McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure (1993 - Sega Mega Drive, Genesis)
Despite McDonald's many licensed video games, very few of them actually featured Ronald McDonald, the magical mascot who loved making kids happy. That all changed in 1993's McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure, where Ronald and his friends went treasure hunting in (surprise!) a sidescrolling adventure.
Though seemingly innocent, the game quickly ventured into "WTF" territory. For starters, Ronald McDonald used his magical scarf as a grappling hook to get from platform to platform. Then he'd blast trolls, gnomes, and other cutesy creatures with a fistful of Dragon Ball Z energy magic until they violently exploded. And just when we thought the game couldn't get any weirder, Ronald and his buddies fly a rocket ship to the moon, fight aliens, and then ride a rainbow back to earth. Because that's how rainbows work.
Coca-Cola Kid (1994 - Sega Game Gear)
Coca-Cola's second advergame outing was a Japanese exclusive that never made it to Western shores. Released for Sega's portable Game Gear console in 1994, Coca-Cola Kid featured the soda manufacturer's Japanese mascot of the same name in a side-scrolling adventure. The protagonist would unleash his fury upon enemies in the form of kicks, and could find power-ups in the form of soft drinks that would bolster his bad-guy-brawling prowess.
Of course, modern science has taught us that slamming dozens of cans of soda per day does not, in fact, make you stronger or faster. All it really does is this. We can only imagine what the Coca-Cola Kid looks like 18 years later. If he's still alive, that is--after all, his power-ups were laced with so much sugar that he probably fell victim to cardiac arrest.
Chex Quest (1996 - DOS, Windows)
Chex Quest, also known as the greatest Ultimate Doom mod of all time, was the first ever video game to be included as a prize inside a box of cereal. Not only did this game come with a whopping 50 free hours of subscription time to America Online, but it gave younger children access to a non-violent spin-off of a game that helped popularize the burgeoning first-person shooter genre.
The developers of Chex Quest basically just replaced any blood with slime, and all violent assets--such as weapons and scary, demonic character models--with kid-friendly counterparts. As in, super-powered sporks and green snot goons. It was a tremendously successful marketing technique for the Chex brand, too, as it was free, and cereal prices didn't increase to supplement development costs. So successful, in fact, that Chex Quest 2 was released in 1997 as a free download exclusive to Chex's official website. Alas, the Chex Warrior mascot was forever put to rest following the sequel's release.
Pepsiman (1999 - PlayStation)
Pepsi's Japanese branch created a superhero-like mascot in the early '90s named Pepsiman, who looked like a branded version of Silver Surfer and saved the day by delivering Pepsi to mega-thirsty bystanders. Also, his face was super smooth aside form one terrifying hole that consumed Pepsi and made weird hissing sounds. Though the character made a playable appearance in the Japanese Sega Saturn version of Fighting Vipers (his specialty being "to quench one's thirst"), he didn't receive a starring role until his 1999 debut in a game that shared his name.
Pepsiman--the game--was basically a 3D cross between Sonic and Paperboy, where the object was to avoid obstacles while collecting cans of sugary drinks for thirsty, distressed denizens. Those same denizens would cheer you on after completing a level in appreciation for your kindness, before chugging cans of Pepsi like their lives depended on it. The game was quite humorous, as Pepsiman would often get stuck in trash cans or become injured during his journey. Plus, there were live-action cutscenes of a Pepsi-obsessed chubby dude that inhaled soda by the 12-pack. Gross.
M&M's: The Lost Formulas (2000 - PC)
Over the years, the M&M's brand has appeared in a variety of mostly mediocre video games (including one incredibly terrible kart racer). But the delicious chocolate candies got their virtual start in the delightful Crash Bandicoot clone called M&M's: The Lost Formulas.
Lost Formulas was a totally competent 3D platformer that featured a stylish cartoonish aesthetic, in addition to cool driving segments and decent cinematic cutscenes. While its basic gameplay was a tad simplistic, it also included a neat math-based minigame that taught us how to count just how many melt-in-your-mouth candies we were shoving into our gaping esophagi.
Big Bumpin' / PocketBike Racer / Sneak King (2006 - Xbox Live)
As games evolved--alongside development costs and gamers' tastes--fewer companies made brand-licensed games for advertising purposes. Those that continued to do so, like Burger King, transitioned to downloadable titles. Burger King formed its own publishing division under the banner King Games, contracting developer Blitz Games to make three downloadable titles (each costing less than $5) full of BK-related characters and products.
Big Bumpin' was a bumper car game where players duked it out on trap-laden stages, while PocketBike Racing was a silly kart racer in which one could drive around as a giant hamburger. Sneak King, however, was a creepy stealth sim that had you recreating commercials by sneaking up on unsuspecting (and quite famished) victims as The King like some sort of fast food-obsessed Solid Snake. The King would make his presence known with a totally normal "SURPRISE, HERE'S YOUR CHEESEBURGER LOL." Most who played this game never slept again out of fear that The King would sneak into their beds.
World Gone Sour (2011 - PSN, Xbox Live)
Sour Patch Kids are exceptionally good at tearing the roof of your mouth into shreds and burning your tongue raw with all their sour, sugary powers. World Gone Sour, however, provides a glimpse into the harrowing trials those gummy candies must overcome once inside your stomach.
If this $5 downloadable is to be believed, those trials mainly include Pikmin-style puzzle solving, where one giant Sour Patch Kid launches tinier ones to activate levers or switches. Sometimes, though, they just fall into the buzz saws and spike traps that line the human gut. It's a wonder we never feel those things moving around in there.
Advergames have existed since the dawn of gaming--and industries outside the scope of junk food have adopted the practice as well. What other promotional games can you think of? Do any of them have any kind of nostalgic meaning to you? Let us know in the comments below.