Cuphead: How To Beat The Phantom Express
Cuphead is full of frustrating, but rewarding combat. The Phantom Express features several segments that can be tackled using this handy guide.
Fans of difficult video games will no doubt have heard of Cuphead. This platformer pits players against a menagerie of brutal bosses that get tougher with each encounter. After Cuphead and Mugman lose a bet to the Devil, they're tasked with collecting the souls of his debtors to save their skin. Those interested in a game that's both beautiful and challenging will be right at home what Studio MDHR's masterpiece.
RELATED: Cuphead: How To Beat Cala Maria
One of the last bosses found in Inkwell Isle Three is the Phantom Express . This possessed train houses a handful of mischievous ghosts. To collect their soul contracts, Cuphead and Mugman must defeat each of them in one of the game's most harrowing encounters. Make sure you're ready to take on these ghouls with our in-depth guide.
Before heading into Railroad Wrath, you'll want to make sure that Cuphead is equipped with the following gear to make this boss fight easier. We've found that the Charge Shot, Spread Shot, Coffee, and Super I make for an excellent combination when taking on the Phantom Express.
Phase One pits Cuphead against the Blind Specter . Cuphead will be riding a cart that can be moved left or right by parrying its two pink connecting pieces in this battle. For the first phase, leave the cart as is.
The Blind Specter will fire off floating eyeballs using his Eye for an Eye attack. They'll bob from high to low (shown below,) hurting Cuphead if he touches them. Equip the Spread Shot and move to the front of the cart. Fire the Spread Shot repeatedly to break the eyeballs and damage the Blind Spector simultaneously.
Keep an eye out for the Pumpkimps that fly in from off-screen. They'll carry pink bricks that can be parried. Failing to parry these items will allow the minions to drop the bricks onto connecting pieces, moving the cart around.
It would be best if you kept the cart positioned in a place that keeps Cuphead safe, as ending up in the wrong spot can allow for easy damage. Once the Blind Specter retreats, move the cart to the center of the track and prepare for the next enemy.
In Phase Two, Cuphead will face the Conductor. This boss will use three cars to spawn his head and arms. It'll attack using its Skeletal Slam; this will allow the Conductor to crush anything beneath his two fists. Switch to the Charge Shot and unload on the skull, as this is the weak point.
Keep an eye out for the Pumpkimps, as they'll continue to spawn into this phase of the fight. Don't let them move the cart directly below a fist, or Cuphead is guaranteed to take a hit during the Skeletal Slam.
After each Skeletal Slam, the Conductor will swap his body parts' placement, moving each piece to a random location. This is why it's important to keep the sides free of debris. After a section of the cart has been parried, there is a brief window where the cart cannot move it.
You'll want the cart to have a full range of motion in for when the Conductor moves. Keep hitting him with the charge shot until he retreats. Eventually, he'll swap in the next poltergeist. Move the cart back to the center of the track to prepare.
In Phase Three, Cuphead faces the Lollipop Ghouls. These enemies bot have a separate health pool and have to be defeated individually. When the phase starts, make sure you have the Charge Shot equipped. Lock Cuphead in place and fire a shot off at the head of your choice to get some damage in before they have a chance to attack.
After a short spawn period, the Lollipop Ghouls will use their Blazin' Beams attack. They'll shoot an energy beam from their mouths as one of the heads disconnects from its handle to move across the field. Keep an eye out for the head that inhales deeply; that's the one that will attack.
There will be a new minion type as well with the Spooks. These ghosts will follow Cuphead until they take damage and are released from their sheets. Keep an eye out for the pink skull that spawns once they're destroyed. Try to parry it before it can move the cart, putting Cuphead in the line of fire. These will fall directly down from where Cuphead beat the ghost, so don't worry about it following Cuphead again.
When the Lollipop Ghouls start this phase, switch back to the Spread Shot and fire on the head that isn't attacking when you've gained some distance. Try to focus on one head at a time. This phase becomes much easier once one of the ghouls dies. After every Blazin' Beam, return to the middle of the field, as the attack comes randomly. Once both heads melt away, the final ghost will make its entrance.
