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A comprehensive visual history of Princess Peach

Princess Peach: Showtime! is the latest step in a 40-year evolution, here's Princess Peach's path to now

Princess Peach in Princess Peach Showtime
Image credit: Nintendo

This month, Nintendo will release Princess Peach: Showtime!, the first game starring her Royal Highness as a lead heroine in nearly two decades. The free demo, currently available to download, shows Peach fully in her element, taking on Grape and the Sour Bunch to liberate the Sparkle Theater from their clutches.

The quirky gimmick of this game is Peach's ability to change costumes. In one level, she's a Swordfighter, who can joust, parry, and cut through enemies and obstacles alike. On another level, she's a Patissier Chef who must decorate cakes with icing to restore order and beauty. Other costume variations include Detective Peach, Cowgirl Peach, Figure Skater Peach, and Ninja Peach, each with its own special ability.

Peach is hyper-capable in this game. But that characterization has been hard-won. For many years, Peach was the classic "damsel in distress," a plot device to be rescued by Mario at the end of every game. But over the years, Peach has developed unique gameplay abilities and a spunky personality, and the designers have redefined her as the heroine we know and love today.

Here's a comprehensive visual history of Princess Peach Toadstool, regnant of the Mushroom Kingdom. Her new game, Princess Peach: Showtime!, launches on March 22.

Image of Peach in Super Mario Bros
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Bros.

U.S. Release Date: October 1985

Peach (then known only as Princess Toadstool) made her debut in 1985 as the damsel-in-distress of Super Mario Bros. She was non-playable, and when you finished the game, she sent you on a second, more difficult runthrough of the game, in which the Goombas turned into Buzzy Beetles and all the enemies moved faster.

The official guide "How to Win at Super Mario Bros." gives us some canonical backstory to the character. We learn that Peach co-rules the Mushroom Kingdom with her father—the aptly named Mushroom King. We learn that King Koopa (he would eventually be named Bowser) used dark magic to turn the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom into stones, bricks, and horsehair plants. And we learn that Princess Toadstool is the only one who can break the spell.

Does Peach have magical powers? It seemed implied, although Nintendo never followed up on this plot point in the years since.

Image of Peach in Super Mario Bros 2
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Bros. 2

U.S. Release Date: September 1988

Peach became a playable character for the first time in Super Mario Bros. 2. The player could choose Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the Princess, and each of them had different skill sets. The Princess could float in midair for her jump, which made the tricky platforming areas much easier to clear with her than with the other characters.

Unfortunately, this is the last time we saw Peach in an original playable role for several years.

Image of Peach in Super Mario Bros Super Show
Image credit: Nintendo

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show

U.S. Release Date: September 1989

A year after the release of Super Mario Bros. 2, Nintendo produced a children's TV show called The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, which starred professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano as Mario. His live segments were interspersed with Mario and Zelda cartoons, and this is the first time we got to see Peach as a talking character rather than as an 8-bit sprite. Peach is not helpless in this show; she is an active, brave participant in Mario and Luigi's adventures.

Image of Peach in Super Mario Bros 3
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Bros. 3

U.S. Release Date: February 1990

In Super Mario Bros. 3, Peach is back to being a non-playable character in need of rescue, and we learn that she has a savage sense of humor. In the U.S. version of the game, when Mario rescues her after defeating Bowser, she says, "Thank you but our princess is in another castle! Just kidding! Ha ha ha! Bye bye." Witty, mean-spirited, ungrateful, or all three? You decide.

Image of Peach in Super Mario World
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario World

U.S. Release Date: August 1991

Still non-playable. But in Super Mario World, Peach actually helps you out during the final boss battle by tossing you a Power-Up Mushroom in between rounds. She also floats down from Bowser's Koopa Clown Car after you defeat him, a callback to her floating abilities from Super Mario Bros. 2.

Image of Peach in NES Open Tournament Golf
Image credit: Nintendo

NES Open Tournament Golf

U.S. Release Date: September 1991

In this early golf game, Mario is the one who's swinging the clubs, and Princess Peach is the caddy who's carrying them. Similarly in Dr. Mario, Mario is the M.D., and Peach is the R.N. It's very gender normative, and it's a step down from royalty, that's for sure.

Image of Peach in Super Mario Adventures
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Adventures

U.S. Release Date: January 1992

In 1992, Nintendo Power published a serial comic called Super Mario Adventures, and in it, Princess Peach is the most well-rendered, capable character. When the Koopalings kidnap her, she beats the hell out of them single-handedly and locks them in their own jail cell. She plays a key part in rescuing Mario when he's captured, threatening to blow everyone up with bombs if they don't release him. Eventually, Bowser has to put a spell on Peach to drag her to the altar.

Image of Peach in Super Mario All-Stars
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario All-Stars

U.S. Release Date: August 1993

In this Japanese commercial for Super Mario All-Stars—a 16-bit compilation of all the 8-bit Mario games—Peach gets out of her limo wearing a dress that would make Jessica Rabbit blush, and shows off a whole lot of leg. It's as sexy as Peach has ever gotten, and that's probably a good thing.

Image of Peach in Super Mario RPG
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario RPG

U.S. Release Date: May 1996

Super Mario RPG is a notable milestone in Peach's development. First, she's playable for the first time in eight years. And second, we see her signature parasol for the first time, which she can use as a melee weapon. Her primary role, however, is as a healer, and she is the last character to join Mario's team.

Image of Peach in Super Mario 64
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario 64

U.S. Release Date: September 1996

In Super Mario 64, Princess Peach only appears at the end of the game in a non-playable role. We learn that Peach is a dab hand in the kitchen. At the beginning of the game, she sends a letter to Mario, promising to bake a cake for him. And after Mario rescues her, she follows through on that promise.

