Nintendo's Racial Diversity is Refreshing


Take a look at Nintendo’s iconic characters and you’ll find a cast inhabited with extraordinary specimens: peculiar plant life, cutesy dinosaurs, leaping crocodiles and anthropomorphic mushrooms.

Variation in colour among the anthro characters bring forth a mix of ocular curiosity and refreshing character evolution. Though the more you move away from this assortment of fantasy critters and into the area of Nintendo’s human characters, the lack of racial diversity is evident.

If you ask someone with a casual noesis of Nintendo's franchises, chances are they would name primarily white characters: Mario, Princess Peach, Rosalina, Link, Zelda and Zero Suit Samus — the usual suspects.

Despite having a few darkskinned characters in the past like Mr Sandman (Punch-Out!!), Kate Allen (F-Zero), and a Gerudo race (The Legend of Zelda), these instances have always been overshadowed by the overwhelming presence of major pale protagonists and side characters.

Interestingly in the past, while Nintendo has been at the blunt of criticism for their lack of social awareness, very little of this criticism had focused on racial diversity.

Punch out Mr Sandman
It’s evident that Nintendo is gripping firmly onto the game culture's limp arm, where there’s been a cry for more diversity; while this occurrence has prompted more female roles, dark skin characters have still been a rare commodity.

Still, Nintendo’s recent route shows a seriousness to increasing racial diversity in both new and established franchises.

Both Pokemon
 and Splatoon are prime examples of games already out that include racially inclusive characters. The gradual inclusion of black pokemon trainers being introduced to Pokemon since 2010 and becoming a staple part of the franchise has been one of the most praise worthy things Game Freak has ever done.
Pokemon Sun and Moon (2016) introduced Olivia and Kiawe, two well endowed and brilliantly designed characters who were just as unique and vibrant as their previous darkskinned counterparts from earlier games.

Let's not forget Pokken Tourment, the Pokemon fighting game spin-off developed by Bandai Namco which allowed players to create a dark skin avatar, something that wasn't possible in mainline Pokemon games until Sun and Moon.

Olivia Pokemon Sun and Moon

Aside from Pokemon, most would agree that Splatoon is definitely one of Nintendo's strongest fronts for racial inclusion. Players are given the chance to create their own inkling or Ocotoling, but the customisation doesn't stop at gender, eye colour or fancy hairstyles.

Splatoon allows you to change your inkling's skin colour, an impressive feat for an Nintendo first party game and once again shows that they're are willing to change and adapt to the present, even if it's still baby steps.

Another new series is Arms, a futuristic boxing game with an array of weird and wacky characters. Of these fighters, Twintelle was recently revealed at the Nintendo treehouse presentation. A beautiful darkskin female with unique gameplay and booty full assets.

The character has quickly quickly risen in popularity since her reveal among Nintendo fans and casual gamers. This already proves that Nintendo is in dire need of fresh faces and a character design like Twintelle is the perfect choice.

Nintendo has done what Blizzard Entertainment refused to do with Overwatch and that is introduce a playable black female character onto their initial roster. Arms is looking great and with the reveal of Twintelle it has made the game much more desirable.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

In 2014 Mario Kart 8 was criticised for it's lack of skin colour variety, which was a true seeing as the Mario series is one of the only major franchises not to feature an official dark skinned human in any shape or form.

In Mario Golf there was protege golf kid who was turned black for a brief moment in the Nintendo 64 version. Sadly he was reverted back to his generic design in later instalments.

Another character who at one point was seen as black was II Plantissimo, an athlete in a planta costume Mario raced against in Super Mario Sunshine.

This was until Plantissimo's mask was removed and his face resembled the Running Man from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Sadly this was a missed opportunity and could have lead to Nintendo introducing their first official black Mario character.
Fast foward to 2017 and the Splatoon fever has invaded Nintendo Switch's Mario Kart 8 deluxe, allowing players to choose Inklings who range from from variety of different skin tones.

Super Mario Oddssey

It appears that Nintendo have finally added dark skin npcs to a Super Mario game, which one? Super Mario Oddessy of course. The trailer showed us glimpses of what appeared to be some dark skin npcs in a city area which resembled New York City.

