Mario is the title character of a popular series of video games developed by Japanese electronics manufacturer Nintendo. Since Mario's creation in 1981, millions of players have guided the mustachioed plumber through virtual obstacle courses designed to test their hand-eye coordination and justify the character's improbable acrobatics. In the process, Mario has become a popular culture icon and Nintendo's most treasured intellectual property, inspiring television shows, film, comics, and a long line of licensed merchandise. In 1990 a Fortune magazine columnist judiciously asserted, "Just as Mickey Mouse helped pioneer the animated picture in the 1930s, so might Mario help establish a new medium called interactive entertainment."
Creating a cultural icon
- For a full list of games featuring Mario, see Mario (character)/Catalogs
Mario debuted in Shigeru Miyamoto's first game, the arcade hit Donkey Kong, as a carpenter named Jumpman. Jumpman's design, little changed since, was a function of technological limitations. A mouth wasn't visible enough, so the character got a mustache; the programmers couldn't animate hair, so he wore a cap; and to make his arm movements visible, he needed white gloves and colored overalls. The character was dubbed Mario by colleagues who said the nose, mustache, and overalls resembled the Italian caretaker of the small New York hotel where Nintendo employees stayed in the United States.
The 1983 arcade game Mario Bros. was the first to feature Mario as the title character and introduced his brother Luigi. And, owing to a colleague's comment on Mario's appearance, Miyamoto gave his character a new occupation: The Mario brothers became plumbers, whose jobs are to exterminate the various pests that come out of pipes—pipes that became the trademark method of travel in subsequent Mario titles.
Later that year Nintendo released their first home console in Japan: the Family Computer, or Famicom. Evaluating Famicom operations, company president Hiroshi Yamauchi realized that a video game system, like any other computer, is only as useful as the software available for it. Yamauchi prioritized the home console market and in 1984 he assigned Miyamoto to lead R&D 4, a new development group within Nintendo. Their assignment was to create the most imaginative video games ever, and one of their first titles took Donkey Kong's plucky hero and placed him in a new world.
- Moffat, Susan (1990, November 5). Can Nintendo Keep Winning?. Fortune. Retrieved October 2, 2009 from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1990/11/05/74307/index.htm
- The Family Computer was released worldwide as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES.