Bowser (クッパ, Koopa) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. His return to the series was confirmed on June 11th, 2013 during E3 2013, during which he was one of the main subjects of the Developer Direct for SSB4, as well as the last veteran confirmed during the event. Bowser reuses his voice clips from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, some of which have been edited to sound deeper, as well as new voice clips.
Bowser is currently ranked 32nd out of 58 on the tier list, placing him in the E tier. This is a considerable improvement from his placement in Brawl, where he was ranked 33rd out of 38, while being both his highest tier placement in the series to date and the first time he has not been ranked as a bottom-tier character. Many of Bowser's problems have been fixed: he is much more mobile, has much greater range, and has noticeably improved combo and grab games. Alongside his new benefits, he retains his immense endurance, overall high damage output, and very strong KOing options.
However, Bowser remains virtually defenseless outside of out of shield Whirling Fortress, as he is very susceptible to combos due to his large size, heavy weight, and lack of combo breakers. This is exacerbated by his lack of good landing options and how his rolls and sidesteps are short both in distance and intangibility duration. Additionally, his recovery is still below average despite its improvements.
Bowser's drastic improvements resulted in him achieving many high spots in promotional tournaments held for SSB4. However, his position among the cast is debatable, due to several of his fellow veterans having also been buffed to varying degrees. Despite no longer being plagued by poor mobility and range, Bowser's flaw of being vulnerable to attacks remains intact due to his large hurtbox (which was enlarged even further in the transition to SSB4) and unsafe landing options.
Although his perception in the metagame has fluctuated over SSB4's lifespan, Bowser is a viable character as of update 1.1.3, as he has become surprisingly effective for a super heavyweight like how he was perceived in the very early SSB4 metagame, if not to the same extent. Lastly, while Bowser's high-level tournament representation has been rather poor, dedicated players like LordMix and recently Nairo have been able to overcome Bowser's limitations and win difficult matchups against high-level players of top-tier characters, such as Vinnie's Rosalina & Luma and VoiD's Sheik for the former, or Tweek's Cloud and Zinoto's Diddy Kong for the latter. Notably, ZeRo considers him to be at the top of the high tier.
Defying his overall presences in Melee and Brawl, Bowser combines power with speed. While he retains a slow walking speed, slow falling speed, high gravity, average air speed, slow air acceleration, average traction and the slowest jumpsquat, his dashing speed and double jump height have both been significantly increased. This grants him mobility that is average overall, yet balanced compared to most heavyweights. As the heaviest character in the game, Bowser has the greatest level of horizontal endurance, as well as the third greatest level of vertical endurance, being surpassed only by his fellow super heavyweights King Dedede and Donkey Kong.
Bowser's greatest strength is the immense power of his attacks. Since most of his attacks are highly damaging, Bowser has an easy time racking up damage, especially when compared to combo-oriented characters such as Luigi and Sheik. In addition, most of his moves have high knockback, granting him numerous (if not the largest number of) KO options. Some of his moves are among the strongest of the cast, including the one of the strongest meteor smash in his down aerial, one of the strongest semi-spikes in his back aerial and the second strongest forward smash, which is surpassed only marginally by King Dedede's and max Aura Lucario's. The introduction of rage further amplifies the power of his moves without reducing the efficiency of his combos. Bowser's great survivability can also allow him to take full advantage of it, as it is very difficult to KO him without a strong attack. Furthermore, Bowser has great range in many of his attacks, allowing him to space opponents more easily than many other characters. Combined with the aforementioned perks, Bowser is proficient at edgeguarding.
Bowser also has a formidable grab game. While not particularly fast, his grabs have among the longest ranges in the game, with his pivot grab being notoriously effective, making it easy for him to grab opponents that are not right next to him. His pummel and his forward, back and down throws deal respectable damage. His up throw's low damage output is counterbalanced by its low knockback, which grants Bowser many reliable follow-ups until around 75%, depending mostly on the opponent's falling speed. His down throw is the optimal choice for either forcing opponents off-stage for an edgeguard or preventing his other throws from becoming stale. His back throw is among the strongest, being surpassed only by Ness', Toon Link's, Mewtwo's, Villager's, Dr. Mario's, and Mario's, and can KO at 180% from center-stage. His forward throw is the strongest of its kind in the game, reliably KOing any character at 180% from center-stage.
