If there’s any empire Bowser is truly the king of, it’s the competitive amiibo scene. His amiibo figure was first released in February 2015, and his corresponding Figure Player has been top-tier ever since. For a character as significant as Bowser, you’d better believe we have tons of resources available! These include a Super Smash Bros. 4 training guide, a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate training guide, and a ban announcement post (to be clear, Bowser is no longer universally banned, but this is being linked here for historical purposes).
Super Smash Bros. 4
Super Smash Bros. 4 started out as a heavily defensive metagame. Explosive perfect shield was everywhere, and the range of its blast radius increased on large fighters. Fate favored FPs with strong smash attacks and quick command grabs, and it just so happened that Bowser checked every single one of these boxes. In the early equipment metagame, it was important to avoid triggering an opponent’s Explosive perfect shield, and Bowser could completely bypass it using his side special, Flying Slam. Its high speed made it fairly risk-free, and it dealt tons of damage — especially when bolstered by Critical-hit capability. So, to summarize: Bowser was large, powerful, fast, and had high endurance. When you factor in the low rarity of his amiibo figure, it’s easy to see why the King of Koopas was considered top-tier in this game.
Eventually, trainers grew tired of watching their FP’s shields explode over and over. Before long, Critical-hit capability and Explosive perfect shield were banned from tournament play, forcing players to come up with brand-new strategies. Fortunately for our reptilian friend, the removal of these two bonus effects hardly affected his viability. Flying Slam was still as strong as ever, and for the remainder of the metagame’s lifespan Bowser was trained to rely on it. Without Explosive perfect shield, he was welcome to mix in his powerful forward smash as well — which dealt incredible amounts of damage thanks to the power of equipment boosts.
Perhaps Bowser’s only true weakness was the presence of counter moves. In this game, FPs were able to react impressively quickly to incoming smash attacks by activating their counters. Keep in mind that every tournament-ready FP was bolstered by equipment. In Bowser’s case, this meant that his forward smash could potentially deal over 50% in one hit. Now imagine that being reflected back at him with 1.3x power. Indeed, fighters like Marth and Lucina – who were the two best characters in the late metagame – were able to score one-hit KOs on Bowser with the help of their counters. Some trainers also had a bit of trouble raising Bowser; his AI was noted to be a bit too jumpy and had a chance of overusing its neutral and forward airs.
Overall, Bowser was an absolutely fantastic contender and accrued stellar tournament results. Players like Cloud, FarmingSim, Supernova, and Arklaine all won several competitions with the character and quickly proved his worth in the early metagame. In late Smash 4 tournaments, he was occasionally “cheated” out of important wins thanks to Marth and Lucina’s counter moves (and to a lesser extent, Roy and Shulk), but was still considered an excellent fighter throughout this game’s four-year competitive lifespan.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The date was June 2018. Smash 4 amiibo trainers were treated to their first look at Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and it only took a few minutes for each of these trainers to become afraid — because it looked like Bowser was being buffed. Seriously, he was already top-tier in the previous title! Unfortunately, these fears were absolutely justified — Super Smash Bros. Ultimate buffed the King of Koopas beyond belief, and he was at one point a contender for best character in the game. He was so strong, in fact, that he was completely banned from competitive tournaments for years.
Compared to his appearance in Smash 4, an optimal Bowser no longer needs to rely on Flying Slam. In fact, it’s possible that Ultimate’s developers noted the AI’s high usage rate of the move in the previous title because Bowser is overall much less likely to use it in this game — even when specifically trained to. Instead, Bowser makes use of his powerful tilts and smash attacks, which have been buffed with super armor that prevents him from flinching. Figure Players aren’t smart enough to back off when their opponent has super armor, so they’ll try and challenge Bowser’s moves only to be beaten out almost every time. This lets him rack on damage for free at times, and proved to be too powerful for early tournaments. In December 2019, Bowser was officially banned from competitive tourneys due to high tournament representation and lack of counterplay.
Things were quiet for the King of Koopas for the longest time, but in early 2021, trainers began to experiment with him again. They quickly learned that Bowser was no longer as strong as they once thought; he had gained tough matchups in the forms of Incineroar, Mii Gunner, Terry, and Byleth, and by this point FPs were trained to consistently perfect shield single-hit attacks (which Bowser has plenty of). As a result, he was quietly unbanned from tournaments and is now considered top-tier — but is no longer a contender for the best character in the game.
It should be noted that Bowser can be surprisingly frustrating to train. His AI is often entirely uncooperative; it is known to mercilessly spam its neutral aerial if left unchecked and is hard-coded to use a brief burst of Fire Breath at the ledge (which is considered subpar compared to his other options). Furthermore, if Bowser is standing on a platform above an opponent and perfect shields an attack, his AI will always perform Fire Breath immediately afterward, which gives his opponent a chance to strike back. He’s also been seen waiting too long to use his up special while recovering, which leads to a self-destruct at any percent.
Bowser has certainly fallen off in competitive tournaments, but still ranks among the ten best characters in the game. This is subject to change in the future, of course! We’ve got plenty of resources available for those of you wanting to train a Bowser amiibo of your own. Feel free to take a look, and remember to join our Discord community if you’d like to ask some questions!
Training Guide (SSB4) – Training Guide (SSBU) – Ban Announcement
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