Bowser (クッパ, Koopa) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He was suggested to appear in the then unnamed Ultimate in its first teaser trailer at the end of the March 8th, 2018 Nintendo Direct, and officially announced in Ultimate's E3 2018 trailer As opposed to being a starter character like in previous Smash games, Bowser is now an unlockable character. Bowser is classified as fighter #14.
Bowser retains the realistic roar voice clips that he had in Super Smash Bros. 4, along with additional new, less bestial-sounding clips, instead of using his voice actor, Kenny James.
How to unlock
Complete one of the following:
With the exception of the third method, Bowser must then be defeated on Mushroom Kingdom U.
Bowser is considered to be the all-rounder of super heavyweights. He is the heaviest character in the game, and this is reflected by some of his attributes, which fit in the mold of his archetype: he has a slow walking speed (the 14th slowest in the game), very quick falling and fast falling speeds (tied with Bayonetta for the 18th fastest), slow air acceleration, high gravity, and immensely powerful attacks. However, Bowser sports otherwise excellent mobility, as his air speed is well above average (tied with Sheik, Duck Hunt, Lucas, Cloud, and Mega Man as the 19th fastest in the game), his initial dash is extremely quick, and he also boasts a surprisingly fast dashing speed (the 21st fastest in the game) that surpasses most of his fellow heavyweights, even outrunning Marth, Inkling, Toon Link and Pichu. Due to his above average dashing speed and initial dash, Bowser sports a respectable dash-dance.
Bowser's most notable trait is his impressive endurance, being best in the game alongside King Dedede and King K. Rool. His aforementioned massive weight and fast falling speed make him very difficult to launch and KO, while also letting him stay glued to the ground. Further bolstering this is damage-based percentage armor on the start-up of all his tilts and smash attacks, as well as limb intangibility during their active hitboxes. Unique to Bowser is an attribute called "Tough Guy," which is universal heavy armor that allows Bowser to withstand a handful of weak attacks, like rapid jabs and weak projectiles. This lets him tank and approach effectively while at low percents, and allows him to simply break through any rapid jab with a powerful attack, acting as a hard punish.
Among Bowser's greatest strengths is the incredible power his moveset provides. Almost all of his attacks have KO potential, being most notable in moves like forward smash, up smash, back aerial, Flying Slam, and Bowser Bomb. His forward smash is the 4th strongest in the game, with even the uncharged attack KOing at around 60% from center-stage only. His up smash is fast despite its power, KOing at around 75% uncharged and has invincibility on his entire shell and a hitbox on landing that provides safety, making it an excellent anti-air option. His down smash is very fast for its power, being able to KO at 70% at the edge of Final Destination. Back aerial, thanks to its extremely high knockback growth, KOs at around 100% from center stage and as early as 60% by the ledge, and is fast for an aerial of its caliber. It also autocancels in a short hop, making it a good coverage tool against the ledge. Flying Slam is the fastest command grab in the game, and has incredible power if it grabs an opponent, KOing them at around 120%, and even earlier if he lands on a platform. Lastly, Bowser Bomb meteor smashes near the start of the move, which gives it huge edgeguarding potential at the ledge; otherwise, it still deals very high knockback, and will break a full shield when all hits land. Overall, his raw power grants him excellent KOing power as well as a formidable edgeguarding game. With hard-hitting and relatively laggy moves like these, Bowser is not a character to string together long combos; rather, he usually needs at least two or three hits in order to score KOs.
Attacks that have little KO potential still have utilities that make them useful. Down tilt, while it deals less knockback than his forward tilt, deals a good amount of damage for its speed, while still being able to 2-frame most recoveries. Neutral aerial does very high damage if all of its hits connect (albeit somewhat difficult to accomplish), being the second most damaging aerial in the game, and using it to land lets it combo into many things, most notably his up tilt and forward aerial. At high percentages, its looping hits open up KO confirms, notably into his very strong back aerial. Fire Breath is Bowser's only projectile move, but it deals massive damage and shield stun. It can also 2-frame punish if angled correctly, making it a good edgeguarding tool. Whirling Fortress is Bowser's primary recovery move; while it has below-average vertical distance, the horizontal distance gained is above average, and it has decent KO potential in the air. It is also tied with Flying Slam as Bowser's fastest attack, with its first hitbox coming out on frame 6, and this combined with its multi-hit nature makes it an effective "get-off-me" and out of shield option. Even in areas where Bowser cannot KO, his moveset is overall very well-rounded and versatile.
