Are Yoshi, Lakitu and Donkey Kong not doing enough to end white privilege? One video game reviewer–having determined that Nintendo’s “Mario Kart 8” suffers from a lack of black and Latino playable characters–seems to think so.
Casey Malone, a writer for Paste magazine, praised the latest installment in the Super Mario-themed racing video game series in all aspects but one: racial diversity. The game does not feature enough playable characters who are racial minorities, according to Malone:
After 30 years there are still zero Mario characters of color, a problem that Mario Kart 8 highlights by lining up all the characters on a single screen. When it comes to human characters, Mario Kart 8 is overwhelmingly white. Of the 29 drivers, 14 are human (including Toad and Toadette), and every single one of them is white. While it’d be atypical of Nintendo to introduce new characters into a Mario Kart game, it’s also where the deficit is the most obvious, and during play I found myself disappointed that Nintendo’s stable of characters so painfully fails to reflect the diversity of its audience.
A Daily Caller review found significant faults with Malone’s analysis.
Though Malone counts Toad and Toadette as human characters, they technically belong to an entirely different species: the Mushroom People, Mushroom Retainers or Toads, according to the Mario Wiki.
Discounting Toad and Toadette, there are indeed 12 white playable human characters. However, several are doubles of each other. For instance, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Princess Daisy are all also playable in “baby” form. Since each of these characters is white, their doubles are also white.
Even so, both Mario and Peach are playable as metallic versions of themselves. Metal Mario and Pink Gold Peach should hardly be considered “white” characters.
Two other characters, Wario and Waluigi, are simply evil alternate versions of Mario and Luigi. Since the famed plumber brothers are ethnically Italian, so too are Wario and Waluigi.
Malone’s analysis also glosses over the significant number of “green” minority characters: the reptilian King Bowser Koopa and his seven children.
The game also includes Yoshi, a dinosaur; Lakitu, a cloud-riding lizard; Donkey Kong, an ape; and Shy Guy, a masked character of unknown race, color and gender.
And while at their core, the few unique human characters are indeed white, they are ethnically distinct. Mario and Luigi are Italian and from New York, whereas Peach is a natural-born citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom. And the cast is quite gender diverse, featuring at least five distinct female characters.
Malone could not immediately be reached for comment.