Mascots hold a lot more power than we give them credit for. We're not talking about dudes at sporting events prancing around in heat-stroke-inducing costumes, mind you--we're talking the instantly recognizable figures that represent the world's biggest brands. They're more than just the face of a corporation; mascots become cultural icons, a symbol for fans to identify with and rally behind. Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, Mario, Sonic--we have deep attachments to these fictitious characters, and they invoke in us some pretty powerful memories.
And yet, even after the brand's 20-year existence, Sony has yet to nail down a mascot for the PlayStation platform. Candidates seem to have come and gone, but none became "the one." Sure, you may think of Kratos or Nathan Drake as the PS poster boys--but mascots need universal appeal, and kids don't seem too keen on hyper-violent god slaying or murderous archaeology. So which hero should Sony back? With the PS4, it's looking like Knack might be making a bid for PlayStation representation, but we think the best contenders are already out there.
7. Jak and Daxter
If, in 2001, you told us that this duo would become the champions of the PlayStation brand, we'd have readily believed you. Jak, a mute teen, and Daxter, his incredibly talkative ottsel buddy, seemed to capture the innocence and charisma of another beloved pairing: Banjo and Kazooie. People love a good team-up, and The Precursor Legacy's collect-'em-all gameplay enchanted kids and grownups alike. Jak and Daxter were poised to be emblematic of the PlayStation brand: fun, colorful, a little bit edgy, and relatable. But that last bit flew out the window when Jak 2 infused our once-voiceless protagonist with an unneeded dose of x-treme attitude.
It wasn't all too uncommon at the time; for proof, see Prince of Persia: Warrior Within's ridiculous tone change from its predecessor, or Lara Croft going borderline gothic in Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. But Jak's newfound rebellious angst--along with that stupid-looking green goatee--took him out of the mascot running faster than a bear trap to the ankle. We'll never know what might've been if only Jak had stayed silent, but these days, it seems like the franchise is as good as dead.
OK, work with us on this one. Let's set aside the fact that Vibri's name sounds like a brand of sexual stimulation devices. And please gloss over how she's the star of a hybridized rhythm platformer, Vib-Ribbon, that never made it to the States. Are you suspending your disbelief now? Excellent, because in an ideal world, Vibri the rabbit could've been Sony's frontrunner. Her cute squeals and synthesized voice supercede all language barriers (see the PAL version for proof), and the games industry could certainly do with more kid-friendly female mascots.
Vib-Ribbon has garnered a cult following with its toe-tapping ditties and stark graphics, all of which revolve around Vibri. Her vector line design has all the appeal of Polygon Man, sans the creepy yellow eyes, and Vibri's sprightly step is infectious. Vib-Ribbon did drum up enough excitement in Japan for two sequels, Mojib-Ribbon and Vib-Ripple, but they never got the localization treatment. Still, in our minds, Vibri prancing about in PS4 advertising would be delightful.
5. Crash Bandicoot
There was a time when, for all intents and purposes, this orange marsupial seemed like the obvious shoe-in for Sony mascotdom. Crash and his games captured some of the best bits of his competitors: gameplay and challenge that echoed the tiered difficulty of Super Mario 64, with just enough attitude to rival Sonic the Hedgehog (minus all the dreadful one-liners, since Crash doesn't speak--the real one, that is). It seemed that Crash and his compatriots Aku Aku and Coco could do no wrong on the PS1--they even got their own kart racing and party games, a sure sign of mascot material. Then came the dark days.
Once Naughty Dog moved on to work on Jak and Daxter, Crash didn't age so gracefully, stumbling onto the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube with The Wrath of Cortex and effectively snuffing any hope of becoming the face of PlayStation. That was the beginning of the end, because after 2001, it felt like Naughty Dog's first mascot was being dragged through mud on his way to the bargain bin. But don't fret, Crash--we'll always remember you as the fruit-grabbing, pelvic-thrusting, constantly spinning hero you once were.