Finally, Bowser has a versatile special moveset. Fire Breath is Bowser's only projectile, which can be used to fend off opponents or gimp recoveries due to it ability to be angled, while the nerf to SDI makes it quite difficult to escape when caught up close. Flying Slam is a command grab, allowing it to ignore shields and counterattacks. Upon a successful grab, Bowser is invincible up until he jumps to perform a flipping belly-to-belly suplex that deals enough knockback to KO around 120% or even earlier if he lands on a platform. After getting grabbed, the opponent cannot do anything other than slightly alter the move's trajectory. Whirling Fortress is Bowser's primary means of recovery, granting below average vertical distance but good horizontal distance, with the former increasing if button mashing is utilized. It is also a phenomenal out of shield option, as well as Bowser's fastest attack. Lastly, Bowser Bomb is very powerful and can be used as an alternative to fast-falling, making it useful for grabbing the ledge while at the same time threatening edgeguarders. It also deals additional shield damage, meaning that a shield break will occur if both of its hits connect.
However, Bowser has some glaring flaws. One of his biggest problems is air-to-ground transitioning. All of his aerials have at least 20 frames of landing lag, with his back and down aerials having 40 each. As none of his aerials have favorable autocancel windows, returning to the ground is very difficult for him, or even impossible without air dodging and/or fast-falling, due to his slow aerial mobility. As a result, Bowser is quite vulnerable to combos and heavily susceptible to juggling, making it easy for opponents to rack up damage on him, further worsened by his large size. His down aerial is his only move that can help mitigate these issues, but its aforementioned landing lag and stall-then-fall status can make it quite unreliable most of the time. His moveset, while fast compared to most heavyweights, is slow when compared to the rest of the cast, limiting his combo starters to only up throw and jab canceled neutral attack, and making it difficult for him to keep up with faster opponents, such as Sonic. This also compounds another noticeable problem: his ability to escape pressure. Due to his slow rolls and sidestep, with the former also being short-distanced, Bowser's only real method of dealing with pressure is Whirling Fortress, which can be punished if executed too late. Some of his moves are also inevitable KOs if used off-stage, namely his two stall-then-falls, down aerial and Bowser Bomb, as well as Flying Slam. Lastly, despite his recovery being rather long-distanced, it is among the slowest of the cast, making aggressive edgeguarding more than enough to KO Bowser.
Bowser benefits greatly from custom moves. Compared to Fire Breath, Fire Shot is slower and has noticeable intervals between each flare, but has more range and does consistent damage, improving its edgeguarding capabilities and allowing it to be used effectively in the neutral game. Dash Slam is drastically weaker, but has a lower launch angle and moves Bowser forward, making it easier for him to grab opponents. Dash Slash deals less damage, but deals high knockback, hits throughout most of its animation and maintains the default version's autocanceling, granting Bowser a very reliable move for approaching and setting up combos. Both Flying Slam alternatives can also improve his recovery. Flying Fortress cannot be used out of shield, but grants twice as much vertical distance at high speed, significantly improving Bowser's vertical recovery.
Overall, Bowser is a surprisingly speedy powerhouse who relies on a defensive, bait and punish-oriented playstyle. As such, he requires timing his attacks carefully or focusing on punishing his opponents' mistakes in order to avoid serious punishment himself. While Bowser's overall representation in top-level play has been smaller than higher-tiered characters, players such as LordMix and Nairo have managed to achieve notable results, with many Smashers arguing his tier placement should be higher.
Changes from Brawl
Bowser has been significantly buffed in the transition to SSB4. Most of his moveset and animations have been completely revamped for the better; he is much more mobile overall (such as being able to outrun Marth, Toon Link, Donkey Kong, Pit and Mr. Game & Watch, all of whom were faster than him in Brawl), his endurance and recovery have been greatly improved, he possesses faster and farther ranged attacks, he has become even more powerful than he was in Melee, and his throw-based combo game is much better than ever before as of update 1.1.3. All of these improvements have rendered his punishment game safer and more rewarding than in previous games, while also remedying many of his flaws.
