As always during the most stressful moments of university, I find myself latching onto certain games as a form of comfort. My first year of university it was The Sims 4, where for the first time I actually bought an expansion and stuff packs. The second-year was replaying Nintendo’s newest addition to The Legend of Zelda series, Breath of the Wild. For the third year, I feel like it’s a juggle between Stardew Valley and Shadow of the Colossus. My childhood gaming experience was exclusively being a backseat spectator to my older brother, and Shadow of the Colossus was a game I remember fondly as a child. I didn’t even mean to pick up the game. I was scrolling through my brother’s PS4 games, deciding what I was going to play once I had finished my final assignments. I had decided on the Kingdom Hearts series, another game franchise where my entire experience of it came straight from peering over my brother’s shoulder. I was even considering just starting the game right there and then, but knowing my tendency to fixate on games once I get hooked, I didn’t want to risk it when I’m buried under paperwork. So, there on the bottom of the list was Shadow of the Colossus. I had ignored it initially, mainly because I recall it looking rather challenging to play but when you’re stressed from multiple essays and deadlines, all coherent thoughts go out the drain, and I started a new save file. (I would say thank God for easy mode on the PS4, but even I struggled at times.)
My first thoughts playing the game was how much I remember and how much I’ve forgotten since the days of watching over my brother’s shoulder. The plot of the game stayed with me long into adulthood, but my terrible memory was a saviour at this moment because everything still felt brand new. Even though I played on Easy mode, I still struggled and to be honest, that is just who I am as a player. Even in the moments of frustration when I accidentally let Wander fall from the top of a colossus, and I swear that I won’t play this game again when I finally completed it, I still found myself opening the game the very next day to repeat the process all over again.
So, this post isn’t a review of Shadow of the Colossus and, like my BOTW post, I want to showcase what I liked about the game, but I couldn’t bring myself to list certain aspects definitively. So instead, I decided to rank my favourite colossi. This isn’t a list of worst to best (since I don’t think any of them as actually bad) but more a ranking of how much I enjoyed fighting each other. Also, if you haven’t played the game before, you primarily traverse across barren land to revive a girl named Mono by defeating sixteen massive beings (Colossi), aided only by your horse, limited weapons and the voice of a mysterious creature.
Note to anyone reading this post and hasn’t played the game: of course, spoilers but I’ll also be referring to the colossi with their fan-given names.
16 – Dirge
This is the only colossi I couldn’t fight, having died like six times in a row, I eventually passed the control over to my brother who did it in mere seconds. Since you need reasonable control of Agro, I knew this colossus would be my Achilles’ heel. While the fight was exhilarating, I couldn’t, for the life of me, have Agro run and turn myself in time to shoot the colossi’s eyes as it shot up from the dunes. I wouldn’t say this is the worst one since I don’t think there is a worst colossus, but God, this may be the only thing standing in my way if I replay the game again.
15 – Basaran
Basaran was almost my “I give up” colossus. For this one, you are required to lead the massive being into stepping over a geyser which allows you to shoot the required spots before climbing onto it. You need the use of Agro, which is when I almost died inside when my brother told me. I think my run time for Basaran was nearly an hour and most of it was me galloping across the land and getting upset because I almost got it to land in on a geyser. Using the bow was a difficulty of mine as well since my aim is the weakest thing in this game. I was close to passing the control over to my brother until finally, I did it. I don’t know how, but it was the most satisfying defeat in the game. I loved the look of this colossus and the way you have to defeat it, but its position is mainly due to how much difficulty I had fighting it. As you can tell by my ranking having to fight Dirge next almost broke my soul…
14 – Phaedra
I don’t remember much from fighting Phaedra which is SUCH a shame because Phaedra’s design is easily one of my favourites of the game. Something about hiding in underground spaces made it a lot of fun, but my overall experience of it was anti-climactic.
13 – Celosia
Celosia’s positioning is mainly due to how unmemorable I found the colossi in comparison to the others. I had initially found its size cute and speed threatening. But facing it much later in the game after the hell I went through with Basaran and Dirge, it felt underwhelming, but I still enjoyed it. I find it to be one of the easiest colossi in the game.
12 – Cenobia
The cutscene for Cenobia almost gave me a heart attack. I was not expecting this tiny thing to be barrelling at Wander with such speed. Playing on the PS4 remake on easy mode meant that it looks much different to the other colossi. I can’t seem to find a picture but rather than the similar, rugged look all of them have, Cenobia was flashing rainbow colours. My brother told me it was an easy mode feature to hint to players that you have to break its shell, but I found the colours quite jarring. But this was some good fun. The size of the smaller ones was unusual because I’m so used to fighting these colossi’ who are 10x Wander’s size and seeing Celosia and Cenobia barely taller than him was quite amusing.
