Confirmed on the Smash Bros. DOJO!! website on July 3, 2007, Bowser (クッパ, Koopa) is the primary antagonist of the Mario series, returning from his Super Smash Bros. series debut in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Rather than utilizing recycled voice clips from Mario Kart 64 as well as realistic and monstrous sounds, Bowser now uses more realistic, dinosaur-like sound effects.
Bowser currently ranks 33rd out of 38 on the tier list, putting him in 3rd place on the F tier, a slight improvement from his 25th out of 26th position in Melee. Compared to his Melee incarnation, Bowser is a faster and more mobile character, at the expense of slightly less power. Despite the slight power nerf, Bowser is still one of the most powerful characters in Brawl, possessing a moveset full of potential finishers, several of which can even reliably KO under 100%. Along with his trademark power, Bowser is still the heaviest character, with strong momentum cancelling to complement it, giving Bowser one of the best endurance potentials in Brawl. Additionally, Bowser has a great aerial grab in Flying Slam, that also gives him access to the Koopa hopping technique to improve his mobility and approach, along with great reach throughout his moveset, a 10 frame advantage on grab releases that gives him grab release options on nearly every character, and a powerful, five frame move in Whirling Fortress that can be immediately used out of shield to escape pressure. Despite his speed buffs, Bowser is still one of the slowest characters in Brawl, and he can have a difficult time keeping up with several characters. He is also still one of the largest characters, which combines with his massive weight to make him very vulnerable to combos and chain throws, some of which are infinite or a zero-death. Bowser also has significant trouble landing, with all of his options to land being slow, punishable, and easily read, compounded by his laggy aerials. Additionally, Bowser possesses an easily gimpable recovery that gains barely any vertical height, and he lacks an effective projectile, which along with his very large size and sluggish movement speed, makes it difficult for Bowser to break opposing camping. His flaws overpower his strengths, resulting in mostly terrible matchups, and when combined with his lack of representation in tournaments, some of the worst tournament results of any character.
Bowser is the largest and heaviest character in Brawl. This grants him high durability, yet is easier to hit due to his large hurtbox. Because of his heavy weight, Bowser's recovery has significant horizontal range but marginal vertical movement. His dodging abilities are among the worst relative to the rest of the cast in having the second slowest roll and slowest spot dodge. He also has the ability to crawl, but due to his large size, it is ineffective at avoiding incoming projectiles or other attacks. As with other large characters, Bowser's strengths lie in his KO ability and not his speed. He sports a wide variety of powerful attacks both in the air and on the ground. For example, Bowser's forward smash is the most damaging smash attack in Brawl. However, this KO ability comes at the price of high startup lag and cooldown. Due to his average speed and reliance on powerful KO moves, Bowser can struggle somewhat in the low damage game as he lacks diverse ways of racking up damage on the opponent. The one possible exception is his neutral special Fire Breath, which can help set up pseudo-chaingrabs or combos into his strongest attacks. He can also regrab anyone by ground releasing except Donkey Kong (because of his unusually short ground release animation). Fire Breath serves multiple roles for Bowser; such as racking up damage on the opponent as well as preventing an opponent's approach, it also serves as a functional edge guarding attack. Bowser also has a potent Sacrificial KO in Flying Slam. This move allows Bowser to grab an opponent, then leap into the air and fall back to the ground with Bowser on top of them. Thus, the opponent will always be KOed first if they go down offstage. It is also useful in Classic and All-Star Mode, making for an easy KO when only one opponent is left. Given Bowser's difficulty racking up damage, this can be a useful move when the opponent is far ahead of Bowser in the damage count. However, opponents can control Flying Slam when Bowser is at higher or even equal damage, preventing Bowsercide, or forcing it if up in stock. Bowser's standard attack can cancel out incoming projectiles, including Samus' and Lucario's standard specials. This is effective as it allows the player to conserve Bowser's shield as well as provide quicker reaction times after blocking enemy projectiles without experiencing shieldstun.
However, given Bowser's extreme heavy weight and somewhat fast falling speed it makes him vulnerable for infinite chain grabs like Wario's and King Dedede's and other combos in general. In addition, his primary recovery, Whirling Fortress, is worse than Donkey Kong's Spinning Kong and gives poor vertical and horizontal distance, although it is a very good out-of-shield move, though it can be shielded if read. His poor mobility also severely hinders his approach and allows many characters to easily camp him and rack up damage. He also lacks an effective aerial game due to a combination of low jumps and fast falling speed, and having mostly laggy or easily avoidable aerial attacks.
Overall, Bowser can dish out large amounts of damage to opponents in minimal hits, has a useful sacrificial KO, and thanks to his high weight, can usually not be KO'd until late percentages. However, most of his stats work against him; he is extremely vulnerable to chain grabs due to his large weight and falling speed, his primary recovery Whirling Fortress has little use outside of Oos or for racking up damage, as it is easily gimped. Bowser's flaws severely outweigh his strengths, and has little representation in tournaments.
Changes from Melee to Brawl
Bowser is considered to be significantly buffed overall from Melee due to his increased speed, both in overall mobility, and to a lesser extent, frame data. Bowser's ground speed has slightly improved and his air speed has been greatly improved significantly improving his recovery. A variety of his moves have decreased startup lag and his claw attacks have increased range. His new side special Flying Slam has significantly higher utility than Koopa Klaw and his grab release game is overall more consistent due to the introduction of buffering and the general changes to aerial grab releases also improve his grab release game. Lastly, the introduction of hitstun canceling benefits him as it makes him less vulnerable to combos, aids his endurance via momentum canceling and it does not have a huge impact on him due to his lack of combo potential.
