Move over Mario, Pauline’s got this. One particularly rad dad just hacked Donkey Kong so his young daughter could play the game as the heroine.

Playing Video Games Enhances Decision-Making

Mike Mika’s three-year-old daughter Ellis asked her father why she couldn’t play Donkey Kong as a girl instead of as Mario. “I had to tell her, ‘This game doesn’t let you do that,’” Mika told NPR. Ellis, who loved playing Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES as Princess Toadstool, was bummed.

Fortunately Mika is the chief creative officer of the game development company Other Ocean Interactive and his daughter’s response made him realize he had the tools to hack the classic video game.

“Kids ask parents all the time for things that just aren’t possible,” he wrote in an essay on “But this time, this was different.”

So Mika spent all night working in Tile Layer Pro to create Pauline sprites and palettes that would replace Mario. He even swapped out the “M” in the bonus indicator with “P” for Pauline. In the morning his daughter asked to play Donkey Kong and discovered that she could play as Pauline.

“She was excited!” Mika wrote on “But for all she knew, I just figured out how to get Pauline to work.” Only after posting videos of the game in action on YouTube (video), did he find himself caught up in an enormous debate about gender roles and video gaming.

Loving parents have built all sorts of amazing things for their children. I think it’s awesome that Mika did this for his daughter. He said later that Ellis seemed to enjoy the game more when she played as Pauline, that she was more motivated. It makes sense — here’s a pixelated character that’s easier for her to identify with.

Space Invaders Take Over California

If you’re wondering about a three-year-old playing video games, Mika’s essay explained that while Ellis preferred not to play complicated games, she felt more confident trying old arcade games — Donkey Kong in particular. Perhaps, Mika thought, it was because Mario looks like her grandfather, or maybe it was because they’d just seen The King of Kong documentary together.

Whatever her reasons, this great hack makes the game more fun for her than ever, barrels and all.

Credit: Mike Mika (video).