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Nintendo Apologizes for Racist Depiction of Native Americans in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'

Fans noticed that the beloved character Mr. Game and Watch puts on a loincloth and feathered headdress in the Japanese version. Nintendo says it will remove this depiction in an update.

by Matthew Gault
Nov 5 2018, 9:38pm

Mr. Game and Watch is one of Nintendo's oldest characters. Image: Nintendo screengrab

Fans of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate noticed something strange in recent tournament footage of Mr. Game and Watch. During certain attacks, the character donned a toothy grin, loincloth, feathered headdress, and torch—invoking a racist Native American stereotype.

The costume change and the character Mr. Game and Watch are a throwback to Nintendo’s pre-NES Game and Watch LCD handheld devices, but the moves are part of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, out on December 7.

Ultimate will include more than 70 different fighters, a “who’s who” of video game history as everyone from Mario to Simon Belmont gears up to enter battle.

In one matchup, Mr. Game and Watch performs a special move that makes him look like a grinning, torch-wielding Indian taking a torch to King Dedede. The move is a reference to an old Game and Watch handheld called Fire Attack from 1982, where players took control of a cowboy with a mallet as he attempted to keep torch-carrying natives from setting fire to his fort. A re-release of Fire Attack as part of Game and Watch Collection 4 on the Gameboy Advanced removed the loincloths and feathers.

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Smash Bros. fans discovered the attack in footage from a promotional tournament involving Japanese elementary school children. Fans in the Smash Bros. community pointed out the depiction on Twitter and pinged Nintendo of America’s official Twitter account.

Several threads about the topic are ongoing at Reddit’s /r/smashbros subreddit and a thread on the video game forum Resetera has more than 200 replies.

Footage of the American version seems to depict Mr. Game and Watch performing a similar move without the offensive regalia.

After this story was first published, Nintendo told Motherboard in an email that has been planning to remove the feather from the silhouette of Mr. Game & Watch in an update.

"The original game on which this depiction of the character is based was released more than three decades ago and does not represent our company values today," Nintendo said. "We sincerely apologize that this change was not noticed in our marketing material and are continuing our work to make Super Smash Bros. Ultimate an experience that is both welcoming and fun for everyone.”

Update: This story has been updated with comment from Nintendo.

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