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, Kenneth W. 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, as per tradition, is a super heavyweight and the heaviest character in the game. This is reflected by some of his attributes, which fit in the mold of his archetype: he has a slow walking speed (16th slowest in the game), very quick falling and fast-falling speeds (tied with Bayonetta for the 19th 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 20th fastest in the game), his initial dash is extremely quick, and he also boasts a surprisingly fast dashing speed (the 22nd fastest in the game) that surpasses most of his fellow heavyweights, even outrunning characters such as Marth, Inkling, Toon Link, and Pichu. Due to his above average dashing speed and initial dash, Bowser sports a respectable dash-dance.
Unsurprisingly, Bowser's most notable trait is his impressive endurance, being among the best in the game. His extreme weight makes him very difficult to launch and KO, while his fast falling speed and high gravity make it trivial to stay grounded. Bolstering his endurance is his varied forms of armor; Bowser has damage-based percentage armor on the startup of all his tilts and smash attacks. Bowser also has an attribute called "Tough Guy," which is constantly active knockback-based 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. Supplementing Bowser's endurance is the immense damage and power his moveset provides, as all of his moves deal high damage, and most of them have KO potential. Rage further helps Bowser, as he can easily take advantage of being at KO percentage to easily turn the tables on the opponent should they make one single error.
Bowser's grounded game has numerous merits, thanks to the combination of his damage-based armor, the damage and power it boasts, and its speed all around. All of his tilt attacks render his limbs intangible during their active hitboxes, which makes them pseudo-disjointed, while some of his smash attacks give his body parts invincibility. These traits further aid Bowser in spacing or beating out attacks, which can lead to very hard punishes. Forward tilt is decently fast and very powerful, able to KO before 150% and even earlier at the edge. It can be angled and, when angled down, can 2-frame punish most recovery moves. Up tilt has very good coverage all around Bowser and is not only his most powerful tilt attack but one of the strongest up tilts in the game, killing middleweights below 125%. Forward smash, while being his slowest smash attack, is the second strongest in the game (killing at around 60% from center stage uncharged) and renders his legs invincible, allowing it to outprioritize other moves. Up smash is fast relative to its power (coming out on frame 16 while being the strongest up smash in the game when sweetspotted), has invincibility on his entire shell and a hitbox on landing that provides safety, making it an excellent anti-air option. Down smash is Bowser's fastest smash attack, coming out on frame 12, being especially fast for its power as well (being able to KO around 70% at the edge of a stage) and hits both sides, making it an ideal punish option out of a perfect shield, despite its very high ending lag.
His aerial moveset also has useful options. Forward aerial is considered his best one, as it has relatively average landing lag alongside above average damage and knockback (which allows it to KO below 115% from the edge), great range with good coverage above and below him (comparable to swordfighters with similar "frontal slash" moves), and can combo on landing. Back aerial deals great damage and has extremely high knockback scaling (killing at around 100% from center stage and as early as 60% by the edge), and is very fast for an aerial of its caliber. Both aerials autocancel in a short hop, making them good coverage options at the edge, and their power also makes them terrific edgeguarding options. Neutral aerial deals massive damage if all of its hits connect (although this is very difficult to accomplish), being the second most damaging aerial attack in the entire game, and using it while landing gives it combo potential and KO setups at high percentages. Finally, up aerial renders Bowser's head intangible and is a fairly useful vertical kill move due to its high damage output and knockback, although it is typically situational given its short range.
Bowser's grab game is also rather versatile, thanks to its combination of damage and utility. While his grab is rather slow, it is among the longest reaching non-tether grabs in the game. His forward and back throws serve a similar purpose as kill throws; both are among the strongest in the game. Up throw is a useful combo throw which can lead to extremely damaging combos at low to medium-high percentages. Finally, his down throw is the third most damaging throw in the entire game, but due to its lack of KO potential, it is mostly used to refresh other moves and put the opponent in an unfavorable position offstage.
