Mario may be many things -- fat, moustachioed, Italian -- but we never had him pegged as the type who would endorse cruelty towards animals. Animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sees things differently, however,The group has blasted the plumber's latest .3DS adventure Super Mario 3D Land, in which he dons a raccoon suit, as it advocates the wearing of fur.
It claims this is insensitive to the hunting of real-life tanuki raccoon dogs, who are killed for their fur. It's even made a Flash game parodying Mario named Super Tanooki Skin 2D, in which you play a raccoon trying to get its fur back.
"When on a mission to rescue the princess, Mario has been known to use any means necessary to defeat his enemy -- even wearing the skin of a raccoon dog to give him special powers," reads the 'Mario Kills Tanooki' section of the PETA site.
"Tanooki may just be a 'suit' in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur."
On the loading screen of Super Tanooki Skin 2D, the PETA logo even mimics the Nintendo Seal of Approval.
This isn't the first game PETA has made -- others in its animal-friendly series include Super Tofu Boy, and Super Chick Sisters, in which you have to rescue 'Princess Pamela Anderson' from 'evil Ronald McDonald'. The game features Mario and Luigi as well.
Super Mario 3D Land is due out on Friday for the Nintendo 3DS, and combines a side-scrolling platform game with more open-world 3D gameplay, a la Super Mario 64. We're not going to get into the ethical debate, but having played Super Tanooki Skin 2D, we can say Super Mario 3D Land would have to be pretty bad to lose out in the gameplay stakes.