Returnal contains 5 boss fights. This Returnal Boss Guide will walk you through the best strategies to defeat all bosses in the game. They are listed in chronological order below.
It’s important to know that if you die during a boss fight you will respawn at the start of the act. But bosses you’ve already defeated don’t need to be fought again so you can skip them on the next try. Act 1 contains Bosses 1-3 and Act 2 contains Bosses 4-5. For example, if you die during the 3rd boss you will respawn at the start of the game but you can skip the 1st and 2nd boss and head straight for the 3rd boss.
Each boss has 3 phases. Whenever their health bar depletes a new phase starts. They change their attack pattern with each phase and their attacks get harder to evade. Always try to bring at least 1 “Large Silphium Vial” with you, this is the health item that restores all of your health. They are always found at the start of a Biome (except the one where you respawn), and they can be crafted for 175 Obolites at crafting stations. Ideally you can bring 2 of these to the boss fight, but you should bring at least 1 and try to keep it for the 3rd phase which is always the hardest. Technically, you can rush past all enemies on the way to the boss, but depending on your playstyle it can help to defeat enemies along the way to get better weapons and more Obolites for crafting. This comes down to personal preference but it’s worth trying both approaches to see what works better for you. If you rush straight to the boss, there’s always a pistol before the boss which is better than the starting pistol. Also try to unlock all permanent weapon traits by killing enough enemies with them. The traits can be quite powerful.
The main strategy for each boss is to learn their attack patterns and focusing on evading. Just keep shooting all the time. Remember you can dodge through orbs and attacks. So if you get lots of orbs thrown your way, don’t be afraid to dodge into them, because you’ll be invulnerable during the dodge. Also remember there’s a short dodge (quick press ) and a long dodge (hold ). The quick dodge recharges faster but doesn’t have as much range. For dodging orbs the short dodge is usually fine so you can quickly do another dodge if needed, and for lasers, red circles, and energy walls the long dodge is safer.
Boss #1 – Phrike
General Tips: As mentioned in the intro, all bosses in Returnal have 3 phases and their attack patterns change with each phase. Going into the boss fight you should have at least 1 health item, you can craft one for 175 Obolites at a crafting station, which you should come across on your way to the boss. This crafted item fully restores your health, use it when your health gets in the red. Try to keep the health item for the 3rd phase. If you do the house sequence (find the key which is in a random room near the house and then enter the house) you may also get an astronaut artifact that gives you a self-revive when you die, which greatly helps with this boss (but you can only get this artifact once and if you die it goes away). The best weapon for this fight is the assault rifle, try to unlock its permanent trait before the fight by killing other enemies with it (the progress bar in bottom left, also seen in the equipment screen under the weapon stats). The assault rifle has the highest damage output. The most important thing to keep in mind is to focus on evading the orbs that the boss throws at you. Just keep shooting constantly but focus more on evading than attacking! It’s all about staying alive. Always keep moving during the boss fight, always walk sideways and do short dodges before orbs hit you. You don’t take damage while dodging so you can dodge through any orbs. Always stick to the far edge of the arena as far away from the boss as possible, this gives you more time until the orbs reach you so you have more time to see their pattern and outrun them.
Phase 1: Always move in big circles around him while continuing to shoot. In the first phase he likes to use red homing projectiles – these are easily evaded by walking sideways or dodging before they hit you. When he sprays orange orbs in the air, look at their pattern and walk between them to avoid getting hit. He likes to follow up with purple orbs which he sprays from his left hand and right hand – make sure you stay as far away as possible (edge of the arena) to make these easier to evade. When he shoots purple orbs to your right you move to the left, when he shoots them to your left you move right. Being far away helps to realize the pattern and because the orbs take longer to reach you it gives you more time to react. When he disappears into the ground, look for where the ground is glowing orange and that’s where the boss will reappear. Keep shooting at him the entire time, but always focus your eyes on the incoming orbs and don’t worry too much about where you’re aiming. It’s better to miss some shots than to get hit by an orb and die.
