Remember Taken ? That movie where Liam Neeson’s fictional daughter was kidnapped and we got to watch him be totally badass while rescuing her? People liked it, so of course they made Taken 2 , where his ex-wife got kidnapped. That was all well and good, but by the time Taken 3 came out and Liam’s daughter got kidnapped again, it pretty much became a joke. Who is going to get kidnapped in Taken 4? Liam’s sweet old grandmammy? His favorite masoose? His dog? Well, if we’d tired of the Liam Neeson’s Family kidnapping angle by Taken 3 , just imagine how worn and tired it is for poor Princess Peach.
Princess Peach began her video game career as a kidnapping victim, and she’s been playing that role with rare breaks ever since. Sure, she gets to kick some ass in Super Smash Bros. and plays an awful lot of sports in various spin-offs, but in the nearly all the mainline Mario games and many Mario RPGs, she’s got a one-way ticket on the Taken train.
Nintendo knows that Peach kidnappings are pretty much a running gag at this point. The company has had characters joke about it in games for years – so much so that it isn’t even funny anymore. Today’s Peach has a sort of weariness about her. In Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam , Peach and Paper Peach even gripe to each other about how they’re incredibly tired of being kidnapped. That struck me as particularly strange and sad. Nintendo knows that Peach’s kidnappings have gotten old and seems to acknowledge that it’s not even fair to treat a fictional character that way. Yet it is Nintendo that keeps putting her in that situation. Need a quick and dirty story for any Mario game? Bam! Peach gets kidnapped! Nintendo has all the power to stop this joke that has overstayed its welcome, yet chooses not to.
Recently, there’s been some hope. Peach was playable in Super Mario 3D World for the first time in a mainline platformer since Super Mario Bros. 2 . Sure, she’s slow and her floating powers make her the character for that one friend who hates platformers, but she’s there , and man is she ever useful in some of the later levels. We don’t even need her to be playable, though. She just needs a role in the game other than being kidnapped! There are plenty of heroic things Mario can do (and has done) besides rescue Princess Peach!
Historically, my favorite version of Princess Peach has been found in the Paper Mario series. Even when kidnapped, Peach shows a proactive side that keeps her very traditionally feminine character but also portrays her as intelligent and resourceful. It’s so nice to see Peach doing something in a story-focused game! That’s why I’m super disappointed in Paper Mario: Color Splash , where she’s only around to smooth Paper Mario’s creases (seriously, she literally says that) until it’s time for her to be kidnapped. Her role in the game is literally replaced by some sentient blobs of paint that spit out healing hearts into a fountain once she’s gone. It’s a terrible step backwards for these spin-offs and a shameful waste of potential for her character. With almost everybody else in the game being Toads, we could really have used Peach around, but noooo. Gotta kidnap that lady.
Nintendo needs to make a serious decision to liberate Princess Peach. Let’s let go of the unfortunate kidnapping legacy. It’s not even funny as a self-referential joke anymore. Let Peach be a real princess. She should be ruling her kingdom and organizing the Toads, not stuck screaming for help in Bowser’s castle. Let her be her sweet, calm, but smart and slightly sassy self; a character we can be proud of instead of a walking joke. Free Princess Peach!