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Mario's Real-Life Namesake, Mario Segale, Dies At 84

The hero of Nintendo’s 1981 game Donkey Kong was originally called Jumpman, but when Nintendo’s American branch wanted to give him a proper name, it called him Mario after its then-landlord Mario Segale.
The hero of Nintendo’s 1981 game Donkey Kong was originally called Jumpman, but when Nintendo’s American branch wanted to give him a proper name, it called him Mario after its then-landlord Mario Segale.
Screenshot: Nintendo

Mario Segale, the namesake for Nintendo’s Mario character and a successful American real estate developer, passed away on October 27, Kotaku has learned. Segale was surrounded by his family in Tukwila, Washington. He was 84.

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Mario Segale.
Mario Segale.
Photo: Marlatt Funeral Home

Segale developed office buildings and malls in Washington state and, in 1998, sold his construction services company to an Irish organization for $60 million. In 1981, Segale was renting a Tukwila warehouse to Nintendo of America. Shigeru Miyamoto had created the Mario character for his game Donkey Kong, but was calling him Jumpman and his girlfriend Lady. 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.

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Today, Mario is the best-selling video game franchise of all time, comprising dozens of games across three decades’ worth of gaming systems.

Segale evaded notoriety throughout the last three decades, according to an investigation by PC World. He reportedly rejected his connection to the Mario franchise for fear it would harm his business ventures. In 1993, the Seattle Times asked Segale was asked how he felt about his video game incarnation. “You might say I’m still waiting for my royalty checks,” he said.

Segale’s obituary describes him as someone who loved hunting, fishing, his airplane, and his view of the Puget Sound.

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

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(Thanks to gaming historian Benj Edwards, who has written at length about Segale, for sharing the news this morning.)

Senior reporter at Kotaku.

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DISCUSSION

Chiral_Spiral
Chiral_Spiral

I had read about this guy before but always pictured him as a blue collar working class guy renting out a dingy basement to Nintendo or something (the description of him as their “landlord” gave the impression of something a lot more humble), so the fact that he was doing international business deals worth tens of millions is kind of surprising.