Phase 2: In the 2nd phase he learns some new moves and starts using melee attacks. He’ll start using a laser from his eyes that he can shoot in a straight line or he can sweep it sideways. If he shoots it in a straight line just keep walking to the side to evade it. If he sweeps the laser sideways, jump in the air and do an air-dash to the side. When he shoots a laser at the ground it will create a red ring that gets bigger. When the red ring reaches you, jump over it or dodge through it (you’re invulnerable during dodges). Really pay attention to his arms – when his arm starts glowing red and he starts to rush towards you, he’s about to do a melee attack and you should do a long dodge backward (hold for a long dodge). He will also keep using his other attacks from the 1st phase.
Phase 3: The 3rd phase is always the hardest with every boss. In this phase he uses all his moves from the 1st and 2nd phase combined and gets much more aggressive, meaning he will attack much faster and spray larger numbers of orbs. Be careful of his melee attacks again. When his arms glow red and/or he dashes towards you, either dodge back or do a jump and air-dash back. Other than that, do what you did before. If you haven’t used your health item until this point, then use it when your health gets red ( ). And remember: you can dodge through all orbs and red rings, you’re invulnerable while dodging. And short dodges (quick press on ) recharge quicker than long dodges (holding ). If you’re about to get hit by something, just dodge and you’ll be fine.
Boss #2 – Ixion
General Tips: As with all bosses, you must focus primarily on evading damage in this fight. Don’t worry too much about Overloading (pressing in middle of weapon reloads), just keep shooting at the boss the entire time. Pistols and the Carbine are best here. Bring a Large Silphium Vial (item) to the fight, one is always found at the very start of 2nd World (Crimson Waste), after you go through the portal from the 1st to 2nd world. Afterward just rush to the boss, you can ignore all enemies along the way. When you’ve reached the boss for the first time, a portal unlocks where you enter the “foot of the mountain” (end of the desert, to the left of where you enter the building complex). This portal will now be unlocked permanently, so you can skip half the world on each retry to save time. Having a 2nd health item would also be beneficial. The boss can be quite tricky the first few tries, especially his third phase.
Phase 1: He will shoot a lot of orbs at you. Just keep walking around him in big circles. Whenever he moves to a new location he will spray some orbs, but they are slow and don’t travel far (don’t get hit in the back by them though!). You can evade all his attacks in the first phase just by walking sideways the entire time. If orbs get too close to you, do a short dash sideways.
Phase 2: At the start of the phase he will stand in the middle of the arena and shoots orbs and walls of blue energy at you. Stay as far back as possible, at the edge of the arena. When the blue wall comes towards you, dash through it, then immediately backtrack to the edge of the arena! Repeat this and keep shooting at him until he starts flying again, at this point he always starts by flying in a straight line through the middle of the arena which leaves behind a trail of orbs and 2 walls of blue energy. Dodge through the wall of energy again. He’ll repeat this same move a total of 3 times, just run from one side of the arena to the other and keep moving. After he did the same flying attack 3 times in a row he will repeat most of the attacks of Phase 1. There are some slightly different orb variations, but you can again outrun / dodge all of them by just moving sideways the entire time.
Phase 3: This is where it gets tricky. At the start of the 3rd phase he’ll do the same thing he did at the start of the 2nd phase. He’ll stand in the middle and again shoot orbs and blue energy walls at you, so repeat what you did before. After this he enters a melee phase, he’ll stop flying and instead starts jumping at you and tries to deal melee attacks. He will also start casting red rings of energy around him that shoot towards you, particularly after melee attacks. When he’s about to do a melee attack, dodge back and immediately jump up in the air ( + , )! This will avoid the red energy rings. He also releases red orbs after his melee attacks, but they don’t have much range and are easy to evade by walking/dodging back. Sometimes he will stand still and shoot orbs at you, just walk sideways to evade those. If you’ve already done the fight a few times, try to perfect the first 2 phases so you don’t waste any health items. Keep your health items for the third phase.
