The Bowser Challenge is a challenge in Super Smash Bros. Melee occasionally held as a side event at tournaments, consisting of one player fighting a team of three Bowser players on Fountain of Dreams with team attack off. The challenge was originally developed by the Superfriends crew of Southern California, and it was later posted by HugS on Smashboards in February 2005.
The Bowser Challenge, and its general idea of fighting a team of lumbering, bottom-tier character with a restrictive ruleset, spawned an equivalent in Brawl called the "Ganon Challenge", as well as the Ganon Gauntlet in Apex 2012.
The Bowser Challenge always features the following core set of rules:
The goal for the challenger is to defeat all three Bowsers, accruing 12 KOs in total, with self-destructs on the Bowsers' part also counting as KOs for the challenger. The three Bowsers, meanwhile, must work together to prevent the challenger from reaching this goal.
In addition to the above ruleset, some variants of the Bowser Challenge include humorous rules for the Bowser team, such as "taunting or doing something of hilarity after KOing the challenger" or "pressing X, Y, X respectively on the results screen".
Bowser is normally a bottom-tier character with notoriously poor mobility and low attack speed, making him easily defeated by faster characters such as Sheik and Fox. Facing three Bowsers at once on a small stage, however, quickly becomes a daunting task, as the three Bowsers can easily cover most of the stage in hitboxes, giving the challenger very little opportunity to safely attack. As team attack is also turned off, the Bowsers can take on an extremely aggressive fighting style that can easily overwhelm the challenger, preventing the challenger from safely approaching. As another complication, Bowser himself is difficult to KO; while Bowser ordinarily has a lackluster recovery that is very easy to edgeguard and gimp, the presence of two other Bowsers makes edgeguarding almost impossible, and Bowser's high weight makes him resistant to the upper blast line where edgeguarding would be irrelevant.
The use of Fountain of Dreams is also a key factor in the Bowser Challenge's high difficulty. As previously mentioned, the team of Bowsers can easily fill the stage with hitboxes, and the stage's small size also ensures that the challenger cannot camp, perform hit-and-run tactics, or spam against the Bowsers. Even if players can somehow find a method to camp against the Bowsers on the stage, the lack of a time limit prevents either team from using a time out for victory. Fountain of Dreams also features a deceptively high upper blast line, and in combination with Bowser's high weight, the player can only use the left, right, and bottom blast lines to KO him.
Provided that the Bowser players are semi-competent, the Bowser Challenge is seen as being effectively impossible to win for the challenger, and its level of difficulty can be seen even amongst top professional smashers. At one tournament, Ken Hoang in his prime was unable to get a single KO in the challenge, and at the same tournament, Captain Jack, who came the closest to completing the challenge as Ganondorf, only managed to get 4 KOs.
No record exists verifying a player as having won a legitimate Bowser Challenge. The current, verifiable record for the challenge is 6 KOs out of a potential 12, performed by A Rookie with Mario in one of Ken's livestreams on Twitch; this performance, however, was bolstered by 3 SDs from the Bowsers.