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The character Mario loved before Peach

The story of Mario and Princess Peach seems like the sort of "tale as old as time," Beauty and the Beast-style thing that has just always been. Most of us remember trying to rescue the princess — Princess Toadstool, or Peach — in the first Super Mario Bros. That's what Mario does and has been doing for decades, because he's super into Peach. And he always has been, right? Right?

Not exactly. It's easy to forget, given the amount of time that's passed since we first met this mystery woman. But long before Mario was searching castles for Princess Peach, he was saving another love from the clutches of evil: Pauline.

"Pauline? That's impossible!" you might be saying. And if you're only thinking of Pauline as the mayor of New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey, it would seem strange to suggest she has any kind of history with Mario at all. But Pauline has known Mario longer than any other woman in the series. In fact, she was close with Nintendo's famous plumber before he even starred in Super Mario Bros. And that should give you a better clue as to where both Pauline and Mario got their starts.

The answer: Donkey Kong.

That's right. Back when Mario was jumping over barrels and climbing ladders in Donkey Kong, the woman he was trying to save was Pauline. Princess Peach came along as "Princess Toadstool" in Super Mario Bros., and then started taking on the "Peach" name in and after Super Mario 64. But before all of that, there was Pauline, trapped in a cage by Donkey Kong, hoping Mario would come and save her.

A lot has changed since then. Donkey Kong has left his evil ways behind, and Pauline is a talented mayor and singer. As for Mario and Peach? Even after decades, their relationship is just as murky as it was when Mario tried to rescue her for the very first time.

If anything, this dive into both Pauline and Mario's pasts has left us with one question: what happened between the two of them? We'll be sure to update you should Shigeru Miyamoto spill the beans someday.