Gaming is struggling to find new mascots in the modern age. Seemingly sure-fire winners like Sackboy, the Miis, and Master Chief aren’t capturing people’s imagination (and more importantly their wallets) like Pac-Man, Mario, and Sonic used to. It’s good that games need to do more these days than have a marketable face on their covers, but gaming without mascots is like Uncharted without frail floorboards; it just isn’t right. In an age of reboots, remakes and reimaginations, why try to come up with something new when gaming can offer a litany of old-school heroes who deserve another day in the spotlight?
Here are five of gaming’s most notably forgotten mascots along with suggestions for how they should make their glorious returns to the fore.
Mick and Mack in PHOENIX WRIGHT: SUPER SIZED
M.C. Kids typically gets dismissed as an opportunistic clone of Super Mario Bros. 3 that was designed to shift more burgers than copies. Thing is, McDonalds barely even promoted the game. The design team made it harder than a month-old Big Mac, so reportedly the fast food chain was absolutely furious that it was too difficult for kids. Minus all the shameless in-game promotion, M. C. Kids was actually aunique and fun game that even made Mick and Mack oddly likeable. They then resurfaced in the platformer-shooter Global Gladiators, but despite good reviews, the kids soon fell off the radar and into obscurity.
Now, the big M doesn’t need any more moolah, but perhaps the kids could return another way...
How it would work: Two decades have passed since Global Gladiators, and the kids have been going to their favourite restaurant every day since. And now they’re morbidly obese. A certain clown banishes them for fear of association, but luckily a friendly lawyer called Phoenix sees the downtrodden blobs and takes them on a thrilling, family fun adventure of frivolous lawsuits and exciting resultant legislation.
Cool Spot in COOL IN 3D!!!
In the 80s, 7 Up had a mascot called Spot, a red dot with big white sneakers, tight white gloves, and a mean pair of shades, but for all his mondo gear Spot just wasn’t crunk. Whenever he starred in adverts he bumbled around like Mr Bean and squeaked like an overexcited poodle – hardly funky fresh, dawg.
Then in 1993, Spot got his own 2D platformer. The instant he appeared surfing a wave on a 7 Up bottle to a 16-bit rendition of The Surfaris’ “Wipeout" our hero had earned his new moniker of Cool Spot. With minimal squeaking and a Fonz-like languid gait, Cool Spot chilled his way through a thirst-quenching alternative platformer. Then one game later 7 Up decided he was too cool for school, and Cool Spot went from being the face of a globally recognized brand to just a red old spot. Isn’t it about time he came back? I mean who’s more bodacious, Cee Lo Green or Cool Spot?
How it would work: It starts out like Cool Spot, except suddenly the Kool-Aid Man tears through the scenery to show our hero that gaming is now in 3D!!! The camera rotates itself round and we see all the extra worlds that were hidden behind Cool Spot’s 2D sets. Now Cool Spot can collect all the tasty lemon-lime drinks secreted along the extra axis. Far out! Wow, 3D is totally the next big thing dudes!
BUBSY in 3D AIN’T PURRFECT
I kinda liked Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind. Having said that, I was a dumb kid who liked pretty much anything, and I wasn’t to know it was a cheap imitation of Sonic. Although it would’ve taken just a second’s reflection to spot the clues: the creature-with-attitude lark, the garish colours, the multi-path platforming, the cutesy enemies, and generally everything about it. True, maybe Bubsy deserves to stay forgotten, especially after his god-awful foray into 3D and that only marginally less god-awful cartoon.
But hey, we let Sonic keep his place as the cool anthropomorphic animal of gaming and look how that spiny fraud paid us back. We should finally put the hedgehog down and bring back a spurned mascot for his replacement. It would have to be an apologetic return, mind...
How it would work: It starts out like Furbitten Planet – hear me out – but suddenly Bubsy discovers a portal that takes him back into the 2D world. Now that he’s back in 2D he realises the error of his ways and as penance sets off on a quest to rescue other game mascots from their dire 2D to 3D transitions. With Simon Belmont, Mega Man and Pac-Man all safe, Bubsy then discovers the irony of his mission’s final chapter. Now it’s up to our feline hero to save a familiar blue friend, but more importantly to save the world from having to suffer any more 3D Sonic games. Sold.
Bubblun and Bobblun in BUBBLE BOBBLE IV: NOT A REMAKE
I love Rainbow Islands more than most, but it always struck me as dunderheaded on Taito’s part to transform those cutesy, cuddly, extremely marketable dinosaurs into dumpy, dungaree-clad humans with dumb haircuts. Then, just to take things up a notch, in the next game Taito gave them parasols - because the cool kids are never seen in public without their badass rainbow umbrellas.
All we ever wanted was a pair of hungry dragons with wholly illogical bubble powers, but by the time Taito had cottoned on Nintendo and Sega had already cleaned the mascot mine dry. So the bobble-eyed gluttons faded out of the limelight, but surely they had the potential to be as big as any plumber or hedgehog? We’ll never know, but now Taito have the opportunity to at least right some wrongs...
How it would work: We’re talking Mega Man 9 style: Lo-fi, old-school visuals with that same maddening 8-bit track on repeat, but not a remake. A brand new story (yes there’s a story damnit) with brand new levels, and most importantly of all glorious online co-op. Oh, and absolutely no dungarees whatsoever. Yes, this one’s actually serious. The world needs a new Bubble Bobble game.
Alex Kidd in WHO’S A KIDD NOW?
I admit, there’s a running theme here, but Sonic and Mario did leave a lot of mascots’ careers torched in their wake. Mind you, I’m sure Alex Kidd places the blame for his demise squarely on SEGA’s shoulders. The platform holder made the monkey-eared boy their headline mascot for six games and five whole years, but when Sonic arrived all that was nonchalantly forgotten. Bar a few half-assed cameos, SEGA wanted nothing more to do with the plucky lad. And look how well things worked out for SEGA.
Given the hedgehog’s stuttering career in his adult years, SEGA should admit they made a mistake and return to their first mascot for when they make their (inevitable) return to the console market.
How it would work: The game opens with a SEGA executive walking into a dimly lit diner. He sits at a table opposite a man covered in shadow. The executive says, “Look, I’m sorry. We’re sorry. But we need you back.” The shadowy man is silent. The executive continues, “We even have the most perfect cute little platformer for you to return in.” This grabs the man’s attention. As he slowly leans forward we can make out the outline of his monkey ears before he says, “No. I want to be in a first-person shooter.”
So begins the return of an all-grown-up, embittered and twisted Alex Kidd in what is widely considered to be the goriest, bloodiest, and most disillusioned shooter in gaming history. It sells 50 million copies and forces Nintendo to try their hand at an excessively violent Mario hack-and-slash. Everybody wins!
When Sinan Kubba isn’t screwing with the principles of game design he’s freelancing for places like VideoGamer.Com, The Escapist, and play.tm, hosting the Big Red Potion podcast, and tweeting way too much about Super Mario Kart.