Princess Peach: Showtime! is everything I wanted in a game as a little girl

Princess Peach: Showtime! is everything I wanted in a game as a little girl

If there was one thing I could count on growing up in the ’90s, it was the weekly family trip to Blockbuster. While my mom or dad browsed the new movies, I took my baby sister’s hand and headed straight to the video game section. More often than not, I knew what I was renting: The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System game released by Capcom in 1994. I was charmed by the fact that I could play as Minnie — and that Minnie could transform into different characters, like a makeshift Ghostbuster with a vacuum that sucks up enemies, a jungle explorer that gave her acrobatic moves, or a cowgirl with a pop gun and hobby horse. The game was a staple in my childhood playtime until it suddenly wasn’t anymore.

Several years ago, I started thinking about the game again. It took a recipe of keywords — “Minnie,” “transformations,” “circus” — to find it, but I did. I found a copy of the Game Boy Advance remake (renamed as Disney’s Magical Quest 2 Starring Mickey & Minnie) at a local used game store and clicked it into my old handheld. Somewhere along the way, though, the magic I had felt playing the game was lost. It’s a solid, though easy, platformer with a charming sense of place, but it failed to evoke the delight I felt playing it as a kid — something I think a lot of people can relate to when looking back to childhood favorites. That’s the thing with nostalgia, right? It’s an altered memory of the past, remembering feelings over reality.

I have, here and there, chased the awe and found glimpses of how it felt to play a magical game. But I had not found it until 2024, 30 years later, with Nintendo’s Princess Peach: Showtime!.

Princess Peach standing on a pedestal wearing a swordfighter outfit. She’s holding a thin, long sword and wearing a hat with a feather. Light is emanating from her. Image: Nintendo

Princess Peach: Showtime! is Nintendo’s first game starring Peach in the nearly two decades that have gone by since the Nintendo DS game Super Princess Peach — and it’s long overdue. The game brings Peach to the Sparkle Theater, where chaos ensues as villain Madame Grape and her minions in the Sour Bunch take over a series of stage plays to create the ultimate tragedy — in both definitions of the word.

Instead of watching these plays, Peach becomes part of them. With Sailor Moon-esque magical girl transformations, Peach becomes the star of each play. Sometimes that means grabbing a sword to fight her way through hordes of enemies, or grabbing a pastry bag to decorate cakes in short minigames. Each floor of the theater has four different plays for Peach to participate in and, of course, save. There are 10 costumes total, but several different stages to play through for each: Swordfighter, Detective, Patissiere, Kung Fu, Ninja, Cowgirl, Mighty (almost Metroid-inspired!), Figure Skater, Dashing Thief, and Mermaid.

Princess Peach dressed as a cowgirl and riding a horse Image: Nintendo

In terms of difficulty, Princess Peach: Showtime! is clearly a game for kids. It’s built to be approachable for younger players, with just two core buttons — one to perform an action (like attacking) and one to jump, alongside using the analog stick for movement. But what Princess Peach: Showtime! lacks in challenge, it makes up for in diversity of play. Though there are just two button actions, the different costumes make each stage feel wildly different. That’s because, most of the time, they are: Each stage is built around its partnered costume and ability. For Swordfighter Peach, it’s slashing your way through enemies in something that feels more like a platformer. Detective Peach swaps the sword for a magnifying glass; instead of fighting, you look through the environment for simple clues to solve small puzzles. Ninja Peach turns Princess Peach: Showtime! into a stealth game, while Mermaid Peach puts a spin on straightforward timing games.

This makes for a game that’s constantly changing — there’s rarely a moment when a stage drags on for too long. Detective Peach is the only costume that fell flat for me; the clue-hunting stopped the momentum built throughout the rest of the game, but there are just three of these transformations out of the total 30. Beyond the stages and the gameplay, the game’s little details also keep it lively; there’s always something new happening or an endearing little moment to revel in. One of my favorites is with Peach and her ninja outfit; in stealth, Peach pulls out a roll of wallpaper to blend into the walls or some cardboard leaves to blend in with grass.

A spotlight is on Princess Peach, wearing her iconic pink dress, with a sparkle sidekick hovering behind her. Image: Nintendo

Princess Peach: Showtime! is not only a game that makes me feel like a kid, but a game I wish I had as a little girl. I was originally drawn to The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie because I wanted to play as Minnie. I wanted to play as a girl — and not just a girl, but a female character who was an equal to the male character. Thirty years ago, there just weren’t those sorts of options. It’s hard to believe that Nintendo would take so long to make another Peach game — and one that’s wholly unique in the Super Mario Bros. franchise — because at this point, it’s a no-brainer. I’ve got no doubt that tons of little kids will delight in what Princess Peach: Showtime! offers.

Princess Peach: Showtime! will be released March 22 on Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed using a pre-release download code provided by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.