An Exhaustive Etymology of Videogame Names


What’s in a videogame name? Apparently a hell of a lot, if this extensively detailed guide to the names of some of gaming’s most iconic characters – from Mario and Link to Ryu and Ken – is any indication.

Most gamers have probably heard the age-old story about how staff at Nintendo of America thought that their mustachioed Donkey Kong hero bore more a resemblance to the Italian landlord of their office building, a portly fellow named Mario. The rest is history.

But did you also know that Mario and Luigi could have come from marui and ruiji – Japanese for “round” and “similar,” respectively – or that erstwhile imitator Wario shares a similar twist in warui, or “evil”? What about Princess Zelda’s relationship to the Greek delta and consequently, the series’ famous Triforce emblem?

Ken Masters may well owe his surname to Barbie’s male companion. Sega’s use of Dr. Robotnik can be traced back to a desire to avoid legal trouble from the estate of John Lennon. Samus Aran’s masculine-sounding name is actually the feminine version of the Celtic Séamus. Hell, the famous “Error” in Zelda II could be a mistranslation of a more swashbuckling name.

Be warned: This exhaustive study is long. I mean, really long. It covers characters from all the Nintendo franchises to Final Fantasy and Castlevania and more. So only click if you’ve got quite some time to kill.

It really is amazing just how much gets lost in translation.


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