With a high profile game like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the horizon, you’re probably very excited. Now, with 70+ fighters you may have wondered — do Nintendo games feature people of color?
Why yes friends, Nintendo games do feature people of color. This is what inspired me to create this list.
Now, Nintendo as a gaming company avoids diversity issues with their games. Well, mainly because they don’t speak about it. All things considered, you don’t really think ill of their games or business model.
They also seemingly employ diverse individuals whom we see often. So diversity shortcomings in turn doesn’t come to mind for most fans. This doesn't mean that their games can’t/shouldn’t be criticized for lack of representation. The industry as a whole should be held to that critism, among others.
Most people give Nintendo a diversity pass because major franchise games are developed in Japan. But other Japanese developers still have games that feature people of color, so that’s a pretty weak defense…especially in 2018 with a very global gaming company.
With diversity and inclusion optics mean a lot. At some point you, maybe your kids, or someone else will/may have asked; where are the characters that look like me?
Note: For this article, I’ll be speaking about noticeably Black and Brown characters from Nintendo first party games. Of course people of color also have lighter skin and can be white passing. But I’ll focus on those with darker skin tones here.
Nintendo’s showcase of PoCs is probably no better than the year of the Nintendo Switch’s release. Title such as Arms, Splatoon 2, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild did a very good job for the magic of melanin.
With the very popular Splatoon 2 players become very familiar with the DJ Marina. The teenage musician/radio host/engineer is one half of the duo that greets players with game details. As you can clearly see aside from her being a denizen of the world, she’s also a young black woman. There’s no “elaborate story reason”, she is just here. Because it’s literally that easy.
In Splatoon 2 you can create your character by gender and skin tone. Now, a vast majority of promo items and art often features white/fairskin inklings. Marina maybe the only Black woman but her presence is greatly appreciated.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild is recognized as an award winning game. I appreciate it for a few other details. The series is actually no stranger to having some melanin present. This is evident by the series’ Gerudo people. A society of powerful, very capable, very Brown, and female warriors that live in the land of Hyrule.
Within Breath of The Wild players met them via their economic hub. Soon after the players are introduced to fan favorite Urbosa. She is a champion of Hyrule/the Gerudo, and is nothing short of a role model. A role model for characters in game and people in real life. Lady Urbosa is one not to be messed with.
Nintendo’s Switch console gave us a new fighter, Arms. It features fighters of various personalities, skills, designs, and origins. Most notably it features a few people of color as well. One of these fighters is Twintelle, a young Black woman. She described as a competitor, star, and became popular as soon as she was announced on the internet. It’s not surprising how she became popular, there aren’t many Nintendo (well video games in general) games that feature Black women.
Aside from Twintelle, the next interesting character is Misango. He’s a fighter that is implied to be of Native and Latin American heritage, mestizo. Much like his competition, he fights to prove his fighting style can win on a global level. Misango is even further special because I don’t recall any games with characters with similar origins or whom look like him.
Shifting away from the Switch, another Nintendo franchise where PoCs are visible is Pokémon. The mega franchise actually has introduced more prominent characters of color over the last few years. Pokémon Sun and Moon (& Ultra versions) for the Nintendo 3DS had quite few Black and Brown characters.
The first is sweater vest clad trial captain (gym leader) Illima, located on Melemele Island. Specializing in normal-types, he guides the player with their first trial. As with other captains, he can be challenged again for tougher battles.
The other is trial captain Kiawe. This young Black man is a captain whom challenges the player with fire-types. Kiawe’s trial is located at the Wela Volcano Park of Akala Island.
The last mention but certainly not least, is Olivia. She is an island kahuna and an Elite Four member of Aloha. She challenges the player using powerful rock-types and she clearly has melanin — FYI, she is naturally voiced by a Black voice actress within the anime.
So these are the most recent examples of people of color gracing Nintendo games. Though it may not be many, they are there. In fact, there’s a history of Nintendo exclusives with very visible people of color.
If you’re wondering if were moving into more representation, we are. After all, this list was compromised solely of new characters we were introduced to in 2017.
As time goes on, we can only hope we’ll get more regularly. I certainly hope for more as well. Truthfully, I ‘d like to see games with them as leads. Because visibility is important.