PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, believes Mario takes a pro fur stance because he wears the skin of a raccoon dog to give him special powers in the new handheld game released Nov. 13.
On Monday, PETA illustrated its disgust with Nintendo in an online campaign called Mario Kills Tanooki. The page includes a side-scrolling Super Mario-style game called Super Tanooki Skin 2D, where you play an angry, skinless tanuki that must chase a bloody raccoon-pelt-wearing-Mario across a 16-bit world and try to reclaim its fur.
When on a mission to rescue the princess, Mario has been known to use any means necessary to defeat his enemy, even wearing the skin of a raccoon dog to give him special powers, the site reads. Tanooki may just be a 'suit' in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur. Play Super Tanooki Skin 2D and help Tanooki reclaim his fur!
To make a point, everything in the game is drenched in blood, including the ground, the background, the famous pipes, and Mario's Tanooki suit, which hangs off him looking as if he had freshly cut the fur right off the animal.
Super Mario 3D Land is not the first time Nintendo bestowed Mario with the now-controversial raccoon costume. The Tanooki suit first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1990. In the game, touching a power-up in the shape of a leaf would suddenly give Mario a raccoon ears and a tail, and allow him to fly for a short period of time; however, the raccoon suit did not cover his entire body.
The suit did not reappear until Super Mario 3D Land, but PETA is outraged because the Tanooki suit looks much more like raccoon fur, rather than just the ears and tail of a raccoon.
Nintendo responded to PETA's outburst Tuesday.
Mario often takes the appearance of certain animals and objects in his games. These have included a frog, a penguin, a balloon and even a metallic version of himself. These lighthearted and whimsical transformations give Mario different abilities and make his games fun to play. The different forms that Mario takes make no statement beyond the games themselves.
Tanuki have long been a prominent part of Japanese culture and tradition. Statues of Japanese raccoon dogs, which natives consider to be masters of disguise and shapeshifting, can be found all over the country, adorning everything from ancient temples to noodle shops. If you walked by a schoolyard in Japan, you might hear the children singing a song about the tanuki to the tune of the American Baptist hymn, Shall We Gather at the River?
This is the second time in the last year that PETA has criticized a video game. In 2010, the group released a play on the Xbox360 downloadable game Super Meat Boy, changing the title to Super Tofu Boy.