From the Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia
Howard Phillips is a retired video game consultant, producer and tester. Phillips was a prominent figure of Nintendo of America from its founding up until the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, first acting as a warehouse manager, then taking on multiple roles during the leadup to the North American launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System, including game testing, retailler relations, and co-editor of Nintendo Power. As part of his duties, he playtested Family Computer titles to judged which games warranted exporting to the western market.
Howard Phillips would have a notable impact on the Mario franchise when he was assigned to test the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, and in contrast to his complete approval of the original Super Mario Bros., hated it, feeling the game relied too much on counter-intituive tricks and was simply too punishing to be fun. On his recommendation, Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa would pass on releasing the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, and instead comissioned the Japanese headquarters to retool the unrelated platforming game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic into a Super Mario Bros. sequel to continue the momentum of the successful Mario franchise. The reskinned Doki Doki Panic would get Howard Phillips' immediate approval in testing and get released as Super Mario Bros. 2.
Howard Phillips was also featured as himself in Nintendo Power's Howard and Nester comic. When the real Howard Phillips left Nintendo in 1991, the character would likewise leave the comic, passing his trademark red bowtie to Nester.