Mascot with Attitude

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The character that launched a thousand copyhogs.

Being a role model is overrated. I'd much rather be... hilariously edgy!
Sonic the Hedgehog, "Role Models", Sonic Boom

There was a time, largely in the mid-Nineties, when the world of video games was overrun with a certain type of character. The Mascot with Attitude is a snarky Funny Animal with kickin' powers, improbable jumping abilities, and usually some form of girlfriend or world to save (or something). Generally, the Mascot with Attitude can be defined by the presence of three or more the following traits:

  1. Is a Funny Animal, usually with a Species Surname. (e.g., Sonic the Hedgehog, Spyro the Dragon)
  2. Comes from a Platform Game.
  3. Is Totally Radical. This can be as mild as using totally bogus outdated slang, or as egregious as giving the character a love of "extreme" sports, fast food, sneakers, or anything else with supposed "youth appeal."
  4. Is quippy, snarky, and prone to making lots of really bad jokes. Bonus points if one of them is a Take That against Sonic the Hedgehog. (This trait is more likely to show up in comic book and cartoon adaptations than games, whose Excuse Plots often did without dialogue.)
  5. Is competent and violent, but not to child-unfriendly levels. He's also not allowed to swear, but will do his best to anyway.
  6. A supporting cast which reinforces his status as coolest character in the universe. Look out for an older uncool antagonist, a sidekick with a case of hero-worship, a helplessly devoted and/or snarky love interest, or a rival that's almost (but not quite) as cool as the mascot.
  7. Advertisements for his games put a lot of emphasis on said game's "intensity," especially twitch-action and "speed".

During their heyday in the 90s, almost all Mascots With Attitude were created in order to capitalize on the success of one Sonic the Hedgehog. The reason that most of these failed is that they tended to come across as The Theme Park Version of Sonic. Often a Mascot with Attitude would have said attitude at the expense of a real personality; they were frequently unable to say anything not snarky, and tended to overuse their gimmicks to the point of being Flat Characters. Many were American-made (probably because Americans love Sonic) and thus also tended to be filled with Looney Tunes-esque gags or grossout humor, as were popular in America at the time. (Sonic himself notably had neither of these things in his games.)

Nowadays, outside of Sonic, this trope is all but discredited, except in parodies, with Conker's Bad Fur Day providing the final blow (although Conker's Bad Fur Day was more a parody of cutesy woodland animal cartoons/games in general). But it's not all bad—for every weak Sonic ripoff out there, there were always a few Mascots With Attitude who managed to be entertaining characters in their own right. The trick is to keep the attitude from eclipsing their entire character, and to merely make it one of their many traits. Audiences do still like "cool" characters, just so long as "cool" isn't all they are. (Diversifying your gameplay doesn't hurt either, as many of the M.W.A.s that survive to this day tended to play, er, radically different from Sonic.)

See also: Snarky Non-Human Sidekick, a webcomic trope.

Compare Dreamworks Face, a form of Covers Always Lie in which animated characters appear to be this but only on the movie poster.

Compare '90s Anti-Hero, who hails from the same era and Overused Copycat Character.


Examples:

Played Straight

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  • Lurchi Salamander, the mascot of the German shoe factory Salamander. A mischievious but well intentioned teenage fire salamander who would go on journeys to far away places with his friends who often had to be saved by him and his overly awesome Salamander shoes. His way of defeating his opponents, usually non-anthropomorphic animals, often consisted of injuring or killing them. With blood and everything. They decided to make him a lot more childfriendly later on. After his comics were rebooted in the year 2000, he and all of his friends were left with modernized designs which included fully clothing the the amphibian characters, changing the one of them from an old man to a baby and removing Lurchi's signature hat because it was deemed outdated.

