Ah, the granddaddy of all video game villains. You know him. You love him. He’s the biggest and baddest bad guy out there. That’s right, we all have a special place in our hearts for the tyrant king himself, Bowser. The ruler of all of the creatures in the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser wants nothing more than to kidnap the Princess Peach and get Mario out of his way. We’re all familiar with this age old struggle. Bowser never wins, and the red plumber always managed to bring him down, whether it’s in a flaming castle or a small moon in space.
Since his debut in Super Mario Bros. for the NES, Bowser has since appeared across many game titles over the years, and naturally, we’ve learned a lot about him- what he wants, what makes him tick, what he values in life. Despite these many appearances, his inclusion always leads to a really good boss fight.
However, just because we’ve seen a lot of him doesn’t mean that we know everything about him. For all intents and purposes, Bowser is still somewhat of a mystery. Who is he? Where did he come from? What’s his story? We simply don’t know. That said, over the years there has been more than a fair share of information about this character hidden throughout his development and his games. Some info even Nintendo themselves have cleared up. So if you’re curious at all, and we know you are, here 15 things you didn’t know about Bowser: the greatest baddie in the Mushroom Kingdom.
15. His Name Changes
For those of us in the United States, we know Mario’s longtime archenemy as Bowser. After all, that’s the name that has been drilled into us for all of these years. He’s an icon, a staple of antagonists in gaming. Bowser is simply what we know him as and what we will continue to call him. However, in other countries, his name is a bit more ambiguous than that. In Japan, he is known as King Koopa (a little on the nose if you ask me). In the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros for Wii U, he is known as just Koopa. On a side note, his name comes from a beloved Korean soup. So depending on who you ask, you may end up getting different answers to the same question. To make matters even more complicated, the Italian version of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show refers to Bowser as “Attila”, likely after the Hun leader of the same name. Granted, the show was a bit old and obscure, so not very many people are too fond of it. Still, it’s weird that there isn’t some consistency on the name of a villain that is so universally recognizable.
14. He Used To Be A Gray Ox
The creation of Bowser was an interesting process. Contextually, the NES wasn’t doing very hot, and neither was the home gaming market as a whole. As such, Nintendo wanted to get Super Mario Bros. out to the public in order to revive video games. Naturally, they were on a pretty tight clock and focused on perfecting the gameplay rather than the designs of some of the characters. One character that probably didn’t get enough time spent on him was Bowser. Miyamoto originally wanted a Japanese manga artist to draw and design the character, but by the time he thought about it, the clock was already running down too quickly. As such, Miyamoto designed the villain himself. He took much inspiration from the show Alakazam the Great (which has nothing to do with the Pokemon of the same name), and modeled Bowser after the show’s antagonist, who was a large ox. Because of this, the end result for Bowser’s design was large, gray, and without horns- on the box art that is. It wasn’t until after the game’s release that artists were able to get together and change the titular villain’s design to the spiky turtle that we know and love today.
13. He Wasn’t In Super Mario Bros. 2
After the success of Super Mario Bros., it was not difficult to believe that a sequel was well in the works. This one naturally expanded on the things that made the original so great, and included new characters to play, who each had different play-styles for platforming. However, it was a bit of a surprise to many to see that Bowser was actually not the antagonist of this game. The reason for this is likely because Peach is a playable character and was not kidnapped, but whatever the reason, it’s still somewhat odd. The antagonist of Super Mario Bros. 2 was instead a regal frog named Wart. This change in design was due to the game being a reworking of a Japanese exclusive title, Doki Doki Panic. Because many players in the West found it too difficult, Nintendo restructured it as a Mario game, but kept a lot of the assets from the original title, keeping the main villain. Since then, apart from an appearance in the remake of the game, Wart has not appeared in another Mario title to this day. Maybe they felt bad for leaving Bowser out.
12. He Was Darth Vader Once
Nintendo used to take plenty of risks when it came to their properties, and this resulted in many of their classic characters having their own Saturday morning cartoons. Franchises such as Kirby, The Legend of Zelda, and more each received their own spotlight on the small screen. Obviously, they had to do Mario at some point or another. Dubbed the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, this took a lot of the classic scenes and moments from the games and put them in a cartoon with a few additions of their own. One episode saw the show parodying Star Wars. Naturally, Mario and his friends resembled the Rebellion, while Bowser and his goons were the Galactic Empire. Bowser was also decked out in a Darth Vader helmet and cape, seeking to rule the entire universe. Nonetheless, he had a run for his money when Mario pulled out his saber, shouting the words, “May the pasta be with you!” Okay, I’ll admit, the parody was pretty bad, but hey, if it’s good for nothing else, at least you’ll definitely get a lot of laughs from it. Also, spoilers and all that, but they win by flying through Bowser’s ship and firing some torpedoes at it.
