Bowser's Concept Evolution

Last Updated: July 5th, 2007

This section describes Bowser's character design and concept and how it has evolved over the years through his character art and renders. For a description of Bowser's appearances in Mario games over the years, see the section on Bowser Depictions

Bowser MP8 Although Bowser's character artwork and renders have evolved over the years, his basic design concept has stayed the same. As originally sketched out by Shigeru Miyamoto, Bowser is a large, bipedal, turtle-like creature with a fiery red mane and two sharp horns on his head. He has a shell on his back with thirteen sharp spikes, as well as two sharp spikes on the end of his tail. He also wears dark-grey spiked metal cuffs around his biceps, wrists, and neck. This section will detail Bowser's major concept art and computer renders.

Just like the other Mario characters, Bowser often has concept artwork for the games he appears in that Nintendo releases around the same time as the game's launch. Nintendo often uses these concept drawings for advertisements as well as in the instruction manuals for the games. The Mario games that Bowser is depicted in try as hard as possible to make him look like the concept artwork he was given. In the original Super Mario Bros. instruction manual, Bowser was drawn as the same vaguely detailed sprite the game depicted him as. It wasn't until Bowser's next appearance in Super Mario Bros. 3 that he given a proper character drawing in an instruction manual. It would be the first character concept drawing of Bowser.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

This character drawing of Bowser first appeared at the beginning of the instruction manual to Super Mario Bros. 3. The manual's content, aside from it's front and back, were black and white. The drawing of Bowser appeared under the heading "Bowser is back!!!", along with drawings of his seven Koopa Kids beside him. The drawing shows Bowser, eyes closed, mouth open, and arms outstretched, as he steps forward. The artwork clearly shows Bowser's studded metal cuffs on his biceps and wrists, and well as a few studs showing through from his collar. It also shows that the only parts of Bowser that are green are the top of his head and his shell; the rest of his body is covered in orange scales. His rippled stomach is also shown, and has a light yellow color. Bowser's orange hair and bushy eyebrows are also depicted, which were also depicted for the first time in Super Mario Bros 3.
Bowser SMB3

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

At the end of the instruction manual to Super Mario World, another art depiction of Bowser is shown; along with his seven Koopa kids. Bowser is shown looking very tough with his huge arms crossed and with an angry look on his face. His studded metal cuffs on his biceps and wrists are shown again. Bowser appears slightly taller in this portrayal, and the size of his head is not as large as the one prior. Bowser's in game depiction in Super Mario World compared to his concept artwork is perhaps the least accurate thus far. In the game, Bowser had green scales all over his body instead of his original orange scales. A very interesting note is that Bowser's tail appears green in his drawing for Super Mario World. This must have originally been overlooked by the artist, as Bowser's tail was recolored orange in the remake for Super Mario World released for the Game Boy Advance. In this game, Bowser's in game depiction was also recolored to have orange scales. Bowser SMW

For Super Mario Kart, the first game Bowser was a playable character in, Bowser had a drawing for him in the profile section of the instruction manual where it described all of the racers and their weight class. Bowser was listed under "The Showdown", the heavyweight class with the highest top speed. The drawing shows him clonked on the head by a red shell, ouch! Along with Bowser's studded metal cuffs on his arms shown again, Bowser's studded metal cuff around his neck is clearly visible, and looks similar to a collar. Bowser SMK

To go with the pseudo-3D environment of Super Mario RPG, Bowser was computer rendered for his character art in Super Mario RPG. This would be the first 3D render of Bowser. The graphics of the render had a style that involved creating the character out of many other basic shapes. A lot of spheres were used giving Bowser a sort of blow-up balloon-like look. Bowser SMRPG

Nintendo 64 (N64)

The launch of the Nintendo 64 started a new era for how Bowser was rendered. Bowser was computer rendered in full 3D with very realistic and detailed textures. Lighting and shadows made the image look even more lifelike, as Bowser's body would cast shadows on the other side of the light source. These N64 renders of Bowser remain some of the most realistic looking to date; Bowser looks believably life-like and realistic. The three dimensions allow the viewer to see Bowser's depth, and more easily visualize what his approximate weight would be. Super Mario 64 is considered one of the greatest games of all time, and revolutionary to the 3D era of video gaming. Super Mario 64's 3D renders supported the notion that gaming had truely entered the 3D era, and was here to stay. Bowser is shown in a striking pose with his claws extended and his mouth open, baring his dagger-sharp teeth. His scales are vivid orange, and his light yellow turtle stomach appears rippled. Many other renders very similar to this Super Mario 64 Bowser look were released for the game. Bowser SM64

In the next iteration of the Mario Kart series, Mario Kart 64, Bowser was rendered again with computer graphics. With his foot on the gas and a determined look on his face, Bowser shows that he is no push-around on the track. Bowser is once again a member of the heavyweights class of racers; with the highest top speed, but the slowest acceleration. Also Bowser's weight would cause him to sink on off-road terrain like mud, causing him to slow down considerably. Bowser MK64

