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How Nintendo's Mario Got His Name 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the can't-wait-for-the-origin-movie dept.
harrymcc writes "In 1981, tiny Nintendo of America was getting ready to release Donkey Kong. When the company's landlord, Mario Segale, demanded back rent, Nintendo staffers named the game's barrel-jumping protagonist after him. Almost thirty years later, neither Nintendo — which continues to crank out Mario games — nor Segale — now a wealthy, secretive Washington State real estate developer — like to talk about how one of video games' iconic characters got his name and Italian heritage. Technologizer's Benj Edwards has researched the story for years and provides the most detailed account to date."

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How Nintendo's Mario Got His Name

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  • by butterflysrage (1066514) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:16PM (#31986044)

    the coin obsession... never met a landlord yet who wasn't in it for the shines

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:18PM (#31986074)

      Yes, surprisingly enough numbers of non-paid amateur landlordery enthusiasts are dwindling.

    • Funny... I always thought the Donkey Kong character's name was "Jumpman" and he did not acquire the Mario name until the later arcade game "Mario Bros"

      • by hal2814 (725639)

        That was my first thought, too. Then I... you know... RTFA and that put things in place for me since they mention Jumpman several times. But for what it's worth, his name was officially Mario by Donkey Kong Jr. Mario Bros came later.

      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        And IIRC was not originally a plumber but rather a zookeeper. At least, that's my vague impression of the depiction in the cartoon series "Saturday Supercade".

        Mario didn't chase coins until Mario Bros. Before that he was trading off roles with Donkey Kong, first trying to rescue Pauline, then carrying a whip and sending snapjaws after Donkey Kong Jr. trying to free his daddy, and then shooting bug spray up Donkey Kong's butt.

        And only when they went "super" did they obsess over a magical mushroom kingdom. (T

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Before that he was trading off roles with Donkey Kong, first trying to rescue Pauline, then carrying a whip and sending snapjaws after Donkey Kong Jr. trying to free his daddy, and then shooting bug spray up Donkey Kong's butt.)

          That wasn't Mario shooting bug spray up DK's butt - That was Stanley

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Funny... I always thought the Donkey Kong character's name was "Jumpman" and he did not acquire the Mario name until the later arcade game "Mario Bros"

        That's because you didn't read the article.

        They were getting the US version of Donkey Kong to launch, the arcade game. They decided to name the char Mario, after they're landlord.

        Donkey Kong was released in 1981.

        Mario Bros was released in 1983.

        Once again, google and the wiki are your friends.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mario_games_by_year [wikipedia.org]

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          That's because you didn't read the article. They were getting the US version of Donkey Kong to launch, the arcade game. They decided to name the char Mario

          He didn't RTFA but I did, and you're still wrong. Mario's original name was "Jumpman" in Donkey Kong. He did not acquire a name until the sequel one year later.

          google and the wiki are your friends.

          Yeah they are so I'm slightly surprised you didn't read them. Wiki confirms C64_love's comments. Mario originally had no name. He was just Jumpman (a name chosen for its similarity to "Walkman" and "Pac-Man") and his job was as a carpenter (hence the hammer).

          He did not stop being a carpenter until Mario Bros, when he suddenly

    • What about his obsession for mushrooms, flowers, and jumping on turtles.
      • What about his obsession for mushrooms, flowers, and jumping on turtles.

        Haha, yeah, seriously! My GF was playing a lot of Mario 1 and 3 lately, and we were blown away by how NONE of it makes any sense!

        Like, it is seriously one of the most cracked-out video games I've ever seen. Sure, there's probably been crazier stuff, but for something so mainstream and popular, its surprisingly nonsensical!
        -Taylor

    • by gallow25 (1797138)
      Thats kinda funny. Does anyone know if any of the other characters were named after actual people, or did they just go with the Italian theme after naming Mario.................And what about Wario?!!??!?!?1?
  • by cosm (1072588)
    It explains the constant need for coins.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheCarp (96830)

      As someone getting out of the landlording business.... I can tell you that his obsession with coins may explain why he is so successful and still in it. Being a landlord, quite a lot of the job is fronting the cost on bills (or outright juggling them) until people get around to paying up.

      Much easier for the penny pincher who holds tightly onto his war chest than someone who "floats" and doesn't stress it. Neighbors complain? Guess who they complain to. Something breaks, you know who fixes it.

      I don't mean to

  • The game designers had a few beers, then turned the M upside down.

    Same with Luigi and "Princess Peach". Peach in Japanese is "momo", but upside down that is "wowo". Hence "Luigi".

    • I don't get it. How does "wowo" turn into "Luigi"?
      • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:25PM (#31986136)

        It's hard to explain, but the long and short of it is that you have to understand Japanese.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:33PM (#31986242)

          It's hard to explain, but the long and short of it is that you have to understand Japanese.

          One day I will find a Westerner who learned Japanese for reasons other than casually dropping the fact into web forums.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by dkleinsc (563838)

            One day I will find a Westerner who learned Japanese for reasons other than casually dropping the fact into web forums.