11. He’s A Bit of An Alcoholic
One of the more interesting things to me is seeing how, as our culture evolves, it changes what we deem as socially appropriate or acceptable. For example, I just re-watched A Christmas Story: a film based entirely on a kid wanting a gun for Christmas. That kind of plot would never fly in today’s society. However, even back in the day, there was still a line that companies didn’t feel that they could cross. For example, one such line was in Super Mario Kart. In that classic racing game, there were certain animations when characters won. Bowser’s showcased him quickly downing an entire bottle of champagne on a pedestal. However, this animation was only in the Japanese version of the game. When they decided to bring it over to the United States, the policies were a bit different, and that animation had to be removed. It was aptly replaced with a more “E for everyone” scene of Bowser simply holding the bottle rather than chugging it. A similar change also had to be made for Princess Peach, who even had a red face while drinking champagne as if she were drunk.
10. The Koopalings Are Not His Children
Mini bosses have always been an interesting aspect to games, and once it came time for Super Mario World to come out, Nintendo had to come up with a few of their own. This led to the creation of the Koopalings: Wendy, Morton, Iggy, Ludwig, Roy, Larry, and Lemmy. Each of them had a special gimmick to separate their battles and so forth. However, it was commonly thought and assumed that they were the offspring of the villainous Bowser. After all, their name (Koopalings) definitely supported this idea, and due to these young Koopas often working together to take down Mario, it was a pretty safe bet, and Nintendo even supported this idea. However, after the New Super Mario Bros. series came out, Miyamoto himself stated that the Koopalings were not the offspring of Bowser. Instead his only child is Bowser Jr., who has often appeared alongside his father to take down the red plumber and his friends. Even so, it would be a bit hard to denounce Bowser Jr. as Bowser’s child for multiple reasons, including his name and many of their talks in Super Mario Sunshine. Going forward, though, the Koopalings are probably orphans.
9. Ludwig Was Supposed To Be Second-In-Command
Following through on the idea that the Koopalings are not Bowser’s children comes another idea. During the creation of these characters, Miyamoto originally intended for Ludwig Von Koopa, the oldest of the Koopalings, to be Bowser’s original second-in-command. Obviously this was only back when the Koopalings were still thought to be the children of the Koopa King, but it’s an interesting thing to think about. For starters, in the majority of the Koopalings’ appearances, Ludwig is always the last one to take out (the only exception being Super Mario World). Because of his age, he is also the leader of his brothers and sisters. Nonetheless, Bowser Jr. was eventually introduced and that was the end of Ludwig’s reign. That said, the Koopalings and Bowser Jr. have been shown working together on multiple occasions, but during those times, it’s Bowser’s son who takes charge rather than Ludwig. While that may disappoint some, at least Ludwig and all of his siblings were able to land a spot in Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Maybe someday they’ll get some kind of promotion.
8. He Was Going To Be In Smash 64
Probably the quirkiest and most successful title Nintendo ever decided to release was Super Smash Bros for the N64. The game was originally intended to have new and unique characters, but sometime during development, Sakurai decided to put in Nintendo icons. Once this idea was approved, he immediately drew up plans to include particular characters in the game. That said, there were a few that were going to make the cut that weren’t able to be put in the final game. One of those characters was Bowser. After all, he is iconic as Mario himself, so it would make a lot of sense to include a villain or two on top of all of the heroes in the game. As such, the character was well into development before Sakurai realized that there wasn’t enough time to properly finish him. He was unfortunately taken out of the game, as well as a few others such as Mewtwo and King Dedede. Thankfully Bowser and Mewtwo were included in the sequel, Super Smash Bros Melee, while we would have to wait until Super Smash Bros Brawl to see King Dedede in action. Either way, it would’ve been an amazing addition to have Bowser in the original title.
7. His Castle Is 212 Stories Tall
The only thing just as iconic as Bowser is his very own castle. From the very first Super Mario Bros. game, we’ve all had the experience of climbing to the top and battling the evil king to finally rescue the lovely princess from his clutches. However, the climb is not very easy. Along the way, we’ve faced countless Koopas, Dry Bones, lava, and so much more. It’s ridiculous just how big this castle looks, but we never quite knew how big it actually was until some guys at Movoto Real Estate did some more concrete math. Based on how the building looks in Super Mario Bros., they were able to estimate that if it existed in real life, it would be approximately 212 stories tall, which is significantly higher than the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building). However, all of that height would be managed by only six vertical rooms. Movoto states that if you like high cathedral-like ceilings, then this would be the castle for you. Despite how big it is, it would only cost a surprisingly low amount of $450,000. People in the upper class could easily put aside the money to get that kind of bachelor pad. Just make sure to install elevators.
Ever since players were introduced to Bowser’s children (now his only child), there has been one question that has yet to be completely answered. Who was Bowser Jr.’s mother? Before you start to fire up your Nintendos, you’re not going to get your answer in any simple Mario game. As a matter of fact, none of them even hint at who the mother could be. It’s even clear from Super Mario Sunshine that Bowser Jr. has no clue who his mother is, seeing as how he continues to be attached to Princess Peach. That said, we have received a small amount of information about it. In a UK version of Nintendo Power magazine (remember that?), a Clawdia Koopa is mentioned as the wife of Bowser and mother of Bowser Jr. However, Miyamoto has since denied her existence. Furthermore, even if Bowser was married to Clawdia at some point in time, it is unlikely that she even passes through his mind, considering how he has a fixation on kidnapping princesses. It is also unlikely that we will ever find out more about Clawdia or anything about Bowser’s love life.