Bowser also has a noteworthy grab game. While his grabs are rather slow, they are among the longest reaching non-tether grabs in the game. His forward and back throws are among the strongest in the game and are viable KOing options. Up throw can set up combos at low percentages, and create 50/50 KO setups at high percentages. His down throw is one of the most damaging throws in the game and puts the opponent in an unfavorable position offstage, which allows Bowser to utilize his powerful kit to set up edgeguards. Lastly, the aforementioned Flying Slam can be B-reversed, allowing Bowser to bypass shields unexpectedly, even in midair.
Despite Bowser's many strengths, he has noticeable flaws. One of his biggest issues is his inability to effectively break out of combos; due to his massive weight, large frame, and fast falling speed, opponents can easily combo him if he makes one small mistake. Compounded with his overall below-average frame data, this makes him easy to punish if his attacks are whiffed, shielded, or dodged. Tying into this is his poor defensive game: despite having armor on his grounded attacks and his signature Tough Guy heavy armor, he is still heavily susceptible to zoning and pressure, especially due to the faster, more offensive-based playstyle of Ultimate. Furthermore, his rolls and techs have low duration and are short-distanced, which makes him very prone to tech-chasing. Whirling Fortress is Bowser's only viable out-of-shield option, as other options can be punished.
Overall, Bowser's playstyle is hugely bait and punish-oriented. To fully utilize his moveset, Bowser may have to rely on baits and pressure in order to gain the upper hand. Once he does, he can continue to dish out large amounts of damage in a short amount of time. However, if Bowser makes one wrong move, he can be easily zoned out and comboed by his opponent, leaving him with little to no options to break out of them.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. 4
Bowser has been buffed overall in his transition from Smash 4 to Ultimate. Among Bowser's largest buffs are to those to his character attributes, his KO potential, and to his Flying Slam. Both Bowser's grounded and aerial mobility have improved (despite this being synonymous with the cast), sporting a faster jumpsquat as well as faster dash, air and falling speeds, improving his ground-to-air transitioning, which makes him now more adept at punishing, while allowing him to land and escape juggles with much less problem than before. He also received an increase on his defensive game through a higher amplification of heavy armor on his tilt and smash attacks, which tones down one of the issues his Tough Guy armor had in Smash 4, and his higher weight, which not only keeps his status as the heaviest character in the game, but also generally improves his Tough Guy armor in general. Despite his already high power and damage racking abilities, both have been improved even more in the transition (most notably on moves such as his tilt attacks, down throw, Fire Breath and Whirling Fortress), which supplements his higher weight and improved adeptness at punishing. Finally, Flying Slam has significantly faster startup overall, now being on par with other characters' grabs such as Mario, which heavily improves his options against shielding opponents.
Some of the universal gameplay changes have additionally benefitted Bowser. The universal reduction to landing lag has significantly improved Bowser's atrociously unsafe landing options, now having less trouble landing than ever before, which combines well with his fast falling speed and his streamlined jumpsquat. The ability to use any attack out of a run has also improved his ground game further, as it gives Bowser more reliable ways to punish the opponent due to his powerful, heavy armored tilt and smash attacks.
However, Bowser has also gained a few noteworthy nerfs, with the biggest of them being to his grab game. Like Donkey Kong, Bowser's main nerf is his infamous up throw; previously a fearsome combo starter with a myriad of followups and KO setups, it has lost its combo potential past mid-percentages due to its increased knockback and ending lag, which in turn removes its KO setups. Additionally, his pivot grab, infamous for its massive range in SSB4, now has shorter range. Although Bowser's heavier weight and faster falling speed make him much more resilient, they now also render him even more susceptible to combos than ever before.
A few of the universal changes have also hampered Bowser. While the universally decreased landing lag makes him less trouble at landing, it has also allowed several characters to combo him with much more ease. The universal nerfing of grabs further compounds some of the hindrances his respectable grab game has received as well. The changes to air dodges both help and hinder Bowser, as they make him slightly less susceptible to horizontal combos and general juggling since he can use one to escape, but they also make him more vulnerable to edgeguarding. Of note is that Bowser still retains some flaws from the previous game, like being heavily susceptible to general pressure, such as to combos (as he remains a big target), zoning (due to not having any reliable projectiles), juggling (as a few of his landing options remain slow and/or reactable) and tech-chasing (as his techs are still slow and short-distanced).
