Bowser’s Fury isn’t typical Mario. There’s the transforming, mustached plumber fighting against the spiky, fire-spitting dinosaur – but in comes Bowser Jr. Often the spoiled, obnoxious offspring, Bowser’s Fury makes this kid a victim. Junior flies in his always bizarre floating clown pod, but his goal isn’t to keep Princess Peach locked away, but to calm his enraged father.
It’s a bizarre change for a franchise so playful (and Bowser’s Fury still is, cat suits and all), suddenly turned into a relatively dramatic domestic squabble, solidifying Mario’s heroism by helping an innocent (albeit bratty) child. Colorful platforms and kitten bells bring the Mushroom Kingdom flavor, but seeing the menacing Bowser in the background, covered in black goop, looming over his helpless kin, is eerily raw. Imagine a first grader trying to sort out their abusive dad’s behavior – one minute mimicking the arrogance, the other cowering in helpless fear, enough to ask someone to help.
More than princess-saving fables, there’s a determined heart to Bowser’s Fury, unarguably the most vivid story in Mario’s lineage, and almost purely done via visual contrast. As an expansion of sorts, Bowser’s Fury takes place in a small cross-section of sea, creating a persistent rush to calm the brutish father to save the fearful, desperate little one from a beating. Still Mario – coins, mushrooms, block breaking – but as a brief aside, oddly and successfully thematic.