Sekiro features a multitude of different mini-boss encounters scattered across Ashina and beyond, and they all serve as skill checkpoints for the player, looking to ensure that you are ready for the bosses that lie ahead. In my opinion, however, one mini-boss breaks this mold, serving as a nightmare for players of any skill level. This of course being the Headless enemies. These giant, hellish creatures dwell in the deepest, darkest corners of Ashina, waiting for you to stumble into their caves.
Headless is an enemy that seems as though it was taken straight from the alien-infested world of Bloodbourne, as its uniquely grotesque character design makes it stand out from the rest of the enemies within Sekiro. These encounters will be sure to overwhelm almost all players in their first playthrough and beyond, which is why it is so important that you have the right tools and strategy to emerge victoriously.
Headless is a mini-boss that you will encounter many times throughout your playthrough, and at some point, you may have to face off against this beast. The Headless has two health bars, and in this fight, you will soon realize what makes this mini-boss such a headache. Headless will stack Terror on the player on hits that connect, as well as attacks that are not perfectly deflected. This is such a pain because once the Terror bar fully stacks up, you will face instant death. Terror is to Sekiro what Death Blight is to Elden Ring, and what curse is to Dark Souls. Regardless of your overall HP, once that meter reaches full, you are dead. This becomes more stressful because, if you are even a half of a second late on the deflection, the meter will still rise, with some attacks even filling it up to around 50%.
On top of this, Headless hits like a truck, eating up your health bar while also quickly stacking Terror. You will also need to be prepared for your movement to be limited drastically, as the Headless will conjure up a thick fog to fill the arena, reducing the player to slow walking speed and jumping ability. The only outlier to this would be the Headless found underwater, which objectively makes those fights a whole lot easier. Approaching this fight without the proper tools is not recommended, as it will turn this previously stressful encounter into a marathon of pain.
What You Will Need
Players will need to be at the top of their game when jumping into this battle, as just a few mistakes can lead to their demise. You will want to have a few items ready in your quick menu, aside from the standard healing gourds and pellets.
- Divine Confetti
- Pacifying Agent
- Mottled Purple Gourd
Divine Confetti will be the most important item in this fight, so make sure you have a decent amount saved up. This will eat away at Headless’s health bar, making this dreadful fight end much faster. If you have not used your Pacifying agents yet, they will now become your best friend. This item reduces Terror buildup, and it also makes you more resistant to Terror while it is active. An item that I find almost essential to this fight would be the Mottled Purple Gourd, which is an item that will fully alleviate terror buildup. This item saved me so many times in these fights, and it can also be useful against all enemies that use terror against you, like the Sichimen Warrior.
- Phoenix Liliac Umbrella
- Loaded Umbrella
- Malcontent’s Finger Whistle
For those that have put some work into unlocking the prosthetics skill tree, the Phoenix Liliac Umbrella will greatly protect you from the terror buildup. If you haven’t gotten that far, the Loaded Umbrella will help you deflect some of the strikes, but it won’t be as effective. Another useful prosthetic item that will be useful for those that unlock it would be the Malcontent’s Finger Whistle. This can be used to stun a few bosses and mini-bosses, most namely the Demon of Hatred, but just know that you can only stun them a total of 3 times. Not all of these items are required to fight Headless, but they will all make the battle a lot less punishing.
How to Fight Headless
Before most of the Headless fights, you will be able to see its sword illuminating a small area around it, giving you an idea of where it could be hiding. Once you jump into the arena, a haunting, elegant whistling sound will begin to play, and the fog will fully cover the ground. You are now seemingly fighting in molasses, as you will be moving at a light jog’s pace at most. Headless will mix in both slow and quick strikes, and you will need to do your best to get that perfect deflection to stop terror buildup.
Fear the Grab Attack
After you manage to deflect four times in a row, Headless will disappear from the front in an attempt to flank from the back. This is his perilous attack, and it is a grab, so there is no direct counter aside from simply moving out of the way. After disappearing, he will quickly reappear directly behind you, and if you do not move, he pulls off one of the most heinous grab attacks in the game. He will stick his hand inside you, ripping out what I can only assume is your heart. This is one of the reasons that Headless is so terrifying, because in a first encounter, this grab has a high chance of land, and the animation instills a unique feeling of dread not yet experienced before.
Beat Headless to the Punch
The best way that I found to dodge this attack makes the chances of getting grabbed pretty minuscule. Right when Headless disappears, begin moving in the opposite direction you were facing. As you walk, rotate the camera to face behind you, but continue to walk in the same direction you have been walking. As Headless reappears, quickly lock on to it and turn around. Headless will now stop his move because you are facing it, and it leaves itself vulnerable for a moment, so be sure to punish.
