If you're playing your way through the many hotel floors of the excellent Luigi's Mansion 3 right now, you will undoubtedly be aware of what a big, fiendishly challenging adventure it is for the ganglier, greener Mario Brother. At the same time the game does little to clear up the confusion we've felt for some time now about the relationship status of Mario himself and Princess Peach.
Those who've finished 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey will know that – after almost forty-years of repeatedly squeezing into the decaying damsel in distress trope – Princess Peach, understandably exhausted by men jockeying to win her hand in marriage, turns down both Mario and Bowser with a curt "enough" and heads off to The Odyssey to have her own adventure.
Two years later, she and Mario – along with a trio of Toads and of course Luigi and his pet Polterpup – make up the party invited to visit the mysterious Last Resort hotel. Mario and Peach share a seat on the bus ride there. They don't, however, share a room. Evidently Mario has forgiven her for almost being left behind on the moon with his mortal enemy. Peach appears to have put Mario's male entitlement behind her. But their relationship status? It's-a complicated!
A royal affair
And yet, wasn't it always thus? It’s often forgotten that there was barely a time when Mario and Peach didn’t know each other; in 2006's Yoshi Island DS, it’s revealed that Mario and Peach have been friends since infancy, while Nintendo itself has often stated implicitly that the pair are just friends. In 2016's Paper Colour Mario Smash, Peach introduces Mario as such, before going back and forth in their clarification of their assets in subsequent adventures.
Pick the pairing in 2003's Mario Party 5 for the GameCube and the duo will be labelled as 'the cutest couple', while Nintendo regularly portray the two as a romantic pairing in advertisements or to announce Valentine's Day activity. The big tease. We should clarify from the off that her royal title rather undersells the abilities of Peach, which adds a layer of complexity to any potential union between she and Mario.
Note that the manual for 1985's Super Mario Bros. states that the reason Bowser has kidnapped Peach isn’t down to any creepy stuff, but because her white magic is the only thing that can undo the chaos he’s reaped all across the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s unlikely that Mario, a mortal plumber who requires power-ups to obtain any sort of supernatural power of his own, could handle a relationship with the elemental powerhouse that is Princess Peach. You thought Harry and Megan had it hard? In 2005's Super Princess Peach, the royal highness drowns enemies with her own tears.
Principally, the problem seems to be that Mario and Peach have never taken a moment and quantified just what they are to each other. Like many couples at the dysfunctional end of the spectrum, they’re stuck in a cycle, one that’s recycled every time Mr. Myamoto needs a new Mario adventure. Peach needs help and Mario comes a-running.
Mario would be a fool to think that means anything more than helping a friend in need out with a problem. Just ask Popeye and Bluto; Peach isn't a prize to be won. But there’s obviously something there – cosmos watching pseudo-princess Rosalina describes Peach as Mario's 'special one' in 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy; in 2012’s Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Kersti describes Peach as "the apple of [Mario’s] eye". Surely it’s about time that Mario and Peach just sat down on a protruding green pipe and talked?
There's another theory, ignited by a scene in 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine where Bowser Jnr. calls Peach "Mama Peach." Peach doesn’t correct him either. Maybe Peach is already spoken for. Maybe Mario just won’t stop meddling in another couple’s relationship. Maybe Mario is a racist bigot who can’t accept the interracial union of Princess and Koopa? And if we’re sorting through the icky matters of DNA here, despite decades of thinking otherwise, didn’t Super Mario Odyssey and its surprisingly anatomically-correct-humans establish Mario as something other than homo sapien? Didn’t 1996's Super Mario RPG establish the ancestry of Peach as the species of Toad?
Or maybe it’s Mario who is already attached. Cast your mind back to the first time we met the diminutive Italian plumber; in 1981's Donkey Kong. Mario was then known as "Jumpman", and the game hung around the objective of him saving his girlfriend (Lady, since renamed Pauline) from a crazed, barrel throwing gorilla.
We never actually saw the pair split, although their demeanour is best described as warm but platonic when Mario comes to New Donk City's aid - the world of which Pauline is now mayor of – in Super Mario Odyssey. NB: During a pre-release developer Q&A, players asked producer Yoshiaki Koizumi if a "love triangle" between the three would feature in the game. "I would appreciate if we could respect the privacy of those three at this time," replied the Zelda godhead, probably suppressing a snigger.
Star struck lovers
Maybe Mario's thing isn’t actually Peach but Princesses in general; he does after all save Princess Daisy from Sarasaland in Super Mario Land, a 1989 launch title for the GameBoy. Maybe it’s best to think of Mario as a sort of moustachioed take on Paul Burrell. Maybe it’s the monarchy itself that gets him going? Or maybe Mario is more akin to PS. David Budd from hit 2018 BBC TV drama The Bodyguard? Maybe he's on payroll? Maybe he has to save Peach, otherwise he doesn’t receive median wage?
And think of all those coins he collects navigating the Mushroom Kingdom. Surely that’s Peach’s messily distributed wealth? Maybe Mario's just putting in a shift, getting his discount. Remember also, that 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 2 takes place inside one of Mario's dreams; you would expect some kind of subconscious clue being leaked about Mario’s true feelings for the Princess, yet one is never forthcoming…
Should we really be encouraging the union of Mario and Peach anyway? Remember, this is a man with side-gigs as a doctor, a carpenter, a pro-kart driver, and an archaeologist (and lest we forget he regularly competes at the Olympic Games). What chance of a healthy relationship? And, for all the work Mario puts into saving Peach, he rarely sees anything of the reward.
Maybe Peach is just a bit mean. Yeah, she'll give Mario a kiss on the nose. Sometimes she’ll bake him a cake. But let us not forget that Princess Peach is the totalitarian ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom. Can she not put a knighthood his way? Some other title? Can she not stretch to one evening, on her, at the kingdom’s nearest Pizza Express?
And of course, there’s also the question 'what is canon?' Since Mr. Myamoto confirmed in 2015 that the events of Super Mario Bros. 3 in 1988 weren’t real but instead a stage play, anything that happens in that game can be considered void. But what of 1986 anime Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen! (rough translation: Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!), notable for being the first known feature adaptation of a video game?
The aforementioned cartoon sees Mario fall head over heels in love with Peach, venturing into the Mushroom Kingdom to save her, before ultimately being crushed to learn that she’s already got a boyfriend, Haru, the Prince of Flower-Koku. Luckily for Mario, Haru never turns up in any of the Mario games; though he does have the ability to shapeshift into a dog. Actually, scratch all of this Mario. You’re on a hiding to nothing. Never let it be said that a boyfriend who can turn into a dog isn't what women really want.
For more, check out the best Nintendo Switch games to play right now, or watch our latest episode of Dialogue Options below.