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 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 eight children, Bowser Jr. and 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, with his shell and tail covered with spikes and a pair of almost demonic-looking horns, as well as 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, and 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 often than not he is more of 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).
In Super Smash Bros. Melee
As a playable character
Bowser's B 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 B-forward 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 B-up 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 B-Down move, the Bowser Bomb, causes a midair 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
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
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Bowser's moveset and running speed are slightly faster than in SSBM. 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.
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.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Sunshine
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.
- Paper Mario
- Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
- Super Paper Mario
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.
- Super Paper Mario
- Bowser was originally considered to appear in the original Super Smash Bros., but was left out due to space limitations. He shares this trait with Peach, Pit, King Dedede, Mewtwo, and Meowth. Out of these characters, Meowth is currently the only one who is not a playable character in any Super Smash Bros. game.
- Despite his weight and size, Bowser, in both Melee and Brawl, he can actually jump higher than Mario and some characters.