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Bowser (character)

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Mario character
First appearanceSuper Mario Bros. (1985)
Last appearanceGame & Watch: Super Mario Bros. (2020)
Created byShigeru Miyamoto
Designed byShigeru Miyamoto
Yōichi Kotabe
Portrayed byChristopher Collins/Patrick Pinney (King Koopa's Kool Kartoons)
Dennis Hopper (Super Mario Bros.)
Voiced by
In-universe information
AliasKing Koopa
TitleKing of the Koopas
ChildrenBowser Jr.

Bowser (クッパ, Kuppa, "Koopa")[1] or King Koopa, is the main antagonist character of Nintendo's Mario franchise. In Japan, the character bears the title of Daimaō (大魔王, "Great Demon King").[2] In the United States, the character was first referred to as "Bowser, King of the Koopas" and "the sorcerer king" in the instruction manual.[3] Bowser is the leader of the turtle-like Koopa race and has been the archenemy of Mario since his first appearance, in the 1985 video game Super Mario Bros.

His ultimate goals are to kidnap 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 is voiced by Kenny James. In addition to his usual animated and video game appearances, he also appears in the 1993 live-action film, where he is portrayed by Dennis Hopper.

Concept and creation[edit]

Bowser was created by 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.[4] 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".[5]

Miyamoto named him クッパ Daimaō Kuppa. Kuppa came from the Japanese name for , 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).[6] The Korean name for the character Bowser/Kuppa is not Gukbap, but 쿠파 Kupa, which is essentially a phonetic round-trip translation.[7] The name was anglicized Kuppa rather than Koopa in the Japanese versions up until the release of Super Mario World.[8][9]

In the Super Mario Bros. film, Bowser is portrayed by Dennis Hopper and is called President Koopa. He is also briefly referred to as King Koopa. This incarnation is almost entirely human in appearance, with blonde hair he gels in the shape of a crown, and he frequently wears a black business suit and necktie. However, after brief exposure to his own evolution-reversing device 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., but he is further devolved into primordial ooze.[10]


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. He is characterized by a large, spiked turtle shell, horns, a draconic muzzle, razor-sharp fangs, taloned fingers, three clawed toes on each foot, red eyes and a shock of red hair.

He is physically endowed with immense strength, is nearly indestructible, and can breathe fire. He can also jump surprisingly high for his large size, although his speed and agility are most of the time lacking. He is also accomplished in black magic, thanks to which he can teleport himself or summon objects, fly, generate a huge amount of electricity, use telekinesis or metamorphose.

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, he stands only slightly taller than Mario. He is shown changing his size at will or through others' sorcery in games including Yoshi's Island, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Bowser aspires to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and merge it with his own realm. He is infatuated with Princess Peach,[11][12][13] and routinely kidnaps her as part of his plans for domination.[14] 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.[15] 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 has a son, Bowser Jr., who helps his father kidnap Princess 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[16] with subsequent official sources adding that he was their biological father,[17][18] 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."[19]

Voice and portrayal[edit]

Up until the release of Super Mario Sunshine, Bowser's voice consisted of mostly stock roars and snarls synthesized from various animal sounds as well as modulated laughs from Mario's primary voice actor, Charles Martinet. Then, in the 2002 release of Super Mario Sunshine, radio personality and voice actor Scott Burns gave Bowser his first spoken dialogue and continued portraying him for several more years. With the late 2005 release of Super Mario Strikers, Kenneth W. James became the new voice actor for Bowser. Although, for a few years, old recordings of Burns were reused for games after James took the role, such as Mario Party DS. Between Burns and James, Bowser was briefly voiced by Eric Newsome in Super Paper Mario. Bowser's pre-Sunshine sounds are still used occasionally in such games as the Super Smash Bros. series.


In video games[edit]

Super Mario series[edit]

Bowser has appeared in almost every Super Mario game, starting with Super Mario Bros., often serving as each game's main antagonist and final boss. With few exceptions, the common goal of the player is to defeat Bowser and rescue Princess Peach. In some entries, Bowser is aided by Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings. A child variant of the character, Baby Bowser, made its first appearance as the final boss of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, and has since primarily appeared in games in the Yoshi spin-off franchise.

Other games[edit]

