A History of Nintendo Fanworks Cancelled by Nintendo Legal Action

As any budding fan game developer knows, the worst thing that can happen to a project is the IP owner sending a cease and desist notice to shut it down. It happened to Chrono Resurrection. It nearly killed the whole ROM hacking scene for Chrono Trigger. And heck, not a day goes by without some MMORPG private server being taken offline.

But how about for Nintendo fan projects? Well, it turns out that quite a surprising number of those get shut down for ‘legal’ reasons too. Whether it’s Full Screen Mario, Zelda 30 Tribute or Super Mario Remaker, the company certainly isn’t shy about shutting down projects that might hurt their bottom line. So let’s look at some of the many Nintendo fan works screwed over by cease and desists, DMCA notices or other Nintendo legal action…

The Legend of Zelda: The Hero of Time Movie – January 2010

First up, let’s head back to what may well be the first ever Nintendo fan work shut down by Nintendo. The Hero of Time was a Zelda movie that was in production during the early 2000s, and was known for being one of the first live action movies based on the series. Hosted on the Legends and Adventure forums, the project was going to offer a new story set in Hyrule with familiar species like the Gorons and Zoras playing important parts.

Unfortunately, the movie’s creators made a fatal mistake when it came time to release the movie. Why?

Because they tried to sell tickets to showings of the film in actual cinemas.

This got Nintendo’s attention, and give the company credit, they weren’t too harsh on it. In fact, they agreed to license the movie for a few weeks or so, up until the end of the year in fact. Once that time was over, the project stopped and any chance of things like DVDs or live showings went wth it.. Unfortunately, the next project wasn’t quite so lucky…

Super Mario Bros X – April 2011

That project being Super Mario Bros X, a fan game and game maker tool for the Mario series. Designed as a cross between Super Mario All Stars and Super Mario World (with Zelda and Metroid elements added in later), the game let people make their own Mario games in the form of ‘episodes’, with custom graphics and music.

Again, another fatal flaw came up. Namely the domain name, which creator Redigit had chosen as ‘SuperMarioBrothers.org’. This name made it awfully easy for Nintendo to say the game was competing with their own products, and they eventually sent a cease and desist notice in 2011. The result was that the original videos and posts about the game were taken down, and the domain eventually transferred to Nintendo themselves.

super mario bros org whois

Above: As you can clearly see on the Whois listing.

However, a lot of people saw this as suspicious. Hence up popped a conspiracy theory that Redigit had faked the legal notice himself to get away from Super Mario Bros X to work on Terraria. This wasn’t the truth (for obvious reasons, the domain is owned by Nintendo now) but Redigit doesn’t have a great reputation because of it regardless.

Still, Super Mario Bros X wasn’t dead for good. Just months later, forums and fan sites had popped up for the game, and those have stayed active to this very day. Heck, development has even restarted under the guidance of the community, with plugins like LunaDLL acting like stopgaps.

This wasn’t the case of the next project though.

Full Screen Mario – November 2013

Namely Full Screen Mario, a Javascript and HTML 5 remake of Super Mario Bros that went live in 2013. For a few days, this became a phenomenom. With random level generators, extra features and coverage from half the gaming community, it was featured everywhere.

Which wasn’t something that Nintendo’s legal team was all too pleased about. After all, Full Screen Mario was a carbon copy of SMB 1. You know, that game Nintendo was selling on Virtual Console.

So on November 1st 2013, the project got DMCAed. The game was immediately replaced with a ‘Full Screen Takedown Notice’ page, and the project has been dead ever since. But this wasn’t the only fan remake hit by Nintendo’s lawyers…

Super Mario 64 HD (Bob-omb Battlefield Version) – March 2015

Because a few years later, a fan called Roystan Ross posted a HD remake of Super Mario 64 called Super Mario 64 HD. It wasn’t a full remake (only containing Bob-omb Battlefield and no full missions), but it was enough to excite the internet. And with things like a Gold Mario form unlocked for getting all the coins, it soon became a big thing on Youtube and other video sharing sites:

No, it wasn’t THE Super Mario 64 HD. That was a separate fan project, as seen below:

Above: Not the original trailer

But it was enough for a lot of people, and Nintendo thought it was best to send a copyright infringement notice anyway. As a result, the project is no longer available to download on the developers website.

That was also enough for the other Mario 64 HD team to take the trailer private, go into hiding and keep their own project on the down low for a while. So Nintendo took down one fan remake, and then managed to scare the developers of the other fan remake into vanishing off the internet in response. But demakes weren’t safe from this either…

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 2D – May 2015

Which brings us to the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 2D, Edition 2,000,199. That title’s probably not much of an exaggeration, since the idea of a 2D Ocarina of Time has been done to death over the last ten or so years. We’ve had Zelda 1 style versions, Minish Cap style versions, an Oracle series style version… and fates ranging from a faked death via car accident to team feuds to another team getting hit by a legal notice. But we’re talking about the current Ocarina of Time 2D game.

