Bowser's Depictions in Mario Games

Last Updated: February 28th, 2007

Bowser Depictions

This section describes Bowser's appearances in Mario games over the years. For an analysis on Bowser's character design and concept, see the section on Bowser's Evolution

Bowser SSBM Screen Much like Mario himself, Bowser's physical appearance in Mario games has undergone several revisions over the years. Bowser was first depicted as a large, green, spikey-shelled turtle with small horns; but his look has much evolved since then. Now Bowser is even larger, has orange scales instead of green, and now sports a red fire-like mane of hair. Bowser also wears black spiked leather cuffs around his biceps, wrists, and neck. As Nintendo's video game consoles get more powerful and their graphics capabilities more sophisticated, Bowser's in game model keeps improving and becoming more and more detailed and realistic. Initially starting off as a vague, undetailed 8-bit sprite, Bowser's latest 3D character models are so well detailed that individual scales can be seen on his body; even the hexagonal shell patterns on the back of Bowser's shell can be clearly seen.

Primary Mario Games (Platformers and RPGs)

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Bowser SMB Bowser's inaugural appearence in video games was in the first game of the Mario series: Super Mario Bros. Bowser always appeared inside a large castle at the end of every forth level in each of the 8 worlds as a large, green, spikey-shelled turtle with horns. However the "Bowsers" at the ends of worlds 1 through 7 are decoys, revealed as one of Bowser's many Koopa army members disguised as the king. The real Bowser appears at the end of the 8th world (Level 8-4). These castle stages were characterized by white bricks, red hot flowing lava, and spinning fireball rods. Bowser waited at the end of a bridge overhanging a pit of lava where he would blast fiery, missile-like projectiles at the player controlling Mario or Luigi. By reaching the axe at the end of the bridge, Mario or Luigi could cut the chain supporting the lava bridge causing it to collapse and send Bowser plunging into the lava pit below. Bowser could also be defeated by hitting him with fireballs if the player had a Fire Flower.

Bowser Tip Perhaps due to a space or graphics issue on the NES, the in-game Bowser sprite for the original Super Mario Brothers does not seem to have Bowser's red mane of hair. Super Mario Bros. was the only game where Bowser appeared bald, as every other Bowser model in every game after Super Mario Bros. supported his red, fiery, hair. Even in the remake to Super Mario Bros. on the successor platform to the NES, Bowser's red mane was present.

Bowser SMB3 Bowser returns in Super Mario Brothers 3 with seven kids and an updated look. For the first time in the series, players saw Bowser with his mane of red hair in game. The Bowser sprite for Super Mario Brothers 3 appeared much more detailed than the previous one in Super Mario Bros. The Koopa Kids's sprites also appeared to resemble their respective official character art. Bowser waited in his castle at the end of Dark Land. When the player would reach Bowser, he would once again blow his fire missiles, but also attempt to squash the player by jumping high up and crashing down hard on his bottom. The player could defeat Bowser by either fireballing him with a Fire Flower, or jumping out of the way when he tries to crush them; where he would slowly break the brick floor until it breaks and crumbles causing him to fall an indeterminable height.

Bowser Tip Bowser's version of a Mario ground pound would later be called the "Bowser Bomb" and would be one of Bowser's special moves in Super Smash Brothers Melee.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

Bowser Family Bowser and the Koopa Kids reappear on a new Nintendo console in Super Mario World for the SNES. The Koopa Kids's sprites resemble their official character drawings, however, Bowser is once again inconsistent with his official character drawing having green scales instead of orange. Bowser appears as the boss of the last level inside his castle in the Valley of Bowser. Only half of Bowser is seen as he fights the player from inside the Koopa Clown Car. Bowser barrages the player with Mechakoopas, large steel boulders, and fire. In order to defeat Bowser, the player must stomp on the Mechakoopas that Bowser sends down and then punt them back up to him hitting him in the head.

Bowser Tip In the remake to Super Mario World in Super Mario Advance 2 for the Game Boy Advance (GBA), Bowser is colored correctly inside the Koopa Clown Car. Another interesting note is that while Bowser correctly had orange scales all over his body in his official character art for the original Super Mario World, his tail was green! This could have been accidently overlooked by the artist drawing Bowser's Super Mario World character art. This was fixed in Bowser's official character art for Super Mario Advance 2.

