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It's-a-him, Mario!

Published: October 12th, 2021

Author: Caitlynn Joann


As we all know, Mario came from humble beginnings. He wasn’t always the star of the show and didn’t even start with a real name. His first debut was in Donkey Kong in 1981. His character was a carpenter with the title, “Jumpman.” In this game, he lept over rolling barrels and climbed ladders in order to save a damsel, who later became Princess Peach. So where did the name Mario come from? Let’s travel back 30 years, to simpler times.

Shigeru Miyamoto began working for Nintendo in the ‘80s, to originally create a Popeye game, but when licensing fell through he came up with new characters. These characters are now known as Donkey Kong, Mario, and Princess Peach. The idea for the name Kong derived from “King Kong” and ‘Donkey’ translates to stupid, from Japanese to English. In this game, the player, Mario, was to climb to the top using ladders while avoiding rolling barrels by Donkey Kong, all in order to save the princess. Mario was already sporting his red hat, jumpsuit, and Italian mustache, even as “Jumpman.”

Donkey Kong was released in the United States and as you can imagine, it exploded within the market! But American Nintendo executives thought “Jumpman” could use a name. Nintendo employees at the Washington warehouse have already nicknamed him Mario, coining the name from the character’s look-alike, their landlord, Mario Segale. Miyamoto enjoyed the name along with its history and decided it should stay. Below, we have pictured Mario Segale, who was a private individual with limited web images. He was an American businessman and real estate developer in the Seattle area from the 1950s and onward. Ironically enough, his parents were described as first-generation Italian immigrants, whose source of income was agriculture.

Mario returned for another round in Donkey Kong Jr. (arcade) in 1982 and graphics were slightly improved, as Mario was noticeably larger. In 1983 Mario Bros was the first game where Mario was the star of the show, alongside his brother Luigi of course. Luigi can be found sporting an identical look to Mario, exchanging a red jumpsuit for a green one. The following year Mario made an appearance in the Pinball NES game during the bonus stage.

1985 was the year of opportunity for Mario, as Super Mario Bros NES was released and he became a video game character legend. Mushrooms would give him the boost to double in size as well as providing an extra life. The fire flower allowed him to kill enemies using fireballs. Later that year things became bizarre as Golf NES was released where Mario’s character was an awkwardly sized middle-aged man. We can all thank Nintendo for discontinuing this version of Mario and salvaging his dignity. Lastly, in the same year, Mario took a position as a wrecking crew member, sporting a safety helmet and sledgehammer in Wrecking Crew NES.

1987 brought more cringe-worthy takes on Mario in Mario Bros II Commodore 64 and Punch-Out!! NES where he resembles an awkward human again. The next year Nintendo decided the sequel to Super Mario Bros that was released in Japan proved too difficult for American gamers. During this game, Mario and Luigi were developing into their own personalities with Luigi able to jump higher and Mario able to run faster. When Super Mario Bros 3 was released in 1988, Mario was given a plethora of new powers. While maintaining the mushrooms and fire flowers, he was given a raccoon suit for flying, a frog suit for swimming, and a hammer suit for throwing hammers. The brothers could utilize the tanooki suit, to fly as well as turn themselves to stone to avoid the enemy eye.

Yoshi was introduced in the 1990’s Super Mario World for the Super NES. Yoshi could eat berries and shoot out flames. Surprisingly enough, Mario’s golf career was featured again in the NES Open Tournament the following year. Luigi was another character option and Princesses Peach and Daisy were gold caddies. Maybe I am being biased here, but the best console game of all time was released shortly after, Super Mario Kart for Super NES. Tens of characters from Mario world were featured, such as Luigi, Donkey Kong, Bowser, and both princesses. Each character displayed strengths, weaknesses, and special powers. This game provided more character development than any other game of its time.

Luigi is finally catapulted into the spotlight with Mario is Missing! Super NES in 1992. Very obviously, Mario is missing and Luigi is on a mission with Yoshi to find him. Players quickly took note of the graphic resemblance to Super Mario World. Not long after, Super Mario All-Stars for Super NES was a package deal including Super Mario 1-3 as well as the original Super Mario Bros 2, exclusively released in Japan. This version was known as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. Other than their visual enhancements to 16-bit graphics, the games were identical to the originals. After this game’s success, Nintendo dropped the “worst Mario game of all time,” Hotel Mario (CD-i), which used full-motion video.

1994 rolls around and so does Donkey Kong for Gameboy. The player navigates 101 levels to save Pauline from Donkey Kong, once again. This gameplay is similar to the original Donkey Kong games released in arcades. Super Mario 64 for Nintendo 64 was released a couple of years later. The innovation and evolution of Mario was a game-changer (haha) for gamers all over. It was set in a 3D environment while other games were still in 2D. Players were granted the ability to control more of Mario’s movements rather than simply running or jumping. With the analog controller, players could walk, run, crouch, creep, swim, climb, etc. Parkour even evolved as they could double and triple jump as well as use objects around them to leap off of. Did I mention Mario could talk!?

1998, the year of the first Mario Party released by Nintendo. Players found it boring in one-player mode but the multiplayer mode was a different story. Mario is back on the green again the next year in Mario Golf with a series of mini-games and a couple of character variations of Mario. In 2000, Mario grabbed a racket and starred in his own tennis game. Mario Tennis for Nintendo 64 was surprisingly a popular game because it was easy to pick up and play with advanced controls to keep things interesting. The best-selling game on the Nintendo Gamecube is Super Smash Bros in 2001. It is a multiplayer fighting game with 26 character options and multiplayer options for up to 4 people.

Since the early 2000s, tens of Mario games have been created as well as versions of the classics such as Super Mario and Mario Kart. Mario has been featured in sports games, party games, multi-players, and more. Mario’s world always circles back to his original platform games. Mario has been the best-selling gaming franchise for a reason. Mario has shown us the ability to have a timeless brand and the ability to make it in the gaming culture and hopefully remain for some time.



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