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68 Fun Facts About Shigeru Miyamoto

Celebrating the legendary game designer’s birthday with a wealth of fascinating trivia

Shawn Laib
Nov 19 · 7 min read

Shigeru Miyamoto turned 68 years old earlier this week. And what a life he’s lived! Without him, modern gaming as we know it probably wouldn’t exist, and characters like Mario, Link, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Kirby would not have been given life. That’s a horrible alternate reality to consider, actually, so let’s not.

Instead, let’s celebrate the man’s birthday with a fun tidbit for every year he’s been on the planet. Let’s a-go!

  1. The Legend of Zelda franchise was inspired by experiences Miyamoto had as a child exploring a cave with a lantern near his home. The tension he felt adventuring in these types of areas was critical in his creativity that brought about arguably Nintendo’s most acclaimed series.
  2. Five generations of Miyamoto’s family had lived in his hometown of Sonobe, Kyoto, Japan before he was born there in 1952.
  3. Miyamoto says his favorite food is noodles and pasta of any sort, but especially ramen.
  4. Miyamoto enjoys swimming in his free time.
  5. He was first offered a job at Nintendo in 1977. He’s still as important as ever 43 years later!
  6. He made a comment in 1994 that Donkey Kong Country proved that gamers didn’t care if a title’s gameplay was mediocre if the artwork is great. The claims were disputed later, but the quote lives on about one of DK’s most beloved titles.
  7. Miyamoto had to live on a company-owned property across the street from his Nintendo offices to finish the creation of the original Donkey Kong. This type of crunch time was necessary to get the game out for a company that desperately needed success after the failure of a title called Radarscope.
  8. Mario was intended to be in his mid-20’s when Miyamoto created his concept, but his trademark mustache makes him look middle-aged!
  9. The reason Mario can only fall 1.5 times his own height in the original Donkey Kong is because Miyamoto wanted the physics of the game to imitate real life. He realized gaming didn’t have to be so rigid in later titles, obviously.
  10. His original hobby that led to video game design was a large interest in drawing and manga.
  11. Miyamoto wanted to convey that Donkey Kong was an idiot with the apt naming of the character, as he used a dictionary to bring to light this definition of “Donkey.”
  12. Miyamoto joined a band and played the banjo while in college.
  13. He only got an interview with Nintendo because his father knew the head honcho of the company, Hiroshi Yamauchi.
  14. He has an interesting fascination with measuring the dimensions of objects around him, and he displayed it one time on late-night TV!
  15. It is estimated that Miyamoto is worth around 40 million U.S. dollars! Not too shabby after four decades of brilliance!
  16. Star Fox, one of Miyamoto’s most under-acknowledged series, was inspired by George Lucas’s work with Star Wars. Lucas is one of his favorite filmmakers.
  17. Miyamoto didn’t get to watch television until he was 11 years old, as his family simply never owned one.
  18. He wanted Mario’s original personality and characteristics to be left ambiguous so as to not interfere with any future games with the character and his plot lines.
  19. Miyamoto’s first thought when designing a new game is whether it is fun to play. All other features, such as graphics, sound, etc. are secondary.
  20. When he was hired, he first worked on a project named Color TV Racing 112, a racing game with an actual steering wheel controller.
  21. People have asked Miyamoto if he ever considered naming his oldest son Mario because he was born right at the late development stages of Super Mario Bros. Miyamoto opted against the namesake.
  22. Miyamoto’s wife is named Yasuko and they have two children together.
  23. His midlife crisis at 40 that saw him quit smoking and record his weight often led to the concept for Wii Fit.
  24. He says that he doesn’t feel very as connected to the culture of Japan as many would expect him, instead connecting more with the entertainment of features of America.
  25. Nintendo told him to stop bicycling to work because they were worried he’d be severely hurt in a roadside accident. Miyamoto indeed loves to bike.
  26. He was knighted in France back in 2006, becoming one of the first game designers to ever receive this honor.
  27. Miyamoto says that he is spotted by non-Japanese travelers and fans much more often than his countrymen and countrywomen.
  28. Miyamoto likens the myth that gaming is an unhealthy habit to what many said about rock music in the ’60s.
  29. He believes in getting inside the mind of the player when designing a game, because the gamers are artists themselves, making their own realities in the games they play. An incredibly empowering concept, to say the least!
  30. Miyamoto likes to shy away from public fame most of the time.
