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One of the biggest debates that has raged on for years was whether or not Mario was actually committing animal abuse in the original Super Mario World, on the SNES, against Yoshi every time he swung his arm forward and Yoshi's tongue came barreling out. Well, Nintendo has finally answered the question and it turns out that yes, Mario really was committing animal abuse by taking his chubby but stern fist and banging it down hard across the top of Yoshi's head, in order to force him to extend his tongue and eat stuff.
Kotaku provided a translation of the exchange, where Shigefumi Hino explained...
Lots of people think that while Mario is pointing his finger forward, he's saying 'Go,' and Yoshi's tongue comes out. However, the set up that I drew was that when Mario punches Yoshi in the head, the character's tongue shoots out in surprise.
Well that kind of clears a lot of things up, eh? After decades of arguments and back and forth debates, the answer has finally been provided.
A lot of people over the years have tried to justify his actions by assuming that Mario was pointing his finger forward and instructing Yoshi to go yonder, and in response Yoshi would stick out its tongue to eat things. However, Hino has confirmed that that's not the case at all, and that Mario is really just hammer-fisting Yoshi over the head in order to get the dinosaur to extend its tongue.
This actually came about because Shigeru Miyamoto originally wanted Mario to ride something -- like a horse. The designers had to brainstorm some kind of a function to allow Mario to ride on an animal. The duo felt as if Miyamoto really liked horses, so they wanted to go along with a similar concept. However, given that the theme of Super Mario World for the SNES was based around a dinosaur land, it was decided that the animal that Mario should ride on should be dinosaur-themed. I mean, it makes perfect sense really.
There is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, though. It turns out that the muffled sound effect of Mario bopping Yoshi over the head isn't Yoshi's cry of pain but rather Mario saying "Go!" so it makes it all better.
A lot of people in the comment section of the Kotaku article were a bit perturbed to find out this information about Mario and seemed to have a rather negative outlook on the character, claiming that they always knew he was a "hooligan."
I suppose the rivalry with Sonic the Hedgehog now makes a lot more sense, especially given that Sonic has always been fighting for animal rights, attempting to free them from the tyranny of rotund, little men with a savior complex.