Head of the Train
The Final Phase will introduce the Head of the Train. This boss is the trickest of the bunch and can't take damage initially, so save your shots until after he separates himself from the other train cars. If you've got a Super, make sure to save it for this phase, as it's the one you'll want to power through the quickest.
Once the Head of the Train circles back around, he'll be running high above the cart Cuphead's riding. You'll notice a glowing furnace in the center of his body. Until that is open, Cuphead cannot damage this boss.
Cuphead will have to parry the train's pink tail to open the furnace and reveal this boss's heart. Once it's in range, hop up and attack slap the bulb to open up the Head of the Train's Center compartment.
With the center opened, Cuphead can damage the train. Use the Spread Shot to do consistent damage. This boss will move around constantly, so it's better to go with the option that can deal out consistent damage.
Keep an eye out for the boss's Fire Flurry attack, as it sends out Fireballs that rain down from above and Bone Boomerangs that will fly inward once they're level with Cuphead. Be prepared to jump out of the way of these projectiles, aiming at the centerpiece of the Train as often as possible.
The train may close after some time, so be prepared to parry the tail if it attempts to lock its vulnerable piece away again. Eventually, the Train Head will collapse, giving Cuphead another soul contract to add to his collection.
Next: Cuphead: How To Beat Rumor Honeybottoms
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Cuphead boss guide: Phantom Express in ‘Railroad Wrath’
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Phantom Express is the final fight before the finale of Cuphead . It is appropriately hard without being overly difficult, so prepare to do some learning. To find Phantom Express, go past the theatre and enter the train on your left.
Before this fight begins, it is important to note that the entire encounter places Cuphead on a strange platform. On either side of the platform are pink valves that move the platform to the left, center or right position. Moving is important, but it can also be very bad when you don’t want it to happen. You can control this on your own if you parry the valves. Or you can let the flying pumpkins drop pink bricks on them for you. However, these pumpkins are always dropping bricks, so shoot them down if you don’t want to move.
Phase 1: Eye guy
The eye ghost is the first you’ll face. He is a weird cyclops that that will shoot eyes out of his hands out you. You can shoot and kill these eyes. This guy will go down pretty quickly, and your platform will slide forward on the track.
Phase 2: Skull conductor
The skull conductor is easy if you don’t move. Slide your platform to the far right and stand on the left corner.
The conductor has but one attack: He’ll stick his head out of one section and slam his hands on the others. If you are under his head, no problem. If you are under a hand, your far left location should be safe. Keep shooting the head and the conductor will go down in no time.
Phase 3: Lollipop demons
These creepy things that look like lollipops will shove their way out of the left and right side of the train while a ghost organ pops up in the middle. Keep your platform on the far right and move Cuphead against the right wall. Shoot and kill the lollipop demon above you. Once he is gone, jump and shoot the other head.
If you are standing in the far right area, you should be able to avoid getting hit by the left lollipop. However, ghosts will come out and harass you, so take a second to shoot them down, careful to time it so that the pink skull that they drop doesn’t land on one of your valves.
When the lollipops die, slide your platform all the way to the left.
Phase 4: Death engine
The final phase is very fast. Either you’ll die quickly or you’ll kill the boss. Once the death engine runs past you, jump up and parry its tail. This will expose the engine’s heart. Jump up and shoot the heart, careful to avoid the fire spewing out and the homing bone rings he sends after you.
Repeat this process until even the train is dead.
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28. Cuphead Phantom Express - Railroad Wrath
Phantom Express is an inventive take with many smaller phases/bosses. Management of the screen and understanding each element will be a huge problem for winning here.
If you haven't used the locking mechanic for aiming, it will be a lot more important here.
The phases are divided by which enemy you are against. There will be 4 different enemies to discuss. Before we delve into the phases though, we need to mention the platform you will be using throughout the battles.
