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Bowser And The Koopalings: Mario's Greatest Foes
From Children To Underlings
For the first release of Super Mario Bros, and subsequently The Lost Levels every dungeon crawl for Mario ended the same- that flaming breath as Mario crouched closer before either jumping over King Koopa to hit the ax at the end of the platform to drop Koopa into the lava.
Level after level, Mario always fought the same end boss, in many different castles...something that made little sense in the original game, just as in Super Mario Bros 3, there were a variety of kings all in the Mushroom Kingdom that were turned into animals but still then Princess Toadstool, was writing to Mario on their behalf and sending power-ups?
OK, anyone well acquainted with the Super Mario Bros franchise is aware of things like name changes and disjointed versions of the same universe, but how about erasing the relationship between a single father and his seven children? Each child charged to be the end boss of another level of Super Mario Bros 3, with a castle to defend and when defeated, Mario took back the magic wand to turn back the kings that had been changed into animals.
King Koopa, who by then started to be referred to as Bowser as he is in the later games, and his children the Koopalings, reeked chaos in the Mushroom Kingdom during the events of Super Mario Bros 3, and had a brief resurgence in later games, but by then the only child of Bowser, King of the Koopas, was Bowser Jr- who was not even one of the Koopalings!
If you remember the Super Mario Bros television show, further insult to the relationship had downgraded the Koopalings to just minions of Bowser.
So what is the inside story? Does this support the fan theory that Super Mario Bros 3 was just a stage play and its events were just stories about previous events in the Mushroom Kingdom?
The Western release booklet stated the Koopalings were the children of Bowser, King Koopa, but by the time of the Mario cartoon and later games, they were downgraded to just being minions. Unlike the other types of Koopas, the turtle-like creatures in the games, the Koopa Kids were able to talk and were more anthropomorphic than your average Mario enemy, like King Koopa himself- with a strong resemblance to how they appeared in Super Mario Bros 3.
Super Mario Bros 3 Changed The Way We Play
Coming off the interesting mess that was what the Western world got as Super Mario Bros 2: Mario Madness, a re-skinned to be Mario themed game that was to be of the Doki Doki Panic series, which has changed in so many way since this game as well, Mario needed to reinvent itself terribly.
The first game had been a great success and was one of the first original mainstays on the Nintendo that has been with every console since. Super Mario Bros hadn't invented platforming games, but it was the most recognizable in the era. Then to get whatever passed for Super Mario Bros 2, ending with "It was all a dream," Mario fans weren't too happy. The only thing that I give 2, credit for was that it was a very different take on Mario and it did invent some notable characters that remain in games today.
Super Mario Bros 3, had to be a success, and it to this day is so beloved as an installment, 3 has been released time and time again for later consoles including Wii, 3DS, and is coming back around for The Switch.
3 not only had the traditional warp pipes, but the whistles as well- a nod to another of the favorites of the Nintendo franchise, The Legend of Zelda that continues to release games into The Switch era of Nintendo.
Game mechanics incorporated from 2, made players not only side scroll but have the ability to move upwards platforming to different tiers of the screen and with the invention of all the ways Mario could fly in the game, Mario could sail to the clouds in a Coin Heaven. Or simply using P Wing, avoid an entire level just flying high enough over it to avoid any action.
With new types of enemies and items, Mario needed a bigger adventure.
New maps gave players options rather than just scripted level progression and sometimes with the right items or by passing a smaller fortress a new path would open. This map spotted with Toad Houses, and other mini games, and enemies like Hammer Bros on the path, created the way Mario maps are now created and allow players to return to levels that were already beaten in games like New Super Mario Bros, and New Super Mario Bros 2.
Super Mario Bros 3, was the world for a new type of Mario and he needed new challenges rather than just keep running into Bowser at each castle.
Introducing the seven types of kingdoms found in the Mushroom Kingdom, including a Winter World, Desert, Water World, Grasslands, a Sky Area, A Lava-type world, and the Normal starting point Mario world; it only made sense that King Koopa, Bowser would have appointed his most trusted generals to guard over these areas...his seven Koopaling children.
Super Mario Bros 3 was a new type of Mario and it changed the way future games would map, include Toad Houses, and mini bosses along the way.
Koopalings Personalities And Skills
Kuppa Shichi Ninshū, or "Team of Seven Bowsers" in Japanese, was the original of The Koopalings- generals and children of King Koopa, Bowser.
While it is unclear if the tendency to rename characters in Mario is because of the Japanese to English translations, or if they are just reinvented over time as the character grows. While King Koopa, made sense in the first Mario game, it hardly made sense for Bowser to just remain the King when it came to later appearances in side franchises like Mario Kart, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros.
Where as a mother was never stated for Bowser Jr, the only now recognized child of Bowser, of the Koopalings of Super Mario Bros 3 fame, they are the only anthropomorphic species of Koopas, the turtle-type creatures in the Mario franchise. Where most Koopas are limited regular style, Dry Bones, or Hammer Bros types, even those that can fly or walk on two legs, lack the sophistication of the Koopalings wearing clothing and jewelry and with the ability to talk and taunt Mario.
Each named for a pop culture reference: The Koopa Kids each were the boss of a level castle in 3 and fought using their own abilities. All though like current Mario bosses can take three thumps to the head and burst into coins when they die.
