Video Game Mascots Inspired By Nintendo’s Mario

When mario first debuted in 1981’s donkey kong for arcade machines, nobody expected he would become the Mickey Mouse of video games. Over forty years later, the character has remained one of the most iconic video game mascots of all time. However, success inevitably leads to companies trying to replicate magic.

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Over the years, there have been many video game characters who were created with the express purpose of rivaling Nintendo’s Mario. Some of these ten characters have taken off and become video game icons in their own right. Others have been forgotten in the past, only footnotes in the ascent of the red-wearing plumber’s rise to glory.

10 Good

Bonk’s Adventure released in Japan in December 1989 as one of the earliest attempts to profit off the success of Mario. The lead character, Bonk, is a toddler in the prehistoric era rescuing a reptile princess from an evil dinosaur king. Surprisingly, the game was well-received in 1991 by publications like Entertainment Weekly.

Bonk’s real attempt to compete with Mario, however, came with super bonk for the SNES. While some critics complained about the game’s awkward controls, there was no denying its originality. However, it failed to capture wider audiences, and as a result, future Good titles have rarely made it past the development stage.

9 Sonic The Hedgehog

The greatest threat to Mario’s legacy started in 1991 with Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis. This speedy blue hedgehog was designed with the express purpose of competing with Nintendo during the console wars. Sonic’s success led to many schoolyards being populated with the eternal debate: Sonic or Mario?

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By now, Sonic and Mario’s feud is over. The two appeared together in both the Super Smash Bros. franchise, as well as the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series. While Sonic has yet to have a game that’s reached the critical lengths of Mario’s recent releases, Sonic does have the upper hand when it comes to film adaptations.

8 chuck rock

There are mountains upon mountains of video game mascots who attempted to copy the success of Mario (and even Sonic) in the 90s. One example that’s also oddly similar to the Good games is chuck rock, which released in ’91 for Atari. It later saw releases on Commodore 64, Sega Mega Drive, SNES, and the Game Gear.

The titular character, Chuck Rock, is a caveman who must rescue his wife Ophelia from his arch-nemesis, Garry Gritter. The game certainly makes better use of its prehistoric setting than the Good games. Some maps include jungles, ice caps, caves, and even the inner organs of a dinosaur.

7 Bubsy

Bubsy is a bobcat with an exclamation mark on his sweater. He was created as the anthropomorphic mascot of the video game developer Accolade, with early releases debuting the character on both SNES and Sega Genesis. Needless to say, the hype preceding Bubsy’s first game releasing in 1993 was massive.

Unfortunately, Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind did not live up to said hype. Media publications criticized the game for its wonky controls and poor level design. Happily for the few Bubsy fans out there, future releases in the franchise would find the character on PlayStation, PC, and even Nintendo Switch.

6 Crash Bandicoot

Naughty Dog’s take on having a Mario-level mascot was more of a success than some of its competitors. Crash Bandicoot, a genetically enhanced bandicoot, premiered in his self-titled game for PlayStation in 1996. While it wasn’t the most innovative platformer on the market at the time, its lead character charmed fans.

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To this day, the Crash Bandicoot games have remained a staple in the video game industry, despite several changes in developers. The character recently saw a revival in 2017 with the release of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and PC. He even still has his own racing game franchise, just like Mario!

5 spyro

Spyro the purple dragon debuted in 1998 on the PlayStation. The character was designed by Insomniac Games, who are still active in the industry with series like Ratchet & Clank and the newest Spiderman games. However, the character and his franchise have since become property of Activision.

Unfortunately, the character was subject to an elongated hiatus of games between 2008 and 2018. The most recent release is Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which consists of remasters of the first three games in the franchise. Hopefully, the success of this re-release will convince Activision to revive the character in a brand-new title sometime.

4 Banjo-Kazooie

Few gaming mascots inspired by Mario have captured the hearts of its fans the way this bear and bird have. Banjo & Kazooie were developed by Rare Studios, also known for donkey kong country and goldeneye 007. In 1998, they released Banjo-Kazooie for Nintendo 64, which became a pillar of that era of 3D platformers.

Since Rare’s acquisition by Microsoft, the character’s franchise has been mostly dormant. The Xbox 360 title Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts received a lukewarm reception from longtime fans of the series. However, hope’s been restored in recent years since the duo appeared as DLC characters in Super Smash Bros Ultimate.

3 Ty The Tasmanian Tiger

The first installation in the Ty the Tasmanian Tiger franchise released for GameCube, PS2, and the original Xbox in 2002. Players controlled the titular Ty, a boomerang-wielding Tasmanian tiger on an Australian island. This game certainly followed the model of mario titles from that era, such as Super Mario Sunshine.

Given this series’ unique setting, it’s definitely one of the most original takes on a Mario clone. Sadly, the series hasn’t seen a new title since the side-scrolling title Type 4 on GameBoy Advance. However, in March 2020, the first two entries in the series were remastered for Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.

2 Super Meatboy

Super Meatboy has a pretty obvious connection to the Super Mario Bros. franchise: the initials SMB However, in terms of game design, the closest similarity these two have would be through custom levels in the Super Mario Maker games. Super Meat Boy is based around split-second timing than Mario’s usual easy-going adventure.

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The character of Meat Boy himself is also very different in tone to Mario. In terms of shape, Meat Boy resembles Mario’s pre-Mushroom self. Super Meat Boy definitely leans into the grotesque aspect of its premise, often showing Meat Boy dying with a splatter of meaty blood on walls or spinning saw blades.

1 Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight takes a lot of inspiration from older titles on NES and SNES, including Super Metroid, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Mega Manand Castlevania. However, the indie developers at Yacht Club Studios were also inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3 when creating this nostalgic, power-up-focused platformer.

The character of Shovel Knight also resembles Mario in one key feature: his height. Neither Mario nor Shovel Knight are tall knights in shining armor. In fact, their height pales in comparison to both of their romantic partners, Princess Peach and Shield Knight. Perhaps one day the two will get to join forces in some type of crossover.

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