List of controversies

The following list consists of details regarding all major controversies relating to the Super Mario franchise.

Implied themesEdit

Transgender portrayalsEdit

In the manual of Super Mario Bros. 2, the character of Birdo is described as follows:

He thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He'd rather be called "birdetta."[sic]

Due to the confusion surrounding this odd translation, Nintendo of America usually distances itself from this statement, with a clearly gender-defined Birdo appearing as early as the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! cartoon. However, official sources have since been contradictory or vague about the ordeal:[1]


An issue arose over the English localization of WarioWare: Touched!, specifically Ashley's Theme. In the game, the Turntable souvenir allows the player to listen to various themes from the game with similar functions to a record player, which includes the ability to speed up and slow down the music using the touch screen. However, if the record is spun fast enough with the stylus, it causes the game to skip over large chunks of dialogue in the song and distort the lyrics. A concern was raised with the first solo of the song, which is sung by Ashley herself. When the record is spun at a high speed, only the very first part of each measure of the song plays. The syllables which are heard when this happens are marked in bold.

Eye of newt
I cast a hex on you!
Grandma's wig
This'll make you big!
Kitten spit
Soon your pants won't fit!
Pantalones giganticus!
Oh no, not again.

These words form the sentence "Eye-I ca gran this kit soo pan'l," which can be misinterpreted as "I have granted kids to Hell." Nintendo and Nintendo Power have both stated that it was simply a coincidence and that the words were distorted due to the game meshing pieces of the song together.[2]

  Ashley's Theme - An excerpt of the English version from WarioWare: Touched!
File infoMedia:DSAshleySong.oga
  Ashley's Theme - A different section of the song played at high speed, demonstrating the misinterpreted lyrics.
File infoMedia:Ashley's Song Message.oga
Help:MediaHaving trouble playing?

Super Mario Galaxy's Canadian French localizationEdit

Super Mario Galaxy was the first Super Mario game to be officially localized to French for Quebec; that market had previously received Super Mario titles in English rather than French. This followed a deal between the Office québécois de la langue française and the video game industry to have every game available for that region in French by 2009. In the Quebec localization, NPCs (particularly the Lumas and the Toad Brigade) make heavy use of Joual accents and slang. This localization choice sparked a minor controversy, with representatives of the Office québécois de la langue française and the Union des artistes criticizing it for promoting poor literacy to children.[3] A Nintendo representative responded that the localization was made with "localizing for the market" in mind, as the Quebec market made up 25% of sales for Nintendo of Canada at the time.[3]

Following the negative reception to the localizations of Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (which featured a similarly Joual-heavy localization), later Canadian French localizations would be written in Standard French (with the exception of the similarly-localized Paper Mario: Sticker Star).

Animal crueltyEdit

After the release of Super Mario 3D Land, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) created a website entitled "Mario Kills Tanooki" along with an accompanying Flash game to promote their anti-fur campaign with regard to the live skinning of raccoon dogs or tanukis. The site implied that Super Mario 3D Land was promoting the use of animal furs as clothing by allowing Mario to use the Tanooki Suit as a power-up, although it originated in Super Mario Bros. 3, which was released in 1988 (23 years prior to the release of Super Mario 3D Land).

The game, entitled "Super Tanooki Skin 2D", stars the character of Tanooki, a skinless animal who is chasing Mario to get his skin back. The game has the player dodge obstacles in order to catch up to Mario, who is wearing his skin and flying ahead of Tanooki. When the player wins the game a message that reads "#$*! you Mario!! The skin belongs to an animal!" pops up. Different sprite assets are ripped from the Super Mario All-Stars version of Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario World.

PETA's satirical and gory depiction of Tanooki Mario that serves as artwork for Mario Kills Tanooki.

This resulted in strong backlash from Nintendo, who released a statement concerning the issue:[4]

"Mario often takes the appearance of certain animals and objects in his games.

These have included a frog, a penguin, a balloon, and even a metallic version of himself. These lighthearted and whimsical transformations give Mario different abilities and make his games fun to play.

The different forms that Mario takes make no statement beyond the games themselves."

