Bowser as represented in New Super Mario Bros. 2.
|First game||Super Mario Bros. (1985)|
|Created by||Shigeru Miyamoto|
|Voiced by (English)||Marc Graue (1994)
Scott Burns (2002–2010)
Eric Newsome (2007)
Kenny James (2007–present)
Harvey Atkin (The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World)
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Naoki Tatsuta (BS Super Mario Collection)
Akiko Wada (Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!)
Masaharu Satō (Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros.)
|Portrayed by||Christopher Collins/Patrick Pinney (King Koopa's Kool Kartoons)
Dennis Hopper (Super Mario Bros.)
Bowser (Known as Koopa (クッパ Kuppa?), in Japan), is a video game character and the main antagonist of Nintendo's Mario franchise. In Japan, the character bears the title of Daimaō (大魔王?, lit. "Great Demon King"). In the United States, the character was first referred to as "Bowser, King of the Koopa" and "The sorcerer-king" in the Super Mario Bros. instruction manual. Bowser is the leader and most powerful of the turtle-like Koopa race, and has been the greedy nemesis of Mario ever since his first appearance, in the game Super Mario Bros.
His ultimate goals are to marry Princess Peach, defeat Mario, and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. Since his debut, he has appeared in almost every Mario franchise game, usually serving as the main antagonist. Bowser has been called "the most successful video game character". Currently, Bowser is voiced by Kenny James.
Concept and creation
Bowser was the creation of Nintendo designer and producer Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto had first envisioned Bowser as an ox, basing him on the Ox King from the Toei Animation film Alakazam the Great. However, Nintendo designer Takashi Tezuka pointed out that the character looked a lot more like a turtle than an ox. Miyamoto and Tezuka then began to work together to define Bowser's appearance. Since the character was the leader of the turtle-like Koopa Troopas the two began to base his new appearance on them, creating a new illustration. In his final design, Miyamoto commented that he could make Bowser "look cool now".
Miyamoto named him 大魔王 クッパ Daimaō Kuppa. Kuppa came from the Japanese name for 국밥, gukbap, a Korean dish. Miyamoto had also considered the names ユッケ Yukke and ビビンバ Bibinba, also Japanese names of Korean dishes (육회 yukhoe and 비빔밥 bibimbap respectively). The Korean name for the character Bowser/Kuppa is not Gukbap, but 쿠파 Kupa, which is essentially a phonetic round-trip translation. The name was anglicized Kuppa rather than Koopa in the Japanese versions up until the release of Super Mario World.
In the Super Mario Bros. film, Bowser, known as King Koopa in that adaption, was portrayed by Dennis Hopper. In the film, King Koopa appears as human-like, but with reptilian features (such as a long, slithering tongue, and a lack of body hair). The climax of the film sees Koopa devolve into an enormous Tyrannosaur to battle the Mario Bros, but is de-evolved into primordial slime.
Bowser is portrayed as the "King of the Koopas", anthropomorphic turtles that inhabit the world of the Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser differs greatly from the rest of the Koopa clan, which consists mainly of bipedal tortoises. His iconic features include a large, spiked turtle shell, horns, razor-sharp fangs, talons on his fingers, three clawed toes, and a shock of red hair. He is physically powerful, nearly indestructible, can breathe fire, and has skills in black magic. He can also jump surprisingly high for his large size, although his speed and agility are most of the time lacking.
Bowser's physical size tends to vary from game to game. In most games, he towers over the majority of characters, but there are exceptions. In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, he stands only slightly taller than Mario.
Bowser aspires to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and merge it with his own realm. He is infatuated with Princess Peach, and routinely kidnaps her as part of his plans for domination. Sometimes, he kidnaps Peach simply to lure Mario into a trap, but occasionally he hopes to marry her.
The character's role in the franchise varies. He is typically the main antagonist in the main series, but in the RPG series, he sometimes works with the heroes to defeat a greater evil. The RPGs also portray Bowser in a more humorous light as a blustering, buffoonish bully with a hidden softer side. He also cares for his minions.
Bowser also has a son, Bowser Jr., who helps his father kidnap Peach. Bowser Jr.'s mother is unknown, as Bowser isn't officially confirmed as having a previous marriage yet. Originally in Super Mario Bros. 3, Bowser was stated to be the father of the Koopalings, but after the Koopalings made their reappearances in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, in a recent interview Shigeru Miyamoto admitted that they are not Bowser's children in official canon.
