Mario vs Bowser: Who Is the Reigning King of the Franchise?

Mario vs Bowser comparison image

Mario vs Bowser: Who Is the Reigning King of the Franchise?

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Mario vs Bowser: Side by Side Comparison

Mario vs Bowser comparison image

Before even beginning to compare the games that feature Mario or Bowser, it’s important to acknowledge that Mario already has an advantage. Before Super Mario Bros., which was Bowser’s first appearance, Mario had already starred in both Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. in the arcades. Additionally, the franchise is named after Mario and his brother Luigi, not Bowser. Still, the two characters have appeared in roughly every game that features the Mario name, spin-offs included. Even in scenarios where Bowser doesn’t make an appearance, he’s still referenced at some point during the proceedings. To date, the following are all the games that feature Mario, Bowser, or both:

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Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong Jr.
Mario Bros.
Wrecking Crew
Super Mario Bros.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Mario Land
Dr. Mario
Super Mario World
NES Tournament Open Golf
Super Scope 6
Mario Paint
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
Yoshi’s Cookie
Mario Is Missing!
Mario’s Time Machine
Super Mario All-Stars
Yoshi’s Safari
Mario & Wario
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
Mario’s Picross
Mario’s Tennis
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Super Mario 64
Donkey Kong Land 2
Picross 2
Mario Kart 64
Yoshi’s Story
Mario Party
Super Smash Bros.
Mario Golf
Donkey Kong 64
Mario Party 2
Mario Tennis
Paper Mario
Mario Party 3
Dr. Mario 64
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Luigi’s Mansion
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Animal Crossing
Super Mario Sunshine
Mario Party 4
Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
Mario Kart: Double Dash
Mario Party 5
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Mario vs. Donkey Kong
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Mario Power Tennis
Mario Party 6
Mario Superstar Baseball
Mario Tennis: Power Tour
Mario Party 7
Mario Kart DS
Super Mario Strikers
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
New Super Mario Bros.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3
Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis
Super Paper Mario
Mario Strikers Charged
Mario Party 8
Super Mario Galaxy
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
Mario Party DS
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Mario Kart Wii
Mario Super Sluggers
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!
Super Mario 3D Land
Mario Kart 7
Mario Party 9
Mario Tennis Open
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
New Super Mario Bros. U
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
Super Mario 3D World
Mario Golf: World Tour
Mario Kart 8
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/WiiU
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars
Mario Party 10
Super Mario Maker
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
Paper Mario: Color Splash
Mario Party: Star Rush
Mario + Rabbids: Kindom Battle
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions
Super Mario Odyssey
Mario Tennis Aces
Super Mario Party
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
Super Mario Maker 2
Paper Mario: The Origami King
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Mario Golf: Super Rush
Mario Party Superstars
Mario Strikers: Battle League
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Super Mario RPG

Mario vs Bowser: 5 Must-Know Facts

Here are some of the must-know facts to consider when comparing Mario and Bowser:

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  • As the name of the franchise, every single game with “Mario” in the title features the iconic Nintendo mascot. While Bowser is also in many of these games, he is missing from several.
  • Bowser has been Mario’s nemesis in every single mainline Mario game except one: Super Mario Bros. 2. Because the ending reveals the game to take place inside of a dream, this accounts for the different antagonist. Additionally, the game is different in the West than it is in the East, thanks to the notorious difficulty of the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2.
  • Mario’s appearances in Nintendo titles predates Bowser’s by about 5 years.
  • Several of the Mario sports titles do not include Bowser, instead focusing on the core heroes from the Mario Bros. universe.
  • It has not been confirmed yet whether Bowser appears in the recently announced Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but Mario is obviously front and center in the game’s promotional materials.

Mario vs Bowser: Mostly Enemies, Sometimes Friends

Although Mario and Bowser’s relationship has traditionally been one of enemies, there are some rare occasions where the two team up. Most notably, the RPG spin-offs of the Mario franchise often feature Bowser as a supporting party member with Mario. Thank to the fact that these games take place outside the main storyline for the Mario games, developers have some freedom in how they implement Bowser as a character. The Super Mario Bros. Movie version of Bowser (voiced by Jack Black) was extrememly popular, meaning fans may be in store for more of these unexpected team-ups in the future.

Mario vs Bowser: Franchise Namesake and Iconic Mascot

Not only is Mario the namesake of the Mario franchise, he is undeniably the mascot of Nintendo. Nintendo has tried several times to switch up their mascot, each time failing to produce a character as iconic and recognizable as Mario. While many of these attempted mascots would go on to star in memorable and iconic franchises of their own, Bowser is stuck playing second fiddle to Mario. He has never had his own mainline game or spin-off, and is usually only featured as a side character or a surprise companion in games featuring the Mario moniker. In addition to wanting to claim the Mushroom Kingdom for himself, it’s no wonder that Bowser despises Mario with having to always play second fiddle.

Bottom Line

In terms of who the reigning king of the Mario franchise is, the crown undeniably has to go to the namesake and main character Mario. Not only does Mario feature in every single game bearing his name or the name of one of his companions, his appearance is synonymous with the Nintendo brand. The iconic Italian plumber has been Nintendo’s mascot for almost 40 years, and Bowser (despite his recent surge in popularity) can’t even begin to compare. That said, Bowser is one of the most iconic (if not the most iconic) villain in gaming history and liklely has more game appearances than any other gaming big bad. While a noteworthy and classic character in his own right, Bowser simply isn’t the face of an entire industry juggernaut.

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