However, he has also seen some nerfs mainly to his power. His power is slightly toned down (although he still is one of the strongest characters in the game). Many of his attacks deal less damage and knockback making it more difficult for Bowser to KO his opponents. Two of Bowser's most versatile attacks have also seen significant nerfs. Fast edge attack has much less intangibility and a shorter duration making it a significantly less effective tool while his grounded Whirling Fortress is slightly slower and weaker although it is still a very strong OOS option.
Overall, while Bowser is better than he previously was, his tournament results and representation have not significantly improved, and he still remains in the bottom tier.
In competitive play
Bowser has a terrible matchup spread overall. He only counters Jigglypuff, soft counters Ganondorf, and has 7 even matchups. However, he gets soft countered by 5 characters, countered by 16, hard countered by 4, and has 2 unwinnable matchups. Bowser struggles against characters who zone him out with projectiles, like Falco and Samus, and especially characters who can chaingrab him, like Wario, Yoshi, but most notoriously Ice Climbers, and King Dedede.
Tier placement and history
Bowser was initially seen as a solid middle tier character, being ranked at 22nd on the first tier list. Bowser's speed and mobility buffs were immediately noticed, which when combined with his still great power and the slower, less combo-orientated pace of Brawl, allowed Bowser to compete decently with an inexperienced playerbase that could not effectively evade him and was still discovering the potential of other characters. Bowser still had the traits of a classic low tier character, however: he was still very slow compared to the rest of the cast, very large and thus heavily vulnerable to deadly chain throws and combos, had an easily gimpable recovery that compromised his endurance potential, and was vulnerable to camping while being incapable of camping himself, with a lack of any outstanding attributes to counteract this. Thus, as the metagame progressed, Bowser steadily declined, with Bowser players finding it difficult to keep up with the quickening pace of other advancing characters and having their weaknesses (most notably to chain throws and camping) more frequently exploited, while lacking any significant developments for Bowser's metagame outside of grab release followups. Through the second to fourth tier lists, Bowser fell no more than two spots at a time, but it was not until the fifth list that he saw a significant drop, falling five spaces to 32nd and formally entering the low tiers, though many players thought of Bowser as a low tier character well before then.
Bowser's decline additionally saw his playerbase diminish, and most of his top players, notably his best player KingKong, dropped Bowser or stopped playing Brawl competitively altogether, while fewer and fewer players used Bowser overall. Nowadays, Bowser is one of the most unpopular characters in Brawl tournaments, having almost no established active players who use him, and being rare at even locals with casual players, which has led to his poor tournament results. As such, Bowser has never risen on any tier list. However, despite Bowser's weak representation and tournament results, the characters below him are generally considered to be even worse by a considerable margin.
Role in the Subspace Emissary
Bowser is one of the 2 secondary antagonists alongside Ganondorf in the SSE. He first appears after Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong chase down his troops, who had stolen their bananas in order to lure them to him as a trap. Bowser confronts the two and transforms DK into a trophy with a Dark Cannon, but not before DK punches Diddy away. Bowser chases him down, and has a Shadow Bug clone of himself fight Diddy and Fox. After defeating the clone, the real Bowser attempts to turn them into trophies, but they manage to dodge the shot. Although Diddy is eager to fight Bowser, Fox knows that they're no match, so he grabs Diddy and makes their escape. While continuing his chase, he is told by Ganondorf to hunt down King Dedede, who had stolen Wario's trophies. He also transforms Zelda/Peach into a trophy, and after having another Shadow bug clone of him copy her, orders her Shadow bug clone to attack Mario and Pit/Link and Yoshi. Bowser and his troops attack King Dedede's castle, where Dedede is hiding but when they broke the roof a stone fell on Dedede's head, knocking him out. The debris buries Dedede along with the trophies of Ness and Luigi. As such he only finds the trophy of Peach/Zelda. Bowser steals Peach/Zelda's trophy and evades Mario and Pit's attacks, but when he dodges Pit's arrow he falls off a cliff, but is shown to be unharmed after he landed in his Clown Car. After this, he returns to attack Fox and Diddy Kong at the Swamp and transforms Diddy into a trophy. Fox dodges the shots however. Bowser then orders shadow bugs to clone Diddy's trophy. He flees after Falco attacks him and destroys his Dark Cannon. He orders more shadow bugs to make the Diddy clone giant however. Fox, Falco, and the real Diddy defeat it though. He is next seen with Ganondorf on the Subspace Gunship. They destroy the Halberd, but fail to stop Kirby from destroying the Gunship with a Dragoon. Fleeing into Subspace, Bowser is betrayed by Ganondorf and turned into a trophy by a surprise blast by a Dark Cannon. He is eventually brought back to life, and after being defeated by King Dedede, beats up Ganondorf's trophy for revenge. Bowser then notices the downed Master Hand and decides to help the heroes take down Tabuu. The sight of Master Hand lying on the ground seems to trouble Bowser, probably because Bowser was really the only smasher accomplice who was loyal to Master Hand, unlike Ganondorf (who planned to betray him to take control of the Subspace Army) and Wario (who did it just to enjoy himself). Bowser and the others manage to defeat Tabuu and end the invasion.
These stickers can be used by only Bowser or a select few including Bowser:
In Event Matches
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