Product placement is everywhere: movies, TV shows, and even music. Remember that scene in Short Circuit with the Brawny paper towels? Sure enough, we had to run to the store and immediately get some after watching the movie. Is it even possible to hear Van Halen’s “Right Now” without craving Crystal Pepsi? Didn’t think so.
We guess there’s nothing wrong with a little product placement… when it works. In fact, sometimes it probably has the opposite of the desired effect on us. So, here are some encounters we had with blatant video game product placement titles and their effects. Brought to you by Brawndo.
11 – Spot: The Video Game (NES), Cool Spot (Sega Genesis)
Next time you see a truck with those “Blind Spot” mud flaps, you will get the reference.
Did you know the red circle in the 7 Up un-cola logo was once the brand’s mascot? It’s true! So popular was this anthropomorphic circle that he was the title character in at least three video games. The first one we played was for NES, way back when you could rent 8-bit games from a physical store. Without instruction, the game was infuriating and mocked players as the Spot character skated around the screen every time it won some type of Othello game. Rest assured, this led people straight down the road of Sprite. Don’t worry, 7 Up learned their lesson and made sure the Sega game was actually fun. Fun enough that we at least bought a box of 7 Up ice pops (remember those?).
10 – Yo! Noid (NES)
It seems as if just about every food organization was in the mascot business at some point. McDonald’s, for instance, has been promoting hamburgers primarily with a clown for decades. Domino’s Pizza, on the other hand, used a Noid. What’s a Noid? Uh, we’re not really sure, honestly. We do know there was once an awesome Noid candy and Craig Bartlett, the guy who did Pee Wee’s Playhouse claymation and created Hey Arnold!, animated Noid in the commercials. The video game, though, was a Japanese game localized for the American market. The game is quite the challenge, so hard that it’s tempting to bypass Domino’s all together and run straight toward Hungry Howie’s.
9 – Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool, Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest (SNES, Sega Genesis)
If 7 Up and Domino’s could be in the video game business, there was really nothing stopping Cheetos from doing the same. So, that’s exactly what they did by releasing two Chester Cheetah games for the 16-bit market. If you ever wanted to navigate through a platformer as a cheese puff mascot, then these are the games for you! The games didn’t have quite enough bite for us, leaving no option but to purchase a bag of Wise Cheez Doodles Crunchy instead. Perhaps if the game developers had sent Chester Cheetah on a mission for Cheetos Paws or Cheetos Light, the game could have been more intense in its display of action.
8 – Johnson & Johnson Tooth Protectors (Atari 2600)
Atari had its share of advergames, including a Purina dog food tie-in title called Chase the Chuck Wagon. Johnson & Johnson wanted in on this action and commissioned Tooth Protectors to promote their brand. As it turns out, the game is now incredibly rare in the collector market because it was only available via mail order with proof of purchase stamps. Apparently, the final page of the game instructions promotes Johnson & Johnson products as “the real tooth protectors”. As fun as it is to have two games about tooth decay, this coupled with Plaque Attack (also for Atari 2600), candy is still pretty commonplace around the PopRewind offices. D’oh!
7 – Zool (Various)
And while those two dental hygiene games haven’t done us any favors, it’s hard to compete with games like Zool that are chock-full of cavity-inducing goodness: namely Chupa Chups. Imagine Sonic if he were hopped up on candy instead of rings and Chaos emeralds. Not a terrible game, but you’re liable to crack a molar on one of those Chupa Chups if you can’t be patient enough to reach that bubble gum center through natural devices.
6 – Kool-Aid (Atari 2600, Intellivision)
OH YEAHHHHH! Save up your points and send ’em to the Wacky Warehouse, we’re gonna play Kool-Aid Man for the Atari 2600! And if you’re really good and organized, you may even get the other version of it for the Intellivision (don’t lose your overlays!) Was this effective advertising or any fun? Eh, no one was too picky about games back then and for 125 Kool-Aid points, there were worse offerings from the Wacky Warehouse. When we reach for a powdered beverage, you better believe we’re still reaching for Kool-Aid!
5 – McDonald’s Donald Land/Global Gladiators/M.C. Kids/Treasure Land Adventure (Various)
McDonald’s has a myriad of video games with their name and products plastered all over them, from Donald Land to Global Gladiators, M.C. Kids to McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure. The stand-out here was M.C. Kids. McDonald’s tried so hard to make them cool and cash in on that Kriss Kross-style era. Mick and Mack are looking for Ronald’s Magic Bag that the Hamburglar swiped. The best part– the M.C. Kids go to the moon to visit CosMc. WHAT. Overall, this game is way better than actually eating McDonalds, unless they start whippin’ up the Arch Deluxe again.
4 – Pepsi Invaders/Coke Wins (Atari 2600)
It seems there are two camps of people: Coke people and Pepsi people. And also a third camp of people who don’t care or can’t tell the difference. Coke fits in the fourth camp– cocky assholes. Coca-Cola commissioned a Space Invaders clone for their 1983 sales convention. Instead of shooting aliens, players shot the letters PEPSI. This was never available commercially, and we doubt this kind of product would fly in today’s world. Still, Space Invaders is pretty fun, so Pepsi Invaders kinda is, too. But we drink R.C.
3 – Chex Quest (PC)
If Linz has any regrets about spending her youth pretending to enjoy Alphabits cereal so her mom wouldn’t find out she only wanted them for the Animanicas POGs, it’s that she didn’t get to eat Chex. Scratch that– it’s that she didn’t get the Chex Quest PC game, a non-violent Doom clone released in Chex boxes in 1996. While she was busy playing with POGs, she missed out on the very first video game to be included in a cereal box. In Chex Quest, you play as a piece of Chex fighting against aliens. Because in dire circumstances, Chex is our only hope. We’re still eating Count Chocula from this past Hallowe’en season, but if Chex is going to include re-branded Silent Hill games, a switch may be in order.
2 – Drac’s Night Out (NES)
It’s difficult to remember a time when Reebok was popular enough that it would warrant a Nintendo game. Although, maybe it wasn’t popular enough after all since Drac’s Night Out remains unreleased (although a ROM is available). Players controlled Dracula in this 1991 game, navigating his castle all while avoiding hostile villagers. And what was Drac wearing? Reebok Pump shoes. Maybe it’s because we associate Reebok shoes with moms, but we think Drac could have chosen some more stylish footwear, especially if he’s wearing a tux. We both wear New Balance shoes, leaving our fashionista status at pending.
1 – Chase the Chuck Wagon (Atari 2600)
When we think video games, we think dog food. In 1983, Purina picked up on this common association and released Chase the Chuck Wagon for the Atari 2600. This was available through Purina by mailing in proofs of purchase. As most Atari games of the time, this was a simple maze-based game where the player controlled a dog to get it to the chuck wagon. You also control him eating dog food. Aim higher, dog! You have your own video game, at least chase something that isn’t just dog food. We sure aimed higher and haven’t eaten dog food in at least five years. Sorry Purina, this just doesn’t make the cut.