You’re entering another dimension – a dimension of Lara Croft nude codes and ways to bring Aeris back from the dead. A journey into a wonderful world where all the best gaming conspiracy theories are analyzed and debunked. That’s a signpost up ahead. Your next stop: The Hardcore Gamer Files.
For years, Shigeru Miyamoto’s inspiration for the Nintendo icon Mario has been a well established part of Nintendo lore. It is a cute little story they like to tell, and it adds a fun little backstory to what has become gaming’s most recognizable character. However, if a new fan theory is to be believed, that backstory just got a whole lot sexier. And, surprisingly, it has little to do with Mario’s amazing mustache.
The story Nintendo likes to tell regarding Mario’s origin is as follows. When Nintendo was originally attempting to localize Donkey Kong to America, they ran into a little trouble paying their rent at their North American warehouse. Apparently the landlord refused to accept rupees, and no matter how many blocks they hit or pots they broke they couldn’t come up with sufficient funds to pay their rent to one Mario Segale. Mario angrily confronted then president Minoru Arakawa and demanded back rent from the struggling company, allegedly after storming into their company offices. The reports don’t confirm how the meeting went down, but our sources claim he downed a whole bag of mushrooms and repeatedly jumped on Arakawa’s head until coins popped out. Or, at least, that’s what must have happened because it was as a result of their interactions with Mario Segale that Nintendo decided to name their most iconic character “Mario”.
OR SO THEY CLAIM.
Italian gamer and possible crazy person that goes by the handle DeVin on the Italian gaming forum Indievault noticed some strange inconsistencies in Nintendo’s story. First off, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had already given Mario a name – Mr. Video. That sounds more like the name of a second rate VHS shop from the 1980s than an iconic character, something that Miyamoto himself recognized and opted to give the character a name change. So Miyamoto scratched Mr. Video and renamed him…Jumpman. Because he could jump. And he was a man. Look, he used up all his creativity singlehandedly saving the video game industry. What more do you want from the guy?
So why was there a second name change? And, more importantly, why would Miyamoto name him after Mario Segale, an Italian landlord that he really had no reason to know on a first name basis? Sure, Mr. Segale might have been harassing Nintendo for the money he was owed, but I don’t think Miyamoto was also in charge of Nintendo’s storehouse payments in the US (and if he was, it might explain why the payment was late since he was already kind of busy). Recall that Miyamoto was a game developer in Japan. How much complaining would the landlord of Nintendo of America’s warehouse have to do for news of it to reach a Japanese developer, nearly half the world away? Did someone else pitch the idea to him? How would that even go? “Hey, Shigeru, you know that game you’re developing with the character who’s name you’ve already changed once already? You should change the name to Mario! Why? Well, there’s this guy in America who is threatening to evict us if we don’t give him more money and his name is also Mario! It’s perfect because…actually I don’t know. He broke my kneecaps and I haven’t been able to think straight for the past couple of weeks. Excuse me while I go throw up on this plant.”
Did he look like Mario? Impossible, Mario was three pixels and if anyone looked like him they would be an abomination unfit for sunlight. Anyone with a mustache wearing a hat would look the same amount like him, and I’m sure they could’ve found someone matching that description that wasn’t hitting them up for money. Normally when I’m naming something after some one, I do it after a person that I know personally and doesn’t hate me, so it just doesn’t make sense for Miyamoto to name the character after Mario Segale. And what about Mario’s portrayal as a plumber? Why would a plumber be solicited to rescue a princess in the first place? How bad was the state of the Mushroom Kingdom’s police force that their rescue contingent consisted of one lone plumber and his identically clad brother? So why is the character’s name Mario and where does the fact that he’s a plumber come into play at all, you might ask. Well, DeVin has solution that ties everything together: Italian naughty bits.
According to DeVin’s original post (which is translated on NeoGAF for us non Italian conspiracy lovers), DeVin decided to sit down one day and enjoy a nice heaping helping of commedia sexy all’italiana, which translates to “sexy comedy Italian style.” Although, I’m guessing if DeVin has spent enough time watching sexy Italian comedies to uncover a global conspiracy, this most likely wasn’t a one day sort of endeavor. His film of choice was “Dove vai se il vizietto non ce l’hai” which according to the linguistic scholar Google translate means “Where do you go if you do not have the bad habit.” Oooo, that does sound sexy. What is important to remember is that this film came out in 1979, a full two years before Donkey Kong first hit the arcade. DeVin was having himself a good ol’ time watching the film (the entirety of which can be found here, but is probably NSFW) when who strolls into the film at around the 1 hour 11 minute mark?
MAMMA MIA. (The top is a frame from the movie, while the bottom is an official illustration of Mario and Luigi. We realize it is hard to tell the difference.)
Two plumbers. One large, one small. Both with giant, glorious mustaches. Both wearing floppy caps (something that isn’t typical plumber’s garb). And both of which shout out the phrase “Mamma mia!” at two separate points in their relatively short appearance. Sure, this might be all one coincidence, but lets take a look at the promotional cover for the film itself (which has been slightly edited for being too sexy and too Italian by Hardcore Gamer standards).