A spokesperson from PETA later claimed that their allegations were "tongue-in-cheek", "a fun way to call attention to a serious issue, that raccoon dogs are skinned alive for their fur" and that "[PETA] wish real-life tanukis could fly or swat enemies away with their tails".[5] Over 250,000 people played "Super Tanooki Skin 2D" within the first 36 hours of it being uploaded.[6] The website is still currently active. The game was widely criticized, however, for being "absurd" and seeming to be not researched.[7]


In Paper Mario: Color Splash, there is a minigame in which the player has to identify which of five dancing Toads has a key. These Toads are referred to as the Five Fun Guys, with their dance minigame later proven as a scam afterwards (the Toad host saying, "Man, is this gonna ruin my career?! I can see the headline now: 'Shufflegate: Exposed!'").[8] Some news sites took this as a reference to the GamerGate controversy, with the term "Shufflegate" referring to the movement itself, and the Five Fun Guys being a reference to the five journalists Zoe Quinn was associated with at the start of the controversy.[9][10]

A Nintendo spokesman later clarified the intention of the line and name, saying that "Shufflegate" refers to the Watergate scandal, while the Five Fun Guys are a reference to the "Fungi Fun Guys", Mario and Toad's team name in Mario Party 8, and that the two jokes are not meant to be connected.[11]

Super Mario Odyssey box art changeEdit

Comparison of the North American pre-release Super Mario Odyssey boxart (left) with the so-called "Mexican Mario" on the lower left corner and the final North American boxart (right) with the "Mexican Mario" removed and replaced with Mario swimming.

At E3 2017, Nintendo unveiled the pre-release box art for Super Mario Odyssey, which featured a collage of screenshots from the game's kingdoms with Mario dressed accordingly to the location. On the lower-left corner, Mario could be spotted shivering in the Sand Kingdom wearing the sombrero and the poncho, near the RP rating. This look earned the nickname of "Mexican Mario" and was described as a negative stereotype of the Mexican people and their culture, with several sources accusing Nintendo of racism and cultural appropriation.[12] Later, the game's box art was changed, with the "Mexican Mario" image removed and replaced with a different screenshot showing Mario swimming in the Lake Kingdom.


In Paper Mario: The Origami King, the first trapped Toad Mario and Olivia save complains that Toads have been poorly treated. The Toad says, "What do they have against Toads! It's not fair! Toads have rights! This is Toad abuse!". In the Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese versions, the quotes about rights and freedom were removed and replaced with, "Return the smooth appearance to Toads! Give back the easy life to Toads!" when translated into English, referring to his paper body.[13] People who responded to the discovery on Twitter considered the change "unspeakably strange", and some wondered if Nintendo had made these changes because of the Hong Kong national security law.[14] The original poster of the comment has received some criticism from people arguing that China could not have interfered and the translation could be a pun. Nintendo released no comments about the situation.[15]


Mario Party 8Edit

The launch of Mario Party 8 in the United Kingdom had several difficulties. Originally scheduled for release on June 22, 2007, Nintendo announced on June 19, 2007 that the UK version of the game had been delayed to July 13 of that year due to a production issue.[16]

Furthermore, upon the release on July 13, 2007, the game was immediately recalled. Nintendo gave a reason for the withdrawal in a press release:[17]

"[Mario Party 8] was launched in the UK today. Unfortunately we have discovered that a small number of games contain the wrong version of the disk due to an assembly error. We have therefore decided to recall all copies of the game from UK retailers so that this mistake can be corrected. We will re-launch Mario Party 8 in the UK as soon as possible and will announce a new launch date shortly. We very much regret any inconvenience caused."

The European retailer GAME confirmed[17] that the game was withdrawn from shelves because some copies included an offensive line as part of a magic spell used by Magikoopa in the board Shy Guy's Perplex Express:

"Magikoopa magic! Turn the train spastic! Make this ticket tragic!"

Because "spastic" is an ableist slur in the United Kingdom, derived from muscle spasms in cerebral palsy patients, the game was declared banned and immediately recalled. Mario Party 8 was eventually re-released on August 3, 2007, with the offensive statement altered; European copies use the word "erratic" instead and American copies use a completely different statement: "Let me use my magic to make this all a little more interesting!".

