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Princess Peach: Showtime! review – a hopeful twinkle for some

We revisited the Sparkle Theater in its entirety for our Princess Peach: Showtime! Review, seeing what the power of sparkle and self-belief can really do.

Princess Peach: Showtime review: Mermaid Peach being beautiful

Our Verdict

Princess Peach: Showtime turns the Mushroom Kingdom’s monarch into a digital Barbie, filling any role she’s given with personality and charm. Some levels place you on the edge of your seat, while others leave you praying for the interval. A very good game for a highly specific demographic - adult Mario fans, be warned.

Practically every girlypop gamer I know has been waiting patiently for Princess Peach: Showtime’s release since its reveal back in September 2023, myself included. Throughout the Mario franchise’s storied history, we’ve only occasionally had the chance to play as Peach in a mainline title, and this is our first chance to do so on the Switch since its launch in 2017.

This whimsical little tale lets you take control of Peach’s destiny, leading her on a solo adventure to save the Sparkle Theater and its residents, the Theets, from the evil Madame Grape and her Sour Bunch. She teams up with the theatre’s guardian, Stella, to restore each of the plays to their former glory, uplifting the actors and using awesome transformations along the way.

Princess Peach: Showtime’s main selling point is definitely the transformations. They particularly intrigue me because the idea of Peach taking on all these different roles reminds me a lot of Kirby, which is one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. While she’s taken part in kart racing, tennis, soccer, and a bunch of other Olympic sports in various Mario spin-offs, we only really see Peach as the damsel in distress princess in the main entries. This game lets us show off her true power and versatility in a story-driven setting.

As I pointed out in my preview, it’s clear that this game is meant to be accessible to a wide range of players thanks to its simplified control system. You use one button to jump, one to interact with the world or use your powers, and you only need one stick to move. Based on this alone, Princes Peach: Showtime is a good fit for those of you looking to recommend ‘my first videogame’ to young family members. However, after spending more time with Peach and Stella, I wish there was a couch co-op option that would allow a parent or older sibling to play as Stella, assisting Peach in her story without taking full control.

Princess Peach Showtime review: Stella

The first transformation is swordfighter Peach and I was immediately drawn in. When you unlock a new transformation, the game treats you to an absolutely stunning animated cutscene that’s clearly inspired by magical girl anime and immediately gives you a feel for the character Peach is playing. Swordfighter Peach is a romantic, dapper character who wields her sword with precision and flashy combos that look far more complex than they actually are. The rose motif that accompanies her character makes me think of Revolutionary Girl Utena, which is never a bad thing.

Next is ninja Peach, who I took a lot longer to get to grips with than swordfighter Peach, despite the identical control system. It’s not so much the gameplay that caused an issue, but I noticed at the end of the level that I only found about 50% of the secrets, whereas I found them all in the first level on my first try. There are a couple of secrets that I could see throughout the level but couldn’t figure out how to access, whereas others are completely hidden. Ninja Peach has plenty of positives though, including her wall jump and slick takedown animations. A lot of the first ninja level also enforces stealth instead of combat, providing immediate variety in the gameplay between each of Sparkle Theater’s plays.

Cowgirl Peach didn’t particularly grab me, but her first level and the first ninja level both include autoscroller or endless runner-style segments that seem to come out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting these at all, so while the idea of parkouring through a village as a ninja or chasing down baddies on my trusty steed is great, I actually find these sections pretty frustrating. I think my main issue stems from their sudden appearance and lack of warning, meaning you have to switch your playstyle quickly to avoid enemies and collect coins.

Princess Peach Showtime review: Stella's ribbons

Patissiere Peach is the transformation whose adorable outfit and giant cake decorating levels drew me to Princess Peach: Showtime in the first place. While her design is just as stunning as the rest and the play’s setting made my mouth water, patissiere Peach’s gameplay let me down. I thought that her cake-decorating minigame would resemble a throwback to Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop on the DS (a rather deep cut, I know), allowing for a level of creativity in your designs, but it’s more like a series of quicktime events with surprisingly difficult controls.

