The ever-changing sizes of Mario and Bowser

It all began in a homely 1985 fire pit, lightly adorned with bubbling magma and a drawbridge that collapsed with one swift axe chop. In these hallowed days Mario was about half the size of ol’ Bowser, easily outwitting him with superior speed and uncanny jumping abilities.

Super Mario, on the other hand, doubles in size to overtake his reptilian nemesis by one measly pixel line. Hardly an imposing figure now, is he?

Bowser reappeared a few years later as a spiky-haired leapster capable of out-jumping Mario any day of the week. No more plodding around, blindly blasting fire at will. As you can see, he’s buffed up a bit, with Mario baaaaarely approaching his chubby hands.

Even Super Mario has to look up to Bowser now. This sets a precedent that most, if not all subsequent Mario/Bowser pairings show some kind of slight adjustment. No one wrote a hard and fast rule that says “Mario is 5’6’’, Bowser is 8’7’’.”

Hard to tell exactly how large Bowser was in 1991, what with his baffling, surely drug induced contraption that defies categorization. However, we can see his spiky hair has blossomed into a mousse-caked Royal Mane of the Mushroom Kingdom.

Super Mario looks like he’s about half the size of Bowser now, losing ground with each sequel. At this rate he’ll barely come up to his knees in the next game. Too bad the exact opposite happens...

Bowser somehow shrunk himself down to roughly the same size as Mario for a friendly putting about on the go-kart course. Oh we get why they’re the same size, but c’mon, two minutes ago he was twice Mario’s height.

Five, maybe six people played the NES version of Mario’s Time Machine, and as far as Bowser’s concerned, it’s a damn good thing. This embarrassing, compromising ending image shows the big meanie crying his eyes out while Mario throws up Mushroom Kingdom gang signs to all his fallen soldiers.

At least they’re on the same page as Mario Kart though, with Bowser just a bit taller and wider. More or less how they were in Super Mario Bros. 3.

Nintendo apparently had some yacht bills piling up in the early ‘90s and decided to release enhanced versions of the previous three NES games for easy money. The Mario sprite found in the remake of the first SMB game stayed about the same, but Super Mario actually drops a few pixels from his original size. As seen at the very top of the page, he used to be slightly taller. Hello, retcon.

Super Mario World 2 took place when the two were just babies, forcibly tying their twin destinies together for all gaming eternity. Even with diapers clinging to their poopy buttsBowser still had a slight edge over Mario.

Then came the most extreme size difference of all, though it’s artificially instigated – the magical villain Kamek sprays baby Bowser with fairy dust, causing him to burst into Godzilla territory.

For the complete visual breakdown of the final battle, head to vgmuseum.

Ick, here come the mid ‘90s, a time of rendered 3D sprites and barely recognizable polygons. Who needs crisp, defined sprites when we can have such instantly dated visuals as those in Mario RPG?

We kid, we kid. It’s an excellent game by all rights and we can’t wait to check out the latest. Here they seem to be in the same Mario 3/Mario Kart range, but that’s all about to change with the next game...

Mamma mia! Now this is a drastic departure from every previous game. Bowser has grown tremendously and it’s plainly clear why that is – Nintendo needed Mario 64 to blow everyone away, and a same-sized villain just wouldn’t resonate as much as a towering, fire-breathing menace. They had the technology, they rebuilt him etc insert tired Six Million Dollar Man reference here.

As you can see, Mario, who once saw eye to eye with King Bowser, now neatly fits in the latter’s mouth. Amazingly enough, he becomes even larger in the sequel – more on that in a sec.

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.