Original names of famous video game characters

We’ve all heard of Mario, Link, and Sonic. But had you heard of Mr. Video, Christo, and Mr. Needlemouse? We list some of the most bizarre names our favorite video game characters used to have before they became famous.

Ada Wong was Linda

Our favorite sexy lady from the Resident Evil series had a much more common name, Linda, before she became Ada Wong.

When Resident Evil 2 was still in early development (sometimes called RE 1.5), the character was an Umbrella researcher named Linda who aided the player throughout the game; she was changed afterwards for the game’s final version.

She was also given the full name Ada Wong in order to provide a connection to the first game, where a letter was addressed to a woman named Ada.


Lara Croft was Laura Cruz

Lead graphic artist Toby Gard was inspired by pop artist Neneh Cherry and comic book character Tank Girl to create fan favorite Lara Croft. He experimented with different designs until he settled on a South American woman named Laura Cruz.

However, Eidos management wanted a more “UK friendly” name so they chose Lara Croft, a name that sounded similar that they had found in an English telephone directory. The character’s backstory was also altered to feature a British origin.


Sonic the hedgehog was Mr. Needlemouse

Just like Mario with Jumpman, many characters have a more common or weird name before they come up with a catchier one.

When they were creating a new mascot for Sega to replace Alex Kidd, the hedgehog’s codename was Mr. Needlemouse.


Tails was Miles

Yasushi Yamaguchi, originally the main artist and zone designer for Sega’s Sonic Team, designed Tails for an internal competition destined to find Sonic’s sidekick. His entry, called Miles, won, but the team decided to change his name to Tails.

However, Yamaguchi did end up naming the character Miles, since Sonic’s sidekick’s full name is Miles “Tails” Prower. Even though Tails is just his nickname, it’s the one we all use to refer to the character.

Also, Miles Prower is a pun on the phrase “miles per hour”.


Knuckles the echidna was Dreds

During the conception of Sonic 3, the development team wanted to create a new rival for Sonic who was originally planned to have a Jamaican accent and be called “Dreds” referring to his dreadlocks.


Dr. Eggman was Dr. Ivo Robotnik was Dr. Eggman

It’s a mess but the one we now know as Dr. Eggman was for many years Dr. Robotnik -many of us referred to Sonic’s nemesis as Robotnik during our childhood, and remember the great Puyo Puyo-like Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.

That’s because Eggman was the original Japanese name but the character was renamed Dr. Ivo Robotnik for the first installment’s English instructions manual. Now, it gets messier: in 1999’s Sonic Adventure, the character was called both Eggman and Robotnik in the English version and has been Eggman ever since.

Yuji Naka, lead programmer of the original series, has explained that Robotnik is the character’s true last name while Eggman is just a nickname taken after his shape. So technically, it would be Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik even though this only happens in the West; in Japan, they never call him Robotnik.


Mario was Jumpman & Mr. Video

In early development, many game protagonists don’t even have a name. This was Mario’s case when Donkey Kong was being made. However, the game’s English instructions called him Jumpman and that’s the name most people recognize as the plumber’s previous name.

But here’s a very funny fact: Miyamoto originally named the character Mr. Video when his idea was for him to be featured in every video game he ever developed. He later commented that if he had chosen that name, Mario wouldn’t have had the same success and would have likely “disappeared off the face of the Earth”.


M. Bison was Vega was Balrog was M. Bison

This “mixed names” case is famous: Street Fighter‘s final boss was named Vega in Japan but when it was time to localize the game for North America, there were two problems:

First, M. Bison was the character we all know as Balrog, a boxer who looks a bit too much like Mike Tyson (and the M. indeed stood for Mike). Fearing legal issues, Capcom decided to swap the names but threw the Spanish fighter into the mix.

Since the company’s North American branch felt that Vega wouldn’t sound threatening enough to their audience for the final boss, they gave it to the Spanish cage fighter originally known as Balrog because, after all, Vega is a Spanish last name! (the final boss had been named Vega after the star of the same name).

So the boxer ended up being Balrog and the main villain got a mysterious “M”; that’s why sometimes he’s been called Master Bison.


Bowser was Koopa

Yes, many people (i.e. older gamers) know that Bowser was originally Koopa, but did you know that it came from the Japanese name for gukbap, a Korean dish?

Also, the name was anglicized Kuppa rather than Koopa in the Japanese versions up until the release of Super Mario World. Nowadays, Koopa is his turtle-like race.


Ryu was Takashi

Ryu’s original name was Takashi due to designer Takashi Nishiyama’s name. However, since the on’yomi (Sino-Japanese pronunciation) of the character “Takashi” is Ryū, we could say it’s still Ryu.


Guybrush Threepwood was guy.brush

You might have heard the story about Guybrush Ulysses Threepwood being just another “guy”.

Deluxe Paint was the tool used by artists to create the character sprite. At that point, he didn’t have a name so the file was simply called “guy”. Steve Purcell, the artist responsible for the sprite, added “brush” to the filename when he saved it, indicating that it was the Deluxe Paint “brush file” for the “guy” sprite. Developers eventually just started referring to him as Guybrush.

Threepwood was decided upon in a company contest and is believed to come from P. G. Wodehouse’s family of characters with the same last name.


Donkey Kong was “stupid ape”

Well, that’s just mean. It’s not that Miyamoto wanted to name his character “stupid ape” but that’s what you’ll see around the web when you search for the meaning of Donkey Kong’s name.

Miyamoto actually wanted a name that was “something-Kong” so he grabbed a Japanese-English dictionary. He found “donkey” listed as an English equivalent to the Japanese word for “stupid” or “goofy” so he named him Donkey Kong.


Link was Chris or Christo

It is rumored that in The Adventure of Link, someone refers to Link as Christo (probably an urban legend), and that in some early games, when opening certain menus, the word “Hearts” is replaced by “CHR” or “CHRI”.

It is also said that Christianity was the intended religion of the Legend of Zelda series prior to the creation of the Golden Goddesses but the true reason for the name Chris or Christo is that Shigeru Miyamoto had once intended to name Link after his godfather, but this was changed after a staff meeting.


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