While Mario is primarily known for his platforming adventures, the plumber has been through his fair share of RPG trials as well. Each of these massive adventures is punctuated with a large-scale battle against one of Mario’s many foes. Be it a bout against Bowser, or a showdown with a new enemy, these games all offer something different for Mario to do near the end.
While Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars set this genre in motion for the red-clad mascot, series like Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi continued this journey, offering equally exciting final battles across decades and numerous platforms. These are the very best.
10 King Olly – The Origami King Lives Up To His Title
While modern Paper Mario games have been divisive, to say the least, Paper Mario: The Origami King launched to great acclaim. This adventure is fun from start to finish, and its final boss fight against King Olly is no exception.
Mario and his partner Olivia must use the powers of the Vellumentals, four origami guardians that they’ve been battling against over the course of the game. Meanwhile, Olly has mastered the powers of all four Vellumentals, and switches between them, using their powers against you. In addition to this, there are two more phases each with their own mechanical differences, resulting in an incredible fight against the game’s antagonist.
9 Bowser and Paper Bowser – Too Many Cooks
While Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam wasn’t the most loved game in its series, it did manage to feature hilarious writing for the likes of Bowser and co., as well as an incredibly fun final boss fight. Both Bowser and his paper counterpart team up to battle against Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario. This battle boasts two phases, one fairly traditional, and another that introduces some unique visual quirks.
Following Bowser’s Inside Story and Dream Team, this fight continues the trend of Yoko Shimomura composing a magnificently epic boss theme, the likes of which you seldom expect from a Mario game. Using the skills learned over the course of the game, you’ll find yourself fighting to survive in this grand finale.
8 Smithy – The Berserker Blacksmith
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars introduced our hero to the world of RPGs in 1996. This game was a fascinating anomaly, featuring Bowser as a playable party member rather than the big bad of the game. In his place, however, this title introduced the original character of Smithy.
The final fight against Smithy is satisfying and does an incredible job of using everything you learn throughout the game. Because it’s a fairly traditional RPG, the focus on stat-based transformations kept the fight engaging. Its fast-paced music and atmosphere is a big part of why this game, and this fight, have stood the test of time.
7 Dreamy Bowser – A Final Boss That Dreams Are Made Of!
After the first three games in the Mario & Luigi series focused on original enemies rather than Bowser, it was nice to see the classic big bad double cross Antasma. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is a great example of how even a familiar face like Bowser can feel fresh and new with the right kind of makeover.
Dreamy Bowser has absorbed the power of the dream stone, and is using it to battle against the bros one last time. Where Mario & Luigi differs from the likes of Paper Mario is in its ability within its own battle system to create small setpieces. Be it Bowser chasing you in an airship or attempting to destroy him with pure star power, excitement abounds in this big battle against an old foe.
6 Cackletta – Bowser's Original Inside Story
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga kicked off an entire series in a big way. This game expanded the world of Mario beyond the Mushroom Kingdom, introducing ideas like neighboring kingdoms and political intrigue. The quest to save Princess Peach’s voice ultimately leads the brothers to a two-phase boss fight with Cackletta, a witch from the Bean Bean Kingdom.
This fight serves as quite the difficulty spike, as upon finishing the first phase, the second one will begin with both brothers starting at a single HP. The fight starts over from the beginning if you lose, so make sure to heal up as fast as possible. The pacing of this one is exciting, and having multiple targeting points helps the fight feel quite strategically deep and ultimately very satisfying.
5 Super Dimentio – A Game Of Tag, With Magic!
Super Paper Mario broke the traditions of the Paper Mario series in a big way, returning to Mario’s platforming roots. Ironically, however, this is also the game that departed from Mario’s overall tone more than any other game in the franchise. Super Paper Mario is dramatic, narratively focused, and overall very unique. This is also true of its final boss fight against the frightening fusion of Mr. L and Dimentio.
To put Mario and his team in a fight to the finish with none other than the first brother of gaming was a shocking moment. Dimentio, the main antagonist of the game had been seeded very early on in the story, desiring a world under his control. This emotionally charged finale offers sacrifices, betrayals, and much more.
4 Bowser – The First Paper Mario Was Very Ambitious
The first Paper Mario was an enigmatic game. While it followed in Super Mario RPG’s footsteps in its mechanics and genre, it was much closer to a traditional Mario experience. The tone, visual style, and music all fell in line with what fans of the main games would come to expect. Paper Mario offers up a pretty straightforward fight with Bowser for its ending, but therein lies its charm.
This fight takes place on a massive version of the Koopa Clown Car. It features fairly traditional-sounding music for Bowser, with a bit of a power metal upgrade. There are no big plot twists, no darker undertones, just a brawl between Mario and Bowser as it was always meant to be.
3 Dark Bowser – The Baddest Mirror Match Around
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is often celebrated for its use of Mario, Luigi, and Bowser in combat. Where controlling Bowser in the overworld shakes up the formula from the previous games, the sidescrolling sections inside Bowser’s body offer something brand new for the Mario Bros.
The final battle of this game, which features a fight against Dark Bowser and Fawful, is a massive celebration of the game’s entire journey. Where the fight between Bowser and his darker half feels like a mirror match for the ages, Mario and Luigi’s fight with Fawful is both exciting and surprising all the way through. All three of these characters feel like heroes, and Shimomura shines again with a composition that everyone who played the game remembers.
2 Elder Princess Shroob – A Battle Across Time And Space
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time told a darker story than a lot of the other games in that series. It focused on time travel with the evil Shroobs launching an invasion of the Mushroom Kingdom. The game culminates in a final battle against the terrifying Elder Princess Shroob.
While the first phase of this fight is intense and focused, with a hauntingly regal music track, the second phase shifts to something more somber. Peach is lying on the ground, fainted from the overwhelming presence of the queen. The music changes to a sad ballad, and the fight grows in scale, with targets all around you.
1 The Shadow Queen – Mario's Scariest Foe Yet
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door introduced a lot of new mechanics and characters, but its pivot in the final moments was among the most memorable in the entire franchise. The final battle is not against Grodus, but rather, a demon that’s been sleeping beneath Rogueport for eons.
This battle, which starts off against a possessed villainous Princess Peach, evolves into a large-scale conflict filled with intrigue, and a surprisingly perturbing tone. The Shadow Queen is not for the faint of heart, as she’s back with a vengeance in this incredible final battle.
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