Bowser SMW2 Even though Bowser's first encounter with the Mario Brothers is chronologically in Super Mario Bros., storyline-wise Bowser and the Mario Brothers first clash in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. This game takes place before any other adventures, where Mario, Luigi, and Bowser are all still babies. Though Kamek is the primary villian in Yoshi's Island, Baby Bowser is the game's final boss; and due to one of Kamek's spells, he grows to immense proportions. Baby Bowser, being the baby version of Bowser, is much smaller, doesn't appear to have horns, only has black pupils and no eye whites, and also appears slightly longer-snouted than the adult Bowser. In the showdown against Baby Bowser, when he becomes huge due to a Kamek spell, the player controlling Yoshi must dodge huge boulders hurled by Baby Bowser.

Bowser SMRPG In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, developed by Squaresoft, Bowser reluctantly allied with Mario, Peach, and two new protagonists Mallow and Geno in order to get his keep back that was seized by Smithy, an extra-dimensional invader. To stroke his delicate ego, Bowser claimed that Mario joined the Koopa Troop under his leadership. This is the only Mario RPG game in which Bowser both intentionally works together with Mario and is a member of your party. Bowser has a high defense and attack rating in the game, and he proves useful in defeating opponents and keeping the party alive. It was in Super Mario RPG that Bowser first showed a very comical personality and a lighter side of himself. He was portrayed as a sort of oafish anti-hero, jealous of other villians and often a crybaby under pressure. Bowser's sprite in Super Mario RPG had depth to it due to the sort of pseudo-3D environment the game had. The sprite was well detailed, and the in-game Bowser makes some very funny and believable facial expressions. The sprites of Bowser in Super Mario RPG seem to be the most favoured by Bowser fans.

Nintendo 64 (N64)

Bowser Evil In Super Mario 64, Bowser appears on three occassions on a large round platform surrounded by four spiked bombs. It is the first time players got to see a full 3D model of Bowser in a Mario game, supported by the graphical capabilities of the N64. Super Mario 64 is widely regarded as revolutionary for how well it incorporated a full 3D environment while keeping the same Mario feel and gameplay. The 3D Bowser's textures were pretty basic by today's standards, and the model appeared to have unrounded, jagged corners due to a lower polygon count. At the time however, these graphics and character detail were breathtaking, and an enormous leap over the 2D sprites used in games prior.

Bowser Staredown Super Mario 64 was also the first video game in which Bowser made sounds and noises. Bowser made many beast-like grunts and roars, sounding similar to Godzilla, along with a very intimidating evil laugh. In Super Mario 64, Bowser appears noticably taller and more menacing than in previous games. Bowser's theme songs, composed by Koji Kondo, are quite epic sounding, with a slight gothic touch used for the final confrontation with Bowser. Bowser's official character art for the game was displayed as very detailed and realistic computer generated renders. Being a true 3D environment, Bowser uses a variety of attacks and evasive methods against the player. Bowser belches fire, charges like a bull, and even teleports. He also jumps high and lands to create large shockwaves, breaking the ring apart in the final bout. The player can defeat Bowser by catching him by the tail, spinning him around quickly, and then tossing him into the spiked bombs around the ring.

<Bowser Paper Mario In Paper Mario, Bowser appears as flat as a piece of paper, just like all the other characters in the game. Paper Mario's environment consists of flat 2D characters in a 3D background. The flat in-game Bowser appears cute and non-threatening. At the beginning of the game, Bowser and his assistant Kammy Koopa invade Star Heaven, steal the Star Rod, and transform the seven Star Spirits into playing cards. The first time players face the Star Rod empowered Bowser, he is much too powerful to beat. Only after being strengthened by the seven star spirits can the player successfully defeat Bowser. Many fans consider the final boss battle with Bowser at the end of Paper Mario to be the most challenging Bowser to defeat in a Mario game.

