Your A to Z guide to the '90s raddest gaming mascots

Way past cool.

Trying to describe radness feels like describing color to the blind. It cannot be taught, it must be experienced. Just look at Mullet Jr. up there. What words exist to describe his state of being? If forced to give an answer on the nature of radness, I'd say it's both crass and loud, but also unrestricted and a lot of fun.

Today, radness in popular culture has fallen by the wayside, replaced by sleek, simple elegance. But turn back the clock a decade or two, and you will find a multimedia landscape obsessed with all things "raw" and "edgy." For the intrepid gamer, this mindset created a whole slew of bizarre gaming mascots all vying for your parents' money. Some had smart, creative designs that have endured to this day - but most were just total crap. Here are the best and worst from that bygone age.

A is for... Awesome Possum

Its difficult to criticise an environmentally-conscious game character without sounding like a total jerk, but criticise we must, because Awesome Possum was loathsome. His game is crap, he looks like a scrawny, cross-eyed stimulant abuser and, to top it all off, his title screen appearance has him weakly exclaim "I'm awesome!" as if the the word "Awesome" floating directly above him in letters as big as his own face wasnt over-compensation enough.

Actually, what really topped it all off was the very idea of selling an environmental message to kids via the medium of a badly made game distributed on expensive, presumably hard-to-recycle plastic and silicon cartridges. Most of which are probably polluting a landfill somewhere right this very second. Thanks for nothing, Awesome Possum. Your slot should have gone to Aero the Acro-Bat.

Last known whereabouts: Awesome Possum Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt (1993)

B is for... Bubsy

In 1993, Bubsy was the most hyped thing since organized religion. He was going to top Sonic, Mario, and everyone else in the mascot business. He was going to be more fun than your best friend and 18 times more awesome than cake. What he actually was was a loud, obnoxious, self-aggrandising wanker who thought that being a loud, obnoxious, self-aggrandising wanker was cruise control for cool. And boy, did he like being cool.

Even better, his games are unlikeable, uncontrollable, and borderline unplayable. There was also a horrible pilot for his horrible cartoon show that, if it had become a whole series, would have ushered in a new world order of darkness and decay that would have made Gozer look like amature hour. Fun fact: Bubsy is a bobcat and bobcats love to mark their territory with feces and urine. This explains the huge dump Bubsy left in game cartridges worldwide.

Last known whereabouts: Bubsy 3D (1996)

C is for... Crash Bandicoot

Years before the Uncharted series and The Last of Us, developer Naughty Dog created a mutated marsupial who would act as the PlayStation's de facto front-runner in the great '90s mascot race. Crash Bandicoot should have flopped. He was yet another animal mascot with attitude starring in a 3D platformer before most developers had figured out how to do 3D platforming well. Plus, he wears jean shorts. I mean, really?

Somehow, Crash managed to beat the odds and went on to star in a whole mess of other platformers, kart racers, and even a few party games. He's been passed around between several different publishers and developers, but never found home since leaving Naughty Dog. Today, Crash is adrift in animal mascot limbo. Seeing as how he's not a bald space marine, he's had trouble finding work.

Last known whereabouts: Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2 (2010)

D is for... Dynamite Headdy

Dynamite Headdy is yet another gem in developer Treasure's collection. It stars a... um... well apparently it's a puppet with a very large bowtie and a detachable head. You can fire the head in eight different directions around Headdy and collect power-ups to change your head's appearance and alter its abilities. Attacking with your noggin is also how you knock out enemies and even pull yourself up to higher platforms.

Headdy's world is a performance, it's theater. If you look closely at the backgrounds you can see how they're made to look like hand-made sets. Stage hands will pull new props onto the screen, and there are spotlights and other theater trappings strewn about. Unfortunately, despite being a solid game, Dynamite Headdy got buried under all the other mascot bozos on this list. Be sure to look this one up if you haven't already.

