Bowser (クッパ, Koopa), is a character in Super Smash Bros. Melee and is available from the start. Announced at E3 2001, a stronger form of Bowser (a gargantuan, power up version of said character) also appears as the "final" boss in Adventure Mode. Bowser was added to the game because he won the official poll of desired newcomers for a potential second Smash game with 169 votes.
Like Donkey Kong, Bowser has no voice actor and instead uses realistic roars, similarly to his sounds in Mario Kart 64.
Bowser is currently ranked 25th in the G tier in the current Melee tier list, making him the lowest ranked newcomer as well as being his worst placement in the series. Among Bowser's positive traits is his difficulty in getting KO'd due to his high weight and rather fast falling speed; additionally, he has among the most powerful attacks in the game (most notably his forward smash), as well as some very good aerial attacks, most notably his forward and upward aerials. However, he suffers due to his large size and falling speed, making him extremely easy to combo. His moves are also very sluggish, and his approach is among the worst in the game, with laggy aerials, poor jumping ability (leading to an awful SHFFL), a short wavedash, poor projectile, and slow, predictable recovery. Bowser is among few characters to lack any positive matchups, and only two, against Yoshi and Pichu, are considered even.
Bowser acts as the game's primary "slow and powerful" fighter; other equally heavy and powerful characters, such as Donkey Kong and Ganondorf, are of considerably higher speed than Bowser in a variety of ways. Bowser has an average dashing speed, average falling speed, below average air speed, below average traction and the slowest initial dash. These characteristics, however, also give Bowser an average but slow wavedash.
One of Bowser's greatest strengths is his raw damage output and KO potential. Many of his attacks are the strongest of their type, and their damage output can reach perhaps ludicrous levels; his uncharged forward smash, for instance, deals 24%, and his down tilt has the second highest damage output in the game for a tilt (behind Ganondorf's incredibly slow up tilt), dealing a potential 22% if both hits connect. As a result of this high damage output, Bowser's KOing options are possibly the most numerous in the game (second only to Ganondorf, who has 16 viable KO options), with all of his tilts, smash attacks, forward, back, and up aerials, Koopa Klaw back throw, Whirling Fortress, and Bowser Bomb becoming potentials for garnering KOs. In addition to their high power, Bowser's attacks also have very large hitboxes, leading to a rather large range.
In addition to this, Bowser has a surprisingly high amount of tricks that can be used to aggravate opponents, such as the set knockback on his down throw setting up tech chases against fast fallers. One of Bowser's most versatile moves takes form as his up special move, Whirling Fortress. In addition to a potential 32% it can cause, it is among the most flexible moves in the game, acting as a combo breaker due to its extremely quick 5 start-up frames, allowing it to serve as a very strong out of shield option, and a dangerous substitute to Bowser's poor defensive roll.
Bowser's extreme power that sacrifices speed, however, is what causes him to be considered a poor character. Bowser is arguably the slowest character in Melee, as he possesses abysmal mobility and among the slowest attacks. Despite an average dashing speed, he has poor air speed, the slowest walking speed, the slowest jump in the game (an 8-frame jump squat) and a mediocre wavedash (that is also among the slowest, if not the slowest wavedash in Melee). Fire Breath is also tied with Zelda's Din's Fire for the worst projectile in the game; with high startup and ending lag, short reach for a projectile, and gradual loss of power, it is almost completely useless. His aerial approach is of equally poor quality, due to his aforementioned slow jumping speed and high-lag aerials. This leads to a horrible SHFFL that is, ironically, very easy to perform. These deficiencies give Bowser the worst neutral game of the entire cast.
Bowser's poor neutral game is exacerbated by poor defensive options; his only good option is the aforementioned Whirling Fortress, as all of his other defensive options are among the worst in the game. With a small shield that invites shield stabbing, as well as slow defensive rolls and sidesteps, Bowser has very few ways to escape pressure inflicted onto him. He also has no options against projectiles, due to his massive hurtbox and lack of an effective projectile or reflector of his own. Finally, Bowser's attacks have extremely sluggish frame data, and are extremely easy to punish. Despite his extreme power, Bowser ironically has trouble KOing opponents due to his poor approaching options and the extreme lag in his moves, making him rely on hard and precise reads to land his finishers.
While Bowser does have high endurance potential due to being the heaviest character in the game, it is merely average overall; Bowser's terrible mobility, combined with his very large hurtbox and his high weight, makes him, by far, the easiest character in the game to combo, allowing him to be put into KO percentages very quickly. Faster characters, including Pikachu, Yoshi, and the entirety of Melee's top tier can easily combo, juggle, and chain grab him, with very little chance for Bowser to escape. His slow, predictable, and easily gimped recovery also hampers his survivability; despite Whirling Fortress being a good out of shield move, it is very poor as a recovery move, granting a decent horizontal boost but terrible vertical distance. This makes meteor smashes and spikes extremely dangerous to Bowser, as characters with reliable spikes (such as Falco and Marth) can instantly gimp his recovery, even at extremely low percentages. Bowser's recovery is further hampered by his poor air speed and his lack of alternate options to recover or ways to slow down his falling speed; as a result, Bowser is very simple to edgeguard.
