Bowser (クッパ Kuppa?) is the supreme leader of the Koopa Troop, King of the Koopas. He is the primary and most consistent antagonist in the Super Mario video game empire. Since his debut in the world-famous Super Mario Bros. for NES as the arch-enemy of main hero Mario, Bowser is easily one of the most recognizable of all villain figures in the game industry. He has therefore appeared in 4 games in the Super Smash Bros. series as a playable fighter. An alternative, powered-up and enlarged version of him called Giga Bowser also appears in Super Smash Bros. Melee as a final boss figure in Adventure mode and as his Final Smash in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U.
Bowser was introduced in the seminal Super Mario Bros. for NES, with most of his traditional character traits introduced along with it: his storyline role as a comically monstrous villain who always goes out of his way to kidnap the Mushroom Kingdom princess, Peach Toadstool, his gameplay role as a boss enemy for Mario to defeat, his fire-breathing abilities, his immeasurable army of henchmen such as mushroom-headed Goombas and turtle-like Koopa Troopas, and so on. Super Mario Bros. holds the Guinness World Record for the best-selling video game, at 40 million copies, essentially guaranteeing worldwide fame for all characters who appeared in the game, Bowser included. He has appeared in some form in almost every Mario game to date, along with more members of his "family", mainly his son, Bowser Jr. and his minions, the seven "Koopalings".
Like Bowser's Koopa Troopa underlings, he features elements of a tortoise, albeit a giant mutant tortoise with qualities of a fire-breathing dragon. His shell and tail are covered with spikes and has a pair of almost demonic-looking horns on his head. He also has a very distinctively-constructed face and red hair arranged like a mohawk, both very unlike a typical Koopa Troopa. To settle a common dispute, original game developers intended for Bowser to be more of a dragon instead of his common perception as a turtle. Bowser, at times, is depicted in vastly different sizes, somewhat resembling Mario's tendency to grow or shrink in size during games starring him; he's a colossus in his appearance as the final boss of Super Mario Sunshine, while in other appearances he is only slightly larger than the average person. The fact that Bowser has offspring would suggest he had a wife at some point, but this character has never been seen or referred to in the series, though the UK version of Nintendo Power magazine has stated that Bowser's wife is named Clawdia.
Bowser is the primary villain in many Super Mario themed platformers, and therefore usually not a playable character. Bowser has appeared as a playable character, however, in a large percentage of Mario games nonetheless, such as in the Mario Kart series. Whereas Mario is consistently the most balanced character in the character line-up of any competitive Mario-themed game, Bowser traditionally fits the "big, slow, and strong character" archetype to the extreme in any game he is playable. In the various Mario-themed sports games, for example, Bowser performs relevant actions more powerfully than others but more slowly as well, while in the Mario Kart games, Bowser as a selectable racer features the heaviest weight and the highest top speed of the racers, but who is offset by low acceleration and handling talent. This archetype is faithfully preserved in Bowser's appearance as a playable fighter in both Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl.
Since Super Mario games typically do not feature epic and emotionally involved storylines and character development like an RPG, opting for more straightforward, cheery, and colorful atmospheres whose starring characters are essentially meant to represent gaming personalities more than anything else, Bowser has not had much change in personality and role over the years: he is consistently shown to be brutish, oafish, and sarcastically witty at times. A "traditional" Super Mario game plot is usually some variation of him kidnapping princess Peach within one of his lava and trap-filled castles and Mario coming to save her from his clutches. It is indicated by several games that this is because Bowser may have genuine feelings for Peach. Bowser is generally a threat to Mario in games that place him in the role of a boss, though more recently he comes off more like a bumbling and comical character when trying to come across as "evil". There are Super Mario games, particularly the RPGs, that feature stories that showcase other Super Mario master villains who prove more of a legitimate threat to Mario and the land than Bowser can ever hope to achieve; Bowser grows very jealous whenever that happens, so in a few of the RPGs Bowser reluctantly allows himself to work with Mario and friends to battle the villain.
Bowser remains a "regular" in the Super Mario empire of video games, though he only really held the image of a consistently threatening menace in his early game appearances. Nowadays, when he is not on seemingly equal grounds with the other Super Mario characters in competitive games like sports and kart racing or even helpful to the characters in RPG roles, he is an antagonist who is depicted as bumbling, comical, and almost slightly incompetent, but he works hard to come across as "bad" and supposedly has been doing so from a young age as Baby Bowser (which is different from Bowser Jr., his son, though they look so similar their names are often confused).
