1984’s Karateka may not be as well-known as creator Jordan Mechner’s second game—a little number called Prince of Persia—but it boasts a lot of the same charms. Both were written for the Apple II (children, this was a giant box with a screen the size of two iPhone Pluses that we could not text on, and we loved it), both feature rotoscoped animation, and both have stories centered on saving the respective princesses from the evil villain.
But it’s only Princess Mariko who can kill a man with a single blow of her dainty feet. (And has a name. Rough deal, OG Prince of Persia princess, rough deal.)
See, whilst playing Karateka, your unnamed hero punches, kicks, and occasionally unleashes his trained hawk upon his many enemies. Because what martial artist doesn’t also have a keen interest in weaponized falconry? (Uncool ones, that’s who.) In order to make with the punching and the kicking, though, you must adopt a fighting stance. Murder hawks, yes, unrealistic fighting physics, no.
But while you spend most of the game in this wide-legged stance, you must be careful to stop once the fighting is done. Should you battle your way past the big bad and into the chamber where Mariko is being held captive in said fighting stance, she’ll take one look at your manspreading man legs and kick you so hard in the face that you die. Read the room, dude!
As someone who regularly takes public transportation, I think of Princess Mariko fondly.
Tragically, this little Easter egg didn’t survive, and was totally excluded from the 2013 remake. While Mechner was right in that it wouldn’t be a surprise the second time around, I think Mariko’s complete intolerance for the hero’s shenanigans gives her a fun quirk other damsels of her vintage lacked.