Hello and welcome to the first of the Setting The Stage (STS) articles. In these articles, I will take a look at some of gaming’s greatest locations to include in Super Smash Bros, analyze how they could be integrated into Smash, and conjure up a possible music list that the stage could come with. For our first stage, we'll be taking a look at a location that surprisingly hasn't gotten into Smash yet (sort of – we'll get to that). It's time to enter Bowser's Castle!
Mario and Luigi's journey was long and perilous, and the brothers are looking forward to a relaxing aftermath, filled with baked goods and kart riding. But before the pair can celebrate, one final obstacle lies in their path…
History of the Stage
History of the Stage
The one thing Super Mario Bros. holds highest above the crowd of competitors would be – love it or hate it – the consistency. The beloved Jumpman has never strayed too far from the beaten path, at least in terms of his two-dimensional outings. And one of the things that remains the same with just about each new entry is the final level(s) of the adventure: Bowser’s Castle.
The structure is tall and wide, made of stone, decorated with heavy use of grey and green. It is topped with some large Bowser head or shell, and possesses a giant set of double doors (or a Bowser head) through which Mario and co. are allowed entry. Inside Bowser’s Castle, you will find spikes, lava pits, firebars, moving platforms, possibly some Koopa Kids, and the Koopa King himself, along with many other obstacles to watch out for on your way to rescue Princess Peach.
Despite its many appearances in the Super Mario franchise, Bowser’s Castle still has no stage in Smash. Well, one of them sort of involves Bowser’s Castle but doesn’t do it much justice.
In Super Smash Bros.
In Super Smash Bros.
In the Paper Mario stage from Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, there are 3 different layouts that change over time, one of them being Bowser’s Sky Castle. In terms of layout, there is a Bowser head statue in the middle that can spin or bite down on opponents, as well as two floating platforms on either side of the statue. So job done right? I can put down this project and start working on my next Setting The Stage article? Not quite. Mainly because Bowser’s Sky Castle only appears for a short time before the layout changes again. Most Smashers would likely prefer to play on the sizable structure for the entire duration of a match, not to mention that the stage is very small in scale and the mouth presents a very awkward layout that isn’t fun to play on. It’s also made of papercraft, which obviously is not very accurate to how Bowser’s Castle appears throughout the series. As one of the most memorable final levels in gaming, Bowser's Castle deserves a spot on the Smash Bros stage list that does it justice. So without further ado, let's get into the layout.
While the below graphic mainly uses SMB1 sprites for the layout, the final stage will not be a "retro" stage (more details in the next section).
The main stage is a bridge which cannot be passed through, however the floating orange platform above it - which moves from left to right across the bridge - can be passed through. The platform moves very slowly, giving players an ample window to jump onto it. On both sides of the bridge are walkoffs, with the right side being on a more elevated platform made of bricks. There is also lava below the bridge, though with no way to access it. This is all you will see on the Hazards Off variant of the stage.
With hazards on, there's a somewhat high ceiling (which is not in the graphic due to the sizing limitations of my photo editing software, but trust me, it is there). There are also Podoboos that periodically jump out from the lava - the location they jump out from is determined by RNG, although they will shoot up towards a player if they stand still for more than a few seconds. They fly up to the height of a little above the floating platform, then fall back down. A max of two can be onstage at the same time.
Then there's the axe on the brick terrain to the right. If 20% is dealt to it, the axe will tilt over and chop the bridge, which causes the bridge to collapse from right to left. The axe also deals moderate damage and high knockback to any fighters unfortunate enough to be standing near it.
The lava that can now be interacted with deals 14% of damage, dishes out a hefty amount of knockback, and will KO opponents who have 100% or more damage. The bridge respawns in a similar amount of time to how the Bridge of Eldin does, though in this case a new bridge simply shoots out from the right side of the stage to take the place of the former bridge. The bridge can deal moderate damage and knockback during this process. The axe respawns 10 seconds after the bridge does, and then the cycle can be repeated. As a side note, if the game is played on time mode, lives lost in lava give points to whomever attacked the axe.