     Games (Platformer) 
  • Aero the Acro-Bat (featuring a circus acrobat... bat), though his games are fairly well-remembered.
    • Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel, a spin-off of this game. This one features a ninja squirrel.
  • The video game adaptation Avoid The Noid, featuring Domino's Pizza eponymous wacky, bunny costume-wearing mascot.
  • What do you get when you combine a mediocre Sonic the Hedgehog clone with a Green Aesop? Probably something like the Sega Genesis game Awesome Possum, whose name is as Totally Radical as it gets. The game's villain (Dr. Machino) makes no attempt to hide that he is a Dr. Eggman/Robotnik rip-off, which can be deduced just by reading his name.
  • Bart Simpson himself could be considered this in all the games he starred in the early 90's like The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants and The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World. It's worth noting that at the time, Bart was considered The Simpsons de facto protagonist and the closest thing to a mascot of the series (which was hitting its peak in popularity during that period), until the show started focusing more on Homer. As such, it could be argued that Bart was as responsible as Sonic in making this kind of character so prevalent, despite his non-gaming origins.
  • The Battletoads were a combination between this and Teenage Mutant Samurai Wombats. This was best exemplified by Rash.
  • The self-titled protagonist of Bonk (a caveman with attitude and an oversized head) is one of these, becoming the mascot of the Turbo-Grafx 16 and even getting a futuristic spinoff series called Air Zonk.
  • The ill-fated Bubsy the Bobcat is a particularly infamous example of this trope. Bubsy was played straight in his own games, but in his cartoon pilot he became a surreal extreme version of himself, quoting his newly-acquired Catchphrase (which was a throwaway remark of Bubsy's in the first game, but must have tickled one of the writers' (or more likely executives') fancy a bit more than it should) way way too often. (It's even sort of deconstructed within the pilot itself eventually when Arnold suddenly turns on Bubsy, yelling "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" after his jinxed catchphrase causes them to lose the universe-altering helmet at the very last minute.) In most cartoon openings, they have some kind of montage of what the main characters do. In the Bubsy pilot, he gets out of bed, brushes his teeth with a car buffer, eats some cereal, breakdances and does some air guitar. Cartoon Bubsy just drips attitude, y'know? He wasn't even that much like this in his original outing, being more along the lines of a Looney Tunes inspired Butt Monkey. Maybe things would have gone better if they stuck to that.
  • Bug, the titular protagonist from the Sega game Bug! He spouts cheesy, annoying one-liners almost every time he kills an enemy or when he takes damage!
  • Chester Cheetah, the painfully Totally Radical mascot for Cheetos, starred in a couple of licensed Platform Games at the time of the trend. Ironically, though the cheetah is supposed to be the fastest creature on land, in the first level Too Cool to Fool Chester literally moves more slowly than a turtle.
  • Chuck Rock is a rock-'n'-roll-playing Neanderthal with 'tude. And he was in fact the mascot of his creators, Core Design, until a lady by the name of Lara Croft came along.
  • Cool Spot is more laid-back than the typical example, doesn't speak (which eliminates the possibility of quips) and the game was more focused on exploration than speed and intensity. On the other hand, he oozes Totally Radical, much more than most on this list.
  • Crash Bandicoot is one of the few who have managed to fare better than the rest, at least in his early days. Crash himself subverts the trope as personality wise he is a goofy Idiot Hero, however marketing and cover art still portrayed him as having an attitude. Naughty Dog then went on to make the excellent 3D platformer on the PS2: Jak and Daxter (later, Jak 2 & 3) with a subversion of the mascot as the sidekick.
  • IOS platformer/character Crazy Hedgy, despite being a hedgehog, plays more in common with Crash Bandicoot, is known for wearing boxing gloves and a football helmet, and can float (double jump) by using bubble gum.
  • The Great Giana Sisters has the titular Giana's Super Mode, Punk Giana. In particular, we have Punk Giana's depiction in the original game's English cover.
  • High Seas Havoc, featuring pirate seals, on the SEGA Genesis, though this one was actually pretty good, if Nintendo Hard.
  • Attempted with Kirby of all things, with North-American promotional material trying their best to subvert his innocent nature into some sort of violent troublemaker (sometimes by just adding angry eyebrows on his face). See Kirby's section in the American Kirby is Hardcore page for examples.
  • Mr. Nutz, if only on the box art of the first game and the title screen of the second game, where this little squirrel was holding sunglasses at his hip, sporting a cocky expression, had a skinned elbow, and was perhaps throwing out a gang sign. The games themselves took place deep in the Sugar Bowl, and the in-game character was almost too cute.
  • Punky Skunk for the PS1. Invoked explicitly in the packaging, with the title character's head floating on a funky background.
  • Radical Rex. In addition to riding on a skateboard, his game actually opened up with a (voiced!) theme song that not only went on about how awesome Radical Rex is, it also threw in more synonyms for "radical" than you could shake a thesaurus at.
  • Similarly, Ratchet & Clank went side-by-side with Jak and Daxter, with Ratchet being a more downplayed example of this. Notable for still expanding to this day with sequels and even movies.
  • Ristar, is a smirking, sneakers-wearing cartoon star. He was also created by Sonic Team, so he at least has that excuse. Though, the character's increased attitude was something added into the US and European versions of the game.
  • Rockin' Kats, a Platform Game by Atlus for the NES. Its main inspiration seems to be Saturday-morning cartoons, which probably accounts for the spring-loaded boxing glove gun used in the game.
  • Rocky Rodent was essentially Sonic with super hair powers and none of the cuteness or charisma.
  • Scaler is a somewhat obscure modern example. Although his Totally Radical quippiness is especially grating, his game ain't half bad, say a few critics.
  • Sly Cooper is more or less a modern attempt at this kind of character, being way classier and more mature than the usual example (mostly thanks to not relying on Totally Radical and starring games that are the essential opposite of intense), but still keeping a cool and snarky attitude.
  • Another one from the Genesis, the titular Socket is a duck with… an electric plug coming from his butt. Yes, really. The back of the US box for the game boasted about how he's fast enough to switch off the lights and get out of the room before it turns dark and how he has more alternating current than the electric company.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog is, of course, the Trope Maker. Later on, however, the "attitude"-aspect was dialed back quite a few notches during the 2000's, and Sonic became more of a laid-back idealist who fits the trope far less than he did back in the 90's. Sonic Colors however gives him almost Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie levels of sarcasm and self-confidence.
    Dr. Eggman: "This amusement park was constructed entirely out of a sense of remorse for my past transgressions, and is in no way associated with any sort of evil plot or premeditated misdeeds."
    Sonic: "Well, that's a relief."
  • Spyro the Dragon is similar to Crash (they've even crossed over once or twice). He's a sassy, badbutt Kid Hero who frequently mocks his enemies. He underwent a brief Darker and Edgier reboot in the late 2000's that recast him in a more serious fantasy environment, before being rebooted again with the Skylanders franchise. And in Skylanders, many of the characters fit this archetype; not just Spyro.
  • Toe Jam And Earl are a pair of funky aliens who embody the Totally Radical trope of the 90's. Their games are still very memorable to this day.
  • Ty the Tasmanian Tiger. The trailers for his first game showed him beating up Sonic, Spyro and Crash with boomerangs, for one thing.
  • Wally Bear And The No Gang, a moralizing but otherwise generic platformer, has a hip skateboarding bear, who wears sunglasses and spends all his time beating up Aggressive Drug Dealers and going to parties (Straight Edge parties, you understand).
  • The titular character of the forgotten Sega CD platformer Wild Woody. He's an extreme pencil.

