Everyone has their favorite videogame mascots from Mario and Link, to Sonic and Crash Bandicoot, but what about the other mascots that just faded into obscurity like the thousands of boy bands that weren’t NSync or BackStreet Boys? Not that these mascots had a fighting chance, as we found out. All of these characters below are so ridiculous in premise that you wondered how they even got past the drawing board.
So what defines a videogame mascot? Only characters used in some capacity to represent a gaming company were included. That means guys like Boogerman, James Pond, and even Yo! Noid were eliminated. Had we included them, this list would have been the top 1069.
We bring you the Top 10 Most Ridiculous Videogame Mascots of All Time.
10.) Jinborov Karnovski (Karnov)
First game: Karnov (1987)
Mascot for: Data East
Karnov is one of the most unlikely candidates to grace mascotship. He looks like a mash-up of Mr. Clean and Buddha. On a roid rage. Yet for whatever reason, Data East saw so much potential in Karnov, that after his first outing in his self-titled game, he was given a promotion. He went on to have cameos in various games produced by Data East over the years, including Fighter’s History, a knock off of Street Fighter 2. Oddly he was portrayed as a villain in Bad Dudes, so he seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, not unlike the random heel turns you see in WWE. He does have some cool abilities, like spitting fire, and even flying. But when it comes down to it, no matter what power-ups you give him, he was never that appealing. Though someone at Something Awful sure must love him.
First game: Zool (1992)
Mascot for: Amiga 1200
Gremlin, a popular game developer from the 80-90’s wanted in on the mascot hysteria, and created Zool for the Amiga 1200 gaming system, somehow believing it could stand up against Sonic and Mario. Zool is a “Ninja of the ‘Nth’ Dimension”. He’s combination ninja and alien… yes, a Ninjalien. Conceptually that sounds like every fanboy’s dream, but the character was designed with no mouth or nose, or personality. What did stand out – extremely gaudy looking attire, with oversaturated reds, greens and yellows. Unfortunately, the character never really caught on partly because the game he was featured in was so difficult, most people couldn’t get past level 2. That seems to be a sure fire way to turn gamers into anti-fanboys for your newly appointed mascot. No doubt, the fact that it was a mascot for a highly obscure gaming system didn’t help. Apparently Amiga didn’t give up on their baby so easily, as a sequel was made, and it featured a female ninjalien called Zooz. My guess is that these are the same people who created Yaddle, the female Yoda.
8.) Titus the Fox
First game: Titus the Fox: To Marrakech and Back (1992)
Mascot for: Titus Interactive
Most US gamers aren’t too privy to the Titus empire, though they did become infamous for later acquiring Interplay when that company was in its final “Hindenburg” days. We forgive you if you never heard of Titus the Fox. On paper, the concept of a cute fox seemed like a good idea. But in implementation, everything about Titus feels like a knock off of other mascots, as he if was assembled in China by Knock Off, Inc. Despite some crazy adventures like riding magic carpets, and befriending camels and snakes, it didn’t cover up Titus’ ho hum charm. The games that featured Titus weren’t that hot either, as IGN once called called Titus the Fox on Game Boy Color as “the textbook case for How Not to Make a Platform Game 101.”
Perhaps Titus the Fox was designed for French appeal, after all Titus was a French company. That being said, Titus had as much American appeal as Asterix, another French created character. Or… Rayman.
First game: Rayman (1999)
Mascot for: Ubisoft
Speaking of French sensibility that we don’t get… Ubisoft was pretty keen at one point in pushing Rayman to be their rep. While the whole Rayman series was built on some really outstanding gameplay, unlike these other mascot games, the character never really caught on. Can you blame Ubisoft for ultimately shifting focus away from Rayman to Raving Rabbids? Kinda sucks to get second billing in your own game… IGN and GameSpot have both clearly suggested that future Ubisoft games could completely eliminate the Rayman character. Harsh.
There’s something about Rayman as a character that seems really off putting. He seems perpetually happy, in a naïve carefree sort of way, but there doesn’t seem good reason to why that’s the case. He had no limbs, and his nose would have given Opus the penguin a complex. He’s not quite human, not quite an animal, and not quite normal.
