When Mario made the jump to 16-bit, it not only brought with a new look to the franchise but also a new sidekick that would dutifully help the Mario Bros. through their adventures.
Yoshi the Dinosaur (not the Dragon!) was originally portrayed as Mario’s faithful steed, but over the years the prehistoric pal has become so much more. He has hops that rival Mario’s and prehensile tongue makes it possible to swallow nearby food– or the occasional unlucky Koopa. On top of that,Yoshi can lay eggs to use as projectiles.
Although Yoshi is still willing to do the legwork for Mario from time to time, the dino has proven to be completely capable its own, whether taking the wheel in Mario Kart or brandishing fisticuffs in Super Smash Bros. Still, it’s the curse of the sidekick to always remain in the hero’s shadow, even if they might be just as interesting. So here are 15 things you didn’t know about Mario’s green friend Yoshi.
15. Yoshi Debuted in Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo
When it came to entering the 16-bit era, Nintendo was a bit behind. The PC Engine, known as the TurboGrafx 16 in the US, had already been out a full year before Nintendo made the jump. Shortly after came the Sega Mega Drive, later named the Sega Genesis in the US. Finally, on November 21, 1990, the Super Famicom was released in Japan launching with Super Mario World. The game brought the Mario universe into glorious 16-bit.
In Super Mario World, the Mario brothers travel from their home in the Mushroom Kingdom all the way to to Dinosaur Land in hopes of stopping Bowser from wreaking havoc. It was here that the world was introduced to Yoshi for the first time. In this first showing, Yoshi acted as a ride for Mario, allowing the plumber to use the dinosaur’s unique abilities as well as take an extra hit.
14. Yoshi Was Based on a Green Dragon Who Battles Satan
Sometimes the final result is really the culmination of other past creations. In this case, the creation of Yoshi is no different. Shigefumi Hino is credited with the final creation of Yoshi, but he got his inspiration from another, obscure Nintendo character from the company’s 8-bit past. Yoshi’s model is actually based on a fire-breathing dragon called Tamagon, created by Nintendo founder Shigeru Miyamoto for the NES game Devil World.
Devil World was a top-down maze game similar to Namco’s popular arcade game Pac-Man. In the game, Tamagon must descend into the pits of Hell to take on the forces of the Devil. Just like Pac-Man, Tamagon must consume all the pellets in the maze to move on to the next level, all the while avoiding enemies on the screen. Where it differs from Pac-Man is that the maze constantly moves, threatening to crush Tamagon if he gets caught in a narrow hallway. The game was never released in the US due to Nintendo of America’s policy on showing religious symbols– the game featured a ton of Christian imagery like crosses and bibles used as weapons.
13. Miyamoto Wanted to Debut Yoshi For Years
Some creators get so committed to an idea, they’ll wait decades for the chance to make it a reality. Matthew Weiner had to wait seven years before anyone picked up Mad Men, James Cameron waited fifteen years for technology to advance before making Avatar, and Shigeru Miyamoto waited five years before the timing was right for Yoshi to become part of the Mario universe.
Ever since Super Mario Bros. came out in 1985, Miyamoto had always envisioned Mario and Luigi to have access to a mount that would help them through the Mushroom Kingdom. Unfortunately limitations with the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System made this impossible. He tried again in Super Mario 3, but developers still couldn’t make the dinosaur work with the system. To make up for this, Nintendo developer Takashi Tezuka added the Frog Suit and Raccoon Tail power-ups to replace the dinosaur’s abilities. In Official Nintendo Magazine vol. 47, Tezuka attributed Miyamoto’s love of horse-riding for his undying desire to include Yoshi in the Mario series.
12. Yoshi Has Appeared in Over 40 Games Throughout the Years
Since Yoshi’s debut in 1990, the dinosaur has gained huge popularity and made cameos in several games over the years. Although Yoshi is primarily known as a sidekick, making appearances in 11 of the Super Mario titles, the character has also appeared in his own titles. Yoshi takes center stage in games such as Yoshi’s Cookie and Yoshi’s Safari. Also, in games like Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2, Yoshi acts as the main controllable character, sidelining Mario for once.
Yoshi has also been known to pop up in games that aren’t within the Mario universe. Yoshi appears in the Donkey Kong games in Cranky’s Video Game Heroes awards ceremony and a Yoshi doll can also be seen in the Game Boy title The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
Yoshi’s likeness has also appeared in third party games as well. A Yoshi figurine can be found on a desk in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. Also, in Sonic Lost World for the Wii U, one DLC allows Sonic to travel to Yoshi Island Zone.
11. Yoshi is Not the Only Yoshi, There’s a Whole Clan
In Super Mario World, Yoshi could change into three different colors that gave the dinosaur different abilities. Red could spit fire, blue could fly, and yellow allowed for a special ground stomp. These colors could be gained either by acquiring power-ups, like floating wings that would take Yoshi to bonus levels or by finding Yoshi in Star World. Early in the game, it’s assumed that Yoshi had the ability to change color to reflect the new powers, but it turns out, Yoshi could have just been tagging in a friend all along.
