When will we get a black Nintendo protagonist or just a black character in the Mushroom Kingdom?


#1

Nintendo has a real lack of characters of color when it comes to playable characters.

Smash Bros. has over 50 characters, none of which are black (although I’ve seen people say maybe Captain Falcon is).

The Mushroom Kingdom has been around for like 32 years with Daisy seemingly being whitewashed.

Reggie recently said Nintendo doesn’t want to make political statements with its games, but isn’t the lack of diversity in and of itself a statement?


#2

I’m trying to think of any, Isn’t Marina from Splatoon 2 black?


#3

I’m racking my brain, she might be the first. Hopefully not the last.


#5

Ah that’s right I always forget about ARMS.


#6

Yes she is and yea, I think she might be the first. I think Arms has a couple of characters of color?

It does seem that, as Nintendo has entered this generation, they’ve tried to have a larger awareness of representation.


#7

Not for awhile, if ever. Nintendo only seems to admit new characters to the Mushroom Kingdom in canonical Mario entries. Rosalina was the last ‘human’ character, and the first new Princess since Daisy.

It seems like Nintendo is more interested in non-human additions to the roster at this present moment (Nabbit, Cappy).

Maybe they’ll surprise me with the next Mario offshoot (Luigi’s Mansion/WarioWare) - but those are on the edge of Mushroom Kingdom canon.


#8

If having a black protagonist in your game is somehow a political statement then there’s something fundamentally wrong at your company.


#9

F-Zero has Baba, Kate Allen and Michael Chain. Not great representations but when I was 14 I took what I could get.


#10

I think Elma from Xenoblade X might apply, but she’s probably too much of the “dark-skinned white-haired” trope to probably be considered an actual black character. Same as Twintelle from ARMS.

At least Pokémon MCs this gen can get actual black skin now. Not perfect, but at least it’s not the “ambiguosly dark” that was available in X/Y


#11

Short answer, it would be cool if there was one, yeah.

Longer answer: I’m far more interested in Nintendo hiring more black artists/designers/writers than putting a new character in. Added bonus there is that a black character designed by black people who work at the studio is gonna be better than any other option.


#12

“isn’t the lack of diversity in and of itself a statement?”

Japan, where the vast majority of Nintendo games are developed in-house is 98.5% ethnic Japanese. Diversity as a concept does not exist over there.


#13

Definitely this. That’s how I feel about representation in general is don’t just have fictional representation but in the actual workers/creators.


#14

I was just about to suggest characters from F-Zero X, but it looks like someone already mentioned it. Fire Emblem: Awakening has two black characters that join your army in the very late portion of the game.


#15

i feel like saying “diversity as a concept does not exist over there” might be a bit of an exaggeration but it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that cultural differences do exist between American and Japanese studios.


#16

Yeah, I’m pretty cautious of Japanese developers adding black characters. After Barrett, I was waiting a while for another black Final Fantasy character and ended up with a dude who has birds living in his afro.


#17

The problem is that Nintendo isn’t just a “Japanese” company. They are a global company.

And… historically have MAAAAAD issues.

I uh, have a lot in my pocket about this. Like, it’s sorta weird that Little Mac is the lead in MIKE TYSON’S Punchout!! It leads to the same conclusion boxing promoters had once upon a time - that no one would pay to see 2 black men fight.

And I don’t know if Nintendo can fix it. Even ARMS had a big issue, with that brown woman fighting with her hair.

I think Nintendo of America should remedy this - work backwards, work with consultants (like me!) and work to make things as good as possible, and work with Japan on it too. Spread the characters throughout Mario, or Zelda, or whatever.


#18

Throwing an overall reminder into this thread (seriously, I’m not saying anyone here is “in the wrong” or anything) that the history of the Ainu in Japan are at least a worthwhile note to be aware of in generalized discussion of diversity vs assimilation in Japan. Saying Japan doesn’t culturally have any history of grappling with that strikes me as a little bit reductive and dismissive of that present-day problem, so I think they deserve at least being in peoples’ minds when this topic comes up.

More narrowed in on the topic of the thread, I think @videodante’s concept about hiring practices is absolutely on the nose. I’d imagine a lot of the same issues that take place in those industries as they do here, especially ones Manveer Heir brought up on the recent Waypoint podcast around Andromeda’s colonialism narrative. Tight-knit companies who part ways with a lot of the good people and keep around a lot of dead weight that ultimately ends up hurting their creative output.


#19

I don’t buy the “but Nintendo is a Japanese company and there aren’t any black people in Japan” argument, because almost none of their characters are even Japanese or Asian anyway. Mario, Zelda, StarFox, Kid Icarus, Donkey Kong, none of those games are based on Asian culture. Mario is Italian and Zelda is a European medieval-like world, and only until recently have they incorporated Asian aesthetics into ti.

Pokemon is based on Japanese and Asian cultures, but even then, their characters are almost always meant to look European. Nintendo might not be a Western-“white” company, but they do suffer from the same problems as if they were when it comes to diversity in their teams and products.

They get around the issue by being more dependant on magical and animal characters and worlds lately, so their appeal isn’t hindered by their lack of black, latino, middle-eastern or south asian characters, but Nintendo should consider taking more risk with diversity.


#20

Yeah, hiring consultants that are knowledgeable about the black experience would be a great idea, but I don’t really see that happening. The main Nintendo studios seem pretty secretive and isolated, so I don’t think it would occur to them naturally to hire someone like that.
I could see it being done if there was a backlash against one of their characters, but confronting the family friendly Nintendo about not being inclusive would definitely invite an anti-SJW “they’re even mad at NINTENDO” reaction. I can already see AlphaOmegaSin recording one of his temper tantrums about it.

Obviously I’m not saying they shouldn’t confront this stuff, but I’m just not getting my hopes up anytime soon.


#21

This reaches at the greater issue here, at least imo. The problem isn’t that Nintendo refuses to create black characters per se, it’s that their corporate culture and established business practices continue to conduct their work as a black-box studio. I feel like the effects of this are seen all over Nintendo’s work, but when it comes to cultural criticisms (like inclusion of POC either on the backend or in the product lines) it’s especially damning.