His special moveset commands a balance of both raw damage racking and kill options, all of which are versatile. On one hand, in terms of damage racking, Fire Breath is Bowser's "projectile" move, spewing flames that peter over time but recharge when the move is not in use. The flames deal massive damage and shieldstun, and unlike other projectiles, don't deal negative shield damage, so the move will always deal full damage to shields. When angled correctly, it can also hit ledge hanging characters and even 2-frame punish many recoveries, making it a good edgeguarding tool, although it can be countered if Bowser is too close to the ledge. At maximum range, the flames don't cause opponents to flinch, which allows Bowser a very dangerous damage racking option that won't break an opponent's dazed state (similar to Piranha Plant's Poison Breath or Fox's Blaster), allowing him to KO opponents as early as 0% if he successfully breaks their shield. His up special, Whirling Fortress, is Bowser's fastest attack at frame 6 on the ground; combined with its multi-hit nature and considerable horizontal mobility, this makes it an effective "get-off-me" and out of shield option. In the air, it is Bowser's primary recovery move, traveling decent vertical distance and massive horizontal distance, and has decent KO potential to boot. On the other hand, in terms of kill options, Flying Slam is the fastest command grab in the game (and tied with Whirling Fortress as Bowser's fastest attack at frame 6), and has incredible power if it grabs an opponent, killing around 120%, or earlier if he has rage. Since he leaps a high distance in the air, he can land on platforms, which can put him at a much more advantageous position and KO opponents even earlier. It can also be B-reversed, allowing Bowser to bypass shields unexpectedly, even in midair. Bowser Bomb deals fantastic vertical knockback and can even meteor smash at the start of its descent; it also deals extreme shield damage, allowing it to break a full shield if properly landed. These two moves, combined with Bowser's fantastic damage output, allows him to play mindgames with the opponent's shield.
Thanks to his great damage output, once Bowser has gained the advantage, his abundance of options for racking up damage allows Bowser to put the opponent at a gradually worse and worse position before sealing a stock. Unlike previous incarnations, Bowser also doesn't waver in terms of mobility, which means that, if the opponent is at a disadvantage, he can close in on the distance to his opponent, read their options and mantain the advantage. His consistent shield breaking prowess, with several moves at his disposal being able to heavily dent shields, means that if the opponent chooses the incorrect defensive option, they can be put in an even worse position, since his moveset is also full of kill options, most notably his forward smash.
However, in spite of his potent strengths, Bowser is not without his drawbacks. Despite his excellent options to rack up damage, his frame data is below average overall, which means that faster opponents can beat Bowser to the punch, and he is susceptible to being punished if his attacks are whiffed, shielded, or dodged. This ties in with Bowser's biggest weakness, which is his great vulnerability to heavy pressure of any kind. Bowser's combination of extremely high weight, large hurtboxes, fast falling speed, and high gravity makes him exceptionally susceptible to combos, and as such, characters like Captain Falcon, Mario, Pikachu, and Ryu can easily punish and combo him for large amounts of damage if he makes a single mistake. His below average frame data and frame 4 air dodge also results in an inability to effectively break out of combos. Although Bowser has remarkable range, his is mostly melee-based, so characters with weapons that grant them disjointed reach (like Marth, Cloud, and Shulk) can prove to be difficult for him to overcome, especially if they're able to space their moves efficiently. As Bowser essentially lacks a projectile (due to Fire Breath's range being short and strict to Bowser's frame), he can also have difficulty at approaching characters with strong zoning games, like Min Min, Samus, and Toon Link, especially since their melee range also tends to be comparable to his. The latter two methods of pressure also give Bowser trouble at properly approaching.
Landing with Bowser while he's being juggled can prove a notable issue despite his high gravity and fast falling speed, as his most notable options for landing, down aerial and Bowser Bomb, are laggy and predictable due to being stall-then-fall moves. Landing with his other aerials, although seemingly not an issue thanks to his forward aerial's range and knockback, can also prove a liability due to none of them being particularly safe on shield. His rolls are also short-distanced, and his techs are slow and have low durations, which makes him prone to tech-chasing. Bowser's recovery, while serviceable and much better than most of the other super heavies, tends to be mediocre in practice, as it is rather slow and doesn't offer Bowser as much protection as other recovery moves would; as a result, he is particularly vulnerable to being edgeguarded, especially by counters or moves that can 2-frame. His out of shield game, despite being consistent, is nevertheless predictable due to Whirling Fortress being his most viable option out of shield; all other options can be punished or do not have the proper range to punish well-spaced moves. Moveover, his damage-based armor (on his grounded attacks) and universal knockback-based armor (from his signature Tough Guy ability) fails to compensate for all of this, as they do not compensate for his lack of medium-ranged and zoning or counterzoning options. Altogether, despite his great mobility and excellent tools to punish melee-focused options making him not as susceptible as his fellow super heavyweight contemporaries, Bowser's defensive game remains just as poor overall compared to them, due to him being so susceptible to pressure.
