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Mario character
Main promotional artwork
First gameSuper Mario Bros. (1985)
Created byShigeru Miyamoto
Designed byShigeru Miyamoto
Yōichi Kotabe
Portrayed byChristopher Collins/Patrick Pinney (King Koopa's Kool Kartoons)
Christopher Hewett (Mario Ice Capades)
Dennis Hopper (Super Mario Bros.)
Voiced by
  • Scott Burns (2002–2010)
  • Kenny James (2005–present)
  • Eric Newsome (2007)
In-universe information
FamilyKamek (caretaker; Yoshi's Island)
ChildrenBowser Jr. (son)

Bowser (クッパ, Kuppa, "Koopa"),[6] also known as King Bowser or King Koopa, is the fictional primary antagonist in Nintendo's Mario franchise. In Japan, his title is Daimaō (大魔王, "Great Demon King").[7] He is the arch-nemesis of the plumber Mario, and the leader of the turtle-like Koopa race. Bowser's defining traits are his monstrous appearance with dragon-like elements, full-throated roar, fire-breathing abilities, and tyrannical personality. His ultimate goals are to kidnap Princess Peach and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom.

Bowser debuted as Mario's opponent in the 1985 video game Super Mario Bros. Designer Shigeru Miyamoto had first conceived an ox based on the Ox-King from the Toei Animation film Alakazam the Great, but Takashi Tezuka remarked that the character looked more like a turtle than an ox, and the two collaborated to refine Bowser's appearance into the leader of the turtle-like Koopas.

Bowser's voice actor is Kenneth W. James. His previous voice actors include Scott Burns, who spoke Bowser's first dialogue in a video game, and Eric Newsome, who voiced him in Super Paper Mario.

After Super Mario Bros., Bowser branched into different genres including role-playing games Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi, sports games Mario Kart and Mario Tennis, and fighting games Super Smash Bros.. He appeared in various animations, including three series produced by DIC Entertainment (all voiced by Harvey Atkin), and was portrayed by Dennis Hopper in the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film. He was voiced by Jack Black in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023).

Bowser has received a mostly positive reception, with several critics noting that he is one of the most iconic and most recognizable video game villains ever.


This is the earliest known concept artwork for Bowser.

Bowser was created by Nintendo designer and producer Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto had first envisioned Bowser as an ox, based on the Ox-King from the Toei Animation film Alakazam the Great.[8] 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 redesign his look to reflect a leader of the turtle-like Koopa Troopas. In his final design, Miyamoto commented that he could make Bowser "look cool now".[9]

Miyamoto named him 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).[10] For the later North American release of the game, which also introduced the anglicized spelling "Koopa", the character was named Bowser. His Korean name is not Gukbap, but 쿠파 Kupa, which is essentially a phonetic round-trip translation.[11] The name was anglicized to Kuppa rather than Koopa in the Japanese versions up until the release of Super Mario World.[12][13]

Bowser was once imagined as an upright Koopa Troopa with spines on his back and fangs, according to the oldest known design.[14] During the development of Super Mario Bros., Miyamoto contemplated commissioning the game's art to a manga artist or illustrator. However, due to a lack of time, he created the game's original box art himself. Bowser is depicted in this artwork in a way that differs from later renditions, with the most noticeable differences being his gray-blue complexion and lack of horns. Miyamoto received inspiration for the character's appearance from an anime film version of the Chinese novel Journey to the West, which was renamed Alakazam the Great during the film's Ameri period.[15] Yōichi Kotabe based Bowser's final design on the Chinese softshell turtle, which he recognized as highly aggressive, reflecting Bowser's short temper.[16]

Within early comics, Bowser is clearly referenced to Gamera, the iconic fictional turtle kaiju with abilities of breathing fire and flying by spinning, and Bowser's attack in one of these is called "Gamera Attack" (ガメラアタック, Gamera Attakku).[17][18][19]


