WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This article contains spoilers relating to this character and their source material.
“Hear this! I will kidnap Peach OVER and OVER until I pull it off! And no one can stop me! Losing is not an option! And neither is giving up!”
― Bowser • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
King Bowser Koopa (sometimes known as King Koopa in earlier media) is a major character and the main antagonist of the Mario franchise. He's the king of the Koopa Kingdom, and has been the archenemy of the Mario Bros. since his debut in the first Super Mario Bros, repeatedly kidnapping Princess Peach (or trying to do so) with the ultimate goal of defeating Mario and taking over the Mushroom Kingdom.
Why He's the King of the Koopas
- When Bowser was created, he was a typical villain without much personality beyond simply wanting to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. Later games started showing various different aspects of Bowser's character, depending on the nature of the plot.
- While his platformer role continues to be that of a simple antagonist, his Mario Party antics typically depict him being more angry, childish, and mischievous than dangerous, and his portrayals in the RPGs range from a threatening, yet humorous villain, to a playable anti-hero.
- Even when Bowser is acting as a protagonist in a game, however, he continues to insist he is an evil character, and his reasons for helping the protagonists are typically his own selfishness. In some games, he even breaks the fourth wall to do so.
- His goofy and hammy incarnation in the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, and the Super Mario World is very entertaining to watch and it puts him pretty much on the same page with AoStH's Robotnik, King K. Rool from the Donkey Kong Country TV series, and Shredder from the 80s TMNT series.
- Contrary to most people's beliefs that he's just a princess-napping and fire-breathing monster, the Koopa King actually has a sense of style and showmanship comparable to the villain from the other company's, as seen with his "World Bowser" theme park in Super Mario 3D World and how he spread posters about his unexecuted marriage with Peach in Super Mario Odyssey.
- While not exactly a genius, he's nevertheless cunning and clever while still remaining an arrogant brute, take for example, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, where Bowser plays dumb for most of the game and betrays Antasma once everything falls into place for him, also getting to be the all-powerful final boss of the game.
- While he is a villain through and through, Bowser won't tolerate Mario getting beaten unless it's on his terms, believing he's the only person allowed to defeat the plumber.
- In Mario Super Slugger's ending, Bowser is the one to save Mario from an oncoming Bullet Bill, and immediately walks away instead of staying to get thanked.
- Similarly to how characters such as Wolf respects Fox as a rival, Bowser also acknowledges Mario as a worthy enemy. In Super Mario Galaxy, he says that he "chose the right guy to be [his] archenemy", and continues by saying that he always puts up a fight as a compliment, implying that despite his countless losses, Bowser really enjoys his battles with him.
- He's often shown to be much more physically powerful than Mario, as seen when he pulled an entire island to the beach in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.
- He gets his own starring role in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, where you get to play as him for much of the story and he gets his own battle theme, "Showtime".
- While he might act tough, he does have a soft side underneath that intimidating shell (pun entirely intended). He's a single father who tries his best to raise Bowser Jr., and he often treats his troops with respect.
- He has a perfect villainous design for his species, especially in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, combining standard Koopa elements with those of a typically fire-breathing dragon. His Dry Bowser form looks awesome and intimidating as well.
- Contrasting Mario, who is usually a silent protagonist, Bowser has many great quotes that show off his personality traits. Mostly his perseverance, big dreams of conquest, self-aggrandizement and occasionally, his short temper and simple mind.
- Harvey Atkin, Scott Burns, Kenny James, and Jack Black are all awesome at making him sound like the goofy evil beast he is.
- His portrayal in the Super Smash Bros. series is shockingly lackluster, as it lacks the humanity and goofiness that makes him so endearing, being nothing more than a fearsome beast. He doesn't even have his voice from the mainline series, instead only being generic monster noises. What's worse is that Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings are all represented quite faithfully compared to Bowser himself.
- His appearance in the first New Super Mario Bros. also lacks some of his silly personality and voice, but this is thankfully not an issue in later sequels.
- His portrayal in King Koopa's Kool Kartoons feels a bit off, as he lacks his more fearsome and tyrannical side. He also has a very horrifying character design that is supposed to be faithful to his animated counterpart from the DiC cartoons.
- His portrayal in the 1993 Super Mario Bros movie as President Koopa (despite being played by Dennis Hopper), is bland for the most part, with The only two memorable scenes he provided being him saying "monkey" and him ordering a pizza, which had the potential to take a laugh or two.
- He doesn't always provide fresh twists in his casual schemes or fights, which can get kind of stale and predictable, especially in the New Super Mario Bros. series.
- This changes in "Super Mario Wonder" where he uses the Wonder Flower to steal the Flower Kingdom's castle and imprison the inhabitants of said kingdom
- He became an overpowered villain in Mario Party 10.
- He is a butt-monkey at times, for example in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and its Nintendo 3DS remake Mario + Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions, especially after he gets possessed by Cackletta.