First game: Plok (1993)
Mascot for: Software Creations
Rayman then leads right into Plok, another character that had no limbs. Note to all game publishers: If you ever concoct a mascot, add on 10 limbs to be safe. Gamers LOVE limbs. Plok completely takes the cake and bakery when it comes to being nondescript. He looks like something that a 3rd grader created in art class, and was limited to working with just Play-Doh and googly eyes. While I’m sure the character was designed to be cute as a button, there’s something creepy about the dude. Perhaps it’s the bloody hangman’s hood that he wears…
First game: The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy (1991)
Mascot for: Codemasters
My sense is that Dizzy was an idea that a toy company threw away, because they thought Mr. Potato Head would have more appeal. Dizzy appears to have been inspired by Humpty Dumpty, and Codemasters felt like it was high time that “H.D.” got with gaming. Not many US gamers got to enjoy a Dizzy outing in videogame land, partly because Codemasters was predominantly a UK gaming publisher. The box art on old Dizzy games claimed he was the “U.K.’s #1 video game hero.” This of course was before Lara Croft came along, another U.K. created character, and proved that breasts are much more appealing than eggs.
First game: Dragon Quest (1986)
Mascot for: Enix
You knew that Slime would make this list, didn’t you? It’s the most loved ectoplasm for the best-selling videogame series in Japan. It’s amazing that of all the characters they could have elevated to mascot, considering that the characters were designed by the same guy who created Dragonball, they chose the one that Akira Toriyama-san must have created as a last minute desperate attempt to fill a minimum quota in art submission. He’s probably laughing every day a check comes in for all the royalty he makes whenever Enix hypes Slime. Despite the fact that Slime shows up in every Dragon Quest game, he’s also usually the weakest enemy you have to dispatch, which is all the more insulting. Since Enix was acquired by Square, Slime’s symbolic position has been quietly shuffled off, like poor ol’ grandma who was sent to the nursing home.
3.) Johnny Turbo
Mascot for: TurboDuo
Now Hudson was onto something big with Bonk, their first true mascot for the TurboGrafx-16 system. But then, something wonky happened when NEC/Hudson introduced the Turbo Duo. Rather than continue to push Bonk, and his offspring Air Zonk, they created a whole new character who looks like Kevin Smith recruited as the 5th Ghostbuster. Believe or not, Johnny Turbo is based on a real person, a game developer at that. A person, who to this day, must LOVE the fact that a company bet their next gen console system on his birds nest beard, and beer gut. Johnny Turbo was promoted heavily during the 90s, even if was a brief stint. The whole concept was that he was out to warn gamers of diabolic game companies (such as “FEKA”, a thinly disguised parody of Sega) that were trying to convince you to buy their inferior console systems. Johnny Turbo would say things like “Don’t let them mislead you! The Turbo Duo is the first CD game system on the market.” The ironic thing is, even the real life Johnny thought that the character was “petty” and “overly confrontational”. The more you saw the ads, the more you were convinced that this was the last system you ever wanted. Which is too bad, because it really was a pretty darn amazing console.
Mascot for: Electronics Boutique
To think a whole generation of gamers today were spared the mercy of Elbo. You luck gamedoggers! At one point in time, Electronics Boutique, a gaming retailer that later was acquired by GameStop, wanted in on the mascot craze, so they conjured up, what I’m sure they must have thought was too clever to be true, a dog boy name Elbo. Get it? ELectronics BOutique. To be extra cool, they gave him a skateboard. But wait! That’s just too much cool for gamers to handle. So they also gave him extra thick nerd glasses. Whew, that’s better. It was never really clear why they ultimately abandoned Elbo and sent him to the pound. Perhaps the demographics for gamers grew up. Or perhaps Electronics Boutique grew up. Either way, humankind was saved from another ridiculous mascot.
First game: Pac-Man (1980)
Mascot for: Namco
The funny thing is, despite the fact that half the crew at The Kartel here fought to save Pac-Man from this list, the more they tried to rally for him, the more they talked themselves into realizing that, yeah, Pac-Man makes for a lousy mascot. The issue at hand was that ol’ Pacster is an icon, and once you reach that status, people overlook how silly it is that you are so admired. But let’s cut to the chase: Namco banked their whole company on a ¾ a piece of pie. Over the years, as gaming technology improved, and gamer standards went up, Namco attempted to add some personality, and limbs, to their much loved character. The problem is that it still looks like a piece of pie. With limbs. Which I guess goes to show you that you can’t just slap limbs on anything and it works. Seems like I was proven wrong… While Namco today doesn’t tout Pac-Man as prominently as it did in its yesteryears, he still lives on, and still shows up on every conceivable gaming platform in existence. The problem with holding onto icons from the glory years is that it prevents a company from moving on and finding a character that connects with a new generation of gamers.
That being said, the concept of gaming mascots has pretty much gone by the way side. Perhaps gamers grew up. Or perhaps the gaming industry feels the need to tout other things that tickle gamers’ funny bone, ie. awesome graphics! Crazy violence! Either way, despite this list being the bottom of the barrel for mascots, it’s still one big nostalgia piece for an era that I kinda miss.