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
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:
- Is a Funny Animal, usually with a Species Surname. (i.e., Sonic the Hedgehog, Spyro the Dragon)
- Comes from a Platform Game.
- 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 This can be as mild as using totally bogus outdated slang, or as egregious as giving the character a love of "extreme" sports, fast food, or anything else with supposed "youth appeal."
- 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.
- Is competent and violent, but not to child-unfriendly levels. He's also not allowed to swear, but will do his best to anyway.
- 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.
- 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
. 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, this trope is all but discredited
, except in parodies, with Conkers 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 Nineties Anti-Hero
, who hails from the same era and Overused Copycat Character
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Anime & Manga
- Aero the Acro-Bat to an extent, though his games are fairly well-remembered.
- Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel, a spin-off of this game.
- The video game adaptation Avoid The Noid.
- 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.
- Blinx the Time Sweeper 's titular character averts this. He may be an anthropomorphic cat, but he doesn't have the personality traits to make him a Mascot with Attitude. Rumor has it that Microsoft was poised to make Blinx the mascot of the Xbox before the game bombed, though the sequel is generally agreed to be a vastly better game.
- The self-titled protagonist of Bonk is one of these.
- 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') 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! And how- 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 slower than a turtle.
- Cool Spot is a borderline example. He's more laid-back, 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. 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.
- Donkey Kong eventually became this in the Donkey Kong Country series.
- Super Meat Boy is an affectionate homage to this type. He is relentless in trying to get back bandage girl through his platform game, and because he has no skin he has the power to slide slowly down walls. Great game though.
- 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. Notable for still expanding to this day with sequels that don't suck.
- 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.
- The game also predates the first Sonic game by a few months.
- Rocky Rodent was Sonic with super hair powers.
- 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.
- Another one from the Genesis, the titular Socket is a duck with… an electric plug coming from his butt? Seriously?
- 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.
- Sparkster. Subverted in that he is actually much more down-to-earth and acts much like what you would expect from a cartoony animal.
- Spyro the Dragon is similar to Crash (they've even crossed over once or twice). 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.
- Similarly, 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 moralising 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).
- Mr Nutz, if only on the box art, 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 SNES game itself took place deep in the Sugar Bowl, and the in-game character was almost too cute.
- Punky Skunk for the PS1. Granted, it's fun to wander around as a skunk and spray baddies to apparent death, but the packaging did invoke this explicitly.
- The title character of the mercifully forgotten Sega CD platformer Wild Woody. He's an extreme pencil. We don't even know.
- High Seas Havoc on the SEGA Genesis, though this one was actually pretty good, if Nintendo Hard.
- 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.
- Parodied by the "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.
Parodies And Deconstructions
- The duck from the Drunk Duck comics site comes complete with smug expression and crossed arms indicative of his 'tude.