In the upcoming release, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, players can choose to play as any of over 70 characters from Nintendo’s long, storied history and fight it out with computer fighters or other human players. The roster is full of both popular modern characters, such as Link, Chron, and Mario, as well as many surprise picks from classic games, such as King K. Rool, Simon Belmont, and R.O.B.. However, one classic character, Mr. Game and Watch, has come under fire for what some claim is a racist depiction of Native Americans.
Mr. Game & Watch first starred in his own titular series of handheld games from 1980-1991. Since his first appearance in the Smash Bros. series in Super Smash Bros. Melee, he has been a staple of the series and a fan-favorite. Many of his attacks reference from these classic handheld titles, such as his hammer attack (Judge) or his Final Smash attack wherein he transforms into an Octopus (Octopus).
One of these attacks references the handheld title Fire Attack, wherein a cowboy Mr. Game & Watch must defend a fort from Native American Mr. Game & Watches. It is this attack that first sparked accusations of racism from users on the internet video game forum ResetEra:
For reference, the original Fire Attack game can be seen below:
While the attack and base animation have been used in every appearance, the Native American costuming is a new element in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In previous iterations of the Smash Bros. series, Mr. Game & Watch has been depicted sans headdress:
Nintendo also removed the headdresses when the original game was ported to Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance in 2002 as part of the Game & Watch Gallery 4 collection:
Many have speculated that this change is due to Super Smash Bros: Ultimate’s commitment to being more accurate to the source material of each game. Nintendo has already made certain aesthetic changes towards this end, such as Pokemon Trainer’s alternate color schemes referencing different trainers, the avalanche of references in King Dedede’s new Final Smash attack, or Link’s more game-accurate weaponry and moveset. This gives weight to the speculation that the addition of the headdress was not done out of active racism, but more likely in an effort to provide more accurate fanservice for Nintendo fans.
As of writing, Nintendo has not commented on Mr. Game & Watch’s new appearance, and it is unknown if any changes, global or region specific, will take place.