Despite dominating the gaming market after the great video game crash of the 1980s, Nintendo was extremely stubborn in terms of how they conducted business, especially when it came to making contract agreements with third-party developers. During the entire run of the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo (Famicom and Super Famicom in Japan), Nintendo placed a quota on how many games a third-party could actually release per year, controlled the production of cartridges, and prevented them from doing business with competitors. Outspoken Namco founder, Masaya Nakamura, called Nintendo out for their monopolistic behavior. When Namco asked for some leniency, Nintendo refused to yield. Thus, Namco moved over to other partnerships such as with Sega, despite having 40% of their sales come by the way of the NES.
In terms of censorship, Nintendo was even a little bit more draconian, especially when certain games were localized outside of Japan. Nintendo of America manufactured a strict guideline that policed the amount of violence, religious-related lingo and paraphernalia, and any other content that it deemed to be too offensive to North American audiences. While their attitudes have mellowed throughout the years, Nintendo is still known for putting the kibosh on anything remotely questionable in their games. Thus, here are 30 ways that Nintendo games had to be changed outside of Japan.
A groundbreaking collaboration between Square, known for bringing us the Final Fantasy series, and Nintendo, Super Mario RPG, was essentially the amazing fruits of these two gaming giants' labor. Perhaps, what is most remembered is something that was deemed so racy, that it was never elaborated upon during the story. In Princess Peach's quarters, she has a secret box of unmentionables called the triple X (you know, that classic Vin Diesel spy film). In the English localization of the game, the item was just renamed to “???” to avoid the appearance of gratuitous material. I guess that people of royalty do not always conduct their lives with impunity and grace, or at least not all of the time. Princess Peach definitely had something to hide.
During one of his early adventures, the famous hero from Hyrule was actually quite a deviant little bugger in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. At one point in the game, Link was to help retrieve a bikini top for a bare mermaid by employing the aid of a keen fisherman. Whenever Link talked to the mermaid, it would feature him swimming underwater to sneak a peek, which caused the lady to call him a [creep]. Outside of Japan, the fished-up item ends up being a necklace and the mermaid was indeed looking for a mermaid's scale. Given that he was probably going through puberty, this curiosity was probably similar to kids who ended up playing this game.
A spiritual sequel to the original Commando arcade game, Bionic Commando had an extremely complicated history, with the home ported versions being different than their original arcade incarnation that was called Top Secret. It was one of the first games to feature a grappling hook within the gameplay, something that would be utilized in Earthworm Jim and Tomb Raider. In Japan, the game was released for the original Famicom as Hitler's Resurrection: Top Secret. So, there was little debate what the exact plotline of the game was. In the American version, the game was renamed as its better-known title Bionic Commando and had all World War II Germany references and paraphernalia removed. The Fuhrer was also renamed Master-D, but his physical appearance would appear unchanged. The most graphical change was when the infamous logo of this party was morphed into an eagle insignia.
One of the first ever Japanese role-playing games I have ever played and finished, Chrono Trigger remains one of the most popular titles of the genre many years after its initial release on the Super Famicom and the Super Nintendo. Featuring character designs from Akira Toriyama and an engaging time-travel storyline with multiple endings, the game has been ported onto next-generation consoles and devices, including Nintendo DS and the Apple IOS. The scene where the party ends up in the prehistoric past is the one in question. Crono is challenged by Ayla to a magic beverage-drinking race, that was replaced in the North American version as merely soup. Pretty much, it culminates with everyone being passed out the next morning. Surely, you do not get that effect from just “soup”.
One of the most challenging platformers of its time, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, was ridiculously difficult to complete due to various pathways gamers can take, including two routes over a total of sixteen possible levels. If you somehow make it to the end without throwing your controller at the television, I applaud you. In typical Castlevania localization censorship fashion, various statues were given clothing to obscure their lovely bits. What seemed to be most shocking might be that the character of Medusa, due to its bare portray, was turned from a female to a male. Thus, the transformation from woman's chest to pecs was used to mitigate this problem. This might the first instance of the fabled Medusa character was redone to be a male.
Remember Poison from the current generation of Capcom games? In addition to being a playable character in Ultra Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter X Tekken, Poison is becoming quite the popular female fighter with plenty of character-related merchandising. Well, she wasn't always a she. While Capcom USA was tangling with the dilemma of having female thug characters in their localization of Final Fight, Roxy and Poison were given the personas for transgender, known more specifically in Japan as “newhalf." Eventually, the transgender angle was dropped and Roxy and Poison were replaced by Billy and Sid outside of Japan. Poison wouldn't make a North American appearance until Street Fighter III, where she is the manager of the playable character, Hugo, who went under his family name of Andore in the Final Fight series. The gender status of Poison is still ambiguous til this day.
