the Best boss in Persona 5?
Answer: Maruki is the boss from the end of the third semester and delivers everything you could want from a Persona boss.
Question: Are there hard bosses in Persona 5?
Answer: There can be, but it depends on your difficulty setting. Some of the optional bosses on Merciless difficulty can be brutal.
Persona has some excellent bosses. That isn’t too much of a shocker if you’ve played the series. It does a great job at making most of its villains exciting and humanizing them while still making you despise them.
I think a majority of the bosses in Persona 5 have a lot to be said about them that just doesn’t get said too often, namely how Maruki is some of the best writing the series has seen, Shido had an absolute boat-load of potential (excuse the pun), and Okumura definitely could have been worse.