On October 27th, Mario Segale passed away at the age of 84. Segale was not necessarily a part of the gaming industry. He wasn’t a developer or an artist. Instead, he was actually Nintendo of America’s landlord back in the late 70s and early 80s. But Segale is integral to the world of video games for one simple reason: he served as the namesake for Nintendo’s Mario.
Segale developed office buildings, and one of them housed Nintendo of America during an integral part of their development. When Nintendo decided to give “Jumpman” and “Lady” real names in the original Donkey Kong for the arcade, they named Lady “Pauline,” which they derived from their warehouse manager’s wife, Polly. While looking for Jumpman’s name, they turned to Segale. Segale was a larger-than-life Italian-American man and Nintendo of America thought that adding a few traits of his to Jumpman would really bring the character to life. Nintendo then immortalized Segale by naming the most iconic video game character in existence after him.
Segale never wanted to “bask in the limelight” and be known as the guy Mario was named after. He very rarely spoke to the press about his connections to Nintendo, and there are actually very few pictures of him available online. But he still took some pride in knowing Mario was named after him, even if he spent the rest of his life away from the gaming industry. He even joked in 1993 that he was waiting on the royalty checks. His mark on pop culture was even noted in his obituary:
“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.”