Bowser is 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. He has a large, spiked turtle shell, horns, a draconic muzzle with fangs, taloned fingers, three clawed toes on each foot, red eyes, and a shock of red hair. He has immense physical strength, is nearly indestructible, can breathe fire, and can jump very high for his large size. He is accomplished in black magic for teleportation, summoning objects, flying, generating electricity, telekinesis, or metamorphosis.[20]

Bowser's physical size varies and in most games, he towers over most characters. In Super Mario RPG, he stands only slightly taller than Mario. He changes his size at will or through others' sorcery in games including Yoshi's Island, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Galaxy 2.[20]

Bowser aspires to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and merge it with his own realm. He is infatuated with Princess Peach,[21][22][23] and routinely kidnaps her as part of his plans for domination.[24] Sometimes, he kidnaps Peach simply to lure Mario into a trap, but occasionally he hopes to marry her, such as in Super Mario Odyssey.[24] He is typically the central antagonist in the main series, but in the RPG series, he sometimes works with the heroes to defeat a greater evil. His personality is generally menacing and sinister, but he sometimes displays a more comical side as a blustering, buffoonish bully with some emotional vulnerability. He also cares for his minions.[20]

Bowser has a son, Bowser Jr., who helps his father kidnap Princess Peach. Bowser Jr.'s mother is unknown, as Bowser isn't yet officially confirmed as having a previous marriage. Originally in Super Mario Bros. 3, Bowser was stated to be the father of the Koopalings[25] with subsequent official sources adding that he is their biological father,[26][27] but since their return in New Super Mario Bros. Wii they have been referred to as Bowser's minions. In a 2012 interview, Shigeru Miyamoto stated, "Our current story is that the seven Koopalings are not Bowser's children. Bowser's only child is Bowser Jr., and we do not know who the mother is."[28]


Super Mario Bros. is Bowser's first video game appearance as the villainous boss. Miyamoto (right) and Tezuka then began collaboration on Bowser's new image fitting for the commander of the turtle-like Koopa Troopas. Miyamoto said in his final design that he could make Bowser "look cool today".[29]

Bowser debuted in the video game Super Mario Bros..[30] He then appeared through all Super Mario games (with the exception of games such as Super Mario Land), the Paper Mario series, the Yoshi series, and the Mario & Luigi series.

Other Mario games[edit]

Bowser has appeared in nearly all of the Mario spin-off games, including in the Mario Kart[31] and Mario Party series.[32] Bowser appeared in multiple Mario sports games, such as Mario Tennis,[33] Mario Golf,[34] Super Mario Strikers,[35] and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.[36]

He appeared in Mario's Time Machine,[37] Hotel Mario,[38] and Mario Pinball Land.[39] Bowser appears as a playable character in Itadaki Street DS and its Wii sequel Fortune Street.[40] Bowser is also a Dark attribute character who appears as the main opponent in Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition.[41]

Bowser appears in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.[42] In Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Bowser makes a cameo.[43] He also reappears in the sequel Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.[44]

Other games[edit]

Bowser is a playable character in every installment of the Super Smash Bros. series since 2001's Super Smash Bros. Melee.[45] He was intended to be playable in the series' first installment, but was removed during development due to time constraints.[46] Bowser is in Tetris Attack, a game inspired by the Japanese game Panel de Pon. All of the original cast members are replaced except Mr. Time, with characters from the Mario and Yoshi series, with Bowser taking on the role of Corderia as final boss.[47] With the name Hammer Slam Bowser, Bowser debuts as a playable character in Skylanders: SuperChargers. He appears alongside Donkey Kong and comes with a Skylanders unique figurine.[48] Dr. Bowser is playable in Dr. Mario World.[49]

In other media[edit]

The animated version of Bowser is named King Koopa, as he appears in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World.

