When you think of breakfast cereals, you usually think of your childhood. Waking up on a Saturday morning and watching cartoons until your parents tell you to stop and go outside or clean your room. Or maybe pour a bowl of your favorite cereal before your run to school. Grain is the staple of most childhoods, it’s also a great late-night snack. What goes well with snacking? Computer Games. So what about video game grains? The gimmick cornflakes we all had to have and it didn’t matter if it was good or not, we still needed it. The cereal aisle was a huge display of brightly colored boxes all trying to get your attention. Trix, Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops were some of the biggest names out there that you could always count on as a kid. But what about the video games? What was new and what prices did they offer inside?
The cereal game is strong and over the years we’ve had some really good ones and some that we just ate because of the marketing or the toys in them. This required me to do some serious research and dig deep into the pantry to find the ones I remember as a kid and sometimes wish I could have forgotten.
Nintendo Cereal System
It would be hard not to talk about this cereal that was released in 1988 and discontinued in 1989. The cereal contained two of Nintendo’s most popular and successful games at the time. Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. The box was split in the middle for packaging and came with two separate bags for each cereal.
One side dubbed the “Super Mario Bros. Action Series” featured fruity-flavored cereal with items from the game such as mushrooms, Goomba, Koopa Troopas, and more. On the other hand, it was called “The Legend of Zelda Adventure Series” and featured a berry-flavored breakfast cereal with hearts, keys, and boomerangs. Which fans of the game will recognize as must have items in the game.
Each box came with a collectible sticker inside and trading cards on the back. You can also enter a “Super Mario Bros.” bowl or a ‘NES Power Pad’. However, the real price comes from those who have managed to keep a box unopened, as they sell for anywhere between $100 and $200. Which is of course much better than a bowl of cereal or Power Pad.
Donkey Kong cereal
In 1982, Ralston produced the Donkey Kong cereal, promoting it as “breakfast crispy barrels”. With Donkey Kong as the number one video game after the dethronement of Pac-Man, the cereal was a huge success. The grain itself was in the form of barrels that Mario (called Jumpman at the time) naturally had to jump over to reach Donkey Kong. The grain had a very similar taste to another popular brand, Cap’n Crunch.
One of the highlights of this grain was when it was placed on the Mr. Rogers Show appeared. An episode where he went to the supermarket to show the kids how to shop. The grain remained on the shelf until 1984.
Donkey Kong Junior Cereal
In 1983, a year before the Donkey Kong Cereal ceased to exist (RIP), Donkey Kong Jr. from the video games and in your pantry. These cereals were more of a favorite among kids than the original ones, not just because of the marketing, but the actual cereal itself.
Rather than just barrels floating around in your bowl, DKJ consisted of fruit-flavored pieces and fruit-shaped pieces. Much more colorful and fun to eat. It also came with trading cards in it, a game book, and a game on the back that didn’t offer his father’s cereal. While DKJ had a solid run on grains, it was a short one like so many after. In 1984, just a year later, it was all done for the little monkey, at least in terms of food.
Pac-Man breakfast cereal
Pac-Man wasn’t happy after losing the crown to Donkey Kong, so in 1983 General Mills released a Pac-Man cereal of theirs to beat Kong. The cereal had marshmallow versions of Pac-Man and all the ghosts. One thing I remember about this cereal is that it was similar to Kix but loaded with sugar. And if that wasn’t enough of a reason for my parents never to buy it, the price in it was Ran-Blo gum. So a sugar-infused cereal with some sugar-infused chewing gum to eat afterwards? Sounds logical.
General Mills kept this on supermarket shelves until 1985. So in the end, the yellow dot took donkey Kong-eating cherry-loving Pac-Man. Even the ghosts were happy with the victory.
Sonic the Hedgehog Cereal
Sonic may never have had his own breakfast cereal, but he was sort of a big marketing campaign with Cheerios in 1994. It was all part of a big partnership with Sega to promote Genesis. It offered game tips, T-shirt giveaways, and more.
Ultimately, the plan was to launch Sonic’s own breakfast cereal, but plans changed and the only apparition he had was shared with the bee. They thought about reviving the program when Sonic hit the big screen, but that never happened.
Pokemon entered a more modern era and finally reached the world of breakfast and your pantry with its own style. The Pokemon craze started in 1998, but Kellogg’s didn’t release the cereal until 2000. With a bright blue box and pictures of Pikachu and other popular Pokemon packed all over the front and back, it stood out on the shelf and eventually found its way into most families’ shopping carts.
The original version of this cereal didn’t last long, and several boxes have been spotted on eBay for $50. But unlike most video game cereals, you can still find a version of the Pokemon brand in many grocery stores like Wal-Mart. and Target or even order on Amazon. Other than the prices and the box, not much has changed with it. If you have a winner why would you do anything else.
Super Mario Cereal
After years of sticking to the video games, the Italian plumber made a comeback to the supermarkets with his own breakfast cereals offered by Kellogg’s. This time he goes solo though, sorry Luigi looks like you should have your own.
In January 2018, Mario came out swinging with his big red box of cereal and his famous face plastered over it. A crunchy star-wrapped bag of colored marshmallows that should look like game items and characters… but in reality they look like blobs of color.
While this was a hit for themed cereals, it wasn’t a hit with fans and kids. One review even said, “I wonder if a spaghetti-tasting cereal would be better than this.” another said: “I long for the days of the Nintendo Cereal System.” Ouch! However, what made it worse was the taste of the stars. The stars had a “mixed berry glaze” on them that tasted more like a melted Crayola chalk than any kind of berry I’ve ever had or seen before. Some have even said that the stars taste like a lemon version of Kix, which of course also sounds awful.