Bowser's lack of low-knockback moves, coupled with high ending lag, give him a near-nonexistent combo game; most of his combos require precise timing and L-cancelling, and even then, these combos are limited to two or three hits even if the opponent DIs poorly, with the last hit often not being one that can lead to a KO. Bowser's slow speed on both the ground and in the air also prevent him from easily pursuing foes after they have been knocked back, leading to opponents easily recovering from hits and being able to counter Bowser's further attempts at comboing. This makes Bowser's punishes highly inconsistent, even at the lowest levels of play.
Overall, Bowser is a very deficient character with few advantages and several crippling weaknesses. His great power is masked by his horrible neutral game, and his survivability is greatly offset by his poor defensive game and ease of being comboed. He also lacks safe moves, with Whirling Fortress often being the only reliable move in his entire arsenal, making him very limiting on players. As such, he rarely sees representation in all levels of play, due to the multitude of hard reads that Bowser players must land to even hold equal footing with other characters in the cast.
Bowser was slightly changed in PAL version of Melee. The issue regarding his down throw was fixed, and he is slightly heavier. However, "Flame Cancel", a technique he could use was removed due to the startup frames of Fire Breath being removed.
For a gallery of Bowser's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Bowser's matchup spread is among the worst in the game. He has a matchup rating of -47, which is second to only Pichu. Bowser currently only has just two even matchups, and is soft countered by five characters, countered by twelve, and hard countered by six. Bowser's abysmal speed and frame data allow almost every other character in the cast to beat him in the neutral game, making it difficult for him to land hits consistently on them, outside of hard and committal reads. Additionally, he is among the easiest characters in the cast to combo, which nearly universally amplifies every character's punish game against him. Bowser also has the dubious distinctions of both having a losing matchup against Kirby (the lowest character on the tier list) and having an even matchup against Pichu. Furthermore, he is one of two characters (the other being Pichu) to have no advantageous matchups. Bowser's projected matchups in the current metagame are even worse, as it could be argued that his only even matchups according to the most recent chart are losing, due to developments in Yoshi's metagame and the recognition of Pichu's few utility moves that could possibly give it an advantage over Bowser in the matchup, though the latter is debatable.
Tier placement and history
Bowser has traditionally always been a very low-tiered character, ranking at or near the bottom on many revisions, due to his negative attributes and his pitiful matchups against top/high tier characters, which has led to very poor tournament results overall. Even with the innovations of dedicated Bowser professionals such as Gimpyfish, who propelled Bowser to a level of play that many rarely ever saw before, Bowser simply could not reach the ubiquity and consistency needed as a main to be considered as a relevant threat in the top-level environment. Currently, Bowser is in the G tier in 25th place, one spot ahead of Kirby, although some smashers believe that Bowser is the worst character in the game, one example being Armada, who believes Whirling Fortress out of shield is his only decent move and that Yoshi's Story is his only decent stage. He has negligible representation in tournaments outside of situational matches where he is counterpicked against players unfamiliar with the matchup (e.g. DJ Nintendo vs. Unknown522 at Zenith 2013) and is considered non-viable for serious play.
In single-player modes
In Classic Mode
In Adventure Mode
In Adventure Mode, Bowser acts as a final boss of sorts, fought on the last stage, Stage 12: Final Destination. In this appearance, he is larger than usual, and as a result, he is more resistant to knockback. When played on Very Easy and Easy difficulties, or if the player spent too much time in the Adventure Mode, then the game is concluded there. Classic Bowser's trophy falls off the stage, and the player's selected character celebrates with one of his or her Victory poses.
If the player, however, arrives at Stage 12: Final Destination on Normal difficulty or higher, Bowser will appear with his black color scheme instead of his ordinary green color scheme (or his green color scheme if the player plays Bowser with his black color scheme). After he is KO'd and the ordinary cutscene is played, However, the eerie music continues where another cutscene shows the classic Bowser's trophy returning to Final Destination to face the player's character one last time. The trophy is then struck with lightning, and Bowser turns into Giga Bowser. Then Giga Bowser comes to life when he opens his mouth. As a last challenge for the player, they must defeat Giga Bowser in order to clear the Adventure Mode. After he is defeated, a cutscene shows Bowser's trophy falling off the stage again; this time, however, it breaks apart in which appears to be a "floor" in a pitch black background.
In All-Star Mode
In All-Star Mode, Bowser and his allies are fought on Yoshi's Island, as the remaining Mario stages were already taken by the rest of the four characters in the cast. When fighting Bowser on Yoshi's Island, the stage will always play its alternate track, "Super Mario Bros. 3".
In Event Matches
Bowser makes the following appearances in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Bowser as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing the Adventure and All-Star Modes respectively with Bowser on any difficulty:
Bowser's giant hand glitch is a glitch in Super Smash Bros. Melee that temporarily makes Bowser's hand inflate to several times its size, as the name implies. However, the glitch is only visible for a brief second.
Method: First, Bowser must pick up a capsule, then short hop. This also works with any item you can throw with the A button. After that, he must immediately perform an air dodge.