  • Bowser makes various appearances in the Mario RPGs.
    • In Super Mario RPG, he uses Mario and the Koopa Troop to become an ally only to reclaim his castle which is stolen by the main antagonist Smithy.
    • The Paper Mario series
      • In the first Paper Mario game, he is the primary antagonist, stealing an item called the Star Rod and using it to empower himself.
      • He is a lesser antagonist in 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 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. Unlike the other games, this is the first Paper Mario game he doesn't talk.
      • He appears in Color Splash as the main antagonist. However, unusually, he is unintentionally evil in this game, having been corrupted by poisonous black paint he accidentally created by mixing the six colors of the rainbow, turning him into Black Bowser. Under its influence, Black Bowser plans to cover Prism Island, as well as the Mushroom Kingdom in black paint.
      • He appears in The Origami King as an ally to assist Mario in order to stop King Olly.
    • The Mario & Luigi series
      • He plays minor antagonistic and supporting roles in Superstar Saga, where he aids Mario and Luigi in battling the witch Cackletta. At one point in the story, he loses his memory after a big clunk on the head and becomes Rookie, the assistant of master thief Popple. After regaining it, he gets possessed by Cackletta's spirit, becoming Bowletta.
        • In Bowser's Minions, he reprises his role from the original Superstar Saga, only that this time his minions are fighting back against Fawful's forces to free their leader.
      • Its prequel/sequel, Partners in Time, features both Bowser and Baby Bowser as minor antagonists (the major antagonists are an alien race called the Shroobs). Baby Bowser races against the Bros. to rebuild an artifact called the Cobalt Star, while Bowser, after failing to kidnap an impostor Peach, is enhanced by the elder Princess Shroob and becomes the final boss called Shrowser. Both Bowser and Baby Bowser also team up at one point to fight the Bros.
      • In Bowser's Inside Story and its 3DS remake Bowser Jr.'s Journey, 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 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).
      • Paper Jam, a crossover 3DS game, features both Bowser and his paper counterpart (Paper Bowser), similar to Partners in Time where Bowser and Baby Bowser meet each other, who team up.
  • 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).
  • He serves as the final boss in Luigi's Mansion in a battle on the roof of the titular mansion itself. Throughout the battle, it becomes apparent that this incarnation is King Boo inside a Bowser suit, which falls inert to the floor if Luigi is victorious.
  • Bowser is a selectable character within Super Smash Bros. Melee, Brawl, 3DS/Wii U, and Ultimate. In these games is a form 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 (alongside Mewtwo and Ganondorf), while in Brawl, 3DS and Wii U, it serves as a temporary playable transformation with the Final Smash. This monstrous form appears again as a boss in the Classic Mode of Ultimate. In The Subspace Emissary from Brawl, Bowser is unplayable for most of the story and only becomes playable after King Dedede defeats him in a duel.
  • In the Wii U and Switch version of Bayonetta 1 and 2, Bowser makes a cameo in which Bayonetta can summon his fists and feet when wearing the game's unlockable Princesses Peach and Daisy costumes.[citation needed]
  • Bowser appears as one of the Skylanders in Skylanders: SuperChargers as a fire element SuperCharger along with Spitfire and the SuperCharger version of Eruptor. His signature vehicle is the Clown Cruiser. He is only available on the Wii, the Wii U, and the Nintendo 3DS along with Donkey Kong.
  • Bowser also appears in the SNES version of SimCity; he is the one attacking the player's city during the monster attack disaster instead of the monster resembling Godzilla in the original PC release.
  • In the 1996 game Tetris Attack, he is the final boss fight on Hard and the hidden Super Hard difficulties in both the SNES and GB versions.

In other media[edit]

The "Bad-Anon" villain meeting from Wreck-It Ralph features Bowser and other various well-known video game characters, including Clyde, Doctor Eggman, M. Bison, Neff, and Zangief.
  • 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, and his appearance is very different from his traditional video game appearances. He has a green and yellow color scheme, wears a crown in place of his red hair, and lacks the ability to breathe fire, although he does wield a magic wand similar to those seen in Super Mario Bros. 3.
  • In 1989, Bowser, again referred to as "King Koopa", hosted a live-action show entitled King Koopa's Kool Kartoons. In this half-hour program, Bowser gives away prizes to the children.
  • In the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, Bowser was played by Dennis Hopper. Here, he is President Koopa but is called "King Koopa," who usurped the throne of the parallel-universe city of Dinohattan. Rather than a turtle, Koopa is a humanoid that evolved from dinosaurs. Koopa is defeated 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 and was mentioned by Hopper as the worst role he has ever played.[20]
  • Bowser appears in the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph as one of the video game villains that attend the villain support group Bad-Anon. When Wreck-It Ralph mentions his interest in 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, Ralph expresses his success of being a real hero and gaining some respect from Bowser and the other villains, who applaud him.
  • Bowser appears in two sketches in two separate episodes of the Mad television series, voiced by Fred Tatasciore both times. In the first sketch, "Koopa Soup", he advertises a new kind of soup served in a Koopa shell, which grants temporary superpowers to its eaters depending on the color. In the second sketch, "Franklin & Crash", he is briefly seen trying to stop Mario from rescuing Peach before the castle he is guarding is crushed, then agrees to go buy some soda with Mario afterward.

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 #2 out of 100,[22] and GamePro placed him at #9 out of 47.[23] 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."[24] 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.[25] In GameDaily's top 10 Smash Bros. characters list, he ranked sixth.[26] GameDaily also included him in their most persistent video game villains list.[27] 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".[28] IGN editor Craig Harris described Bowser as being a household name.[29] In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 23rd-greatest video game character[30] while Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2013 featured Bowser first in their list of top 50 Villains.[31]

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".[32] 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".[33] Nintendo World Report editor Aaron Kaluszka commented that battling Bowser has never been "this intense and engaging".[34] IGN editor Cam Shea praised his physical appearance in Super Mario Galaxy, describing him as "imposing and weighty".[35] 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".[36] Game Positive editor Travis Simmons concurred, commenting that his hair "gives him a touch of personality".[37]

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."[38] 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.[39] RPGamer editor Michael Cunningham praised the game for Bowser "stealing the show", but also decried it for not having quite enough of him.[40] Nintendo World Report editor Pedro Hernandez commented that the plot and humour of the game make iconic characters "more enduring, including Bowser".[41] 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.[42] 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."[43] 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.[44]

Kombo editor commented that he became a more sympathetic character as the game progresses, adding that his "massive ego pushes him towards heroism".[45] editor Chris Kohler called Bowser awesome, adding that his segments are funnier than Mario and Luigi's.[46] 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.[47] 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".[48] 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.[49] 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".[50] 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."[51] 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."[52] ScrewAttack listed Bowser as the number one top 10 reptiles/amphibians in video games.[14] IGN names Bowser one of the "oldest villains in gaming history, not to mention one of the most iconic."[53]


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External links[edit]