Whirling Fortress (スピニングシェル, Spinning Shell), also known as "The Fortress", is Bowser's Up Special Move. Bowser retreats into his shell and spins around. He can gain a large amount of horizontal recovery, but the vertical recovery is very limited.


Known for its defensive and maneuvering attributes, it adds to Bowser's game and it fills several 'holes' in Bowser's otherwise slow metagame. Several unique properties make it highly beneficial to play:

  • It has very little start-up (5 frames), during which Bowser is invincible, and has relatively little cooldown lag.
  • One cannot get shieldgrabbed if one cancels a Fortress directly into another.
  • It hits throughout most of its animation (on the ground)
  • It allows Bowser to move quickly and suddenly in one direction
  • It has high knockback on the ground, and inflicts high damage in the air. The first frame of attack in the air also has high knockback. However, it's power was nerfed in Brawl, so it is not as useful at KO'ing as in Melee.
  • It has high priority
  • It can be used to edgeguard quickly and efficiently. Fortressing off the side of a stage leads directly to an edgehog

The above properties make the Fortress a versatile move. It can also be used as a damaging and effective replacement to Bowser's quick, yet laggy, roll. Can be jump-canceled out of a shield to discourage overly aggressive opponents. It can be used to clank just about anything with decent timing.

This special attack is shared by Giga Bowser, both in his boss appearance in Melee and in his playable appearance in Brawl. It gives him lots of invincibility frames and it's almost impossible to attack him while he is using this. In Melee, Giga Bowser's Fortress also gave him much more vertical recovery when used in midair.

If this move is used in water, some water will get thrown into the air when Bowser whirls in his shell. This will not effect the body of water, so the lake or stream will have no water removed.

Bowser's Special Moves
Melee Brawl SSBWU/3DS Ultimate
Standard Special Fire Breath
Side Special Koopa Klaw Flying Slam
Up Special Whirling Fortress
Down Special Bowser Bomb
Final Smash Giga Bowser Giga Bowser Punch

Custom Variations

Flying Fortress

Flying Fortress is one of Bowser's Up Special Moves that can be used through customization. Bowser spins high into the air but doesn't deal as much damage.


  • Greater vertical recovery distance
  • Can combo out of up throw


  • When used on the ground it goes upwards
  • Only hits at the start

The Flying Fortress takes away much of the Whirling Fortress's versatility in exchange for better recovery. The distance it covers in a vertical sense is greatly increased. It cannot cover as much horizontal distance as a result, which is true on both the ground and the air. The default Whirling Fortress, when used on the ground, would have Bowser stay on the ground and use the move, able to be maneuvered left or right at a great speed. The Flying Fortress does not stay on the ground and goes up regardless. The move can only hit at the very start but at low percentages because of its upwards movement path, can combo out of up throw. Due to its poorer horizontal movement, the Dash Slash custom side special is recommended to assist with this.

Sliding Fortress

Sliding Fortress is one of Bowser's Up Special Moves that can be used via customization. Bowser spins while sliding quickly to send opponents flying but it has less vertical range than Whirling Fortress.


  • High horizontal recovery
  • Can cover all of Final Destination in both ground and air


  • Low vertical recovery distance

In stark contrast to the Flying Fortress, the Sliding Fortress takes several of the aspects that make the Whirling Fortress so good and amps them up but sacrifices reliable vertical recovery ability as a result. It covers a great horizontal distance very quickly, and can cover all of Final Destination, making the move excellent as an approach and combo starter since opponents hit by it are launched into the air.

Bowser's Custom Special Moves
Custom 1 Custom 2
Standard Special Fire Shot Fire Roar
Side Special Dash Slam Dash Slash
Up Special Flying Fortress Sliding Fortress
Down Special Turbulent Bomb Slip Bomb