Boss #3 – Nemesis
General Tips: This boss only uses orbs/laser attacks and never melee. The path to this boss is even more annoying than the path to the 2nd boss. Fortunately, you can skip the 2nd world completely each time and go straight from the 1st to the 3rd world. At the start of the 3rd world always pick up the health item (it fully restores your health) and pick up the weapon proficiency item. Unfortunately, there is no portal to skip ahead to this boss. Rush past the enemies but make sure you take out the flying drones that shoot homing missiles at you, because if you try to outrun them they will just hit you with the missiles from behind which deals a lot of damage. There are also a bunch of laser traps along the way (inside the Broadcast Tower / the building of this region), which get slightly randomized each time (can jump-dash through them). Try to get through it all without using up the health item that you picked up at the start of the 3rd world. The first two boss phases are pretty easy, just in the 3rd phase he has tons of health. But overall the learning curve for this boss is slightly easier than the 2nd boss, just the way to the boss is much more annoying. As with other bosses there will be a pistol before the boss fight which is sufficient for this fight, so you don’t need to waste time looking for other weapons. Because it’s a long-distance fight you shouldn’t use shotguns here, a pistol or carbine will be best.
Phase 1: All you need to do here is move left until you hit the edge, then move right until you hit the edge. Keep moving left and right to the edge and you should easily avoid all of the orbs that come from the main boss. The boss looks like a rock / mountain. You must shoot the red glowing piece on his “chest” (the middle part of him). It’s really easy to hit him, so just focus on evading the incoming projectiles and keep shooting. From time to time his minions on the sides will use yellow lasers but they only sweep a small part of the floor and you can easily evade them by moving sideways.
Phase 2: At the start of this phase the floor will crumble. Look in which direction his 4 minions are spawning (flying demonic creatures), the main boss will spawn where they are (random each time). Get to the platform closest to these 4 minions and wait for the boss to appear. Stay on that same platform for the entire phase, no need to jump around platforms. Do what you did before, just moving left and right to the edge of the platform. This phase is similar to the first. The main differences are two attacks by the demonic creatures – they can sweep a yellow laser left and right, and you must dodge through the laser to evade it (be careful, the laser will come back a 2nd time so you must dodge each laser 2 times total). Dodging grants you a moment of invulnerability so the lasers won’t hurt you when you dodge through them. Be sure to do a long dodge by holding and dodge about 2 seconds before the end of the laser is visible on your screen. Dodging early enough is important here, it’s better to dodge early than trying to time it till the last second. Don’t do short dodges because your window of invulnerability is smaller on those. A second attack by the demons is that they shoot their laser on the floor which creates multiple red rings that get bigger, you must jump to not get hit.
Phase 3: The 3rd phase is where it gets confusing. First you will be in the air – it looks like you’re stuck in the air or floating, but you’re actually falling. Immediately look down and grab on to the platforms below when you see them! It’s important to be aware of this so you don’t fall too far down. Now many more floating platforms spawn and the boss will be in the distance. Whenever the demonic creatures or the boss shoot something at you, grapple on to the next platform to get closer to the boss. While you grapple to another platform you are invulnerable! Constantly be on the lookout for the next platform to grapple to, shoot the boss (red piece on his chest), and when the demonic creatures or the boss shoot at you then grapple to that next platform. Rinse and repeat until you get close to the boss. When you get really close to him, the demonic creatures no longer use their lasers but the boss will shoot more orbs at you. Eventually, he will kick you back into the air and you’ll be falling again and must fall onto a new platform. Then you must repeat the cycle, trying to get closer to the boss again. He has a ton of health here. Ideally you haven’t used up your health item until the 3rd phase. If you have your health item left you should be fine. Really try to avoid the yellow lasers from the demonic creatures though, because those deal the most damage here. As soon as you see them charging up their laser (they will glow yellow), you should get ready to grapple to the next platform to get out of harm’s way.
Boss #4 – Hyperion
General Tips: At this point in the game you should have access to new permanent weapon traits (which you gain by doing kills with that weapon). Try to get the slowly shooting carbine with Life Leech trait. As the name suggests, Life Leech transforms part of the damage you deal into healing. It’s a good way to stay alive during boss fights. With this weapon trait the boss fight will be significantly easier and you basically can’t fail it. This boss is also stationary for most of the fight and he doesn’t ever use melee attacks. He only uses ranged orb attacks. Also craft a health item before going into the fight and try to keep it until the 3rd phase.
Phase 1: The boss will stand at the wall and shoots orbs at you and sometimes he creates red rings on the floor that get bigger. Jump over the red rings and walk left/right to evade the orbs. Be careful when he shoots the blue homing projectiles, you’ll want to keep walking sideways and do a dodge to be safe.
