This very well researched Ars Technica article sure does a good job of scaring me away from trying some shirt designs, it suggests to me that there is some area to be explored in designs that may be close, but not exactly similar to a copyrighted design.
The article suggests that the patent holders are afraid to go after the fans. This reminds me of the Metallica vs. Napster and MP3 issue a while back, an issue that turned off a LOT of people. I know people who are still angry about that. That makes me think more of the arguments and industry changes that resulted. Some were natural progressions, like the force of tech and online media. Will shirt designs end up being order on demand as much as music is now?
The idea is to create something that has the feel of Nintendo games.
Searching my Amazon Associates search, I looked for inspiration, and for affiliate links. I found this one, searching for "Pixel Shirt". Close to "Nintendo shirt", but not lawsuit close.
This heart shirt design reminds me of the hearts in Zelda, but not a direct copy. This is a great example of a gaming culture shirt, without copyright infringement.
This ghost shirt reminds me of Pac-Man, and a little of the Mario ghosts enough that it gives me the feeling of 8-bit gaming. Another great example
I wondered how close I could get to the feel of a Mario game without crossing the line.
After drawing a few thumbnails, some good ideas started to form.
After a few tries, I created this...
The idea, after many different ideas, is to suggest a Nintendo gaming occurrence, the "Leap of Faith". This is where you know you have to jump off screen somewhere, but can't see where you are supposed to land, until you leap.
So, now to see if it is liked, even loved, or sent a Cease and Desist...? I think it is different enough.