     Games (Other) 
  • Mohawk and Headphone Jack, though the title characters are protean Cartoon Creatures, largely keeps with the trend. This game was apparently made for players who thought Sonic the Hedgehog didn't have enough spinning things.
  • Skunny Squirrel from a series of 90s Shareware games, that ripped off whatever franchise seemed to be peaking at any individual moment. Watch Skunny eat Super-Nuts to reach super-speed and roll over enemies! Watch him bounce on enemies and collect coins, to rescue his Trademark Favorite Food pizzas from a barely-copyright-uninfringing Italian! See him take on "Sadman Insane" in inexplicably rail-shooter combat! See him race go-karts with his squad of animal friends, none of whom had ever been seen before or since, mere days before Wacky Wheels was released! Not surprising that the company who made him was called Copysoft.
  • Psycho the Aardvark from Psycho Pinball, who's never seen without a smirk.
  • In 1990, Acclaim came up with Kwirk, a tomato who sports a mohawk and wears Cool Shades and white sneakers. His only video game was a localization of Puzzle Boy, but he displayed more of the typical traits in his appearances on the cartoon The Power Team.

     Webcomics 
  • The duck from the The Duck comics site comes complete with smug expression and crossed arms indicative of his 'tude.

Parodies And Deconstructions

  • Banjo-Kazooie is something of a subversion. Both characters are adventurous funny animals, but Banjo is portrayed as a clueless and easily duped country boy. Kazooie has a sharp tongue and a tendency to snark at anyone and anything that crosses her path, in a manner typical of "straight" examples... but all the other characters (except Banjo) realize she's obnoxious and usually can't stand to be around her.
  • Conker the squirrel, at least in Conker's Bad Fur Day, is somewhere between a parody of this and the "cute and cuddly" animal mascot which he originally was to have been. His first appearance, Conker's Pocket Tales, as well as his appearance in Diddy Kong Racing, had almost none of the qualities mentioned above (only the first applied).
  • Earthworm Jim is an example of this combined with Captain Space, Defender of Earth!. As you can see, he was never meant to be taken seriously as well... Groovy!
  • Gex the gecko can also be considered a parody of the phenomenon. Sure, he had tons of quips, but he was much more tongue-in-cheek about it for the most part.
    Gex, in snowboarding levels: "I'm EXTREEEEME...ly cold."
  • Jazz Jackrabbit was generally a straight example, but his games were solid and had a bit of lampshading to it, as evidenced in the manual.
  • Max from Sam & Max, though not The Hero of his own games, had been the unofficial mascot and recurring Easter Egg cameo character for LucasArts. Even in his own games he fits the trope, particularly in contrast to Cool Old Guy Sam, though involving violence beyond the child-friendly. So much so that he's more a Heroic Comedic Sociopath than your typical Mascot with Attitude.
  • The Simpsons Game: Dash Dingo, the Australian baby-eating video game character. Specifically based on Crash Bandicoot and the story of Azaria Chamberlain, a baby girl who was killed by a dingo in the 1980s. The episode Lisa Gets an A is the first instance of the character.
  • Parodied by the fictional "Adventurous the Cat" franchise seen on various SNES cartridges in Gone Home; as a 90s period piece, it wouldn't have been complete without it.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MascotWithAttitude