Now call this minor news but in reality that's an amazing breakthrough for Mario, considering the fact that the series has never really featured proper dark skin human characters in any shape or form.

Breath of the Wild was another pleasant surprise with the return of the Gerudos. It's no secret that The Legend of Zelda series has been lacking racial diversity in terms of dark skin tones for humanoid characters.

Which is why bringing back the Gerudos for Botw really accomplished a lot in terms of creating much needed racial inclusion. Characters like Urbosa and Riju really stand out as strong characters and this wouldn't be completely possible had they been pale or non Gerudo. 
But what lies in Nintendo’s future? It’s assuring to see that among upcoming releases, there’s more evidence that Nintendo is working to be race-conscious with their design decisions.

Urbosa Gerudo

 This is the reality even with established series already mentioned, that have been governed by characterized rules and universes for years, showing Nintendo is prepared to change their history if it means coupling positive change.
Animal Crossing is another example. This chibi take on life begins with the usual narrative: You are the sole human (excluding friends) in a village full of critters for neighbours — a village that you reside in, manage and create communal prosperity. It also happens that your human avatar villager… is white.

While later games in the series have made decent pace towards player customisation with a growing assortment of fashion selections, choices for character features are still limited: skin colour is not a variable. Four games into the mainline series (the latest being 
New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS), this has yet to change.

Though change came in the design-focused spin-off title, 
Happy Home Designer. This is the first time that players could select their Villager’s skin colour. Which bought a welcome touch of cultural representation to a franchise that should have included such an important feature since the very first game.

Animal Crossing
It’s true that Nintendo’s historic lack of racially diverse characters has somewhat meant the company creates with a limited colour palette. Yet it’s unmistakable that Nintendo with the above instances of socially-conscious acts, is intent on pairing creative ambition and technical innovation with motion in reach of racial diversity and inclusion.
The dissatisfactory level of racial inclusion in video games both historically and currently is damaging, though things appear to be changing even if it's step by step. Even with the sprinkle of representation there are still stories that need telling, links that need forming and positions that need challenging.

Children especially need superheroes to look up to, characters that will pass on lessons they will carry with them as they grow older; people overall need characters they can identify with in struggle and/or circumstance to draw hope, thought and perceptive.

 It will take a outstanding deal to usher in a paradigm shift on the backs of vocal members alone, but we who are unmerited by current conditions can surely make our voices heard and sway authoritative forces like Nintendo toward greater racial representation and inclusion in video games


  1. I was static when they revealed Twintelle as a new playable character in Arms, because quite frankly none of the other characters really interested me.

  2. Really happy that Game freak has been diversifying the pokemon trainers unlike earlier games. If they never opted for this route I feel their new games would be stale.

  3. I'm so glad that Breath of the Wild included the gerudo race and they never whitewashed their skin tone like in other games.

  4. I wanted to them to be bring back Punch out!! at first but I'll admit Arms is starting to look really good especially with Twintelle.

  5. So far there's been Lenora, Iris, Marshal, Grant, Kiawe and Olivia. I can't wait to see what dark skin complexion pokemon trainer gen 8 gets.

  6. This is great, but if only Nintendo could follow suit with the Super Mario Bros series and introduce black characters into the fray. Could start small and give toads dark skin tones to separate them from their white counterparts.

    On another note I felt Nintendo dropped the ball with Rosalina, they could have at least given her tanned skin. Seeing as Princess Peach already existed . Rosalina and Daisy are like clones of Princess Peach and by darkening their skin tones it would have made them more unique.

  7. Don't forget Xenoblade chronicles elma who had darkskin but they kind of ruined her by making her true form a damn alien. What where they thinking..

  8. Keep your PC bullshit out of video games.

  9. Gerudos were one of the best things about Breath of the wild for me. I wish they were also present in The Wind waker as I might have brought a copy for the wii u.

  10. My girl Olivia gives me life. I prefer her over Mallow, Lana and Lille.

  11. I still can't believe Animal crossing never had skin color options until they made a spin-off title like wtf.




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