The Man Who Inspired Mario's Name Has Passed Away

Super Mario
(Image credit: Nintendo)

One of the most iconic video game characters of all time is Mario from Nintendo's Super Mario series. The character didn't always have the name of Mario, though, and there was actually a very specific individual who helped inspire the name of the character. Sadly, that man has passed away.

According to Game Informer, Mario Segale, a real estate developer and landlord of various properties, passed away at the age of 84. According to the article, Segale was originally the landlord of the building that Nintendo operated out of way back in the day, and that, allegedly, Nintendo was oftentimes late with the rent. So, as a way to pacify the landlord, Nintendo promised to name a character after him.

This, apparently, was all in Nintendo's favor because at the time, when Shigeru Miyamoto was working on the original Donkey Kong, he only had generic names for the characters such as "Jumpman" for Mario and "Lady" for Pauline, the latter of whom recently made a return to form in Super Mario Odyssey for the Switch. The company, however, felt that the game would be a lot more marketable if the hero and characters had actual names instead of just generic titles. Given Nintendo's relationship with the landlord, it was decided to name the character Mario to try to placate him... or, that's how one of the stories went down.

According to The Info Junkie, Mario Segale shared a likeness with the character from Donkey Kong, and it only made sense to name the character after the landlord when he came to visit the warehouse back in the 1980s as Nintendo was still getting its start in launching software (and hardware) in the United States.

Another telling of the tale is that Mario was named as such because it was a common name that the team at Nintendo heard and decided to use on the Italian plumber. Either way, the story continued to propagate throughout various inner and outer circles of gaming that Mario was named after Segale. The Game Informer article notes that Segale wasn't actually looking for the fame and tried ducking and dodging any responsibility for one of the world's most recognized corporate mascots.

In a video posted on the Nintendo UK YouTube channel featuring a Q&A with Donkey Kong designer and famed Nintendo creative director, Shigeru Miyamoto, he's directly asked if Mario was named after the landlord of the Nintendo warehouse, and in no uncertain terms, Miyamoto nods "yes" to the question.

But, even if Nintendo did name Mario after the landlord, why did Segale not want to take responsibility for the name? Well, according to the article, Segale didn't want the fame or recognition because he felt it would tarnish his real estate business. It's understandable to an extent, because sometimes getting pigeonholed for something unrelated to your business could end up harming it, especially if Segale's real estate ventures were already profitable and doing well without any connection to Nintendo.

As pointed out by Game Informer, while Segale may not have really embraced the connection to the Super Mario franchise or the character that was based on him, he's somewhat indirectly responsible for bringing a lot of joy and happiness to gamers who have fallen in love with Nintendo's products over the years.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.