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Mascot with Attitude

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Sonic. The hedgehog that launched a thousand copyhogs.

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

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, Mascots with Attitude can be discerned by any number of the following traits:

  1. They're a Funny Animal, usually with a Species Surname. (e.g., Sonic the Hedgehog, Spyro the Dragon)
  2. They come from a Platform Game. This isn't necessarily a requirement, but the trope is not as common outside of video games.
  3. They're 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 This can be as mild as using totally bogus outdated slang, or as egregious as giving the character a love of "extreme" sports, fast food, sneakers, or anything else with supposed "youth appeal."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. They're 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. They're competent and violent, but not to child-unfriendly levels. They're also not allowed to swear, but will do their best to try anyway.
  6. They have a supporting cast that exists mostly to reinforce their 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. The advertisements for their games put a lot of emphasis on said games' "intensity," especially twitch-action and "speed".

During their heyday in the 90s, almost all Mascots with Attitude were created to capitalize on the success of Sonic the Hedgehog. The reason that most of these characters failed is that they tended to come across as The Theme Park Version of Sonic. While Sonic has attitude, it isn't his defining trait, and other aspects, like his heroism and empathy, are part of why he is so beloved. By contrast, a failed 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 Mascots with Attitude were also American-made (probably because Americans love Sonic) and, on top of less-than-stellar American designs and usually lacking some of the anime-influenced aesthetics that made Sonic unique, they also tended to be filled with Looney Tunes-esque gags or gross-out humor, both of which were rampant in America at the time, with the Looney Tunes themselves seeing a massive resurgence in popularity around the same time, and the premiere of The Ren & Stimpy Show a few months after Sonic's own debut. (Sonic himself notably had neither of these things in his games, though the American cartoon Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog included Looney Tunes-style slapstick).

Nowadays, outside of Sonic, this trope (and advertising mascots not targeted to children in general) 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 Mascots with Attitude that survived the '90s tended to play, er, radically different from Sonic.

If the Mascot with Attitude isn't the main character, they're probably a Snarky Non-Human Sidekick. Compare Dreamworks Face, a form of Covers Always Lie in which animated characters appear to have "attitude", but only in advertising material.

Sometimes, localized games (most often Japan-to-America) will attempt to infuse the mascot with "attitude" to make them more palatable to an international audience, even if it goes against the character's intended appeal. See American Kirby Is Hardcore for examples of that.

Also see '90s Anti-Hero, who thrived in comic books from the same era; Teenage Mutant Samurai Wombats, a related concept for Western Animation: and Overused Copycat Character, the concept that caused Mascots with Attitude to fall out of favor.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Lurchi Salamander, the mascot of the German shoe factory Salamander. A mischievous 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 child-friendly 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 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.
  • The Green Lantern Krkkzz Zappl is clearly based on Sonic. He's also made of living radio waves implying a level of Super Speed besides the Faster-Than-Light Travel built into the Green Lanterns Power Ring.

    Literature 
  • The Doctor Who New Series Adventures novel, Winner Takes All has a video game called Death To Mantodeans with a Sonic expy mascot called Percy The Porcupine. Turns out he's from an alien race who brought the game to Earth to recruit human players as soldiers. Sonic The Hedgehog appears listed amongst Mickey's video games, making it a case of Expy Coexistence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Australian '90s kids are likely to remember Agro, the ill-tempered puppet with a taste for crude humor who appeared in the host segments of Agro's Cartoon Connection among other shows (although as he first appeared in the '80s, he predates the trope becoming widespread).
  • WandaVision: In the episode "All-New Halloween Spooktacular!", a parody of '90s/early '00s sitcoms like Malcolm in the Middle, the fake ad in the middle of the episode was for Yo-Magic!, a Go-Gurt-esque yogurt marketed by an extremely '90s claymation shark with sunglasses, a surfboard, and a Surfer Dude accent. This being WandaVision, it quickly turns more grotesque than the Totally Radical advertising of that period normally got.