Released in North America on the Super Nintendo as Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy VI was the final game of the series to be featured in its 16-bit format. It would also be one of the last Final Fantasy titles for any Nintendo console for quite a while. The next game in the series would be the critically-acclaimed Final Fantasy VII for the first Sony PlayStation, probably the most popular entry in the franchise. Most of the censorship came in the form of covering unclothed or scantily-clothed characters, either real or of the artistic variety. One of these major modifications consists of the bosses of the final battle at Tower of the Gods (Statue of the Gods) having additional clothing hiding their offensive parts.
Who knew that hippos could be deemed inappropriate for children? Indeed, there were several fights that broke out over Hungry Hungry Hippos one summer. For those who played The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, you might remember that unnamed hippopotamus character who modeled for Schule Donavitch, a red alligator who was a fine artist living in Animal Village. While the North American and later European versions featured the hippo as a roly-poly cartoonish figure, the original Japanese version gave the hippo model a bust line and a towel (or robe) to give the appearance of a female artistic modeling session. Of course, the hippo was modified to be more appropriate for gamers of all ages by appearing without the towel and being more gender ambiguous.
As one of the most popular Nintendo-exclusive franchises, Pokémon is a worldwide phenomenon that is still running strong even after fifteen long years. Whether kids are playing the newest generation of Pokémon games or nostalgia buffs catching Pokémon in the middle of the night on their iPhones, it is popular among people of varying ages and backgrounds. There aren't many localization modifications and censorship for Pokémon games, but the original Pokémon Stadium featured Nidoqueen, who appeared to jiggle her bust when she was released from her Pokéball. Indeed, those two patches on Nidoqueen's chest do look like lovely lady lumps. Outside of Japan, this little jiggle was omitted for posterity. It's crazy, but sometimes Japan feels like a rather uncensored place in comparison to the United States.
Perhaps, another interesting change to Chrono Trigger was the dialogue during the introduction of Ayla when the party time-travels back to prehistoric times. Ayla states to Lucca that she likes strong people regardless if they were male or female. This leads to Lucca responding that she is not into that sort of thing, implying it was something about romantic relationships. Thus, it could be that Ayla enjoys the company of man or woman, as long as they are competently strong. This exchange is removed in the North America Super Nintendo release and the phrasing of Ayla's comment is further modified to disregard this claim of orientation. Another exchange between Ayla and Marle expressed the idea of naturally feeding babies, but this was also removed from the North American version.
As soon as Samus was revealed to be a woman in the ending of the original Metroid, it got the creepier part of the gaming world excited about the prospects of being able to see the goodies of the lady warrior. Starting in Super Metroid, it was up for speculation that Samus shed her armor whenever she was killed in battle, because her clothing appeared to disappear right before the white flashes that obscure her birthday suit. This appearance was actually planned by the creators of the game, but knowing the trouble of modifying it for localization, they included Samus with clothing, which would evolve into her Ending Outfit or Zero Suit for her subsequent appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series.
Though most of the Nintendo of America censorship takes place during the 8 and 16-bit generations, it doesn't mean that their localization specialists aren't hard at work during the current era. Released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013, a modern handheld console that is still currently available, Fire Emblem Awakening was brought over to North America, as well as the Summer Scramble downloadable content, which featured characters in beach-friendly clothing. One of the characters, Tharja, has her bikini bottom censored with an addition of a beach towel to hide her “shame." Interestingly enough, this outfit was not even more scandalous than her default costume, leading many of us scratching our heads in confusion.
The Super Nintendo versions of the Street Fighter II series would be subject to a ton of censorship from its original Japanese arcade incarnation. What was even more frustrating was the fact that Sega kept most of the violence and blood in their Genesis ports of the game, further cementing their credibility as the company for hip and happening gaming. This would be apparent for the Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers port, where the defeated characters portraits would feature removed blood and gory injuries. In another instance, Balrog's victory message was modified from “My fist have your blood on them” to “Get up you wimp!” for the SNES version. The blood featured on a man in Chun Li's ending was also recolored.
The early 1990s success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, with a flourishing animated series, featured films, successful toy lines, and a bevy of licensed gaming titles. It seemed that Konami wanted to capitalize even further on the reptilian quartet by also entering the fighting game genre with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. Among the ranks of popular characters, a female ninja named Aska was created just for the game. She bore a lot of similarities to Mai Shiranui from the Fatal Fury series, down to her flaunting of her behind and her jiggling bust line during her victory pose. However, this was only for the Japanese version. International releases would have her wearing bloomers and her arms crossed as her victory pose.