Other weaknesses include a few of Bowser's moves either lacking proper utility or being largely outclassed by his other options. Neutral attack is Bowser's third fastest attack overall, the first hit can lock (although this is best suited for bulkier characters), and the second hit can beat spotdodge attempts; however, it is largely outclassed by his Whirling Fortress, since the latter is faster and can be used out of shield. His down tilt, while being equally fast as forward tilt while dealing more damage, has less utility for 2-framing due to its weaker knockback and it is much more punishable, especially on shield. Up aerial, while powerful and relatively quick, has poor range and moderate endlag and landing lag, meaning that up tilt is normally considered a superior vertical KO option. Down aerial, while being Bowser's second strongest aerial and the third strongest meteor smash in the game when hit cleanly, has numerous weaknesses, including its slow startup, stall-then-fall nature, and extreme ending and landing lag. This means that its offstage utility is severely hampered when compared to other down aerials of its nature, such as those of Mr. Game & Watch and Sonic. While forward throw still has some utility due to its strong knockback, it lacks the damage output of his down throw and the quick release of his back throw, making it somewhat outclassed in terms of KO power and damage. Lastly, while his down special, Bowser Bomb, deals immense damage and is infamous for instantly breaking shields, its slow aerial startup and extreme endlag make it unsuitable for landing and it is agreed to be his worst special as a result.
In the end, Bowser can be considered to be the "all-rounder" of super heavyweights. While his playstyle remains largely bait-and-punish oriented compared to previous incarnations of him, his attributes make him more of a "lightning bruiser" on this regard. Bowser has among the most raw damage output, highest KO power, and best shield breaking capabilities of any character, while still retaining great range and movement speed, meaning that once he gains the upper hand, it can be practically impossible to break his pressure if he continuously reacts properly. With hard-hitting and relatively laggy moves like his, Bowser is anything but a character who strings together long combos; rather, he usually just needs four or five good hits in order to rack up high amounts of damage, and eventually score KOs. Even some of Bowser's moves that have little KO potential still have some kind of utility, so even in areas where Bowser cannot outright KO, he can continue to dish out large amounts of damage in a short amount of time, and his moveset contains very well-rounded and versatile options to achieve this. However, his moveset is so lopsided for netting damage and easy KOs that he outright lacks options to properly approach or to combat heavy pressure. This means that, if Bowser makes one wrong move, he can be easily pressured as much as he can do such to the opponent, and his lack of safe and fast moves, lack of zoning and counterzoning options, and unreliable mid-ranged options can leave him zoned out and comboed easily by his opponent, leaving him with little to no room to breathe. Regardless, Bowser’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses and he is widely considered to be the best super heavyweight in the game. Although his representation and results have not matched those of other top and high tier characters, they have nevertheless been very respectable thanks to players such as LeoN, Lunamado, and DarkThunder, who have demonstrated that, in the right hands, Bowser can dominate opponents with his pressuring tools at high level play.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. 4
Bowser has received a mix of buffs and nerfs in his transition from Smash 4 to Ultimate. Although some of his biggest strengths from the previous game have been toned down, he has received many improvements which alleviated some of his most severe weaknesses, and he also benefits from the new engine changes. As a result, Bowser has been buffed overall.
