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My top 9 colossi

My favourite colossi from Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus listed in order of my relative affection for them.  I'm probably rating them not just based on the traits of the colossi themselves but on the the overall experience of encountering them and battling against them, which is influenced, among other things, by how I first caught a glimpse of each one, the strategies I needed to defeat them and the surrounding environment that they form a part of.
Why top 9 you ask?  That's simply how many of the colossi battles really stand out for me when I think back.  The others were good as well, but these just felt particularly special.

List items

  • When this thirteenth colossus first arose out of the vast desert stretching before me I recall that my skin went all tingly and my mouth opened wide with awe. This is a creature of sheer serene majesty, evoked by its colassal scale that manages to fill the completely flat and arid landscape it inhabits. It has such gentle beauty as it flies untroubled across the sand, yet it soon becomes an adrenaline-inducing encounter when chasing it at full tilt on horseback before having to athletically leap in an effort to mount it. Clinging on and then running the full length of this massive creature while it rushes across the desert below makes for one incredible and epic sequence. For me, it is one that is unsurpassed by the rest of the game.

  • Something about this colossus managed to inspire a feeling of dread in me, for everything that it traded away in size it gained in sheer nimbleness and speed. The architectural surrounds of the mayan-inspired ruins were as much a character as the beast itself in this encounter. I remember entering it for the first time and having my gaze drawn inexorably up the set of ornate steps knowing that surely that must be the resting place of whatever dwelt here and then seeing this small shape detach itself from the stonework and rush headlong straight at me. I scrambled onto whatever bit of ruin I could in sheer terror until it reached me and then skulked menacingly around where I was perched. The knowledge that this was opposition that would overcome me if left on the ground just heightened the feeling of threat. It was then a matter of navigating the ruins and toppling them to my advantage and again there was such a sense of scale to everything I did against the spectacular backdrop. When the colossus was finally defeated (the final bit of which I just scraped by and fluked from recollection) there was such a sense of achievement because it had felt the most formidable of foes to be up against.

  • This felt like one of the most elaborate battles I undertook. It took a while until I eventually realised that I needed to ride Argo while simultaneously aiming my bow behind me while looking into the face of the this colossus as it weaved above and under the sandy surface. The whole idea of a Colossus living under the sand is a great one, as used similarly in a film like 'Tremors' where the threat is magnified by knowing the monster is hiding somewhere under the surface but not knowing where it is. It's easier in a way when it's a known quantity right there behind you as you stare into its face and you then need to merely pull off the tricky skill-based stuff. That moment of riding Argo full speed just ahead of this giant worm creature while juggling the steering and the aiming of your arrow was another of the best moments of this game.

  • How can you forget the first time you come face to face with a colossus? Till then you have no sense of scale for how big these things really are despite the box art. So that first moment of feeling the ground shake underfoot and then seeing the colossus emerge from round a corner will always be fondly remembered. After a while in Shadow of the Colossus you get somewhat used to dealing with the size of these great beasts but in that first battle everything is a learning experience as you struggle to realise quite how you will overcome something of such magnitude.

  • This colossus made a big first impression on me. I'd clambered up the steps and could tell I was in the arena where the fight would take place, but there was no sign of my opponent. Cue cut away to see the colossus emerging from below the lip of the cliff and once its head appeared its body just kept on coming and coming. So many of the colossi are vast creatures and yet even having experienced all of the the previous ones I was taken aback by its scale - maybe it was the contrast with the diminuitive size of the last beast I'd slain; perhaps it was due to the narrow stadum I was in that added to the sense of claustrophobia and emphasised the size of my combatant. The battle itself was memorable with a number of elements to it (I remember being stuck on how to get started at first) and the ultimate victory satisfying.

  • This was a spectacular encounter set on and above this giant enclosed lake. I love how when you first catch sight of this winged colossus on its perch it is so far away that you can't tell just how big it is. Then its full size is realised as it rushes straight at you and there's the wonderful moment of jumping up and catching hold of its fur, propelling me from a standing start to travelling faster than on any other colossus. It feels so extraordinary to be moving about the colossus to stab its weak spots, as you've grown used to doing, all the while flying above the lake and clinging to the fur during the occasional barrel roll.

  • The climax of this most epic of games did feel suitably epic. Although, I'm not including the preceding events in my thoughts when ranking these encounters, the seeming loss of Agro right beforehand definitely added a weight of emotion to the whole affair and set up the dark and foreboding mood of this boss battle that was mirrored by the darkness of the sky and environment only interspersed with the lightning bolts being aimed at me. Yeah ... you know you're at the end of a game when your opponent is firing lightning at you. This final colossus succeeded in making it feel like a real struggle and effort, first in making it past it's initial defenses and then to clamber step by methodical step up to its summit (I fell many times in attempting it). The greater question might be as to why it does not rank higher in my list. Well, it felt suitable as the final battle and feels like a good fit for ending the game as a whole, but it just fails to have the personality and charm of many of the other colossi I faced. It feels like a faceless force aimed against you, more a structure than an actual living beast that you're contending with.

  • This was one of the most beautiful of set pieces for me: the setting of this sheltered lake just up from a waterfall and ringed round with green vegetation, it stood in contrast to the many deserted ruins and barren landscapes where the other colossi were found. I found the colossus itself to be beautiful and the interesting mechanic of directing it by hitting the boney objects found on its head was a joy to use.

  • This was the first encounter with a smaller opponent, yet as commented on the 14th colossus the sheer speed and agility that it then has makes them almost more intimidating than their more sizeable counerparts. It was another rush of adrenaline all the way through, especially when clinging helpless onto its back while it rushed back to the temple from which it had dropped.