In Nintendo’s ever-increasing library of Mario games, players have been squaring off with Bowser for over three decades, yet fighting the ultimate villain of the Mushroom Kingdom never becomes stale. While it’s no longer a surprise that the majority of Super Mario titles contain Bowser as a final boss, Nintendo has been able to provide innovative final experiences each time, with different mechanic that make the fights feel unique and memorable. The following are the best Bowser fights over all Mario games, with these fights showing that they are able to stretch the capabilities of the hardware, while providing a fun and engaging fight that also ideally offers up some challenge.
10. Super Mario Bros (1985)
The original Super Mario Bros can certainly be the shortest boss fight in the series, and it hasn’t aged as well as the others, but its simplicity and mastery of platforming techniques must be applauded. The game’s preceding boss fights all build up to this final boss fight with the real Bowser. As you proceed through the other worlds, the bosses incorporate more and more of the final aspects that Bowser will have, essentially preparing the player for what’s to come. When players finally do manage to reach the end of World 8-4, they should be ready to encounter Bowser and his many tricks. Bowser will instantly breath fire and at a much faster rate than previously seen, and then will also throw hammers that players must successfully dodge. With no bricks to hide on top of, there’s nothing separating Bowser from Mario. Players must be decisive and commit to their route quickly. After much practice, reaching the ax on the right becomes a piece of cake, but players will always remember how difficult Bowser initially appeared to be.
Or, you know, you could hit him with a bunch of fireballs and call it a day. Fire Mario makes everything easier.
9. Super Mario Sunshine (2002)
Just like the majority of Super Mario Sunshine, the final boss fight is both oddly charming and incredibly strange. After barreling through a volcano, players receive the hilarious surprise of meeting Bowser and his son, sitting in a hot tub with Princess Peach. It turns out that the family was just trying to relax and had kidnapped Peach in order to enjoy a vacation. The game was also the first in the Mario series to provide full voice acting, and offered a hilarious dialogue exchange for this scene. The fight itself involves using the rocket nozzle to destroy the pillars of Bowser’s hot tub until the entire structure breaks, sending Bowser and Baby Bowser flying. The odd thing is that Super Mario Sunshine is actually an incredibly difficult game, but this final boss is fairly easy to defeat. While the cinematics and unique experiences keep the fight memorable, it could have offered a bit more of a challenge, especially considering how difficult some of the platforming required to reach the final level can be.
8. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995)
The epic final boss fight during Yoshi’s Island involves an encounter with the menacing Baby Bowser. However, the game continues its already established jovial tone with hilarious pleasantries exchanged between the parties. A cutscene leading into the fight has Kamek and Baby Bowser interacting, only for the cranky Bowser to pounce and stomp on Kamek, at which point he notices Yoshi for the first time and will try to take him captive. A two-part boss fight then ensues, where an epic shift in tone, both in color and music, will occur. The first part of the fight has players bouncing on the ground and causing a ripple effect that can smack down Bowser. After he has been hit enough times, the true final fight can begin. Players are taken to the top of Bowser’s castle with Bowser off in the distance ready to shoot projectiles. By shooting eggs into Bowser’s mouth off in the distance, players are able to halt his advances and defeat him. It is an amazing final boss fight that’s both entertaining and difficult to complete.
7. Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
The memorable final boss encounter in the groundbreaking Super Mario Galaxy takes place on various planets in space. When the fight begins, a clear throwback to Mario 64 is made when Bowser pounds the ground, and a set of three white rings approach Mario. These rings must be hopped over or Mario will get shocked and lose health. From there, Bowser begins to spin like a soccer ball and players flick the Wii remote to send him rocketing the other way. The pair will change planets a few times until Bowser is eventually defeated, resulting in Mario’s nemesis being shot far away and out of the galaxy. The unforgettable battle is as epic as the game itself, which successfully reinvigorated the Mario brand.
6. Super Mario Bros 3 (1990)
The climax of this timeless classic sees players face off with Bowser in a very unique way. Following Mario’s journey across lava pits and obstacles, players will engage face-to-face with Bowser., who will shoot fireballs at various angles, which Mario must dodge, and then will fly high in the air and pound the ground. What players must quickly realize is that the bricks they’re standing on will collapse when Bowser lands on them. Since players are unable to attack Bowser directly, in order to defeat him, they must make him pound away enough bricks to open a hole through which he can falll into the abyss. To make things more difficult, he stage is quite small and will quickly become claustrophobic as Bowser eliminates more bricks (a good strategy is to stand in as few places as possible so that Bowser will only lower the level of bricks in one section). Super Mario Bros 3 is one of the best games ever made, and the final boss fight is able to hold up very well as a unique face-off.