            Are you excluding the completely hopeless anime enthusiasts, and the western guys who learned Japanese in the hopes of snagging a hot Japanese girlfriend (yes, these groups overlap)?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by daremonai (859175)

            One day I will find a Westerner who learned Japanese for reasons other than casually dropping the fact into web forums.

            That would be me. Just thought I'd mention it.

          • by Zanadou (1043400)
            This. Thank you. I love how most Westerners (i.e. usually Caucasians), think that their hopeless second language skill is special and treat it like it's some kind of linguistic pissing contest. Notice that those "foreigners" cooking your food at your local ethnic restaurant or dry-cleaning your clothes don't seem to think that learning English makes them particularly special.
          • by fishexe (168879)

            It's hard to explain, but the long and short of it is that you have to understand Japanese.

            One day I will find a Westerner who learned Japanese for reasons other than casually dropping the fact into web forums.

            You mean you haven't met any who learned Japanese so they could train as Samurai in hopes of one day committing seppuku?

        • by Bungie (192858)
          I understand some Japanese and I don't get how it has anything to do with them flipping the romanji word upside down.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WED Fan (911325)
          I speak Japanese fluently, lived and worked there for a Japanese company and I'd love to see your explanation of this one.
        • Your comment did nothing to answer my question. And while my understanding of Japanese is poor at best, it's enough to know that you're wrong, either deliberately or due to incompetence.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DIplomatic (1759914)

      The game designers had a few beers, then turned the M upside down.

      "Wario" is actually a combination of the Japanese word for "bad" (Warui) and Mario's name. Because he is the "Bad" Mario.

      As for Waluigi, if you change the "R" sound to an "L" sound (as often happens in Japanese-English translations) you get "Walui". Combine that with "Luigi" and you get "Waluigi!"

      • Well, the thing is that they don't have a separate sound for R & L. They have a set of five sounds (usually transliterated as ra / re / ri / ro / ru) that are roughly half-way in between L and R in terms of sound. The tongue further back in the mouth (like the R and unlike the L sound), but the tongue also touches the roof of the mouth (which is just the opposite of before; being like the L sound and unlike the R sound). So you can think of it as half-and-half because it has one trait from both the R

    • The game designers had a few beers, then turned the M upside down.

      Disclaimer: I don't know Japanese, so this is second-hand.

      From what I've heard, Wa in Japanese means opposite. W is also conveniently M upside-down (hence why it's Wario and not Wamario).

      However, you'll notice that Luigi's counterpart is Waluigi.

      • > From what I've heard, Wa in Japanese means opposite.

        I think you've been misinformed. Depending on the exact form used, wa means "harmony", "sum", "total", can be combined with other words to indicate things of Japanese origin, is the reading of the "ha" hiragana when it's used as the subject particle, can be added to the end of a sentence to make the speaker sound more feminine and for emphasis, used to draw contrast or compare things, can indicate a limit, and can even be used as a counter for birds

        • Yeah, the guy above me posted the correct meaning. However, since Slashdot doesn't let you delete posts once you've made them, and I was typing this comment at the time he posted his comment...

  • Mario (Score:5, Funny)

    by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:25PM (#31986138) Journal

    Speaking as an American of Italian heritage who also used to be a plumber, not only am I not offended by Mario, I hold him up as a role model. I mean, I lost count of the number of times I had to chase some damned monkey through the pipes. Happened all the time.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, in the original Donkey Kong, Mario was a carpenter. It wasn't until it got popular and they made Mario Bros. that he was changed to a plumber.
    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      Speaking as an American of Italian heritage who also used to be a plumber, not only am I not offended by Mario, I hold him up as a role model. I mean, I lost count of the number of times I had to chase some damned monkey through the pipes. Happened all the time.

      He's an ape! Show some fucking respect!

    • by M8e (1008767)

      Eating mush shrooms?

  • So if I develop a video game, you can be sure the protagonist will be named:"that B@#ch in apartment 1-A"
    • "that bitch financee who dumped me for a sailor, and then didn't marry him anyway but instead married some other dude"

      Nah. Too long.

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        "that bitch financee who dumped me for a sailor, and then didn't marry him anyway but instead married some other dude"

        Nah. Too long.

        FWIW: It seems to me if she was really that flaky, she did you a favor...

      • by Nesman64 (1093657)

        And now she's your landlord? Man, that's got to hurt.

  • Article summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by lyinhart (1352173) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:34PM (#31986260)
    For those who don't want to the read full article, here's the summary: "Mario is named after Nintendo of America's former warehouse landlord Mario Segale." It's curious how the article spans three pages, seems to be well researched yet has no new information.
    • Re:Article summary (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:57PM (#31986538)

      It looks like the author was basically trying to confirm a story that was already reasonably well-known. The end result is that he came back with nothing new because nobody at Nintendo either knew about or was willing to acknowledge the connection to this real estate developer. The man in question, the actual Mario, is claimed to be reclusive. I suspect he's reclusive because he's trying to avoid being pestered by gamers and those in the gaming press.

