I recently came across an issue of Nintendo Power (kind of hard to believe they still publish that after all these years) in the break room at work, and it had an article about famous video game couples. Of course, Mario and Peach were in there, but that got me thinking about how Nintendo really didn’t highlight their relationship at first.
Sure, a lot of people assumed they were an item, but I don’t recall there being much evidence of it back in the NES days. Rescuing a woman doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get together with her, regardless of what Princess Gwaelin might think.
And the Mario cartoons and comics from my youth never really made the two of them look like anything more than good friends. In fact, I kind of think the Super Mario Bros. 3 cartoons were actively working against the idea of the two of them as a couple. The Writers’ Bible for the show claimed that Princess Toadstool was seventeen years old, and while Mario’s age was never specified, he’s obviously quite a bit older. There was also one episode, “Reign Storm,” in which the Princess got a crush on a Hawaiian surfer dude, with no indication that she felt any qualms due to already having a boyfriend. I think we can safely disregard the thing about the Princess being seventeen; it was never actually mentioned in the show, and games like Yoshi’s Island DS and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time show her having been a baby at the same time as Mario (as well as Luigi and Bowser).
I believe Super Mario World is the first game to show the Princess rewarding Mario with a kiss when he rescues her, although she does the same thing if it’s Luigi who defeats Bowser. The text always refers to “Mario,” however, so that’s probably more of a programming oversight than an indication that Peach is a two-timer. Besides, it was a quite chaste kiss, and Peach might have been so shaken up by her ride in the Clown Car that she didn’t even notice which brother she was kissing. I can’t recall any suggestion that Luigi is a rival for Peach’s affections, despite the fact you’d think he’d be rather jealous of his brother. Of course, later games have him hooking up with Princess Daisy, although that seems to have been mostly for the sake of convenience. (“Hey, we have an extra brother and an extra princess here. Let’s get them together.”)
“Hi! I’m Daisy!”
It has been established, however, that Peach has another lover in Bowser, creating a love triangle.
The two of them were actually married by Count Bleck in Super Paper Mario, but no one but King Koopa himself sees that as valid.
Mind you, we really don’t know much about how marriage works in Koopa society. Bowser has eight children, but who’s the mother? Did he have a wife at one point? Multiple wives? Concubines? We don’t know. Maybe capturing a woman and locking her in a cage is considered proper courtship among Koopas. Considering that Mario’s previous girlfriend has a gorilla’s love interest, however, I have to wonder how Mario keeps getting mixed up with women who are particularly attractive to other species.
At least it isn’t a Toad and Toadette situation, where we still don’t know whether they’re a couple, siblings, or what. Those two are the White Stripes of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Picture by Kogababe
So what about Nintendo’s other famous hero and damsel in distress, Link and Zelda?
As I mentioned here, while the Mario cartoons usually avoided romantic issues, the Zelda ones were all about sexual tension between the two leads. I don’t think the games have ever really played up the two of them as a couple, though, probably because of how there came to be so many different Links and Zeldas. This is a particular concern if the Links and Zeldas are ancestors of each other. I guess that leaves Link free to pursue other romantic interests.
The source for this picture is here.