Long before the days of games being rated “M for Mature,” Nintendo basically had final say over the contents of any game being played on their consoles. Over the years, dating all the way back to the NES, there have been a number of games that Nintendo has ordered changed, whether censoring content in specific countries or demanding that the game be re-released entirely.
Unsurprisingly, most of games on this list got in trouble for one of the following things: sexual content, depiction of alcohol or drugs, or offending a specific culture or religion (sometimes unknowingly). In every case, the offending content was changed, censored, or removed completely. In some cases, you can still get your hands on the original versions of these games (remember, you can’t patch old cartridges). If you happen to have one of these rare original copies, they are definitely more valuable to classic game collectors.
17. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time is often regarded as one of the best Zelda games ever made, and is even ranked among the best video games ever made, period. However, due to an oversight by the game designers, this Nintendo 64 classic accidently offended some Muslims by including a sample of Islamic prayers in the background music of the Fire Temple. Additionally, one of Link’s shields bore a striking resemblance to the crescent moon, a universal symbol of Islam.
There wasn’t a large public outcry or anything, as Nintendo realized the mistake fairly early on and voluntarily corrected future copies. Another small change made to game was recoloring Ganondorf’s blood from red to green, in order to make it less realistic for kids.
16. Paper Mario
Oddly enough, Nintendo has a long history of including characters with some sort of non-traditional gender identity. Going all the way back to Super Mario Bros. 2, Nintendo included this note about villain Birdo in the game’s manual: “Birdo thinks he is a girl.” Indeed, Birdo is often depicted as having a pretty red bow in her hair, a stereotypical female decoration. Later, though, Nintendo seems to have revised their history so that Birdo has always been female.
In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, one of the villains is a shadow named Vivian. In the Japanese version of the game, she is a transgender female. Her sisters tease her by using male pronouns. When the game was translated for North American consoles, the references to Vivian being a “he” were removed completely, making her purely female. The insults from her sisters were changed to attack her appearance, not her gender.
15. Final Fantasy
Like many games on this list, multiple Final Fantasy titles were forced to alter parts of the Japanese version of the game in order to be released on Nintendo consoles in North America. Specifically, Final Fantasy VI had numerous enemies that were depicted as females in revealing clothing, including the Siren, the Alluring Rider, Starlet, Goddess, and Chadarnook.
In the updated version of the game, the characters were all given a bit more clothing to cover up digital cleavage or a partly exposed butt. The game’s developer, Squaresoft, wasn’t pleased with their game being censored, which played a big part in Final Fantasy games becoming a Sony exclusive for many years.
Earthbound is considered one of the best classic SNES games of all-time, but it was originally titled MOTHER 2 in Japan. At one point in the game, the main character Ness travels into the Magicant, which is a surreal location in his own mind, to do battle with his evil side. Because the Magicant is somewhat of a dream world, the original game developers had Ness walk this location naked (although the graphics were too limited to actually see anything offensive).
When MOTHER 2 was released in North America as Earthbound, Nintendo demanded that Ness’ nudity be covered up. So instead of a tiny 16-bit naked kid, the censored version included Ness wearing his pajamas. Nintendo also directed the removal of a few other graphics, like the Coca-Cola logo, references to alcohol became coffee, and crosses were removed from hospitals and tombstones, as Nintendo didn’t allow religious symbols in their games.
13. Chrono Trigger
Even though games of today regularly feature all kinds of adult situations, Nintendo wasn’t having it back in the day. Even the mere mention of an alcoholic beverage would get your game rejected from their consoles, so developers had to make the necessary changes. Chrono Trigger had all of their hard drinks turned into “pop” or “soup.” They weren’t just changes made in the background either, as one section of the game involves pouring a character’s favorite drink over his tombstone. It was changed to pop, because apparently Dr. Pepper has mythical powers now. Later, the script of the game calls for a drinking contest where everyone gets drunk and passes out. Instead, the North American version features the same characters having a soup eating contest, and everyone needs a nap because their bellies are too full. So cute.
12. Mario Party 8
The Mario Party series is anything but controversial. There’s no violence or adult language to speak of, since it’s basically just a bunch of cute Nintendo characters engaging in fun minigames. However, for a short while Mario Party 8 for the Nintendo Wii was banned in the U.K. over the misinterpretation of a single work.
The game included the word “spastic,” which was used perfectly normally according to its dictionary definition. The problem is that “spastic” has evolved in the U.K. into a slang word for a person with mental or physical disabilities, similar to the way “retard” is sometimes used in North America (P.S. don’t use that word to insult people. It’s not cool). Nintendo changed the wording in the game to “erratic” before it was released, but a few of the original copies managed to get out.
Contra is one of our favorite NES games, and also one of the hardest if you’re not using the legendary Konami Code. However, the gaming censorship agency in Germany is especially strict when it comes to any games depicting war, and since Contra was a direct nod to real-life contras — U.S. backed militant groups in Nicarauga, culminating in the Iran-Contra affair — the whole concept of the game had to be changed.
The game was renamed to Probotector, and the main characters (Bill and Lance) and all the villains were changed into robots, so that the game wouldn’t have a single depiction of humans dying. The Probotector franchise would live on for a few sequels until censorship bodies relaxed a little, and Contra: Legacy of War for the PlayStation was the first game to be released in Germany with the original branding.
