Oldest Known Miyamoto Interview Reveals Nintendo Staff Loved…Donkey Kong Jr. Math

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Photo: Rodin Eckenroth (Getty Images)

A newly translated 1986 interview between Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Namco’s Masanobu Endo reveals some neat details about the games the two designers were playing at the time, what music Miyamoto was into, and his hopes for Mario’s future.

A little background on these two before we hop into the fun stuff. Shigeru Miyamoto has been with Nintendo since the ‘70s and is responsible for inventing famous characters like Mario and Donkey Kong. The creator of franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Pikmin, he’s helped shape the look of countless iconic games. Meanwhile, Masanobu Endo was a developer and designer at Namco. While he worked there he helped develop the incredibly influential arcade games Xevious and The Tower of Druaga. In 1985 he would create his own game studio and continued to work with Namco on various Wizardry and Druaga ports and original projects like the Nintendo DS’ Okamiden. At the time of the interview, Miyamoto was less experienced in the industry than Endo.

This old interview was recently translated by Shmuplations, which believes it to now be the oldest verified Miyamoto interview online. The site describes itself as a “repository” of old Japanese game developer-translated interviews and yesterday posted this wonderful conversation between Miyamoto and Endo from the February 1986 issue of Famimaga.

NintendoComplete / Nintendo

Right out of the gate, Miyamoto and Endo spend some time talking about just how great Donkey Kong Jr. Math is, with Endo admitting that while it’s “kind of old now” he always wants to play it. Miyamoto then seems to agree, adding that while it is a “simple game” it can become much more with others.

“It turns into a real rip-roaring good time when you play it with two players,” said Miyamoto. “It’s super popular among the staff at Nintendo, too.”

If you’ve played Donkey Kong Jr. Math, their sentiments may surprise you.

Miyamoto’s love of American Bluegrass music

Later in the interview, Miyamoto talks about how people who want to be game designers or directors need to be curious. Further, he says they need to try a “variety of things” and then he casually drops this nugget:

“In the past, when I had free time, I’d go to pachinko or play live music. I love this genre called bluegrass, it’s like American Enka or something.”

That’s a wild bit of trivia that you could probably use to win a few bets with friends. But even better is Endo’s response, with the Namco designer replying to Miyamoto with, “Whoa, that’s cool. That’s really awesome.” Yeah, I agree Endo. Very awesome.

Interesting to note that Miyamoto mentions in this interview that he had a wish that “Mario would keep getting used in Nintendo games.” And I think that wish definitely came true, as in 2023 we not only still get new Mario games, but are getting ready for a big-budget, animated Hollywood film starring folks like Chris Pratt and Jack Black. So, yeah, I think his wish for Mario to keep “getting used” by Nintendo came true.

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