Princess Peach is one of the most iconic female characters in video game history. Yet, since her first appearance in 1985, she has earned an unfair reputation as a damsel in distress. Within the Nintendo franchise, Peach has appeared countless times as a helpless victim and prisoner of Mario’s nemesis Bowser.
Aside from within spin-off games, such as Mario Party and Mario Kart, we typically see Peach as a non-player character, captured, frightened and awaiting rescue while Mario and Bowser battle it out to be the object of her affection.
With the release of Super Princess Peach in 2005, Peach’s legacy began to change. The Nintendo DS game reversed the damsel in distress trope: Peach appears as the only playable character, tasked with rescuing Mario and Luigi. Then again, in 2013, with the release of Super Mario 3D World, Peach appeared as a main character alongside Mario and Luigi, and players saw more of what Peach could do. Yet, despite this narrative growth, players have long struggled to get a sense of who Peach is outside of her relationship with Mario.
With the release of The Super Mario Bros Movie (check out out Super Mario movie review here), we see Princess Peach like never before. Voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy, the video game movie version of the infamous, pretty-in-pink character receives a revolutionary personality makeover. On Peach’s introduction to Mario, he runs towards her, fleeing from angered Toads, and upon seeing her beauty, Mario immediately lights up with affection.
However, Peach, whose only concern is protecting herself from a potential threat, delivers a swift and confident blow, knocking Mario to the floor. From these immediate reflections of her character, it’s difficult to imagine the strong-willed, highly-skilled princess as a helpless prisoner or someone who would sit back and wait for rescue.
Upon hearing of the looming threat of attack upon her beloved Mushroom Kingdom, Peach immediately springs into action. Showing resilience as a leader, with her council of Toads, she bravely decides to journey to the Jungle Kingdom to form an allyship and unite armies against Bowser’s tyranny.
However, before she makes this journey, she tests Mario’s ability as a companion. We see her expertly complete a short training course made up of staples from the video game: falling platforms, swinging claws, and Piranha Plants. Mario watches in awe as Peach masters each obstacle, and Peach watches sleepily as Mario works through the night, failing again and again as he attempts to build the same skillset.
Peach often takes on the role of a teacher to Mario; she teaches him the significance of Power Mushrooms and Fire Flowers, which he later uses in a fight against Donkey Kong. This unique resilience and knowledge of the Mushroom World is something we’ve never seen in the Super Mario Bros video games. Whereas, within the animated movie, it is pretty obvious that this is Peach’s Mushroom World, and everybody else is just living in it.
Throughout storytelling history, princesses have always appeared as somewhat feeble characters—waiting on knights and heroes to do the battling and rescuing. Part of this portrayal of weakness comes from their fashion: princesses are seen laden down in fluffy and restrictive dresses, unable to properly move or fight in the same way their male counterparts do.
The same is true for Peach and her iconic pink dress. Peach’s dress was to blame for her exclusion as a playable character in New Super Mario Bros Wii, as the special programming required for the movements of Peach’s skirt within the gameplay proved too complex. However, instead of presenting Peach’s wardrobe as a weakness, The Super Mario Bros Movie leans into its strengths, and we see her use it as a means to float and hover in the air following jumps from significant heights.
Peach’s style has always been extremely feminine: frilly pink dress, perfect blond flowing hair, and dainty shoes. The movie doesn’t shy away from the colour pink, and when Peach, Toad, Mario and the Kongs journey across Rainbow Road in their karts, we see a new Peach look: a light pink motorbike racer costume, complete with a sleek high ponytail.
In these scenes, Peach dresses for her needs while still respecting the cute and girlie aspects of her personality. Anya Taylor-Joy also leaned into the significance of this look, wearing a pink, custom-made Dior motorbike racer outfit to the movie’s LA premiere. It’s fun to see Peach embrace the girlie connotations of pink, proving that she can be a strong female protagonist and still look good doing it.
Peach’s fashion also pays homage to the power and strength of other princess protagonists. When Peach uses an Ice Flower to face off against Bowser, her dress transforms into a blue gown similar to the one Princess Elsa wears in Disney’s Frozen. Peach, like Elsa, wields ice powers, freezing Bowser as she attempts to free his prisoners and save her home.
The video game imagery of Peach cowering fearfully in Bowser’s clutches feels all but destroyed as her movie counterpart refuses to wait passively for someone else to come along and save the day. While Mario is still the central character whose actions and bravery save the Mushroom Kingdom, there is a renewed equilibrium in his relationship with Peach, and she becomes just as important in stopping Bowser’s tyranny.
The Super Mario Bros Movie also highlights who Peach is outside of her relationship with Mario. We see her as a lost child, having arrived in the Mushroom Kingdom through a Warp Pipe, which connects the Mushroom World with the human world.
We see her bonds with the Toads and how they have come to mean so much to one another. While this history differs from Peach’s story within the games, the film’s decision to supply Peach with a backstory that allows us a better understanding of her motivations gives the character greater agency over her destiny.
The family movie’s choice to present Princess Peach in this new light will revolutionise how legions of players will view the character moving forwards. This improved version of Peach is especially important for young boys and girls, who might see this movie and grow up with one less piece of entertainment teaching them to view femininity as a weakness.
If you loved Illumination’s take on the Mushroom Kingdom, then check out our guide breaking down the Mario cast, and we’ve also got a guide explaining the Super Mario movie’s ending. Finally, if you’re looking for something fresh to watch, check out our article listing all the new movies coming in 2023 or our guide to the best movies ever made.