The first level of the original “Super Mario Bros.” is intentionally built around education. It’s true!
In the first 10 seconds of play, level 1-1 teaches you the fundamentals of playing a “Super Mario” game: question mark blocks are full of potential, mushrooms make you grow bigger, and there are evil, walking mushrooms who can hurt little Mario.
Those “evil” mushrooms are known as “goomba” — a made-up word with delightful origins.
“A ‘chestnut’ in Japanese is ‘Kuri,'” Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto told video game website Eurogamer in a recent interview. “Which is why the name ‘Kuriboh,’ which is ‘goomba’ in Japanese, came about.”
So, why the word for chestnut when goombas are “evil mushrooms?” One hilariously simple reason: “The original drawing I had was a black mushroom. And so a programmer started saying, ‘It’s a chestnut, it’s a chestnut.'” Apparently Miyamoto’s drawing wasn’t clear enough, or the programmer in question had never seen a black mushroom before. Either way, “kuri” — the Japanese word for “chestnut” — quickly turned into “kuriboh,” a Japanese affectation of the word for “chestnut.”
Think of it like this: you’ve got a friend who looks like a goat, and you and your friends give him the nickname “Goaty.” That’s the equivalent of “kuri” turning into “kuriboh.” Pretty simple origins for such a well-known enemy.
Initial designs for level 1-1 actually had a koopa trooper there in place of a goomba, but Miyamoto and co-designer Takashi Tezuka decided that an easier enemy made more sense for the educational focus of that first level in “Super Mario Bros.”
Originally, we had a Koopa Troopa that came out, but we thought it might be a little too difficult for the player to jump on and then kick it. That’s why we created the Goomba. If it was a turtle, we couldn’t really just jump on it and defeat it. So we decided we needed a “bad mushroom.”
It was that simple problem in need of a solution that spurred the creation and naming of one of the most iconic enemies in video games. Check out the full video from Eurogamer right here:
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