The general physics and mechanics changes brought about by SSB4 also significantly aid Bowser. The universal nerfing of campable projectiles considerably helps Bowser's approach, while the removal of immediately re-grabbing an opponent after throwing them eliminates the zero-to-death or otherwise heavily damaging chain grabs that plagued him in Melee and Brawl. Lastly, the introduction of the rage mechanic results in Bowser's immense endurance and power becoming even more useful than ever before.
Bowser has received numerous buffs from game updates. However, he received one major nerf in update 1.0.4, as Flying Slam no longer KOs the opponent first if a Bowsercide is performed. On the flipside, Flying Slam has been significantly compensated for, as Bowser now has more control of its trajectory, it transitions faster, has a larger grab range, and now has invincibility frames before he leaves the ground. His up tilt, neutral aerial and Fire Shot have also been improved to varying degrees, while he significantly benefits from the changes on shield mechanics in updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1; the changes grant his attacks even more chances of breaking a character's shield and give him an open attacking opportunity, but weakens his out of shield punishes with his Whirling Fortress. Update 1.1.3 heavily buffed his grab game; while up throw's damage output was decreased, it is now a reliable combo starter into many of Bowser's powerful moves, though this was toned down somewhat in update 1.1.4. While Bowser's buffs do not address his more critical weaknesses, they have arguably helped to counterbalance them.
Technical changelist 1.1.4
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Opinions on Bowser's viability has greatly fluctuated through SSB4s metagame, but general opinion is that he's fared better than either of his previous incarnations.. Around the metagame's early lifespan, due to all of the top spots taken at early SSB4 tournaments (including a Bowser ditto for grand finals in the pre-release SDCC Smash 3DS tournament), Bowser was considered possibly the best character in the game early on. Players took little time to notice the significant buffs he received to his recovery, already high power, range, frame data, and most notably his mobility (which was arguably his most critical flaw in Brawl). To further compliment this, characters that were excessively challenging for him in Brawl, such as Marth, Meta Knight, the Ice Climbers, Falco and most notoriously King Dedede, were either heavily nerfed or, in the case of the Ice Climbers, removed entirely, giving Bowser a much easier time performing in the competitive environment in SSB4.
However, as time went on, opinions on Bowser notably fell, first starting with a significant nerf to vectoring in 1.04, and then his vulnerability to combos, his aerials' significantly high landing lag, considerable startup on a majority of his combo starters (like up tilt), and unsafe landing options all plagued him, as they did in previous installments. He also lacked any noteworthy results at high-level play in a heavy contrast compared to the early lifespan of the metagame, and he began declining much like in Brawl. Despite his lowered perception within the community update 1.1.3 brought immense buffs to his now infamous up throw, Flying Slam and Whirling Fortress, which allowed Bowser to perform considerably better at locals thanks to his playerbase, as they have achieved a few placements at high-level play, largely thanks to players such as LordMix and KingKong, with the former player notably taking a set off of Vinnie's Rosalina and Luma. This ultimately culminated in Bowser being placed at 30th on the first 4BR tier list, resulting in him becoming the second lowest ranking mid-tier character, above Robin. While it was a far cry compared to the positive opinions of his viability during the initial release, it was still his best placement in the series to date.
However, update 1.1.4 nerfed his infamous up throw by weakening its guaranteed KO set-ups respectively, though it brought further buffs to Flying Slam, and 1.1.5 brought buffs to his survivability, allowing him to use rage to an even greater effect. Thanks to his recent results due to an even more dedicated playerbase as before, Bowser is currently ranked 32nd on the second tier list. As the tiers were expanded for the second tier list, Bowser maintains his status as a mid-tier character despite him dropping, though this is largely attributable to the introduction of Corrin and Bayonetta into the game between the first and second tier list. While Bowser's tier ranking has always been rather contentious, mostly due to his glaring flaws, it is widely agreed that he is unarguably one of the characters that has developed the most from Brawl to SSB4. In the current metagame, many argue that Bowser's tier placement is somewhat low with ZeRo, one of the best SSB4 players in the world, considering Bowser to be a high tier character.
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