Among Bowser's largest buffs are to those to his character attributes, his KO potential, and to his side special move, Flying Slam. Both Bowser's grounded and aerial mobility have improved (along with the rest of the cast), sporting a faster jumpsquat as well as faster dashing and air and a significantly faster falling speed, noticeably improving his ground-to-air transitioning and making him more adept at punishing, while also allowing him to land and escape juggles with less difficulty than before, especially in the case of the former. He also received an increase on his defensive game through a higher amplification of damage-based armor on his tilts and smash attacks, which tones down one of the issues his Tough Guy armor had in Smash 4, and he also has 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 and makes his already excellent endurance better. Bowser's already high power has been made even better 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 changes have also benefitted Bowser in one way or another. The universal reduction to landing lag has significantly improved Bowser's previously atrociously unsafe landing options, as he has less trouble landing than ever before now, which is further suggested by his now very fast falling speed and streamlined jumpsquat. The ability to use any attack out of a run has also improved his ground game, as it gives him more reliable ways to punish the opponent due to his powerful, heavy-armored tilts and smash attacks.
However, Bowser has also gained a few noteworthy nerfs, with the biggest of them being to his grab game. Much like Donkey Kong, Bowser's main nerf was to his once infamous up throw: it was previously a fearsome combo starter with a myriad of followups and KO setups, but it has lost its combo potential past middling percentages due to its increased knockback and ending lag, which in turn removes its KO setups. Additionally, his pivot grab, infamous for its insane range in SSB4, has shorter range. Although Bowser's heavier weight and drastically faster falling speed make him much more resilient, it also renders him more susceptible to combos than ever before, even more so than in Melee.
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. Something else to take note of is that Bowser still retains some flaws from the previous game, namely being heavily susceptible to general pressure, particularly to combos (as he remains a big target), zoning (due to Fire Breath’s general unreliability past mid-ranges when compared to other projectiles), juggling (as a few of his landing options remain slow and/or reactable) and tech-chasing (as his tech rolls are still slow and short-distanced).
Overall, Bowser's new traits have given him more options for different situations, and it has also enhanced his survivability and speed even further. Additionally, 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, Bowser has a somewhat small but very dedicated playerbase, and has earned great tournament results thanks to players such as LeoN. As a result, Bowser has retained his status as a viable character in Ultimate, and is generally regarded as a low high tier or upper mid character, in addition to being unanimously considered the best super heavyweight in the game.
Throws and other attacks
Aside from glitch fixes, Bowser has been buffed slightly via game updates. Update 2.0.0 strengthened his neutral attack, forward tilt and down smash and improved Whirling Fortress' consistency. Update 3.0.0 further buffed Whirling Fortress by ensuring that its grounded version cannot be teched, which makes it an even more potent out of shield option. Update 4.0.0 removed down aerial stalling, which standardized his down aerial and other stall-then-falls by extension. Most recently, Bowser's shield was enlarged as part of a near-universal buff via update 7.0.0.
As a result of these changes, Bowser fares slightly better than he did at Ultimate's launch.
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. 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 viable. This was because of improvements to his power and mobility, the addition of armor to his tilts and smash attacks, and the universal changes to landing lag and jumpsquats that had toned down his greatest weakness. Unfortunately, players also took notice of the other heavyweights, such as Ganondorf and King Dedede, who were thought to have received superior improvements. 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, Hero, DarkThunder, and Lunamado achieved strong results in tournaments, Bowser's improvements were seen as much more significant than originally thought. People noticed that most of Bowser's best strengths from Smash 4 were not only maintained, but improved. The sudden decline of other heavyweights has also greatly benefited Bowser in the long run, due to the fact that he lacks most weaknesses that plague the viability and representation of the other big fighters. As such, Bowser is almost universally considered to be both a high-tier character and the best heavyweight in the game, making him a popular choice across all levels of play.
Most historically significant players
See also: Category:Bowser professionals (SSBU)
Classic Mode: The Red One. Every Red One!
Bowser's opponents are all wearing attire that is red (and/or use fire-based attacks), which is a reference to his mortal enemy (Mario) wearing red clothing. Bowser also fights Rathalos as the penultimate boss, who is red. The final battle is against Mario, with Metal Mario appearing after Mario is defeated.
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 on the cliffside when 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.
Bowser's fighter spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 300 Gold, but only after Bowser has been unlocked. 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. His fighter spirit has an alternate version that replaces it with his artwork in Ultimate.
Additionally, Bowser makes an appearance in various primary and support spirits.
In Spirit battles
Conditions in italic aren't listed on the Spirit Battle preview screen.
As the main opponent
As a minion
Fighter Showcase Video