His personality is different depending on which type of game. In the RPG games, he is dimwitted, goofy and sometimes nice. However, in the main platform games, he is an evil, sinister, brutal, and selfish villain who threatens millions of lives.
Bowser, alongside Mewtwo and King Dedede, was planned to be a playable character during the development of Super Smash Bros., but he was scrapped late in the game's development, after being worked on for around half of the development of Super Smash Bros., alongside King Dedede. Bowser himself was confirmed to have been in the game as late as November 1998.
As a playable character
Bowser makes his Smash Bros. series debut as a default playable character in the GameCube installment and is billed as staying true to his archetype in normal competitive Mario games: the heftiest and strongest character, but also the most sluggish. He is actually one of two characters that can be said to best fit this role, the other being Ganondorf.
Bowser's Standard Special move is the Fire Breath, which is a continuous stream of fire breathed from his mouth into the area in front of him for up to several seconds until it weakens in power and size. His Side Special move, the Koopa Klaw, can be a good-range claw swipe attack, but can also grab onto enemies that are very close to him, and the move has the unique ability to grab onto enemies when both combatants are in midair. His Up Special move, the Whirling Fortress, is a third jump consisting of him withdrawing into his damaging spiked shell which is now spinning wildly upwards, and his Down Special move, the Bowser Bomb, causes a mid-air Bowser to crash down to earth vertically with great force. If Bowser is on the ground when doing this, he will leap up and in front of him diagonally before performing the crashing down maneuver.
Bowser's setup does not translate well in the fast-action world of Super Smash Bros. Melee. His powerful, damaging attacks with good range are good only when it manages to connect with opponents, for they have long wind-up and wind-down, and such a lack of alacrity seriously harms any fighter's ability to fight. His dash speed is slow, his jumping and landing animations are very slow, and his wavedash is very slow and nearly useless. He is also not able to combo opponents, and his great size makes himself perhaps the easiest opponent to land combos on. Bowser players must, therefore, be able to read their opponents extremely well and must successfully pressure their opponents in battle, and make use of his good edge-guarding game, to have a chance at competitive play, though even an expert Bowser player will be severely disadvantaged against an expert Fox player.
Bowser is a playable character, so he is featured on three trophies that can be acquired by beating each Regular Match with him on any difficulty. His first trophy is earned by defeating the Classic mode as him on any difficulty, his second from the Adventure mode, and his third from the All-Star mode. There is also a trophy of Bowser at a younger age, "Baby Bowser", which is often confused as his son Bowser Jr.
Bowser's Classic trophy plays a large, symbolic role in Melee's "story", so to speak; the trophy is shown near the end of the opening FMV, getting struck by lightning. At the end of Adventure mode, after K.O'ing Bowser, the trophy is seen plummeting into the darkness. If the right conditions are fulfilled, however, the trophy will rise back up onto the stage, land, and get struck by that special lightning, which will cause it to break apart and reveal Giga Bowser breaking out of it, and the Giga Bowser battle begins. If Giga Bowser is defeated, the trophy will again be seen plummeting into the darkness, where it will now shatter like a little firework, signifying the player's ultimate victory.
Bowser's normal trophies read as follows:
- Bowser has a long history of kidnapping Peach to lure his nemesis, Mario, into traps. He leads an enormous group of mischevious creatures, not the least of which are his seven children. With outrageous strength, flammable breath, and more spikes than you can shake a Star Rod at, Bowser is a constant threat.
- Super Mario Bros., [10/85]
- Bowser [Smash]
- In many ways, Bowser is the toughest character around. Not only does he have near-impervious hide, but his great mass makes him almost impossible to hurl offscreen. Of course, his weight also makes him rather slow to maneuver, so when facing him in battle, it's best to press your attack and not give him a chance to counter.
- B: Fire Breath
- Smash B: Koopa Klaw
Bowser's Fire Breath strikes continually, but it grows gradually smaller over time until it's barely smouldering. The Koopa Klaw rakes enemies at a distance and pulls nearby foes in close for a good gnawing. Bowser's Whirling Fortress moves laterally over the ground; it works in midair as a recovery. The Bowser Bomb is powerful and paves the way for more attacks.
- Up & B: Whirling Fortress
- Down & B: Bowser Bomb
- Baby Bowser
- Even as a youngster, Baby Bowser was already playing pranks and causing trouble for Baby Mario and his pal Yoshi. Even at this early age of his evil career, Baby Bowser had tons of henchmen at his disposal. Many experts speculate that Mario and Bowser have some sort of connection that can be traced back to their mutual births.