You have a mini train cart that is about 1/3 the length of the screen. Each end has a wheel that you can parry (which does not count towards your parry score). If you parry the right handle, you will move right one portion. Left will do the opposite. If a pink object hits those handles, they can also move your cart. This will be one of the central mechanics throughout the fight.
Phase 1 - Cyclops Ghost
The cyclops ghost to begin will introduce most of the concepts for the rest of the battle. There are two things you need to pay attention to during this battle:
1) Pumpkins - The pumpkins the fly across the top of the screen carry a pink (thus parry-able) bar that they will aim to drop on the ends of your cart. Their main goal will be to drop them on the right handle and thus push you closer to the ghost. One hit won't be a problem, but if you get moved twice then your platform will be on top of the ghost and you will take damage.
2) The Eyes - The ghost will pushing bouncing eyes from its hand. You can shoot and destroy them pretty easily. The one complaint about this section appears to be a random glitch. It's not difficulty specific and you can actually see it happen in the simple difficulty video. Sometimes an eye will pop on screen from nowhere. I've taken numerous hits from those.
You can easily get 2-3 parry off the pumpkins in this phase. My main strategy here is to stand a bit off of the right handle and fire straight towards the cyclops ghost. Try to jump and shoot the eyes and catch them before they're too close. When a pumpkin drops the pink bar, jump. You should be next to it and not actually in the hit box, but still be close enough to parry it. I did this quite consistently in the Regular difficulty video below if you want a visual to help it make more sense.
Eventually, you will deal enough damage to take down this boss. As it is destroyed, I'd recommend moving your cart over to the middle spot if you're not already.
Phase 2 - Skeleton Cars
For the Skeleton cars, you will be on screen with 3 cars. To start, a skeleton head will crash out from the middle car while it's left and right hands will pop out of the side cars. In this phase, the cart placement is less important. You can dodge the attacks of the skeleton in any position. The skeleton has one attack here:
The position of the hands will be where it slams them down. The thing is that these slams don't actually fill the whole area below them. Therefore, even if your cart is right below a hand, you can stand to the sides of your cart and not get hit by the slam.
The main difficulty here is the parrying of the pumpkins (if you decide to parry them at all). If you jump up, the hit box of the hands and the skeleton's head can actually damage you. When going for my A-rank, I lost some runs when I didn't realize how large those hit boxes were. Aiming at an angle to the head would be your best bet when dealing with it.
After taking down the skeleton, make sure you move back to the center as you move on to the next one.
Phase 3 - Lightning Heads
In this phase, the left and right cars will have heads pop out of them. The center car has a few pipes, but these are relatively inconsequential for now. Let's first focus on the heads.
The reason we want to start this phase in the middle is because of the attack they utilize. You will see one of the heads wind up. That signals the head is about to attack. The attack will be a lightning storm across the ground right below it as it moves across the screen. You will need to move to the side with the other head (the one not winding up to attack). After it finishes its attack, move back into the center and repeat this process.
Now let's mention the center car. Everyone so often, a white ghost will pop out of it. These ghosts will home in on you. Destroying them will release a pink ball. Similar to the pumpkins in Phase 1 and 2, if this hits the wheels on the ends of your car then it will move you. You can parry, but if you're not focusing on it, you could just as easily try to get the kill on it when it's not near a handle and thus allow it to fall harmlessly off of the screen. Your decision can be highly dependent on how much parrying you did already up to this point.
Phase 4 - Engine Car
For this last phase, the engine car detaches and starts running with 4 legs. The are two attacks and some effort is required to make the Express vulnerable to damage.
To damage the car, you need to parry the tail. This will not count towards your parry total or give you a card towards you super. Upon parrying the tail, the compartment on the side will open to reveal the engine's heart. Your goal is to shoot the heart to damage it.
