Mario is possibly the most recognizable video game character in the world. But what many don’t know is the origin behind his name “Mario.”
The story goes that in the early 1980s, Nintendo was setting up their U.S. headquarters just outside of Seattle. The owner of the office they rented was Mario Segale, whose name they used as the main character for their signature series. He made quite the impression on them when he came in demanding overdue rent payment, and the rest is history.
Up to that point, Nintendo’s character had been known as “Jumpman,” so we have to say “Mario” was quite the improvement.
Mario first made his appearance in the arcade game "Mario Bros" in 1983, then in the NES "Super Mario Bros" in 1985.
Mario Segale himself was born in Seattle, Washington in 1934. He ran several construction and real estate companies, and was a multi-faceted businessman. Ironically he never worked as a plumber.
Segale never sought fame or publicity for his involvement in the Mario series, preferring to keep a low profile and be remembered for his entrepreneurial accomplishments. The only time he is known to have publicly acknowledged his name being used in the Nintendo series was during an interview in 1993 for the Seattle Times where he joked: “You might say I’m still waiting for my royalty checks.”
Here’s what Japanese netizens had to say about his passing:
“I don’t know what kind of person he was, but I hope he rests in peace. Today his name is known around the world.”
“Wait, doesn’t Mario just come back to life after dying?”
“What if they’d named our beloved character ‘Segale’ instead?”
“What about Luigi? Is the Princess okay?!”
“Segale was a ‘multi-faced businessman,’ eh? No wonder Mario can do everything from tennis to racing to flying planes….”
Segale is survived by his wife, three daughters, and nine grandchildren.
We’d like to take this time to thank Segale for his contribution to the series we love so much. Thank you for giving Nintendo such a great name, one that is so good in fact, that it’s among the few that are the same in both the Japanese and English versions.
Sources: NHK News Web via My Game News Flash, Hachima Kiko, The New York Times
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