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January 6, 2014

Why Is Bowser Overused?

Well, this Friday is a Top 12 of the best plots in the Mario Series. My personal opinion, as usual. I do feel like discussing the Mario series today as well, in preparation for the big post. As I was writing it, I realized one word, or rather, one name, came up very frequently: Bowser.

Let's face it, Bowser is one of the main characters in the Mario series, alongside Mario, Luigi and Peach. And of course, Bowser takes the role of major villain in the franchise. Okay, once in a while he does show more character depth than just being a brutal splice of two animals. But in other occasions, he's just the generic villain. Bowser is a fan favorite, he's in almost all the games (again, usually as a villain), playable in many others; he is important in the plot of every Mario RPG, as an ally, as a minor villain or as the main enemy. It really feels like he's the answer every time the team behind the Mario series can't think of a villain. As if he was really overused. Actually, I think he is. And there has to be some reasons for it. So, instead of asking whether or not he's overused (as the answer is obvious), let's ask instead:

Why is he overused?

First of all,the character made its debut with Peach and Toad in Super Mario Bros., in 1985 (get ready for a Year of Peach or a Year of Bowser soon). Back then, Bowser was much greened than now, and could both spew fire and toss hammers. And Peach was a brunette back then. The next time we see him, we find out that he's much smarter than we'd think at first glance, letting his Koopalings cause havoc and intervening only once we had beaten them all; he kidnaps Peach and sends a letter to Mario. Huh, smarter than he looks. He also shows another ability by trying to ground-pound Mario into the brick floor of his castle.

And ever since, he's been recurring villain. If we make the list of main Mario games in which Bowser was completely absent, we find out that... well... it's a very small list. The American version of SMB2, Super Mario Land and its sequel... Yeah, that's it. He is in all the RPGs, too. As for the sport games, he's still in the majority of them.

However, I think it's because Bowser is a very polyvalent character. Bowser is a knucklehead who won't give up, he's gonna capture Peach again, and again, and again, even when Peach, Mario and himself will be elders. (This mental image just made me laugh a LOT.) Very often, he's seen only as a brute who doesn't use his intelligence. In many  battles against him, it's like he stops thinking and just becomes that thoughtless powerhouse, thinking it to be the best way to destroy Mario. In these regards, he loves to turn giant for the final fight, to stomp Mario quickly and be done with it. However, other games prove that he's capable of building strategies. Even the games where he acts like the generic brute shows a part of strategy from him (even if usually it just means finding a way to kidnap Peach and keep her away from Mario long enough so that the final confrontation happens). However, the other games, especially the RPGs, show other aspects of his personality. Depending on the game, he either cares a lot about his minions or just doesn't. But no matter the case, he does care about his eight children. And also, no matter the version, he has a huge army at his command. He's a proud beast, too; steal something from him, and he'll try to get it back. Heck, if he's the first to steal something and it's taken back from him, he'll want it back again. Would explain at least partly that fascination for Peach... In many stories, we see something that gets taken from him, might it be his castle or something else, and he does everything to recover his stolen possession.. He's fierce, prone to anger, easy to put in a bad mood. But the most surprising part of all is that, despite all these attempts at turning the Mushroom World into Hell, deep down inside he's not THAT bad of a guy!

No, really. He enjoys sports just like all the other main characters of the series, which is why we see him karting, playing baseball, golf, hockey, basketball, dancing and so on. The major spin-off games to show him in a negative light is the Mario Party series. And even then, the one Mario Party game I've played the most has the heroes accessing an all-new type of Arcade game and inviting Bowser to join in! After he's learned his lesson, he stops being antagonistic and becomes just a strong sport player.

Why is he overused? Mario is a character that Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo deliberately left simple, so that he could adapt to every circumstance and be the hero in a multitude of situations. Bowser is the same, but also the opposite: He has a very complex personality, one which shares similarities with many other video game villains. That is, his personality is known completely, but in the end he has just the characteristics that can give him a role into any situation. He's the villain? Case closed. Another villain is around? He'll either help the heroes or end up another pawn in the villain's strategy. Or both. In sports? He menaces, he gets beaten, he joins in on the fun, end of story. He's a character adaptable to so many situations that using him just seems normal. Plus, he's the major villain of the Mario series, so why should we forget about him?

Although, I have to admit that it would be good, for once, to have a different villain in the platformers. Or at least see the return of other villains from the older games. Anybody remembers Tatanga? Or Wart? Maybe some of the RPG villains? C'mon, go re-read your Mario history! Lord Grodus would look badass in 3D! And Dimentio would be pretty cool too! Or maybe Cackletta, Princess Shroob, Fawful or Antasma? Why not? Seriously, let's get more villains are recurring characters in the sport games! If Daisy and many babies can, why not one of those old villains?

Think about that, Nintendo!