You’re about to take a deep dive into nostalgia, as I guide you through some classic video game commercials from yesteryear.
Your television isn’t just for playing video games, you know. Sometimes we use it to just watch things, without interacting with them. And every now and then to stop us getting bored they put breaks in these things we watch, and they feature stuff we can buy or watch at a later date. If we’re really lucky, sometimes these breaks show games we may or may not want to play, but we can’t play because we’re watching them on the television and not playing them.
In the first of what may be a recurring series, I’m here to curate some of the many video game adverts I was exposed to as an impressionable youngster.
Super Mario Land 2 was an impressive Game Boy game at the time, offering a Mario platformer that was far more advanced than the original Super Mario Land, with visuals and mechanics taken straight from the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario World. Adopting a map-based non-linear game progression where players could tackle each of the game’s worlds in any order, this release also signalled the debut of a new nemesis for Super Mario – His evil yellow-clad doppelganger, Wario, who takes centre stage in this particular commercial for the game.
If you were born outside of Europe, and especially the United Kingdom, you may not realise that the Nintendo Entertainment System didn’t do quite as well here is it did over in North America and Japan. Part of that was because Nintendo’s marketing was pretty bad, while SEGA had a massive media presence for the Master System, Game Gear and Mega Drive systems. One of the most fondly remembered commercials was a series of ads portraying a gentleman rolling up into a barbershop and asking for a Cyber Razorcut. This TV spot kickstarted a series of excellent adverts that were shown in the UK throughout the life of the Mega Drive and put the system on the map.
SEGA’s edgy, attitude-laden approach to marketing was a stark contrast to Nintendo’s family-friendly image. But Nintendo’s UK branch tried to even the score a little, with a series of adverts featuring the late, great, Rik Mayall. These adverts were just as funny and as anarchic as fans of Rik had come to expect and were as much a showcase of his trademark humour as they were advertisements for Nintendo’s upcoming releases. There’s a lot of great adverts in this series, but this commercial for Street Fighter 2 Turbo is one of my favourites.
When it came to the launch of the PlayStation, Sony took SEGA’s style of marketing and expanded on it further, hoping to appeal to teenagers and adults by aligning themselves with club culture as well as broadcasting a series of humorous commercials, spearheaded by the Society Against PlayStation, an organisation warning the world of the imposing threat of Sony’s debut console. The PlayStation brand would feature in many great adverts over the coming decades, but here’s where it all started. A bit of trivia for you – In Germany, these adverts changes SAPS to DEP – Defend Earth Against PlayStation.
I finish up this first Commercial Break with a commercial that was probably one of the biggest deals ever when I was growing up. Super Mario Bros. 3 felt like a massive deal when it came out, and this advertisement has a lot to do with that. This 30-second clip features no gameplay footage, and not a single word about the game itself – But after watching it you had to have this game.