Ah, nostalgic commercials. We love ’em, right? Of course we do. They hearken back to when we were wide-eyed and eager to antagonize our parents into buying the colorful, purportedly non-toxic garbage flashing across our screens. The 90s had some great commercials for video games. Here are 7 of my personal favorites, many of which I still remember just as vividly as when I was a kid.
Super Smash Bros. 64 – Who doesn’t remember this commercial back in 1999? Open field filled with summer rays and sunflowers, the hippie pop of The Turtles’ “Happy Together” playing, and then POW! Mario drops Yoshi like a stone and then it’s a free-for-all. I remember falling off the couch laughing at Yoshi’s gormless look as Pikachu is hurled around like a leaf in a storm. The commercial is brief at only 30 seconds, yet the image of people in Nintendo character costumes beating each other senseless has remained with me for many years and several sequels to this original classic.
NFL Football ’94 – One of these quintessentially aggressive Sega commercials of the 90s. Trying to be contrarian by showcasing an alternative to the Madden series, Sega cranked out a number of football titles, one of which was NFL Football ’94 featuring Joe Montana long before he wanted to kiss anybody. As part of its message of embracing division and competition, this commercial was banking on the rivalry between Montana and the late Reggie White. Though I never played this game, the exchange of, “Who do you see?/Reggie White!” was all over TV that season.
Link to the Past – Okay, so this is not one I remember, but as anyone who’s seen nostalgic commercials with the Nostalgia Critic can testify to, this is one of those classic commercials that leaves one with his mouth hanging agape in stupor for several seconds after it’s over. This Japanese commercial for the SNES classic is over the top, with Link choreographed to hip-hop. It’s so densely 90s in its hokey look that you might be surprised to find a Tamagotchi in your hand that you didn’t see there at the start of this commercial.
Sonic Pasta – This commercial, too, is overwhelmingly 90s. In case the first thing you notice is that the kid is playing Mushroom Hill Zone while the music from Chemical Plant Zone is rather incongruously superimposed, consider yourself a Sonic fan. There’s something disturbing about this commercial, though, and I’m not talking about the elbow macaroni and barbecue sauce masquerading as pasta. Rather, the fact that this commercial accurately predicted the (or perhaps was merely reflective of the already-existing) trend of gamers being fixtures in front of their gaming devices, unmoved by such basic human needs as food and indifferent to the idea of articulating more than the most minimal of grunts in acknowledgment of other human beings, is what seems most astonishing. Of course, if immobility of that kind didn’t kill you, eating Sonic Pasta probably would.
Super Mario 64 Got Milk? – “Come on, Mario, jump!” If you ever watched children’s programming at any time after 1996, you saw this commercial. It lasted for a good few years, disappeared, and made a reappearance for a short time before the Gamecube launched. Two children express their frustration with Mario’s lack of ups in a stage in Super Mario 64, and Mario resorts to chugging a gallon of milk to supersize himself. “Got Milk?” commercials were all the rage at that time, roping in celebrities of all kinds to wear the milk mustache. I recall having a certain disdain for the commercial, being a Sega fanboy, but also approving of the fact that using a video game character to appeal to my demographic was a sagacious move. Still didn’t make me drink milk, though.
NiGHTS into Dreams… – Compared to the relative innocuity of the commercial above, this one is hilarious for how patronizing it is. Sega comes out with guns blazing and its sights firmly set on the Sony PlayStation, which it labels as a grossly underpowered “play thing.” This commercial reeks of Sega’s trademark audacity, all but calling the PlayStation a cheap piece of garbage and is mostly memorable more for that alone than the fact that it’s trying to show off the cult classic game NiGHTS into Dreams… If the brashness of this commercial leaves you aghast, this last commercial will leave you speechless…
StarFox 64 – There is no single word to describe this 8 minute infomercial. This commercial is camp to the extreme, complete with overacting, cheesy dialogue, and lousy rock music. Sega and Sony are depicted as a gargantuan buffoon and a weaselly conniver, respectively, which is even more aggressive than the NiGHTS commercial. Nintendo is eager to call out both of its competitors by name, literally saying that neither the Sega Saturn nor the Sony PlayStation can play this game. Nintendo is also joking at its own expense by showing its employees as very easily emotionally manipulated by torturing a Mario doll. Commercials like this simply aren’t done anymore; video game commercials are about spectacle these days, and while spectacle certainly featured heavily in this commercial, it was done with a healthy dose of self-effacing humor that is absent from the cinema trailer-like video game commercials of today.
Those are just seven of scores of great commercials that came out in the 1990s. They still bring a smile to my face (“You didn’t tell them about the RumblePak, did you?/No, Bob, you just did!”) and remind me of simpler times. If you loved these commercials or have others that come to mind, I would love to hear from you!