Image of Peach in Mario Tennis
Image credit: Nintendo

Mario Tennis

U.S. Release Date: August 2000

In Mario Tennis, you can't go wrong by picking Princess Peach. She has excellent hands at the net, and she is very good at controlling the tennis ball and placing it exactly where it needs to be.

Image of Peach in Paper Mario
Image credit: Nintendo

Paper Mario (Ongoing series)

U.S. Release Date: February 2001

The Paper Mario series has given us so many character-building moments, where we get to see how these iconic characters live their lives apart away from the spotlight. Peach is playable during the interludes of the first two Paper Mario games, and she becomes a fully playable character in the third game, Super Paper Mario. Her iconic parasol makes its return, and if she ducks down, she can use it as a protective shield around her body.

Image of Peach in Super Smash Melee
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Smash Melee (Ongoing Series)

U.S. Release Date: November 2001

Peach has been a Smash mainstay since the Melee days, and her deadly combos, Toad assisted moves, and floating abilities (which make her difficult to KO) place her consistently in the upper S-Tier. She may be decked in pink, but she's definitely no pushover.

Image of Peach in Super Mario Sunshine
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Sunshine

U.S. Release Date: August 2002

The framing narrative for Super Mario Sunshine is that Peach and Mario are trying to relax and take a vacation, and they're rudely interrupted by yet another Bowser kidnapping plot. Can't the poor woman catch a break? Again, you can't play as Peach, although there's definitely more dialogue than you're used to seeing.

Image of Peach in Mario Superstar Baseball
Image credit: Nintendo

Mario Superstar Baseball (Ongoing Series)

U.S. Release Date: August 2005

Peach always excels in sports. In the Mario baseball games, she pitches and fields like a pro, but she struggles when she's up at bat.

Princess Peach in Super Mario Strikers
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Strikers (Ongoing Series)

U.S. Release Date: November 2005

In the Super Mario Strikers series, Peach has the most badass, futuristic-looking costume out of everyone in the cast—a combination of sensible athletic wear and sci-fi armor. Her special move in Battle League is a trip; the opponent's goalie scores on himself, because he's so distracted and smitten by her presence.

Princess Peach in Super Princess Peach
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Princess Peach

U.S. Release Date: February 2006

Technically speaking, Peach's first starring role was Princess Toadstool's Castle Run on the Nelsonic Game Watch. But Super Princess Peach is her first ever console game, in which she must rescue Mario and Luigi from Vibe Island by using the powers of four emotions: Joy, Gloom, Rage, and Calm. Selling over a million copies, the game was a success at the time of its release, although we wouldn't get another Peach game for 18 years.

Princess Peach in New Super Mario Bros
Image credit: Nintendo

New Super Mario Bros. (Ongoing series)

U.S. Release Date: May 2006

In 2006, Nintendo recognized there was still a market for traditional 2D side-scrolling Mario games, and they began releasing New Super Mario Bros. games. They were a throwback to the NES classics, and Peach resumed her traditional, non-playable role as a damsel in distress.

Princess Peach in Super Mario Galaxy
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Galaxy

U.S. Release Date: November 2007

Not much progress here either. Again, Peach is reduced to her kidnapee role. This game also continues a tradition from Super Mario 64, in which the Princess writes Mario a letter asking for him to visit the castle, only to discover that Bowser has gotten there first.

Princess Peach in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
Image credit: Nintendo

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Ongoing series)

U.S. Release Date: November 2007

The first Olympic game coincided with the Beijing Olympics in 2008. And since then, every Summer Olympics has received a corresponding Mario vs. Sonic title, in which you select a character, play through numerous events, and go for the gold. Peach is the character for finesse players; she's high speed and high skill, but low on power and stamina.

Princess Peach in Super Mario 3D World
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario 3D World

U.S. Release Date: November 2013

Peach plays as one part of the multiplayer ensemble group in Super Mario 3D World, and she can use her floating ability to cross the longer gaps. Peach (as well as the rest of the roster) can also become Cat Peach, which allows her to run up walls and use her claws. Her catsuit is pink, of course, just like her signature dress.

Princess Peach in Super Mario Odyssey
Image credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Odyssey

U.S. Release Date: October 2017

For most of Super Mario Odyssey, Peach is pretty helpless—she's forced into a wedding by Bowser, which Mario strongly objects to. But it's during the post-game where Peach gets to shine. She helps Mario find a new Moon in every world, and she changes her outfits accordingly. A bikini for the Seaside Kingdom. A traditional kimono for the Japanese-inspired Bowser's Kingdom. We get to know Peach through her taste in fashion and her love of travel.

Princess Peach in The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Image credit: Nintendo

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

U.S. Release Date: April 2023

Voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy, the Princess Peach in The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fully liberated, courageous asskicker, capable of flips and fighting in equal measure. We get a few teasers of her origin—like Mario and Luigi, she's from the human world. She came to the Mushroom Kingdom when she was just a baby, and was raised by the Toads to become their ruler. Maybe the sequel, set for release in 2026, will give us a fuller picture.

Super Mario Wonder

Princess Peach in Super Mario Wonder
Image credit: Nintendo

U.S. Release Date: October 2023

After so many years of New Super Mario Bros. games, Nintendo rebooted its 2D Mario line with Super Mario Wonder. The sprites are rounder and cuter than ever before, and Peach is no exception. However, she does not have her signature innate floating abilities, although she can learn to float by completing a side mission. She can also turn into an elephant, which leads to some of the best visual sight gags in recent Mario history.

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