One of the leads? His name is Mario.
One of those two plumbers we showed earlier? Decked out all in green right there on the cover. Mamma mia, indeed.
It is an interesting theory, but DeVin’s fundamental premise here has a few flaws that undermine his later argument. First off, it wasn’t Miyamoto who named the character Mario so it wouldn’t be fair to put all the sexy Italian blame on him in the first place. It was Minoru Arakawa, the man who was in charge of Nintendo’s operation in the US, and various American staffers that changed the names of the characters when translating the storyline for an English speaking audience. But perhaps they were the lovers of sexy Italian programming and were the ones inspired from watching copious amounts of naughty Italian movies. After all, what are the odds that they would name a character from such an iconic game after some random person only tangentially involved with Nintendo through some random warehouse?
Pretty likely, actually considering the character of Pauline is named after Polly James, wife of Don James. Not familiar to you? Clearly you aren’t a connoisseur of important warehouses from the late 1970s and early 1980s, because Don James was the warehouse manager of Nintendo’s Redmond, Washington warehouse. Oh, and who happened to be the landlord of that same warehouse? Mario Segale. From this perspective, it seems for more likely that the people naming the characters would not only have been aware of Segale, but have for more reason for naming the character after someone involved with a Nintendo warehouse than some random Italian movie that would have been incredibly hard to come by at the time.
Thus it seems likely that Mario is indeed named after Mario Segale as the staffers seemed to just be naming the characters after the first two people they saw at the warehouse that day. But, what about Mario’s backstory? Perhaps someone happened to see the movie and that is why we have the Mario brothers as plumbers and not cops, bakers, or literally any other profession that makes more sense as princess rescuers than plumbers. It is possible I guess, but that would just raise more questions.
First off, why would they wait all the additional years to change Mario’s profession if he was indeed inspired by this film? In Donkey Kong, Mario was a carpenter and the change didn’t come until Mario Bros., something which Miyamoto claims was a result of “the underground setting” (no, that isn’t innuendo). Luigi wasn’t even around in Donkey Kong, and Mario had to save Pauline all by himself. When Luigi finally did show up, he was exactly the same height as Mario. The whole height difference didn’t even come around until years later, and by that time it is extremely unlikely that Nintendo was modifying their most iconic characters based on some sexy Italian comedy that nobody is likely to have seen.
Perhaps the most damning evidence against DeVin’s argument comes from the film itself. First off, the dynamics between the big and small character are all wrong. The larger man is clearly the dominant personality here, taking a majority of the speaking parts and pushing the other guy around. Oh, and he also chokes the smaller one at several points. I can’t remember the scene from Super Mario World where Mario throttles Luigi for breaking a sink and I even finished all the levels on Star Road. “Momma mia”, while Mario’s signature catchphrase, was also a common Italian saying at the time. It would be like claiming Link was based on Robert De Niro from “Taxi Driver” because they both said “HAH” at some point.
And, most heartbreaking, are the glorious mustaches the two plumbers were sporting that made them look like Mario and Luigi’s mustache twins. At one point the larger character begins secretly taking photographs of a woman (not quite sure of the gender, if I’m being perfectly honest) and a man with thick framed glasses and a large fur coat dancing together (another scene I can’t remember from any Mario game except maybe “Super Mario Voyeur Bros.”), and the tiny man breaks the sink because he seems to confuse “make noises so they think we are working in here” with “pound on the toilet with a hammer and rip the knob off the sink”. A common mistake, honestly. Anyway, he gets sprayed in the face with the rush of water and we have a heartbreaking reveal.
The mustaches aren’t even real. I’m beginning to think these guys might not actually be plumbers! Both of these characters have larger parts of the film, and while my Italian isn’t good enough for me to make out what their real roles are, it is pretty easy to deduce that they are only pretending to be plumbers to get a photo of the two other individuals dancing together. So we just have two guys. No mustaches. Not plumbers. All that is really linking them to Mario and Luigi at this point are the “Mamma mia!”s, and I’m not willing to buy in on DeVin’s theory on that alone.
While this has all the making of a sexy, sexy conspiracy, in the end this looks more like simple coincidence than anything else. DeVin even admits that most of it was a joke (maybe) in a subsequent post. Mario Segale is far more likely to have been in the minds of the American staffers than some random actor from an Italian comedy. And the two characters that he proposes Mario and Luigi are based on aren’t plumbers, don’t have mustaches, and don’t have any of the other characteristics that we associate with either of the iconic characters. So, sorry folks, nothing to see here. Consider this myth busted. I mean, if these guys were really the inspiration for Mario and Luigi, then wouldn’t we expect to see some of the other characters in the film make their way into the Mario mythos in someway. And seriously, where have we ever seen a short old man with thick, coke bottle glasses in a Mario game?
I rest my case.
Have any favorite fan theory you’d like us to analyze? Let us know in the comments. IF YOU DARE.