Rare Marketing: Vintage Gaming Edition

2 min read

An avid videogamer

It’s been a long time, friends. Too long. But after an extended sabbatical, Rare Marketing is here once again to ridicule and praise the most notable feats in advertising.

In carrying on with tradition, here are five original takes undercooked to perfection—all with that sweet, sweet secret rub. Welcome back.  


Forget Rogaine—use a hedgehog.

Staying up until the wee hours of the night watching TV in the 90s meant one thing: infomercials. There was the Thigh Master, ShamWows, BluBlockers—and who could forget the legendary Potty Putter. Sega deftly lampooned the trend with a Sonic 2 spot that can only be described as a perfect summation of every 90s infomercial cliché. At first, I was skeptical Sonic could fix male pattern baldness—but once I strapped the plastic clamshell case to my noggin, my confidence went through the roof! And it fits in my tackle box!


RIP Teddy.

Remember that super creepy Downy Snuggle Bear? It was legitimately horrifying. Luckily, the marketers behind the video game BattleTanx knew the public needed to see that bear die, which is why they eviscerated it with explosive ordnance. Was the game made just so we could experience this rare marketing gem? I’ve played BattleTanx—the answer is yes.


Great shot, mom!

When advertisers lead with the “life is short” message, they’re typically trying to sell you a car or a vacation. But when Microsoft tried this approach with their new Xbox console—albeit in a very non-traditional way—the results were, shall we say, rather striking. Legend has it this ad was banned in several markets, which doesn’t make a lick of sense; it’s a startlingly accurate representation of the beautiful circle of life.


Gears for fears.

If you’ve never heard “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, you’re in for a treat. It’s haunting and beautiful, and Gary Jules’s cover of it perfectly accentuates the abject feeling of the original. The song was used to great dramatic effect in a spot for the ultra-violent sci-fi shooter Gear of War—and what results is one of the most arresting and brilliant video game commercials you’ll ever see. John Woo would be proud.


And that’s how cyborg mice babies are made.

Unlike today, Nintendo used to have a reputation for “edgy” marketing. They used shameless cultural appropriation to advertise Dr. Mario, plush mascots beating the crap out of each other to advertise Smash Brothers…and then there’s this commercial for the Game Boy Micro. Is having a mouse vigorously hump the product you’re trying to sell a sure path to marketing success? If I were 13, I think you’d know my answer.