Although it is unknown if Mario Party 8 is the direct catalyst, several first-party Nintendo games released after it have had at least a few English localization differences between the American and British releases instead of using the American English text for all regions. A similar offense in Super Paper Mario with the word "shag" was preemptively altered for the European release.

Legal and copyrightsEdit

Universal StudiosEdit

Wikipedia article: Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd.

Approximately nine months after the original Donkey Kong game was marketed in 1981, Universal Studios sued Nintendo and their production companies, alleging that Donkey Kong's name, story, and titular character were similar to that of the character King Kong (the rights to produce another King Kong film had been recently won by Universal in 1976).[18]

After seeing the success of Donkey Kong in Japan, Universal attempted to enter the gaming industry by producing a video game with Tiger Productions that starred King Kong and featured similar gameplay. However, in 1981, Nintendo exported Donkey Kong to the West, where it became famous, selling 60,000 arcade units and earning Nintendo $180 million in profit (from both arcade systems and console ports). This prompted Universal to terminate all contracts with Tiger and threaten to sue Nintendo and various producers of Donkey Kong-related material because "[their] actions falsely suggest to the public that [its] product originates with or is authorized, sponsored or approved by the owner of the King Kong name, character and story."

Coleco and Atari, the producers of the game's early computer and home console ports, promptly settled and offered to pay three percent of all profits made from the game and its production. Nintendo, however, refused to settle. On June 29, 1982, Universal officially sued Nintendo. In 1983, Universal ordered cease-and-desist letters be sent to all of Nintendo's licensees, ordering that the companies stop production and obtain licenses from Universal before resuming. Nintendo later agreed to appear in court and was represented by John Kirby, whereas Universal Studios opted to be represented by a New York law firm. The trial lasted for one week, and was overseen by Judge Robert W. Sweet.

During the trial, Universal alleged that based on surveys of amusement arcades (conducted by Universal itself), at least eighteen percent of people believed that Donkey Kong was related to King Kong. Universal believed that the similar appearance and the shared use of the second name "Kong" was the basis for the confusion. Among other claims, Universal also protested that the game's similar story was a direct infringement of the King Kong movies' plot.

Nintendo debunked these claims by vouching that Universal had won the rights to produce a sequel, claiming that the King Kong franchise was in the public domain and that the likelihood of confusing Donkey Kong with King Kong was low. Nintendo had also discovered the attempt by Tiger and Universal to create a King Kong video game and claimed that this was an infringement on Donkey Kong.[19]

The district court ruled in favor of Nintendo, indicating that Universal did not own the King Kong franchise and that the two franchises were hardly similar. Judge Sweet stated that the cease-and-desist letters sent by Universal allowed Nintendo to receive compensation, and that Tiger's King Kong video game was a direct infringement of Donkey Kong. Nintendo opted to receive compensation and was awarded $1.8 million.[20] Universal appealed the decision but lost again.

Ikegami TsushinkiEdit

As Nintendo's newly established video game division lacked programming manpower, the arcade version of Donkey Kong was programmed by Ikegami Tsushinki, a contractor that had worked for Nintendo for several of its arcade releases.[21][22] For Donkey Kong's development, the two companies signed a contract which gave Ikegami Tsushinki exclusive rights to the manufacturing of Donkey Kong arcade boards.[21][22]

In 1983, Ikegami Tsushinki sued Nintendo on the grounds that the company had violated the contract and produced around 80,000 arcade boards on its own.[21][22] Ikegami Tsushinki also sought compensation for the use of reverse-engineered Donkey Kong code in Donkey Kong Jr.[21][22] and claimed it owned the copyright on Donkey Kong's code (while the contract did not specify ownership of the code, a judgment relating to Space Invaders Part II set a precedent establishing computer code can be copyrighted[22]). In response, Nintendo claimed it owned Donkey Kong's code as Ikegami was hired as a sub-contractor.[21][22] The case went to the Tokyo District Court until March 26, 1990, at which point the two companies settled out of court.[21][22]