By now you may be wondering: if the right side of the stage is where the axe is, why not just stay there and rack up your score? Well that's where the risk/reward factor comes in, thanks to the dangerously close walk-off. Same factor goes for the platform; yes there is a lower chance of death thanks to the ceiling above you and the platform beneath you, but in Smash it's generally not a good thing to hang out on platforms as it makes you extremely vulnerable to attacks from below. And while the ceiling might seem annoying (especially if your character has a strong up smash), it is meant to encourage kills from the sides or lava.
Bowser's Castle is a stage that is meant to be played casually, however it is designed in a way that makes it enjoyable for all players. The high-risk/high-reward gameplay is at the heart of this stage, along with the daunting visuals. And speaking of visuals…
The background will be based on the one from New Super Mario Bros. - it's large in scale, has a royal theme, and is filled with both spikes and Bowser iconography.
The next most important part of the stage would have to be the bridge, and this was pretty tough to decide on despite the sheer amount of them used throughout all of Bowser's homes. The one from the "fake-out" fight in NSMB Wii was ultimately settled on. The other bridges in the NSMB games don't mesh well with the vibe of Bowser's Castle, and while the bridge from the original SMB has an awesome aesthetic, it would be difficult to translate into 3D. Anything wooden also didn't feel like it would "fit in" with the rest of the stage.
Next up: the non-bridge terrain! I would probably go with this hexagon tile pattern that is quite popular in some of the RPG games. Looks cool and adds a bit of light to this stage that will probably turn out to be the third darkest in the series in terms of lighting, behind Northern Crater and Dracula's Castle. For the platform above the bridge, just update the orange one from SMB1. It looks pretty cool and it meshes well with the lava. How the lava looks is self-explanatory since it’s just lava, while the fireballs that jump out will take the appearance of the Podobos from Super Mario Odyssey. Meanwhile, the axe will be double sided and metal just like in the New games.
As for the Battlefield/Final Destination forms, the main stage will be made of the Super Mario: RPG tile pattern along with generic gray bricks used in most Bowser Castles. The platforms will be based on the moving orange one from above the bridge. As a nice touch, there is a red carpet spread horizontally across the stage which has a Bowser symbol in the middle.
Now I hope I've convinced you that this stage will look awesome. But as the Pikmin stages prove, it doesn't matter how good your stages look if they're set to music like Environmental Noises. So let's get some boppin' tunes in this thing!
All songs that were selected for Bowser's Castle were associated in some way with either Bowser or his castle. These songs all do a great job at emphasizing the danger of the Castle, the larger-than-life aspect of the Koopa Kingdom, and the fury of Lord Bowser himself.
The Song list
The Song list
Bowser Castle - Super Mario Kart
Castle Theme - Super Mario World
Castle (Super Mario Bros) - Super Mario All-Stars
The Evil King Bowser - Super Mario World
Bowser's Theme (Mario Party)
Bowser Battle - Paper Mario and the Thousand-Year-Door
Bowser's Castle - Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix
Bowser Battle Theme - Super Mario Galaxy
Final Bowser Battle - Super Mario Galaxy
Bowser Castle - Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions
Bowser’s Lava Lair - Super Mario Galaxy 2
Castle Theme - Super Mario 3D Land
Bowser’s Castle - Mario Kart 8
World Bowser - Super Mario 3D World
Bowser's Castle 2 - Super Mario Odyssey
Bowser's Fury Theme (Phase 1 normal version) - Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury
Welp, that's my first article! I enjoyed making it and I hope the people of SmashBoards enjoyed reading it. The omission of Bowser’s Castle from Smash always rubbed me the wrong way (especially with the Koopa King being my Smash main), and while this editorial does nothing to remedy that, it at least gives me some closure on that glaring omission from Mario's stagelist. I plan on doing more of these articles in the future, so do stay tuned if you're into these kinds of pieces!
Thumbnail Graphic: @Zerp
Social Media: @Zerp
Author's Note: What are your thoughts on Bowser's Castle, and what are some other potential stages you'd like to see covered in the future? Let us know in the comments below!