      • Well, that's how most reporting and historical documentation works. Nothing new.
        However, up until now all we had was one unsourced reference in a book which was copied many many times. We didn't even know how credible the claim was, especially considering that senior developer Eiji Aonuma thought [gamespy.com] differently. Now the author has proven that a guy called Mario Segale was a landlord for Nintendo and Miyamoto has acknowledged someone at NOA coming up with the name. That's definately worth something.

    • by jluzwick (1465485)
      Interestingly enough, Miyamoto wanted to name Mario, "Mr. Video". He said in this recent interview, http://us.wii.com/iwata_asks/nsmb/vol1_page2.jsp [wii.com], that he was glad he didn't as Mario turned out to definitely be a money-making name.

      Excerpt from the Article:
      Miyamoto: Well, I called him "Mr. Video". My plan was to use the same character in every video game I made.
      Iwata: So you had that plan right from the start? Why did you intend to use him in every video game you made?
      Miyamoto: Well, I thought the
    • by PRMan (959735)

      Except that it's wrong.

      Notice all the factual errors in all the accounts.

      In the book, How to Win at Video Games [amazon.com], the author says something to the effect of

      He's called "the Jumpman" but my friends and I think he looks Italian, so we call him Mario.

      Imagine my shock when he was named "Mario" in Donkey Kong Jr. and even more surprise when they trademarked the name for Mario Bros.

    • by LihTox (754597)

      This reminds me of Bob Newhart's sketch "Rocket Scientist", which came out in 1960:

      Werner von Werner: That's a rocket. It's named after my landlord, Irving Rocket. I was about three months behind on my rent, you know, and he comes knocking on my door, and he says, "Look Werner, you know, you gotta knock it off with the firecrackers in the middle of the night, y'know, cause the neighbors are complaining. And don't hand me the Marie Curie bit, you know what I mean? What her landlord wanted to do with her

  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:35PM (#31986280) Journal
    This guy did research for YEARS to publish this article ? I like Nintendo/Mario as much as the next person, but somewhere between year 1 and 2 you think he would have thought "Damn, maybe this isn't really all that important..."
  • At least that I know of.

    But it's ok. At least he's not in the Mafia.

    • You must not play a lot of video games. In fact, I think I'd say Bowser is more racist than mario, what have you been smoking?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Really? Seriously, I'm not much of a gamer and I can think of about 15 far more racist characters of the top of my head. Maybe if you're talking n some sort exposure/racism (offensiveness per capita?) you might have an argument that he breaks the top 10. Maybe.
    • by EkriirkE (1075937)
      You mean stereotype. I dare say Princess Peach wasn't Italian with her Anglo looks...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BobMcD (601576)

      I'd think for the racism label to attach, one would need to demonstrate some negativity. Otherwise it is just stereotyping, which while based on race, may or may not reach the stigma necessary to earn the title 'racist'.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Homr Zodyssey (905161)

      At least he's not in the Mafia.

      Maybe not the character. But the article is about the man who inspired it. He's a real estate developer who has a tight-knit family circle and avoids media exposure. My first thought was, "Sounds like mafia." Then again, in the origin story, he came in demanding his overdue rent but then left without breaking any kneecaps.

      • by fishexe (168879)

        My first thought was, "Sounds like mafia." Then again, in the origin story, he came in demanding his overdue rent but then left without breaking any kneecaps.

        That's what they always do. You leave, then have your enforcer show up to do the actual knee-capping.

    • by Jbob06 (1799118)
      I would imagine it was just the first obvious Italian name that came to Shigeru Miyamoto's head when he thought that there needed to be another character. Origin stories are often much less interesting than you wish they were.
  • by Chysn (898420) on Monday April 26, 2010 @01:02PM (#31986610)
    J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, and Mario Segale were hanging out together at a bar. Salinger says, "I'm sick and tired of these ambitious news people harassing me because I wrote a book." Pynchon replies, "Tell me about it, I just want to be left alone." Segale nods, downs his limoncello in one gulp, and says, "Mama mia! Vito, break-a these-a-guys' thumbs!"
  • I always thought it was just some Japanese Nintendo worker's idea of a typical Caucasian name.

  • Nowadays, such practical joke would lead to cease and desist letters, followed by a lawsuit for $4,000,000,000 of compensation, damages and libel, and finally royalties for licensing the use of his first name in videogames, tv, cinema, songs, or any other media.

  • Monkey Kong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZHaDoom (65485) on Monday April 26, 2010 @01:18PM (#31986852) Homepage

    It doesn't explain how Donkey Kong wasn't named Monkey Kong.

  • They are starting a huge (500-acre) development near SeaTac... and they haven't been idle all these years: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2011460764_segale28.html [nwsource.com]
  • A nice segment of the book Game Over: Press Start To Continue by David Sheff covered this story about the naming of Mario, as well as the naming of Donkey Kong. It's actually quite a good read for anyone into gaming from around 1975-1990. I've read it twice so far myself.
  • No article on Mario would be complete without this. [pbfcomics.com]

  • There was a movie made in 1953 "Le salaire de la peur" [imdb.com] with a hero named "Mario" who had a best friend "Luigi"

    Take a look at this still [linternaute.com] and see if it make you think of Mario!

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