This article is about King Bowser Koopa, the main antagonist from the Mario franchise. For information about the character that represents Bowser in the Super Mario Bros. film, see President Koopa. For the kart from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, see Koopa King.“MAAAARRRRIIOOOO! Are you seriously trying to start with me again?! I hear about this big meeting, and
I'm all ready to act nice... But man, the second I see your face, Mr. Nice Bowser is GONE. Yeah, forget your dumb meeting! I'll pummel you and grab Peach!”
—Bowser, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Bowser, sometimes known as King Koopa (Japanese: 大魔王クッパ, Daimaō Kuppa, which can be translated into "Great Demon King Koopa" or "Great Sorcerer King Koopa", the latter meaning being used in the manual of Super Mario Bros.), is a major character and the main antagonist of Nintendo's Mario franchise. He is the leader and most powerful of the Koopas, a race of evil-driven turtles, and has been the archenemy of Mario ever since his debut in Super Mario Bros. He has repeatedly kidnapped or attempted to kidnap Princess Peach with the ultimate goal of defeating Mario and taking over the Mushroom Kingdom, though he has also attempted to conquer various other realms and even the entire universe. Despite his villainous nature, he has occasionally helped Mario and other heroes against common threats and participates with them in their numerous sporting events in spin-off games.
Since his debut, Bowser has appeared in almost every Mario franchise game. Due to his role as the primary villain in the core Super Mario series, he is mostly the final or penultimate boss in all of his appearances, if not as the main antagonist (an example being Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga). Bowser is mostly cast as an antihero or minor villain in the franchise's role-playing games, with few exceptions.
Bowser was created by Shigeru Miyamoto as the villain of Super Mario Bros. Miyamoto stated that they considered naming him either Kuppa (국밥), Yukke (육회), or Bibinba (비빔밥), which are all Korean dishes as they are known in Japanese. In the end, "Kuppa" was chosen. For the later North American release of the game, which also introduced the anglicized spelling Koopa, the character was named "Bowser."
During the development of Super Mario Bros., Miyamoto considered asking a manga artist or illustrator to do the art for the game. However, time was running short, so he drew the game's original box art himself. This artwork included a depiction of Bowser that is significantly different than later designs, the most obvious anomalies being his grey-blue skin and lack of horns. For the character's appearance, Miyamoto drew inspiration from an anime film adaptation of the Chinese novel Journey to the West, renamed Alakazam the Great during the film's American localization. He liked the film's main antagonist Gyū-Maō (lit. "Ox Demon King," King Gruesome in the dub), so loosely based Bowser on an ox as a homage.
Yoichi Kotabe, an animation artist, later joined Nintendo and was asked to do new illustrations for the Mario series. His only reference was the package illustration for Super Mario Bros., so Kotabe asked Miyamoto many questions on how to draw the characters. However, designing Bowser caused problems, since Miyamoto hadn't drawn him often. He brought up that he liked the Ox King from the film, and this was how he imagined Bowser, but Nintendo designer Takashi Tezuka pointed out that Bowser should be a turtle. Through their discussions, Bowser's appearance gradually came together. Since he was now in the turtle family with the Koopa Troopas, they partly based Bowser's new appearance on them. Finally, the new design was created, and Miyamoto congratulated himself by saying "Wow, I can really make Bowser look cool now!"
Main Article: Baby Bowser
Bowser's first chronological appearance in-universe is as Baby Bowser in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. At this age, he is shown to have similar powers to the ones he currently possesses as an adult.
When Baby Mario and Yoshi enter his room in his castle, Baby Bowser is unintentionally and forcibly awakened from his nap by Kamek (who is trying to demand Yoshi to give Baby Mario), and pounds him flat in retribution. Baby Bowser then notices Yoshi and decides he wants to ride the "green donkey." He notices that Baby Mario is riding Yoshi, however, so he attacks them to get Baby Mario. Yoshi eventually defeats Baby Bowser, even when Kamek turns him into a giant. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is also his first meeting with Mario. Baby Bowser later steals the Super Happy Tree from the Yoshis and turns Yoshi's Island into a pop-up book in Yoshi's Story, but is defeated again by a newborn Yoshi. Both incidents quickly define the young Bowser as a selfish character lacking empathy. In Yoshi's Island DS, he teams up with the heroes to defeat future Bowser after being betrayed, but betrays them at the end of the game. Baby Bowser is also one of the star children. In Yoshi's New Island, he plans to turn Egg Island into his vacation home, but this plan is ultimately thwarted by the Yoshis.
In Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Baby Bowser once again appears. At the beginning of the game, he attempts to kidnap Baby Peach, but ends up evacuating everyone when the Shroobs attack. They are shot down by the Shroobs after intercepting a transmission, however. He later steals the Cobalt Star Shards the Mario Bros. have collected and flees to Yoshi's Island, where he is found eating Yoshi Cookies he stole from the islanders. After he eats the shards, Baby Bowser, along with everyone else, is eaten by Yoob, though everyone later escapes. After leaving Yoshi's Island, he heads to Thwomp Volcano to build a new castle, where he finds future Bowser. They team up to defeat Mario and Luigi, though are both defeated. Later on, he reunites the Cobalt Star Shards, unintentionally reawakening Elder Princess Shroob, who transforms him into a Shroob Mushroom, but he is later transformed back to normal and flees.