4. Parappa the Rapper
We can't think of a single video game character that gives off more good vibes and positivity than Parappa. His trademark line of "I gotta believe!" makes us crack a smile every time, and we're not ashamed to admit that we've blasted Parappa's Live Rap With Mc. King Kong Mushi in the car whilst speeding down the freeway. Even if you never played the hip hop hero's excellent call-and-repeat rhythm games, there's something just so appealing about this paper-thin dog and his orange beanie.
Granted, it's not like Parappa's games ever did amazing sales, though there was enough interest for the spin-off UmJammer Lammy and a PS2 sequel. Only so many people will buy into a canine rapping in a stylized, clearly-a-product-of-Japan world. But just think: how many of you identify with Parappa's optimistic catchphrase, or Chop Chop Master Onion's classic "Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind!" line? The point of a mascot is to ingrain itself and its message into your heart and mind, and by jove, Parappa seems to have done just that.
3. Sly Cooper
Sly and his band of merry thieves--namely Bentley and Murray--have gone through more than you may well know. Across a mere four games, they've managed to thwart a giant mechanical owl, turn evil henchmen over to the side of good, evade the tenacious Interpol agent Carmelita Fox, and save history by traveling back through time. The Sly series taps into the same appeal that Pixar and Dreamworks have mastered: character designs and humor that kids love, woven into stories and situations that feel grown-up.
Sly Cooper was dealt a bad hand, what with being orphaned after Clockwerk killed his parents in front of him. But Sly's tenacity and comradery helped him bounce back, producing our favorite variant of the Robin Hood archetype: a thief who only thieves from thieves. If Sony gave Sly a chance as its frontman, we could see the roguish racoon stealing the hearts of gamers everywhere. Oh yes. We went there.
2. Ratchet and Clank
Of all the characters you're currently reading about, Ratchet and Clank have probably done the most to deserve Sony mascothood. Insomniac Games' pairing of a scrappy Lombax mechanic and an eloquent little robot came out of nowhere, but Ratchet and Clank's debut set the standard for dozens of action platformers, PS2 or otherwise, that followed. Across the two generations since their inception, the duo has remained loyal to Sony, steadfast with their PlayStation exclusivity while others (Crash Bandicoot, Spyro) diversified.
And yet, for all their triumphs, Ratchet and Clank seem to have fallen a bit out of favor lately. Perhaps its an issue of genre confusion; gamers aren't really sure which R&C games play like the originals, and which are spin-offs. Maybe it's a lack of marketing; it seems like nobody's talking about their newest game, Into the Nexus, despite it looking pretty great. If Nexus was a PS4 launch game, maybe things would've been different--but for now, we can only hope Sony decides to pile more mascot eggs in the Ratchet and Clank basket.
Or rather, Sackperson. See, in our minds, the adorable player characters in Media Molecules LittleBigPlanet are anything you want them to be, yet immediately recognizable all the same. Whether boy or girl, plain or costumed, the shape and peppy movements of the Sack people are unmistakable. Plus, the plethora of customization options means anyone can tailor their own fabric-and-zipper friend, though the default model is charming all on his own. And any PlayStation character can make the Sack transition. M-rated fare of all shapes and sizes--Kratos, Ezio Auditore, Solid Snake, Nathan Drake--instantly look adorable once Sackified.
It seems like Sony itself desperately wants Sack-gender-of-your-choosing to be the face of PlayStation, given the huge marketing pushes behind LBP and its sequel. Plus, Sackboys got the prerequisite kart racer and handheld spinoff to be eligible for mascot status! Alas, we feel like itll be a long while--if ever--before we see our Sack buddies on PS4, if only due to an attachment to all the user-made LBP content on PS3. But until Sony proves us wrong, well always think of Sackboy and Sackgirl as the PlayStation mascots.
Until next time
We know, you're shaking your fist wondering why we didn't talk about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Thing is, that game was nothing but a reminder that Sony really doesn't have a real mascot. We wish it did, but as of now they simply don't. Will Knack end up changing that? Will he win our hearts? We'll find out soon.
And if you're looking for more, check out characters we want from PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale 2 and every confirmed Smash Bros. Wii U character.