Geek Trivia

Which Character Was Created Because Of Nintendo’s Inability To License Popeye?

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Peter the Great of Russia Used Taxes to Banish What?
Screenshot of Donkey Kong game depicting Mario and Donkey Kong

Answer: Mario

In July of 1981, Nintendo released what would go on to become one of the most iconic arcade games of all time: Donkey Kong. Millions of players around the globe would drop handful after handful of quarters into machines to help the nameless mustachioed protagonist save his girlfriend from an angry ape.

The original version of Donkey Kong, however, was actually intended to star the cast of the Popeye cartoons. The role of the kidnapper was originally played by Bluto, Popeye’s nemesis, the girlfriend by Olive Oyl, and the protagonist by Popeye himself. When licensing could not be secured for the game, developer Shigeru Miyamoto took the general premise of Popeye—a scrappy smaller guy fighting to save his girlfriend in the face of a big brute of an opponent—and adapted it.

The new protagonist, known informally in the early years simply as “Jumpman” because he spent all of his time in the game leaping about, would go on to become Mario of the Mario Bros. fame—the most recognizable video game character in the world.