Dennis Hopper portrayed King Koopa in the 1993 live-action film Super Mario Bros.[50] In the film, Koopa is the usurper ruler of Dinohattan, a city in a parallel universe in which humans evolved directly from dinosaurs. He abducts Princess Daisy but is eventually defeated by Mario and Luigi. This incarnation is almost entirely human in appearance, with blonde hair he gels in a crown-like shape, and he frequently wears a black business suit and necktie. However, after brief exposure to his own evolution-reversing technology by the Mario Bros., he starts occasionally possessing some reptilian traits. The climax of the film sees Koopa devolve into an enormous green Tyrannosaurus rex to battle the Mario Bros., who further devolve him into primordial ooze.[51]

Bowser is one of the gaming villains attending a "Bad-Anon" support group in the 2012 animated film Wreck-It Ralph.[52] The writers had early on envisioned the Bad-anon meeting with Bowser as a major character within the scene; according to film director Rich Moore, Nintendo was very positive towards this use, stating in Moore's own words, "If there is a group that is dedicated to helping the bad guy characters in video games then Bowser must be in that group!"[53]

Bowser was voiced by Jack Black in the The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023).[54] In the film, Bowser successfully captures the Super Star from the Penguin Kingdom and plots to destroy the Mushroom Kingdom unless Princess Peach agrees to marry him. His plans are ultimately foiled by Mario and Luigi, who retrieve the Super Star from Bowser, and defeat him in a final battle taking place in Brooklyn. Bowser is then shrunk with a Mini Mushroom and imprisoned in a bottle. In a mid-credit scene, Bowser is singing his song from earlier in the film, but he is scolded by a guard. This has also made Bowser the subject of an Internet meme with his hit song "Peaches".[55]

He appeared in Nintendo gamebooks.[56] Bowser appears as the primary antagonist in Nintendo Power's comic series Super Mario Adventures.[57] Bowser reappears in the Mario comics of Valiant Comics' Nintendo Comics System as the principal antagonist of the Mushroom Kingdom.[58]

Reception and legacy[edit]

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 No. 2 out of 100,[59] and GamePro placed him at No. 9 out of 47.[60] GameSpot listed him at No. 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."[61] 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.[62] In GameDaily's top 10 Smash Bros. characters list, he ranked sixth.[63] GameDaily also included him in their most persistent video game villains list.[64] 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".[65] IGN editor Craig Harris described Bowser as being a household name.[66] In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 23rd-greatest video game character[67] while Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2013 featured Bowser first in their list of top 50 Villains.[68] IGN named Bowser as one of the "oldest villains in gaming history, not to mention one of the most iconic."[69]

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".[70] 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".[71] Nintendo World Report editor Aaron Kaluszka commented that battling Bowser has never been "this intense and engaging".[72] IGN editor Cam Shea praised his physical appearance in Super Mario Galaxy, describing him as "imposing and weighty".[73] 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".[74] Game Positive editor Travis Simmons concurred, commenting that his hair "gives him a touch of personality".[75]

Bowser's role in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has highly positive reception, frequently referenced as its main character. 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."[76] 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.[77] RPGamer editor Michael Cunningham praised the game for Bowser "stealing the show", but also decried it for not having quite enough of him.[78] Nintendo World Report editor Pedro Hernandez commented that the plot and humor of the game make iconic characters "more enduring, including Bowser".[79]

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.[80] 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."[81] 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.[82] Kombo editor commented that he became a more sympathetic character as the game progresses, adding that his "massive ego pushes him towards heroism".[83] Wired editor Chris Kohler called Bowser awesome, adding that his segments are funnier than Mario and Luigi's.[84] 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.[85] 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".[86] 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.[87] 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".[88] 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."[89] 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."[90]

Some Super Mario 64 fans joked that Mario supposedly shouts, "So long, gay Bowser!" when defeating him. In April 2019, Charles Martinet, Mario's voice actor, tweeted that Mario says, "So long, King-a Bowser!".[91] In the Japanese version, and Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Mario instead says "buh-bye!",[92] which Nintendo later confirmed in a tweet.[93]

In 2018, the short comic "The Super Crown's some spicy new Mario lore" on DeviantArt and Twitter transforms Bowser into a monstrously sinister female resembling Peach, which fans named Bowsette.[94] The character subsequently went viral,[95][96] In 2015, the alligator snapping turtle of the Amur River was discovered and became an Internet sensation for its resemblance to Bowser.[97] "Bowser Day 2021" became a Twitter fad.[98]


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External links[edit]