Mario has appeared in a ridiculous number of games, doubtless more than any other video game character. In many of these titles, mostly his own, he's taken on some pretty hefty baddies and lived to tell the tale. Most of them are fun to fight; a few, though, are well above average. This article explores ten of the best of the best boss battles in Super Mario Bros. games, and what makes them so epic.
Ludwig - New Super Mario Bros. U
It would be remiss of me not to include a boss battle from the newest Mario title on Nintendo's Wii U, and though a lot of the Koopaling fights in New Super Mario Bros. U were waaaaay too simple Ludwig's struck a nice balance of fast fingers and strategy. The eldest Koopaling uses his wand to split himself into three, hovering above the stage and blasting fireballs and Mario before coming down for a three-pronged attack. It's a tense struggle until you figure out the trick to identifying the real Ludwig, and far more fun than the average New Super Mario Bros. boss fight.
King Boo - Luigi's Mansion
A lot of Luigi's Mansion feels less like a Mario game and more hide-and-seek - which is fine, as the game was a lot of fun. Reach King Boo at the very end, however, and the experience instantly becomes vintage Mario. Taking refuge in a massive mechanical Bowser, King Boo tries his level best to crush Luigi in a weird dreamscape setting. The battle is an excellent blend of old and new, as you not only need to best Bowser, but capture King Boo like any other ghost - and that's tough to do when Bowser's floating head is trying to fry Luigi's butt. Totally surreal, and a ton of fun.
Wario - Super Mario Land 2
Mario's fought his share of multi-stage boss battles before, but Wario in this Game boy classic may have been the first to use the tactic, and he uses it well. Moving from room to room in his pilfered castle, Wario uses Mario's own powers against him, changing form each time he reaches a new room. It's a nice inversion of the usual Mario mechanics, and though Wario is a little easy by modern tastes, it was a great idea back in the day.
Smithy - Super Mario RPG
This spot was a close call between the head of the Smithy Gang and the Elder Princess Shroob from Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, but Smithy won out thanks to the epic feel of his fight. In Smithy you have a weird, semi-crazed invader, one obsessed with a single, overriding goal: the construction of weapons. Then he changes and becomes a creature that's almost disturbing by Mario standards, and suddenly Mario and the gang have the struggle of their lives on their hands. Smithy makes you work for every inch of your victory, providing a challenge to even experienced Mario RPG players.
Gobblegut - Super Mario Galaxy 2
This list could easily be composed of nothing other than Super Mario Galaxy bosses, but of the lot Gobblegut takes the top prize. A massive dragon with a voracious appetite and a quickly-escalating temper, Gobblegut wants desperately to eat Mario. He rips through the planet you're on more thoroughly than any other boss, getting swifter and more dangerous with each smack. A big part of Gobblegut's appeal is pure aesthetic, as he's a giant, swirling, dopey-looking dragon, and the boss battle itself is more than enough fun to support the graphics.
General Guy - Paper Mario
Every now and then Mario runs across one of Bowser's sub-commanders, and none of them are quite as entertaining as General Guy. The leader of the normally hush-hush Shy Guys, General Guy is talkative, bombastic and demanding. He changes tactics constantly throughout the battle, adding in his own little commentary every time something goes wrong for him. The boss battle itself is fun, though it's Guy's personality that earns it a spot on this top ten. He really needs to be in more Mario games.
Mecha Bowser - Super Mario Sunshine
Mario games often manage to cross into genres beyond mere platforming, and the battle against Mecha Bowser in Super Mario Sunshine did that in the best ways possible. Riding around on a roller coaster, you must launch missiles at a massive Bowser simulacrum while fending off Bullet Bills that are constantly on your tail. It's a fantastic first-person fiasco, one that overshadows even the final battle against Bowser at the end of the game - and it foreshadows a rather neat character reveal which has since proven influential on Mario games as a whole.
Dark Fawful - Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Fawful is one of the best Mario villains of all time, bar none, and it would be a shame if he went down too easily. Fortunately, his starring role in Bowser's Inside Tale provided the mouthy madman with an unpredictable and wild fight against Bowser that perfectly matches his personality. Fawful is a crazy nut, and every one of his moves proves as much. Mario and Luigi also get in on the fun, fighting off Fawful's weird vacuum inside Bowser's stomach, though Fawful himself is the best part of this battle.
Wart - Super Mario Bros. 2
It's not an exciting battle by modern standards, but compared to the Bowser bouts of Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 Wart is downright frightening. The mighty toad of Subcon rules from an opulent platform, firing bubbles at his enemies while his stolen Nightmare Machine spews vegetables into the air (presumably because they're Wart's worst nightmare). Wart requires precision throws to beat, and his bubbles are both fast and merciless. He's also significantly larger than any other boss you've seen in a Mario game, setting a strong standard for enemies to come. This felt like a final boss battle, and provided a satisfying conclusion to a great game.
Baby Bowser - Yoshi's Island
... and then Baby Bowser came along, and made Wart look like a chump.
If there's one thing most Mario games fail to do, it's instil the player with a sense of personal danger. If Mario gets hit, he falls off the platform and starts over. Big deal. The same happens when you first encounter Baby Bowser - he's a spoiled brat who can crush your head. Once Kamek sprinkles some of his magic around, though, Bowser changes into an absolutely enormous, Godzilla-like version of himself, one that will happily wreck his own castle to tromp on Yoshi. As Bowser's massive form stampedes towards your little platform you can't help but feel a little panicked at the prospect of an oversized toddler squashing the life out of your dinosaur buddy.