Think you know Mario? I mean really know him?

I’m not talking about Mario’s name being based on Mario Seagale, landlord to Nintendo of America’s HQ back in 1980 or the fact that he’s been in over 200 video games since his creation. Or that you’re a unique little snowflake for finding the The Minus World in the original Super Mario Bros.

Or that you’re even the least bit clever for cracking that “I just killed a Goomba” joke after peeling a shiitake mushroom off your shoe-sole during a nature hike in Japan.

No, I’m talking even more aberrant. Matters you might find interesting, but will probably wish you never knew about Mario and his sprawling, warp-piped world. (And just in time for New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Nintendo 3DS.) For instance:


1. A Mario by any other name…


Mario hasn’t always been Mario. In the denominative sense, anyways. And before you pat yourself on the back and proclaim, “Jumpman, bro. Everyone knows that Mario was originally Jumpman,” just calm down. That’s because before Jumpman (Mario’s name upon his debut in a little 1981 arcade game you might know as Donkey Kong), there was only…

Mr. Video. A name that, by Shigeru Miyamoto’s own admission in a 2009 interview with Wii.com, would have made Mario “disappear off the face of the Earth,” had he stuck with it. Good to see the venerable Shiggy-san had common sense to go along with his inherent gift of videogame wizardry. Although we have to admit, Mr. Video Sunshine has a certain (eerie) charm to it.

But that’s not all. Before Mr. Video, Mario was Ossan, which means “middle-aged guy,” in Japanese, claims Hiroshi Imanishi, former director and general manager at Nintendo. Apparently Nintendo just really didn’t give a fuck what they called Mario, so long as people played the game.


What could have been: Super Middle Aged Man Sunshine.

As for Mario’s redundant surname? Yeah, we know; Mario Mario is about as insipid as you can get. A name that would make most Pokemon chortle with disdain. Although in the 1983 arcade game, Mario Bros., Mario and Luigi have the surname Mario, according to Mario’s Wikipedia entry:

Nintendo has never revealed Mario’s full name, stating only that it was not “Mario Mario” despite the implication of the Mario Bros. series’ title, its use in the film, and information given in the Prima official Guidebook to Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga.”

He is simply (the) Mario. That’s it. End of story. Suck it, Bono.


2. Toad should invest in Rogaine


And to think, for all those years we thought your bespeckled, spore bearing cap was permanently attached to your stalk-like head. Poor little bald bastard.


3. Boos laugh a lot like Bowser, are based on someone’s wife



Not seen here: Incessant nagging.

Boos, AKA “Boo” Diddleys, AKA “Boo” Buddies are the bashful phantasms with the sped-up Bowser laughs. They’re also based on video game designer Takashi Tekuza’s wife. Well, that seems a little melodramatic. Is it because she’s deathly pale, rotund in shape, and so shy that she can’t bear to look someone in the eye? Because that doesn’t sound like something to poke fun at, fellas.

Not quite. As Miyamoto explained in an interview with Nintendo Power magazine:

Mr. Tezuka got an idea about putting his wife in the game. His wife is very quiet normally, but one day she exploded, maddened by all the time he spent at work. In the game, there is now a character who shrinks when Mario looks at it, but when Mario turns away, it will grow large and menacing.”

… And that was the last time Mr. Tekuza didn’t have to pay for sex.


4. Koopa Troopas are filthy perverts


Yep, that’s right. These happy-go-lucky bipedal tortoises:

You know, Bowser’s seemingly innocuous minions; the same ones Mario now plays tennis, soccer, and parties with on the weekends aren’t based on some Seussian parable or even a display of herpetologic fetish, but on these guys:


Soon.

Or kappa, preternatural water creatures from Japanese myth. According to this Japanese folklore site, kappas were generally believed to be about the size of a young boy, covered in green scales, and said to be fond of cucumbers, sumo wrestling, and playing pranks such as farting loudly and looking up women’s kimonos. “Oh, those scamps,” you say. “They’re just like my Uncle Ned.” Hold on, it gets better.

Just as there are Koopas with divergent shell colors and ones who have teamed up with Mario to combat the forces of evil, so are there Kappas of differing demeanor.

Like ones who dragged horses and livestock into rivers and feasted on their entrails. Uh, okay… Or the ones who sat in rudimentary toilets and had a fetish for fondling women’s asscheeks while they attempted to shit:

Says scholar Michael Dylan Foster: ‘The kappa’s obsession with the shiri (buttocks, hips) is made apparent in legends that describe the kappa hiding in the toilet, waiting to stroke or fondle a female victim’s shiri.’

Alright, granted we’ve all made perverted mistakes – fictitious turtle-esque river imps being no exception to the rule. Let’s just clench our shiri and read on here a little bit…

Indeed, stories of kappa raping women are common. [Yanagida Kunio, famous anthropologist] for example, reports: In a household beside the river in Matsuzaki village women have become pregnant with kappas’ children for up to two generations. When they are born, these children are hacked to pieces, put into small wine casts, and buried in the ground. They are grotesque.”

Well, that’s enough internet for one day.

And next time you watch one of those smart-assed, self-referential fan made videos lamenting about innocent droves of Koopa Troopas being slaughtered by Mario… just think about the great service he’s doing by preventing any deformed Kappa Troopa bastard babies from being buried alive in wine casts.


