dark-side-of-bowser

So, Mario tore through the Koopa Kingdom, replacing them as the planetary super power in the process, and left Kamek’s plans as twisted and mangled as the corpses he walked over. The Koopa Kingdom is still around though, with Bowser at the helm no less, and everything looks to be going great on the surface of things. Bowser is obviously still high in spirit: Even though his kidnapping attempts on the princess and/or war crimes ultimately fail, he still keeps on keeping on (with the horrendous acts of villainy). It must be the initial success that keeps him driven; also likely where he makes his money, since he’s able to fund whole new kingdoms for just about every Mario game. Now that I think about it, how does he manage that…?
 
dark-side-of-bowser

Let’s get a few contextual facts out first before I launch into this one: 50 percent of all savants have autism, and 10 percent of people with autism have savant characteristics; (it’s true, I read about it on the internet!) There’re also five major categories that savant skills fall under, the two of which that are pertinent to this article being Mathematical and Spatial skills, one or both of which a savant might possess. Now that we’ve had a 2nd grade lesson in advanced psychology, ever wonder about all those castles that seemingly crop up out of no-where between games? Resources and man-power is one thing, but every castle is substantially different (if not in terms of originality, then at least in terms of configuration) and each one will generally offer some unique feature or design.
 
dark-side-of-bowser

He’s won the Mushroom Planet’s “Most Frighteningly Creative Death Traps” award eighteen years running.

Magic might explain the resource problem, since Kamek could probably just summon the castles out of thin air. Unless he has a list of “Bigby’s 50 Greatest Castle Summons” and its succeeding volumes, however, tucked away in his robes somewhere, he can’t be coming up with the designs himself. It seems like the only tactic he uses for fighting enemies is to empower his lesser soldiers by making them giant; the guy doesn’t exactly have an artist’s mind, is what I’m getting at. The castles themselves aren’t even functional as castles: Open, un-railed pits; cannons firing directly into walkways; stair ways that lead directly into giant chasms, jumpable only by those with super human strength. They’re obviously death traps, why poke the OH&S bear by making them look like places you’d house your troops?

The physical layout of the castle, while obviously intended to be dangerous and lethal, is less than refined for the task. The gaps are always just short enough (or have some alternative way for those who’re jump-challenged) for Mario to be able to successfully traverse; the traps and enemies all operate in predictable, telegraphed patterns. If you asked a child to create a castle that’s designed to kill a hero, it wouldn’t be unlike one of the castles that Bowser designs. Child-like, just as an adult with untreated autism might design (if also given the incredible talents of a savant mind). His demeanour, his half-baked “plans”, his general inability to successfully pull off a single plan, it all kind of rules out him being any kind of a genius but there has to be an explanation for everything else, and Occam’s Razor says he’s an autistic-savant.
 
dark-side-of-bowser

Bowser Jr., the only evidence that Bowser might’ve even once been laid, probably isn’t even that. Wait, hang on,… I haven’t brought that up yet. Things only get stranger from here on out.

None of that is even close to being his fault though, the guy has a mental disability and was born into a doomed royal line: he’s simply being used as a tool and puppet of a twisted, vengeful despot. Kamek gives Bowser a rough outline for a set of castles, based on the environment of the region they’re dicking around in at the time. He then summons them into reality using powerful, well-honed magic, and the forced labour from tens of thousands of soldiers and/or Koopa Kingdom civilians. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bowser’s enamoured infatuation with Peach was also manufactured by Kamek, using the thought of her like a carrot on a stick to convince the poor guy into attacking the Mushroom Kingdom again so he can “liberate” her.

Bowser only really receives attention from Kamek when the selfish wizard bastard needs something from him, and the rest of the time he gets used as a smoke screen for whatever it is that Kamek’s doing in the background. How does he do it?
 
dark-side-of-bowser

There’s a reason that Bowser was kept out of the line of fire in Super Mario Bros., not just by Kamek but by his family too: He is in no way mentally equipped to handle the consequences of the violent reality of war. The Bowser family, as little as we know about them, were at least decent enough to keep him off to the sidelines, away from whatever they were doing, prior to the events of SMB. War is a grisly, frequently tragic affair, with the moral and ethical weight of the decisions made by everyone involved somewhere between tremendous and soul crushing. How could you expect someone of such uniquely specific mental capacity, who might not even be capable of grasping the very concept of death, to give orders that could possibly have civilian casualties on both sides?
 
dark-side-of-bowser

Don’t worry, O Mighty Horned Leader! Tis’ only strawberry jam which leaks from yonder Goomba, which lay prone twixt the ground and that brute Mario’s boots!

The short answer is that you can’t, nor should they ever be expected to, which is why he’s perfect for Kamek’s figure head leader for the Koopa Kingdom. The unconscionable decisions are made by Kamek, since for him those are just called “decisions”, presenting them as though they’re edicts handed down by Bowser. Kamek gets Bowser to go along with everything by convincing him that he’s the hero, and that Mario is the horrifying villain who must be brought to justice. Handsome Jack would be proud. Not that it would take much convincing, since Mario’s actions back in his salad days were pretty questionable already, what with the repeated animal abuse and all, and now with the violent rampages.

When you also consider their encounters as children, what Kamek would have told Bowser about Mario throughout his life, and the weird, oppressive kind of love that Bowser has for Peach, he likely would have come to the same conclusions on his own anyway (albeit slowly and more simplified). He happily throws himself into the fray against Mario to fight for what he believes is a good cause, not realising that the reality is that there is no “good v.s. evil” in this scenario. Mario and Kamek, being the two major powers of the Mushroom Planet (thus the only two that count), are just different brands of unrelenting evil. The only thing that Bowser has flawlessly accomplished is serve as a great distraction for Kamek, and an irresistible lure for Mario.
 
dark-side-of-bowser

In 3D Mario World it only took Bowser doing something vaguely shady for Mario to lose his shit and give chase. That sort of response isn’t just programmed, it’s ingrained.