The two attacks are for this phase:
- Bone Rings - The nose of the engine will release these into air in front of it before they begin to fall. The ring will fall until is horizontally aligned with you. Once in line with you, it will then go from right to left across the screen. While on the cart, this can be quite easy. If you are in midair however, the dodge can be a little more tricky.
- Fireballs - When you open the side of the engine with the heart, the burning heart will start shooting out fireballs into the air. They will then fall down to the ground. You just need to dodge these shots. This attack only lasts as long as the door is open.
Getting hits here can be a little chaotic. You'll need to pay attention to jump arcs for the metal rings, but getting shots off while the door is open is slightly complicated with the engine running forward and backward. If you have a full super here, it might be best to activate it after parrying the tail so you be in line with the heart.
Some slightly more important changes here to cover:
Simple - No Phase 4 at all. Pumpkins during Phases 1 and 2 also don't come at you. This fight is pretty much a gimme at this point on Simple.
Regular - Regular will follow the patterns as listed.
Expert - Expert can be tricky. The pumpkins and ghosts are more frequent and thus more of a distraction.
Inventory up first:
- Charge - Charging up and holding can make picking your shot chance a lot easier. With most bosses above you instead of in line, waiting to make an attack can be more important.
- Peashooter - I found this to work nicely against Phase 1. I tried Spread here and switching between that and charge for this, but it was too busy. The peashooter can take down the eyes before they get to you while also dealing with the boss itself.
- Charge Beam - Big damage on Phase 2 or 3 can make things go a lot faster.
- Any Powerup (no hearts) - Smoke bomb doesn't really help I'd say, so Coffee or the P. items would be best
For health, all the phases are doable without taking a hit. As you can see in the videos though, random hits just seemed to always come my way. Part of the difficulty is being quick enough and thus taking risks. This boss can drag and getting the time is actually harder here. Hopefully the increased damage from charge and the super should help.
Parries are all over the place in this fight. The pumpkins and ghosts count (the wheels on your cart don't). You can see in the regular video that by standing just slightly off the right side wheel to start the fight that you can jump and parry the pink drops easily. With all the opportunities you can easily build it up.
Because of the parry chances, you will likely have a full super early in Phase 2. The only warning here is that the hitbox from the arms/head can easily deal damage to you. I don't have many tips to get this right since it's more about feeling it out. You'll learn it though. Using here means you can charge again for Phase 4. The other option would be to use it during Phase 3 and then aim for a single card use or two in late Phase 3 or Phase 4. This might be better since there are two enemies in Phase 3 and this can really speed up the completion here.
Unfortunately, I don't have a video here. The fight itself is not too different from regular however to notice.
I'm using the roundabout, spread, energy beam, and p. sugar.
I can easily get past the first phase.
The second phase is kinda difficult to bypass, without having to take damage from the arms.
The last two phases are very hard to deal with.
Use pea shooter, chaser, and P. Sugar. For the first phase use pea shooter, and for the rest of the phases, use chaser. For phase 2, make sure that you always point your gun up, so it also kills the pumpkins whilst also the Skeleton himself. Whereas for phase 3, just point your gun normaly (unless you're not being attacked by the lightning bolts, then point up).
What do you think?
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- Phantom Express
The Phantom Express is a boss in Cuphead that appears in Inkwell Isle Three .
It resides in the level Railroad Wrath and consists of Blind Specter , the Conductor , the Lollipop Ghouls , and the Head of the Train .
- 1.1 Appearance
- 1.2 Personality
- 2.2 Phase 1
- 2.3 Phase 2
- 2.4 Phase 3
- 2.5 Phase 4
- 3 Sound Effects
- 5.2 Inspirations and similarities
- 6 Reference
- 7 External Links
The Phantom Express is a steam-powered train for the dead. Each carriage is made out of wood with a dull lavender color and dull pink as its roof, has four windows and steel wheels. On board are some Spook-like passengers with zigzag mouth. Some carriages has a cup banner on the side. The last carriage has an entrance to the train, exit stairs, and two floors, with Blind Specter coming out from the top floor. One of the carriage has three smokestacks broke through the roof during the Lollipop Ghouls phase.
