The gaming world erupted with controversy today after a number of New Super Mario Bros. Wii owners discovered that Nintendo had included a “terrorism” themed secret level in copies of the acclaimed side-scrolling platformer.
The level, accessible only after players complete the game three consecutive times using all four players will full coins, thrusts the Mario character back into Princess Peach’s castle, where he is forced against his will to play through a level controlled by a Russian-themed Ivan von Koopalov character.
As the level begins, Mario assumes the role of an undercover Mushroom Kingdom operative, assigned to infiltrate von Koopalov’s secret terror network and sabotage his plans to bring fear, uncertainty and doubt to the Kingdom. However, the seemingly low-key level turns deadly once undercover Mario is forced to participate in a mass Toadacide. Blood is spilled after his three sidekicks (two rogue Toad agents and Waluigi) begin to indiscriminately assassinate Mushroom Kingdom innocents with Hammer Bros hammers and Fire Flower fireballs. The player has full control of Mario in this level, and as such is given the option to join in on the massacre and remain undercover, or attack the sidekicks, thereby risking exposure and possibly death.
At the end of the level, a defeated von Koopalov springs to life and shoots Mario in the head before having his way with the Princess. The game then ends, permanently, as the Wii console destroys the disc with a previously unknown Xbox 360-like disc scratching feature.
Game violence experts were unsurprisingly critical of the level, with many calling for a boycott. Russian players burned the game in a red plastic-melting effigy outside the Kremlin late Tuesday evening.
“This is an outrageous addition to an otherwise family-friendly title,” said embattled former attorney Jack Thompson, whose legal woes had reduced his law practice to “Needs Food Badly” status. This latest development, however, had re-energized him back to full hearts, he said, and his sword could finally shoot lasers again.
Nintendo defended the move in a press release Tuesday, saying video games are art and that this special level is meant to connect with players on an emotional level. “The game is especially poignant, we think, with those players who enjoy killing things and feel no emotional attachment to anything,” the release said.
Nintendo’s decision mimics that of Infinity Ward, the Modern Warfare series developer that included a similar scene in the sequel to that title, released last week. A number of MW2 owners on the NeoGAF forums applauded Nintendo’s decision to “mix up” the Mario series with some controversy. “The murder simulator in that Russian airport was one of the biggest reasons I bought MW2 on launch day. Now I’m going to buy a Mario game for the first time ever!” said NeoGAF member HeadShotsBloodBrainsTasteGoodIHateMyParents.