Why Was Sans Such A Memorable Boss Fight In Undertale?

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Story Highlights
  • Undertale was always a masterpiece, but the Sans fight pushed it to a timeless classic in many fans’ minds.
  • The character’s initial appearance is a joke and him being largely a lazy good contrasted with his final battle to create some very shocking visuals.
  • Everything about the fight from the mechanics to the theme is crafted beautifully, making one of the most memorable boss fights in any genre.

Undertale burst into popularity in 2015 with its cast of lovable characters and the amazing world that you were put in. The game quickly got an IGN score of 10 upon release. This was at a time when the indie game explosion just started, so a game like Undertale being nominated for awards across the board, and even winning GameFAQ’S Best Game Ever award, was unprecedented. Undertale had many things going for it, but I firmly believe Sans and his fight was the one thing that elevated Undertale from a masterpiece to one that is timeless.

Humorous Tragedy

YouTube video

Sans’s character is a large part of what makes this boss fight so memorable. Throughout the game, he’s been a jokester, cracking bad puns and not contributing anything to the overall story. The first time you meet him, he lurks behind you as a shadowy figure, speaking with ominous pauses between his words, “Don’t you know how to greet a new pal?”

And then he pranks you with a whoopie cushion when you shake his hand. This joke character being the final thing stopping you from completing the route is kind of a bad joke, but it hits so hard.

Breaking The Fourth Wall

Sans has always hinted at there being more to him than he let on. The mysterious portal in his room is one thing, but that one specific dialogue where his eyes grow dim and the music stops abruptly, where he claims the character would be dead if not for a promise he made, always spooked me.

This crashes down on the player like an iceberg when Sans brings up that he knows about SAVES and RESETS. The following dialogues have Sans give you an existential crisis by repeatedly asking you what purpose is there in defeating him. Why would you continue to reset and come back for something that won’t give you any reward whatsoever?

The Weakest Monster

Sans Falling Asleep Mid Battle
Sans Falling Asleep Mid-Battle

Another important element of the boss fight is something that Sans proclaims repeatedly; he’s the weakest monster in the Underground. His HP and ATK are both 1, after all. He’s also incredibly lazy, not even bothering to capitalize his letters. A single hit and you’d have completed the route. Yet, it’s this single hit that’s impossible to achieve. The battle is portrayed as impossible, with Sans being able to dodge anytime you try hitting him.

Breaking Tropes

YouTube video

If you wanted to defeat someone, would you not burst them down with your strongest move right at the start? Most players would hate it if a boss did that to them because that’s just bad game design, right? Sans doesn’t believe that to be the case and spawns a million gaster blasters to shoot lasers at you from all directions right at the start. Not only is this amazingly fitting for his character, but it adds to Undertale’s mechanics of resetting as well.

End Of The Fight

The fight ends with Sans claiming to have a special attack ready, but the attack seems to have been conveniently taken care of by a certain dog (which may or may not be the developer, Toby Fox himself). What Sans does instead is sleep during his turn, stopping you from getting a chance to interact with him. To beat him, you have to beat his metagame with your own, breaking the game’s boundaries and attacking during his turn. 

Resolution Of Genocide

Sans Fanart
Sans Fanart by Mnstrcandy

Sans is the perfect end to genocide. All that the genocide route represented, was a feeling of helplessness and regret. As Sans says, “the weight of your sins crawling down your back.”

The battle isn’t fun, you have no grandiose reasons for revenge or protecting someone guiding you to kill Sans. You’re just doing it because you started the route, and now, no matter how boring the game may have become, you’re convinced you have to complete it. Sans’s purpose is to make you stop trying to beat the game. Even if you beat him, you’ve made a mockery out of yourself by proving his words, that you’d do anything on a whim.

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