The end of Super Mario World features the recently rescued Princess Peach riding on the back of Yoshi, followed by a group of eggs that somehow manage to walk at a reasonable pace across miles and miles of treacherous Dinosaur Land terrain. When the group finally reaches their destination, they are greeted by three other Yoshis (red, blue, and yellow) hopping up and down in celebration. The eggs begin to hatch revealing new additions to the Yoshi Clan in a rainbow of assorted colors!
10. Yoshi Has a Scientific Name
You read that right, Yoshi has been classified by the scientific community. Well, if you count the folks over at Nintendo as a scientific authority. In an attempt to help other licensers better promote the dinosaur, Nintendo released a character guide detailing specific backstories. Yoshi’s official scientific designation is T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas.
Yoshi was not the only one given a scientific classification. Mario has his own designation as well. Mario is of the species Homo Nintendonus, suggesting that Mario is some further evolved version of Homo Sapien and eventually humans will all grow mustaches and be able to jump twenty feet in the air.
In this guide, Yoshi is trapped in a giant egg when, one day during Mario’s daily routine of kicking turtles and pulverizing solid brick with his head, our hero cracks the egg open and rescues the captive dinosaur. The two quickly become friends, which leads to a few continuity issues since…
9. Yoshi’s Been a Sidekick Since Mario Was a Baby
In the prequel to Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2, Yoshi is called upon again to help Mario, this time defending him from the evil magician Kamek. There’s one kicker though – Mario is still in diapers.
The game begins as a stork carrying an infant Mario, along with his brother Luigi, is ambushed by the MagiKoopa Kamek. Kamek manages to snatch Luigi but misses Mario, causing him to plummet below. Luckily for Baby Mario, he lands on the back of Yoshi, taking a leisurely stroll through the jungle.
The game refers to Yoshi’s Island as “home to all Yoshis”. So does that mean the Yoshi we’ve always known is actually one of many green Yoshis that have helped Mario throughout the years?
8. Yoshi is One of the Few Members of His Clan That Can Speak Human Languages
Those that have played the Super Smash Bros. titles know that Yoshi can produce a wide range of curious sounds. From strange grunting to sharp whistles, Yoshi appears to communicate approval or disapproval from these noises. Occasionally, you can make out some semblance of words such as “Yoshi” or “Nintendo”. Games like Super Smash Bros. suggest that Yoshi has a very limited vocabulary, but other games show that he is completely capable of human speech and able to construct full sentences.
In Super Mario World, Yoshi is rescued by Mario from the confines of a shell, to which he says, “Hooray! Thank you for rescuing me. My name is Yoshi. On my way to rescue my friends, Bowser trapped me in that egg.” Other games also have Yoshi speaking in full text such as Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.
Still, other games suggest that other members of the Yoshi Species aren’t so bilingual. In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Yoshi must translate for the other members of its species so Mario can communicate with the entire clan.
7. That Saddle is Actually a Shell
Over the years, Yoshi’s appearance has changed to reflect his role in the games. In early iterations of the character, Yoshi is seen to be more dinosaur-like, resembling a Tyrannosaurus Rex with is horizontal posture and small arms. As Yoshi became more of a standalone character in games such as Yoshi’s Cookie, artists began to draw the dinosaur more upright, elongating his originally small arms to resemble something more humanoid.
One of the other big cosmetic differences found in Super Mario World is the apparent “saddle” on Yoshi’s back. According to Nintendo, this is actually a shell attached to him. The shell must be something that a Yoshi grows into, as depictions of baby Yoshi in Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U show Yoshi without anything on his back at all.
This seems to be in line with original concept art for Yoshi. As explained in Super Mario History 1985-2010, Yoshi was originally intended to be a kind of Koopa, the same turtle-like minions in the Mario series that are often seen following Bowser’s command.
6. Yoshi Has the Same Voice as K.K. Slider From Animal Crossing
Listening to Yoshi speak, you would think it comes out of some kind of weird synthesizer, but there actually is a man behind the words that come out of Yoshi’s mouth. Kazumi Totaka has been an accomplished composer for Nintendo as early as 1992. Some of his credits include Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, Yoshi’s Story and Luigi’s Mansion. But arguably his most well-known contribution is as the voice of K.K. Slider.
K.K. Slider is a character from the popular Animal Crossing series, a game Totaka also composed. Known also as Totakeke (a play on Totaka’s name), Slider is a traveling canine singer-songwriter who you meet in a local coffee shop. The songs K.K. Slider plays for you have become fan favorites, namely for the way Slider performs them, in a harmonic collection of digitized gibberish.
One of the most interesting songs Slider will play for you is K.K. Song, which is more popularly known as Totaka’s Song. Totaka’s Song is a nineteen note melody that Totaka has secretly hidden in select games over his long career. Most games require a complex series of actions to unlock the song, which has fans still searching for the song hidden in the Nintendo Library to this day.
