Like with many families, a generational divide splits mine between gamers and non-gamers. When my decidedly non-gamer dad poured hours into crafting Miis with gaping black holes for eyes before unleashing them in Wii Sports Resort table tennis, I knew Nintendo’s Wii and its customizable avatars were something special.
The spirit of the Wii was simple. Young, old, cis, queer, modder, noob — anyone could pick up a remote and have fun. And everything about the original Miis, down to their name, encouraged users to customize their avatars as amusing self-caricatures. As a result, chipper facsimiles flourished in my family’s personal Mii Channel, from the ruby-red lipstick painted on my mother’s Mii (aptly named “Mom”) to the exaggerated eyebrows of my own (dubbed “Aleen”). Then, an encounter in 2010 with Wii Sports Resort’s CPU Mii Takashi introduced us to a different take on fun.
Boasting a garish blue shirt, beady eyes, and lips undergoing mitosis, Takashi was what I can only describe as “cursed.” When he charged at our Miis in Wii Sports Resort’s Swordplay Showdown with his fishlike face, we could hardly swing our remotes because of our uncontrollable laughter. So this, we learned, was what Mii customization was capable of — endless production of the hideous, horrifying, and hilarious.
Over the early to mid-2010s, the Mii Channel, with countless options for noses, brows, eyes, and other customizable body parts, evolved into an intergenerational activity at our family meetups. Gathered around a TV at grandma’s house, the kids debated features with our uncles. We’d get chuckles from a cousin when we teased her tall stature with the longest height possible, and an amused glare from an aunt when her husband rotated and moved her Mii’s eyebrows to resemble antennae (no reason, just vibes). After sessions upon sessions of designing cursed Miis, we stormed into games like Wii Sports Resort, decimating the Ping-Pong champion using a Burger Mii and slamming the CPU Mii Ryan with a Mii donning a bowling ball face. Though our cursed Mii construction has largely faded into memory since, our Miis lurk in our Mii Channel to this day, waddling around with their unholy expressions and noseless faces. Confession: I still find them funny.
Cursed Mii aesthetics weren’t exclusive to my household in those days. Indeed, the chaotic potential and raging popularity led to a Miis of the Month feature in the now-defunct Nintendo Power magazine. These outlandish designs, also distributed in online forums, inspired users like Chris Elson to concoct their own abominations. During his elementary school years, Elson says, Mii customization became a multiplayer game with his brother, with each competing to create the “ugliest” avatar on the DS Mii Maker.
“The key was to make your Mii look as not-human as possible,” says Elson, now an undergraduate student in Chicago. “I remember trying to make my brother laugh with a turtle Mii. I made its eyes hang off its cheeks.”
Other assemblages included moving a beauty mark slightly off the forehead to resemble a fly, subbing nostrils for eyes, and flipping a Mii’s face entirely upside down — a choice that contemporary customizable games like The Sims didn’t offer. While Elson no longer tinkers with Mii Maker, he looks back fondly on his roster of Miis as “ugly but creative things that got a good laugh out of us.”
And while Nintendo has left the Wii behind at this point, Miis continue to live on.
For Alice, a Mii researcher and modder known online as @HEYimHeroic, cursed Mii aesthetics continue to be a highlight of their everyday gaming experience. “The higher the value I input in Mii Studio, the lower it goes on the face,” they say about a Mii they show Polygon. “That’s how I got the nose there.”
Part of the appeal of cursed Miis, they say, comes from an inherent freedom that even Nintendo developers exploited during early ages of Wii U development. They uncovered, for instance, Michael Tutori, an unused, ever-grinning CPU from Wii Music, as well as eclectic, unused Miis in “family_post,” a debug folder for the Wii U’s WaraWara Plaza from the Wii U system version 1.0.0.
“Sometimes developers create ugly Miis for fun too,” Alice says. “But other ‘cursed’ Miis can have actual uses for game devs, like testing how large a head can be without hair clipping through an accessory. And some Miis actually populate games that aren’t about Miis.”
In 2021, Alice discovered that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild used an advanced version of the Mii format, called UMii, to populate the enormous open-world game by using similar parameters and attributes to those given to traditional Miis.
UMii opened the floodgates for BotW modders to import their bizarre custom avatars into the map and share their work on Discord. After Alice’s discovery went viral on Twitter, they imported Twitch streamer RTGame’s famous cursed Mii “I want die,” with its signature wide eyes and near-vertical eyebrows, into BotW’s Kakariko Village — and met with giddy praise from Twitter fans who immediately pointed out its hideous appearance. “Honestly, this may be more viscerally upsetting than the original,” one user replied. “Well done!”
Asked whether they believe that the legacy of cursed Mii aesthetics would weaken with the present oversaturation of customizable characters (Elden Ring, Overwatch), Alice remains optimistic about the impact of Nintendo’s trademark avatars.
“Recent Mii games like [Miitopia] expanded Mii customization further,” Alice says. “People have created viral content like Squidward through them. I think if Nintendo had leaned more into cursed Miis [for] the Wii U, they would have sold more units. This is exactly what I want my family to see on Christmas Day when we open our new console. So, I think cursed Miis will be here for as long as memes are here.”
That doesn’t mean all unexpected Miis should be considered cursed, Alice says. Nintendo is a Japanese company, after all, and what the Western audience might consider cursed can sometimes simply be the result of a culture gap. Some Miis designed by Nintendo Japan, for one, are actually based on Japanese celebrities, such as the toothy grin of Sanma Akashiya.
None of this negates the nostalgic charm that these Miis exude to the world of video game fashion aesthetics. Witnessing your Peter Griffin Mii gossiping in the Wii U Mii Plaza with a Japanese celebrity, while your own Mii walks briskly past, builds a memorable, maybe even utopian life within the digital world. The next time I swing by my hometown, I’ll be sure to dust off our old Wii to flip through the cursed abominations of days past, grateful that this customization menu brought together gamer and non-gamer, grandparent with grandchild, novice with expert modder.