When Boredom Strikes

Mario Segale, Developer Who Inspired Nintendo to Name Super Mario

Super Mario is named after real-life businessman Mario Segale, who was renting out a warehouse to Nintendo. After Nintendo fell far behind on rent, Segale did not evict them but gave them a second chance to come up with the money. Nintendo succeeded and named their main character after him.

Mario Segale, the man responsible for creating the intrepid plumber Mario, one of the most well-known figures in pop culture, has passed away at the age of 84. Nintendo rented from Segale outside of Seattle when the latter developed Donkey Kong, the iconic game that introduced Mario, the character wearing overalls.

Segale never tried to emphasize the relationship, preferring to concentrate on his family’s successful ventures in heavy construction and real estate development in the thriving Seattle area. Few images of him are available online due to his desire for privacy.

“While he was the inspiration for the name of Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario’ from when they were tenants in his business park in the 1970s, he always ducked the notoriety and wanted to be known instead for what he accomplished in his life,” according to his funeral notice.

Regarding how his name and Italian ancestry contributed to Mario’s creation, Segale was reported to have left an impression on his tenants when he allegedly barged into Nintendo’s Tukwila, Washington, headquarters and demanded that they pay back overdue rent. In 2010, gaming historian Benj Edwards pointed out that a close associate of Segale’s verified to his diminutive stature and his preference for suspenders over overalls.

A friend of Segale’s added: “My direct understanding and perception is that Mario Segale doesn’t mind at all the fact that his name inspired such an iconic character, and that he shows humble pride in that fact in front of his grandchildren and close-knit adult circles.”

Though the company that rented warehouse space from him later adopted the Super Mario character as its mascot, Segale preferred to see it as nothing more than coincidence that connected him to the character.

Segale once said, “You might say I’m still waiting for my royalty checks,” according to The Seattle Times in 1993.

The renowned game designer Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo was the inspiration behind it all. He had developed the main characters for Donkey Kong but had run out of strong names for them. The main character went by Jumpman, and Lady was his girlfriend. According to Kotaku, “Nintendo wanted proper names for the characters, so they named the hero after their landlord and the lady Pauline after a Nintendo of America employee’s wife.”

Mario went on to become a franchise, showing up in dozens of video games ranging from tennis to auto racing. In order to prevent confusion, we have clarified in the story that he also shared a game cartridge with Duck Hunt, another legendary hit from Nintendo.

Segale rarely spoke to the media and maintained a very low profile. The only child of Louis and Rina Segale, who are described as first-generation Italian immigrant farmers in their son’s obituary, he was born in Seattle on April 30, 1934.

Mario Segale, who worked with his wife, Donna, and their four children, was obviously a cunning businessman. In 1998, he made a tidy $60 million from the sale of his heavy construction company, which he had founded shortly after high school. He sold the Auburn, Washington, property where Emerald Downs casino and racetrack had been constructed for $73.6 million a few years later. According to the Auburn Reporter, he was also a significant political donor, especially to the Democratic Party.

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