Who Invented Mario

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Michael Fassbender

The History of Mario: Who Invented Mario

More than thirty-five years ago, Nintendo debuted a video game that wiped out its competitors like a green turtle shell wiping out a string of Goombas. In case you didn’t get the reference, it’s from “Super Mario Bros.,” which was released in Japan on September 13, 1985. The game went on sale in North America later that year and it quickly became one of the most popular video games of all-time, eventually selling over 40 million copies for the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

The Birth of Mario

Legendary video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto (“Donkey Kong,” “The Legend of Zelda,” “Star Fox”) actually first created the Mario character to be the protagonist of “Donkey Kong,” the 1981 arcade game where a carpenter tries to rescue his girlfriend from a giant ape who was Mario’s pet. Miyamoto, an artist who had been hired at Nintendo four years earlier for his skills as a toymaker, was tasked with coming up with a new arcade game to replace Nintendo’s failed 1980 title “Radar Scope.” Miyamoto wanted to create a game based on the iconic cartoon sailor Popeye, but Nintendo wasn’t able to land the rights to those characters, so the artist had to come up with a new idea. Instead of a sailor, Miyamoto opted for another blue-collar profession — a carpenter, and one who sported a mustache and Mario’s trademark overalls and hat. The character was originally just called “Jumpman” since he had to leap over obstacles; then, the real star of the game was Donkey Kong.

The Evolution of Mario

When Nintendo released “Donkey Kong” in the United States, the company’s American executives felt that Jumpman needed a better name. Workers at Nintendo’s Washington warehouse had started calling the character “Mario” because he resembled the property’s landlord, a man named Mario Segale. Miyamoto heard about the nickname and liked it, so he stuck with it. “They started calling the character Mario, and when I heard that I said ‘Oh, Mario’s a great name — let’s use that,'” Miyamoto told NPR in 2015.

The Rise of Super Mario Bros.

Two years later, Mario’s star exploded worldwide when Nintendo released “Super Mario Bros.” as the centerpiece game for its NES home-gaming console. After its successful release, Nintendo started bundling “Super Mario Bros.” with its consoles — so, if you bought the system, you got the game too — which helped further drive sales. The Nintendo NES went on to become the best-selling video game console of its generation, selling over 60 million units, according to the company.

Miyamoto’s Vision for Mario

And, while the NES gave way to the Super Nintendo console in 1991, and then the Nintendo 64 in 1996 and so on, the character Mario has endured and flourished for Nintendo for over three decades and across multiple gaming platforms and other media (including films and TV). Today, when Nintendo launches a new gaming platform, the company invariably has a new Mario game title ready to pair with it, such as 2017’s “Super Mario Odyssey” for the popular Nintendo Switch (the game has sold over 10 million copies). Miyamoto’s original goal was to use Mario in a lot of different games. “It’s sort of common among the popular culture in Japan that a creator will take that same character and have him will appear in different manga [comics],” he says. “It’s also sort of like, maybe, Hitchcock appearing in all his movies. It’s sort of cool to have that character appearing here and there, whether or not they have a large role or not.”

The Mario Legacy

It’s been over forty years since Mario made his video game debut as the hero of 1981’s arcade classic Donkey Kong, although back then he was simply known as “Jumpman.” He’s had quite the glow up since then, appearing in over 200 video games, a Saturday morning cartoon, and now two theatrically released movies. And the success of Donkey Kong didn’t give the world just one star, it also delivered another: creator Shigeru Miyamoto.

Miyamoto’s Collaboration with Koji Kondo

Credited as the brains behind not just Mario, but Zelda, Star Fox, Pikmin and more, Miyamoto has been the creative and philosophical force driving Nintendo for decades, having reached a level of icon status in the games industry few can rival. Beginning with 1985’s Super Mario Bros., Miyamoto began collaborating with composer Koji Kondo, whose keyboard arrangement for the game would become a master class in elegant simplicity, worming its way into players’ heads for generations.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Now, they’re working to bring that legacy to a whole new generation, as well as audiences who may never pick up a controller. A joint production between Illumination and Nintendo, The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels like a labor of love in just about every way, and much of that is due to the creative input of Miyamoto and Kondo. Miyamoto, bringing his stewardship of the brand to the film in the same way he did to the recently opened theme park, worked with the creative team at Illumination to find the right angle to power-up Mario for the silver screen. Kondo, working with composer Brian Tyler, provided his expertise and nearly four decades worth of arrangements that informed the film’s score.

FAQs

FAQs

Who invented Mario?

Mario was invented by legendary video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who first created the character to be the protagonist of “Donkey Kong,” the 1981 arcade game.

What was Mario’s original name?

Mario’s original name was “Jumpman” when he first appeared in the 1981 arcade game “Donkey Kong.”

How did Mario get his name?

Mario got his name from the workers at Nintendo’s Washington warehouse who started calling the character “Mario” because he resembled the property’s landlord, a man named Mario Segale.

How many video games has Mario appeared in?

Mario has appeared in over 200 different video game properties, from “Mario Kart” to “Mario Party,” making the company’s large portfolio of Mario-themed games the best-selling video game franchise ever.

What was the first Mario game released for the NES?

The first Mario game released for the NES was “Super Mario Bros.” in 1985, which quickly became one of the most popular video games of all-time, eventually selling over 40 million copies for the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

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