Nintendo may be known for creating some of the most iconic characters in gaming, but their Super Mario Bros. franchise has never been one to offer an in-depth look at these characters or their motivations. Super Mario Galaxy offered a refreshing change of pace with the introduction of Rosalina, who came with her own distinct personality and surprisingly mature backstory. She has since become a mainstay of the series, and continues to be featured in many of Nintendo's biggest releases.
The player first meets Rosalina near the beginning of Super Mario Galaxy, where her centennial trip to the Mushroom Kingdom has been cut short by Bowser, who promptly kidnaps Princess Peach and steals Rosalina's “power stars” (see: MacGuffin). Rosalina is initially mysterious, and the extent of her power is never revealed. We do know that she can use her magic wand to create a force field around her ship, has the ability to float and appears to have stopped aging during her journey through space. These abilities, coupled with the fact that she has never been kidnapped, immediately makes her a more compelling character than Peach. We're happy to see another female character that hasn't fallen victim to the “damsel in distress” trope, a favorite of Nintendo's.
Rosalina traverses the stars with dozens of Lumas, a race of adorable “star children” with their own magical powers and abilities. She treats these children as if they were her own, caring for and nurturing them until they eventually grow up and leave her side. This is where the main themes of her story, namely loss and acceptance, come into play. While traveling with her, the player will periodically be treated to a chapter from Rosalina's storybook, with a new one unlocking each time they complete a section of the game. This book offers an origin story for Rosalina, and explains her relationship with the Lumas.
When she was a child, Rosalina found a Luma near a rusty spaceship. The Luma had been waiting for its mother, who was supposedly coming for it on a comet. Rosalina decided to wait with it, but to no avail. Together, they fixed up the spaceship and searched the galaxy, leaving Rosalina's family behind. Rosalina later dreamt of her mother walking away from her, saying that she'd be watching Rosalina from the stars above. Remembering this moment, and the words her mother had said to her, helped Rosalina ease Luma's pain and disappointment when their search failed to turn up any leads.
Eventually, Rosalina and Luma would meet other star children to take along with them, each one referring to Rosalina as its mother. She later became homesick as she looked at her old planet through a telescope, remembering the family she had left behind. She came to the realization that her mother had never been watching her from the sky because she was actually “sleeping under a tree on the hill.” To comfort her, the Luma she had left her home planet with years ago, transformed into a comet large enough to carry Rosalina and the other star children, which would eventually become the observatory. The other Lumas explained to Rosalina that her friend had been reborn, and that it was the destiny of every Luma to transform into a comet, star or other celestial being. It was now apparent that Luma's mother had never been waiting for him on a comet, but had become one herself. His and Rosalina's journey was the result of neither of them being able to accept their losses, a lesson that this event served to teach her.
This storybook is what makes Rosalina such a compelling character. She isn't a picture-perfect force for good simply because Nintendo programmed her to be, nor is she a carbon copy of Peach as many fans initially suspected. She had to grow up from being a child and learn how to accept her losses, as well as the importance of friends and family. Nintendo took a chance by exploring some heavy subjects rarely touched upon by one of their games, let alone a video game having been developed with children in mind.
Rosalina's role didn't end with the Galaxy series, though. She recently appeared as the fifth playable character in last year's Super Mario 3D World, and will appear in Mario Kart 8, making it her fourth time on the racetrack since the Wii version. Masahiro Sakurai also announced that she would be joining Nintendo's other iconic characters in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS. We hope to see more of Rosalina in the Super Mario universe and would love for her to be featured as the main protagonist in her own title.