It's easy to understand why devs are attracted to making the playable character lose to the baddy at some point during the adventure – it makes for a more compelling character if they have to struggle, somewhat.
But we've all heard of the worst way this can be handled – you wreck the enemy's shit in gameplay, but in the cutscene, they're all like "Pff. Are you even trying?" This juxtaposition makes us immediately not care about what the game has to say about how intimidating the boss is, because it's practically tangible how much that doesn't impact the game part of the game you're playing.
Now, although me calling this the worst method does imply all other options available are better, it doesn't necessarily mean I think all other known options are good. At least, not in any linear games, or games without branching paths.
- You could have the villain barely beat you in the cutscene, but that's still only a slightly lesser offender in the same regard as the aforementioned example. Not to mention it's limiting to the writer that the villain's not allowed to be vastly your superior.
- You might have cases of the villain just "outsmarting" you, like how Glados leads you to a fake door at one point in Portal 2. But to preserve the purpose of the moment, the player is railroaded to this, with no alternative options, so the idea that the villain's a few chess moves ahead of you is kind of disengenuous.
- You might have cases like this one boss I fought in Rogue Galaxy, where it avoids making a scripted sequence where you're forced to lose, and instead presents the idea of hopelessness when confronting the enemy, by giving him a ridiculously big health bar that after a few minutes of gameplay you've barely chipped at, for the cutscene to then start, showing the heroes running away having realised the villain's too much of a brick wall. This is heading vaguely in the right direction, because it still asks of the player to progress through the fight far enough without dying, and doesn't have the villain sweep through with some cheap unblockable move or something, but emotionally it still presents a problem; if the player's handling him candidly, then all it really presents is the idea that he'd be a "chore" to beat, as opposed to a challenge.
- One option some folks have found pretty favourable is like near the beginning of Sekiro, where you're presented with a difficult first encounter with a recurring enemy, but it's perfectly possible for you to beat him then and there, and instead of winning anyway in the cutscene, he pulls a cheap trick on the hero. A problem with this tho, is that beating the boss once means it's tougher to imply growth for the hero when you just beat them again, later. Not to mention it brings up again the problem I mentioned a few bulletpoints ago, that it restricts the writer a little by forcing them to write the villain in a way where he's a challenge that's overcome early.
So, yeah. I dunno if maybe some imaginative game designer's come up with the closest thing to a method that would satisfy everyone, or if any of you guys have some of your own ideas, but this really does seem to be one of the most tenacious thorns in the side of the discussion of ludonarrative dissonance.
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