Destroy the Fog
For this fight, make sure you stay up in its face and continue the onslaught until you have to deflect. Remember, Sekiro is a rhythm game, and by keeping a constant stream of attacks going, the rhythm will present itself, making the fight turn into more of a dance. Keeping the attacks going is especially useful in this fight because as you begin to accumulate significant damage on Headless, the fog that slows your movement will begin to disappear.
Don’t Get Greedy
With that being said, make sure to still take your opportunities to heal and reduce the Terror buildup, as the damage output from Headless will require you to do this a lot. Also remember to never heal right when he disappears, because this will leave you vulnerable to the grab from behind due to being trapped in an animation lock.
Those are the tips and strategies that are effective for the Headless fights on land, however, later on in your playthrough, you will unlock something called the Mibu breathing technique. This will allow Sekiro to swim underwater, which will eventually lead players to find our buddy Headless lurking in the depths.
Time for Revenge
The good news about this fight is that being underwater makes this fight a whole lot easier, as it allows you to quickly create distance between yourself and the Headless. Take advantage of this, as this is hard to come by in Sekrio’s brutal battles. Terror is still a factor, however, and the sword strikes from Headless will still build it up.
What to Look Out For
There are a few changes to the attacks, as each sword slash will emit projectiles at the player, which can be easily avoided with the underwater dodge move. Headless will also send his Terror-building hair at you, which also has tracking. The damage on this is not crazy, but you should still do your best to avoid it. The grab attack changes as well, and now Headless will conjure a black hole from its hand, sucking you in if you are too close by.
Speed is Your Ally
The strategy here is to hit-and-run, swim-dodging the projectiles and swooping in for a few hits, and then rinse and repeat. The speed of Sekiro in the water will allow for many openings to punish Headless, which can essentially trivialize this fight. There is one Headless fight located in Fountainhead Palace that features a phantom of the Headless, making it a 2v1. This can be more difficult, however, the speed of Sekiro will allow you to quickly take out the phantom Headless, or just quickly focus on the real one. I use my Divine confetti and any other buffs before I hop in the water, just to ensure I can get right into the action.
So, in order to beat Headless, the player must:
- Perfect or near perfect deflections/parry
- Avoid grab attack at all costs
- Keep a constant assault to remove fog
- Don’t be greedy, take opportunities to heal and reduce Terror buildup
- When swimming, use a hit-and-run strategy to whittle away at its healthbar
- Adjust to the different attacks Headless uses when fighting underwater
Those are the essential tips to surviving the Headless encounter but don’t worry if you are still having trouble with the fight after this. Terror buildup is a pain to deal with, and enemies can always be revisited after leveling up attack power and vitality a few times. I say this because I know the pain that this fight can bring, and in my first playthrough, this fight was a nightmare. As with many of the battles throughout Sekrio, it will most likely take multiple attempts to emerge victoriously, and it is important to not get discouraged.
There are a total of five Headless mini-bosses scattered around the map, which is a common theme for enemies in Sekiro. Each fight will become progressively easier, and each time you will learn something new about how to better approach each encounter. These are the locations as well as a brief description of how to get to them, in no particular order.
Headless #1-Ashina Outskirts
You are going to want to start at the Underbridge Valley Sculptures Idol, and immediately grapple up to the top. Run left until you see a small path leading to a house perched on a cliff. Go to the back deck of the house, and grapple down until you can see a ledge to jump on. Jump and grab the ledge, and once you stand you will be able to see a giant piece of snow-covered land below. Jump onto this land and walk forward until you reach a cave. Following this cave down will take you to Headless, and beating it will award you the entrance to the Demon Bell.
Headless#2- Hidden Forest
A tip for this fight would be to make sure that you have killed the Mist Noble in the Hidden Forest, as the heavy fog will no doubt become a distraction in the fight. From the Hidden Forest Sculptors Idol, you are going to head forward onto the tree coming out of the ground in front of you. Walk along the tree and then grapple or jump down to the land below to the left. From here, stick left and grapple down to the branches below, but don’t hit the ground yet. Headless can be seen right in front of you, and this branch is where you want to activate your buffs.
