From Damsel to Defender: Stanning Princess Peach, Nintendo's Queer Icon

She threw the first brick at Mushroom Kingdom and we'll forever praise her for it.

Ask any queer boy which character he chose to play in Mario Kart or Mario Party and I guarantee you he chose Princess Peach Toadstool, the demure, petal-pink, and continually captured ruler of Mushroom Kingdom. She was the only female character in the earliest iterations of the Mario Bros. franchise and, let’s face facts, gays love to play the lady.

I’ve written about the topic extensively. Gay and bisexual men prefer female characters in video games for a multitude of reasons. Some enjoy the aesthetic options (the rose pink go-kart? Werk!) and feminine desirability. Because there are nearly no gay protagonists to choose from in the gaming space, many LGBTQ men opt for the female because, like queer individuals, she’s often underestimated and her skillsets trivialized.


Princess Toadstool’s first appearance in 1985’s Super Mario Bros. (she was not given the moniker “Peach” until 1993’s Yoshi’s Safari) befell a classic trope of many women in pop culture: the damsel in distress. Her character was nothing more than the defenseless love interest opposite portly protagonist and plumber Mario. Indeed, she was fabulously playable in Super Mario Bros. 2 (whose gown granted her hovering capabilities, honey!), but returned as an imprisoned princess in the game’s third title.

Not only was Peach out of Mario’s league in both appearance and stature (Forbes set Peach’s net worth at $1.3 billion), other fabulous, animated women were also linked to average men of the time, including Lois Griffin, Wilma Flintstone, and Marge Simpson. During this era, female game characters were nothing more than a prop—pretty trophies awarded at the end of a level.

Princess Peach made incredible strides in the late ‘90s, with appearances and playable roles alongside an all-male cast in Mario Kart 64 (1996), Mario Party (1998), Mario Tennis (2001), among others. Daisy, Toadette, Bowsette, Baby Peach, and other female characters would eventually join the ranks, but we all stan an OG.

Without a doubt, Peach’s greatest accomplishment came when the rosy blonde starred in a game all her own, Super Princess Peach (2006), where she high-kicked her hopeless narrative into the history books and proved she was capable of not only defending herself but saving her man, his lanky brother, and her non-binary employee, Toad, from the clutches of King Bowser. Princess Peach became the hero gays always knew her to be.

Most surprising was her appearance as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) and Super Smash Bros. 4 (2013). Here Peach became a worthy physical opponent who glove-slapped other Nintendo all-stars with her parasol (fun fact: In Super Princess Peach lore, Peach’s parasol was once a human boy) and frying pan (okay, so there’s still some sexist influences). Glove-slapping? A parasol that used to be a twink? Does it get any gayer?

After Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released on December 7, 2018, Peach ranked in Out’s "Top 10 Super Smash Bros. Queer Icons" and was one of the most meme-able characters in the lineup on Twitter following the game’s release. (FYI: Gays low-key govern Twitter.)

Gay men and women helped Princess Peach become the powerful heroine she is today. The community saw her potential since her pixelated image first projected onto our screens. We fought for Princess Peach when we were teased for picking her among the roster of male characters, and were underestimated when we chose her as our choice fighter in melee titles. In return, she fought for us by simply being our inaugural representative. Before Sonya Blade and Chun-Li (also the sole female in their respective titles), there was Princess Toadstool, who threw the first brick at Mushroom Kingdom.

While other Nintendo characters are undeniably queer (Toad has no gender and Yoshi is a male dinosaur who happens to lay eggs), none represented the LGBTQ community quite like Peach, whose physical and emotional vibrancy continue to represent women and queer individuals in each rosy, progressive iteration. Keep doing us proud, Princess Peach. Chanté, you stay.

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