It’s not like there’s ever any real, earnest hope that Bowser could actually beat Mario: He’s not as powerful, not as ruthless, and, to top it off, Bowser has never actually murdered on screen. Who knows if he even has it in him to kill? The apparent fight between Mario and Bowser has been going on for literally decades and Bowser hasn’t once made a legitimate attempt to murder Mario. When a single person is solely responsible for the ruination of every one of your plans, wouldn’t you want to make “Kill them with extreme prejudice” a priority on your To Do list? Instead, he just does things that provokes Mario into running through redundantly elaborate death mazes and earns him, at best, a slap on the wrist. At the end of Sunshine, He’s hot-tubbing with his sort-of son! (Just bear with me on that last part.)

Because that’s exactly the kind of thing that would happen in the story-book, fairy-tale world that Bowser believes he lives in: Evil never triumphs, but also kind of lives forever and never really gets punished. Hurray! Of course, just because he’s kept in the dark, and is manipulated into doing evil things, doesn’t mean that he isn’t evil himself. Eventually, something’s going to twig, and that leads to him doing things like…
 
dark-side-of-bowser

Few games are as bad as “Mario is Missing!”, fewer still are as significant in their respective franchise timelines; there can (read: should) be only one game in which the main villain dies, and Bowsers was so awful in so many ways that it was almost entirely missed. In the game, Bowser has managed to get a hold of something called a “Passcode Operated Remote Transport and Larceny System” (PORTALS) which he’s using to invade a version of our own reality where he generally acts like an asshole… and also kidnaps Mario, I forgot that part. At least, that’s what’s happening on the face of things; the Mario games are lousy with time travel, Bowser was far from the only one doing it and, as far as he knew, he wasn’t the first to do it either.
 
dark-side-of-bowser

DUN DUN DUN.

There’s a game called “Mario’s Time Machine” that sees Mario steal a time machine (who’d have thought?), which Bowser claimed to have invented, called the “Timulator”. (Because apparently creativity declined, or there was too much cocaine, in the mid 90’s.) Odd, since we already know that Bowser had a time machine called PORTALS, which wasn’t attributed to anyone; if you haven’t figured it out, Bowser’s pinched the time machine from someone else first, and then re-branded it in attempt to pass it off as his own. It’s actually an impressive venture from Bowser, given the difficulties posed by his disabilities, especially when you consider that it’s all part of his own little crack-pot plan to save the Mushroom planet. Bowser didn’t just decide time-travel would be a lark, Bowser saw Mario use it first, thought he was up to no good and decided to stop whatever he was doing.

At least that’s the most obvious explanation for why Bowser would go looking for a time machine on his own anyway: Every time he crops up with a time machine, he’s attempting to attack Mario directly in some way. He’s smart enough to know that if he attempted to return to his own time with the machine in tow, Kamek would just take it away from him, so he can’t stop until he gets it right. Every instance of Bowser’s time travel in the games are just different parts of one long series of time-travel based attacks, all part of Bowser’s attempt to stop the villain he sees as Mario. He fails every time of course; Mario beats Bowser around like it’s his job, but Bowser keeps trying anyway, jumping to another part of the timeline and starting over.
 
dark-side-of-bowser

Dean Stockwell would not approve of that.

“Why is any of this important?”, I might hear you all ask. A better question would be “Did you know that there were three different releases for “Mario is Missing!”?”. Except from me, to you… like I’m asking you, so it’s from me.. like a setup… There were three different releases for the game: DOS, NES, and SNES, and all three had different endings for the game. Two endings see Mario and Luigi abandoning Bowser in a frozen tundra, while the third just sees Bowser die by being frozen and then shattered. What I’m getting at is that even the developers knew what the consequences were of Bowser’s abuse of time travel: his timeline collapses in on itself, spewing out variations of his own timeline which are born into existence and then burn up just as quickly in the space-time anomaly that Bowser has created. You didn’t think that tearing a hole in the fabric of reality, creating a bridge into a version of our own dimension (yours and mine), would be consequence free… did you?
 

“YEEEEEEAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHGHHHHHHHHHGHHHHGHHGHH!” – Bowser in the center of a singularity.

All I’m saying is that, sometimes, there are some strange things which happen in the Mario universe that no one seems to care about: the fact that ghosts exist, and no one questions their origin; even scarier ghostly beings, which hover just in the corner of your vision and no official explanation; or the un-dead just casually walking around, and everyone being okay with that. These things are just odd ripples in the reality of the Mario universe that seem out of tune with everything else, and maybe the epicenter of these unusual occurrences have been known about for a long time. It was started with good, if misguided, intentions by most pitiable character in the entire series, guilty only of being uncared for and following what he thought was right.

Damn Shigeru, what’s wrong with you?

Patrick Waring

Patrick Waring

Executive Editor at GameCloud
From Perth, Patrick has played video games from a young age and now has "opinions." When not fretting over whether using words like "fretting" is effeminate, he likes to write jokes about video games. Sometimes he goes outside, and other times he just sits at his PC, thinking way too hard about Nintendo games.

DISCLAIMER: This article is a work of satire, parody and fiction. At no point was it my intention to assert that the things written in this article are true (unless, of course, it turns out that they are true. In which case, suck it, I was totally right). I don’t own the characters, or the concepts, and I’m sure I’m probably not the first to come to many of these conclusions. However, in saying that, stealing my words without asking would be kind of a dick thing to do. To the original owners of the discussed characters: please don’t sue me, I am not a rich man.

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