Nintendo have revealed that the Mario character Toad, long assumed to be male, doesn’t actually have a gender.

Koichi Hayashida, the director of a number of games in the Mario series, made the revelation to Gamespot ahead of spin-off puzzle game Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

He said that the Toad race – including Toad and Toadette, who are traditionally presented as ‘male’ and ‘female’ – are actually all genderless.

He said: “This is maybe a little bit of a strange story, but we never really went out of our way to decide on the sex of these characters, even though they have somewhat gendered appearances.

“But I think what I can say is that Toadette and Toad are not siblings – perhaps it would be more accurate to say they are adventure pals. And that’s certainly true here [in Captain Toad].”

He also confirmed that the characters were neither toads nor mushrooms, saying: “This particular riddle might stay unsolved. That’s one of the great mysteries of the Mario universe.”

Nintendo was criticised earlier this year for its “hurtful” decision to only allow players to enter into straight relationships in 3DS social sim Tomodachi Life.

The company later said: “We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life.

“At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy.

“We pledge that if we create a next instalment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.”