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island [10/95]
As a playable character
Bowser is another returning playable character in Brawl, but with an updated look with more realistic textures. All but one of his special moves from Melee return in Brawl—his side special move, Koopa Klaw has been replaced with a new move called Flying Slam. As Masahiro Sakurai previously mentioned on the Smash Bros. DOJO!! website, Bowser, now comes in a "slightly different flavor this time around", and like all the other characters; this can be taken as indication of Sakurai's claim that Brawl was designed with balance in mind.
Bowser's moveset and running speed are slightly faster than in Melee. His forward smash now has a chance to hit twice—once for the head, and again for his body. This means Bowser can dish out around 46% damage with a single attack. While he has been buffed from Melee, Bowser is still a low tier character with the worst tournament results of any character in Brawl, ranking 33rd on the current tier list.
- The king of the Koopas and Mario's eternal rival. He breathes fire, hurls hammers, attacks from vehicles like the Koopa Clown Car, and uses all sorts of weapons in hopes of taking out Mario. As his size suggests, he's immensely powerful. His son Bowser Jr. is a chip off the old block who spends his time creating trouble for Mario.
- (NES) Super Mario Bros.
- (GCN) Super Mario Sunshine
- Paper Bowser
- The great king of the Koopas who plots to rule the land with a firm fist. In a change of events, Bowser goes from being Mario's rival to adventuring side by side with him. Bowser's special skill is breathing fire and he has nearly twice the attack power of Mario or Peach, which allows him to take out foes from a distance or multiple enemies with a single blow.
- (Wii) Super Paper Mario
- Wedding Bowser
- The great Koopa king in a sharp, white tuxedo. Bowser is forced into marriage with Princess Peach by Count Bleck, who plots to wipe out the universe with the Chaos Heart. Although it's all part of Count Bleck's plan, Bowser doesn't seem to be displeased with the prospect. This might just be the last time we ever see Bowser in a tuxedo.
- (Wii) Super Paper Mario
As a playable character
Bowser returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U, being confirmed during the E3 2013 event on June 11, 2013. In this game, most of Bowser's animations and movement has been revamped, such as dashing upright instead of scuttling and no longer retreats into his shell when rolling, jumping or air dodging. Like Mario, Luigi and Peach, his design is based on his appearance from recent Mario games, such as Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8.
- Mario's archnemesis and the reason Peach spends more time in "another castle" than in her own. His plans almost never work out, and occasionally he even finds himself on Mario's side. In Smash Bros., he's a serious heavyweight who laughs off weaker attacks. Hit him hard to send him flying!
- (NES) Super Mario Bros. (10/1985)
- (N64) Super Mario 64 (09/1996)
- Bowser (Alt.)
- Bowser makes good use of his heavy physique with his down special Bowser Bomb, slamming down with his backside. If he's on the ground, he'll jump into the air before crashing down. Also, he can gain a bit of altitude if you press the special button repeatedly while executing his up special Whirling Fortress.
- (NES) Super Mario Bros. (10/1985)
- (N64) Super Mario 64 (09/1996)
- Paper Bowser
- Bowser's defence team argues that considering his latent savageness and the promises of wish-granting power, it could only be expected that Bowser would try to grab the Sticker Comet. Who could resist something like that? Bowser was just a victim of circumstance!
- Paper Bowser (Second Form)
- The Royal Stickers can grant wishes, both good and bad. One sticker enhanced Bowser's natural greediness and rage, making him so powerful that Mario had to beat him twice in a row—the recycled Bowser even bigger and more powerful than before!
- Bowser + Standard Kart
- Bowser has tricked out his kart exactly like Mario's. With a level playing field, it all comes down to the driver's skill. Well, and luck. And if the driver got a good night's sleep... Only the goddess of victory knows who will win. That's part of the fun of Mario Kart!
- Bowser + Flame Runner
- Now THIS is a monster of a bike! It was obviously designed with Bowser in mind since they both weigh a ton and both have trouble accelerating. Once you get up to top speed, though, these two really come into their own! Incidentally, Bowser is known as Koopa in Japan, but the Japanese name for this bike is Super Bowser. How rare.
- (Wii) Mario Kart Wii (04/2008)
- Bowser, along with Mewtwo and King Dedede was originally intended to be playable in the first Super Smash Bros. game.
- Bowser has gotten gradually brighter in color as the Smash games have progressed, as to keep up with his design in the main series Mario games.
- Bowser is the only veteran to have his victory theme changed in every Smash Bros. game he appears in.