Watching the Sonic movie this past weekend reminded me of all the great video game mascots that have come and gone over the years. But everyone knows Sonic, Mario, Donkey Kong, Crash et al. What about the forgotten characters? Those that starred in great games but for one reason or another never really entered the gaming zeitgeist. So I thought I’d put my focus there. This is my Top 5 forgotten video game mascots. The only caveat being they needed to have starred in a platformer.
Ristar sneaks into my list through the sheer abstract nature of his design. But his design is somewhat linked to the famous blue hedgehog. Back when Sega was coming up with a new mascot, Sega had come up with effectively 2 main designs for what would become Sonic. The hedgehog we know and love as well as a rabbit-type character who could pick up items with his ears.
While we know who won out, the rabbit design didn’t die completely. It actually evolved and became Ristar. But rather than having ears that could extend and pick up items, Ristars arms could extend in 8 different directions in order to navigate levels, pick up items as well as avoid and attack enemies.
His game was somewhat a victim of release timing, coming right on the advent of the Sega Saturn release so people were looking forward to new consoles and the game experiences those would bring, rather than a new IP on an old console dominated by Sonic.
4. Wonder Boy
While Wonder Boy has actually been a fairly successful franchise over the years, I feel like he never truly garnered the attention of other mascots. Maybe because he was human?
That’s also despite starring in mostly highly regarded games! It could be because his design has evolved over the years rather than remaining consistent which has perhaps diluted his ability to maintain a fanbase.
Starting off as the little caveman that could, he slowly became more of a knight over subsequent titles. Despite them all technically taking place after each other.
But for me, while Wonder Boy 3 was my favourite game, the original design remains my favourite to this day and even his recent remake (pictured above) manages to modernise that design in a respectful way.
The lesser light of the legendary NES lineup. Kid Icarus was a really cool little platformer, set to the backdrop of Greek mythology, which – while common now, was quite unique back in 1986.
I have to admit to a little bit of bias with Pit due to being Greek myself and growing up loving Greek mythology. But his design, particularly his more modern one, were really good and I feel stand the test of time.
Nintendo has never truly forgotten Pit, getting a new game on 3DS a few years back with Kid Icarus Uprising as well as featuring regularly in the more recent Smash Bros. games.
Not too many will remember Sparkster from the classic Rocket Knight Adventures games, but I certainly do. Konami made a hugely under-appreciated platformer starring an opossum who had a really cool design.
While the game wasn’t huge, it was successful enough to get 2 sequels in “Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2” and 2010’s Rocket Knight for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
The games put a cool little twist on platformers by adding not only Sparksters jet pack for more traversal options but also let Sparkster use his tail as well which added an interesting dynamic to make your way through levels which could get pretty intense at times.
The 2010 XBLA Game is backwards compatible on Xbox One and I urge you to give it a go. It really remains faithful to the gameplay of the original games while updating the visuals without being obnoxious.
I feel like Namco were definitely channeling Sonic with Klonoa’s design and even his game, but none the less, Sonic is cool, so it stands to reason that Klonoa is pretty cool too.
Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil also happens to be one of the most under-appreciated platformers of all time and one of my favourite PlayStation 2 games. In terms of actual gameplay systems though, Klonoa played more like Kirby than any of the other more famous platformers of the time.
Klonoa really was an amalgamation of many famous platform games and characters, but managed to successfully be both a good game as well as a cute character in the process, as opposed to looking or feeling like a cheap knock-off.
A Remake of the original game was also released for the Wii in 2008, which updated the visuals to fall more in line with the PS2 sequel.