Mario as a character first debuted with the name Jumpman in “Donkey Kong” in 1981. But Nintendo wanted a new hit game, and Miyamoto had ideas for an “athletic” focused game starring a “large character.” The first prototype of the first game didn’t include Mario, and didn’t even have a principle protagonist. It wasn’t until later that Mario was retrofitted as the lead character and named after the landlord of the company’s then-new Seattle warehouse location.
It’s well known that even Miyamoto didn’t expect Mario’s popularity, but it wasn’t lost to him and his team that they were working on something new and exciting for the world. The first game’s prototype hero was a “rectangular sprite that was 16×42 pixels and basically only able to move and jump,” Tezuka said. But even played in that diminished state, the team was excited for the game’s promise.
The Post interviewed, by email, four of the principle figures in Mario’s proud and enduring history: Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, Zelda and Nintendo representative director; Tezuka, assistant director for the first game and producer for several others; Yoshiaki Koizumi, director of “Super Mario Sunshine” and “Super Mario Galaxy”; and Kenta Motokura, character design for “Sunshine” and director of “Super Mario 3-D World” and “Super Mario Odyssey.”
Delicious read. Amazing how strong the Mario brand has remained, and grown, after all this time. Is there another video game character with as much worldwide recognition as Mario? I can think of a few that might be close (Pac-Man, Sonic, Link), but I’d pick Mario as the most recognizable of the bunch.