The tale of Mario Segale, the man whose name became synonymous with one of the most iconic characters in video game history, is both fascinating and unique. Segale, a successful businessman in his own right, unwittingly lent his name to Super Mario, the beloved character from Nintendo. His story is a blend of hard work, serendipity, and a surprising connection to the gaming world.
Born on April 30, 1934, in Seattle, Washington, Mario Segale was the only child of Louis and Rina Segale, first-generation Italian immigrant farmers. From these humble beginnings, Segale demonstrated a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of pursuing college education after high school, he chose to start his own construction business with just a single truck. This decision marked the beginning of a highly successful career in construction and real estate.
Building a Business Empire
In 1957, at the age of 23, Mario Segale married his girlfriend, Donna. Together, they became a formidable team in the business world. Donna joined him in his construction venture, and together, they expanded the business significantly. Their entrepreneurial journey didn’t stop at construction; they also ventured into real estate, a decision that would later link Mario Segale to the world of video gaming in an unexpected way.
A Significant Business Sale
By 1998, Segale’s construction company had grown substantially. In a major business move, he sold the company for a staggering $60 million to an Irish corporation. This sale allowed Segale to shift his focus entirely to the real estate sector, a domain in which he would achieve significant success and, unbeknownst to him, a quirky footnote in pop culture history.
The Unlikely Connection to Nintendo
The connection between Mario Segale and Nintendo began in 1981 in Tukwila, Washington. At this time, Nintendo was developing the now-classic arcade game “Donkey Kong” in a warehouse rented from Segale. Initially, the game’s protagonist was simply named “Jumpman,” but a fortuitous incident would lead to a memorable name change.
As reported by the New York Times, Mario Segale once visited the warehouse to confront the company president over unpaid rent. During this encounter, a discussion about naming characters for the game sidetracked their conversation. In a twist of fate, the late rent payment and the ensuing argument inspired the Nintendo team to rename “Jumpman” to “Mario,” in a nod to their landlord.
Mario Segale and Super Mario’s Legacy
While Mario the character went on to become a global phenomenon, Mario Segale himself shunned the limelight. Despite his name being attached to one of the most influential characters in gaming history, Segale preferred to remain out of the public eye, focusing on his real estate business, Segale Properties. He ran this company alongside his wife and son, maintaining a low profile while the character that bore his name became a cultural icon.
Super Mario, originally a side character in “Donkey Kong,” rapidly evolved into the face of Nintendo and a cornerstone of the video game industry. With his distinctive red hat, blue overalls, and mustache, Mario became a beloved character, starring in numerous games and becoming a symbol of gaming culture. His influence extends beyond games, impacting various aspects of pop culture, including movies, merchandise, and even theme parks.
The Private Life of Mario Segale
Despite his indirect contribution to the gaming world, Mario Segale remained a private individual. He continued to develop his real estate business, staying away from the fanfare associated with the Super Mario franchise. This discretion highlights a stark contrast between the global fame of the character and the low-profile life of the man who inspired his name.
While Super Mario soared in popularity, Segale chose a life focused on his business and family, embodying the values of hard work and dedication that marked his entire career.