I was 10 when Super Mario Galaxy came out, and I’m 22 now on its rerelease. There was all sorts of confusion before it came out, about what really was the situation surrounding motion controls, which were described as both mandatory and optional by various outlets. I decided to bite the bullet anyway. Galaxy already has a HD port to the Nvidia Shield in China. This version disregards the motion controlled pointer in favour of using the analogue stick to control the pointing mechanics.
In Mario Galaxy, the pointing mechanic is used plenty throughout the whole experience. The game opens to a selection of rocky planets, representing save files. The user is intended to point to the planet, select it and which avatar they wish to use. They then click proceed, and after a short introductory story, the game begins. Star bits are falling all around you, raining from the sky in all their rainbow colours to flick around the controller and collect. As Mario’s journey begins, the pointer is used to select levels, and even to unlock new worlds, as you aim at the gluttonous pink Lumas and feed them all the star bits you’ve collected. To unlock every area in Mario Galaxy, you’ll need to have flicked for a wrist-aching grand total of 6370 star bits.
But what if you can’t do that?
I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II, a degenerative neuromuscular condition, which prevents my ability to walk amongst other muscle weakness — especially in my hands. I am unable to interact with motion controls due to the dexterity and strength it requires to position and raise the controller to move the pointer around the screen. This, however, is exactly what Nintendo’s rerelease of the fan-favourite Galaxy game asked of me this morning as it arrived.
The game loaded up, and I tried to select a save file. The muscles in my wrists struggled as I aimed the pointer upwards, completely missing where I intended to aim. I tried to use the analogue sticks, to no success. I tried again, managing to press the file select, and then being met with another pointer required-screen. I went again, trying to choose my avatar for the save file. Princess Peach, of course. Once again, I missed on my first swipe, and my hands started to ache from trying to twist the controller. I sat staring at that struggling, flickering pointer on the screen waiting for me to move, and felt a nostalgic wave of shame and sadness wash over me. It was hard to believe, but it was happening again. The exclusion I felt through the entirety of the Wii and Wii U era of Nintendo was back, and this time it was for one of the most anticipated games of the year. Why is it that I and others with disabilities like mine must be excluded from this gaming space by Nintendo’s sheer refusal to add mobility accessibility options? This isn’t the first time. I have spoken at length about how Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee have completely mandatory motion controls when docked, but now they have done it again.
I opened Twitter to express my upset. As embarrassing as it is to admit, my eyes got slightly teary as I saw the game trending. Thousands of fans shared their delight with the collection, video of their Galaxy gameplay, even several people actively cheering on the inclusion of mandatory motion controls.
Ableism is not confined to the use of harmful language. Ableism is a part of our society, it is a part of life. Disabled people are overlooked in the planning of buildings and monuments, underrepresented in television, film, and well, left out of some video games. However, video games for me however, were always the most welcoming outlet as a disabled person. The video game industry has accessibility specialists as job roles, they have whole menus for accessibility options. There is an entire website dedicated to game reviews on accessibility, featuring brilliant disabled writers talking about their experiences playing video games with their disability. Despite this however, Nintendo has always proudly been different. Whether that’s through their creative genius setting trends in the industry, their unique approach to system design, or their ableism in game designing.
The lack of an accessible control option for Mario Galaxy is shameful. As the richest company in Japan as of this year, there is truly no excuse. A version of the game already exists with analogue pointer controls. I could emulate the game right now on my PC and map the pointer to a mouse or an analogue stick and be done with this whole fiasco, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to resort to emulation, which Nintendo infamously opposes, but what other choice am I given? I paid for the game, I gave 50 pounds I barely have to play the games I love, and the biggest one in the collection (not to mention its sequel if that comes…) won’t let me play it.
At this point, I don’t know what to do and I feel powerless. These complaints have been aimed at Nintendo for more than a decade and they still feel comfortable releasing games disabled people can’t play. Our voices don’t work, our protests don’t work, and the game is still a best-seller so that speaks for itself. My only option is to just... not. I won’t play the 3D All-Stars collection on Switch for as long as disabled people and our needs aren’t recognised in the collection, and if I really want to play Galaxy, I’ll try to emulate it. I had a lot of faith in Nintendo as of lately, and they are still my favourite games company. But for now, things aren’t so Super, Mario.