The upcoming Mario Party Superstars on the Switch features 100 minigames, drawn from the long-running history of the series. One of those, Tug o’ War, is making a somewhat surprising return, after what happened last time the game was available to play with an analogue stick.
The game, a 1v3 showdown, has one player dressed as the mighty Bowser on one side of a ravine, and the other three players, in their puny standard forms, on the other. Both sides have to pull on a rope, and the team that does it the fastest will win, sending their opponents into the gaping maw of a waiting piranha plant.
Here’s what it looked like back on Mario Party 64:
While it looks harmless enough in video form, this game was the worst! Just the absolute worst! It was played by rotating the N64 controller’s analogue stick, and while you could just use your thumb, to get the thing rotating fast enough to actually win meant using the palm of your hand instead of your thumb. And it was agony.
It was also national news. Along with Pedal Power (which isn’t in Superstars), Tug o’ War was one of the two minigames chiefly responsible for complaints from parents. At the time they said their “children...had suffered cuts, punctures, blisters and friction burns on their hands because of the intense joystick movements some portions of the multiplayer N64 game require.” The New York Attorney General’s office, acting on these messages, officially complained to Nintendo about the game.
In response the company agreed to send out—and I shit you not, this is true, as this was an age before patches and updates—four pairs of protective “sports gloves.” They sent them to anyone across the United States who had bought the game, could provide proof of purchase, and wanted them. The “fingerless gloves [had] padded palms.”
As this CNET story from the time reports,
“One kid got a tetanus shot,” said Christi Pritchard, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
“The alarming thing was how little time some of these children spent playing the game before they were injured,” Pritchard said. “One parent said their child had been playing the game for 15 to 20 minutes when they got a second-degree burn.”
Maybe Nintendo should “ship only to colder climates,” quipped Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering Group.
Nintendo also recorded a special message just for its Mario Party tips hotline, which urged all people playing the game to “avoid injuries simply by manipulating the joystick with their thumb and forefinger rather than the palm of the hand.”
Now, in 2021 and with Mario Party Superstars out this week, Tug o’ War is back baby (well, back again, since it also turned up on Mario Party 100 on the 3DS, but since that didn’t have a proper analogue stick, it wasn’t an issue). And with the Switch’s Joy-Cons having enough problems as it is (and with the N64 controller itself also making a comeback), Nintendo isn’t taking any chances.
As you can see in videos already appearing on YouTube (the game has leaked ahead of release), the mini-game now comes with a big, clear warning. Players are told players—right underneath the control prompt that says “rotate stick”—“to avoid irritation to your skin and/or damage to the control stick, do not rotate it with the palm of your hand.”
Will it work? People love winning and hate reading, so probably not! Will it cover Nintendo’s asses legally? Probably!