The lawsuit has often been thought to be the reason behind there being few rereleases of the arcade version of Donkey Kong and the existence of Donkey Kong: Original Edition, although Donkey Kong 64 nevertheless features a full port of the arcade version, as this is not an emulation of its code. However, in 2018, the original arcade version of Donkey Kong was released as a part of Hamster Corporation's Arcade Archives series. The lawsuit may also explain why references to Donkey Kong in other Nintendo games used the NES version instead of the arcade version until 2018's WarioWare Gold, which altered the Donkey Kong microgame to feature arcade graphics and sound effects. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, also released in 2018, remade the 75 m stage to look and sound like the arcade version and changed the Hammer's music to that of the arcade version (though the arcade version of 25m's music had been used in the series since Super Smash Bros. Brawl). Based on this, it is likely that some time around 2018, Nintendo either bought the rights from Ikegami Tsushinki entirely, or the two parties settled mutually.

Donkey Kong Country counterfeit copies lawsuitEdit

In January 1995, Nintendo of America filed a lawsuit against electronic manufacturer Samsung, alledging that the company supplied chips to groups manufacturing pirated copies of Donkey Kong Country.[23]

Mario Party injuriesEdit

The original Mario Party features five minigames in which the player must rotate the control stick as fast as possible to win (Pedal Power, Tug o' War, Paddle Battle, and to some extent Deep Sea Divers and Cast Aways). Many players used the palms of their hands in order to spin the control stick more quickly than with their thumbs, leading to blisters and other ailments.[24][25] While Nintendo did not comment on the issue, the company's Mario Party hotline simply recommended that players use their thumbs and forefingers to spin the control stick.[26] After over 90 families filed complaints with the New York Attorney General's office, in 2000, the Attorney General and Nintendo reached an agreement, in which Nintendo provided protective gloves to owners of the game, up to four per household.[26][24] Nintendo agreed to commit US$80 million for the gloves, having sold approximately 1.2 million copies and if all owners took advantage of the offer,[24][26] as well as paying US$75,000 for the Attorney General's investigation.[25][24]

This is commonly assumed to be the reason the game was never re-released on the Virtual Console service, with Mario Party 2 releasing instead.[27] Due to the consequences of the unbalanced difficulty and self-injury, minigames of this type did not reappear in later Mario Party games until Mario Party: Island Tour, which uses the Nintendo 3DS Circle Pad rather than a full control stick.

In Mario Party Superstars, the instructions of both Tug o' War and Cast Aways include warnings discouraging the player from using their palm to rotate the control stick in order to prevent injury to the player and damage to the control stick.[28]

On November 2, 2022, Mario Party saw its first re-release on Nintendo 64 - Nintendo Switch Online, which includes a warning when starting up the game telling the player not to use their palm to rotate the control stick.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door commercial lawsuitEdit

On June 12, 2008, film studio Morgan Creek Productions filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Nintendo of America. Morgan Creek alleged that Hans Zimmer's song "You're So Cool", used in the film True Romance, was used by Nintendo without being authorized in a TV commercial for Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Although the lawsuit did not actually list a specific game, only stating that "[Nintendo] used the sound recording of 'You're So Cool' without authorization in a television advertisement for the Nintendo 'GameCube.'", Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was the only Nintendo GameCube game to use the song in an advertisement.[29][30]

Six days later, on June 18, Morgan Creek dropped the lawsuit without word.[30] Nintendo would later release a statement that their advertising agency, Leo Burnett, had presented Morgan Creek with a copy of their agreement with Nintendo of America giving them the license to use the song.[29][31]

New Super Mario Bros. Wii copyright infringementEdit

Before the official Australian release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii on November 12, 2009, James Burt, an Australian gamer who was 24 years old at the time, purchased a copy from a local game retailer that had sold the game early on November 6. Before playing the game, Burt uploaded it to a file-sharing network so that other users could also play the game before the official release. Upon discovery of this action, Nintendo of Australia sued Burt, claiming that the distribution of the game was a direct copyright infringement and wishing to receive compensation for the loss of revenue.

"Upon the game being uploaded to the Internet, Nintendo was able to employ the use of sophisticated technological forensics to identify the individual responsible for illegally copying the file and making it available for further distribution.