Overall, Bowser's new traits have given him more options and further enhanced his survivability and speed, and despite the removal of his infamous combo throw's KO setups, he has been generally compensated in terms of damage while keeping his incredible power mostly intact. These changes have made him an "all-rounder" of the game's super heavyweights, and have repurposed his playstyle from a "mighty glacier" with great mobility and grappler capabilities, to more of a "lightning bruiser" with all-around effective options for different situations. Thanks to this, despite remaining slightly rare in competitive play, Bowser has earned great tournament results thanks to players such as LeoN, who has taken sets off of many notable top players in tournament play. As a result, Bowser has retained his viability in Ultimate, and is now near-universally regarded as a high tier character, in addition to being unanimously considered the best super heavyweight in the game.
Throws and other attacks
Bowser has been slightly buffed by game updates so far. Update 2.0.0 made forward tilt and down smash better KO options. Whirling Fortress was made better in both 2.0.0 and 3.0.0, with the former update allowing the move to work better as a multi-hit and the latter making it better as a out of shield option, now not allowing opponents to tech the grounded version. 4.0.0 changed his down aerial to fit the universal changes made to stall-then-falls, fixing its downward descent from stalling if the move is used out of hitstun.
For a gallery of Bowser's hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
In competitive play
In the E3 demo build, Bowser was viewed very negatively much like in Melee and Brawl, while he had much better mobility, it appeared that his KO power was significantly decreased, on top of that he completely lost his KO setups via up throw. Many players predicted that he would be non-viable, or at least weaker than his previous iteration.
Upon the game's initial release however, Bowser was immediately viewed as a viable character. This was because of his improvements to his KO power and mobility, the addition of super armor to his tilts and most of his smash attacks, as well as the universal changes to landing lag and jumpsquats that had toned down his greatest weakness. Unfortunately, players also took notice of the other super heavyweights, such as Ganondorf and King Dedede, who were thought to have received even more improvements than him. Bowser was generally considered to be an upper mid tier character, a very slight downturn from his low high tier placement in Smash 4.
However, the overall perception of Bowser's viability has continuously improved as the metagame progressed. As players such as LeoN, King Koopa, DarkThunder, and Lunamado have achieved strong results from tournaments, Bowser's improvements were realized to be a lot more significant than it originally seemed. People noticed that most of Bowser's best strengths from Smash 4 were not only maintained, but also improved. The sudden decline of other super heavyweights has also greatly benefited Bowser in the long run, due to the fact that he lacks most weaknesses that basically all of the other super heavyweights have that have drastically hampered their results and representation. As such, Bowser is almost universally considered to be both a high tier character and the best super heavyweight in the game, making him a popular choice across all levels of play.
Any number following the Smasher name indicates placement on the Fall 2019 PGRU, which recognizes the official top 50 players in the world in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from July 13th, 2019 to December 15th, 2019.
Classic Mode: The Red One. Every Red One!
Bowser's opponents are all wearing attire that is red, which is a reference to his mortal enemy (Mario) wearing red clothing. Bowser also fights Rathalos as the penultimate boss. The final battle is against Mario, who transforms into Metal Mario upon defeat.
Note: When fighting the Mii Fighters, they all wear Mario Caps.
Role in World of Light
Bowser was among the fighters that were summoned to the cliffside to fight the army of Master Hands.
During the opening cutscene, Bowser was present when on the cliffside Galeem unleashed his beams of light. Bowser attempted to fight back against the beams, using his Fire Breath alongside the Pokémon Trainer and his Pokémon. This effort ended up being fruitless, however, as Bowser was vaporized and placed under Galeem's imprisonment alongside the other fighters (except for Kirby). Presumably, it was during this time that he ended up transformed into Giga Bowser and later dispatched to a molten castle to guard it. Eventually, several fighters fought Bowser in his Giga Bowser form and, upon defeating him, he joined the group.
Bowser is later seen among several other fighters, making their last stand against Galeem and Dharkon. He also shows up in the bad ending where Galeem emerges victorious against Dharkon, witnessing Galeem engulf the world in light.
Unlike most fighters, Bowser does not have a Fighter Battle and is simply unlocked after defeating Giga Bowser within the Molten Fortress in the Light Realm.
Bowser's Fighter Spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 500 coins. Unlocking Bowser in World of Light allows the player to preview the first spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a Fighter Spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic. Each Fighter Spirit has an alternate version that replaces them with their artwork in Ultimate.
Additionally, Bowser makes an appearance in various Primary and Support Spirits.
In Spirit battles
As the main opponent
As a minion
Character Showcase Video