Nintendo 64 Player’s Choice (America)
Remember back when you blackmailed your transgender Dad to keep his crossdressing secret? Well, uh, according to this commercial, it’s a great way to grab Pokémon Snap at only $39.99! That’s right: apparently back in 2000, Nintendo of America thought advertising their latest N64 Player’s Choice inductees and dressing in drag had much in common. Check out how the ESRB fades in juuust as the sight of the high heels-wearing grandpa scars your eyes. Rated E for Everyone, indeed!
This one’s uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, not the least of how it centers around a sensitive, often misunderstood subject. I mean, I can’t claim it’s meant to go over its intended audience: it’s clearly going for the “haha, look at the dad dressing up in girl clothes!” angle for kids to laugh at, and I imagine there are more appropriate venues of comedy to advertise your best-selling games. Chalk this up as a commercial that would never air in today’s world.
Super Mario Bros. 2/USA (Japan)
Speaking of transgender hijinks, will the debate of Birdo’s gender ever end? Probably not, and this commercial didn’t help matters. A lavishly-dressed Birdo puppet of indeterminate gender introduces Super Mario USA — the “Super Mario Bros. 2” we got in America — to a Japanese audience before abruptly giving birth to the Mario gang at the 19-second mark. This is not a joke; this is not an exaggeration. Really, just watch it.
To reiterate, Birdo is dubbed “Catherine” in Japan, and is typically presented as male with feminine qualities. The same holds for this commercial: just check out all her womanly apparel, and while obviously voiced by a male actor, the voice is clearly meant to echo that of a woman. (Unfortunately, the exact VA–or seiyuu–remains unknown to the English-speaking crowd) And while it’s amusing they played around with that, the sudden birth thing is rather…yeah. I think I speak for everyone when I say Birdo’s gender and anatomic specifics are better left a mystery.
(By the way, did you catch how the contractions start eight seconds in?)
New Super Luigi U (Japan)
Remember Angry Luigi from Mario Kart 8? He doesn’t hold a candle to “Dazzling Sparkling Smiling Luigi,” who’s reduced poor Peach to tears in this Japanese commercial. Clearly telling the untold story of New Super Luigi U, we’re helpless in watching the beloved princess begging for Mario’s help, unleashing one final scream as the glorious visage of Luigi’s deathly smile fills her soul with fear.
Okay, so it’s not the real story of New Super Luigi U, but this commercial fascinated many for how it blended horror and comedy while starring two of Nintendo’s most famous characters. Given the context, it could’ve easily gone the wrong way yet more unheeded sexual motifs, but Nintendo was smart to use their familiar CGI models to instantly frame it as a joke. Perhaps this is a revelatory peek into Peach’s psyche, as it’s clear she’d much rather be rescued by Mario than Luigi. Poor guy just can’t catch a break!
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (America)
Tell me, what are the images you associate with the beloved Yoshi’s Island? Adorable characters? Warm crayon graphics? The infamous Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy level? A man stuffing his face and barfing all over restaurant patrons? Apparently, that last one is what the game represented to Nintendo of America’s advertisers, and we got what’s undeniably the grossest commercial on this list: up-close shots of food being jammed into a guy’s mouth and getting all over his clothes, his belly expanding before he unleashes a storm of vomit. That’s more than a little yucky.
As I understand it, this was inspired by the Mr. Creosote sketch from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, a film I unfortunately have yet to see. Putting aside how the commercial’s intended audience probably wouldn’t get the reference, it’s just an overtly gross attempt to echo how Yoshi eats everything. Yes, the 90’s were all about gross-out humor, but Yoshi’s Island is hardly evocative of that with its cuddly presentation. Yet another miss by Nintendo of America’s marketing team.