The Sekiro Boss Rush mod is a very particular type of torture. It's pretty much exactly what it says on the intimidating tin: You can pit yourself against the game's main bosses consecutively and in any order you want, just in case you hadn't had enough of repeatedly dying after just missing out on that elusive final Posture break. I'm really not sure why I put myself through it, other than curiosity at how Sekiro feels when sharpened down to its most difficult, dramatic battles.
For me, the triumphant highs of FromSoftware games don't come from felling bosses to whom I've offered my life hundreds of times previously. They come from simple moments of progression—the breakthroughs of reaching new areas. Finally putting a tricky opponent in the ground can be exhilarating, but the freedom to scour a new area after that, and the feeling of just getting through it, is where I get the most satisfaction in Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. I prize my masochistic tourism in these games far higher than I do in most other RPGs.
In other words, I see bosses as something to be endured, rather than the ultimate test of what the game has been patiently (and in FromSoft's case, sternly) teaching me for hours. They're a crucial part of the game, I accept, but all I'm saying is that creeping dread of entering a empty, circular arena or offering myself to the cold embrace of the white fog is something I could do without, thank you very much. But I know for some other players, the thrill of those victories (opens in new tab) is what makes Sekiro and other From games so special.
The developers must've realized the same, because Sekiro is getting a formal boss rush mode (opens in new tab) in a free content update in October. But through the magic of Sekiro mods (opens in new tab), you can get a taste of the Isshin's sword and Lady Butterfly's throwing knives in quick succession right now.
The update, which also comes packing new skins and shareable fight clips, will let you skip cutscenes, open-world exploration, and tutorials so you can relive your boss-bothering glories. You can do this in single boss bottles or as part of some terrifying-sounding 'Gauntlet of Strength' challenges that see you booted back to the very start if you fail. Ouch.
Thefifthmatt's mod (opens in new tab) doesn't have that, thankfully. Once you have it installed, however, it's very simple: All you do is start a new game and you'll be warped from a well with a sliver of health—the spot in which you'd normally fight mini-boss Lone Shadow Longswordsman—to the Dilapidated Temple. There's no Sculptor or friendly Emma waiting to greet you before you start, nor is there Hanbei the Undying to help you get your eye in (opens in new tab). There's just a Bulging Coin Purse on the ground with which you can buy a few items before your first fight, and a portal to get you there.
The purchases I made before starting the boss rush were the first of many poor decisions I made. Gawping at my single-use Healing Gourd, I panic-bought a couple of seeds to give me more health boosts and a skill book, forgetting to buy myself any skill points with which to upgrade it. D'oh. You do have the option to accept the hardships of Kuro's Charm and the Bell Demon, but why on Earth would you want to?
Clearly in over my head already, I went straight for the main baddies instead of getting warmed up against mini-bosses, whom you can also fight in boss-rush style. I chose to start against Gyoubu Oniwa and his impressively chonky steed, recalling that I didn't find the fight too taxing the first time around. It turns out that I was cripplingly rusty. I won't be sharing how far I got in the boss rush, just in case you were wondering.
Trying the boss rush made me realize I'd selectively recalled my expertly timed deflects and inch-perfect dodges—few and far between they may have been—and not my persistent inability to counter sweep attacks. Gyoubu quickly reminded me of the reality.
My humbling first attempts did help me concentrate, and I eventually sent Oniwa packing. Next I sought to correct the unique way I'd tackled Sekiro's bosses last year, this time fighting them in the correct order. Somehow I'd completely missed Hirata Estates and beaten Genichiro before Lady Butterfly. There must be someone else out there that did that. Anyone?
Anyway, while that meant that I breezed past Juzou the Drunkard without a spot of alcoholic's vomit on my scarf, it also meant that now I was facing the challenge of Lady Butterfly in circumstances much closer to that which most others will have. I failed so badly and resurrected myself so many times I infected some of Ashina's population with Dragonrot. That at least gave me an opportunity to awaken in the Dilapidated Temple, use Oniwa's memory to boost my attack power, and buy more items with the coins I'd picked up in the previous fight.
There my misguided buying decisions continued: I bought the Shuriken Wheel prosthetic to counter the lithe Lady's frequent leaps, and soon discovered I had no Spirit Emblems with which to power it. Double d'oh. Even with an upgraded, five-use Healing Gourd I still got battered. The process was just excruciatingly extended. On the plus side, picking out a few small items and skills after I'd become accustomed to a full arsenal in the main game was quite a fun gamble, even if I'd quite obviously lost this time.
It took me many tries, but I finally killed Lady Butterfly, bringing my boss rush total to a grand two. Beating her with a relatively under-powered Wolf and so few items was especially rewarding. It was a reminder that you never need these extras in battle. They just help hasten your opponent's demise. Precise timing is really all you need to get though any fight in Sekiro.
While I'd like to say that with this sage epiphany burning in my mind the remaining bosses fell like bowling pins. But, well, they didn't. Perhaps I'll stick to beating Gyoubu in the main game again instead, allowing myself to celebrate my triumph a little longer by poking around the battlefield at my leisure, without another boss jerking me out of my brief catharsis.