From Super Mario Wiki descriptions of the characters:
Larry Koopa: is the youngest Koopaling who is often seen at the forefront of the Koopalings' antics, and he wields the orange magic wand. His main color representation is sky blue, although his shell was originally colored green, his hair was white in early sprites, and he lacked the small star on the side of his face. There is some confusion over the identity of Larry's namesake. He was also known as "Cheatsy" in the cartoons, alluding to the fact that he will try to win by any means, legitimate or otherwise. He seems to have an interest in sports, such as how he plays tennis with a fireball in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
Morton Koopa Jr: Morton Koopa Jr. is the only Koopaling to have a brown skin tone and is often depicted as the largest Koopaling, wielding the red magic wand. His main color representation is black, although his shell was colored green, his skin was yellow in Super Mario World, and he lacked the distinctive star on his face in his early in-game sprites. He is named after Morton Downey, Jr. He was also known as "Big Mouth" in the cartoons, due to his talkative nature, and often talks for long amounts of time, only to be stopped by one of his siblings. In other appearances, he seems to be rather grouchy, with brutal strength to match.
Wendy O Koopa: She is the only female Koopaling, and she wields the purple magic wand. Her main color representation is pink, although her shell was a shade of deep red in Super Mario World. She is named after Wendy O. Williams. She was also known as "Kootie Pie" in the cartoons, and was considered a spoiled brat with a quick temper, often going into a rage over little things.
Iggy Koopa: He is a hyperactive, demented, and unpredictable Koopaling who wields the yellow magic wand. His main choice of color is yellow-green, although his shell was colored blue in early sprites and his hair was white in Super Mario World; before New Super Mario Bros. Wii, his hair was also similar to Lemmy's. He is named after Iggy Pop. He was also known as "Hop" in the cartoons and is the twin brother of Hip (Lemmy); together, they are among the youngest members of the family.
Roy Koopa: His head and sunglasses are pink (as was his shell originally), likely in reference to "real men/tough guys wear pink", and he wields the black magic wand. His main color representation is purple, although his shell and head were colored lavender-purple in Super Mario World. He is named after Roy Orbison. He was also known as "Bully" in the cartoons, and is said to be a typical bully who likes beating up others for his own amusement. This is true in most appearances, but in certain Japanese materials, Roy instead speaks in a calm and collected manner, so he may have more of a laid-back personality and be less of a tough guy.
Lemmy Koopa: He is depicted as a small, fun-loving child who wields the green magic wand, and has been shown capable of being serious when the situation calls for it. In Super Mario World, his shell was colored yellow and his hair was white, although his shell was originally green and he lacked the ponytail. He is named after Lemmy Kilmister. He was also known as "Hip" in the cartoons and is the twin brother of Hop (Iggy); together, they are among the youngest members of the family. Lemmy is usually depicted as perhaps the least bright Koopaling, but is also the most genuinely innocent of his siblings.
Ludwig Von Koopa: He is the eldest who possesses a magnificent intelligence most likely superior to that of the other Koopalings (with the possible exception being Iggy), and wields the blue magic wand. His main color representation is deep blue, although he was originally depicted with a green shell in artwork (aqua-blue in Super Mario Bros. 3 and yellow in Super Mario World), as well as white hair in early sprites. He is named after composer Ludwig van Beethoven. He was also known as "Kooky" in the cartoons, and had more of a mad scientist persona. Like his namesake, he is said to be a composer, and is very much into culture, but is also sometimes suggested to be the cruelest of the Koopalings.
Super Mario Bros 3 staged the battle with each sibling to be very familiar to the player in which they were cornered between two invisible walls of the screen and Mario had to quickly dispatch the Koopaling by jumping on them until they broke apart into coins and Mario was able to get back the magic wand that transported him back to the king that had been changed and receive his new power-up in a letter from Princess Toadstool.
Wendy O was sassy as Lemmy was silly, and Roy was laid back. Each Koopaling was given their own personality based on who the character was modeled after and it again plays to the notion that if Super Mario Bros 3 wasn't a real game but a play about previous encounters in the Mushroom Kingdom, it could explain while Bowser's minions cast as his children were so exaggerated.
Bowser And Family On Karts, Smash, And Party
Mario and those enemies must not hate each other too much, or again if you subscribe to the "its all a play" theory that surrounds Super Mario Bros 3 from the time the opening curtains swing open and Mario disappears behind scenery in the background to an "offstage area."
In the downtown those actors that play Mario's enemies must have something to keep them occupied so when side games like Mario Kart, and Mario Party began to emerge, Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad needed some new "frenemies" to play against and began to invite out the Bowser clan, Boos, Chain Chomps, and other Koopas to take part of the games or be the judge or game boards or certain mini games.
The Koopalings were happy to oblige as playable characters for several side games series along with their "no longer father", Bowser and his often playable son, Bowser Jr.
Why the Koopalings were downgraded after the events of Super Mario 3, is anyone's guess.
Was Super Mario Bros 3 Just A Stage Play
Among Mario fans, there is always there theory that the game that introduced the world to The Koopalings was just a play.
What evidence is there for this conclusion?
When Mario first begins the game the opening sequence shows him running into frame from behind the red velvet curtains. Mario can slip behind scenery in certain areas and be brought to areas of warp whistles, some blocks in the game are seen to be hanging with what appears to be bolts or wires holding them up as other platforms run along wires or ropes.
After each battle with a Koopaling when Mario regains a wand, he drifts back to a part of the kingdom and changes back a king that has become an animal and is given a letter from Princess Toadstool before setting off on the next chapter of his quest.
All 3 needed was some outgoing credits and it was the perfect reenactment of what Mario had experienced in previous games.
3 reinvented how we played Mario games and why we still do all these years and consoles later.
The Koopas, family or not are some of the best bosses Mario has ever faced and some of the most dangerous and we owe Super Mario 3 for changing up the enemy types, power-ups, and general game play to get to a game like we have in Super Mario Odyssey.