11 – Quadratus
I feel bad for ranking Quadratus low because there’s nothing actually wrong with it. It was a great one that helped me understand the basics of the game. Maybe the difficulty I had with shooting arrows is partly to blame.
10 – Barba
Barba is one of the Colossi I remembered from childhood. Or so I thought because nothing could prepare me for the moment, he kneels down and tries to get Wander to leave his hiding place. While most of the colossi are quite docile, seeing one actively come after you like this in an enclosed space had me fearing for my life. Most of the colossi do react but they way this one actually leaned down to interact with Wander actually had me shook. And also I keep calling it Barbara. Help.
9 – Phalanx
I have no faults with Phalanx. If I didn’t have such issues with embarking the colossi, it would’ve ranked much higher. To a better gamer than me, this is easily one of the best fights in the game. Having to gallop across a desert, pierce its airbags and wait for its to fall and board via its wings was near cinematic. Except if you’re me, then it’s almost an hour of steering Agro to close that its scares her and not being close enough that when you take that leap of faith, you get a face full of sand. After fighting this one, I watched someone else fight it on YouTube and was tempted to try again. Maybe I am destined to be a backseat gamer.
8 – Malus
At their core, the colossi are peaceful until you, the player, threaten them. But Malus is on an entirely different level. Malus is the tallest of them all, but its feet are rooted in the ground, so its power move is the unique high-speed projectiles it sends at Wander as he navigates a series of underground tunnels to reach the base of the colossi. To get around this one was tricky for me, I was terrible at rolling so Malus quickly overpowered me, throwing me back into the tunnels I had just left. I eventually made my brother help me cross before going on to fight Malus. Climbing him is one of my favourite climbs of the game. Malus is a worthy finale, where all my experience in the game converged and truly tested me to my limits.
7 – Argus
Argus gets a lot of flak for being less intense for its positioning in the game. Having fought on the sky, sea and sand, going back to basics can be anti-climactic. But I quite liked it. I was stuck for a while since I had no idea how to scale the walls because I didn’t realise he was stomping around. Leading the colossi to make mistakes is an aspect I really enjoy about this game, it makes me feel smart for outsmarting these creatures. His design is a little bit underwhelming, but it’s pretty cool, and I really like the overview shot we get once we make it to the top.
6 – Valus
When I first started the game, I immediately ran straight over to Valus. New to the game, it was pretty funny to me now looking back at how I fought Valus. The music terrified me and his height had me running for cover because I overestimated the speed of the colossi. Pretty easy to defeat and a great introduction to the game.
5 – Pelagia
Thankfully, my brother would watch me suffer while I played and would drop a line of help when I got desperate; otherwise, I would have spent forever swimming between platforms. I really loved how unique the fighting scene with Pelagia was. Tricking Pelagia and then hitting its crown to navigate yourself to higher grounds had me feeling guilty, but it was a satisfying win.
4 – Avion
When I finally defeated Avion, I thought for sure; this was the worst colossi. I hated aiming to hit the beast in air and then trying to land on its wing. It had taken me like eight tries before I finally landed on its side without losing stamina and falling off. That moment when you finally make the jump was a feeling of euphoria like no other. It was an incredible moment for me when I finally defeated it, and it was a shame neither of my brothers was there to witness it since I gave up the night before and tried the next day after my lectures again.
3 – Hydrus
This one was a tricky eel to fight. It took me a while to get into the pattern of its course and I found myself zapped way more than I would have liked. But I loved the intensity and design of Hydrus which made any frustration of mine simply disappear.
2 – Kuromori
Kuromori was the one I remember my brother fighting as a kid. I remember him running between levels trying his best to aim for its legs, while shielding himself from the poisonous fog. When I found myself facing it, for once, I wasn’t as scared because of how memorable it was. It was tricky but I got there in the end and I was pretty proud of myself.
For me, growing up, Gaius was the face of Shadow of the Colossus. The fight scene was the one I remembered the most growing up. I think that is partly due to the fact, Gaius legitimately gave me nightmares long after my brother finished the game. Gaius is the last of the “tutorial” fights and approaching him was one of the most breath-taking moments in the game. Watching him come to life and make his way towards Wander was scary and awe-inspiring. The takedown of Gaius is somewhat simple, but it was satisfying and honestly one of the most memorable fights in the game.
Playing this game on my own was a really satisfying journey. Shadow of the Colossus was a fond memory but a new discovery at the same time. The game truly knows how to make you feel with such simplicity. The scale of the map, despite being close to nothing, leaves you standing around in awe. Playing on the PS4 remake left me travelling in the opposite direction just to appreciate the view in vivid HD detail. This game is just as memorable as it was back in 2000s and sitting by my brother as he defeated each daunting colossus. The mood this game embodies is one of a kind, and I’m so happy I chose to experience this game again.
Please enjoy the moment Agro pushed me off a cliff because I was too busy admiring the waterfall.
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