5. Whomps are also based on Japanese spirits


Whomps, the massive stone automatons first seen in Super Mario 64 are derived from the nurikabe, a type of spirit in Japanese folklore. According to their Wiki entry:

[They] manifest as a wall that impedes or misdirects walking travelers at night. Trying to go around is futile as it extends itself forever. Knocking on the lower part of the wall makes it disappear.”

So this is just like the Koopa and Kappa derivation — but with decidedly less toilet rape.


6. Bowser’s kids have really bad-ass namesakes


You know Bowser’s seven spurious Koopa spawn? Turns out they’re actually based on some pretty bad-ass icons of pop-culture:

The Koopalings were conceived by various game designers who were challenged to come up with new bosses for Super Mario Bros. 3; the favourite designs were chosen for the seven Koopalings. Most of the Koopalings have wild punk hairstyles and are named after musicians. Iggy Koopa’s name comes from Iggy Pop; Morton Koopa, Jr.’s name comes from Morton Downey, Jr., while the scar star on his eye is based on KISS guitarist Paul Stanley’s makeup; Lemmy Koopa’s name comes from Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead; Ludwig Von Koopa’s name and hairstyle comes from Ludwig van Beethoven; Roy Koopa’s name comes from Roy Orbison, as do his horn-rimmed glasses; Wendy O. Koopa’s name comes from Wendy O. Williams; and Larry Koopa’s name comes from Larry King.”

Just how similar are they? Let’s take a look:

Iggy Koopa and Iggy Pop

Iggy Koopa, the demented, mechanical genius and fourth eldest of the Koopalings derives his name from punk rocker, Iggy Pop.

Let’s see; same eye color, same puke green hair… only thing missing is a similarly cocaine whittled body, although in a sly nod, the Super Mario Wiki entry for Iggy claims, “He is very recently shown to be the thinnest of the Koopalings.” Wink wink, say no more.

Morton Koopa, Jr. and Morton Downey, Jr. and Paul Stanley

You know, I honestly can’t tell the difference between these three photos. Nice work, Nintendo.

Lemmy Koopa and Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead

When you have a reference to Lemmy, the gravel-throated lead singer for Motörhead (famous for songs such as “Ace of Spades,” and pro wrestler Triple H‘s theme song) , you done a damn good thing. The only problem? They dropped the ball. Replace the iridescent mohawk with mutton chops and a protuberant mole and you’d have undeniably the best videogame villain ever.

Ludwig von Koopa and Ludwig van Beethoven

This was the only one I actually understood as a five year old kid, and that’s only because my father used to hold up photographs of Ludwig van Beethoven and beat me mercilessly with a composer’s baton until I had learned to play the piano.

Suffice to say, I fucking hated Ludwig von Koopa.

Roy Koopa and Roy Orbison

According to the Mario Wiki:

Roy is sometimes depicted as a typical bully who likes beating up others (mostly Iggy and maybe Lemmy) for his own amusement. He was even known as Bully Koopa in the cartoons. In a likely reference to the “Real men wear pink” joke, Roy’s head and sunglasses are pink, as was his shell originally, although now it and his representative color is purple.”

If Roy Koopa can croon even 1/16th as impressively as Roy Orbison’s mesmeric baritone, I could give a damn less if he wore rainbow ballet slippers and sipped peach wine spritzers all game long – he is manly.

Wendy Koopa and Wendy O. Williams

Can’t say I know a damn thing about either of them, except that Wendy O. Williams was the lead singer for a band called the Plasmatics and Wendy Koopa’s lips look uncannily similar to this lady’s.

Larry Koopa and Larry King

Larry Koopa has been stated to be the youngest of the Koopalings. Larry King has been stated to be the most desiccated human being on television and a “testament to how even the most enfeebled, fossilized-looking bag of bones can still respire without collapsing on itself.” So this is like some sly, sarcastic Bizarro-world joke. Clever, guys!

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of New Super Mario Bros. 2 through us and save money… because who the hell doesn’t like doing that?

Need more Super Mario factoids? Check out 8 Reasons to Replay Super Mario RPG, also written by Russ.

  • Adam Winters

    Well, that sure enlightened me!  I never even thought about the logic behind the Koopa Kids’ names.  But I’m also the type who still thinks of them by their DiC animation designations too.  :-)

    • http://twitter.com/RussellEWhiting Russ Whiting

       I think if I were older by a few more years I might have inferred a few more of the name inspirations – but I didn’t listen to much popular music at age five besides The Transformers animated movie soundtrack, Smurfin’ in the USA, and whatever oldies station my parents had on whenever they drove me. 

      Definitely makes the Koopalings a little cooler in my eyes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Pellegrini/500847776 Mark Pellegrini

    Man, you or I or one of us needs to review that Japanese Super Mario Bros OVA from the 80s, where Luigi wears Yellow and is greedy instead of cowardly, Peach leaves Mario to marry a handsome prince at the end, Bowser is a shapeshifter with a high-pitched voice, Toad is a shapely female, the Mushroom Kingdom actually exists within Mario’s Famicom console and Mario eventually saves the day with the power of product placement for his own curry product available in stores at the time.

    Crazy, crazy stuff.

    • http://twitter.com/RussellEWhiting Russ Whiting

       Can’t wait to see this article of yours, Mark.  Haha. 

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