In games, as in life, a picture can tell a thousand words. Sometimes, all one needs is merely the sight of a favorite character to know something great from their favorite company is on the horizon, if it isn’t already there. These character representations – these mascots – might seem frivolous, but they serve as important ambassadors for the brand at-hand and to the population at-large. Take Mario, a humble plumber who once only wanted to rescue his darling from a gorilla’s barrel-throwing grasp. Since then, his name and likeness have become synonymous with Nintendo. Sure, the company could exist without him, but would they want to? It’s a moot question, as Mario is well-rooted in our world today and isn’t going away any time soon. Mario is but one example of a favorite video game mascot, and for this next #Listmas theme, here are my picks for others that are less inclined towards the art of pipe maintenance.
Vault Boy/Vault Girl
Technically, the Vault Boy (and eventually the Vault family of characters) is the mascot of Vault-Tec, a corporation in the Fallout universe responsible for the creation of underground bunkers designed to save (portions of) humanity in the event of nuclear war. His smiling face advertises and supports Vault-Tec’s ventures, and his likeness appears prominently throughout each Fallout world, sometimes as a virtual guide, sometimes as a physical object. Given the sheer prominence of Vault-Tec in Fallout lore, it’d be hard to imagine the franchise without the Vault characters.
As the official mascot of Bandai Namco Entertainment, Pac-Man is as well traveled as a character without appendages can be! Who’d have imagined some thirty years ago that a ravenous, yellow disc would not only become famous worldwide, but would also come represent an entire brand?? It’s rather amazing in hindsight. Today, the character of Pac-Man, along with the infamous ghost quad of Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, is as recognizable as any character in a game or otherwise. Pac-Man has been everywhere, on screens small and large; on mugs, t-shirts, hats, and apparel galore; waving to gleeful crowds; and turned upside-down (or would that be right-side up?) by artists and makers alike. In the world of branding, simple is often the best approach, and the design of Pac-Man serves as the perfect example of a simple concept that paid off in droves.
I suppose that for most “Samus” would be the most prevalent answer to the question “what character could be considered the mascot of the Metroid franchise?” The space pirate Ridley would also be a good choice. But, in terms of being both recognizable and unique, the Metroid itself fits the bill perfectly. In the series, Metroids, the parasitic creatures that look like floating jellyfish, don’t have the best reputation. However, they come to redeem themselves, in a manner of speaking, and become more friend than enemy to everyone’s favorite intergalactic bounty hunter. They may not make for the most photogenic mascots, but let’s face it, we’d be calling these games something else entirely if it weren’t for the memorable Metroids.
I’ve spoken at length on this site about Yoshi as one of my all-time favorite characters, and he’s my favorite mascot, too. Granted, he sits as a crowded table of familiar faces – not the least of which are Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad. But whenever I see Yoshi in relation to a Nintendo game, I know that he’s bringing something a little different to that table. His mascot-ship is defined by mechanics that mean more than just running and jumping. With a Yoshi game, you get eggs, aiming, and interesting…and yes, annoying companions (lookin’ at you, baby Mario). You get worlds filled with distinctive ideas and interesting goals. And most of the time, you get multiple Yoshis! Because Yoshi is not just a singular entity – he represents his entire species. That’s no small feat for a single dinosaur with an insatiable appetite and infinite egg-laying capabilities. Indeed, Yoshi is, and always will be, one of a kind, for his kind!
Lede image take by author during PS3 gameplay of Pac-Man in Namco Museum, Vol.1 (© Bandai Namco Entertainment).