The story behind the Goomba’s Japanese name is complicated and seems confusing for non-Japanese people and Japanese people alike. The character’s Japanese name, Kuribō (クリボー), comes from the Japanese word for “chestnut,” kuri (栗), and bō (坊), an affectionate suffix essentially meaning “guy” or “boy.” If you are reading that and feeling surprised that the character’s name doesn’t mean “mushroom,” you’re not alone. However, people in Japan have always thought these little guys look like chestnuts. In fact, during a 2012 edition of Nintendo’s Iwata Asks feature, then-president Satoru Iwata was surprised to learn from Takashi Tezuka, senior Nintendo officer, that despite how he’d always viewed these characters, they’re supposed to be shiitake mushrooms.
Iwata: By the way, is it a coincidence that the Goomba looks like a mushroom?
Tezuka: It’s a shiitake mushroom!
Iwata: It’s a shiitake? (laughs) So it’s not a chestnut?
Tezuka: That’s right. (laughs)
The fungal origins of the Goomba got a minor viral moment again in 2015, when an automated bot speaking as Kinopio-kun, the mascot for Nintendo’s LINE account, identified Goombas as being mushrooms and not chestnuts, to the surprise of some Japanese Nintendo fans.