Top 5 Best Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus

Top 5 Best Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus - Article

by Craig Snow , posted on 21 February 2018 / 4,003 Views

Welcome to the second of a two part article on the best and worst colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. You can find the first article - the Top 5 Worst Colossi - here. Now it's time for the fun one - the Top 5 Best Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus.

 

5th - Quadratus

As with my top 5 worst colossi piece, I found myself struggling to decide between two very different beasts for 5th position. In terms of overall impact and personal taste Valus deserves spot, but because of some of the colossi I go on to mention later in this piece he would've caused me to have had a diversity problem - three of the five would have been quite similar styles of colossi, and the other two are also conceptually similar to eachother (although they're wildly different from the rest). For that reason alone I felt it necessary to give Quadratus the edge.

First let me praise Valus, who essentially gets an 'honourable mention'. He's a totemic character for good reason, not just because he's the first colossus you slay in the game, though that is part of it, but also because he leaves such an incredible lasting impression thanks to his size and sense of character. This is why, alongside Gaius, Valus features so heavily in promotional material for Shadow of the Colossus; his size in comparison to Wander brilliantly conveys the game's sense of sheer scale.

Quadratus, however, is the first and the best of the four-legged colossi. He too is often shown off in footage and screenshots for all versions of the game, though not quite as much as Valus, and exudes character thanks to his distinctive facial features. The fight itself is also enjoyable - the only frustration coming in earlier versions of the game because of the difficulty of aiming with the bow and arrow - and it marks the first time that the importance of Agro is really heavily hinted at, because it's the first fight where she can be used.

The real fun begins once you've scaled him/her. Quadratus isn't just tall (it's the second tallest colossi after Malus), it's also wide and long, making it a joy to clamber about on, like a Lilliputian in Gulliver's Travels. What's more the location of the sigils - one on top of the head and one at the tail-end of the back - means you have to cover the full length of this enormous beast in order to bring it down.


4th - Avion

Avion isn't mentioned much and fans often overlook it because it's outdone in sheer spectacle later on in the game, but when you play Shadow of the Colossus for the first time, or you re-visit it and play from start to finish again as a fan, you'll really notice the superb timing of its introduction. Avion is the 5th colossus - it comes after the aforementioned Valus and Quadratus (two very unique and distinct colossi), as well as Gaius and Phaedra. By that point in the game you might start to wonder if every creature is going to be a lumbering four-legged beast or a two-legged giant.

And then comes Avion. Shadow of the Colossus is taken to another level with its appearance, quite literally, as you'll take to the skies to slay it. The first flying colossus results in an awe-inspiring tussle in mid-air, as you struggle to span its wings and tail in the face of blistering winds brought about by its panicked flight. 

Avion is also full of character. One of the most peaceful of all the colossi, it's found perched on a structure in the middle of a lake, minding its own business. It watches Wander as he approaches, but pointedly never attacks, except in retaliation at your spears or arrows. Screeching and mournfully crying when it's stabbed and ultimately slain, Avion is a key figure in creating a sense of guilt on the player's part. In Avion Team Ico is conveying that, although you're trying to save the one you love, be in no doubt you're also the bad guy of this story.


3rd - Barba

The loveable Barba is another of the colossi that, like Avion before him, tends to be unjustly overlooked in my opinion. This hulking beast, with his enormous beard and fur covered body, is like a cross between a huggable bear and a pissed off troll. His expression of pure, unadulterated curiosity when he tries to find Wander - who by that stage is engaged in an elaborate and very deadly game of hide and seek - is nothing if not endearing... and scary.

When it first dawns on you that his gigantic beard and lionesque mane is the key to scaling him (in most cases; there are other methods of getting to his sigils for those who wish to experiment) you know this is going to be a fun one.

Most of the 16 colossi are puzzles in themselves - you have to work out how to get to their sigils in order to slay them and this often requires a lot of trial and error and a fair bit of problem solving. Barba's a little different. Yes, you still have to work out how to begin to scale him, but it's not all that puzzling, and there's a simplicity to the fight that almost mirrors his personality traits.

It's pure fun; an example of Shadow of the Colossus at its most mindlessly exhilarating, with Wander desperately struggling to hold onto a giant colossus that's doing its utmost to fling you off and pummel you into the ground with its fists.


2nd - Gaius

Perhaps the most iconic of all the colossi, Gaius is used as the centrepiece for much of the game's publicity for good reason. From start to finish this fight is a masterclass in video game direction. 

First, there's the epic journey. Giaus is the first creature to be found some distance to the north (on the map) of the starting temple. You'll travel across that natural bridge which forms the entrance to the northern part of the map and which, like much of the game, emphasises the title's sense of scale and the player's own vulnerability, then it's off over grassy lands with Agro, through a twisting, rocky path, with imposing cliff faces claustrophobically penning you in, and then finally you get your first sight of Giaus' giant raised platform in the middle of a dark, mist-covered lake. After swimming through the murky water you make your way up a lengthy, curving slope, the anticipation building all the while.

Giaus appears to be slumbering the centre of the platform, put out by your disturbing his sleep, his long limbs all out of sorts. Then he begins to stand, the central temple showing up in the far distance, and once again you get a sense of sheer scale that is Shadow of the Colossus' hallmark.