5. Yoshi Does Not Have a Defined Gender
In most countries, Yoshi has always been referred to as a “he”, but this has always been a topic of confusion. If Yoshi is, in fact, a male dinosaur, then how exactly can he lay eggs? This hasn’t gone unnoticed by Nintendo, in fact, the company often addresses the topic by poking a bit of fun at it.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Solid Snake calls his friend Otacon when he faces off against Yoshi. He ponders the same question about Yoshi’s ability to lay eggs, deducing that Yoshi has to be female, only to later be corrected by Otacon. This occurs again in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U when Pit faces Yoshi. Viridi insists that Yoshi can’t be natural since he’s a male dinosaur able to lay eggs. Later, Palutena schools her by noting that all living creatures possess both male and female traits.
When asked, Nintendo head honcho Shigeru Miyamoto has gone on record saying that it never really concerned him whether Yoshi was male or female. Some have suggested that this is due to the original Japanese language’s lack of gender pronouns, but others prefer to see Yoshi as a gender neutral character.
4. Yoshi Reproduces Asexually
Even if Yoshi is a gender neutral character, the question then arises, how do Yoshis reproduce? We’ve seen Yoshi eggs hatch to reveal baby Yoshis in Super Mario World (that is when Yoshi isn’t throwing the eggs about like they’re hand-grenades). But if there are no male or female designations in the Yoshi species, do they reproduce asexually?
This very question is addressed in the in-game Japanese text for Yoshi’s trophy that you acquire in Super Smash Bros. Melee. In the description, the trophy confirms that Yoshis do not require two of the opposite sexes to reproduce. Furthermore, in the Chef mini-game in Nintendo’s Game and Watch Galleries 2 and 4, the goal is to continually feed Yoshi food until he is able to lay an egg. Once that egg hatches, you must feed that baby till it reaches adulthood, then repeat the cycle over and over. This has been viewed as further evidence that Yoshis consist of one fluid gender, reproducing without the need of a mate.
3. Yoshi Has a Thing Going On With Birdo
If there was ever a match made in heaven for Yoshi, it’s with Birdo. If true romance can be found in commonalities, these two are certain to find happiness.
Birdo first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES and is known in Japan as Catherine or Cathy. Birdo physically resembles Yoshi on a number of levels. Although never defined as a dinosaur, Birdo definitely some sort of lizard, possessing the same tail and back scales as Yoshi. Much like Yoshi, Birdo also produces eggs, which are often used to hurl at its enemies.
Birdo sports a bow on top of its head, but unlike Yoshi, Nintendo attempted to address Birdo’s gender early on. According to the North American instruction manual of Super Mario Bros. 2, “He thinks he is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called “birdetta.” This description was later clarified in the trophy description for Super Smash Bros. Brawl where Birdo is described as “gender indeterminate”.
Yoshi and Birdo are often paired up together in various Mario titles where they confirm rumors of their relationship with a little on-screen PDA. In Mario Tennis the two canoodle on the game’s title screen. They’re also a racing team in Mario Kart: Double Dash, where, according to the game, Birdo, “appears to be Yoshi’s girlfriend, but is actually his boyfriend!?”
2. The Live Action Version of Yoshi Was a Pain
1993 marked the cinematic release of a live-action Super Mario Bros. film. The film was okayed by Nintendo after a meeting with producer Roland Joffé, best known for directing the Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields. The film starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the title characters.
One of the film’s most memorable characters was an animatronic portrayal of Yoshi the Dinosaur as a tiny velociraptor (because apparently, Jurassic Park didn’t quite capture the softer side of giant, bloodthirsty pack hunters).
An incredible amount of detail went into the creation and operation of Yoshi. The animatronic puppet took over 100 hours to make and was capable of 64 different movements, requiring nine separate puppeteers to control.
Despite the all the work put into creating Yoshi, Super Mario Bros. was critically panned and a complete failure at the box office, losing well over $20 million. Still, the film retains a cult following among Mario fans.
1. Yoshi Appears in a Rare Game Worth Thousands
Yoshi has appeared in a number of games throughout the Mario franchise but has relatively few solo adventures. Still, one particular version of his solo puzzler title, Yoshi’s Cookie, is so rare that it’s currently worth thousands.
Originally packaged with the Panasonic Kuruppon Oven in Japan, Yosshī no Kukkī: Kuruppon Ōbun de Kukkī was an identical version of Yoshi’s Cookie with some notable additions. One mode allowed players to navigate an overhead map similar to the one found in Super Mario World. On the map, players could explore a small island as Yoshi, entering small buildings along the way. In the buildings, Yoshi would provide a tutorial, teaching players recipes to bake a number treats found in-game such as checkerboard, heart, and flower cookies.
Roughly only 500 copies of the game were ever made, making it an incredibly rare find which fetches a high price on the Japanese retro game market.