An all-time classic, Super Mario Kart is one of the few games that I owned for the Super Famicom, as well as the Super Nintendo. All playable characters from the original Super Mario Kart had victory animations where they would stand atop a podium with a bottle of champagne in their hands. For two of them, Bowser and Princess Peach, they actually consume the champagne in their victory poses. Since this violated one of Nintendo of America's policies about the depiction of certain drinks, especially since the game was marketed for children, the consumption of champagne was excluded from the game. Instead, there were alternate poses for Bowser and Peach when it was released for the Super NES for North America.
A game that stood the test of time, Final Fight was an arcade and home console success. The beat-em-up would have numerous ports and several sequels. The characters featured in Final Fight would reappear in other Capcom titles, including as combatants in the Street Fighter series. An extremely common enemy in the original Final Fight, Bred, had the pleasure of getting his prized possession crushed by Haggar and friends during a bonus stage, where demolishing a late-model sedan is met with extra points and a crying Bred, who goes on his knees and exclaims, “Oh! My God!” This dialogue was featured in both the arcade and console versions in Japan. Outside of Japan, Bred's line was changed to: “Oh! My Car!” He would use the edited version for his cameo appearance in Super Street Fighter IV.
The fourth game of the Chibi-Robo series, Chibi-Robo Photo Finder, was released digitally on the Nintendo eShop and featured the titular character in an adventure to fulfill the curator's goal of opening a Nostajunk Museum. Though the premise of the game is friendly enough for people of all ages, the North American release of the game was infamous for excluding the image of a buttock on the rear end of the aluminum can character with a face that follows Chibi-Robo around while he is running in circles. No idea why they felt like omitting this little display of cheeks, but people on the internet were not pleased with this censorship.
If you just purchased the Super Nintendo Classic, I really envy you. But thankfully, my Super Famicom Classic is just about to clear customs as we speak. Included on both versions of this specialty console is one of the most popular titles of the 16-bit era, Super Mario World. Even nearly 25 years after its initial release, Super Mario World is an absolute masterpiece of a platformer. Simple to play, but difficult to master. In the original Japanese release of the game, Yoshi was actually able to consume the dolphin characters that you used to move along various levels, including the first water-based level on Yoshi's Island. Given that dolphin-killing is an acceptable practice in Japan and a sensitive issue outside of it, Yoshi's dolphin-eating ability was removed for foreign releases.
If you wanted to see that intro with the fight between Max and Scott, you might want to get the Sega Genesis version of Street Fighter II games or the arcade cabinets, because the Super NES versions omit that intro entirely. Though initially thought as a move to conserve memory for the cartridge, the intro's appearance on the Sega version meant that this was a calculated censorship by the folks at Nintendo, but the reasoning for this move is unknown. This would also be the case for the Japanese Super Famicom port of the game, where the introduction is merely the title screen. However, the intro omission would not be the only aspect of the classic fighting game that was censored on the Super Nintendo. Read further to find out what else was left on the chopping block for the Nintendo releases of this fighting classic.
Known for their creation of the Double Dragon series, Technos Japan also released an obscure arcade game that was ported to the Super Nintendo named The Combatribes. The inclusion of blood from the original was recolored to appear as saliva and tears, a technique that was also used for the SNES ports of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. In addition, many of the characters' names were changed, including one of the bosses having his very inappropriate name turned into Master Blaster. The Slaughter Troops gang was renamed as The Demolition Troops. When the game was once again released for Nintendo's Virtual Console, the Ground Zero organization was renamed to Guity Zero avoid its connotation to the 9/11 incident.
The original Punch-Out!! featured some outrageous racial stereotypes, but they were all done in comedic ways, often making these caricatures acceptable for a worldwide audience. One of the favorites from the cast of silly characters was a boxer from the former Soviet Union called Vodka Drunkenski, who first appeared in Super Punch-Out!! However, one thing that Nintendo of America wouldn't allow in the localization of Japanese-created titles was the presence and consumption of specific beverages. North America received a combined version of both the original Punch-Out!! and Super Punch-Out!! and renamed it as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Drunkenski was renamed Soda Popinski, to avoid the references of "magic beverage" consumption. Instead, the Russian had a terrible addiction to soda pop, which apparently is much better.