The game direction continues to impress from this point onwards too, with that slightly raised section in the centre of the platform (which seemed to make an improvised bed for Giaus) being the key to the puzzle of getting past his armour. His unwieldy limbs creek like a giant Ent from Lord of the Rings as he raises his huge sword, aimed squarely at you. But that's part of his weakness - the phenomenal power behind his swing comes back to bite him, with the sword twanging off of his metallic bed and the brittle armour around his wrist snapping off. Anyone who's used a metal implement to whack another metal implement knows how Giaus feels in that moment.

As with Barba, Gaius has a very expressive face that adds character and personality to the fight. Once you've finally managed to scale its lanky, vertiginous figure, and you're clambering over his face ready to go to town with your sword, his facial expressions convey a sense of confusion. Finally bringing him down, his tall figure collapsing to the ground like a giant redwood, is a bittersweet moment. There's a sense of achievement of course, for finally overcoming him, but also one of sadness, for slaying such a beautiful creation.


1st - Phalanx

Just when you might be thinking that Shadow of the Colossus has peaked - all five of the colossi that made up my Top 5 Worst Colossi article come in an unbroken sequence just before Phalanx - the game steps it up a gear and Phalanx takes to the skies in front of you, the entire desert area to the south forming its enormous playing field.

The majestic Phalanx is an incredible sight to behold. He (or is it she?) is far and away the longest colossus in the game, dwarfing almost all of the others, and for a title that focusses so much on size and scale that's not inconsequential. It was almost inconceivable that something this big could be included in a PlayStation 2 game, and not just in a cosmetic way either; just like all of the other colossi it has to be scaled and slain.

The encounter begins with a chase. You need to use Agro to pursue Phalanx as it gracefully heads into the distance, readying your bow and arrow to shoot at the three large gas sacs underneath its body. Once all three have been burst Phalanx lowers to the ground, his front wings lowering to skim against the desert floor while his sacs refill. This is your chance to get on the creature, charging with Agro at the wings and jumping off when an opportunity presents itself, like an action sequence out of a classic western film. You'll climb these wings and as you do so Phalanx too will climb - back into the sky, leaving the ground and Agro far below.

As the two of you move through the troposphere together you have to journey down its back, stabbing its three sigils. Phalanx is arguably the most placid of all the colossi - it doesn't actually attack Wander, not even in retaliation, rather it tries to shake him off and performs barrel rolls, forcing you to cling onto its fur for dear life and dangle hundreds of metres above the desert sands below. Phalanx's placidity makes your unwarranted attack and its ultimate demise all the more hard-hitting.

It's a breathtaking and emotional sequence from start to finish - the best of Shadow of the Colossus rolled into one.

Anyway those are my picks. Feel free to list your own in the comments section below!


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7 Comments

Salnax (on 21 February 2018)

I'm glad to see Avion get some of the credit it deserves.


RidingMower (on 21 February 2018)

Nice list and the screenshots are absolutely beautiful. You did a really nice job.


StreaK (on 22 February 2018)

Excellent article and awesome list! it's pretty much spot on but I'd argue that AVION is indeed the fan favourite. They just had a poll over at gamefaqs and the users (die hard fans) have selected him in a landslide win even over Phalanx which got #2. Anyway, yeah...my favourite BY FAR is AVION if even only just for the music. But wow, the location and the battles itself to me is more intense than Phalanx who is a close #2 for me. Great list, I'd just swap a few up. Also I'd probably include the desert snake in there. Took me like 20-30 min back in 2005 to figure just wtf I was supposed to do. Go figure it ended up being something "SO" simple....


Machina (on 23 February 2018)

Thanks. I wasn't aware Avion was that popular. Got a link to that poll? I'd be curious to see how a large group of fans ends up ranking them all.


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StreaK (on 24 February 2018)

Sorry, I should have been more specific. It wasn't an "official" public vote on the main page (unfortunately - which gives me an idea to bring the topic up actually.) It was in a thread but still gave a general idea to which colossi stood out as the faves. But yeah, currently AVION is still #1 but only 1 vote higher than the Phalanx. But yeah, again the list here is pretty spot on - I'd say no question the flying ones are by far the most popular and I agree! For good reason as they are so intense and beautiful.
https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/211369-shadow-of-the-colossus/76311582


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Kbbm824 (on 21 February 2018)

Good list. The Phalanx fight is absolutely breathtaking!


CrazyGamer2017 (on 21 February 2018)

I like them all, each one is a nice surprise after the previous one.


StreaK (on 22 February 2018)

Avion being under rated is news to me. I think he's the most popular. Everyone over at gamefaqs boards is floored by that epic battle.


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StreaK (on 23 February 2018)

Avion being under rated is news to me. I think he's the most popular. Everyone over at gamefaqs boards is floored by that epic battle.


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TalonMan (on 21 February 2018)

I've gotta pick this game up again, and give it another shot. I never even made it past the first colossus before I put it down and moved on to something else... :( ...your write-ups have convinced me to give this one another shot!!


mZuzek (on 21 February 2018)

Gaius is overrated. Personally while I disagree with your picks, I mostly disagree with the mere idea of making a "top 5 worst" list as they're all really good, the only colossus I genuinely dislike is Phaedra.