Super Mario inside Computer Case

The Final Countdown: Top 5 Video Game Mascots

Last Updated on March 1, 2024

You either love video game mascots, or they pass you by. But if you’re a fan of these cultural cheerleaders, which one is best?

We all like to gather around something. A lovely pub bar for instance, or row after row of classic cars in a field, or perhaps the strobe lighting at an illegal barn rave from back in the day. We’ve all been there and we often try to personify something of it, anthropomorphising the thing into a cuddly costume which can be worn and loved on public occasions. We make mascots and our eternal internal five year old loves them. Unless we are looking at a rival mascot in which case they are vulgar and pathetic.

This causes a problem when listing them because if you are a fan of say, Sega like me it means that 5th place, or last place as we are going to call it today, is going to have to go to Nintendo. Let’s not make a fuss.

5: Mario, Various Nintendo

If any of the characters here have earned the merit to attend this list then it is this chirpy fella. Not a particularly good-looking guy, although ostensibly happy; Mario is basically just a massive dad-bod in dungarees. But he is the epitome of Nintendo and that means a sense of quality and craftsmanship which have become grafted to him. He wears it well too. You get the idea he would actually be a good plumber if he ever got a day off adventuring to get on with some honest labour. To be honest I’ve known people on the dole whose days are not dissimilar. They said they were plumbers too.

Now, I do personally find him a little prosaic, and I have monkeyed around with the idea of giving this place to Donkey Kong as he was something of a proto-mascot, but that isn’t enough and I couldn’t think of another good reason. Mario starred in Super Mario World and that is reason enough for position 5 here.

Now it gets messy.

4: Adopted Mascots, PlayStation 1

All new, all-conquering and all out of official mascots. It didn’t hurt the brand and certainly didn’t stop a few nearly mascots from appearing. A whole adopted family of minor mascots in fact. It worked rather well. When I think Sega, I think Sonic. When I think PlayStation, I think of a host of faces.

Crash Bandicoot of course. Yes, for the youngsters, but not really for this.

Lara Croft, who has already shown up in a top five character list of mine recently. She was everywhere, and even on the Saturn first, but her home was with PlayStation.

Solid Snake. Another top five attendee and a ubiquitous, if late addition to the family.

Squall. The face of Final Fantasy VII. The face of PlayStation role-playing. The hair of a generation.

Pa Rappa the Rappa. Paper thin rapping hound that was apparently the darling of the PlayStation scene for a good month.

Robbit of Jumping Flash. Only kidding.

Reiko Nagase of Ridge Racer. No hold on, she gets her own position.

3: Reiko Nagase, Ridge Racer Type 4 et al

If the PlayStation had a real mascot, it was Reiko. But she was there for the race fans first and foremost. Racing games, for all their popularity and brilliance, have almost always failed to deliver a sense of personality about themselves. It is about the driving after all, but it can leave the overall experience a little sterile around the edges. Like the tone that Radio Times goes for. You get the data, but there is no real humanity to it.

Reiko Nagase dealt with that for Namco, and Ridge Racer Type 4 was the disco ball homecoming of their pit lane, pin-up girl. Bright white dress, headphones and an almost goofy smile. A perfect cheerleader to a game that existed to power slide a smile around your face and keep it there, tip-to-toe, from case art to pedal down. And Reiko was a proper mascot. You don’t get to play as her, she is just there, pretending in pre-rendered scenes that one of her heels has snapped and the only taxi worth her time taking is a passing racing car. It could be you, but you would need to be in first place…

And there you go. A mascot in its purest form. Unplayable, but somehow attainable. Unlike my number two which runs on cylinders all marked Emotional.

2: Nights, NiGHTS into Dreams

My most greatest of games fronted by that most brilliantly failed of mascots, running on that most brilliant failure of a machine. Lots of little memories lined up in a row for me…

Like so much to do with the Saturn and Sega at the time, the romance wasn’t uncalled for. NiGHTS was an outstanding creation of character, the sort of spirited thing that you wouldn’t trust at the back end of a midnight wander through a woodland, but by which you just couldn’t help but be intrigued.

Brilliant, but intrigue doesn’t sell machines, and Nights was most certainly set up to do that. He/It even had a whole new analogue controller made-to-measure to best take advantage. It worked very well, in fact, the whole thing worked brilliantly, but brilliant is not the same concept as actual money in the bank, and so he worked atrociously, setting back the wider brand of Sega a whole load of R&D time. But that was the thing about Nights, he/it failed but at the highest possible standard.

Nights was the perfect face for the bordering-on esoteric games machine that Sega had produced. Worth your time but a lonely walk. Some would see it as a shame, but I say, whatever, NiGHTS is the greatest game ever made so coming second here is no problem.

The problem is, what beats it? The only thing more Sega.

1: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog onwards…

That colour, that attitude, that speed; the marrying of inspiration from Sega of Japan to the common sense and good logic from Sega of America. If you were around to see the arrival of Sonic the first time around then you got to see something no one had seen before, in or outside of the arcade, if you could keep up with him. He played faster. Than anything.

He is the ultimate video game mascot.

In pure terms, there had not been a mascot like Sonic before, in gaming, or frankly anywhere, and there simply hasn’t been anything to match him since. Lara could sell a PlayStation or two, but Sonic sold an entire industry. Even Nintendo had to pay attention.

I am not going to argue his brilliance from a deconstruction of Sonic himself, or his gameplay, because it is irrelevant. And I am not to argue from a position of statistics because I don’t know any. I am going to argue from the position of having eyes, ears and the logos of common sense. All of your favourite games and characters, plus mine too, they don’t hold against the impact of Sonic and how complete he was as a mascot; so good that not even Sega could do it again. See above and marvel back down again.
When Sega got it right they got it more right than anyone.

About the author

John is a writer and gardener. He comes with various 90's Sega attachments and is the author of The Meifod Claw and other works. His favorite tree is a copper beech and he would like his coffee black without sugar, thank you.

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