In the decades that video games have impacted our world today, there have been a slew of characters that have risen to the top of the industry. These are some of the most popular and influential gaming mascots to date.
Lara Croft | 'Tomb Raider' series
The archaeologist and adventurer first debuted in 1996 with the release of the very first "Tomb Raider," published then by Eidos Interactive. The character's popularity skyrocketed along with the success of the series and became the most prominent female gaming figure of all time. She currently holds 6 Guinness World Records, including "most recognized female video game character." Along with this, more star-power was added when Angelina Jolie starred as Croft in a 2001 film of the same name.
Sonic | 'Sonic the Hedgehog' series
The blue speedster became instantly well known with his introduction in 1991's "Sonic the Hedgehog" for the Genesis. Created by Sega on the rise of the 16-bit era of video games, Sonic was made to be the face of the company that was looking to establish itself as a rival of the Nintendo powerhouse. This led to Sega forming a subsidiary to run its Sonic-related operations called "Sonic Team." Although Sega withdrew from developing anymore gaming hardware, their current success on the software side has largely been attributed to the popularity of Sonic, whose next game entitled "Sonic Forces" arrive later this year.
Pikachu | 'Pokemon' series
This electric mouse immediately became a fan favorite upon the release of the original "Pokemon Red" and "Green" ("Blue" in North America). Its popularity even sparked a spin-off of the original titles, the Yellow Version, starring Pikachu as the immediate choice for one's starter. Since then, the creature is instantly recognized as the face of the series, largely in part due to the huge success of the animated series that featured Pikachu as the starting Pokemon of Ash/Satoshi. Interestingly enough, Pikachu was never intended to be the series' mascot, with Clefairy initially thought by developers to be fitting for the role, but this quickly changed.
Master Chief | 'Halo' series
The release of "Halo: Combat Evolved" changed the scope of first-person shooters. This title was put out along with the launch of the Xbox, Microsoft's first endeavor in the the world of console gaming. The supersoldier quickly became a star in the gaming world, always seen donning his signature green armor and helmet. The high approval ratings for "Halo" and the following titles paved the way for the Xbox to be a primary competitor in the market today, with Master Chief seen as the driving force behind it all. Though the series launched only in 2001, it already has over a dozen games published and is not stopping any time soon.
Pac-Man | 'Pac-Man' franchise
Debuting in 1980, Namco led the charge into the arcade-game era with the release of the first "Pac-Man" game in North America. Originally called "Puck Man," the developers renamed the character and franchise over concerns that the first letter could easily be altered to an "F" on machines. Since then, however, Pac-Man rose to the top as an immediate success and greatly influenced how games were developed to this day. It was the first game mascot that became recognizable in mainstream eyes, as well as implemented features never before seen, including power-ups and interludes. Without Pac-Man, it can easily be stated that the industry today would not be the same.
Mario | 'Super Mario' franchise
Without a doubt, Mario is the most recognizable gaming figure in the world today. He first made an appearance in the arcade jumper "Donkey Kong" in 1981and made a name for himself in the release of "Super Mario Bros." for the NES in 1985. He has not slowed down since. In the span of over 30 years, Mario has appeared in over 200 games on a wide variety of platforms, as well as in other forms of media. Although many others have shaped the gaming industry in several ways, Nintendo has cemented their legacy in the industry with Mario leading the way. Their newest title, "Super Mario Odyssey," is due in late October of this year.
As mentioned, Mario has been in a slew of games since his debut. Not all of them have been top-knotch, however. Here are some of the worst he's ever been featured in.