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Mario's Mascot Muscle

Or a big fish in an even bigger pond

Mario's been around since the beginning, and he's seen a lot. He's been through the Turbo-Grafx', the Jaguars, and 8 years of President Reagan, and, accordingly, he's seen his own ups and downs.
In the NES days, Mario was the big cheese. The Big Kahuna. El Mascoto numero uno. There was close competition with the wildly popular Link (of Zelda fame), and maybe even Metroids Samus Aran, but Mario was Nintendo's first, and they loved him. He was packed in with their system, featured in their magazines, and on all their ads and products. Other companies couldn't even come close. Mega Man had his day in the popular eye, and Simon Belmont was mildly popular, but they couldn't touch Mario with a ten foot pole.
Then came Sonic. Sega and their ultra-hip mascot spoke to a newer generation with tons of speed and minimal thinking in his games (which were very good, but basically the opposite of Mario). Sonic made Mario's overalls and goombas seem terribly dated (He dates back to 1982 after all), and broke into the mascot market. Nintendo, in the meantime, hadn't been sitting on just Mario. Nintendo had new franchises such as Kirby, Star Fox, and later Donkey Kong country, which provided real competition for Mario's mascot ground. (Especially DK Country, whose wild popularity made him a major figure in gaming... again). Other established mascots from 3rd party NES games were gaining popularity and fresh games, but not Mario. With a nearly 5 years gap between SMW and YI, he lost a lot of ground to Sonic (Whose sequels, while more derivitave, came out every year like clockwork). Mario's mascot muscle was dwindling.
The 64-bit era gave everybody and their brother a mascot, some of which were good, others awful. The good ones included Crash Bandicoot and Gex the Gecko, but the awful ones came to breast augmentation specialist Lara Croft (who people other than me seem to like), Mr. Big Chest, Blasto (Who's game looks OK, but is just too corny for me), and girl power activist Sassy (Who I just made up). Super Mario 64 put the plumber in the headlines, but he is losing ground.
In a sea of Mascots, Mario's no longer the great white he once was. Now, he's just another fish in the crowd (nice analogy, eh). I still say he's the greatest, for one simple reason.. The games. No other mascot brings out great, higly playable games that bring innovative new elements to gaming as much as Mario. Also, Mario's popularity usurps most any other video game character ever. With countless games, products, cameos, and mythos made around him, everyone knows Mario! Heck, look at the reaction to this site. Most everyone loves Mario.

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