Each year, thousands of endangered turtles are killed for the illegal turtle trade, driving many turtle species closer towards extinction. Why have turtles been so over-hunted? Well, if violent video games are indicators of real world violence, then one game that might be responsible is Super Mario World, a game whose gruesome treatment of turtles may have directly influenced today’s illegal turtle poachers.
Super Mario World openly encourages the poaching of Koopa Troopas, the main turtle villains of the game. Like the Mario Brothers, the illegal turtle trade also places high value in harvesting turtle shells. Every time a player jumps on a Koopa Troopa to collect its shell—an action that would clearly violate the Endangered Species Act in real life—a turtle poacher is born. Without doubt, Nintendo normalized violence against turtles, but is there something more sinister at play here?
Super Mario World debuted in 1990 and saw massive commercial success with over 20 million sales worldwide. Since the early ‘90s, populations of endangered turtles have dropped drastically around the world. Nintendo has never issued a statement on the matter. In fact, Nintendo has never outright condemned illegal turtle poaching.
Bowser, the main boss of the game, closely resembles an alligator snapping turtle, a species whose population has been hunted to near endangerment. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified the turtle as a threatened species in 1992, just two years after Super Mario World’s release! Did hunters kill alligator snapping turtles because of their deep-seated hatred for Bowser? That’s a question to take up with Nintendo.
Countries around the world have set up safeguards to help endangered turtles recover. However, illegal turtle poaching won’t be fully eradicated until we tackle the root cause of the problem: violent video games like Super Mario World. Will Nintendo ever be brought to justice for its complicity in illicit wildlife trafficking?