5. 107 Game Appearances
If there’s one franchise that Nintendo is willing to milk for all of the gold coins that it’s worth- it’s Super Mario Bros. Because of the success and popularity of the original game, Nintendo has been able to expand upon the Mushroom Kingdom’s world, building more excellent and quality games. A large number of them also see Bowser entering the fray, either as an antagonist or a playable character. Either way, he’s shown up a lot. However, people fail to see the true extent of the Mario franchise until they see cold hard numbers. Going along with that, Bowser has appeared in a total of 107 games, and all but one of them have starred Mario as well. If you think that’s a big number, Mario still trumps Bowser, having appeared in over twice as many titles in the past few decades. That’s an overall staggering number of Mario games released over the years, and there’s no sign of Nintendo stopping anytime soon. Mario always sells well, and where you see the red plumber, you’re almost guaranteed to see the King of Koopas there as well. Bowser is a mainstay and the Big N wouldn’t be the same without him.
4. Bowser’s Father
Many times, a great villain is only defined by how great his origin story is. If you don’t know what I mean, I would point you to Darth Vader, Loki, and the Joker (his ambiguity on origin stories actually adds to his chaos). Again, this is another area where we don’t get a lot of detail about Bowser. Because of biology, we know that Bowser would have had to have some sort of parents who either raised or abandoned him. Like the rest of Bowser’s story, the games don’t deal with that aspect of life. There is a slight amount of info that we do know about his father, though. Apparently, he is a wanted criminal who is on the run from the law. From this information we can gather that Bowser’s father was as bad if not worse than his son. It’s probably his influence on his son that brought Bowser to a life of dictatorship and kidnapping. Furthermore, it’s also likely that Bowser’s father left his son’s life early due to him being wanted by the law. This would’ve given Bowser a hatred for all things good and would be the most logical way for his love of evil.
3. He And Boo Laugh The Same
Throughout the earlier years of video game development, it’s actually quite impressive how people were able to recycle content in order to at least give the appearance of a truly massive game. One common example is Pokemon Red and Blue. Each Pokemon has a distinct cry that is different from all of the rest. The way they did this was by creating several different sounds and altering them to make them sound unique. This way, they could have 151 sounds with only a few base files. Another example of this was in Super Mario 64. Bowser is a very unique character in that game, because he is given much more audible sounds, such as roaring and a few words in general. He also has a menacing laugh that could send chills down your spine. However, the only laugh even more chilling than Bowser’s is King Boo’s. That being said, at a closer look, they’re both fundamentally the same. While the laughs sound distinct, King Boo’s laugh is actually just Bowser’s sped up. It seems like the developers took what made Bowser’s voice terrifying and upped it to make Boo a bit scarier.
2. Nintendo Was Specific About His Inclusion in Wreck It Ralph
In many ways, Wreck It Ralph is the only video game movie to actually be good. While it’s not based off of a previously-created games, a lot of the references and cameos included led to a celebration of why people love video games to this day. The movie included some brief appearances from classic video game characters such as Q-Bert and Sonic the Hedgehog. However, even Bowser himself makes an appearance in the film alongside other popular villains known in gaming history. He doesn’t say a whole lot and only has a few things to do in the background, but even then, Nintendo was very specific about his inclusion. They carefully monitored how the animators were implementing Bowser, and constantly giving them instructions on how to make him look and move. The directions were so specific in fact, that they even told them exactly how Bowser would drink and stir his cup of coffee. While this sounds like a horrible case of micromanaging, at least we know that if or when Nintendo makes an animated movie, they’re going to make sure that they get their characters spot on. Perhaps we’d leave the era of terrible video game movies then.
1. He is The Only Boss To Appear In All of The New Super Mario Bros Games
After the Golden Age of Super Mario 2D platformers on the SNES, that was largely done away with after the release of the Nintendo 64. Once Nintendo discovered that they were able to effectively put Mario in a 3D format, they stuck with it for many years. In 2009, the Big N finally decided that it was high time they brought back the old side scrolling action from our yesteryears. This resulted in the New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Wii. Because this was a revitalization of the classic games, they naturally included Bowser as the main antagonist of the game. Because the game did so well, they created several other entries in this remade franchise, and included several other bosses and secondary antagonists for Mario and Luigi to deal with. However, the one boss that was and is to this day a constant in the series is Bowser himself. He holds a key part in the New Super Mario Bros series and always brings a new spin on the 2D sidescroller format during his boss battles. It would be nice to see a different boss make an appearance, but as long as the games are good, I don’t think many will complain.