The History of Mario

The History Of Mario

In 1980, Nintendo of America released a game called Radar Scope which NOA had planned on vaulting the company into notoriety and long time success.  It was a terrible flop and disappointment leaving Nintendo stuck with over 2,000 unshipped units.  In order to keep from going under, Nintendo needed a hit game and were running out of time.  Hiroshi Yamauchi, the President and CEO of Nintendo Co, Ltd. asked staff artist Shigeru Miyamoto to design a new game based on his own ideas.  This game was none other than DONKEY KONG which starred “Jumpman” who was an obese carpenter dressed in blue with red overalls. Miyamoto at first called him “Mr. Video” because he planned on including the character in all future games, inspired by the way Alfred Hitchcock appears in the movies he directed.  Nintendo of America was preparing the game for American release and were working on naming the characters.  According to the story, everyone was going over different ideas on what to name “Jumpman” when their landlord, Mario Segale, arrived at the warehouse, demanding overdue rent for the facility.  When he left the staff turned to each other smiling; They had their name “Mario”.

Mario’s unique appearance, believe it or not was unintentional.  Mario looks the way he does today due to 1981’s immature graphics technology.  Miyamoto was having difficulty making Mario’s hair move realistically in the game so he simply gave him a red hat.  Mario’s nose wasn’t showing up very well on the screen, so Miyamoto gave Mario a mustache and over-sized nose to make it more noticeable.  Mario’s overalls make his arm movements more visible.  An interesting fact about his overalls: In Donkey Kong & DK Jr., Mario had a blue shirt and red overalls, Mario Bros. arcade switched to red shirt and blue overalls, Super Mario Bros. for NES had original red overalls, but a brown shirt, finally in Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario went back to the original color scheme- red shirt, blue overalls- and has not changed since.

Mario’s namesake was explained above, but you may not know where the other characters obtained their names.  Fortunately, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto has revealed more name origins throughout his many interviews.

Donkey Kong = Donkey alludes to “stupid”, and Kong is an obvious reference to King Kong.  Basically “Donkey Kong” means “Stupid Gorilla”.

Pauline = Polly James, wife of NOA employee Don James.  (Pauline was the first damsel in distress)

Luigi = The NOA team came up with the name “Luigi” as something that went along with “Mario”.  Afterwards, the Japanese Nintendo team noticed an interesting coincidence: Ruigi means “analogous”.

Koopas = “Kuppa” was Bowser’s Japanese name.  Miyamoto explained that they were considering naming Bowser either “Kuppa” (gunkap), Yukke (yukhoe), or Bibinba (bibimbap), all are Korean culinary dishes.

Wario = Combination of Mario and warui- which means “bad” in Japanese.

Waluigi = Rearrangement of the word “ijiwaru”- Japanese for “someone who’s bad”.  This was explained in Nintendo Power Vol. 135 (Aug 2000 issue)

Mario stars in many games, but this list highlights his most important appearances:

1981: Donkey Kong (Arcade)
Mario (or technically, “Jumpman”) the carpenter battles through crazy construction sites to save Pauline from the clutches of a giant monkey named Donkey Kong.
1982: Donkey Kong Jr. (Arcade)
This was Mario’s second appearance, and first appearance as an enemy. Mario sics enemies at D.K. Jr., who is trying to free his caged father.
1983: Mario Bros. (Arcade)
Mario, now a plumber, teams up with (or fights against) brother Luigi (in 2-Player mode) to kill an infinite supply of turtles, crabs, and flies that travel through pipes.
1985: Super Mario Bros. (NES)
Mario explores The Mushroom Kingdom in search of Bowser, who has kidnapped Princess Toadstool. Mario mania grasps the nation.
1986: Donkey Kong (NES) and Mario Bros. (NES)
The NES versions of the two arcade games are released, exposing the greatness of these games to players who may have missed the arcade versions. Because of limited space on early NES Game Paks, the fourth level (A.K.A. “Pie Factory”) of Donkey Kong was omitted.
1988: Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES; USA version)
Nintendo takes a game developed and released in Japan called Doki Doki Panic and replaces the four heroes with Mario characters, resulting in perhaps the most unique game of the Mario series.
1989: Super Mario Land (GB)
Mario’s first appearance on the Game Boy takes place in Sarasaland, where Princess Daisy is abducted by the evil spaceman Tatanga.
1989: Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
The best-selling game of all time. Mario searches the Mushroom World for Bowser who has kidnapped Princess Toadstool, again.
1991: Super Mario World (SNES)
Mario’s first appearance on the Super NES. Bowser has kidnapped Princess Toadstool (sound familiar?) and Mario travels through Dinosaur Land to rescue her. Super Mario World introduces us to Yoshi, spawning spin-off games riding on his popularity.
1993: Super Mario All-Stars (SNES)
SMB, SMB2, and SMB3 receive 16-bit updates as part of this compilation cartridge. The other game included, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, is the first North American release of Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japanese version), originally released for the Famicom Disk System in 1986. It, too, received the 16-bit treatment for All-Stars.
1995: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)
This game takes place in Mario’s past. A gang of Yoshis helps baby Mario find his brother Luigi, who was kidnapped by Baby Bowser’s henchmen. Powered by the FX² chip, this was arguably the best 2-D platform game ever made.

1996: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, is a hybrid adventure/console role-playing game developed by Square and published by Nintendo. Nintendo first released the game on March 9, 1996 in Japan and on May 13, 1996 in North America. Europe and Australia did not officially receive the game until over twelve years later, when it was released for the Wii’s Virtual Console on August 22, 2008; this is the longest time-span between an American and European release in Nintendo history. It was re-released for the North American Virtual Console on September 1, 2008. In Super Mario RPG, Mario, Bowser, Princess Toadstool, Mallow, and Geno fight as allies in the first console role-playing game (RPG) in the Mario series. It contains token similarities to many other Square role-playing games such as Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series with a story and action-based gameplay based on the Super Mario Bros. series.
1996: Super Mario 64 (N64)
Mario frolics through various 3-D worlds to save the kidnapped Princess Peach Toadstool.
2002: Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)
Mario and Yoshi reunite to clean up Isle Delfino and rescue Peach once again.
2007: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii/NDS)
Opposing mascots Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog finally go head-to-head… at the Beijing Olympics.
2007: Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
This time, Bowser takes Peach away into outer space, forcing Mario to explore planets big and small. Galaxy’s innovative gravity system was one factor behind its critical acclaim.
2010: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
The game retells the story established in Super Mario Galaxy, in which Mario pursues the evil Bowser into outer space, who has captured Princess Peach and taken control of the universe using Power Stars.  Mario must recover Power Stars in order to travel to the center of the universe and rescue the princess.

Celebrating 25 years of Mario, Nintendo has released a special Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition with all the great mario games on one disc for Wii!  This is a MUST HAVE for huge Mario fans!

[Via The Mushroom Kingdom, Next Generation magazine vol. 4, issues 46 and 47, Nintendo’s Mario Mania Player’s Guide, Game Over by David Sheff, interview, Nintendo Online Magazine #18, Iwata Asks: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Year of the Monkey (]

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games /, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.