The various Mario titles have been some of my most favourite games to play since I got my first console (an original Nintendo) at age 7, especially because my mom and I weren’t exactly well-off financially so the original Mario Bros. was the *only* game I had to play for a long time.
Maybe it was all the repetitive play of that one game that started me down the Princess Toadstool/Peach victim blaming path, but I could not stand that woman. After the defeat of each castle I would yell at the non-present Princess as I was told that she, in fact, was not at that particular castle. “For Christ’s sake Peach! Why don’t you just fight back so Mario doesn’t have to travel through snow, desert, and mushroomed terrain to save your pathetic ass?”. Even the adults in my family would get in on the blaming of the Princess for her own abduction. Not once did any one ever blame Bowser for kidnapping her.
Victim blaming happens when we hold the victim responsible (either partially or fully) for the act perpetrated against them. This is all too common in our society. We blame the victim of bullying, “Why did you let them say that to you? Why did you let them beat you up? You just need to learn how to fight back.”. We blame the victim of sexual assault, “You had to have been doing *something* to make him think it was okay.”. We blame the victim of racism, “If you didn’t wear your pants so low, no one would stereotype you.”. We will even blame the victim of illness, “It was probably all those years of unhealthy eating that caused the brain tumor.”.
The Princess was denied agency (the ability to act for one’s self) in Mario Bros. by the game creators. There are various titles where playing as Princess Peach is an option, like the party games and Mario Bros. 2. As far as I’m concerned, the only reason to play Mario Bros. 2 is because of the Princess option and the fact that she had the best jumping power of all playable characters. In the other titles, it is not the fault of Peach that she cannot or does not act on her own behalf. The game developers are the creators who chose not only to have her repeatedly kidnapped, but to also portray her as a limp-bodied blonde and pink blob being lobbed around from castle to castle by the game villains.
Last week I was beyond ecstatic to come across a game called Sorry Mario Bros!. This game was not created by Nintendo, and is a free download available to play on PC. It uses 3 of the levels from the original Mario Bros. game, but this time you play as Princess Toadstool escaping from King Koopa and making her way back to her castle. The developers of this game insured that Princess has agency – they programmed her with the ability to jump, float, and duck, in a manner that rivals the abilities she was given in Mario 2.
The game was created over a period of 2 weeks, so it is glitchy and the gameplay isn’t anything to write home about. But to live out a childhood dream, where Princess can save herself, is enough for me. Besides, who can resist a game featuring a princess saving herself AND that awards 666 points for each red-shelled Koopa that is stomped on.
I hope The Wild Eternal continues to expand and improve upon the Sorry Mario Bros! game. Perhaps if the game becomes popular enough, Nintendo will see that Princess is valued as a character in her own right and not just a story device for Mario’s narrative. Maybe one day Nintendo will finally realize that the princess is totally metal and give her a line of adventure games of her own. Until then let’s cut her some slack, put the blame of her kidnapping where it belongs – on Bowser and Nintendo’s game developers.