Gameboy Advance (GBA)

Bowser Stuck Bowser once again intentionally worked together with the Mario Brothers in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga for the GBA; after somebody had beaten him to the punch stealing Princess Peach before he could. In Superstar Saga, Bowser once again played the role of comic relief and was quite funny. Unlike Super Mario RPG however, Bowser is not a member of your party or playable. Bowser appears quite hulking large and powerful in Superstar Saga. When Bowser develops amnesia and thinks he's named Rookie, he appears to have a sort of blue wrestling mask over his horns and eyes. When Bowser becomes possessed by Cackletta, he appears as a fusion between his own body and Cackletta's until he is freed.

GameCube (GCN)

Bowser makes an appearance with Bowser Jr. at the end of Super Mario Sunshine in a large hot tub on top of Corona Mountain. Bowser Sunshine The 3D models of Bowser and Bowser Jr. have well-rounded and smooth corners, better textures, and look much more detailed and refined over the N64 models due to higher polygon counts and processing power on the GameCube. Bowser Jr. looks very similar to Bowser as a child, but is really Bowser's youngest son. Bowser Jr. also wears a white bandana over his mouth colored to look like fangs to look more menacing like his father. Bowser appears very large in the hot tub, but looks much less menancing than he did in Super Mario 64. This new alteration or "GameCube look" has remained with Bowser since. He is slightly more vivid in color, looks less threatening and evil, and has a lower height to width ratio, looking almost balloon-like or rounder. Bowser Jr. attacks the player with Bullet Bills and Bowser spews hot fire from his mouth at the player. To defeat Bowser and Bowser Jr., Mario must ground pound five areas around the hot tub until finally the whole thing collapses and Bowser and Bowser Jr. fall out.

Bowser Cut Scene At the end of the game, Bowser is seen apologizing to Bowser Jr. in a cutscene for deceiving him about Peach. It is the first time Bowser is seen in a cutscene with full motion video (FMV). In Super Mario Sunshine, Bowser is also given a gruffly, human sounding voice instead of the various beast-like roars and grunts he made in other games, which did not go over well with most fans. Perhaps this is to reinforce a nicer Bowser, who sounds more like the Cookie Monster instead of a diabolical turtle.

Bowser Tip Bowser appears to change size from when he is shown in the hot tub to when he's shown in the cutscene at the end of the game. In the hot tub, Bowser is gigantic, taking up almost the whole tub, and would be able to swallow Mario whole with little effort. In the cutscene, he is only about 3 times larger than Bowser Jr. It could be speculated that Bowser used his Koopa magic to increase his size in the hot tub to fight Mario, or drank some sort of special growth potion.

Bowser TTYD In the sequel to the original Paper Mario, Bowser and Kammy return to play their comedic role in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Bowser once again appears cute and cartoony and as flat as a piece of paper. Bowser is not a member of your party, but is playable with his own sidescrolling stage that comes up between chapters. These stages hilariously mimic the stages Mario ventured through in the original Super Mario Bros. Bowser becomes furious when he discovers that somebody other than him had captured Princess Peach; and he sets out on his own mission to find and re-capture her. He also ventures to collect the seven Crystal Stars which he believes will serve as valuable world-conquering tools. However, Bowser is one step behind at every turn, and has some hilarious encounters with some of the side characters in the game. An example can be when Bowser squashes Rawk Hawk at his private gym after discovering that the Crystal Star on his wrestling belt was not authentic.

Secondary Mario Games (Sports, Racing, Party, Fighting)

Bowser Golf In various secondary spinoff Mario games, Bowser has demonstrated that he is quite the sportskoopa. Bowser has proven to be very athletic and has shown talent in driving, breakdancing, and in fighting. Bowser has also entered in many sports tournaments in the Mushroom Kingdom involving golf, tennis, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Bowser uses his immense size and hulking power to crush the competition, but is often the slowest character for anything involving a lot of speed. In most of the GameCube secondary Mario games, Bowser is often featured in the opening FMVs to the games in full detail.

