A new website for Nintendo’s upcoming Japanese theme park Super Nintendo World went live yesterday. It featured new details and a virtual tour of the video game wonderland ahead of its February 4 opening. It also used an image of Mario for its loading screen that appears to have been created not by Nintendo, but one of its fans.
“I love how Nintendo used MY old ass Mario render in their official Nintendo World website,” Twitter user and Mario fan artist ujiidow tweeted earlier today. Their image of Mario was created roughly three years ago using the open source animation software Blender, and was shared on Reddit at the time. The Mario model used for the render wasn’t one of Nintendo’s, but instead belonged to 3D artist RafaKnight, who shared it for download on their Patreon in 2017.
Neither Nintendo nor Universal Studios Japan immediately responded to a request for comment.
Now the image seems to be on the front page of Universal Studios Japan’s website for a theme park inspired by one of the most protective and litigious IP holders in the video game industry. (Just this week, the game distribution website GameJolt was hit with a DMCA notice by Nintendo targeting hundreds of free fan-made projects based on the company’s IP.)
The potential irony was not lost on the r/gaming subreddit, which shared ujiidow’s discovery in a thread cheekily roasting Nintendo, which has been upvoted over 60,000 times. A post on the subject over on NintendoLife shows ujiidow’s render side-by-side with a standard one of Mario it’s similar to. While both look nearly identical at first , it’s clear upon closer inspection that ujiidow’s is much more detailed, especially around the shading.
Ujiidow isn’t necessarily complaining though. “I’m so used to my Mario renders getting very little attention,” they told Kotaku in an email. “I’m being told to take action on the matter but I find it very nice to finally have some recognition on it.”
You can find some of their fan art over on their DeviantArt page. One of the more recent pieces is a version of Cyberpunk 2077’s box art that replaces its lead character V with a more grizzled, gun-toting Mario. Another shows modern Mario and one from Mario 64 trading glances while swimming in a pool of water.
Ujiidow said they contacted Universal Studios about the image but haven’t heard back yet. In the meantime, they’ve taken the entire situation as a compliment. “For my render to be mistaken for an official one shows I’m kind of doing something right here.”
Update - 2:51 p.m. ET, 2/7/21: Universal Studios Japan appears to have swapped out the Mario fan render with an official at some point. The page now shows this slightly different headshot of the overall-ed plumber: