Both huge corporations in their own right, the Nintendo and McDonald’s brands are no strangers to each other. Two companies have crossed paths a number of times over the last few decades, but this piece examines a little known exchange between the two corporations that happened sometime in the mid-1980s.
As Mario was receiving a much needed redesign by famed illustrator Yoichi Kotabe, the suits-and-ties at McDonald’s reached out to Nintendo. They noted a similarity between the ‘M’ on Mario’s hat and the McDonald’s logo, a conversation that sounds like a legal warning. But rather than asking Nintendo to back off their precious trademark, McDonald’s actually wanted them to lean into it, making the ‘M’ appear more like the golden arches. It’s unclear what they were offering in return, but the deal was declined, and the ‘M’ was kept red with sharp angles added to clearly differentiate the two.
The refused offer did little to hinder a relationship between the two brands. Although Nintendo wisely opted not to place the McDonald’s logo on Mario’s cap, their their paths have crossed a number of times over the last several decades. Starting with the release of Super Mario Bros. 3, not long after Mario had become a household name, Nintendo has routinely partnered with McDonald’s to include Mario-themed toys with their popular Happy Meals, most recently to promote The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
None of this had even been revealed until a 2018 interview with Kotabe published in French newspaper, Le Monde. In all fairness, it’s hard to blame McDonald’s for the bold request. Nintendo games were effectively capturing imaginations the same children that fawned over Ronald McDonald and his questionable food offerings. But I think we can all be thankful that the deal did not pan out, as it would have certainly cheapened the legacy that Nintendo has gone on to build with the Mario brand.