Mario Kart Series

Bowser's first ever appearance as a selectable character in a Mario game was in Super Mario Kart for the SNES. Bowser MKDD Bowser has been a selectable character in every single Mario Kart game since, including Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA), Mario Kart: Double Dash (GC), and Mario Kart DS (NDS). In all these games, Bowser is the heaviest character having the highest top speed, but the lowest acceleration and the most off-road speed reduction. Super Mario Kart was the second time gamers saw Bowser appear on the SNES, and his character sprite was much more consistent with his original character concept. Bowser had a decently detailed pseudo-3D sprite in Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Super Circuit. In Mario Kart DS, a low polygon 3D model for Bowser is used, looking blocky in appearance. A decently detailed high polygon 3D model is used for Bowser in Mario Kart: Double Dash for GameCube. Bowser's special item in Mario Kart: Double Dash is a Bowser-sized spiked shell which is tossed out or behind in a straight line. In all of these games he issues many dinosaur-like roars and grunts as he races others on the track.

Mario Golf Series

Bowser has also been featured as a selectable character in both versions of Mario Golf including Mario Golf (N64), and Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (GC). Bowser Golf Bowser once again was the most powerful character in the games having the longest drive, but the least contact area and most spin on the golfball. Bowser had to be unlocked in the N64 version by beating all of the Character Matches until you beat the Koopa King himself. His N64 model is decent looking despite having a low polygon count, a required characteristic of most character models in N64 titles at the time. Bowser's arms and hands are so big that he only uses one hand on the golf club in the N64 version. Bowser's character model on the Nintendo GameCube is very high in detail and very smooth-looking thanks to the high polygon counts that the GameCube can handle. Bowser is featured in the opening FMV for the GameCube version in a funny confrontation with Wario and Waluigi after getting hit with a golf ball while minding his own business. Bowser looks very similar to the way he did in Super Mario Sunshine and even talks, yells and makes human like grunts like he does in Super Mario Sunshine; instead of the beast-like roars from the previous game. When a Power Shot is hit with perfect contact, Bowser's golf ball will be on fire as it flies through the air.

Mario Tennis Series

Bowser is a selectable character in both versions of Mario Tennis including Mario Tennis (N64), and Mario Power Tennis (GC). Bowser Tennis Bowser is the strongest character in both games having the strongest serve and shots as well as decent control of the ball, but is very slow on his feet. His N64 model looks practically identical to his character model for Mario Golf. Bowser's character model for the Nintendo GameCube also looks and sounds identical to his character model in Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour; however, he does not talk. Bowser is once again featured in the opening extended FMV for the GameCube version and is shown training Wario and Waluigi for a tennis tournament after showing off his impressive tennis skills himself. He, Wario, and Luigi interrupt one of the tennis tournaments firing Bob-ombs all over the stadium, but it backfires when Mario and friends hit them back at them. This is the only time in which Bowser is seen teaming up with Wario and Luigi. Bowser has two Power Shots in the game. His first, being his offensive Power Shot, has him jumping in front of the tennis ball, blasting it with Fire Breath, and then unleashing the flaming tennis ball full-speed at his opponent. His second, being his defensive Power Shot, involves him retreating into his shell where he will spin over to the tennis ball and return it.

Mario Party Series

Bowser Party Bowser has appeared in all three Mario Party games for the N64, and all four Mario Party games for the GC. He is also scheduled to appear in Mario Party 8 for the Nintendo Wii. He is not selectable in any of the games, and instead acts as a bully stealing other player's coins and stars. He also forces some players to participate in Bowser Mini-games, where he gets the opportunity to steal more player's coins and stars. In the first three Mario Party games, his character model looked similar to his Super Mario 64 character model; that being menacing and up-to-no-good. His GameCube character models for Marty Party 4 through 7 are similar to his Super Mario Sunshine model, but do not have him talking.

Mario Strikers Series

Bowser made an appearance in Super Mario Strikers (GC), but was not a selectable character. Bowser Strikers Instead, Bowser would interrupt the soccer games by blowing fire at players and wreaking havoc. While most of the other character models for Bowser in the Mario sports games for the GameCube looked similar to Super Mario Sunshine, the Bowser in Super Mario Strikers was more unique and looked more sinister. The opening FMV for Super Mario Strikers has him shown for a few seconds crashing the field to disrupt a match, whipping up a spell as he blows smoke out his nostrils. When Bowser would interrupt the game, he is huge; but in the opening FMV, he was his normal size. Bowser is scheduled to be a captain in Mario Strikers Charged for the Nintendo Wii, and will be a playable character. Early screenshots show Bowser with a yellow-coloured shell and large sharp claw protectors on each claw.

