5 Forgotten Video Game Mascots that Couldn’t Rival Sonic and Mario
Mascots are very important in the video game industry. The likes of Pac-Man helped Atari to promote the game’s brand and make it into toys, magazines, cartoons, and other media. Many video game mascots don’t work, and over the years, the dust covers the merchandise and leaves no trace of the past.
We took a look at nine forgotten game mascots. While they aren’t the most overlooked (that is a term, don’t look up), their creators neglected them.
Roland is one of the earliest examples of a mascot used in multiple genres to help create a franchise and increase sales of Alan Sugar’s Amstrad computers. Roland was featured in eight different games for two years in various game genres during the mid-1980s.
Roland’s lack of consistency in design may have been one reason he was forgotten over the years. Roland in the Caves is a flea who can leap incredible distances through the cave system. He’s an Indiana Jones-style adventurer in Roland on the Ropes. In Roland goes Square Bashing; however, he’s a box with arms, legs, and legs.
It didn’t help that very few of the Roland games were original. Roland in the Caves was renamed Bugaboo and Fred, respectively. Roland’s other games were simply clones of popular titles like Space Panic (Roland goes Digging), Frogger, and Jet Set Willy. Modern gaming has lost Roland’s early attempts at being a mascot on a home-computer games system.
Sega tried to find a mascot for their brand from the mid-1980s. They had tried before creating Sonic the Hedgehog. Before they created Alex Kidd, who could have been a mascot if he hadn’t had a remake of Alex Kidd in Miracle World. Sega did not make Alex Kidd their first attempt. Instead, Sega looked to the Fantasy Zone video game series and Opa-Opa’s protagonist.
Opa-Opa was a sentient flying spaceship that appeared in 2D side-scrolling shooters that were very popular in the late 1980s. There were three major releases to the series, including Fantasy Zone and Fantasy Zone 2 on the Sega Master System and Super Fantasy Zone appearing on the Sega Mega Drive. Additionally, there were some spin-offs.
Sega has never considered bringing back the Fantasy Zone IP, except for the occasional virtual console release. Opa-Opa has made a brief appearance in Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing and Phantasy Star Online. The character is very similar to Twinbee from the Konami series.
3. Aero the Acrobat
Many 90s gamers will be familiar with the Sunsoft logo, which was used to promote and develop many games. Sunsoft, founded in the late 1970s and is still in business today, wanted a mascot, just like other companies of that era.
Aero the Acrobat is an anthropomorphic circus bat with a 90s attitude. Aero the Acro-Bat, a 2D platformer that required players to navigate levels and defeat enemies to progress the game, was the same as the original. It received positive reviews and was re-released in two games, Aero the Acro-Bat 2 (Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel) and Aero the Acro-Bat 2 (both 1995). Aero’s future was bright after Saban Entertainment announced a cartoon series that would debut in 1995.
The cartoon series was never produced due to Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers being a huge hit and steering Saban in another direction. Zero, the Kamikaze Squirrel, was a huge success, but no new games were released. The character fell into infamy. A costume called Aero Acrobat was recently seen in Balan Wonderworld. It is pretty nice, I suppose.
Sunsoft asked fans to tweet them in December 2021 to ask if they would like to see any games come back from the dead. So who knows, maybe Aero will fly again.
4. Pitfall Harry
Pitfall Harry was one of the first examples of a recognizable player in a videogame. Although this small collection of squares couldn’t be described as easily identifiable, his figure running through jungles while avoiding traps was obvious. Pitfall! Pitfall was the most popular Atari 2600 game. It sold over 4 million copies.
Pitfall! Pitfall was released in 1982. It was followed by a single-season cartoon and a sequel in 1984. Super Pitfall was a loose remake of Pitfall 2 for the NES in 1986. It was a 2D platformer that was not well received, more modern than the original. Pitfall Harry Jr. would debut in the mid-90s with Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. It looked very similar to Indiana Jones but was legally different. The Mayan Adventure was a hit and sold over one million copies. This was a good result for the 90s but not nearly as many as the original four million.
Pitfall! Pitfall! Although Pitfall Harry Jr. was voiced by Bruce Campbell, the second Adventure received mixed to positive reviews. Pitfall! was to end its era with Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. This, too, received good reviews generally. Unfortunately, Pitfall! ‘s originality waned over time, and Pitfall Harry was not strong enough to take these middling games forward.
Sega has always wanted more. Sonic the Hedgehog is a well-known mascot in gaming. There’s an AiAi for every Ryo Haiku. There’s a Luke Custer for every Ulala. There’s a forgotten 90s character for every famous one, and Ristar is, unfortunately, the latter.
Ristar may remind you of Sonic the Hedgehog’s levels. Sonic is fast-paced, but Ristar allows players to explore the stories while enjoying the beautiful art style. Ristar is a star and can grab enemies to headbutt them. Ristar’s arms help him to traverse the levels.
Ristar was initially intended to be one of the characters to challenge Mario. Ristar would not receive any other games aside from a Sega Game Gear version. Ristar received solid reviews, but it fell under the shadow of Sega Saturn’s impressive 3D graphics and could not significantly impact the 16-bit era. Ristar is now gone, but it still exists, recently released on Nintendo Switch Online.