Bowser had another rendition similar to the Super Mario 64 style for the instruction manual for Mario Party. He is slouching slightly with his head in front of his body giving him the appearance of being much shorter and fatter than usual. His almost lanky looking arms are outstretched to the sides as if he was reaching in both directions. Bowser MP

Bowser was featured in Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64, the first Mario sports spinoff game. Bowser was shown at the end of the instruction manual gripping a golf club tightly with his right hand while pointing with his left. In the game, Bowser has the farthest drive but his shot trajectory is a nasty hook. The huge Bowser grips and swings the club with only one arm in the game crushing the ball with his Koopa strength. Bowser Golf

Bowser was also featured in Mario Tennis for the N64. Bowser has the fastest serve and strongest return in the game, but he is slow on his feet. His render at the end of the instruction manual has him gripping a spiked tennis racquet tightly with his right hand, as he points to his left. He appears to be roaring as his head is turned to the right with his mouth open. Bowser Tennis

The only time Bowser was not given a 3D computer render for an N64 game was in Paper Mario, where he was hand drawn to fit the 2D paper-flat characters that were depicted in the game. The Bowser depicted in the game and the character drawing done for Bowser are nearly identical in comparison, as the cartoony hand-drawn look is used as an art style in the game. Bowser appears cutesy, despite being the bad guy, and is shown clutching the Star Rod he stole in his left hand with a happy look on his face. Paper Bowser

Game Boy Advance (GBA)

Bowser was given another high detail render for Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the Game Boy Advance. Bowser shows off his might, fist-pumping with his right hand with one foot off the Kart on the ground. Bowser once again proves why he is not to be messed with. Bowser is once again in the heavyweight class, no surprise there. He bounces other racers off the track with his huge weight. Bowser Circuit

For Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Bowser's character art was once again an illustration. In the drawing, Bowser is huge and buffed up. Throughout the game Bowser had a hulking huge look as he hunched over, and the character art perhaps went along with that. Bowser has clenched fists and huge thick arms in the picture as he hunches over flexing. Buff Bowser

Artwork was done for Bowser as well in Mario Pinball Land. Bowser is shown driving himself down in the crouching position to stomp on a bunch of bricks, breaking them apart. Bowser is shown fist-pumping with both arms as he comes down onto the pile. Bowser Crush

Bowser was drawn once more for the Game Boy Advance version of Mario Party. Bowser is shown sitting on his throne pointing at the viewer with a displeased look on his face. Bowser Throne

Bowser had a character illustration for Yoshi's Topsy Turvy where he was shown roaring, arms above his head with his claws curved, and basically trying as hard as possible to look scary. Scary Bowser

Nintendo GameCube (GCN)

The 3D computer render for Bowser in Super Smash Brothers Melee for the GameCube was the most realistic rendition of him to date (before Bowser's realistic look was updated even further in Super Smash Brothers Brawl). It was also a slight departure from his original concept, but it still proved desirable. Bowser was given a very scaly, reptilian look, and looked very menacing. This more "mature" version of Bowser could be due to the fact that Super Smash Brothers Melee was given a teen rating, and Nintendo felt more comfortable making a more realistic and scarier looking Bowser. The major change of this version of Bowser is his normally scale-covered orange body now has golden-brown scales, making him look closer to a Godzilla-like creature. His toes are noticeably more spread apart and his toe claws even sharper; even though Bowser doesn't have any significant kicking moves in his moveset. Super Smash Brothers Melee was the first game Bowser appeared in on the GameCube, and the power of the system lessened the gap when comparing the in game Bowser model to his high detail render. The graphics of SSBM are incredible, and Bowser has arguably the best looking character model in the game. In the render, Bowser is shown crouching down, claws outstretched, and giving an intimidating glare at the viewer. Bowser SSBM

Bowser's next appearance in a GameCube title would be in Super Mario Sunshine, where Bowser's renditions would make another revision. While still keeping the high detail 3D computer graphics, Bowser's renders appear more cartoony, and more like his character model in the GameCube games. Bowser appears much less threatening and menancing than he did previously. Super Mario Sunshine was a very family oriented game with an E rating, and perhaps that reason alone was the reason for Bowser's look to be more nice-guy. This new alteration or "GameCube look" has remained with Bowser to date. He retains his traditional orange scales, although they are shown to be a lighter orange. All of his other features stay consistent with his original design, such as the red fiery hair and light-yellow rippled stomach. It can be assumed that this cartoony look will remain with Bowser for most Mario games, but his more realistic, reptilian version may be used for the Super Smash Brothers franchise. Bowser is shown in this render with his arms outstretched, almost as if wanting a high-five, with a happy look on his face. Bowser GC

Bowser was given a render for Mario Party 4, the first Mario Party series game on the GameCube. Retaining his cartoony GameCube look for a render, Bowser is shown sitting on his thrown observing something with his head resting against a fist and his foot crossed over to rest on his thigh. In the game, there were various Bowser challenges where he would sit on the same throne and slump over into this position during periods of boredom. Bowser MP4

