We all know that Mario began life as the protagonist of Donkey Kong, although he was referred to in the early days simply as “Jumpman” and it has been widely reported that he only gained his famous moniker when the resemblance between the character and the late Mario Segale – the landlord of Nintendo of America’s Tukwila warehouse in the early ’80s – became apparent.
We also know that Nintendo – and Shigeru Miyamoto – were actually working on a Popeye game prior to Donkey Kong becoming a hit; because the process of securing the rights to the comic character from King Features Syndicate was taking longer than expected, the choice was made to remove Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto (or Brutus, which is the name often given to Popeye’s arch-enemy due to confusion over who actually owned the copyright to the name, King Features or Paramount Pictures) and replace them with entirely new characters.
All of this is well known, of course – as is the fact that following Donkey Kong’s amazing success, Miyamoto got his chance to produce a proper Popeye game for arcades shortly afterwards (a Game & Watch showcasing the character was also produced).
However, Twitter user katewillaert has uncovered what could be an interesting new theory on how Mario actually came to be – and his origins could be tied even more closely to Popeye than we at first assumed.
We’ll let katewillaert take it up from here:
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But also maddeningly plausible. After all, Mario was originally a carpenter before he was a plumber (check out the toolbox on that photo) and while the overalls and shirt have their colours reversed in the final game, this could be to do with how the colours looked on-screen during play (it has been reported that the dungarees were added to the sprite in Donkey Kong so Mario’s arms would be a different colour to his body and therefore the running animation would be easier to parse for players).
This is one rabbit hole we didn’t think we’d be diving down today, but it’s been fun all the same.