Waifu Wednesday: Marle (Chrono Trigger)

Waifu Wednesday

We all remember our first love. The person that would eventually become the standard against which all our following relationships would be measured. For myself and many others, that first romance would come from a video game character. (Rit from Rod Land – Ed.)

Specifically, I fell for Marle from Chrono Trigger. Her story resonated with me from before I really knew what romance was. The transition from damsel-in-distress to hero saving the world from a monster beyond time and space impacted me in a big way.

For this week’s Waifu Wednesday, we’re celebrating Marle and her place among the best girls of JRPGs.

Who is Marle?

Marle from Chrono Trigger

On the surface, Marle is a cliché wrapped up in a trope served up on a bed of stereotypes. She’s a princess who is masquerading as a commoner to get away from her stuffy and controlling father. The first act of the game sees her placed firmly into the role of damsel-in-distress as an errant trip through time sees her negating her own existence. Crono rescues her and takes her home, only for her to be helpless to prevent him from being sent to jail. The two run away together to the far future, where they can both be free.

At this point, Marle starts to grow and develop beyond the kind but somewhat ditzy princess she had been. When presented with evidence that the world would end, she refused to allow it to happen. She recognised Lucca’s kindness and affection towards Robo before anyone else. By the end of the game, she stepped into the role of leader when Crono was killed.

Why we love her

That sense that there was a strength hidden just below Marle’s surface is never clearer than when she watches Crono die in front of her. While everyone else is firmly mourning their friend, she refuses to accept defeat. They are time travellers and they have changed history several times before; surely they can again. Though the game allows you to switch anyone in and out of your party at this point, Marle feels like the natural fit as leader where she previously was content to follow.

She drags the party across time, finding a clone of Crono at a fair and the potential to change time itself at the end of all things. She doggedly ascends Death Peak in the middle of an apocalypse, fighting the elements and powerful enemies just for a chance to see Crono again. All with the knowledge that it might not work. Nothing is guaranteed and the game’s time travel mechanics make it clear that there are not usually any do-overs when it comes to death. But Marle is not to be deterred.

Why you’ll love her

Marle from Chrono Trigger

This journey culminates in Crono’s revival and the two share an intimate and quiet moment at the top of a dead world. Marle, in that scene, subverts many of the JRPG tropes that ruled the genre at the time. It is a special moment that highlights why I’ve always considered their romance one of the best in gaming history. There is a subtlety to how the game allows Marle to grow and develop over the few dozen hours the player has with her.

Marle is one of the deepest, most well-developed female video game characters of the 16-bit era. Not only does she save the man she loves, but she also clears her father’s name against the machinations of the evil chancellor (because they’re always evil) in one of the most dramatic set pieces of the game. From start to finish, Marle is the heart of one of the best JRPG casts of all time, proving that if you can find yourself someone willing to overthrow the laws of time itself for you, you’ll never want for anything ever again.

If you haven’t picked up Chrono Trigger before, the Steam version has had a very welcome update to remove some of the pesky bugs and improve the art, making it the easiest way to play this classic title.

Header art by @s_a_murai. Original source here.

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