You know it’s bad when Amazon stops offering it and Wal-mart passes the backorder. So if you wanted to try it, take it from me… you’re not missing anything. Maybe it’s time to call Luigi and see what he’s up to these days, because it couldn’t be worse. I mean maybe a mushroom tasting cereal? Magic mushrooms? Hmmmm… I mean, they worked for Mario.
Minecraft Creep Crunch Cereal
Kellogg’s returned to the video game crop circle with a massive win starting in 2020. MindCraft Creeper Crunch is everything a video game cereal needs. A very popular video game, great box, great advertising and solid cereal. This one touches on all those important points. Creeper Crunch is a cinnamon cereal with marshmallows in the form of well-known MindCraft items from the game. One of the coolest features is that it comes with unlockable codes that can be used in the game for clothes and accessories. If you don’t feel like sharing, you can always buy the family size on Amazon.
Kellogg’s also plans to release another version of this cereal in Fall 2021, but no details are being released at this time.
However, in the mid-90s, there was a massive decline in video game-themed cereals. You could occasionally find a limited box release, like when the Funko Pop Mega Man came out or when Call of Duty had a short series in store. But for the most part, the video games kept doing what they do best and that is making video games. What did continue to grow in popularity was collecting, buying and selling those nostalgic brands.
Currently, a flat, unused Donkey Kong Box on eBay costs $1,795.95. Yeah, maybe you should read that again. If that’s a bit too much for you, you can find a used one for as little as $15. You may prefer the Donkey Kong Jr. brand, no problem, they have one for $61. Not a fan of Kong? Pac-Man may be more your style, but you’re in luck because on multiple websites they have both used and unused boxes from $7.99 – $25.00. Not to mention cereal t-shirts, magnets and stickers.
Of course I have to be honest and mention Ms. Pac-Man’s special big marshmallows and pink bow feature that came out. Or the many different Star Wars cereals based on the video games and not the movies. Even Nintendo’s Game Boy had a cereal that was on the market for six months before being taken down due to a lack of sales.
G.I. Joe Cereal
Yes GI Joe is not considered a true video game cereal, but the brand has spawned several video games and of course a successful cartoon. So based on my very strict criteria, I allow this to be part of my trip down memory lane.
Released by Ralston (again) in 1985, which was almost the same year as the cartoon, G.I.Joe was one of the most popular cereals out there. That makes sense because of its huge popularity with toys and cartoons. The box featured over ten different characters from the show, including Duke, Cobra Commander, Destro, Gung-Ho, and several others. Which meant you had to have a new box every week with a new Joe on it.
The actual grain itself was an oat/wheat grain in the shape of hollowed-out stars. Imagine lucky charms, but not marshmallows in a way. So in theory less sugar, but you can’t be GIJoe and eat marshmallows. One of the coolest features that set this brand apart from others was the price each box came with.
When it was first released, the box came with the collector’s comic book from G.I.Joe and not some cheap made for marketing comics, but actual comic books. During the very short run in the supermarkets, they offered a lot of cool prizes and giveaways to get kids to harass their parents into buying. T-shirt giveaways, stickers, trading cards and even a special offer on an exclusive G.I.Joe action figure with a mail in card were among the offerings. A fun fact was that the action figure was only seen on the animated forum in the commercial and never in the animated show. For those who want to know what the name of the action figures was, it was Starduster. If you didn’t know, now you know and knowing is half the battle.
Neopets Island Berry Crunch
In 2006, General Mills partnered with the web-based game Neopets and released its own breakfast cereal. It was basically Trix stripped down to just two colors/flavors that were based on berries that exist in the Neopets world. The boxes contained prizes or goodies with Neopets TCG cards and codes that could be used on the website. At one point, the mascot even had his own comic book. And in January 2006, “The Cereal Adventure Kitchen” opened and gave all users a free bowl of cereal and a day. But even that couldn’t save the brand and soon after, Neopets Islandberry Crunch fell victim to the cereal game again.
We know the famous breakfast cereal Chex, I mean it’s only been around since 1937. But you know the video game “Chex Quest?” Created in 1996 by Digital Cafe, the game was a non-violent game created to promote the breakfast cereal among children between the ages of six and nine. This was the first time a video game was sold with the cornflakes and it was a huge success. It won the Golden EFFIE Award for Effectiveness in 1996 and the Golden Reggie Award for Promotional Achievement in 1998.
Chex Quest was played on the “DOOM” model and was also first person play. The plot was quite simple, it takes place on another planet where slime based aliens kidnapped and enslaved the settlers. Of course, the main hero (Bazoik) wears Chex-plated armor and has a weapon that can teleport his enemies back to their home planet. So not exactly DOOM, but a simple five-level game for kids. And a pretty great reason to eat grains, which is more than I can say about the “prices” these days.
The game would have cost retailers about $35, but was added to the cereal at no extra cost. Although this was only six weeks of promotion, the brand grew by 295%. The game was packaged in more than 5.7 million boxes of cereal and had a budget of $500,000. The company was so impressed that they released a sequel (originally due in 2008) in 2019 and a documentary that can be watched on YouTube. Not bad for a company that has never developed a video game before or changed much from their traditional grain concept.
Whatever games you play or the system you play them on, video games and cereal are partners in the game world. From the nightly streaming sessions to the full-scale missions, cereal is easy and quick to eat so you can fuel up for the next boss. So why are the shelves missing video game themed cereal now? Is it just a sign of the times? Maybe a marketing change? Or have we outgrown the sugar-based floating form of our favorite games? I mean, it can’t be. Lucky Charms, Count Chocula and more still find their way into our pantry. What do you think? What were some of your favorites growing up and do you have one now? Comment and give us your feedback on anything I missed or should have mentioned.
Topics: Video Games, Nintendo