Once upon a time, an angry warehouse landlord came to demand rent from Minoru Arakawa and his financially struggling company, Nintendo of America. The landlord bore a humorous resemblance to Nintendo’s lady-saving, name-needing Donkey Kong character (previously known as “Mr. Video” and “Jumpman”), and the rest is history. Here’s to you and your gold coins — er, “rent,” Mario Segale.
When developing Mario Bros. in 1983, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was in need of a second character to accompany Mario in two-player mode. A pizza joint near Nintendo of America’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington was called “Mario & Luigi’s,” so that’s how our beloved Luigi came to be. Thanks, pizza.
Miyamoto, who also created The Legend of Zelda saga, found Zelda Fitzgerald to be “a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts.” As a result, the game designer named his character Princess Zelda. Will the Princess of Hyrule wind up in a mental institution? Well — after all the crap she’s been through, how could she not? Fun fact: Robin Williams named his daughter after the game character.
Although Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Kirby, reportedly “can’t remember” how the character got his name, the world has accepted two possible explanations:
1. The vacuum cleaner manufacturer “Kirby Corporation.” This makes a lot of sense — that little fellow could inhale like it was nobody’s business.
2. A man named John Kirby represented Nintendo throughout a Donkey Kong copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Universal Studios.
Created to rival Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot was originally known as “Willie the Wombat.” Once it was clear that the character would be spending 99% of his time smashing boxes, he became “Crash.” As for “Bandicoot,” well — this is a wombat and this is a bandicoot, so we’re pretty sure one of his parents lied.
The Metal Gear protagonist, Solid Snake, got his name from Snake Plissken, otherwise known as Kurt Russell’s eyepatched character in Escape from New York. The creator wanted his hero to have a paradoxical first name to contrast his “smooth” last name, and thus “Solid Snake” was born.
Remember this fellow? When the Monkey Island protagonist was first created, he didn’t have a name. So, his file was merely called “Guy.” The artist responsible for turning the character into a two-dimensional animation, Steve Purcell, added “brush” to the character’s filename to show that it was the Deluxe Paint “brush” file for the “Guy” animation, saving the character as “guybrush.bbm.” The developers began to refer to the character as “Guybrush,” and it stuck. His last name, “Threepwood,” was inspired by humorist P. G. Wodehouse’s Threepwood family from his Blandings short stories.
Here’s a fun one. This game was originally called “Pakkuman,” which was a play on “paku-paku,” a Japanese onomatopeia for the sound of a mouth opening and closing. “Pakkuman” later evolved into “Puck Man,” which had to be changed when the game was picked up for manufacture in the United States. Why? Manufacturers were worried about vandalism to the letter “P” — and the rest is Pac-Man history.