Millions around the world have experienced the greatness of the Mushroom Kingdom; with its bountiful natural beauty, benevolent rulers, and wide variety of top athletics programs, it truly is the envy of all other gaming nations. In fact, the only mark against it comes from the constant tension between it and its neighboring state, the domain of Bowser, king of the Koopas. The conflict between these two nations goes back as far as anyone can remember and has frequently erupted into outright war and kidnappings with Bowser always being the aggressor. Most attribute this to Bowser simply being a malicious villain, and while that may be true, there are much deeper factors at play contributing to this unending conflict. Bowser is not a simple tyrant with dreams of conquest, he is the product of a troubled nation that has had little choice but to use force to maintain its existence.
Most are familiar with the landscapes of the Mushroom Kingdom; it has fertile plains, thick forests, and lakes and rivers overflowing with cheep cheeps and bloopers. These fortuitous circumstances have granted the Toads and Yoshis that populate the land comfortable and easy lives; thus allowing them the necessary time to establish sound social, economic, and political infrastructure for the mutual benefit of all. Bowser’s kingdom was not so lucky. The land is harsh, consisting mostly of craggy terrain, twisting cave formations, and volcanic mountains. While the the Toads had a favorable habitat from which a strong nation could grow, Bowser and his underlings had to carve their world from unforgiving stone with bare, bloodied hands. Such a tough land naturally shapes hardened inhabitants, and such creatures become naturally attuned to the violence and struggle that sits at the core of all militant societies.
It takes a violent turtle to tame such a violent land
Along with the harsh geological conditions that have shaped Bowser and his minions, there are also biological factors that seem to have played a role. Considering the fungal nature of both the Toads and the Goombas, it stands to reason that the two species share some common evolutionary ancestor and of the two it is painfully apparent that the Toads are the more highly evolved species. While the toads obviously developed the higher reasoning skills and opposable thumbs that allow animals to rise above their brethren, the Goombas appear to possess only the faintest of cognitive functions and a body shape that allows only for slow and awkward mobility. Several specimen of smarter Goombas have been observed, but they appear to be a very small minority and when presented with the opportunity show a much greater affinity for cooperating with representatives of the Mushroom Kingdom.
The other primary species is the Koopa, a turtle like animal that exhibits much greater cognitive prowess than Goombas and has thus become the dominant species of the land. Koopas also display a much broader range of specified skill sets and intellects, allowing them to serve a variety of roles in Bowser’s forces. Lesser Koopas serve alongside Goombas as standard foot soldiers while the others utilize their greater physical attributes to serve as hammer throwers and even wizards. The Lakitu, a close cousin of the standard Koopa, appear to have the most developed abilities with most serving as Bowser’s air force, piloting clouds and throwing Spinies at foes. Possibly due to their superior intellect and potential for more varied skills, Lakitus are quite possibly the least loyal to Bowser as many have been known to seek asylum in the Mushroom Kingdom where they often serve as officials in races, baseball, and other sports.
And then there is Bowser himself, and while he is in fact a Koopa, he is obviously the product of numerous beneficial mutations. As a result, Bowser is significantly larger, stronger, and more intelligent than any other Koopa in recorded history. Given these strengths and the difficult circumstances under which the Koopas and Goombas live, it is little wonder that Bowser ultimately rose to become king. Generally, societies that develop in such harsh conditions embrace more authoritarian forms of rule because the ability to survive is the greatest asset one can possess, so the one who has the necessary brawn and brains to accomplish this will easily draw the admiration and respect of the lesser creatures. Bowser possessed all the necessary traits in spades and was even smart enough to realize that his kingdom needed greater access to natural resources in order to grow stronger, and thus set his sites on invading the wealthy Mushroom Kingdom. Unfortunately for his empire, Bowser became obsessed with capturing the Mushroom Kingdom’s beautiful ruler and has employed few other tactics in getting the Toads to capitulate to his will. Despite its wealth, the Mushroom Kingdom has displayed little in the way or armed forces outside of a small detachment of Italian plumbers, so if Bowser had focused his considerable army on an all out invasion, it is highly unlikely the Mushroom Kingdom could have survived.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of these unfortunate circumstances is that the Koopas and Goombas posses more resources than they realize. In reality, they are sitting on vast mineral deposits that more developed nations would pay handsomely for. Unfortunately, Bowser is either unaware or simply does not care for the potential economic leverage he possess and instead utilizes these resources to fuel his massive and surprisingly advanced war machine. The old airships that once rained death upon the Mushroom Kingdom from above were impressive weapons in their day, but in twenty years time Bowser’s engineers had created larger, more advanced ships capable of the harnessing the energy of the stars themselves to enable intergalactic travel. Once again these technological accomplishments could revolutionize even a nation as well established as the Mushroom Kingdom, but Bowser remains focused on applying everything to his militaristic designs.
Given Bowser’s obsessive warmongering and apparent mismanagement of his nation’s potential wealth, some may wonder how he has retained power all this time. While access to the inner workings of Koopa society is strictly guarded from outsiders, there is one prevailing theory that is surprisingly simple and tragic. Like many authoritarian regimes, Bowser’s nation is quite proficient at creating, no, mandating stability. Rules are strictly enforced, creating order, supplies are rationed due to scarcity which accidentally creates relative social equality, and the constant state of war ensures low unemployment as every able bodied Koopa and Goomba is a soldier on the front line or a worker building Bowser’s war machine. While this stable structure comes at the cost personal freedom and would almost guarantee revolution in other nations, Bowser has strict control over the education system for what is already a dreadfully ignorant population. From the time a Koopa hatches or a Goomba sprouts, Bowser is presented to them as the absolute authority and that fact is reinforced throughout life through his imposing presence, strict rule of law, and constant displays of military might. Most of the population lacks the proper cognitive ability to question any of this or dream of a better life, while those with greater intellect are given better positions above the commoners, and while those lives might still be harsh compared to the rest of the world, they represent a significant step up from the lower ranks.
For those living in a developed country, it can be easy to condemn the Bowsers of the world, and while their actions are unforgivable in a civilized world, one must remember that they are largely the product of almost unstoppable forces. Bowser was born into a harsh world and culture with the perfect traits needed to excel and ultimately rule it. Unfortunately, Bowser succumbed to power’s wicked siren song and embraced it solely as a means of furthering his own ambitions and bending the world to his will; and in that area he is without peer. The Koopas and Goombas who storm across the border into the Mushroom Kingdom almost annually are not heartless monsters; they are innocents corrupted by a tyrant who was himself corrupted by the harsh environment into which he was born. Could things have been different for all of them? Yes, but it would have required a miracle to turn the unyielding tide of the natural order.