Mario Superstar Baseball

Bowser is featured in Mario Superstar Baseball (GC) as the strongest and most powerful hitter in the game. Bowser Baseball His strength also helps him on the pitcher's mound, where he throws the fastest pitches in the game. On the downside, his hulking size makes him a slow baserunner and fielder. Once again Bowser has a very smooth, refined looking character model. This home run king crouches down before unleashing all his weight into his swing. Like in Mario Power Tennis, he only grunts and roars, and does not speak. The opening FMV for the game shows Bowser's invitations for a baseball match raining down and being received by the other Mario characters. At the end of the FMV, Bowser is shown as a spectator in the stands, laughing gruffly as he spies on his competition.

Super Smash Brothers Melee

Bowser SSBM Bowser makes his smash debut in Super Smash Brothers Melee (GC) as a selectable character. Unlike some of the other characters, who have to be unlocked before they can be played such as Ganondorf, Bowser is available for fighting right from the start. Bowser wields much power in the game, but is noticably slow and his attacks laggy. As a result, Bowser is regarded as one of the more fundamentally disadvantaged characters in the game.

Bowser Tip In an interview, it was stated that both Bowser and Princess Peach were intended to appear as playable characters in the first Super Smash Brothers (N64), but were omitted due to space constraints. Both appeared in Super Smash Brothers Melee.

Bowser Down Bowser's Super Smash Brothers Melee character model is easily the best looking character model of him in a game to date, and perhaps one of the best looking character models in the whole game. Bowser's look is very detailed with well-defined textures and his curves are really smooth with no jagged edges. Not only are the graphics of Super Smash Brothers Melee outstanding, but the animations of all the characters are absolutely superb. The game runs very fluid at 60 frames per second making all the animations very smooth looking and fluent. Bowser, like all the other characters, displays very believable facial expressions, and even blinks and moves his eyes to follow his target. Bowser's face grimaces as he gets hit and smashed by other characters. All of Bowser's animations during his moves are accurate and realistic.

Bowser also appears quite possibly the most menancing and sinister-looking than in any other Mario game; perhaps due to the game's "Teen" rating. This "Smash look" alteration of Bowser is different from the "GameCube look", and Bowser appears much more realistic and reptilian-like. Bowser's scales also appear more of a brownish-gold instead of orange like in the other games, almost giving him a more lizard-like look.

Giga Bowser A further evil looking and scary version of Bowser is introduced at the end of the game in Giga Bowser. Giga Bowser appears much larger than the regular Bowser and also has much longer and curved horns, more numerous and more tapered looking spikes, and purple gums. Giga Bowser can best be generally described as Bowser on serious drugs or steriods. Giga Bowser has several abilities that the regular Bowser does not such as ice, fire, lightning, and shadow effects on his moves. It is unknown how Bowser transforms into Giga Bowser, or whether Giga Bowser will return in a future game.

Bowser appears briefly in the opening FMV for Super Smash Brothers Melee for a few seconds rising up with fire all around him with a menancing grin on his face.

It remains unknown at this time of writing whether Bowser will return as a playable character in the next iteration of Smash Brothers titled "Super Smash Brothers Brawl" due for release in late 2007 for Nintendo Wii. According to a Japanese poll asking which character players would want to have as a playable character in Melee, Bowser won by a landslide, followed by Peach. It is likely that this popularily will carry over to Brawl. The results of this poll could mean that Bowser, or Koopa as he is known there, is quite popular with the Japanese. Bowser is a major character in the Mario franchise and has a very good chance of returning in Brawl.

