Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Top Ten Platforming Mascots

My favorite genre in the entire world is the platformer. Whether 2-D or 3-D, it brings me a lot of joy to explore colorful, vibrant worlds and be entertained by the tight and bewildering level design. Platforming games (or run and jumps) are near and dear to my heart. The best ones feature memorable heroes or heroines. This is a top ten list featuring my favorite platform game mascots. Will your favorites make the list?

10) Banjo-Kazooie

Seldom apart from one another, the team of Banjo-Kazooie is one for the ages. Yes, they can sometimes not get along and begin bickering, and Kazooie can say the wrong thing at the wrong team, but you've got to be endeared by their charm. Together they are powerful as Kazooie rests in Banjo's blue backpack and can peck at foes and give extra air time for her partner's jumps. With the help of shaman Mumbo Jumbo, the two can get transformed into a variety of creatures and items like an alligator, a bee, a termite, and even a washing machine. Hope they brought some bleach! The two separated from one another often in Banjo-Tooie in order to access unique areas of each of the game's expansive levels, brimming with secrets and hazards alike. And even though Banjo and Kazooie returned on the Xbox 360 in a fashion that most fans wouldn't have preferred, Nuts & Bolts was still a remarkable game that showed that Rare still had some talent left, despite what critics may say. Sure, they've been gutted a little since, but that's beyond the point!

Notable Titles:

Banjo-Kazooie (N64) - 1998
Banjo-Tooie (N64) - 2000
Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge (GBA) - 2003
Banjo- Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (360) - 2008

9) Klonoa 

Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro? Can you tie 'em in a knot? Can you tie 'em in a bow? Can you throw 'em over your shoulder like a continental soldier? Do you ears hang low? Well, for Namco's Klonoa, they certainly do. This floppy-eared hero has appeared in a handful of games on a variety of platforms such as the PlayStation 1 and 2, Game Boy Advance, and Wii. Klonoa isn't your typical platformer. You grab enemies and either throw them or use them to gain extra height. Door to Phantomile on the original PlayStation was the world's first introduction to the cat-like character, and when I saw the game in action I immediately fell in love-- with the game, not the furry. Door to Phantomile would be completely remade in 2009 on Nintendo's Wii. It featured new costumes, new challenges, and of course, new graphics.

Notable Titles:

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PS1) - 1998
Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil (PS2) - 2001
Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (GBA) - 2001
Klonoa 2: Dream Champ Tournament (GBA) - 2005
Klonoa (Wii) - 2009

8) Wario

For this man, greed is most definitely good. He made his debut in 1992's Game Boy classic Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins where he occupied Mario's castle when the blue-suspendered hero was away on an adventure. Then he commandeered Mario's series by stealing the starring role from the portly plumber, thus resulting in the Wario Land franchise. Wario is very much the antithesis and rival of Mario. While Mario is selfless, ready to help others without thought, and relatively thin compared to his rival, Wario is selfish, only willing to help others if it benefits him, and is a porker. Apparently all that garlic he eats is high in calories... Wario's games are traditional 2-D platformers with tons of exploration to find hidden treasure chest and valuable loot. If you look closely, you can see Wario's pupils turning from their normal round shape into dollar signs! Not only has the character evolved from a one note villain to a humorous antihero, but his games constantly offer something new to the table.

Notable Titles:

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB) - 1992
Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (GB) - 1994
Wario Land II (GBC) - 1999
Wario World (GCN) - 2003
Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) - 2009

7) Sackboy

Media Molecule shopped around for interest to their LittleBigPlanet concept. Sony took them up on their offer and the rest is history. The world of LittleBigPlanet allows players to create their own 2-D worlds with the assistance of multiple tools. Of course, none of that matters if the gameplay doesn't hold a proverbial candle to it. Thankfully it does, and the avatar that players utilize in each LittleBigPlanet level is none other than the character of made of yarn, Sackboy. Sackboy is fully customizable, allowing those with the desire to to doll it up in various doodads such as wigs, hats, glasses, masks, costumes, shirts, pants, dresses, shoes, and accessories like a captain's hook, for starters. DLC enabled people to purchase costumes from such famous franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Disney/Pixar's Toy Story. For a character that can only express itself through mime-like actions, Sackboy certainly does resonate really well with people, earning him a spot on this list.

Notable Titles:

LittleBigPlanet (PS3) - 2008
LittleBigPlanet (PSP) - 2009
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3) - 2011
LittleBigPlanet (PSV) - 2012

6) Ratchet

From the incredible minds at Insomniac Games comes the best platformer franchise from the Sony camp, the Ratchet & Clank series! Unlike Naughty Dog's Jak series, Ratchet & Clank has never skewed from its intended audience or change themes from its lighthearted fare to something darker a la the transition from Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy to Jak II. The Ratchet & Clank series is known for its trademark humor, action-oriented platforming, the ability to upgrade your various inventive guns through using them routinely, and acquiring hidden special bolts to unlock cool in-game content such as new costumes for Ratchet to wear. The character of Ratchet is primarily precocious and his weapon of choice when not blowing away baddies with one of many firearms is his daunting wrench. That baby certainly packs a wallop! Though All 4 One was a misstep for the franchise, I look forward to the future of Ratchet & Clank as it is a generally consistent (even in the PS2 era when it had multiple consecutive years of releases) and enjoyable series.