Bowser has his own castle in a volcanic world known internationally as Bowser's Castle. In his castle, Bowser can summon his minions in order to take over the kingdom and capture Peach. In addition, the battles against Mario and his friends take place here. In the spin-offs, the castle can also serve as a go-kart course, a tennis court, a baseball stadium and many more.
Voice and portrayal
Up until the release of Super Mario Sunshine, Bowser's voice consisted of mostly roars, snarls, and laughs provided mainly by stock sound effects. Then, in Super Mario Sunshine, radio personality and voice actor Scott Burns gave Bowser his first spoken dialogue and continued portraying him for several more years. In Super Mario Galaxy, Kenneth W. James formally succeeded Burns. Between Burns and James, however, Bowser was briefly voiced by Eric Newsome in Super Paper Mario.
In video games
Super Mario series
Bowser's first appearance was in Super Mario Bros. as the main antagonist who kidnaps Princess Peach and as the final boss with several false versions of him appearing as lesser bosses. He reappears in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, in which he uses the same battle tactics as in the previous game. He appears in Super Mario Bros. 3, and along with the Koopalings, he transforms the kings of seven worlds into various different creatures and eventually capturing Princess Peach yet again. Bowser and his seven underlings reappear in Super Mario World, where they conquer Dinosaur Land and kidnap Peach while she and Mario are on vacation on Yoshi's Island. He makes his first 3D appearance in Super Mario 64, where he takes over Peach's castle and steals 120 Power Stars, scattering them through various worlds linked using the castle (150 in Super Mario 64 DS). He returns in Super Mario Sunshine, in which his youngest, but favorite son, Bowser Jr., who is disguised as an evil version of Mario, kidnaps Peach. Bowser himself eventually appears in the final boss battle of the game. In New Super Mario Bros., Bowser is the boss of the first world, which features a battle similar to that of Super Mario Bros. After being defeated, he falls into lava and is reduced to a skeleton called Dry Bowser. He is eventually restored by Bowser Jr. and acts as the final world's boss along with his son. In Super Mario Galaxy, Bowser steals the Power Stars from Rosalina's Comet Observatory and kidnaps Peach, taking her to the center of the universe to recreate it, with the intention of taking over the universe. He also appears in New Super Mario Bros. Wii as the final boss and primary antagonist of the game. After being defeated at the end, he grows to a much greater size, chasing Mario through the castle by breathing fireballs before Mario defeats him again. Bowser appears in the sequel Super Mario Galaxy 2, once again as the main antagonist. Here, however, Bowser has grown to giant size, requiring the player to dodge more powerful attacks such as meteors and bolts of lightning. Bowser also appears in Super Mario 3D Land as the main antagonist once again where he steals Peach and uses the Super Leaf to create tailed minions. Dry Bowser also returns in this game as well. Bowser also appeared in New Super Mario Bros. 2 along with his Koopalings in order to capture Peach once more. Dry Bowser also makes an appearance in this game. Bowser returns as the main antagonist of New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U along with the Koopalings and his son, but this time, they invade Castle Toadstool. Bowser returns once again in Super Mario 3D World as the main antagonist who is fought thrice, including as the final boss in a form known as Meowser, and this time, he will take over the Sprixie Kingdom by kidnapping the seven Sprixies so that he may steal the kingdom's treasures.
Bowser appears as a child in various games. Known as Baby Bowser, he antagonizes the Baby Mario brothers and various members of the Yoshi species. He first appears in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island where Kamek predicts the brothers will become problems in the future, so he attempts to kidnap them. He appears yet again in the sequel Yoshi's Story, stealing the "Super Happy Tree" from a group of Yoshis. He appeared yet again in Yoshi's Island DS as a playable character to recover his castle. Baby Bowser also appeared in Yoshi's New Island as the final boss.
- Bowser makes various appearances in the Mario RPGs.
- In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, he allies with Mario to reclaim his castle which is stolen by the main antagonist Smithy.
- In Paper Mario, he is the primary antagonist, stealing an item called the Star Rod and using it to empower himself.
- He is a lesser antagonist in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and a minor playable character, and is a major playable character in the sequel Super Paper Mario.
- He also appeared in Paper Mario: Sticker Star as the main antagonist where he invades the Sticker Fest ceremony and serves as the final boss with the sixth and final Royal Sticker.
- He plays minor antagonistic and supporting roles in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, where he aids Mario and Luigi in battling the witch Cackletta, losing his memory at one point and being possessed by Cackletta's spirit at another.