Headless#3- Sunken Valley
This is a Headless fight that will require you to have unlocked the Mibu Breathing Technique, which will allow you to dive underwater. If you have it unlocked, you are going to want to start at the Under-Shrine Valley Sculptors Idol. Face the Idol, and then move right up the path, taking out the riflemen and keep running and wall jumping until you come across a ledge, and wall-hug shimmy your way along the wall. After this, you will see an area with pyramid-like structures scattered below. Jump down there, fight the phantoms that appear, and then jump into the water to the right. Here you will dive down under and through the rocks, swimming through a narrow tunnel. Right when you emerge from the water, use your buffs, because Headless is standing just yards away, ready to fight.
Headless#4- Ashina Castle
This is another underwater Headless, so again be sure that you have the Mibu Breathing Technique unlocked. From the Old Grave Sculptors Idol, move back into the castle, past the spear-wielding enemy. Either take out these few enemies or just run past them, because the fight is just up ahead. The lake just ahead is where you are going to be fighting, so run towards the giant doors of the Lookout Tower, and then jump in the water. If you want to pop your buffs, I recommend taking out the enemies by the bridge, and using the buffs before you jump in the water.
Headless#5- Fountainhead Palace
Again, you will be fighting Headless underwater in this fight, so make sure you have the Mibu Breathing Technique unlocked. You are going to want to start at the Flower Viewing Stage and proceed to dive into the giant lake. I usually will jump in at the end of the branch where you take out the annoying lightning enemy that prevented you from swimming before. This fight is at the very bottom of this lake, so keep swimming down until you see the Headless, hanging out on the rocks. He will be guarding some items and chests, so be sure to grab that after this fight. Be sure to remember that this fight features the phantom Headless, making the fight a 2v1 until you take out the clone.
The Headless fights, aside from the underwater encounters, are notably difficult for most players and can serve as a wall for those still learning the mechanics. The rewards that come from being victorious will entice certain players to seek out all of the Headless that Sekiro has to offer. For those that have weaved Candies into their playstyle, these rewards will be extremely useful.
Each Headless will give a unique version of an item labeled ‘Spiritfall’, which acts as a consumable candy that will instead use spirit emblems to use. This means that the item will never leave your inventory, meaning you will always have a backup plan in case you run out of a specific candy and do not want to go farm them. As long as you have spirit emblems, you will be able to use the item, giving you the effect of the candy. Partnered with the Ceremonial Tanto, you will be able to apply a buff without having used your spirit emblems for battle, allowing for more prosthetic and combat art attacks. The specific rewards for each Headless are listed below:
- Headless #1(Ashina Outskirts)-Ako’s Spiritfall
- Headless #2(Hidden Forest)- Gachiin’s Spiritfall
- Headless #3(Sunken Valley)-Gokan’s Spiritfall
- Headless #4(Ashina Castle)-Ungo’s Spiritfall
- Headless #5(Fountainhead Palace)-Yashariku’s Spiritfall
Don’t Give Up!
The Headless enemies in Sekrio will always stand as a challenge for me, even after multiple playthroughs. The Terror status effect, coupled with the insane damage output is enough to make me sweat, and I always need to intensely focus when encountering this beast. The underwater fights will allow you to exact some revenge, as the difficulty is significantly decreased with the quicker movement that comes with swimming.
The rewards, in my opinion, make the fights worth it, as they allow for somewhat risk-free experimentation, and that is not an easy thing to come by in From Software games. Practice and confidence are key to emerging victorious, so hang in there. There are greater challenges ahead, and soon enough Headless will be nothing but a memory on your journey to mastery.
Question: Does the Spiritfall item last longer than the standard Candies?
Answer: No, unfortunately, this is not the case. When using these items, it is important to note that they only last for half the amount a standard consumable candy would. This can be annoying for some players who do not know this, as their buffs will seemingly die out prematurely.
Question: Can you stack Spiritfall Items?
Answer: This is also going to be a no. If you try to use a different Spiritfall directly after using a different one, the initial item’s effects will be nullified in favor of the new buff. Keep this in mind when handling encounters, as you could be wasting spirit emblems.
Question: Can you get a stealth deathblow on Headless?
Answer: From my experience, I have not been able to get any stealth deathblows on Headless. If you are jumping into the arena, he will be standing too far out of range for the jumping death blow. When on a level playing field, he will notice you when you get close, starting the fight. Finally, underwater fights will eliminate this possibility, as Headless will see you swimming in from a mile away.
Question: Are the Headless Optional?
Answer: Yes! Players do not have to beat all the Headless to reach the end of the game, so those who want to skip these encounters can skip them. Headless does block the way of some important places in the game, however, so be mindful of that when exploring Ashina.