I noted previously that patissiere Peach feels a lot more passive than the rest of the princess’ transformations, which feels like a strange inclusion in an otherwise empowering story. As fun as it is to switch between all of Peach’s different roles, I much prefer the swordfighter, mighty, kung fu, and ninja plays than the patissiere or detective roles. A game like this shouldn’t have to rely on engaging combat to be fun, but the roles without violence just don’t shine like those where I can drop-kick a sour bunch crony across the stage.

Luckily, some of the less combat-heavy transformations manage to balance the action-oriented gameplay with theatricality and more traditionally feminine themes. I could not wait to put my skates on and glide across the ice with the Theets in their ice dance production after Nintendo revealed figure skater Peach, and I was not disappointed. The whole level has magical winter wonderland vibes and my personal favorite touch is when Peach runs across some ice before transforming into a figure skater, she slips and wobbles a little. It’s just precious.

Princess Peach Showtime review: Peach slipping on the ice

The figure skating gameplay reminds me a lot of Princess On Ice for the DS (I’m on a roll with the deep cuts) which is extremely nostalgic, and the level’s boss is so incredibly campy, really adding to the “you’re in a play” feeling of the entire game. The boss battle in particular has you ‘duel’ a villain from Precure or another magical girl anime by playing human-sized slither.io on an ice rink with the Theet ice dancers. Chaotic, bizarre, but incredibly fun.

I do want to praise Princess Peach: Showtime’s storytelling though. Peach herself is a largely silent protagonist while Stella speaks directly to the player and Peach through large, easy-to-read text boxes. The Theets also make little remarks which appear above their heads, reminding me of Mario Wonder’s talking flowers. That being said, the game makes such good use of environmental storytelling, soundtrack, and expressive body language that even gamers who can’t yet read won’t have trouble following along.

Another feature that’s great for younger players, or those of us looking to have a carefree gaming experience, is the extra hearts option. By speaking to a member of theater staff in the hub world, you can grab a few more hearts at no extra cost. There’s no judgment for taking them and you can return them whenever you want. This extra security buffer, in my opinion, is a much less restrictive way to lower the barrier to entry for players than Mario Wonder’s Yoshi and Nabbit characters.

Princess Peach Showtime review: Four Peach dresses - cow print, cake print, gradient, and ninja cloud print

Let’s talk customization. Easily one of my favorite parts of this game is the ability to change Peach and Stella’s costumes. I’ve shown off a few of these gorgeous designs in my screenshots, but trust me when I say there’s a whole wardrobe to explore for both characters. Each transformation has its own dress design which is relatively easy to unlock via a ribbon in the first play, but 100% completing Peach’s wardrobe takes some real skill and dedication. Cosmetics are a huge motivating factor for me in games, but sadly, some of the challenges associated with these dresses are just too difficult or tedious for me to commit to, despite my desire to be fashion-forward.

Tedious is unfortunately a word that pops into my head a lot when I think about Princess Peach: Showtime. Despite ten unique and detailed transformations with varied gameplay and storytelling, traveling through the Sparkle Theater still feels a little ‘one note.’ The further I progressed, the harder I found it to dive back in after taking a break, especially after playing a couple of non-combat levels in a row, such as dashing thief followed by detective.

I’m aware that I’m not exactly the core demographic that Nintendo is aiming to please, but I’ve had several friends (even those who play completely different genres to me) express their interest in the game to me after seeing the trailers. Knowing this, I want my fellow Peach fans to be aware before dropping $60 on the game. Still, I stand by my original assessment that this game is perfect for a younger family member who’s thinking about getting into videogames! The levels are relatively short, there’s a lot of variety in terms of visuals and aesthetics, and the one-button controls are beautifully simple.

Princess Peach Showtime review: Mighty Peach charging up

Overall, while it’s a very different experience from the idea that I had in my head, Princess Peach: Showtime is still incredibly fun and packed full of the flair and charm we’ve come to expect from Nintendo’s games. It certainly won’t be for everyone and I think the audience definitely skews a little younger, but that just makes Princess Peach: Showtime a brilliant choice for spending time with your family members, so take my score with a grain of salt. The princess and Stella are sure to turn many children into gamers this year.

For more adventures with women who can do it all, check out our list of Barbie games. We’ve also got a Mario vs Donkey Kong review and list of our favorite Mario characters to explore.