Cameo Appearances

Bowser TetrisBowser also has made brief cameo appearences in other Nintendo games. At the end of Luigi's Mansion, King Boo fights Luigi with what appears to be Bowser's own body; or a very convincing Bowser suit. He appeared as the final boss in Tetris Attack for the SNES. A giant Bowser appears in the SNES port of the original SimCity when a monster disaster strikes, parodying Godzilla. Talon and Malon both wear Bowser medallions in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Also, in the courtyard where Link meets Zelda, portraits of Bowser and some other Mario characters can be seen through one window. Bowser is breifly mentioned by Gex in Gex: Enter the Gecko for Playstation, although ironically, there was no mention of him on the N64 version.

Name Issues

In Japan, Bowser has always been known as simply "Koopa". When Super Mario Bros. came out in North America, he was given the more American name of "Bowser, King of the Koopas". Bowser Fists Further confusion comes from the Super Mario Brothers Super Show cartoons and the Super Mario Bros. movie where Bowser was consistently referred to as King Koopa, and never just "Bowser". In the "How to Draw Nintendo Characters" book, Bowser is incorrectly named "Kerog".

To add further confusion, one of Bowser's sons is named Morton Koopa Jr. As the term "Junior" usually applies to a son that has the same name as their father, it suggests that Morton may actually be Bowser's name. Another suggestion is that "Morton" may be Bowser's middle name. In all actuality, Morton Koopa Junior is just a reference to actor Morton Downey Junior, just how all the other Koopa Kids are believed to be references to other American celebrites.

At some point in time the two names "Bowser" and "Koopa" merged, and Bowser's full name as known in North America is Bowser Koopa, with "Bowser" being his first name and "Koopa" being his surname.

Bowser's Depictions Outside of Video Games

Bowser was the regular antagonist in the 1989 "Super Mario Brothers Super Show". In this series, Bowser was depicted quite differently than the offical artwork for the video games he was in. He was also always called "King Koopa" and was never referred to as just "Bowser". Other differences was that he also had a crown in place of his fiery red hair; had green scales all over his body except for his belly, which was also dark yellow; and he never appeared to breathe fire, like he did ever since the first Mario game. The explanation for this crocodile-like Bowser could be the fact that the original Super Mario Bros. Bowser sprite was not very detailed due to technological limitations. Another explanation could be that the makers of the series thought Wart from Super Mario Bros. 2 was Bowser, which could describe why King Koopa was given a crown similar to Wart's, and how he was controlling troops belonging to Wart. Bowser and King Koopa are recognized as two distinct and seperate characters by most fans.

King Koopa Bowser was also antagonizing the Mushroom Kingdom regularily in two more Mario cartoon series, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Strangely enough, the crocodilian version of King Koopa returned, even though Bowser was much more accurately depicted as his original character design in Super Mario Bros. 3. King Koopa returned with seven Koopa Kids, who more resembled their respective original game artwork. Bowser's children were not given the same names as they had in the games, perhaps due to copyright issues. Ludwig Von Koopa, Iggy Koopa, Lemmy Koopa, Roy Koopa, Wendy O. Koopa, Morton Koopa Jr., and Larry Koopa all had their names changed to Kooky, Hip, Hop, Bully, Cootie Pie, Big Mouth, and Cheatsy, respectfully, on the cartoon show.

Bowser was also featured as the villian and ruler of the city of Dinohattan in the 1993 feature length film Super Mario Bros., which was very loosely based on the Mario story. Once again Bowser, portrayed by Dennis Hopper, was only referred to as King Koopa, and never Bowser. Not content with only ruling one dimension, King Koopa tried to conquer the Earth dimension as well. Not only does King Koopa fail in his conquest but also ends up getting zapped by his own de-evolution gun. The movie is widely considered as a disaster due to it's over serious tone and live action cast which was too much of a departure from the colorful, cartoony world of the games. Fans denounced the movie for having very little to do with the video game series and distorting many known facts about the fictional game world; for instance, in the movie, King Koopa is a humanoid descendant of a dinosaur, whereas he is no such thing in the games.

It was once revealed in Nintendo Power of the UK that Bowser's wife and the mother of the Koopa Kids is Clawdia, Queen of the Koopas. Clawdia has not made an appearance in any Mario games to date.