10. Fire Emblem Awakening
This one isn’t as much of a “classic” as most of the games on this list, since Fire Emblem Awakening was only just released on the 3DS in 2012 in Japan. When the game to North America in 2013, though, Nintendo of America demanded changes. One of the DLC maps took place on a beach, called “Summer Scramble.” Naturally, the characters all wore their beach attire, including Tharja in a fairly regular looking bikini. Someone decided that was too much skin, though, and the game ended up adding a towel to cover the offending area. Even stranger, Tharja’s regular, non-beach outfit wasn’t exactly modest to begin with, but no changes were made there.
9. Wolfenstein 3D
Wolfenstein 3D was one of the first breakout hits for PC gaming, and an early pioneer of first-person shooting games in general. When the game was set to be released on the SNES, though, Nintendo demanded major changes. They objected to the appearance of Adolf Hitler as the final villain, along with the inclusion of Nazi soldiers and multiple swastika flags. Along with those major changes, blood was changed to sweat to reduce the amount of graphic violence.
Honorable mention also goes to Bionic Commando, an NES game that also had mentions of Hitler and his Nazi regime scrubbed out in favor of more generic enemies.
8. Pokemon Banned in Saudi Arabia
We’re taking a brief break from video games to talk about another popular Nintendo passtime — the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Although it’s not a video game, the popular battling card game has been banned in Saudi Arabia. There’s nothing violent or offensive about the game, though, but the government there decided that the game promotes gambling, which is in direct violation to the local religious laws.
If you thought that the popular line of Pokemon video games made it into the country unscathed, you’re wrong. All Pokemon video games, including the mobile game Pokemon Go, are also banned in Saudi Arabia for the same reasons.
Before Mike Tyson came on board for the NES release, Punch-Out!! was an arcade hit. One of the characters was a fairly offensive Russian stereotype, named Vodka Drunkenski. Unsurprisingly, he drank heavily between rounds and typically wasn’t much of a challenge in the boxing ring. When the Nintendo version was released, Drunkenski’s name was changed to Soda Popinski, much like other games on this list had references to alcohol changed to soft drinks.
Luckily for Popinski, fans liked his makeover, and the character has remained a Punch-Out!! mainstay to this day, most recently appearing in the Nintendo Wii version of the game.
6. Animal Crossing
What is it with Nintendo and mixed up genders? Does something get lost in translation going from Japanese to English? Who knows? Before Animal Crossing came to North America, two of the characters had male names (Grace the Giraffe and Roland the Camel) yet spoke in a typically female voice. Apparently Nintendo was worried that people would think these animals were homosexual or transgender, so they renamed them with more female sounding names. Grace became Gracie and Roland became Sahara. What’s even stranger about the whole situation is that the gender of any animal in the game doesn’t even matter, so why bother?
5. Mario Kart
Surely there’s nothing offensive in Mario Kart, right? It’s just a colorful, cartoonish racing game featuring most of Nintendo’s most popular characters? Well, in the original Japanese version of Mario Kart for the SNES (the first game of the long running franchise), two characters celebrated with a bit of bubbly. If you won a cup with Bowser, he would chug a bottle of champagne. If you topped the podium with Princess Peach, she would drink some champagne and get red in the face, insinuating that she was a bit tipsy.
In the North American and European versions Bowser simply struggles to get the bottle open, while Peach tosses the bottle up into the air in celebration. No more drinking!
Uninvited was a point-and-click haunted house game originally developed for the Apple Macintosh computer. The game had many references to the occult and Satanism, including the address of the house (666 Blackwell Road) and multiple pentagrams and crosses. The address was changed, and the pentagrams were replaced by simple stars. A significant cross was turned into a non-religious chalice. In addition to the graphical changes, some of the text that described character deaths were altered to be less graphic.
3. Ice Climber
This was a simple vertical platformer for the NES, where the player must climb to the top of 32 different ice-covered mountains to recover stolen vegetables, of all things. A number of different enemies exist in the game, including a seal in the original Japanese version of the game. When the game was released in Canada, the bashing of seals became slightly controversial, as the real-life Canadian seal hunt is already a heated topic (long story short: the Inuit natives claim it’s tradition and an important part of their culture and economy. Animal rights activists claim it’s cruel and unnecessary).
Regardless of where you stand on the subject, Nintendo wanted to avoid the controversy altogether. They changed the appearance of the seals in Ice Climber to look like small hairy creatures — definitely not seals.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters
Do you remember the Ninja Turtles fighting game? Because we sure don’t! But rest assured, these actually existed, pitting your favorite TMNT characters against each other in a Street Fighter style fighting game. Although the character in question was created specifically for this game, and has never actually appeared in any other TMNT stories — errr, nevermind. Moving on.
The game had a character named Aska, who was a female ninja. The Japanese version of the game had her wearing a leotard that basically became a thong in the few frames of animation that showed her from behind. When the game came to North America, Aska was suddenly wearing shorts to cover her rear. Her victory celebration was also changed, as the original one featured her bouncing up and down and showing off one of gaming’s first examples of “breast physics.”
1. Pokemom Red & Blue
Pokemon has faced controversy on multiple fronts, including being banned in some countries, plus getting attacked by PETA for creating a game that “glorifies cockfighting” (their words, not ours). However, this tidbit of censorship doesn’t have anything to do with gambling or violence or animal cruelty. In the original Pokemon Red & Blue games, there was one gym that belonged to a character named Erika. The entire gym was filled with female trainers. No big deal, right? Females can be Pokemon trainers too, after all.
The controversy was the peeping tom who lurked outside the window. This creepshow stared through the window and if you tried to talk to him, he would let out a pervy laugh and declare how awesome it was to watch all these female trainers. The text was changed in later versions of the game so that he was impressed by the strong trainers in the gym, instead of just ogling the females like some kind of predator.