- Its sequel, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, features both Bowser and Baby Bowser as major antagonists. Baby Bowser races against the Bros. to rebuild an artifact called the Cobalt Star, while the Present Bowser, after failing to kidnap an impostor Peach, is enhanced by the elder Princess Shroob and becomes the final boss called "Shrowser". Both Baby Bowser and Bowser also team up at one point to fight the Bros.
- In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Bowser is the main protagonist and a playable character, with Mario and Luigi supporting him from inside his body without his knowledge. Although he is one of the game's three protagonists, he is still fought twice in the game as a boss by the Mario Bros.
- In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, he appeared as the main antagonist and major boss, being fought three times, including as the final boss where he becomes Dreamy Bowser. He forms an alliance with the initial antagonist Antasma, but later betrays Antasma (which he intended to do for a while) and becomes the true main antagonist.
- In Super Princess Peach, he uses the power of the Vibe Scepter to capture Mario and Luigi (prompting Princess Peach herself to come to their rescue).
- Bowser also appears as a playable character in the Mario Kart series and various Mario sports titles, such as Mario Golf, Mario Tennis and all four Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games installments. Dry Bowser also appears in some of the sports games occasionally as a playable character, being an independent character as opposed to being a form of Bowser.
- He also appears frequently in the Mario Party series as a non-playable character, with a space that, if players land on it, causes him to appear and either steal Stars or coins or make the players play his minigames.
- Bowser is a selectable character within Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. In these games is a form not featured in any other game called "Giga Bowser", a darker and more monstrous form with added power elements to his attacks. This form is an unplayable boss character in Melee, and is fought in Adventure Mode and the final Event Match, whilst in Brawl and 3DS/Wii U, it serves as a temporary playable transformation with the Final Smash. In The Subspace Emissary from Brawl, he is unplayable for most of the story and only becomes playable after King Dedede defeats him in a duel.
In other media
- Bowser's first appearance in any Mario media outside the games was in the Mario anime film Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen!, in which he is voiced by Akiko Wada.
- Bowser appeared in all of the Super Mario Bros. 3 OVA films.
- Bowser's first American appearances were as the antagonist in all three Super Mario Bros. cartoons (produced by DIC Entertainment) voiced by Harvey Atkin. The character is typically referred to as "King Koopa" rather than Bowser. His appearance in the cartoons was also different than his video game appearances. He had green skin and lacked his red hair and ability to breathe fire, although he did wield a magic wand similar to those seen in Super Mario Bros. 3.
- Bowser uses various alter egos in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! to match some of the episodes' titles.
- In The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, Bowser was assisted by his Koopa Kids, who received different names in the show.
- In Super Mario World, Bowser and the Koopa Kids returned to fight Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Princess Peach in Dinosaur Land.
- In 1989, Bowser, again referred to as "King Koopa", hosted a live action show entitled King Koopa's Kool Kartoons. On this half-hour program, Bowser gives away prizes to the children.
- Bowser appears as the antagonist in the Mario comics published as part of the Nintendo Comics System.
- In the Super Mario Bros. film, the main antagonist played by Dennis Hopper called "King Koopa," who usurped the throne of the parallel-universe city of Dinohattan (the film's version of the Mushroom Kingdom) from the rightful king (played by Lance Henriksen) who is devolved into fungus for most of the film. Rather than a turtle, Koopa was a humanoid evolved from dinosaurs. Koopa is defeated in the climax when Mario and Luigi devolve him first into a Tyrannosaurus and then into primordial slime. The film version of Bowser/Koopa was met with significant criticism, even being mentioned by the actor who portrays him, Dennis Hopper, as the worst role he has ever played on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
- Bowser appears in the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph. He appears as one of the video game villains that attend the villain support group Bad-Anon. When Wreck-It Ralph mentions his interest into not being a villain anymore, Bowser reacts to this by breathing fire similar to a spit take since he was drinking something at the time. Later near the end of the film, Wreck-It Ralph express his success of being a real hero and gaining some respect from Bowser and the other villains, who applaud him.