The one shown in this trailer:

It was quite an impressive project. From detailed Link to the Past style sprites to redone bosses and dungeons to even an online multiplayer mode, the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 2D was shaping up to be a great game.

Until in May 2015, the download link was taken offline with a DMCA notice in its place.

But hey, it wasn’t the end of the world. Surprisingly, Nintendo only ever went after the download on Dropbox, not the website or its social media channels. Hence as of today, the game is still in development, plans for a version 2 are ongoing and there’s even talk of a deal with Nintendo to license the IP and make it official. Pretty good, compared to the next item on the list.

Zelda Anime (Zeldamotion) – July 2015

That being an anime adaptation of the Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past. Launched as a Kickstarter project by Aeipathy Industries (that was probably a mistake in itself), the series was going to adapt the SNES classic into an anime series. You may recognise it from this MSU-1 mod for the game (which used part of the first episode as an intro):

Either way, the fact a group of fans were trying to collect money for a Zelda adaptation didn’t sit well with the Nintendo lawyers. So as promptly as it went up, the Kickstarter got taken down and the project was cancelled as a result.

PangeaPanga’s ROM Hack Videos – September 2015

But no money was exchanged here, and it didn’t help much of PangeaPanga’s Youtube channel either. You see, before he made those ultra hard levels for Super Mario Maker (that sometimes get featured on Nintendo news sites), he was known for making ultra difficult ROM hacks of Super Mario World instead. Ones where players needed tool assistance to get through any of the level due to their high reliance on glitches and pixel perfect play.

Which for years, was perfectly fine. His works (like the Item Abuse series) got popular, they were sometimes talked about in the press and the SMW hacking community carried on as normal.

Then Super Mario Maker came out, and for whatever silly reason, half of Pangea’s channel went bye bye in an instant. It’s not all gone, but damn, all the playthroughs of the Item Abuse series and other tricky ROM hacks got taken down due to Nintendo copyright claims. Yeah, despite them being online for… about five years beforehand. Real good use of time and resources there (not).

But don’t be fooled into thinking only Mario and Zelda related projects are at risk…

Star Fox the Animated Series – January 2016

Because an animated series based on the Star Fox franchise was taken down by Nintendo as well. Titled Star Fox the Animated Series, this was a web cartoon series featuring the Star Fox Crew as they battled with the evil Andross and got into more scrapes with rivals Star Wolf. Here’s an video of the intro:

It was a pretty cool series, at least based on what got made of it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to stop Nintendo shutting it down with a DMCA notice, taking its Patreon page offline in the process.

Still, it didn’t kill off the project. According to the creator, it’ll be retooled as more of a parody in the future, with various characters given silly names and other things changed to make it closer to something resembling fair use.

Project M – December 2015

But almost all the above projects were pretty small scale compared to this. Project M, is possibly the most well known Super Smash Bros mod of all time. Based on Brawl and designed with the intention to revert the mechanics to those from the Melee era, it soon exploded into a massive project to create the perfect Smash Bros game for tournaments. With new characters, new stages, new music… the lot really.

It was so impressive that Smashboards (the number 1 forum for Super Smash Bros discussion) was (and still is) the official home for the mod’s development. Add new characters Lynn and Knuckles (who were planned for 3.6), and you had an amazing project.

Well, until December 2015, when out of nowhere, this message appeared:

In summary, we are ceasing development of Project M (effective immediately) and will be making no further releases as we turn our attention towards an entirely new venture. As the PMDev team will be formally disbanded, please forward all official communications regarding Project M to video game attorney and business consultant Ryan Morrison (. We appreciate your support and your understanding.

Above: Via the official website.

That doesn’t sound good. Sounds suspiciously like a legal notice, lawsuit or something else lawyer related. They sure wouldn’t mention their attorney in regards to official communications otherwise.

And the internet being the internet, there was speculation everywhere:

  1. Did Nintendo send a cease and desist order
  2. Did the team just want to move on to an original project without Nintendo thinking it was inspired by Smash?
  3. Were they nearly sued by Nintendo or another company?
  4. Was the vague shut down because of a gag order?

The possibilities were all over the place. Either way, the project’s download links was mirrored, a split started between fans of 3.5 and fans of 3.6 and a community version of the game begun development. However, the shut down of the next few projects was a bit easier to understand…

Super Mario Maker Fan Games – January 2016

Wait, there are multiple of these now?

Yeah. Well, there were. After Super Mario Maker hit it big in 2015, the internet was filled with Mario fan games taking after it (except you know, being PC based). And as you may have figured, each and every one of them was shot down by Nintendo in some way.

First and foremost was Super Mario Remaker. Designed by MFGG user Luminey to be a PC equivalent to Super Mario Maker (with NES style levels and user created character costumes), the game kind of hit it big in December 2015 with a wave of coverage on GoNintendo, Destructoid, Kotaku and much more.

It even got its own community of people sharing levels and character costumes!

Alas, someone at Nintendo’s legal team didn’t like the idea quite as much as everyone else on the internet, so Luminey’s Youtube channel was shut down for ‘copyright infringement’ and the downloads of the game were removed from every file hoster going.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68IRG1yq8tY

Above: For example, this was the trailer.