Last known whereabouts: Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009)

E is for... Earthworm Jim

I could really just end this list here. Earthworm Jim perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the '90s all in one character. Heck, Earthworm Jim IS the '90s. Just look at him. In his backpack is a green alien creature named Snott. His nemesis is Queen Slug-for-a-Butt. And for Pete's sake, his catchphrase is "Groovy." I'm just shocked he's not wearing sunglasses.

It's a miracle Jim didn't implode under the weight of his coolness. Instead, his designs all fit neatly into a sort of surrealist harmony. Kids loved him, parents didn't understand him, and Jim earned himself four games and a Saturday morning cartoon series. But with the passing of the millennium, it seems our collective tastes have matured, and we no longer have interest in a hero earthworm and his juvenile antics. Maybe it's time for a gritty reboot...

Last known whereabouts: Earthworm Jim HD (2010)

F is for... Fox McCloud

Originally, this entry was a tossup between Fox McCloud and the vile Funky Kong. Thankfully, Funky was never more than a bit character, despite being made up entirely of radness. Fox McCloud - son of legendary fighter pilot-turned-F-Zero-racer James McCloud - strikes a more palatable balance between rad and reasonable.

Fox is a confident and skilled pilot in his own right, but also isn't afraid to toss out a zinger such as, "Sorry to jet but I'm in a hurry." And as I'm sure many of you Nintendo fans already know, Fox almost certainly doesn't have any legs below the knees. Look at some of the old Star Fox artwork and you'll see what I mean. It's been theorized that he had them amputated to keep more blood in his head and torso, so he'd be less likely to faint from high g-forces. Or maybe the designers just wanted him to look more space-y.

Last known whereabouts: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (2014)

G is for... Gex

Theres a fine line between having issues and being a self-indulgent prick. Gex tripped right over that line and broke every bone in his stupid face. As the story goes, Gex spent most of his youth in a self-induced media-coma following the death of his father. When Gex's mother tried to break up this pity party, Gex chose homelessness, only to return after she had inherited a life-changing sum of money - which Gex then used to buy an even bigger TV. What an ass.

But hey, you know, its okay. Gex was "cool." He had a pair of sunglasses, and a sneering grin, and a load of one-liners. He was just like Jack Nicholson if Jack Nicholson was a lizard and crap. His only redeeming quality was that he was voiced by veteran British actor Leslie Phillips in the European release of his second game. Otherwise, completely rotten.

Last known whereabouts: Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko (1999)

H is for... Havoc

We feel sorry for Havoc, we really do. Hes not overtly offensive. Hes well designed. In fact he looks like quite a pleasant young chap. But if you look at his game in action, youll see the most flagrant Sonic rip-off of a decade ruled by flagrant Sonic rip-offs. In another game, in another time, he could have been a star. But being forced into one of the most brazen Sonic clones of the '90s tainted him.

Its even sadder when you consider that Havoc's game was actually really well made for what it was. Damn shame. It's also interesting to note that Havoc is apparently a seal, though I wouldn't blame you for thinking him a cat or perhaps an earless rabbit. Contrary to this games conceit, seals do not need ships to navigate the sea.

Last known whereabouts: High Seas Havoc (1993)

I is for... Iggy

Iggy is a little green ball with two eyes and a mouth. This is because it was 1998 when Iggy's Reckin' Balls was released, and dammit all the good mascots were taken. Reckin' Balls (which really should have been called Reckin' Ballz) was a curious mashup of kart racers, a grappling hook, and some Marble Madness thrown in for good measure.

Up to four players could race against each other, but instead of just rolling down a single track there was a surprisingly amount of platforming involved (hence the need for a grappling hook). Joining Iggy (who, apparently, is supposed to be an Iguana), were such colorful characters as Rob-Ert (a robot), Chatter (a big, toothy grin) and a bunch of other designs ripped from the margins of some kid's notebook.

Last known whereabouts: Iggy's Reckin' Balls (1998)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
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