Nintendo is one of the biggest video game companies in the world and has tackled an infinite range of genres in their releases – yet they’re best-known as a family-friendly game developer. This is not to say that games with adult themes or mature stories haven’t appeared on Nintendo consoles, but many of Nintendo’s most celebrated franchises (like Super Mario, Kirby, Pikmin, and Animal Crossing) embrace bright colors, cute characters, and wholesome themes.
This trend makes Nintendo’s more mature releases hit even harder where they might not otherwise if they were on Sony or Microsoft consoles. That being said, mature games aren’t the only types of releases that generate controversy — some big Nintendo releases have ruffled feathers with audiences and critics alike in spite of their usual family-friendly skew.
10 Mario Party 8
Release Date: May 29, 2007
Nintendo’s Mario Party multiplayer mini-game extravaganza has been a popular party game ever since its Nintendo 64 debut. It’s hard to believe that these cute characters and silly mini-games would ever be subject to controversy. The Wii’s Mario Party 8 surprisingly made headlines, albeit only in the United Kingdom, due to some regretful word choices.
Kamek’s instructions for one of the mini-games tells players to “Turn the train spastic! Make this ticket tragic!” “Spastic” is considered an offensive word in the UK, and its use in Mario Party 8 led to the title being recalled and later released with the word “erratic” as the replacement. It’s a minor controversy that wasn’t malicious, but a controversy nevertheless.
Release Date: September 28, 1998
Pokémon ultimately reinforces friendship and endearing values — the series has even been publicly approved by the Vatican. However, Pokémon has still experienced some minor controversies, especially during the franchise’s infancy when it didn’t have the universal acclaim that it does today. One valid controversy that Pokémon has addressed and amended corresponds to Jynx, one of the original 151 Pokémon from the Kanto region.
Jynx’s original coloration and design was deemed to be offensive, which has since resulted in an overhaul for the character’s appearance where the Pokémon’s skin is now purple, rather than black, along with other alterations to the Pokémon’s facial features. This new Jynx design has carried over to the latest generation of games.
8 Captain Rainbow
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Captain Rainbow is one of the Wii’s most creative games and lovingly looks back to Nintendo’s past. The story follows a tokusatsu-styled superhero who helps an island full of misfit, forgotten Nintendo characters complete odd tasks and realize their dreams. This is a fun way for Nintendo to acknowledge its various characters and franchises that have slipped through the cracks.
However, Captain Rainbow has a surprisingly crude sense of humor that caused problems in Japan and didn’t align with the game’s otherwise kid-friendly presentation. Captain Rainbow’s encounter with a despondent Birdo gets into gender issues and an adult form of self-fulfillment that Nintendo approved, but failed to localize outside of its unsuccessful Japanese release.
7 Fighter’s History
Release Date: August 1994
Fighter’s History is a Data East fighting game that was initially released in arcades and on the Super Nintendo. This title features some smart gameplay mechanics, like each fighter having their own weak spots that can be used to gain the advantage in battle.
Curiously, the controversy around Fighter’s History is that Capcom sued Data East on the grounds that their fighting game blatantly copied Street Fighter II. There are similarities between the games’ concepts and characters, but the lawsuit was ultimately thrown out and Fighter’s History was allowed to exist and create subsequent sequels.
Release Date: October 18, 1987
Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! is a groundbreaking boxing game that’s deeply difficult, but also extremely satisfying for those who learn each opponent’s patterns and how to avoid a total knock-out. Punch-Out!! tries to create larger than life boxing opponents who take on the game’s protagonist, Little Mac.
Many of these characters are based off of broad, offensive cultural stereotypes that have not aged well and were even criticized upon the game’s initial release. Despite this initial controversy, Punch-Out!! has survived through the years and even received sequels on the Super Nintendo and Wii, as well as the game’s protagonist making his way onto Super Smash Bros.‘s roster.
5 Perfect Dark
Release Date: May 22, 2000
Microsoft has reclaimed Perfect Dark since its release in 2000 as an Xbox exclusive after their acquisition of Rare, and there’s even supposed to be a next-gen remake on the way. However, Perfect Dark got its start on the Nintendo 64, and its gameplay systems build upon GoldenEye 007‘s effective first-person shooter formula with an original story that amounts to the best shooter on the Nintendo console.
Controversy can come from unusual places, and in Perfect Dark‘s case, the only outrage was because it was the first M-rated game to be published by Nintendo. Audiences were concerned that Perfect Dark would usher in a whole new line of mature games that would turn the kid-friendly console into a dangerous place for younger audiences.
4 Carmageddon 64
Release Date: December 5, 1999
Destructive demolition racing games became a popular niche in the ’90s thanks to titles like Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8, and Road Rash. Carmageddon takes this subgenre to even more heightened places and the Nintendo 64’s port of Carmageddon II, Carmageddon 64, stood out as a vicious vehicular title.
Carmageddon 64 is violent by design, but the game caused controversy due to the player’s ability to run down innocent pedestrians and animals. The basic nature of Carmageddon 64 wasn’t the issue, and it’s these extra savage touches that push the title into controversial territory.
Release Date: March 10, 2009
The Wii’s MadWorld is a blood-soaked adventure where a chainsaw-wielding vigilante takes on endless enemies while a virus ravages the world. MadWorld adopts a cel-shaded black-and-white visual aesthetic, yet retains red blood, which further emphasizes the player’s carnage.
MadWorld is so over the top and cartoonish in nature that it’s hard to imagine it being taken seriously or offending anyone, but the game’s release as a Wii-exclusive upset a lot of audiences and the game wasn’t even released in certain markets because of its heavy violence and blood. The National Institute on Media and the Family went so far as to issue a press release that specifically detailed their disappointment in Nintendo over the game’s release.
Release Date: 1990
Chiller from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s is one of the most offensive games ever made. It’s honestly perplexing that the controversial arcade title — which many arcade owners refused to carry — was ported over to the NES at all. In Chiller, the player controls the proprietor of a torture chamber who tries to commit cruel punishments to its prisoners.
Chiller may seem slightly sanitized because of its rudimentary 8-bit graphics, but it’s still an upsetting experience that plays like a morally corrupt power fantasy. The game even makes use of the NES Zapper to shoot the torture chamber’s victims.
1 Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Release Date: March 5, 2001
Perfect Dark opened the floodgates for M-rated N64 games, and it was only a year later that Rare would release Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the console. It’s expected for a first-person shooter to have an adult rating, but Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a polarizing anomaly because of its appearance as a cheerful platformer in the style of Banjo-Kazooie.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day begins with a graphic Saving Private Ryan war parody before it further descends into lewd and crude comedy that’s heavy in sexual content. All of this is even more jarring since Conker’s first appearance in Diddy Kong Racing presents the squirrel as a cute and friendly character, which would catch audiences off-guard in Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
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