This article originally appeared on Infendo.
Whilst reading the latest in the (frankly awesome) Iwata asks series I discovered something about the conception of Mario that I didn’t know, nor would have suspected in a million years:
But for a forgotten issue, Donkey Kong arcade would have been a Popeye game and Mario would never have been conceived.
At the time, back in the late 70’s Nintendo had the licensing for Popeye and had churned out various playing cards, and even a Game & Watch title. Miyamoto’s original intention had been to employ the unintelligible sailor as his protagonist but (what I assume must have been some sort of licensing issue) got in the way and he had to set about creating his own character. The rest, as they, is stuff that happened in the past.
That’s why at first I was asked if I could make a game using Popeye. The basic concept of Popeye is that there is the hero and his rival who he manages to turn the tables on with the aid of spinach.
When you put it like that, it’s the same as Pac-Man, isn’t it? (laughs)
Yes, it’s identical to Pac-Man! (laughs) So I sketched out a few ideas for games using Popeye. At that point, [Gunpei] Yokoi-san was good enough to bring these ideas to the President’s attention and in the end one of the ideas received official approval. Yokoi-san thought that designers would become necessary members of development teams in order to make games in the future. And that’s how Donkey Kong came about.
But originally it was going to be a Popeye game.
That’s right. But while I can’t recall exactly why it was, we were unable to use Popeye in that title. It really felt like the ladder had been pulled out from under us, so to speak.
So even though you were making a game about climbing ladders, you had the ladder pulled out from beneath you before you even got started! (laughs)
Great gag! You deserve a standing ovation for that one! (laughs) Anyway, at the time we were at a loss as to how to proceed. Then we thought: “Why not come up with our own original character?”
So basically Donkey Kong and Mario came about once the ladder had been pulled out from beneath you.
The rest of the article discusses various challenges throughout the creation of the first few Mario games and then about New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Shigsy also says that despite it being his idea, he hates it when the Super Guide hint block appears. Good news for all the critics of the ‘hand holding’ feature, but the article does shed some light on what they were trying to achieve: a perfect balance between older fans and newbie’s alike, or as Iwata calls it, a ‘game for everyone’.
Strange to think though, what the industry and Nintendo would be like if Shigsy had gotten the go ahead for his Popeye platformer…