The idea of branded cereal is pretty weird, when you think about it. Movies, cartoons, video games, and action figures don't taste like anything. There's nothing intrinsic to Batman or Pac-Man or G.I. Joe that carries over into a comestible.
Of course, the idea does make some kind of commercial sense, or it wouldn't have happened so often. The cereal aisle in a supermarket is a Darwinian jungle in which all but the most entrenched brands must struggle for survival using any tricks they have - colorful box art, enticing pack-in toys, and famous entertainment brands. If grownups are largely indifferent to these embellishments, their kids certainly aren't, so the boxes fly off the shelves - at least until the next fad comes along.
The 1980s might have been the decade that saw Peak Branded Cereal. Take a sugar-sweetened, vitamin-fortified stroll down memory lane with these vintage cereal boxes. Vote up the ones that actually tasted good, or at least look like they might have been digestible.
Donkey Kong Cereal
Donkey Kong cereal appears to be shaped like the barrels that the eponymous giant ape throws at Mario to stop him from rescuing the captive young woman. It's rather clever how the box art actually integrates the cereal into a gameplay scene.
At least it makes the connection more explicit than it otherwise would have been.Part of a balanced breakfast?
Pac-Man cereal tries harder than a lot of the cereals on this list. General Mills didn't just slap some game art on the box and call it a day. The spherical cereal pieces look like Power Pellets from the game, and marshmallow bits take the form of Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and the ghosts who pursue them.
Add the fact that the whole Pac-Man concept revolves around eating small round things, and you've got a pretty happy marriage of video game and cereal. (At least visually - how it tastes is another question.)Part of a balanced breakfast?
To its credit, E.T. is one of the few branded cereals where the actual taste of the food has some connection - however tenuous - to the source material. It's peanut butter and chocolate flavored, which is presumably a tip of the hat to E.T.'s in-movie fondness for Reese's Pieces.
Other than that, well, the cereal is shaped like E's and T's, and (whether coincidentally or not) is about the same color as the beloved alien himself.Part of a balanced breakfast?
Nintendo Cereal System
In the late '80s, Nintendo was the undisputed lord and master of the video game universe. The company was too cool to have a cereal; it had a cereal system. This hybrid approach does seem like a missed opportunity to market "Super Mari-Os" as a cereal line unto itself, but far be it from us to question the wisdom of their marketing team.
It's also unclear how you distinguish "fruity" from "berry" flavors in a sugary milk sludge, especially because berries are a kind of fruit, but... as Nintendo-obsessed as kids were in those days, this cereal probably flew off the shelves for a time anyway.Part of a balanced breakfast?