Bowser's stats as a power golfer are shown at the back of the Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour instruction manual. Beside it is a slightly more vague render of Bowser as he has just finished his one handed follow-through. Beside Bowser's picture there is some text, which states a bragging Bowser who finds Golf boring because of how good he is. Bowser Golf

A render was given for Bowser in Mario Power Tennis as well. It shows him jumping or diving forward with his spiked tennis racquet with his right arm fully extended. Bowser Tennis

Bowser was also shown riding in the Bowser Kart with his son Bowser Jr. in a render for Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Bowser is standing on the back of the kart ready to hurl a Bob-omb. Bowser is once again in the heavyweight division and his special item is a Bowser-sized green shell that can be thrown forwards or backwards knocking out a whole string of racers if they fall in it's path. Bowser MKDD

Bowser was hand drawn in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, once again to support the paper-flat 2D characters in the game. Because of the art style of the game, Bowser looks identical both in game, and in his character artwork. In fact, the very same pose is often used in the game as Bowser is speaking. Although still retaining a slight cutesy look being a cartoon drawing, Bowser looks slighlty more serious than he did in the original Paper Mario. Paper Bowser

Bowser was 3D rendered for Mario Superstar Baseball, where he is shown at the ending of his one handed follow-through swing of the baseball bat. His thick, black spiked bat and collosal size allow him to crush homeruns easily! Bowser Baseball

Bowser, in a well detailed 3D computer render, shows off his impressive breakdancing skills in his render for Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix. Supporting all of his weight on his left hand, Bowser proves that he's got quite some moves! Who'd have thought a big slow turtle could be so athletic? Bowser Break Dance

For Mario Party 7, Bowser's concept render has him with his arms outstretched as he looks over the top of his snout. The angle of the picture makes it hard to see Bowser's eyes, but some impressive shadow casting is done over his body. Bowser in this stance looks almost as wide as he is tall. Bowser NSMB

Nintendo DS (NDS)

Bowser was rendered once again in computer graphics for Mario Kart DS. This is perhaps one of the sharpest and most detailed render of Bowser's "GameCube Look". Bowser is shown flexing with a proud look on his face as he sits backwards on his kart, with one foot propped up on the rear right wheel. Bowser displays his strength and power which he uses to bump other racers around the track. Bowser has the highest top speed but the lowest acceleration and his tires sink the most when driving offroad due to his great weight. Bowser Flex MKDS

Bowser had character artwork done for him in Mario Hoops 3-on-3. He is shown crouching low to the ground dribbling a basketball in his left hand with a playful grin on his face. Bowser is a power dunker in the game and must be unlocked before he can be played. Bowser Dribble Hoops

Nintendo Wii (Wii)

For Mario Party 8 for Wii, Bowser has a high resolution and high detail 3D computer render. He looks intimidating leaning forward with a fierce look on his face. Although the cartoony GameCube look is assumed again for Bowser, his render looks very similar to how he would look in the games. Nintendo systems are getting powerful enough so that Bowser's in game depictions as a 3D model look very close to the detailed 3D computer renders done for him as concept art. Bowser MP8

Bowser was hand drawn again for his character art in Super Paper Mario. Bowser is once again very similar to the paper-flat sprite used in the game. Bowser's character art for Super Paper Mario looks almost identical to his Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door character art. The only difference seems to be in Bowser's posture, as he is standing more straight and upright instead of slouched and bent over at the hips. The art style the game uses once again gives Bowser a cute but serious look. Bowser SPM

In Mario Strikers Charged, Bowser is given the fierce sketchbook-like look in his character drawing, similar to the other character's unique looking character drawings in the series. Bowser ferocity and hulking power are best exemplified in the drawing, as he is shown dribbling the ball with embers burning in his mouth as he roars. A bold glow is around him as well, along with a lot of neat background motion streaks. Just like in the game itself, Bowser is shown wearing huge metal claw extenders on each hand. Bowser MSC

This 3D computer render of Bowser for Super Smash Brothers Brawl is easily the most realistic rendition of him to date. Bowser appears even scarier and more realistc than his Melee look. Bowser's scales are orange-brown, instead of golden-brown like in Melee. At full resolution, each individual scale can clearly be seen. His hair is also shorter, and his claws are much more detailed. Another interesting detail is that Bowser appears older. At full resolution, wrinkles can be seen on and around Bowser's snout, and his snout appears much more pale. This kind of gives him the old scary dinosaur look, and perhaps makes him look more intimidating. The most bizarre change by far is Bowser's mouth, which has visible swollen looking gums. This gives Bowser a sort of a freak or psycho look, kinda similarily to Giga Bowser's appearance. Bowser's in game model looks the closest to his high detail 3D render than perhaps any other game to date supported by the increased power of the Nintendo Wii. In the render, Bowser has a very intimidating crouching pose, with claws outstretched, and a very mean and threatening look on his face. Bowser SSBB