Notable Titles:

Ratchet & Clank (PS2) - 2002
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2) - 2003
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2) - 2004
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3) - 2007
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time (PS3) - 2009

5) Rayman

I consider Rayman to be the French equivalent to Mario, a hero that is astonishingly underrated in most parts of the world. Rayman does not have any limbs to work with. Instead, he has disjointed hands and feet which he uses to punch foes and run wildly through platforming stages of peril and simultaneous bliss respectively. You can thank the brilliant mind of Michel Ancel for the creation of the limbless wonder. It's his character, and his team within Ubisoft have crafted some of the finest and more memorable entries in the platformer genre. Sure, Rayman 2 may be a game that most people are sick of seeing as it is constantly being ported to various devices, but it is still one of the better 3D romps available. The most recent Rayman release, Rayman Origins, brought the French hero back to the spotlight in a sensational and beautiful 2D game. Here's hoping the upcoming Rayman Legends is even more promising when it is most likely unveiled officially come E3.

Notable Titles:

Rayman (PS1, SAT) - 1995
Rayman 2: The Great Escape (PS1, N64, DC) - 1999
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc (PS2, GCN, XBX) - 2003
Rayman Origins (PS3, 360, Wii) - 2011 
Rayman Origins (PSV, 3DS) - 2012

4) Kirby

Kirby sucks. And blows. But that's why we love him. Created by Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai, Kirby is one cute and charming character. He has the ability to suck up enemies and copy their power. Kirby can quickly become one mean and lean killing machine with powers like Sword, Ice, Fire, Beam, Wheel, Spark, and many, many more. The Kirby universe is full of plenty of memorable characters like Metaknight, King Dedede, and Waddle Dee, for starters. Nintendo is usually very perceptive of allowing their pink puffball to appear in experimental games. Whether they're atypical platforming adventures like Kirby: Canvas Curse or Mass Attack or titles of a completely different genre like Kirby's Block Ball, Pinball Land, and Dream Course, Kirby is a hot commodity and a respectable seller for the big N. His games might be on the easy side of the difficulty spectrum, but that doesn't stop Kirby from appearing on the number four spot on this top ten.

Notable Titles:

Kirby's Dream Land (GB) - 1992
Kirby's Adventure (NES) - 1993
Kirby Super Star (SNES) - 1996
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64) - 2000
Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii) - 2011

3) Donkey Kong

This list is now on like Donkey Kong. Starting out as a villain who abducted Mario's girlfriend Pauline (I can only imagine how relations between the two would have worked out), Donkey Kong was a huge, hairy ape that had a bad attitude. Even if he was the bad guy, DK can find solace in the fact that he was a part of the first true platformer, the arcade hit Donkey Kong, characterized by jumping over barrels and pits. He wouldn't get a true starring role in the platforming genre until a then relatively unknown company named Rare placed him-- and his snazzy new red tie-- in the excellent Donkey Kong Country. The series would span four major games and spawn a spinoff series on the Game Boy in the form of Donkey Kong Land. Though, DK wouldn't star or even be in all of them. Apart from the DKC series, Donkey Kong has had nontraditional platforming jaunts with games like the superb bongo-beating Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat and the climbing platformer of DK: King of Swing (highly underrated game). It is for these reasons that the king of the jungle swings to the number three spot.

Notable Titles:

Donkey Kong (ARC) - 1981
Donkey Kong Country (SNES) - 1994
Donkey Kong 64 (N64) - 1999
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GCN) - 2005
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) - 2010

2) Sonic the Hedgehog

A fierce rival to the number one mascot on this list, Sonic the Hedgehog is occasionally labeled as the blue blur. That is because of his ability to speed through levels at the drop of a hat. His signature blue quills, ability to roll up in a ball, figure-8 pattern legs as he runs, and green eyes are all qualities of the azure hedgehog. Sonic seemingly always has time for a chili dog as he combats the evil Dr. Robotnik/Dr. Eggman and stops yet another one of his out there schemes. Sonic's best buddy is none other than Miles "Tails" Prower, a two-tailed fox with high intellect and the know-how to create some incredible inventions. Sonic in recent years has seen middling reviews save for a couple of gems like Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations. Created by Yuji Naka, who has since left Sonic Team for his own company, the quick feet, sharp 'tude, and free will of Sonic make the character one that fans just can't get enough of. Oh, all that disturbing fan-made furry art!

Notable Titles:

Sonic the Hedgehog (GEN) - 1991
Sonic CD (SCD) - 1993
Sonic Adventure (DC) - 1999
Sonic Colors (Wii) - 2010
Sonic Generations (PS3, 360, 3DS) - 2011

1) Mario

I don't think this should come as any form of surprise at all, quite honestly. The portly plumber which made the platforming genre a household name, selling millions upon millions of hardware and copies, and making Nintendo billions, Mario is definitely the go-to mascot for the platforming genre. He is the brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto, who I gave a hard time in a previous post (but only out of love), and premiered in a little game called Donkey Kong, where he was known only by the moniker of Jumpman. He only received a his trademark hat and black mustache because the 2-D sprite for Mario had indistinguishable facial features. A mustache made it easy to see where his mouth, eyes, among other features were at. Without Mario, Nintendo would have nowhere near the same amount of success and positive mind share in the market. But I guess that goes without saying.

Notable Titles:

Super Mario Bros. (NES) - 1985
Super Mario World (SNES) - 1991
Super Mario 64 (N64) - 1996
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) - 2007
Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) - 2011


This ends our look at my favorite platforming mascots. What do you think about this list? Which are your personal favorites? List yours below.

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