    Video Games 
  • Bomberman has its roots in the 1980s, so its eponymous protagonist wasn't initially designed as one of these. As it happens, though, the series' fast-paced and noisy gameplay fit the edgier trends of the mid-'90s perfectly—so to match, Bomberman picked up a sleeker, more dynamic redesign compared to the short, chubby Ambiguous Robot of previous games, was often seen with a cocky, confident look in artwork, began to do stereotypically "cool" things like ride motorcycles and skate, and started to pick up a large supporting cast of friends and rivals, many of whom screamed Totally Radical (just look at Max!). He even crossed over with fellow Mascot with Attitude Wario once. That said, the games released during this time frame were never as in-your-face with their attitude as some of their contemporaries.
  • 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 Video Power cartoon segment The Power Team.
  • 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.
  • In contrast to previous Persona mascots, Morgana the cat from Persona 5 has a smart mouth and enjoys belittling the rest of the team, and Ryuji in particular (no surprise there). Not even Ann, the subject of Morgana's affections, is immune.
  • Psycho the Aardvark from Psycho Pinball, who's never seen without a smirk.
  • 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.
  • Splatoon's Inklings are a very deliberate modern attempt at one of these: squid-kids with attitude who participate in heated Turf War games, listen to rock music, liberally slather their dialogue with early '90s slang. Marketing for the first game had them rarely seen without some variation of the Dreamworks Face as well... and in between all of that, they still have the capacity to look absolutely adorable. They're about 20 years late to the party, but we love 'em anyway.
  • Jibanyan from Yo-Kai Watch is a toned-down, post-90s example from Japan. He is a Funny Animal cat (though in life he was just a normal kitten) who can be very sassy (especially in the anime). He's known to use slang and is a Big Eater with a Sweet Tooth for chocolate. Jibanyan however is also very lazy and is not actually that cool (though he likes to think he is). Baddinyan, a Japanese Delinquent version of Jibanyan, also has some traits of this but isn't a mascot.

    Webcomics 
  • The duck from the The Duck comics site comes complete with smug expression and crossed arms indicative of his 'tude.
  • Kid Radd has Radd himself from the eponymous fictional platform game, and hits most of the high notes too: he's got a 'cool' aesthetic, complete with pixelated Anime Hair, and when he isn't firing energy beams from his hands and freeing his captive girlfriend, he flies around on a rocket powered hoverboard and plays air guitar. Much of his arc involves Radd coming to understand how much of that 'coolness' is intrinsic and how much of it is just traits given to him by his game's developers.

    Subversions, 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, Kazooie's edginess also keeps putting both in trouble.
  • 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, have almost none of the qualities mentioned above (only the first applies).
  • 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. Groovy!
  • "Dippy Fresh" from "Weirdmageddon Part 2: Escape From Reality" in Gravity Falls. A Totally Radical, catch-phrase spewing, skateboarding idealization of Dipper that was created in Mabel's fantasy dream dimension. He even looks similar to Kid Vid and according to Word of God, hes based on both him and Disney XDs aesthetic. Of course, the real Dipper absolutely despises him.
    Dippy Fresh: Wiggity-Wiggity what's up dudebros! I'm Dippy Fresh! I like skateboarding, supporting my sister, and punctuating every sentence with a high-five!
  • Super Weasel Kid from The Hex is a deconstruction: once his creator's pride and joy, he was subsequently sold off to a corporation that ran his franchise to the ground. He has become so bitter about this that he joins in on a murder conspiracy for a chance at payback.
  • Max from Sam & Max, though not The Hero of his own games, was 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:
    • Dash Dingo, the Australian baby-eating video game character featured in a video game Lisa plays in the Season 10 episode "Lisa Gets an A". Specifically based on Crash Bandicoot and the story of Azaria Chamberlain, a baby girl who was killed by a dingo in the 1980s.
    • The infamous Poochie is a cartoon dog "with attitude". He even has his own rap song, in which he dubs himself "the kung-fu hippie from the gangster city". Nonetheless, the Itchy & Scratchy audience hates him. Because of this, "Poochie" has become fan-speak for particularly cringe-worthy examples of this trope in general, especially if they are also a Spotlight-Stealing Squad like the original Poochie.
  • Parodied by the fictional "Adventurous the Cat" franchise seen on various SNES cartridges in Gone Home; as a 90s period piece, it wouldn't be complete without it.
  • Sonic Boom: Swifty the Shrew is what you get if you take Sonic, ramp the personality associated with this trope up all the way, add a whole bucket of Totally Radical-ness and get rid of the Blue Blur's redeeming qualities. The result? An incredibly arrogant and patronizing tool with absolutely no tolerance for "losers" who disagree with anything he says and who isn't above sabotaging and cheating his way to victory. He's eventually revealed to be a creation of Dr. Eggman tasked with the objective of overshadowing Sonic and getting him banished from the village.

 
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Ratchet & Clank

Ratchet & Clank went side-by-side with Jak and Daxter and Kingdom Hearts, but Ratchet's characterization in the the original game is more of a deconstruction. Ratchet starts off as a hotblooded jerk with traits of a common mascot with attitude, but his abusive treatment of Clank and his single-minded desire for revenge against Captain Qwark instead showed Ratchet was on his way to becoming a villain. He gets over it, drops the attitude to become a Deadpan Snarker Nice Guy, and becomes a more noble and beloved hero in the sequels. With the PS4 game, the edgy attitude was dropped from his origin story entirely.

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