5. Super Mario 3D World (2013)
Super Mario 3D World, the first Mario title presented in HD, offers up an actual catfight for its final boss battle. Mario and any supporting characters must make use of the ingenious cat suit power-up in order to climb up a hazardous wall and avoid obstacles. The amazing aspect of the fight is that Bowser has also adopted the cat suit, and seems able to take full advantage of the power up as he pops out of walls and climbs the skyscraper himself. If they manage to reach the top of the tower, players are able to pound the “POW” block and send the feline Bowser orbiting away. This tremendously enjoyable fight is fun to tackle solo or with friends, and proves to be one of the most unique Bowser fights of all-time.
4. New Super Mario Bros Wii (2009)
The Wii’s two-dimensional offering of the Super Mario Bros series was a love letter to Mario fans across the globe. The game greatly improved the mechanics in the DS game that began the “New” Super Mario series, and proved to easily be the best 2D Mario game since the Super Nintendo. In this game, Mario’s final encounter with Bowser also offered an excellent throwback to the original Super Mario Bros game. The first stage of the fight has players scurrying underneath Bowser as he jumps up, and hitting a switch on the right in order to collapse a bridge, actions that are eerily similar to the ax that is used to defeat Bowser in Super Mario Bros. However, just when players think the fight is over, Kamek arrives and not only revives Bowser, but turns him into a gigantic beast! Players must then race to safety through a side-scrolling level as Bowser steadily approaches from the left, throwing fireballs that players must both dodge and allow to clear a path in front of them. The fight goes from being a nostalgic throwback to one of the most original final encounters ever.
3. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)
As perfect as Super Mario Galaxy appeared to be, Super Mario Galaxy 2 managed to improve upon its winning formula in every way. One such improvement is with the final boss battle. As we already mentioned, it was an epic battle during the original game, but it was perfected here. With a haunting score to set the atmosphere, Bowser’s attacks are kicked up a notch. Instead of Bowser rolling along a planet, Bowser’s fist is the planet, adding an incredible sense of scale to his attacks. The player is tasked with using motion controls to shoot a boulder at Bowser, until eventually cries out in rage. The battle then kicks into an even higher gear, where the pace increases tenfold and additional mechanics, such as fire, begin to appear. However, what makes this distinct boss fight one of the very best is the surprise second stage. After having seemingly defeated Bowser, players are lulled into a false sense of security when they are presented with a Grand Star, only for the second phase of the battle to commence! The final battle takes place in space, with both opposing forces flying through the galaxy. Here, Mario must once again kick boulders into Bowser in order to experience the real ending of what is an excellent game.
2. Super Mario World (1991)
Bowser’s flying clown car remains one of the most iconic memories from the Super Nintendo generation, whic his why we’re very glad it was included in Super Mario Maker. The fight itself is a little tricky, as players must first successfully avoid making contact with the flying object. Then, once Bowser has thrown his mecha-koopas out into the field, players must deactivate them and toss them in the air in order to hit Bowser from above. However, Bowser is constantly moving around, making it difficult to hit him with these flattened koopas. Bowser will then disappear off screen and players must dodge flaming debris. Eventually, Bowser begins bouncing on the ground while chasing after Mario, before ultimately falling to the plumber’s attacks. Mario’s later 3D adventures may have elevated the cinematic feeling of the final boss fights, but Super Mario World holds up as a tremendously memorable battle in its own right.
1. Super Mario 64 (1996)
Mario’s initial foray into a fully 3D environment was mind-blowing on various levels. Thanks to the complete freedom and the deep and creative worlds, the gameplay of the Mario series was forever changed. Successfully keeping pace with the gameplay evolution were the tremendous boss fights. Super Mario 64 features three total boss fights with Bowser, and just as Nintendo did with with the first Super Mario Bros, the bosses repeat some aspects of their attack patterns while steadily becoming more difficult. While the initial two times players face off with Bowser are relatively easy, the third and final fight kicks it up and a notch and provides a breathtaking presentation. The dark tones and opening pipe organ set the pace for this atmospheric fight, which involves grabbing Bowser’s tail and swinging him into floating mines. After a decade of running underneath Bowser or avoiding a flying Bowser, Super Mario 64 provided that liberating 3D experience of actively beating Mario’s nemesis, with the open space used perfectly, as players actually had to run around Bowser in order to catch his tail. Overall, Super Mario 64 changed the way we fought Bowser and triumphantly allowed the franchise to evolve.