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The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Who is King Koopa in Mario lore?

Is King Koopa the same character as Bowser? It's time for answers!

By Brian Silliman
Mario Kart Bowser’s Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood

With a couple of exceptions, Mario and Luigi have always faced one recurring threat. In the Super Mario Bros. games and cartoons, Bowser is a constant menace to the Mushroom Kingdom. He's defeated, and then he returns. He usually captured Princess Peach. And in his spare time, he likes to race go-karts and play golf alongside the brothers.

He will serve as the villain in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (premiering in theaters on April 5), and he’ll be played by none other than Jack Black. But before he brings his nefarious dealings to the big screen, it’s time to look at one point of possible confusion. If Bowser is Bowser, then who is “King Koopa” in Mario lore? Are they related? Are they the same character?

Koopa: Origins

The “Koopa” beings have been a part of the Mario mythos for as long as we can remember. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto has said that he took the name “Koopa” from a Korean dish called Gukbap. The soup/rice treat is referred to as “Kuppa” in Japan.

Bowser’s “King Koopa” moniker came early, with him being referred to in instruction manuals as “Bowser, King of the Koopa.” The must-see-immediately-after-school animated series The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! also called the character King Koopa. That show notably featured "Captain" Lou Albano in live-action segments singing and dancing to the Mario music, and now “Swing your arms from side to side…” is in our heads. Do the Mario! That has nothing to do with Bowser, but if you remember it, now it's in your head too.

In the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, Dennis Hopper plays “King Koopa” and he never goes by the name Bowser. A big sign that says “Vote Koopa” can be seen in many scenes ...

(So they vote for Kings in his subterranean hellhole? That’s a question for another time.)

Is King Koopa Bowser’s dad?

“King Koopa” and “Bowser” are the same character. Bowser is his personal name, and “King Koopa” or “King of the Koopa” is his title. Basically, his name could be Phillip, and he’d still be King Koopa.

Bowser may be a descendant in a long line of Koopa Kings. He has “Koopalings” himself, so he may have been one himself at some point. Whoever Bowser’s father/dad/progenitor was could have been a King before passing the title down. There is a Bowser Junior in the mix too, so “Bowser” likes his name enough to slap it on a kid. Because of Junior, Bowser would be Bowser I, and not “King Bowser VII” or anything like that. His father could have been named Phillip.

An alternative provided by the first animated series suggests that Bowser seized power. He took the title of “King Koopa” for himself. He didn’t inherit anything. Canon suggests that there was no King of the Koopa before him. If there was, they were deposed by Bowser. At the moment, an as-yet-unnamed “Former King Koopa” does not exist.

RELATED: "Watch Jack Black get tricked into dressing as Bowser on 'The Kelly Clarkson Show'"

Is there a difference between King Koopa and Bowser?

No. Bowser is King Koopa, King Koopa is Bowser. Unless Bowser Junior and the Koopalings stage a coup to unseat him (which is a miniseries that we’d totally watch), there’s really no difference. If you’re going for formality, you should refer to him as King Koopa, or “His Royal Highness, the scaliest of all, the King of the Koopa.” If you’re golfing or go-karting, just Bowser is fine. Or Phillip, if you want.

Who defeated King Koopa?

Who do you think? Mario Mario (his full name) defeated King Koopa. He defeats him in every game, except for Super Mario Bros. 2. And that’s only because Bowser, King of the Koopa, does not appear in that title. Every time that King Koopa/Bowser appears to deal out mayhem to the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario jumps in and saves the day. He knocks him in lava, sets his nutty clown car spinning, and so forth. Luigi, Toad, Yoshi, and Peach herself are sometimes involved.

When it comes to Mario Kart, then any number of Mario characters could beat King Koopa to the finish line; he sets his royal titles aside for these games. Depending on how good you are, Bowser could also win and go undefeated. If you’re playing a game in the Super Smash Bros. franchise, then Link from The Legend of Zelda could defeat him.

In almost all of the regular games, various animated series, and the 1993 movie, King Koopa, aka Bowser, is defeated by the Mario Brothers. They never go for the head, so King Koopa always comes back. If he is defeated in the new movie (and he will be) then he’ll find a way to return for a sequel. Always count on The Return of the King Koopa

The Super Mario Bros. Movie warps into theaters on April 5. Go-a-see. Get the jump on Bowser early by grabbing tickets here.