After being kidnapped by Bowser 14 times in video game history, it’s long overdue Princess Peach stood on her own. Nearly 20 years ago, this Mushroom Kingdom royalty starred in a solo video game, Super Princess Peach, for the Nintendo DS. It was decent enough but ultimately a weak attempt to bridge the gap for an often-ignored segment of gamers and what they thought was an entry-level niche market — girls.

Today, we know gaming has no gender qualifications for characters and players, and Nintendo’s newest game from the Mario universe puts the spotlight back on the pink-bustle-clad Princess. This time, she’s saving the day with the power, style, and grace befitting a noble like herself.

Princess Peach: Showtime! takes the Mario formula we all know and love and spins it on its head to produce something new and exciting. The game is still about getting from Point A to Point B, but instead of running to a goalpost and stomping on goombas, each level focuses on solving specific problems. And how does one do that? With fabulous costumes and magical powers!

What’s Princess Peach: Showtime! about?

Trailer for Princess Peach: Showtime!

Princess Peach is taking a well-deserved break from the antics of Mario and Bowser, heading to the Sparkle Theater to take in a show. Before the curtain rises, the malevolent Madame Grape emerges, using her dark magic and minions to control every show in the building. During the chaos, the Princess befriends an ethereal ribbon named Stella, the Sparkle Theater’s guardian.

The pair team up to knock out the baddies and regain control of the theater, combining their powers to become the main characters in the multitude of shows inside this massive auditorium. Each play is a different challenge, requiring unique skills to overtake the villains and restore peace and order to the Sparkle Theater.

The game is based around this whimsical theatre, so every adventure happens on a literal stage. Each of these big-budget theatrical adventures needs special talents to win, and that’s where the true fun of the game happens. It’s Sailor Moon meets Mario Bros. Wonder, taking a page from anime magical girls to create alter egos for the Princess that are huge fun. If your kid loves Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir, this is the game for them!

Scattered in hidden areas of each level is a way for the Princess and Stella to activate their stage-specific powers, offering 10 new personas for players to transform into. The signature rosy-colored dress makes way for charged-up costumes, including a swordfighter, superhero, kung fu master, lasso-wielding cowgirl, figure skater, ninja, master thief, baker, and mermaid, as well as some other surprises later in the game.

Every level starts identically, with the Princess twirling her ribbon at goons or restoring depressed denizens of the theater to their cheery selves. The moment Princess Peach gets her upgrade is when the stages take on new life, and these parts are addicting. Depending on the costume, the level can turn into a beat-em-up, require your brain to solve a puzzle, practice your artistic skills by decorating pastries, race across the Wild West on horseback, bench press cars, do a triple axel in the ice rink, or Crane Kick villains into oblivion, among other dynamic abilities.

It’s hard to pick a personal favorite, but the ninja levels are amazing. Dressed in her shinobi costume, Peach can strike enemies with twin kunai blades while stealthily dodging them using tricky camouflage, then wall-jumping and running across roofs to get to the next part of the stage.

The music sets the perfect mood for every mission, whether it’s intensely sword-fighting your way up a castle or singing sweet mermaid songs under the sea to move oversized electric eels. You’ll need these skills to prepare for the inevitable showdown with Madame Grape, whose presence looms over all of these locations.

Should my family play Princess Peach: Showtime?

Princess Peach: Showtime! is undeniably intended to invite new gamers into the world of Nintendo, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any challenge to Princess Peach’s latest exploits. No challenge is impossible, and its simple controls make it easy to pick up and play. However, only very skilled players will be able to find every hidden item through the 30+ levels on their first try, and obtaining those things on an initial run-through is a different story altogether.

While the game may take 8-10 hours to complete on an initial playthrough, the replay value is high in this game. Aside from replaying the levels to find missing items or perfect your speed run, it’s boosted by a handful of bonus challenges called “Rehearsals” located on different floors that highlight a specific part of a level to earn trophies. Players can also customize the outfits of the Princess and Stella to personalize their experience, adding a touch of dress-up that doesn’t dive too deep into talking down to their audience.

Unlike Mario Wonder, this title is only for one adventurer at a time. There’s no multiplayer option, so couch co-op will turn into couch coaching or spectating. Nobody is going to want to share their controller with this title’s compelling gameplay, so if you have more than one gamer who wants to try their hand at Showtime!, I suggest using those extra Switch accounts that every console offers.

Don’t confuse accessibility with being too simple. Princess Peach: Showtime! is equally great for starting your children on video games as it is for seasoned vets. The diverse magical costumes make every level feel unique and always leave you wanting more (you’ll see what I mean after you play the ninja or cowgirl stages). It gets a standing ovation from Scary Mommy, taking Princess Peach from a part-time player into a Broadway superstar who’s finally getting her well-earned flowers.

Princess Peach: Showtime! is available exclusively for Nintendo Switch.

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