It’s common for names and terms to get changed during the game localization process. Usually this happens when the name needs to evoke a certain sense or convey a certain meaning that would be lost in a straight translation. Other times, names might change due to lack of information or context.
Sometimes these name changes don’t stay consistent, though, especially in long-running series. So I thought I’d start a list here of localized game names that changed or reverted later on for whatever reason.
The following list isn’t complete – in fact, I expect it’ll keep growing over time. So if you can think of any other examples, let me know in the comments!
This is probably one of the most famous examples out there:
In Final Fantasy VII, one of the main characters is known in Japanese as エアリス (earisu). This was translated into English as “Aeris”, which sounds relatively close to the Japanese name when pronounced out loud.
However, I’ve heard that the Japanese name was meant to be a reference to the term “Earth”, which makes some sense in the context of the game. In addition, the Japanese language doesn’t have a “th” sound, so an “s” sound is usually used in its place when necessary. With this in mind, one pseudo-pronunciation/transcription of エアリス would be earith.
The original “Aeris” translators probably weren’t aware of this “Earth” connection and were thrown off by the s/th issue. But when later Final Fantasy VII-related games and media were released, the translators took these things into account. And so she’s been known as “Aerith” ever since.
In the Japanese Rockman games, the benevolent inventor is known as ライト博士. The problem is that there’s no clear distinction between L and R in Japanese, so this name could be written in English in many different ways, such as:
- Dr. Right
- Dr. Light
- Dr. Wright
All three are valid spellings, but without inside knowledge, how would you know which one is the correct, intended spelling?
This confusion is why the character has gone by all three names throughout the English Mega Man games:
The name has bounced around from one to another over the years, but it seems to have settled on “Dr. Light” in English now:
But, as we can see above, the confusion still lives: it appears “Dr. Right” is the preferred spelling in Japan. Maybe? I dunno.
In Japanese, the main villain of the Zelda series is named ガノン (ganon). Whenever the name was written out in English in the early Japanese games, it was spelled “Gannon” for whatever reason.
Because of this Japanese precedent, the “Gannon” spelling was used in the first English Zelda game too. But after that, it was spelled “Ganon”, even when the Japanese games used “Gannon”.
In short, this is sort of the reverse of the other examples in this list: a pre-established name was “fixed” after its first localized release, while the established name remained in use in the original Japanese games.
One of the iconic enemies in the Zelda series is called the モリブリン (moriburin), a combination of the words mori (“forest”) and goburin (“goblin”). The Japanese manual for the first Zelda spelled this in English as “Molblin”, and this English spelling was used in almost all of the official games and merchandise released outside of Japan.
But at some point, for some reason, the name became standardized as “Moblin” in later English games and English materials.
This enemy’s English name has been “Moblin” since the third game’s release, as far as I know. I don’t know if it’s also replaced the “Molblin” spelling used in Japanese materials, though.
In MOTHER 2, the Japanese version of EarthBound, the main character’s rival is known as ポーキー (pōkī). However, because the Japanese language has trouble dealing with English “vowel + R” sounds, the character’s Japanese name could be written in English in several different ways. But the translators could only choose one and hope it was right.
In EarthBound, this character’s name was translated as “Pokey”, which is relatively close to the pronunciation of the Japanese name. No one really thought much about Pokey’s name until a decade later, when MOTHER 3 was released in Japan. It quickly became clear that ポーキー (pōkī) was intended to be spelled “Porky”.
Once this intended spelling was finally made clear, “Pokey” became “Porky” in every EarthBound-related game released afterward.
Just as there were “Aeris vs. Aerith” fan arguments back in the day, EarthBound fans have had plenty of arguments about “Pokey vs. Porky” too. Some fans even use the two names as a way to indicate which game they’re talking about, with “Pokey” referring to his early self and “Porky” as his later self.
In the Japanese version of the original Super Mario Bros., Princess Peach is the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom. When the game was localized into English, she was renamed Princess Toadstool to fall in line with the game’s mushroom theme.
Years later, Nintendo decided to revert the name back to Princess Peach:
This makes me wonder how the name was handled in other languages too. Here’s what a bunch of the names for the princess were in other regions:
Did the princess’s name undergo even more changes in other languages before Super Mario 64? Or did some regions switch to “Peach” earlier or later? Let me know in the comments!
This tenacious but incompetent villain first appeared in Final Fantasy VI. In Japanese, his name is オルトロス (orutorosu), which is what we know in English as Orthrus/Orthros, the brother of Cerberus in Greek mythology.
Mythological names are spelled and pronounced different in Japanese and in English, so the English translator didn’t make the connection at the time. Instead, the enemy was named “Ultros”, which is an understandable attempt at converting the Japanese name into English.
The enemy became a fan favorite and appeared in many other Final Fantasy-related games since. But, thanks to the Internet and improved communications, later translators realized the mistake and decided to change Ultros’ name back to “Orthros”. There’s been some pushback from fans attached to the Ultros name, though, so there’s been a constant back-and-forth between the two names ever since:
The handling of this specific name has been so messy and inconsistent that I feel it almost deserves its own article that would need regular updates.
Another common enemy in the Zelda series is known in Japanese as the ゾーラ (zōra). Because L and R are sort of interchangeable in Japanese, the name was given the English spelling “Zola” in the Japanese manual.
This Zola name was used in the first two English Zelda games and in all other related merchandise and media.
Starting with the third game, however, the name has been spelled “Zora” instead:
This is another unusual case, though – the Japanese version of the third game also spells it as “Zora”. So how and why did this name change? Did someone on the Japanese side simply make an inconsistent L/R swap, as is so common? Or did someone on the English side suggest the change? I’d love to learn the reason behind the new name.
The above examples are just ones that I could easily remember off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are many, many more. I’d like update the list with new examples from time to time, so if you know of any other localized names that got changed or fixed later on, let me know!
If you enjoyed this article, you'd probably love my Legends of Localization books - I look at all sorts of stuff along these same lines. You might also like how the "Lost Woods" gets so many different names in translation!