Reception and legacy
Due largely to the success of the Mario franchise, Bowser has become one of the most iconic and easily recognizable video game antagonists of all time. He frequently appears in lists for greatest video game antagonists. IGN placed him at #2 out of 100, and GamePro placed him at #9 out of 47. GameSpot listed him at #9 in their "Top 10 Video Game Villains" article, stating "Of all the villains to make an appearance on this list, Bowser...has got to be the most interesting," later adding "While some people say Bowser's life may have gotten into a rut, the man has simply refined his game down to an everyday thing. He's focused, he's dedicated, and worst of all, he's patient." Bowser ranked in the first slot on GameDaily's top 10 Nintendo characters that deserve their own games list, explaining if Yoshi and Wario get their own games, Bowser should too due to his being one of gaming's most nefarious villains. In GameDaily's top 10 Smash Bros. characters list, he ranked sixth. GameDaily also included him in their most persistent video game villains list. However, Bowser has been also rated as the 4th biggest douchebag in gaming history by ScrewAttack, who said that he wants to "take Mario down". IGN editor Craig Harris described Bowser as being a household name. In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 23rd greatest video game character while Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2013 featured Bowser first in their list of top 50 Villains.
Bowser's role in Super Mario Galaxy has been met with significant praise. Eurogamer editor Margaret Robertson commented that after years of being a "comedy villain", Galaxy put him back at his "scaly, scabrous best"." PALGN editor Chris Sell called him the best boss in Mario Galaxy, stating that it wasn't just because of the battles with him being "superb, screen filling affairs", but also because he is "back to being mean again"." Nintendo World Report editor Aaron Kaluszka commented that battling Bowser has never been "this intense and engaging."" IGN editor Cam Shea praised his physical appearance in Super Mario Galaxy, describing him as "imposing and weighty"." Another IGN editor, Matt Casamassina, praised the visual quality of the characters, citing Bowser in particular and mentioning how his "funky red fur waggles in the wind". Game Positive editor Travis Simmons concurred, commenting that his hair "gives him a touch of personality"."
Bowser's role in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has been met with highly positive reception. He has frequently been referenced as the main character of the game due to his prominence in it. Eurogamer editor Christian Donlan commented that it felt good to play as Bowser, and that "After years of picking a path carefully around threats, jumping out of harm's way, and tackling challengers mostly from above, it's a pleasure to put those cares aside and relish a few hours of spiky, tortoise-shelled power." " Destructoid editor Jim Sterling described Bowser's gameplay as "brilliant comic relief". He also described the dialogue of the game as being "laugh out loud funny", specifically praising Bowser's ego. RPGamer editor Michael Cunningham praised the game for Bowser "stealing the show", but also decried it for not having quite enough of him." Nintendo World Report editor Pedro Hernandez commented that the plot and humour of the game make iconic characters "more enduring, including Bowser." NGamer Magazine editor Matthew Castle commented that all Mario role-playing games make good use of Bowser, but that this is the first game where Bowser takes the center stage. Game Style editor Drew Middlemas commented that Bowser stole the show, being portrayed as a "creature of pure, blustering ego who reminds us of why he’s one of gaming’s greatest baddies."" N-Europe editor called him the "real star" of the game, calling him a "fantastic character" with "so much more to give than what we’ve seen from him so far, even in the other Mario RPGs." He added that his "foul mood and lack of intelligence" as well as his interactions with other characters are well-written. "
Kombo editor commented that he became a more sympathetic character as the game progresses, adding that his "massive ego pushes him towards heroism"." Wired.com editor Chris Kohler called Bowser awesome, adding that his segments are funnier than Mario and Luigi's." Giant Bomb editor Brad Shoemaker states that Bowser steals the show, commenting that playing as him gives players an inside glimpse of his ego and megalomania." IGN editor Craig Harris described Bowser as the only "core Nintendo character over the past couple decades" to not have a starring role in a video game, and this game acts as his "big break"." 1UP.com editor Jeremy Parish stated that Bowser makes the game, describing him as more interesting than Bowser's Inside Story predecessor's partners, the baby forms of Mario and Luigi." GamePro editor Alicia Ashby called Bowser one of the most "lovable characters in the Nintendo universe", and praising Bowser's Inside Story for giving him "much deserved time in the spotlight." GameSpy editor Phil Theobald called him the breakout star of the game, stating that "the gruff, quick-to-anger pro/antagonist is a treat to watch as he continuously becomes infuriated with the incompetence of his minions."" GamesRadar editor Henry Gilbert stated that he is "home to the most drastic change to the formula" in this game, stating that while he is still a "humorously incapable villain", the game allows players to switch between Bowser and the Mario Bros. at their discretion."" ScrewAttack listed Bowser as the number one Top 10 Reptiles/Amphibians in Video Games. IGN names Bowser one of the "oldest villains in gaming history, not to mention one of the most iconic."
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