Super Mario Run launched on Thursday, bringing the video game plumber to iPhones and iPads around the world. However, all is not well in the Mushroom Kingdom. Some players aren't happy with the game's depiction of Princess Peach — or her absence as an early playable character.
Peach in Super Mario Run: Nintendo can do better than this
Super Mario Run opens with a brief moment of exposition. Peach is throwing a party and mentions she'll bake a cake to convince Mario he should attend. That invitation alone was enough to set off some alarms.
A few seconds later, Bowser shows up (because this is a Mario game) and kidnaps Peach — and her cake. Again, the internet is already chiming in. Is Nintendo really equating Peach with a cake?
At this point, Super Mario Run begins in earnest as you run, jump and slide your way through levels in an attempt to save the princess. Of course, you can't actually play as Peach. At least not for now.
Super Mario Run playable characters: Peach and other teammates
To start, Super Mario Run only offers one playable character, Mario. However, it seems pretty clear that Nintendo plans to expand that roster moving forward. The company already released a free update adding Toad, and an in-game menu reveals more characters that you can unlock, Peach included. It turns out you can play as the princess only after rescuing her first by beating the game.
So Peach actually is a playable character in Super Mario Run — eventually. But before playing as the princess you'll need to save her from Bowser. According to a Nintendo Mobile News tweet, Peach also (allegedly) has a special "Floaty Jump" ability that lets you hover in the air briefly, giving her an advantage over Mario and other characters.
Still, I can't help but think that the company could have taken a better approach as it dives into mobile gaming. This may be the first time a new generation of players gets to meet Mario, Peach and the rest of the gang. So why not introduce the princess as a powerful protagonist in her own right, instead of as an antiquated damsel in distress who's no more important than a piece of cake?
Peach in Super Mario Run: This is bigger than just one game
Nintendo fans may be happy to write the issue off, but this is bigger than just one cartoon princess in one video game. Women make up a huge chunk of the gaming population (48% as of 2014), and the way female characters are depicted in video games has been shown to have a direct impact on how young women view themselves and develop self-esteem.
Super Mario Run is a huge release for Nintendo — it may have already crashed Apple's App Store as people rushed to download the game. The gaming company had a real chance to positively impact the lives of millions of young girls around the world with Peach, but based on what we've seen so far, this game could end up reinforcing the same outdated gender roles.