On 23 November, 2009, Nintendo obtained a Federal Court search order in respect of the individual's residential premises. This led to the seizure of property from those premises in order to gain further evidence against the individual."[32]

On February 9, 2010, the federal court ruled in favor of Nintendo of Australia and ordered Burt to pay a total of AU$1.4 million (AU$1.3 million in damages and AU$100,000 in legal fees) to Nintendo as compensation, as the game had been downloaded at least 50,000 times. After the case, Burt advised others not to "do what he did", stating that "It's something I'm going to have to work through for the rest of my life". Less than a month later, a settlement agreement between Burt and Nintendo would be reached, with the former ending up paying a "significant lesser amount".[33]

Burt later revealed in a 2023 interview that the price of the lawsuit amounted to nothing and that he had declared bankruptcy as part of the settlement agreement. He speculated that Nintendo only sued him as an example to deter other people from "doing something similar".[34]

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D promo actor lawsuitEdit

For Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D's North American launch, Nintendo organized a promotional event in the Los Angeles Zoo which, among other things, included a meet and greet with a costumed Donkey Kong. The actor, Parker Mills, sued Nintendo on December 2, 2014. Mills alleged that he was improperly supervised, not being allowed breaks and not being given refreshments for the duration of the event, and that the resulting stress caused an aortic dissection, which required surgery to install a permanent heart defibrillator.[35]

Actor Michael Oconitrillo, who played Donkey Kong for a promotional event in a mall of Culver City, CA, sued Nintendo in June 2016 for similar reasons.[36]

YouTube video takedowns containing unofficial Super Mario contentEdit

In tandem with the release of Super Mario Maker, Nintendo was responsible for the take-downs of many videos containing unofficial fan-made Super Mario content, including playthroughs and speedruns of modified Super Mario World levels.[37][38] One notable takedown included Alex "PangaeaPanga" Tan's video of Item Abuse 3, a modified Super Mario World level, with Panga stating that "YouTube wrecked my channel".[39][40] He later chose to make levels in Super Mario Maker itself to post onto his channel. These legal actions coincide with Nintendo's previous enforcement of copyright on YouTube, including sharing revenue from Let's Play videos, which has been met with criticism by fans, popular YouTube personalities, and the mainstream gaming press.

Chinese government controversyEdit

In January 2019, the Chinese government made a political game video using some objects from Super Mario Bros.. Throughout the video, there is symbolism of corrupt government officials, copyright infringement, and equality. A figure resembling Mario has to collect colored boxes and get to the end of the level.[41]

EPA controversyEdit

In February 2019, it was discovered that the United States Environmental Protection Agency used music from Yoshi's Island DS without permission in their recycling game Recycle City Challenge, which had gone unnoticed for many years. The EPA responded to Nintendo by claiming that the game was made by a contractor. After it was discovered, the music was removed.[42]


Wigger WednesdayEdit

The infamous Wigger Wednesday tweet

On April 22, 2015, Nintendo of America's Twitter account posted a photo of a plush Waluigi riding a Wiggler with the caption "Reply "WAAAA" for #WaluigiWednesday. Reply "🌼" for #WiggerWednesday.", having misspelled "Wiggler" as the slur word "wigger", a term used to describe a white person perceived as emulating mannerisms of African-American culture. The typo was met with widespread bemusement and derision from Nintendo's social media followers, with many screenshotting the original tweet.[43] The account would later delete the tweet and post a message stating "When tweeting about one of our characters, we missed a letter. Oops! Sorry about that!"[44] Although the tweet was deleted, #WiggerWednesday became a minor trend on Twitter.[43]

Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia English translation plagiarismEdit

Following the release of the Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia in English on October 23, 2018, it was discovered that the book featured conjectural and foreign-language names for characters from websites such as the Super Mario Wiki and Mario Wikia rather than official Nintendo venues. This especially concerned enemies and characters from Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, as well as others such as Winged Strollin' Stu (dubbed by the book by its former conjectural name used on the Super Mario Wiki, "Soarin' Stu"), and Lumacomète, which is actually the character's French name, used by the Super Mario Wiki at one point due to a lack of an English name.[45]


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