Super Mario World may not have been as hip and blast-processed as Sonic, but the game did have one major thing on its side — you could ride a friggin’ dinosaur in it. Yoshi would go onto become Nintendo’s most significant new creation of the 16-bit era, starring in numerous spin-offs and sequels. Since that 16-bit era, Yoshi’s games have been a bit hit or miss, but Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island earned the green guy cred for life.
So, here are a few facts you might not know about the career of gaming’s most famous dinosaur…
1) Yoshi was supposed to debut on the NES. Ever since the development of the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES, Shigeru Miyamoto wanted Mario to have some sort of animal steed to ride around on, but Nintendo’s programmers just couldn’t make the concept happen using the NES’ limited capabilities.
Early Yoshi concept art. Hee hee, pixel Mario is adorable.
2) Yoshi was originally going to be some form of Koopa. An early idea was for Yoshi to be a tame Koopa Troopa. Eventually he morphed into a dinosaur, because the shape of a dinosaur’s body meshed better with Mario’s sprite.
3) Yoshi was probably influenced by a Japanese game that takes place in hell. Devil World is the only Shigeru Miyamoto-designed game to never be localized for Americans because, well, it revolved around a dinosaur attacking hell and collecting crucifixes and bibles to defeat a Speedo-wearing Satan. For our purposes today, the important part of that insane description is the dinosaur part — the hero of Devil World was Tamagon, a small green dinosaur with red spikes on his back that hatched from an egg and swallowed enemies. Sound familiar? The game’s sound effects and music also had a distinctly Yoshi-esque feel. Judge for yourself…
4) The frog suit from Mario 3 was a Yoshi stopgap. Takashi Tezuka, the designer of Super Mario 3, came up with that game’s frog suit to get dino-crazed Miyamoto off his back. I guess letting Mario turn into a cold-blooded creature instead of riding one was enough to temporarily mollify Miyamoto. While not confirmed, I can’t help but think that the infamous Kuribo’s Shoe from Mario 3 was also a, “We can’t do a rideable dino yet, stop yelling at us Miyamoto-san!” stopgap.
5) Yoshi’s gender is, uh, complicated. So, Yoshi is often referred to as a “he”, but “he” lays eggs, so wouldn’t that make him a female? But the Japanese version of Smash Bros. Melee claims Yoshis actually reproduce asexually. But but, Yoshi can’t be that asexual, because he seems to have a romantic thing going with Birdo (who’s also of unclear gender). Oh well, let’s just forget the labels — Yoshi’s a Yoshi.
Looks like Yoshi finally sprung for a rock. You’ve got my blessing you crazy kids.
6) The creators of Pokemon made Yoshi’s first spin-off. Yoshi’s first solo game, the NES match-three puzzle game Yoshi, was made by Game Freak, who would go onto create Pokemon five years later.