Due largely to the success of the Mario franchise, Bowser has become one of the most iconic and easily recognizable video game antagonists of all time. He frequently appears in lists for greatest video game antagonists. IGN placed him at #2 out of 100, and GamePro placed him at #9 out of 47. GameSpot listed him at #9 in their "Top 10 Video Game Villains" article, stating "Of all the villains to make an appearance on this list, Bowser... has got to be the most interesting," later adding "While some people say Bowser's life may have gotten into a rut, the man has simply refined his game down to an everyday thing. He's focused, he's dedicated, and worst of all, he's patient." Bowser ranked in the first slot on GameDaily's top 10 Nintendo characters that deserve their own games list, explaining if Yoshi and Wario get their own games, Bowser should too due to his being one of gaming's most nefarious villains. In GameDaily's top 10 Smash Bros. characters list, he ranked sixth. GameDaily also included him in their most persistent video game villains list. However, Bowser has been also rated as the 4th-biggest douchebag in gaming history by ScrewAttack, who said that he wants to "take Mario down". IGN editor Craig Harris described Bowser as being a household name. In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 23rd-greatest video game character while Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2013 featured Bowser first in their list of top 50 Villains. IGN named Bowser as one of the "oldest villains in gaming history, not to mention one of the most iconic."
Bowser's role in Super Mario Galaxy has been met with significant praise. Eurogamer editor Margaret Robertson commented that after years of being a "comedy villain", Galaxy put him back at his "scaly, scabrous best". PALGN editor Chris Sell called him the best boss in Mario Galaxy, stating that it wasn't just because of the battles with him being "superb, screen filling affairs", but also because he is "back to being mean again". Nintendo World Report editor Aaron Kaluszka commented that battling Bowser has never been "this intense and engaging". IGN editor Cam Shea praised his physical appearance in Super Mario Galaxy, describing him as "imposing and weighty". Another IGN editor, Matt Casamassina, praised the visual quality of the characters, citing Bowser in particular and mentioning how his "funky red fur waggles in the wind". Game Positive editor Travis Simmons concurred, commenting that his hair "gives him a touch of personality".
Bowser's role in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has been met with highly positive reception also. He has frequently been referenced as the main character of the game due to his prominence in it. Eurogamer editor Christian Donlan commented that it felt good to play as Bowser, and that "After years of picking a path carefully around threats, jumping out of harm's way, and tackling challengers mostly from above, it's a pleasure to put those cares aside and relish a few hours of spiky, tortoise-shelled power." Destructoid editor Jim Sterling described Bowser's gameplay as "brilliant comic relief". He also described the dialogue of the game as being "laugh out loud funny", specifically praising Bowser's ego. RPGamer editor Michael Cunningham praised the game for Bowser "stealing the show", but also decried it for not having quite enough of him. Nintendo World Report editor Pedro Hernandez commented that the plot and humour of the game make iconic characters "more enduring, including Bowser". NGamer magazine editor Matthew Castle commented that all Mario role-playing games make good use of Bowser, but that this is the first game where Bowser takes the center stage. Game Style editor Drew Middlemas commented that Bowser stole the show, being portrayed as a "creature of pure, blustering ego who reminds us of why he's one of gaming's greatest baddies." N-Europe editor called him the "real star" of the game, calling him a "fantastic character" with "so much more to give than what we've seen from him so far, even in the other Mario RPGs". He added that his "foul mood and lack of intelligence" as well as his interactions with other characters are well written. Kombo editor commented that he became a more sympathetic character as the game progresses, adding that his "massive ego pushes him towards heroism". Wired editor Chris Kohler called Bowser awesome, adding that his segments are funnier than Mario and Luigi's. Giant Bomb editor Brad Shoemaker states that Bowser steals the show, commenting that playing as him gives players an inside glimpse of his ego and megalomania. IGN editor Craig Harris described Bowser as the only "core Nintendo character over the past couple decades" to not have a starring role in a video game, and this game acts as his "big break". 1UP.com editor Jeremy Parish stated that Bowser makes the game, describing him as more interesting than Bowser's Inside Story predecessor's partners, the baby forms of Mario and Luigi. GamePro editor Alicia Ashby called Bowser one of the most "lovable characters in the Nintendo universe", and praising Bowser's Inside Story for giving him "much deserved time in the spotlight". GameSpy editor Phil Theobald called him the breakout star of the game, stating that "the gruff, quick-to-anger pro/antagonist is a treat to watch as he continuously becomes infuriated with the incompetence of his minions." GamesRadar editor Henry Gilbert stated that he is "home to the most drastic change to the formula" in this game, stating that while he is still a "humorously incapable villain", the game allows players to switch between Bowser and the Mario Bros. at their discretion."
Fans wondered for years about what Mario said after he defeated Bowser, threw him, and shouted in the final battle of Super Mario 64 until Charles Martinet, Mario's voice actor, took to Twitter in April 2019 to assert Mario was saying "so long kinga Bowser!" However, from July 2020, a fan restoration has made Mario seem much more like he is saying "Gay Bowser". Mario did not say "gay Bowser", but rather "buh-bye!" according to Ian Walker of Kotaku. Nintendo later confirmed that Mario said "buh-bye!" in a tweet.
Bowser Standalone Prop, but with a penis for usage in Bowser movies, was created by 3D modeller "AkkoArcade". After a copyright claim was made by a party claiming to represent Nintendo of America, Patreon fully removed it.
In 2018, a short comic "The Super Crown's some spicy new Mario lore" on DeviantArt and Twitter transforms Bowser into a monstrously sinister female resembling Peach, which fans named Bowsette. The character subsequently went viral, with Ars Technica writing that Bowsette's popularity was partly due to her contrast with Princess Peach and Bowser. Apart from Mario Day, "Bowser Day 2021" became a Twitter craze as fans commemorated the renowned Nintendo's iconic villain. When the alligator snapping turtle of the Amur River was discovered, it bore a resemblance to Bowser, making it become somewhat of an internet sensation.