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If, like me, you grew up playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES, then you’re no doubt super excited for the launch of Super Mario Maker this coming September. Exclusive to Wii U, the game allows players to build their own worlds, using every block, enemy and power-up (plus a few new ones) from a whole host of Super Mario games, then share them with players all around the world.

For those of us who never quite gave up on our childhood dream of making games for Nintendo especially, Super Mario Maker is shaping up to be the ultimate celebration of 30 years of Mario, and the thought of throwing all your favourite bad guys into bizarre platforming situations has us positively giddy with excitement.

With that in mind, today we’ve decided to take a quick look at some of the characters we know and love from the Mario franchise. To spice things up, though, we’re going to be introducing you to their original Japanese names and explaining a little about the meanings behind them. Think you know Mario? Let’s find out!

We’re sure that some of you lifelong Nintendo fans are familiar with most of these guys (and perhaps even a few we haven’t included here), but do you think you could identify all of these guys by their original Japanese names?

  • Kuribo


We begin, of course, with the very first bad guy a Super Mario Bros. player will ever meet. The name “Goomba” purportedly comes from the Italian word “goombah”, which is a member of a gang or criminal organisation. The original Japanese name of Kuribo, however, actually means something akin to “chestnut guy”. Not quite as threatening, admittedly, but the name at least explains the Goombas’ much rounder, non-squishable appearance in Super NES outing Super Mario World.

  • Nokonoko


Hey, it’s Koopa Troopa; those little guys who – depending on the colour of their shells (and shoes) – will either run straight at you or pace back and forth like a cat watching birds through the patio window. In Japan, these shelled foot soldiers are known as nokonoko, which is the first of many (many!) examples we’ll see today of gitaigo or a mimetic word which describes a movement or state of being. The word nokonoko describes a nonchalant, carefree movement – not exactly the first trait one might expect their soldiers to possess, but it does describe the way some of these trundling koopas move pretty accurately. Oh no, he’s very slowly coming right for us!

  • Jugemu


I can still remember the first time my childhood self panicked his way through World 4-1 on the original Super Mario Bros. as this guy started raining down his spiked balls of death. The cloud-piloting Lakitu here is known as Jugemu in Japan – a name which is believed to come from a rakugo tale of the same name which tells the story of a couple who take their newborn baby to a priest in order to decide a strong name for him. Perhaps the folks at Nintendo were equally stuck for a fitting name when they created this little guy?

  • Togezo


Speaking of those spiky balls of death, of Spinies, this is Togezo. This spiked turtle-cum-beetle’s name is a play on the Japanese word toge, meaning thorn, splinter or spine.

  • Kyasarin


Here he/she is, folks; it’s Catherine! This egg-launching, ribbon-wearing dino is known as Birdo (or Ostro to some) in the English-speaking world, but Nintendo Japan felt that Kyasarin suited her much better. For some reason.

  • Pukupuku


We’re back in onomatopoeia land for this fishy chap, whose name mimics the sound of bubbles in water. Yes, it’s weird, but it makes much more sense than his English name, Cheep Cheep.

  • Gesso


Gesso’s name is pretty straightforward for Japanese speakers. After all, anyone who’s been to an izakaya pub in Japan will have heard of ikageso, or squid legs. I wonder why Mario has never thought to throw one of these guys in a fryer…

  • Kinopio


Taking a break from the bad guys for a brief moment, this happy little guy is known as Kinopio in Japan. Although his name is an obvious play on the Japanese word for mushroom (kinoko), we wonder whether Shigeru Miyamoto and pals wondered what kind of name would suit a mushroom that like, oh, I don’t know, Pinocchio, became a real boy…

  • Piichi Hime


Originally known as Princess Toadstool in the western world, Piichi Hime (Princess Peach) is now one of the few Mario characters known around the globe by her original Japanese name – a process which, good ol’ Wikipedia tells me, began with the on-rails shooting game Yoshi’s Safari which I am happy to say I played the hell out of as a teenager.

  • Kuppa


From one member of the aristocracy to another, Daimaō Kuppa (lit. “Grand Devil King Koopa”) was originally named by his creator after the Japanese pronunciation of gukbap, a Korean soup-type dish. The name Bowser was bestowed upon the Mushroom Kingdom’s chief bad guy for the Western release of the game, and he has come to be known as King (Bowser) Koopa both at home and abroad pretty much ever since.

  • Pakkun Furawaa


Are you starting to see how much the Japanese love onomatopoeia yet? The “pakkun” in Pakkun Flower is a word which imitates the sound of someone or something eating, or rather taking a great big chomp, which is exactly what these insatiable flowers do best.

  • Kiraa


This one is seriously badass. In English, this game-ruining bad guy is known as Bullet Bill. In Japanese, however, he’s Kiraa, which, as you can probably guess, is based on the English word “killer”. A strangely dark name for a Nintendo character, but then again he is a flying bullet…

  • Bobu


Bob-omb is named after the sound he makes when he explodes, but in Japan this little guy is just “bob”, or “bobu” to use the native pronunciation.

  • Wanwan


Chain Chomp here first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3, but there’s a good chance most of you will remember him from Super Mario 64‘s Bob-omb Battlefield stage where he’s tied to a stake in the ground. Like the English “woof-woof”, wan wan is the sound of a dog’s bark in Japanese, and this frightening, though thankfully tethered, creature is just that – a barking, lunging dog inspired by the neighbourhood dog that terrorised creator Shigeru Miyamoto as a kid. Wanwan!

  • Metto


Despite being known as Buzzy Beetle in the English versions of the Super Mario games, Metto here is apparently a type of turtle just like the Koopa Troopas. His Japanese name purportedly comes from the Japanese pronunciation of helmet (herumetto) on account of his tough, helmet-like shell. It makes sense, then, that Super Mario Maker will let you wear these guys’ shells as hard hats!

  • Karon


This is Karon, AKA Dry Bones in the west. The origin of this character’s isn’t entirely clear, but it’s most likely that “karon” mimics the sound of this poor old guy’s fragile, dry bones clattering to the floor (a heavier sound is usually denoted in Japanese with a ‘ga‘ rather than a ‘ka‘) as he’s stomped on by that mustachioed fiend, Mario.

  • Heiho


Known in English as Shy Guy due to his habit of hiding his face behind a mask, these little fellas are called Heiho in their native land – a name which they have gone by ever since their creation for Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, the game which was later retooled to become Super Mario Bros. 2 in the western world. Heiho, as it happens, is also the Japanese pronunciation of “Heigh-Ho”, the song sung by the dwarfs in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Now that I come to think of it, the outfits these Shy Guys wear do look awfully similar to some of the dwarfs’ own…

  • Dossun


What sound does a giant Thwomp block make when it crashes down on the ground? Th-womp! OK, now any guesses how that might go in Japanese? Say hello to Dossun!

  • Teresa


I saved Teresa here until last not just because he’s one of my favourite Super Mario bad guys, but because his Japanese name struck me as especially odd when I first heard it. As you’ve probably surmised by my use of a male pronoun just there, this shy little ghost isn’t actually a girl called Teresa – his name is based on the Japanese word “tereru“, meaning to be shy, which explains why Super Mario‘s Boos always hide their faces when Mario turns to look at them.

I hope you enjoyed this nerdy little outing as much as I did. And if you’re planning on buying Super Mario Maker later this year (I swear, I’m not being paid by Nintendo write this!), be sure to drop me a line so we can trade the levels we build.

All characters © Nintendo; all images shown property of RocketNews24