The True Story Behind Nintendo’s Mario

If you grew up playing video games, then Mario was probably a big part of your childhood. 

Mario is the lovable, short and stout Italian plumber living in the Mushroom Kingdom. Princess Peach rules over the magical land. The Koopa villain Bowser often kidnaps the Princess, and our little plumber and his brother Luigi often go on a quest to save her.

But before Princess Peach appeared in the picture, did you know that Mario was saving someone else? 

Let us dive into the history of this infamous character and find out some interesting facts and trivia even some big fans might not know. 

Mario Was Born In 1981

The  Super Mario Bros. debuted in 1985, but Mario emerged four years before that. Mario first appeared in the 1981 platform game Donkey Kong, where he fought the evil ape to rescue his girlfriend. Donkey Kong held Mario’s girlfriend hostage at the top of a construction site. Mario has to avoid obstacles, climb ladders, and jump over gaps to save her.

Mario’s First Girl Friend Was Not Princess Peach

In the Super Mario game series, Mario often rescues Princess Peach from the Koopa villain Bowser. 

But Peach is not Mario’s first girlfriend and is certainly not the first girl he saved. In the 1981 Donkey Kong game, Mario had to rescue his girlfriend Pauline from the evil Donkey Kong.

Princess Peach replaced Pauline in the Super Mario Bros (1985) game series. Pauline reappeared in Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004) series but was introduced as “Mario’s Friend” instead. 

Nonetheless, Pauline continues to appear in the game franchise from time to time.

In  Super Mario Odyssey (2017), Pauline was a singer on the band The Super Mario Players. She was also introduced as the Mayor of New Donk City. Pauline helped Mario with a quest. She also sang the game’s theme song, “Jump Up, Super Star!”

It is not clear why the video game franchise replaced Pauline with Princess Peach all of a sudden. However, her legacy is worth mentioning.

Photo by: Nintendo
Photo by: Nintendo

Mario’s Stardom Was Unexpected

Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto created Mario while developing Donkey Kong. At that time, Nintendo was still trying to break into the gaming world. Their previous games were not doing so well in the market.

Miyamoto was intent on creating a best-selling video game for Nintendo. To do that, he must introduce an interesting character. Originally, Miyamoto wanted to use the characters Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl. 

Sadly, he was unable to acquire the license on time. So, Miyamoto came up with Mario.

Miyamoto did not think that Mario was going to be popular. Nintendo didn’t even give him a name yet then. He was simply called “The Jumping Man.”

The creator only initially planned to use him as a “go to” character. Someone he could put in every video game he creates, but just for cameo appearances. However, Mario proved he deserves to be the star!

Players all around the world adore him so much. So, Nintendo decided to give them more.

In 1983, Mario and his brother Luigi starred in their own arcade game Mario Bros. Two years after (1985), Nintendo then released Super Mario Bros, the first installment in the highly successful Super Mario game series. 

The rest is history. To this date, Mario has already starred in over 200 video games. He also appeared in several television shows and films, making him a huge part of pop culture.

Photo by: Nintendo

Mario Got His Name From Nintendo’s American Landlord

When Mario first appeared in Donkey Kong in 1981, he was only known as the “Jump Man” in the game’s English instructions. While creating the character, Miyamoto initially named him “Mr. Video.” According to a well-circulated story in the Nintendo world, Mario got his name after an American businessman.

Back in the 1980s, Mario Segale rented a warehouse that served as Nintendo’s US headquarters. Nintendo of America (NOA) was financially struggling at that time, and the company is just preparing to launch Donkey Kong in the US. There are also stories that Segale and Nintendo had a heated argument due to unpaid rent, but Nintendo reassured him of the payment.

NOA President Minoru Arakawa noticed physical similarities between the new character Miyamoto created and Segale. The employees at NOA then started calling the plump character Mario. The nickname was carried on. 

Photo by: Nintendo

Mario Has No Last Name

While filming the Super Mario Bros. movie, there was a scene where they need to give a last name for the characters. Mario and Luigi are known as the Mario brothers. So, people assumed that their last names are Mario, which means that Mario’s full name should be “Mario Mario”.

Creator Miyamoto just laughed at the idea and affirmed that the brothers have no last names at all!

“This is an old story, but Hollywood did a film version of the Mario Bros. many years back,” Miyamoto said in an interview.

“There was a scene in the script where they needed a last name for the characters. Somebody suggested that, because they were the Mario Bros., their last name should be Mario. So, they made him “Mario Mario.” I heard this and laughed rather loudly. Of course, this was ultimately included in the film. Based on the film, that’s [how] their names ended up. But, just like Mickey Mouse doesn’t really have a last name, Mario is really just Mario and Luigi is really just Luigi.”

Mario Originally Had No Jumping Abilities

Mario’s most notable ability is jumping to access places and attack enemies. It is almost impossible to imagine him without the move, but Mario originally had no jumping abilities. The initial stages of Donkey Kong focus on escaping a maze. Miyamoto decides to give him jumping ability so he could overcome ground challenges such as rolling barrels.

Photo by: Nintendo

Mario Isn’t Just A Plumber

When Mario first emerged as the “Jumping Man”, he was a carpenter. He had to climb a seemingly endless construction site to save Pauline. 

In 1983’s  Mario Bros, Mario and Luigi were introduced as plumbers from New York. They investigated the city’s sewers after strange creatures were sighted there. The game featured plenty of pipes, so creator Shigeru Miyamoto gave the brothers a career change. 

He assumed several occupations after that. Mario was a doctor at the 1990 ‘Dr. Mario’. He was an archeologist in the Game Boy game Mario’s Picross (1995). Mario was a president of a lucrative toy-making company in n Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (2006).

He became an athlete in the ‘Mario sports games and a kart racer in the Mario Kart series (1992). Mario is a man of many talents!

There Is Only One Man Behind Mario, Wario, and Luigi’s Voice

Wario is Mario’s more greedy archrival.  He appeared as the main antagonist and the final boss in the 1992 Game Boy game Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.  Charles Martinet voiced both characters.

Martinet has lent his voice to Mario since 1990. He also voices other characters in the series including MarioLuigi, and Waluigi.


Mario is more than just a video game character. He is an enormous part of our childhood. To many people, he is a symbol of innocence and fun times. Mario has stood against the test of time and will probably remain for the next generations to come. It is inspiring to think how a character designed originally for minor appearances ends up carving Nintendo’s name in the gaming world. 


Photo by: Nintendo

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