Also hit hard by this was Super Fangame Maker. Nowhere near as popular (or well received) as Super Mario Remaker, it too got taken down by Nintendo, as the broken link on its NCFC page will show you.

And then… there was Zelda Maker. A Super Mario Maker esque title for the Zelda series, this was going to let you make 2D Zelda games in the same way as Mario Maker did Mario levels. Again, this kind of annoyed Nintendo’s lawyers, so the download link got taken down by yet another DMCA notice. Just like Super Mario Remaker and Super Fangame Maker then.

So what become of them after that? Well, Super Fangame Maker just sucked, so it got discontinued. Super Mario Remaker is now being reborn as something more original, and may eventually stop being a Mario fan game altogether. And Zelda Maker? That got redone as Legend Maker, with graphics and music swapped out to look more original:

Alls well that ends well I guess. But will that be the case for the next project?

Super Mario Bros Z Patreon – February 2016

That being, Alvin Earthworm’s reboot of Super Mario Bros Z? Because in early 2016, he rebooted it after many years of the series lying dormant. The first episode (which is absolutely awesome) can be seen here:

He also made the small mistake of creating a patreon account for the series. And as many people in this ‘history’ have discovered, trying to make money from Nintendo fan works is a rather good way to get shut down.

So the patreon account got terminated. It hasn’t affected the series itself, but it still counts as being hit by a Nintendo legal claim regardless. And as for how he plans to make money?

Go back to do what most fan creators do. Make money from original works, and treat the fan one as a hobby.

Super Mario Fusion Revival – Unknown

Above: It’s fairly outdated now, which makes the link takedown weird.

An odd one this, given that most of the media and official site are still online, along with almost all the download links. However, if you try and download version 0.5, the Dropbox pages says the file has been removed after a DMCA notice from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

So it’s a debatable example (since Nintendo themselves might not even be responsible for the takedown), but it’s an example of a Nintendo fan project been removed from the internet regardless.

Zelda Twilight Princess HD – April 2016

You know how earlier, Super Mario Maker’s free competitors kind of got shut down?

Well, it turns out that maybe starting your own Twilight Princess HD port (to compete with Nintendo’s official one) might not have been a great idea either. Tomoya Hamasaki’s project got its videos removed from Youtube after a bunch of Nintendo copyright strikes, and hence the team moved to Twitch. As can be read here on their channel profile page:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKxLatSFNVPfPad0FSf8ytw/about

It’s still in development though. And they show no signs of giving in, regardless of what happens. Which is more than you can say about the next (and final) fan project on the list.

Zelda 30 Tribute – April 2016

Finally, the latest in a long line of doomed projects, we get to this one. And guess what?

It was basically Full Screen Mario all over again. Or maybe Full Screen Zelda in 3D, if you’re being picky.

The Zelda 3- Tribute game was a remake of Zelda 1 for the NES, with a slighly 3D view added in. Made in HTML 5 and Javascript, it played out in the browser, and worked surprisingly well for the limited control options most people had available for it.

Unfortunately (and just like Full Screen Mario), Nintendo weren’t too pleased with a remake of their first Zelda game competing with the Virtual Console version. Not least given how the unofficial one arguably had a lot more work put into it.

So the site was taken down, as per usual, and replaced with yet another takedown message.

And that brings us back to 2016. Have any more fan projects been shut down this year? Well, not that I can see. But there’s still a good eight months of the year to go, and if the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that shut downs tend to come in waves. Perhaps we’ll see another fan game or animated series or fan fic vanish in September 2016 or so, that’s been a pretty bad month for them. Or maybe not, it’s hard to tell really.

But what do you think? Which of these fan projects did you hope would be left alone till it saw completion?

Postscript: But hang on, aren’t you missing a few?

Well, kind of. I skipped any projects were 100% illegal, like emulators with bundled ROMs. I’ve seen a lot of those get shut down recently, usually because some Javascript developer thought bundling Super Mario World, Zelda A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country with his new web based emulator was a good idea. That also counts out the Vizzed take down, where the site had to remove a bunch of Nintendo ROMs from their emulators. And the numerous ROM sites shut down in years gone by.

I also skipped clear attempts at Nintendo copying business ventures (like the Pokemon Party that was shut down), Nintendo clone mobile apps (so many Mario and Pokemon ripoffs, most not by actual fans) and domain name stuff. The latter is because with the exception of TheLegendofZelda.com (which won its court case against Nintendo), the vast majority of seized domains were either owned by cybersquatters or associated with a fan project mentioned above (see, Super Mario Bros X).

A few more I didn’t hear about till too late:

There are probably tens or hundreds more, and the list is likely growing all the time.

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Calin
Member

Project M was shut down because the devs suddenly realized how problematic the legal issues would be had they continued development. In other words, it was a decision among the devs, and Nintendo did not shut it down themselves.

Demon_skeith
Member

huh, I thought the OoT 2D was still going, sad.

Maybe some day Nintendo will allow fan projects?

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