I’ve often thought long and hard about mascots—most recently because I’ve been playing the crap out of the PC version of Digital Eclipse’s splendid Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, which is a collection of thirteen Ninja Turtle games that span the arcades, Nintendo Entertainment System, Gameboy, Sega Genesis, and Super Nintendo. Beyond the games themselves, the Turtle’s Lair section on the main menu, which contains oodles of information on how all these Turtles games came to be and were ultimately developed. Moving past the memes and jokes, the word mascot is derived from the French word “mascotte,” meaning “lucky charm,” but probably even goes further back to the Latin term “masca” or “mask”. The modern iteration of mascots has been a part of Western society since the late 1960s, when the beloved Muppets came on the scene. These larger-than-life puppets represented something novel: cute and cuddly corporate ambassadors (such as we see today with the Geico Gecko and the beloved Phillie Phanatic). Corporations soon realized that mascots could also offer great potential outside the sports field...such as in the realm of video games.
That brings us to the crux of this article: cool, mascot-themed games that are currently available to play on mobile devices.
My first pick is a game that I reviewed last week: Tom and Jerry: Chase. This enjoyable and rather nostalgic one-versus-four chase game unfortunately gets bogged down by microtransactions.188520 Tom and Jerry are the oldest mascots on this list; they’ve been around since the 1940s, but they didn’t really achieve mascot status until the mid-1970s when Hanna-Barbera Productions sanitized them for broader Saturday morning network consumption. It was when they were dumbed down to this safe, friendly mode that they were deemed suitable to be slapped on bedsheets and lunch boxes, but this iconic duo is everywhere now. Hence the big-budget video game and the HBO Max movie release in 2021. And thus, their brutal game of cat and mouse lives on and on and on. Before we get into my next choice, I have to be completely honest: I’ve never liked Naruto. At all. My kids loved him and watched the show incessantly back in the day, but I always found his English-dubbed voice grating and his overall attitude insufferable. I’m not even going to talk about the goofy way he runs, because no real human runs like that. Realistically, I just wanted to punch him in the face and tell him he couldn’t be Hokage no matter how much he went on about it. Regardless of own personal disposition towards Uzumaki-san, it seems that many people dig the mobile MMORPG Naruto: Slugfest. Even I can’t deny that it’s a good amount of MMO fun...even if it does have its odd quirks. 178299 For one thing, the title seems to be indicative of a fighting game rather than an MMO. On top of that, Slugfest appears to be standing on the back of Ubisoft’s underrated Naruto: Rise of a Ninja, which was released on the Xbox 360 all the way back in 2007. One could argue whether Naruto is truly Bandai Namco’s mascot these days—I would say that he counts as a mascot-in-the-running, but he would still have to take down my old friend Pac-Man for the top honors. There was a time in the late ’90s when a bandicoot named Crash was handed the keys to the PlayStation kingdom. He was their darling boy, the heir to the mascot empire as Sony’s newfangled PlayStation console flourished. Hell, he even went as far as to take the piss out of Nintendo’s esteemed Mario...and people loved him for it. Now Crash and his gal pal Coco have been reborn on mobile devices in Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!, a spiffy-looking endless runner. The endless runner concept totally works in the context of his universe. On the Run! initially seemed to have a bevy of issues (and a glut of the dreaded microtransactions), but those problems have been reined in with several quality-of-life updates since the game launched in March 2021. 194754
Speaking of launch, Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! was downloaded by thirty million people right out of the gate. To me, both those things only go to show that folks still give a damn about one of the most entertaining video game mascots who’s still flipping, spinning, and dashing through all kinds of obstacles.
In today’s world, Mario and Sonic go together like peas and carrots...but it wasn’t always like that. Oh, no sir, it wasn’t. There was this little thing called the Console Wars in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and neither Nintendo nor Sega asked for quarter—and no quarter was given. While Nintendo ultimately came out on top of this knock-down-drag-em-out battle, Sega is still out there doing its Sega thing. Regardless, Mario the Plumber and Sonic the Hedgehog are still two of the most popular and recognizable video game mascots in the world today. Mario’s popularity still outstrips Sonic’s by a wide margin, even though the azure hedgehog’s two recent forays into the film world were extremely successful. And while almost everyone knows their console games, what kind of games do these two star in for mobile devices? For starters, Mario is front-and-center in Mario Kart Tour, the mobile version of the ever-popular Mario Kart series. It follows the same formula as the console versions, with Mario and his various friends and enemies racing around on colorful, crazy tracks in colorful, crazy vehicles. 79033 The Mario Kart games have been a blast to play since 1992 and this one is no different. Just be sure to play with a controller if you have one for your device; otherwise you’re going to be pulling your hair out on several of these tracks. If anything, Mario Kart Tour should be even more popular now that the gacha pipe nonsense has been removed. So what can be said about Sonic at the Olympic Games, the most recent mobile game featuring the Blue Blur? Well, it’s similar to Mario Kart Tour in that it is filled with both Sonic’s friends and enemies. Other than that though, this title is just a series of Olympic-themed minigames (running, skeet shooting, climbing, diving, karate, table tennis, etc.) interspersed with some basic platforming levels. 168733 These kinds of games have been around since the early ’80s, when Epyx’s Summer Games hit the scene, so there’s not much new to be found in Sonic at the Olympic Games. What’s here is quite enjoyable in short spurts, though. Although I found the running events a bit of a weird inclusion, because realistically, who is going to beat the hyper-fast Sonic in a footrace?
Love ’em or hate ’em, mascots are here to stay in some form or another. I’ve always loved a good mascot-led game and look forward to the day when they are the norm once again, taking over the current trend of arena shooters and their ilk.
Hey, a boy can dream, right?
💬 What are some of your favorite mascots—in the video game realm or otherwise? Do you have a specific memory or game that’s tied to a certain mascot? Let’s see what YOU have to say down in the comments!