Phase 2: The second phase is similar to the first. The difference is that he will start moving around the middle of the arena, meaning he will be closer to you so you have less time to evade his orbs before they reach you. He will also use more red ground orbs that you must jump / air-dash. When he retreats to the wall, get up close to him and walk in close proximity just in front of him. Most of the orbs won’t be able to reach you there at all, but be prepared to dodge when he uses his blue homing projectiles because those can hit you from anywhere.
Phase 3: This phase adds several new attack patterns, but he’s still using orbs. When he stands in the middle of the arena he will use blue orbs falling from the sky (look at the pattern when they appear and walk between them as they fall), which are followed by red orbs on the floor (get ready to jump & do a long air-dash by holding ). His hardest attack to evade is when he whirls blue “X” patterns at you. Try to always stick to the far edge of the arena when he’s in the middle, this gives you more time until the orbs reach you. Walk sideways, and dodge the blue “X” shapes. If you get too close to him he will almost certainly hit you with this attack every time and it deals a lot of damage, so stay away at long distance. When he summons roots from the ground you can attack him with melee sword attacks and dash away. When he sprays blue homing missiles sideways, do a long dodge (hold ) just before they hit you. This is his 2nd most trickiest attack to dodge. When his health gets low he retreats back to the wall, but don’t get too close to him here! He will summon roots from the ground if you get too close. Try to keep at least 5 meters/yards distance. Finish him off while he’s standing at the wall.
Boss #5 – Ophion
General Tips: For this final fight you are going to want to try and get the weapon and artifacts that most fit your playstyle and build. However, a good idea is to have at least 200% max Integrity and a good weapon is the Hollowseeker with the Retarget and Waves traits. This weapon is able to output a lot of damage, whilst maintaining high auto-aim at a long-range. The main tactic for this fight is to keep moving and try to place yourself in between the boss attacks, so that if he is firing in a left to right pattern, you are moving from right to left. Make sure you are stocked up on Integrity restoration Consumables as well, as chances are you will lose a lot of health.
Phase 1: The entire fight takes place in one arena and the boss position never changes. However, throughout the fight you will need to shoot the white orbs in the sky around the boss to illuminate the weak spots on its main body. These orbs will eventually “turn off” and you will need to shoot them again to make the weak spots appear, allowing you to shoot them. In this first phase, move around constantly, aiming at the weak spots on the boss body, dodging the green, blue, and orange balls of energy and jumping and dashing over the purple barriers it creates. Stick to the back of the arena so the shots are more spread out by the time they reach you. The green balls will slowly track you, the orange will fall in a diagonal pattern slowly, and the blue balls will fire quickly out in your direction after they are summoned. The boss also has the green missile attack that is used by the green tree-like creatures in the first area of the game. Simply avoid it the same way you avoid those attacks. Ophion can swipe the ground if you get too close, so stay back if you can. The final attack the boss has is a purple beam, which lowers from the top of the arena to the bottom. Simply stand in-between the beams to dodge it.
Phase 2: Overall, this phase is pretty similar to the last one, however the boss will start to use these attacks more quickly, so one will begin as another is finishing. As long as you keep moving, you should be able to weave your way around any shots or attacks. If you take any chip damage, be sure to use the health items you bought with you when you get low. The major attack changes in this phase are that the orange balls of energy will now fire slowly out in a circular pattern. Ophion also gains an extra purple beam attack which has them fire out from its body, tracking your position. It will fire around five or six of these, but as long as you keep moving you will never get hit by it. The final major change is that its purple beam attack which begins on the ceiling will now happen twice and Ophion will fire orange balls at you horizontally. They do not track so you can easily dodge through them and above the purple beams.
Phase 3: Phase 3 is the big challenge in this fight. There is almost no time between any of its attacks and you will often have to contend with two or three different attacks coming at you at once, whether it be purple beams and a purple barrier, or all three energy ball attacks coming at you at once, etc. It is almost impossible to complete this fight without taking any damage, so you want to try and get to this point without using any of your health consumables. Ophion also now has a circular energy ball attack where he will fire green balls at you incredibly fast in a circular motion, so stand at the back to have enough time to see where they are going to land. As with the previous phases, the most important tip here is to keep moving, placing yourself in between where attacks land and continuously firing at the boss, so that you can knock him down as quickly as possible.