|First appearance||Donkey Kong (1981)|
|Created by||Shigeru Miyamoto|
|Portrayed by||Sally Klein (Donkey Kong ColecoVision commercial)|
|Voiced by||Jo Belle Yonely (1983; Donkey Kong Cereal commercials)|
Judy Strangis (1983–1984; Saturday Supercade)
Emily Jenness (2006-2015)
Kate Higgins (2017–present; Super Mario Odyssey onwards)
Aimi Mukohara (2017; singing voice in Super Mario Odyssey, Japanese version)
|Significant other||Mario (ex-boyfriend)|
|Origin||New Donk City|
Pauline (Japanese: ポリーン, Hepburn: Porīn, pronounced [poɾiːɴ]) is a fictional character from the Mario video game franchise, owned by Nintendo and created by Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. The lead female character from the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, she first appeared in Donkey Kong as the damsel in distress, being held captive by Donkey Kong at the top of a large construction site. Pauline thus debuted in the same game as the characters Mario and Donkey Kong.
Pauline was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and other developers for the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong as the earliest example of a woman with a speaking role in a video game, and is cited as a famous example of a damsel in distress in fiction. Originally, Pauline was known as Lady,[a] and the game introduced her as Mario's girlfriend. The name Pauline was given after the then-girlfriend of Nintendo of America's warehouse manager, Don James. Then it was used in licensed products after the game's release (including a collection of figures by Coleco and a coloring book), and was eventually used for the NES version of the game, although print ads for the Game & Watch version of the game refer to her as Louise.
Initially a damsel in distress within the Mario franchise, Super Mario Odyssey changed her role where she behaves as the singer of the band The Super Mario Players and the Mayor of New Donk City and is a supporting character, helping Mario with his quest. Producer Yoshiaki Koizumi told Polygon that she sang the game's theme song, "Jump Up, Super Star!", noting "As we were developing Pauline more as a character, we know that she was going to be interested in jazz...It was interesting for us to have the first song in a Mario game with vocals".
Pauline debuted in Donkey Kong (1981) as Mario's love interest and returned in Donkey Kong (1994) for Game Boy, where she continued to be the typical damsel in distress. After its release she did not reappear for a while and was supposedly replaced by Princess Peach until her reintroduction in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, where she reprised her role in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis for the Nintendo DS in 2006. She would continue to appear in all of its sequels, including getting her mini toy in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem, until 2015. In 2017, Super Mario Odyssey marked her return to the original series, serving as the mayor of New Donk City as well as singer for the songs "Jump Up, Super Star!" and "Break Free (Lead The Way)". Since then, she has fully entered into the Mario universe; this version of the character reappears as a playable character in various video games, such as Mario Tennis Aces and Mario Kart Tour.
Outside of the Mario franchise, Pauline was mainly seen through reappearances of her arcade sprite in games such as the Game & Watch Collection, NES Remix and WarioWare Gold, Pinball and Famicom BASIC. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, she along with her band appear on the New Donk City stage, where by interacting with them, the player can add extra instruments and vocals to the music. Pauline herself is also featured as a spirit, utilizing her Super Mario Odyssey artwork. In March 2019, Pauline made her playable debut as a DLC character in Mario Tennis Aces. In 2021, she made her golfing debut in Mario Golf: Super Rush.
Prior to the release of Super Mario Odyssey, Pauline's limited role as a helpless damsel, who became forgotten by Nintendo, had been criticized. Ethan Gach from Kotaku stated "Pauline has been trotted out as a helpless hostage all these years". Mic initially called Pauline a "run-of-the-mill, absurdly-beautiful-yet-helpless human woman". IGN reviewed Pauline positively, giving her an 8 out of 10, but commented "We think it's time to the dodge those barrels once again, and see about a girl named Pauline". To rectify this, in 2012, a man re modded the original Donkey Kong arcade game to allow players to play as Pauline instead of Jumpman, to please his 3-year-old daughter. The father, Mika Mika, explained that his daughter wanted to play as a girl character, but was unable to due the lack of female playable characters in early video games. The modding efforts help to spark interest in female characters in gaming across social media, in sighting video game expert Scott Steinberg to say that developers should "wake up and realize that there is a broader audience", hoping that they can expand the general gaming community.
After her reappearance in Super Mario Odyssey, her character was praised for overcoming the damsel in distress archetype into becoming a woman of power. Bleeding Cool wrote about how it was a "big deal" for Pauline's sudden return, pointing out how she has finally been given a voice after nearly four decades, feeling that is an injustice that she has been negated to just a plot point all that time, citing it as "one hell of a patriarchy-smashing comeback". Paste writer Holly Green included Pauline as one of the best new game characters of 2017. Nadia Oxford of USGamer has included Pauline in her "best new Nintendo character of the past decade". Gabe Gurwin of Digital Trends placed Pauline 1st in their top ten new characters they hope to see in the Super Smash Bros. series. Screen Rant included Pauline in their top ten female characters who deserve their own video game.
The song "Jump Up, Super Star!" debuted at number 33 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 for the week of 11 November 2017. Super Mario Odyssey won "Best Original Music" in IGN's Best of 2017, with IGN praising the song by stating that it is an "immediate earworm that brilliantly capitalizes on the legacy of the Mario franchise while also standing out as a new approach to music for the series". Screen Rant included the song in their top ten best songs from Super Mario Odyssey, calling it "beautifully done". Kate Higgins performed "Jump Up, Super Star!" during the 2017 Game Awards ceremony.
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What with that Auburn jazz degree, it was right up Kate's alley. She nailed it. Nintendo actually asked her to perform the song live at the 2017 Game Awards show last December in front of an army of fans in Mario hats.
The best musical moment, though? A full performance of “Jump Up, Super Star,” the amazing theme song to Super Mario Odyssey.
'Jump Up, Super Star!' was even performed by Kate Higgins, the song's English singer, at the 2017 Game Awards.