The 11 choices that forever changed our favorite games

Super Mario
The Italian plumber was originally named Jumpman.
  • From character names to genre changes, the most popular video games hide interesting origin stories.
  • Lara Croft was initially a supporting character while Mario was once called Jumpman.
  • From "Metal Gear" to "Mortal Kombat", these choices forever shaped the world's favorite video games.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

It's a struggle to imagine a video game world where Mario isn't called "Mario" or Lara Croft isn't the protagonist of "Tomb Raider."

But the games we know and love today could easily have been very different.

From the creative choices behind the color scheme of Sonic's sneakers and the naming of the "Final Fantasy" series to the inspiration behind Princess Zelda's name, here are some of the decisions that shaped the world's biggest video games.

Mario wasn't always called Mario
Nintendo Mario
Jumpman resembled the landlord of the warehouse Nintendo was renting, Mario Segale.

He's one of the most popular video game characters ever and the official mascot of Nintendo — but Mario almost wasn't called Mario.

The Italian plumber was originally named Jumpman when "Donkey Kong" launched on the Japanese market. However, the makers wanted to broaden their horizons when the product launched in the US and thought about real names. 

According to PC World, Minoru Arakawa, then-president of Nintendo in the US, realized Jumpman resembled the landlord of the warehouse Nintendo was renting at the time. The man was called Mario Segale, and so "Mario" stuck. 

Since his launch, Mario has gone on to star in the "Mario Kart" franchise and the hit "Super Mario Odyssey", which even pays tribute to "Donkey Kong." 

Sonic's sneakers were inspired by Michael Jackson
Sonic the Hedgehog (movie)
While Sonic is blue to reflect the company color scheme, few know why his sneakers are red and white.

When the video game developers at Sega were creating a character for Mario to go up against, they dreamt up Mr. Needlemouse, although he later became Sonic.

The reasoning behind the color scheme was explained by character designer Naoto Ohshima in an interview with Gamasutra: "I also thought that red went well for a character who can run really fast when his legs are spinning."

Although the hedgehog is blue to reflect the company colors, few know that his red and white sneakers were inspired by the cover of Michael Jackson's album "Bad." 

The combos in Street Fighter II were an accident
street fighter v capcom laura ryu
The combos are now a defining feature of the franchise.

If the first installment of the "Street Fighter" franchise laid the foundations for its popularity, the second catapulted it to superstardom with its killer combinations. 

The team accidentally stumbled upon the combos, which allowed users to carry out basic and special moves in a sequence, Paste Magazine reported.  

The combos are now a defining feature of the franchise and have been repeated time and time again.

Final Fantasy really was meant to be final
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Before the game launched, video game developer Square was about to go under.

With more than 15 video games now in the franchise, it's hard to believe "Final Fantasy" was a product of difficult circumstances. 

Before the game launched, video game developer Square was about to go under.

Square's former president, Hironobu Sakaguchi, named the game "Final Fantasy" because he planned to leave the video game industry if it didn't work out. 

More than 33 years later things still don't look very final. 

It wasn't always clear Samus from 'Metroid' would be a woman
GettyImages 613638090
It was in the 1980s that "Metroid" broke a trend of male-dominated characters.

In 1986, Nintendo launched a game that became a key part of its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

While female protagonists are now increasingly common in the video game world, back then it was "Metroid" that broke a trend of male-dominated characters.

The gender of female protagonist Samus Aran isn't revealed until the very end of the game when she removes her armor and shows herself for the first time. 

Series co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto told IGN the decision was made when, during a development meeting, a staff member said: "Hey, wouldn't that be kind of cool if it turned out that this person inside the suit was a woman?" 

Samus continues to be popular, with the remake "Metroid: Samus Returns" released in 2017, and a new game "Metroid Prime 4" announced, although Nintendo decided to restart development in 2019 after it failed to meet quality standards.

McDonald's and Mike Tyson in 'Punch Out!!'
Mike Tyson Tries to Beat Himself in Punch-Out!!
Mike Tyson Tries to Beat Himself in "Punch-Out!!"

Perhaps the funniest fact about "Punch Out!!" is that the short and feisty 17-year-old boxer character Little Mac derives his name from the McDonald's classic. 

However, Mike Tyson's involvement gave "Punch Out!!" a whole new significance.

Minoru Arakawa, then-president of Nintendo in the US, was determined to include Tyson in the game as he saw a lot of potential in him.

They released Mike Tyson's "Punch Out!!" in 1987, and Uproxx claims Tyson was only paid $50,000 for his image to be used. 

The game's Mike Tyson is notoriously difficult to beat — even the boxer himself couldn't do it.

Jean-Claude 'Mortal Kombat' Van Damme
Dvorah Mortal Kombat 11
D'Vorah, introduced in "Mortal Kombat X." The "Mortal Kombat" saga began in 1992.

The famous "Mortal Kombat" saga, which now includes 11 installments, began in 1992 but initially was meant to be totally different.

Centering around Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, the original plan was to create a game based on the film "Universal Soldier" and have him fight against hundreds of colorful enemies.

However, negotiations with the actor didn't go well, Mel Magazine reported, and creators Midway decided to completely rebrand it, turning it into one of the most violent games of all time. 

The franchise did however include Johnny Cage, a character inspired by Van Damme.

Originally, 'Metal Gear' wasn't a stealth game
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
"Metal Gear" was born after Kojima was inspired by 1963 classic "The Great Escape."

Now one of the most famous stealth games in video game history, "Metal Gear" wasn't initially about stealth at all; it was originally intended exclusively as an action game.

However, the limited tech at the time didn't quite accommodate designer Hideo Kojima's storyline and themes. 

"Metal Gear" was born after he was inspired by 1963 classic "The Great Escape," which tells the story of how a group of soldiers plans to escape from a prison camp. 

Lara Croft wasn't the main character of 'Tomb Raider'
Tomb Raider
Directed by Roar Uthaug.

When Core Design and Eidos Interactive first presented "Tomb Raider" in its early stages, the main character looked a little too much like movie archaeologist Indiana Jones — for whom they obviously didn't have a license. 

To make the character stand out, designer Toby Gard proposed promoting a secondary female character to lead status, replacing the original idea. 

They decided to go with it and created the image of Lara Croft as we know her today, with her trademark shorts and signature braid. The rest is history. 

Zelda's namesake is a novelist's wife
Zelda Breath of Wild
The "Legend of Zelda" franchise is now hugely successful.

The name of Princess Zelda from "The Legend of Zelda," now a classic on NES, has an interesting literary origin.

Princess Zelda's name was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of "The Great Gatsby" novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo said he liked the sound of the name and so it stuck.

The franchise is now hugely successful, with several new installments including 2019's "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild."

'Resident Evil' started out as a remake of 'Sweet Home'
Resident Evil Village RE8
"Resident Evil: Village" will be coming to PS5 this year.

Now one of the most popular horror franchises and the starting point for the survival horror genre, "Resident Evil" was originally going to be a remake of 1989 Capcom classic "Sweet Home."

However, the makers decided to go bigger, changing their idea from a first-person shooter to a third-person one. They took inspiration from the Overlook Hotel of "The Shining," and from other movies featuring haunted houses.

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