Blind Specter is a light blue ghost with one large empty eye socket on their head, and two eyes coming out of their palms.
The Conductor is a very large skeleton, with his most notable feature being the conductor hat he wears. He also appears to be missing a tooth.
The Lollipop Ghouls look similar to the pistons of a train. They have large round heads being held on very thin rubber-hose style necks.
The Head of the Train is a steel steam engine with a blue face and purple body, with his heart inside of his boiler. He is always seen with his teeth showing. After uncoupling from the rest of the train, he looks similar to a horse, with his body raised above his wheels by four legs and a tail that ends in a light-bulb.
Everyone on the train seems to take enjoyment in poking fun at the player(s) dying. Blind Specter says that the player(s) will count the worms that go through their corpses, the Conductor says that the train's next destination is their funeral, the Lollipop Ghouls state that the train is only for the dead, but the player(s) would die against fighting them, thus being able to ride, and the Head of the Train states that he enjoys "bringing the fright".
Before the battle, Blind Specter stretches out of the caboose of the train and cackles maniacally in an attempt to scare the player(s).
"I can see...into the future. You...will be...counting worms." — Blind Specter , Death Screen
Blind Specter will attack by bouncing five eyeballs towards the players. These eyeballs can be destroyed by shooting at them. In Simple Mode, they stay idle for a longer time each time he stops spawning eyes and the eyes move slower. In Expert Mode, they spawn seven eyes and they move faster. Hitpoints = 3.5/3.5/3.5
Throughout the entirety of the battle, a platform will follow the train in one of three places, and will only move if the vaults on either end are parried or hit by certain objects, which can also be parried. However, Pumpkins come from either side, and drop a pink ingot onto the vaults of the cart to move it closer to Blind Specter, so he can damage the player(s). The Pumpkins can be killed by shooting at them, and the ingot can only be destroyed by parrying. The Pumpkins appear in this phase and Conductor's phase. In Simple Mode, they never appear. In Expert Mode, they fly faster. Hitpoints = 4/4
After enough damage, Blind Specter screams in defeat and retreats back inside the caboose and the player(s) move forward to the next part of the train. Hitpoints = 400/425/425
"All aboard!! Next stop -- your funeral." — Conductor , Death Screen
Conductor pops out of the carts along with his massive skeletal arms. He attacks by slamming his hands onto two spots that players can be on, before popping in and out another car and repeating his attack; players need to move the platform to the area beneath his head to avoid damage from the arms, or they can stand on either edge of the platform as the slam lands on the middle of the platform. In Simple Mode, he has a longer telegraph time for his attack and stay up for longer. In Expert Mode, he has less telegraph time, stay up for slightly shorter, and stays in the cart less.
After taking enough damage, he will cry in pain and lower himself back inside the train, and the player(s) move(s) on to the next part of the train. Hitpoints = 320/325/325
"Sorry! This train is only for the dead...but we can help you with that." — Lollipop Ghouls , Death Screen
In this phase, the Lollipop Ghouls will come out on the edges of the screen. They are fought simultaneously, but both must be killed separately. Hitpoints = 180/200/200
Their only attack is each raining down lightning from their mouth and moving closer to players until to the edge of the platform on either side. In Simple Mode, they move slower when attacking. In Expert Mode, they move faster.
Instead of Pumpkins, Spooks come out of the smokestacks of the middle car and home onto players. When they are defeated, a pink skull will drop that is able to move the cart, which can be parried. In Simple Mode, the Spooks' spawning rate is slower. In Expert Mode, the spawning rate is faster. Hitpoints = 5/5/5
After enough damage, they will melt, and the player(s) can move on to the front of the train. In Simple Mode, the battle will simply end when they have been slain. Total Hitpoints = 360/400/400
"What a glorious night for me to bring the fright!" — Head of the Train , Death Screen
In this last phase, the Head of the Train dislodges from his cab and the rest of the train to gallop after the players off the rails, constantly moving from left to right. Occasionally, rings of bones shot out from his nose drops down and will move across the screen if it is at the same height at the player(s).