Super Castlevania IV was one of those instances where the localization teams had to put in great amounts of overtime. One of the first items changed for foreign release was the blood drop featured on the title screen that was on the original Japanese release. In addition to that pesky blood drop, almost all of the blood in the localized versions was taken edited out of the final releases. Could you imagine a game about vampires and Dracula not having any blood at all? Well, it did happen. Crosses were also omitted, excluding the rosary item. Finally, all of the artsy statues were given some clothing, probably to hide their shame. This systematic censorship would be common in most Castlevania games for the 8 and 16-bit generations.
Everyone who played Earthbound in North America remembered a sequence where the teenage Ness was running around Magicant in his pajamas. In Japan, the game was originally named Mother2 and Ness was actually running around the area in his very revealing birthday suit, as in Japanese culture, nudity represents purity. However, in the English localization of the game, Ness was given his well-known striped pajamas to avoid the explicit nature of his exposure, that was deemed unacceptable in the North American market. Interestingly enough, Ness's striped pajamas became synonymous with the character on the internet, where people have created mods for Ness in his various appearances in Super Smash Bros.
Contra was ridiculously hard. You almost have to be inhuman to beat it. That was exactly the case for gamers living in Europe who played the renamed Contra as Probotector, that featured the protagonists as robots. While the North American version maintained the human appearances of Bill and Lance (dead ringers for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stalone), the European PAL release featured the lovable soldiers as robotic warriors, which was probably a marketing tactic in order to sell the game to minors living in Germany. This modification would last until the release of Contra: Legacy of War for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, where the Probotector name was dropped, as well as the robotic protagonists angle.
Final Fantasy IV saw a lot of censorship when it was released in North America. Heck, the Americans even renamed the game as Final Fantasy II, leading to the same level of confusion as that Street Fighter Grand Masters renaming fiasco. It was bad enough that the North America version was simplified and watered-down, but several religious references were modified, especially ones with references to Christianity. Mentions of prayers were eliminated, as well as Rosa's Pray special command (because prayers are a bad thing?). The ultimate white magic was renamed from Holy to White. In addition, all mentions of death were also removed from the localization. This release of Final Fantasy IV is definitely the worst version of the game to ever be released.
As one of the most challenging platformers of all-time, this next title got its claim to fame as being one of the best. In the North America port of Super Ghouls and Ghosts for the Super Nintendo, the final boss had his name changed from Samael to Sardius. Why is this significant? Nintendo of America was extremely sensitive to the inclusion of religious-related content, especially ones featuring something of a biblical nature. Samael is best known for being an archangel of death featured in Judaism. In order to safeguard against backlash for the inclusion of a devilish character in a video game, the final boss was renamed to Sardius, which is merely the name of a ruby-like precious stone mentioned in the Bible. That wouldn't set off any alarms, because most people probably didn't know what Sardius is, anyway.
As the first role-playing game of the Mario series, Super Mario RPG was a joint venture of Square and Nintendo that yielded fantastic results and also paved the way for subsequent Mario games within the RPG genre. Released in North America for the Super Nintendo in 1996 as Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, it also allowed players to employ the aid of a former arch-nemesis, Bowser, to fight a new common enemy, Smithy. While Bowser is now on the side of the heroes, it doesn't mean that this evil villain is now a saint. In his original Japanese victory pose, King Koopa gives us the finger, more specifically the middle finger. This was obviously changed in the North America release to a much more wholesome pose.
First appearing in Final Fight as a level boss, Sodom would see himself renamed as Katana, after the weapons that he wields. This was probably due to the name being a reference to a specific act. This would also be the case with his appearance in Mighty Final Fight, where there are three duplicates of him called the Three Katana Brothers. His name would remain as Katana in the Super Nintendo port of Street Fighter Alpha 2, the first game he was a playable character. Localization specialists at Capcom would finally drop the name of Katana when they ported Street Fighter Zero 3 to English-speaking markets as Street Fighter Alpha 3. Using the X-ism of Sodom in that game will have him yielding his trademark katanas instead of his standard jitte, as a throwback to his original appearances. Thus, he has been known by his original name, Sodom, ever since.
Yet, another case of trying to quell outrage by minimizing Biblical religious references for their American home ports and localization of a Japanese-created video game, all of the crosses that were featured on coffins and tombstones in the original Chomakaimura, known outside Japan as Super Ghouls and Ghosts on the Super Nintendo, were modified to the appearance of Ankhs. The crosses looked too similar to church crosses, while the presence of ankhs were considered more religiously ambiguous, as ankh was actually a hieroglyphic ideogram that meant life that was widely used in Egyptian history. Ankhs were also found in Persia, as well as ancient Mesopotamia. Interestingly, crosses that were featured in the background remained within the game.