Bowser (クッパ, Koopa), is the supreme leader of the Koopa Troop, and King of the Koopas. He is the main antagonist of the Mario series. Since his debut in the world-famous Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System as the archenemy of main hero Mario, Bowser is easily one of the most recognizable of all villain figures in the game industry. He has therefore appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Smash Bros. 4, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the Super Smash Bros. series as a playable fighter, and due to his size and strength, Giga Bowser (a gargantuan, power up version of said character) also appears in Melee as the final boss of Adventure Mode and as his Final Smash in Brawl, SSB4, and Ultimate.
Bowser was introduced in the seminal Super Mario Bros. for the 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's Princess Peach, 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 additional members of his "family": his only child, Bowser Jr., and his subordinates, the seven Koopalings. He also has a helper named Kamek, who has raised him since birth and serves as his mentor and father figure.
Bowser is a heavyset, chimeric, reptilian creature who combines traits of various real and mythological animals. Like his Koopa Troopa underlings, he features elements of a turtle or tortoise (albeit with qualities of a fire-breathing dragon or dinosaur) with his spike-covered shell and tail. He also has the facial structure and horns of an ox, as well as a very distinctively-constructed face and red hair arranged like a mohawk, both very unlike a typical Koopa Troopa. Though he is commonly thought of as a turtle-like being, the games indicate that he is intended to be a more generic representation of a "monster".
At times, Bowser is depicted in vastly different sizes, somewhat resembling Mario's tendency to grow or shrink in size during games starring him; he is 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. Generally, his size is reduced for spin-off titles, and increased for games where his role as a major antagonist is emphasized.
Bowser is the primary villain in many Mario platformers, and therefore he is usually not playable. Bowser has appeared as a playable character, however, in several Mario games nonetheless, such as in the Mario Kart series. Whereas Mario is consistently the most balanced character in the roster of any competitive Mario spin-off, Bowser traditionally fits the "big, slow, and strong" archetype to the extreme. In these games, Bowser is typically classified as a "power" type, who performs relevant actions with more strength but less speed than others. This archetype is faithfully preserved in Bowser's appearance as a playable fighter in both Melee and Brawl.
In contrast, Bowser's actual agility greatly varies in each of his appearances; as another example, Bowser features the highest top speed and heaviest weight of the racers in the Mario Kart games, offset by low acceleration and handling abilities. This aspect of his character is more represented in SSB4 and Ultimate, which feature him with a more active and athletic moveset.
Bowser remains part of the regular cast in the Super Mario empire of video games, though his level of menace has fluctuated throughout his various game appearances. In many spin-offs, Bowser is on seemingly good terms with the other Mario characters in competitive scenarios like sports and kart racing, and has even allied himself with the protagonists of some games — albeit typically to serve his own purposes. In particular, some of the RPG entries feature Bowser as a playable party member, to the point of being a central protagonist in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. When in antagonistic roles, Bowser has occasionally been depicted as bumbling, comical, and slightly incompetent. He works hard to come across as "bad" in spite of this, and has been doing so from a young age, as seen in the Yoshi's Island series.
Most current Mario games return Bowser to his previous status of a legitimate threat, as can be seen in the transition from Super Mario Sunshine to Super Mario Galaxy, and his character development throughout the Mario & Luigi RPG subseries. In such appearances, the Koopa King is more cunning and sinister than his brutish appearance would suggest, but still boisterous and somewhat whimsical. Additionally, ever since the introduction of Bowser Jr. in Sunshine, one of Bowser's defining traits has been his love and support for his son — regardless of how evil or competent either of them may be.
Bowser does not appear in the original Super Smash Bros. in any sort of capacity. However, according to a page on Smabura-Ken (the Japanese Super Smash Bros. site), Bowser was planned to be included as a playable character, but was cut. In fact, it has been confirmed that Bowser and King Dedede were actually playable characters during development of the game in 1998. In the end, Bowser would end up being completely scrapped while King Dedede became a background character in the Dream Land stage. This was mostly a result of the Nintendo 64's hardware limitations, as well as time constraints.
As a playable character
Main article: Bowser (SSBM)
Bowser makes his Smash Bros. series debut as a default playable character in the GameCube installment, and is billed as staying true to his archetype in normal competitive Mario games: he is among the heaviest and strongest characters in the game, but also among the most sluggish. Like Mario and Luigi, his appearance is based on his appearance in Nintendo 64-era artwork, except he has a noticeably more muscular frame and darker skin tones.
Bowser's neutral special move is Fire Breath, a continuous stream of fire breathed from his mouth into the area in front of him for several seconds until it weakens in power and size. His side special 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 up special 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 down special 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 archetype does not translate well in the fast-paced metagame in Super Smash Bros. Melee. His powerful, damaging attacks with average range are good only when it manages to connect with opponents, for they have large amounts of startup and endlag, and such flaws detriments his combat capabilities. His dash speed is slow, his jumping and landing animations are very laggy, and his wavedash is very slow and nearly useless. He is also not able to reliably combo opponents, and his great size renders him combo fodder against the vast majority of the case. 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 even have a chance at competitive play, though even an expert Bowser player will be severely disadvantaged against a regular Fox player. As a result, his humongous deficiencies have resulted in him placing 26th out of 26 characters in the F tier at the very bottom of the tier list.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (Super Mario Bros. series)
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", who is often confused with 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:
As a playable character
Main article: Bowser (SSBB)
Bowser is another returning playable character in Brawl, but with an updated look with more realistic textures, though with a design more akin to the Mario series rather than his more muscular appearance in Melee. All but one of his special moves from Melee return in Brawl-- his side special move, Koopa Klaw, has been replaced with a new move called Flying Slam. His appearance is based on his current appearance in the later Mario games, starting with Super Mario Sunshine. As Masahiro Sakurai previously mentioned on the Smash Bros. DOJO!! website, Bowser now comes in a "slightly different flavor this time around", like all the other characters; this can be taken as indication of Sakurai's claim that Brawl was designed with balance in mind.
Bowser's moveset and running speed are slightly faster than in Melee. His forward smash now has a chance to hit twice, once for the head, and again for his body, doing anywhere from 36 to 48 percent damage, and being by far the most damaging smash attack in the game. While he has been buffed from Melee, Bowser still retains a multitude of gaping flaws, rendering him to still be a bottom-tier character with meager tournament results in Brawl, ranking 33rd on the current tier list.
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (Super Mario Bros. series)
As a playable character
Main article: Bowser (SSB4)
Bowser returns as a playable character in SSB4, with a more upright posture and increased mobility. Like Mario, Luigi and Peach, his design is based on his appearance from recent Mario games, such as Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8.
Bowser ranks 24th out of 55 characters on the tier list. He has been considerably buffed from Brawl to Smash 4, having been granted increased speed and faster attacks. The general changes to Smash 4 improve Bowser further, as he no longer has to contend with the likes of chain-grabbing, and the new rage mechanic brings more benefit to his great survivability. Unfortunately, he still suffers from combos and a lack of defensive options, courtesy of his large size and high weight. Such benefits resulted in him having stronger tournament presence and a larger playerbase.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Super Mario Bros. series)
As a playable character
Main article: Bowser (SSBU)
Bowser returns as a playable character alongside the entire playable roster of the series. This is Bowser's first appearance in Super Smash Bros. where he is not a starting character. As the first character in Donkey Kong's unlock tree, he can potentially be the first character to be unlocked.
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