  31. He has an odd habit of reconfiguring the furnishings around his home on a whim, no matter the time of day.
  32. His oldest son works at an advertising agency.
  33. His youngest child, a daughter, had aspirations of working in zoology.
  34. Miyamoto is to credit for the internet meme “My Body is Ready” said by Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime, as it was a response to Miyamoto asking the latter to step onto his Wii Balance Board demonstration.
  35. The plotline of the original arcade Donkey Kong was supposed to resemble the characters from Popeye.
  36. Despite not being known for soundtracks, Miyamoto composed the limited one that accompanies the aforementioned Donkey Kong.
  37. Miyamoto says he is much more willing to give leeway on Mario’s design when he is in sports games than his mainline platformers.
  38. He wanted to include Yoshi into the Mario franchise ever since Super Mario Bros., but it was impossible until Super Mario World because of the limited technology of the time period.
  39. He considered naming the Star Fox franchise Star Wolf, Star Hawk, Star Sheep, and Star Sparrow.
  40. Mario is named after someone who was working in the Nintendo of America warehouse because the character looked like that person. Miyamoto liked the connection between the two and went with it.
  41. The scenes with a lot of swimming in Super Mario 64 were present because of Miyamoto’s dedication to that hobby during the time period the game was being made.
  42. Mushrooms make Mario get bigger because Miyamoto saw a history of the fungus being used as a source of mystery and power in other fiction.
  43. Chain Chomps from the Mario series are brought about by a scary experience Miyamoto had with a dog that tried to attack him but was stopped by a chain.
  44. His own dog, Pikku, named after Pikachu, was the inspiration for Nintendogs.
  45. He is sometimes called the “Stephen Spielberg” of video games.
  46. Miyamoto is a graduate of Kanazawa Municipal College of Industrial Arts.
  47. His favorite non-Nintendo game character is Pac-Man.
  48. His favorite Mario game is Super Mario World.
  49. He presented his own toys to the big kahunas of Nintendo when applying to work there in the late 1970s. This was a fitting demonstration of his talent because of the company’s history with playing cards.
  50. Miyamoto briefly ran Nintendo after the untimely death of Satoru Iwata.
  51. He says his least favorite food is liver of any kind.
  52. His father taught English language learning for a living.
  53. Miyamoto was not a fan of the “Wolf Link” transformation in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.”
  54. Paper Mario was suggested as a paper concept based on a piece of artwork that a new employee at Nintendo had drawn. Miyamoto himself said that they should use it as the basis for the character designs in the series.
  55. Miyamoto had a fascination with Angry Birds during the mobile title’s heyday in the early 2010s.
  56. Miyamoto is a producer on Illumination’s Mario movie set to be released in 2022.
  57. Miyamoto played basketball in middle school.
  58. Wii Music was inspired by Miyamoto’s lifelong love and fascination with all different genres of music, including marching band and folk songs.
  59. Miyamoto says that there are so many games where Mario and Bowser get along as friends instead of enemies because the characters are almost playing actors, performing to the role given in different situations. Almost like an acting troupe.
  60. Miyamoto doesn’t like being called a “creator” because it makes him sound like a god or deity.
  61. Miyamoto at one point wanted Mario to appear in every game that was published by Nintendo.
  62. Miyamoto played the Super Mario theme song with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in 2016.
  63. Miyamoto has won two lifetime achievement awards, in 1998 and 2007.
  64. Miyamoto is ambidextrous but likes to make characters like Link left-handed because that is the handedness he favors.
  65. He does not like to sign autographs out of a fear that he will be bombarded with many more, something that would make him uncomfortable with his shy personality.
  66. Miyamoto doesn’t believe in trying to make games for profit because it stunts creativity. The best titles come from ingenuity.
  67. He refers to his job at Nintendo as “human engineering.”
  68. He is the reason we have video games today as we know them (source: everybody who has ever picked up a controller).

Happy birthday, Miyamoto-san! Here’s to so many more years of making magic come to life on screen.

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Shawn Laib

Written by

University of Washington Class of 2020 in English Literature and fan of video games and basketball. Twitter: @LaibShawn

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Shawn Laib

Written by

University of Washington Class of 2020 in English Literature and fan of video games and basketball. Twitter: @LaibShawn

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

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