Bowser, also known as King Koopa, is the main antagonist of the Mario franchise. He is the highest-ranked entity and rules over the Koopa Troop. He originally appeared in Super Mario Bros. for the NES, in which he kidnaps Princess Peach and her subjects and imprisons them in castles, each guarded by a Bowser Impostor with the exception of the final castle, where Peach is guarded by Bowser himself. Mario and his brother Luigi fight Bowser for the first time in this game, and it is considered the start of their adult rivalry, though Bowser's earliest appearance in the timeline was as a baby in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island in which his caretaker Kamek kidnaps Baby Luigi and they are defeated by Yoshi and Baby Mario.
Over the years Bowser has tried countless times to kidnap Princess Peach and take over the Mushroom Kingdom, though he will occasionally go after another land such as the Sprixie Kingdom or the entire universe itself. While he is very self-centered, he has been known to help Mario in situations where his plans are disrupted and/or prevented by the interference of another villain such as Count Bleck or Fawful. However, sometimes Bowser will strike a deal with the new villain in order to take down Mario instead, as shown in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team with Antasma.
Bowser is known to have an extremely large ego and is usually quick to brag about how mighty he is. In Paper Mario he has a diary in which he brags about his recent accomplishments such as stealing the Star Rod and using its power to defeat Mario. He has been shown to have an attraction to Peach, as evidenced by his diary in Paper Mario, his unusual compliance with Count Bleck in order to marry her in Super Paper Mario, his comments about "ruling with Peach by his side" in Super Mario Galaxy, and his attempt to marry her on his own in Super Mario Odyssey, among many other things.
Bowser has many minions under his command, most of which are completely loyal to him. He also has a son, Bowser Jr., whose mother is unknown. Minions of Bowser include:
- Kamek, a Magikoopa who cared for Bowser since he was a child and serves as a mentor to him
- The Koopalings, seven siblings who were originally established as his children before Bowser Jr. was introduced
- Kammy Koopa, an elderly female Magikoopa who serves a similar role to Kamek in the early Paper Mario games
- Koopa Kids, who help carry out much of his mischief in the Mario Party series
- Many foot-soldiers and mooks including Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Shy Guys, and Hammer Bros.
Aside from his villainous roles in Mario's adventure games, he is a recurring playable character in spinoffs such as the Mario Kart series and the various sports games. Although not playable in the original Super Smash Bros., Bowser has been included in the series since Super Smash Bros. Melee. He also made a cameo in the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph.
Bowser has been the main antagonist in almost every main-series Mario platformer, with the exceptions being Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Land, and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins which featured Wart, Tatanga and Wario as the antagonists, respectively. Bowser was also the main antagonist of the first, fourth and fifth Paper Mario games, and the fourth and fifth Mario & Luigi games (alongside his paper counterpart in Paper Jam). Though he wasn't the main threat in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Partners in Time, Bowser's body was possessed by the main antagonists (Cackletta and Elder Princess Shroob, respectively) and served as the final boss of both games (as Bowletta and Shrowser, respectively). However as the Mario & Luigi series progressed, Bowser grew more competent starting with Bowser's Inside Story in which he starred alongside the Bros. as a villain protagonist trying to stop Fawful from taking over his castle and his army. Despite his selfish motives, he saves the Mushroom Kingdom by destroying his malevolent clone Dark Bowser and is sent a cake by Peach as thanks. By Dream Team, he had learned from past villains using him for their own benefit, and turned the tables by doing exactly that with the bat king Antasma, much to the latter's surprise and dismay. Bowser then absorbs the energy of the Dream Stone, significantly increasing his power and forming Dreamy Bowser, the game's final boss. He teams up with his paper counterpart Paper Bowser in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and eventually the two fuse together to form the final boss, Shiny RoboBowser. However it's implied they were both intending to betray each other due to their large egos if Mario, Luigi and Paper Mario had not defeated them first.
Bowser is currently voiced by Kenny James who has been regularly providing his voice since Super Mario Galaxy. In Skylanders franchise, Bowser serves as one of the anti-heroic protagonists and an ally to the Skylanders Heroes similiar to Dr. Neo Cortex, a mad genius from Crash Bandicoot series.
The antagonist of the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film is inspired by Bowser, but much like the rest of the movie, takes many liberties from the source material to the point where he has very little in common with the video game character beyond being evil and reptilian. This version of the character, played by Dennis Hopper, is named President Koopa (with "Koopa" being the Japanese name of the video game Bowser) and is a corrupt politician in the city of Dinohattan. Oddly, the name "King Bowser" is used in the movie for the character of Princess Daisy's father, the rightful king of Dinohattan, who is comparable to the rarely-seen Mushroom King from the game series and is an enemy of President Koopa in the movie.