When the subject of the Super Mario franchise comes up, very rarely is narrative or strong character development a part of the conversation. For starters, very few Mario games actually have a tangible story, and the ones that do try to keep it as minimalist as possible. Yet every so often this surface-level world of shallow yet pleasant fun gives us a glimpse into a potentially more serious Mushroom Kingdom. Even beloved characters like Luigi, Peach, and even Bowser get a shred of moral code and personality that in standard situations, we simply don’t get to see.
Perhaps the greatest catalyst for this subtle character development is the big bad himself. Bowser goes through quite a bit of changes over the course of various Mario games, but perhaps his most notable changes come from the Mario and Luigi RPG titles. In the first game we see a unique side of Bowser willing to put his differences with the brothers aside when it comes to a battle with the Bean Bean Kingdom’s own scourge, Cackletta. Over the course of these titles, he refers to Luigi as Green Stache, showing that up to this point, Bowser has been painfully unfamiliar with the first brother of gaming.
In Mario and Luigi Dream Team however, this finally changes. At the end of the game Bowser interrupts himself preparing to call Luigi Green Stache and addresses the hero by name, displaying a newfound respect for him, likely as a result of their giant duel in Bowser’s head. Bowser respects a good rival, and this isn’t the only time we hear about this trait of his.
In Mario Party 5, he reveals that his innermost dream is to fight an opponent worthy of his tactics and strength. In Super Paper Mario, he acknowledges O’Chunks as an equal, and tries to sacrifice himself for the strange lackey of Count Bleck.
While the main games don’t focus on the more proud and humorous side of Bowser, it’s nice to see some consistency throughout the side titles, where Bowser constantly tries to emphasize his strength and badness, only to be embarrassed most of the time by a couple of measly plumbers.
We’ve already been given a Year of Luigi, much to my joy. I’d love to see a Year of Bowser, so we can appreciate everything the coolest Koopa brings to the table.