To damage him, players must attack his core, which is protected by an invincible grate. It must be opened by parrying the tail (which won't count towards the parry total) and it will rain down fire randomly. After a little while, the grate will slam shut, requiring the player to parry his tail again. In Expert Mode, the Head of the Train gallops faster, and the Pumpkins return, dropping ingots on the cart.
Once the heart has taken enough damage, the Head of the Train flails and cries as he slides on the ground. Hitpoints = 200/200
The Head of the Train
The Railroad Tracks
Head of the Train concept art
Overworld location from E3 2015
on E3 2015 trailer
- Using P-Sugar will conveniently move your cart once you jump on it, making it extremely convenient for this boss fight and for parryable skulls and ingots that get close to the platform's dials.
- The Head of the Train's heart may be a light bulb.
- When going through the different phases, perpetually-smiling passengers can be seen on the train.
- While fighting the Conductor, there is a slight layering issue where the Pumpkins that drop the pink ingots on the cart will be in front of him, but the ingots themselves will be behind him.
- Out of all the individuals of the Phantom Express, only Blind Specter is seen in the good ending .
- Due to the Phantom Express blocking Inkwell Hell from the rest of Inkwell Isle III, as well as it being on train tracks, the player(s) literally ended up on the "wrong side of the tracks" in the opening.
- The instruments used in the soundtrack of this battle is made to sound like a train. Examples like: Snare drums sound like the train going over tracks, and several horns together make the sound of a train whistle.
- In a concept art for Head of the Train, he would still have a cart connected to the engine and uses four skeleton legs (presumably the Conductor's) to run on the track. It could either breathe fire, shoot meteors, create a steam beam from the chimney or transform the chimney into a hammer as his method of attack. The concept art  was posted by the boss designer Jake Clark.
- The Phantom Express is the only boss battle with the same hitpoints in both Regular and Expert Mode.
- The name of this boss could be based on a 1932 mystery crime-thriller film 1932 mystery crime-thriller film, "The Phantom Express" and the British children's television series Thomas and Friends the episode titled"The Phantom Express".
Inspirations and similarities
- The Phantom Express is an homage to the Ghost Train from Final Fantasy VI . A musical nod to this train is included in Railroad Wrath.
- The background for this fight is inspired by the 1929 Disney cartoon The Skeleton Dance .
- Phantom Express can also be a reference to the Swing You Sinners! ghosts.
- Blind Specter might be based off on a tenome , judging by his ghostly appearance and the fact that his eyes are actually on his hands.
- The Conductor might be based off on a gashadokuro , since he's a giant skeleton.
- The Lollipop Ghouls might be based off on two different yokai, in this case, they might be a hybrid of a rokurokubi (because of their abnormally long extended necks) with an nukekubi (due to the fact that they can detach their heads from their necks).
- The Head of The Train might be based off on the oboroguruma .
- Blind Specter is possibly based off Eye Five, a villain from Skylanders Trap Team .
- The faces of the Lollipop Ghouls look like a character in the 1930 Fleischer cartoon Swing You Sinners! .
- If one looks closely at the Head of the Train, shortly before he dislodges himself from the carriages, the number "4561" can be seen on the carriage behind him where one of the engine also has a number plate of "4561" in the front of the engine.
- The number "4561" being the ID of a LEGO train set called Railway Express is most likely a huge coincidence.
- The Head of the Train nearly resembles the Demon Train from Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks .
- The Pumpkins may be a reference to a pumpkin with wings from the 1933 Betty Boop cartoon Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party .
- ↑ https://twitter.com/JakeClarkDude/status/1000914633853616128
- Blind Specter - Antagonists Wiki
- Head of the Train - Antagonists Wiki
- Pages with broken file links
- Inkwell Isle 3
- Inkwell Isle 3 bosses