Retrovision – Naming the Koopalings

We’re back from our Christmas break here at Rings & Coins, and it’s all back to normal, delivering you all the facts and info you need from two of the greatest periods of gaming history, the 8 & 16-bit eras.  So let’s get back into the swing of things by looking at some newly revealed information about one of the most sacred franchises in all of gaming.  That of course would be Super Mario, and today we’re looking at Bower’s crew of Koopalings.

First introduced in the 8-bit classic Super Mario Bros. 3, the Koopalings have had something of a revival in recent years.  This has seen the crazy crew appear in a myriad of recent Nintendo releases, including New Super Mario Bros 2, Mario Kart 8, and even Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS.  Moreover, despite their somewhat sporadic appearances, the Koopalings have become some of the most loved Nintendo characters, with many wanting to see and learn more about the seven siblings.

Koopalings Mario Kart 8
The Koopalings on the Mario Kart 8 Start Screen.

Made up of Larry, Morton, Wendy, Iggy, Roy, Lemmy and Ludwig, the Koopalings add another dimension to Super Mario’s list of antagonists, thanks to their unique appearances and individual personalities.  What’s more, whilst being the mad and somewhat random underlings of Bowser, they are not in fact his children, unlike Bowser Jr.  Nevertheless, the team are just as committed to Bowser’s crazy plans, and in their own unique style, each adds their own level of chaos to the proceedings.  A factor that has been testament to their original success, and their recent return.

These personalities have primarily been seen throughout their unique boss battles, most notably within the Super Nintendo classic Super Mario World.  However, these personalities can also be seen within the weird and wacky names that each were given.  In fact, whilst these names may seem random at first glance, many may be surprised to learn that there is in fact method within the madness.

Sprites of the Koopalings from their debut in Super Mario Bros. 3.

You see, as explained by former product analyst at Nintendo Dayvv Brooks, back in the 8-bit days there really wasn’t an official localisation team.  As such, Brooks and other members of the team were asked as part of their jobs, to take the rough translations of the original Japanese text, and make them more suitable for the American market.  So, when it came to Super Mario Bros. 3, part of this involved naming the seven Koopalings.

So, as a major fan of music, and as someone who had previously worked in the music industry, Brooks took inspiration from various popular musicians.  This meant matching these music personalities with the names, looks, and personalities of each of the Koopalings, in turn giving us the names we know each character by today.  More information from this interview with Kotaku about this can seen below, and this gives a more detailed analysis of the origins of each character’s name:

Music has always been a big part of my life. I’ve been a DJ for years and have been a music collector for even longer. When I first saw the group of seven Koopalings, music was on my mind.

The hairstyle on one of them reminded me of Ludwig von Beethoven for some reason and Ludwig von Koopa was born. Next was the one with the glasses—that has to be Roy Koopa in homage to Roy Orbison, who almost always wore glasses. Then Wendy O. Koopa (Wendy O. Williams) [and] Iggy Koopa (Iggy Pop). One looked like a loudmouth, so he was Morton Koopa Jr. from [the] loud-mouthed talk show host Morton Downey Jr. And then there was Larry. There’s no real-world equivalent—he’s not Larry Mullen Jr. from U2 or Larry King—he just looked like a Larry.

That brings us to Lemmy. In addition to being a great name, it’s perfect for a video game character. This Koopaling struck me as being the kind of character who would do his own thing, no matter what anyone else thought. I think it was those crazy eyes. Lemmy Koopa was in the crew.

So there you have it, those random crazy names, are in fact not so random.  Or they’re just even more random now depending on how you look at it.  I mean the link between the likes of Roy Orbison and Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister to all of the Koopalings, is quite crazy in and of itself.

Yet despite this, the names struck a chord with Nintendo, and with the fans.  In fact, these names proved so popular, that Nintendo decided to use the names all around the world.  This has also in turn helped shape the characters moving forward, including their recent appearances.

Koopalings Art
Original promotional art for the Koopalings.

So, whilst their crazy antics and randomness are clear for everyone to see through their actions within the Mushroom Kingdom, it seems that this was also infused into them through their names.   It would have been very easy for Nintendo to have made each of these characters very similar, but they actually ooze individuality on more levels than one.  So much so that I think we’ll be seeing more and more of these 8-bit characters going forward.

Sophia Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she's written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DivaXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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