These video game characters deserve Thanksgiving parade balloons

Thanksgiving is a holiday of traditions. It’s an excuse to eat some good food, watch football with your old man, and fall asleep on the couch as all that tryptophan sinks in. As a kid, my favorite part of the holiday was always the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a spectacle where I’d get to see all of my favorite cartoon characters blown up larger than life. You can’t imagine my excitement the first time I saw an enormous Pikachu floating through the streets of New York City.

While video games have been represented at the parade over the years, their appearances have been sparse. Outside of Pokémon and Sonic, only a handful of gaming franchises have really gotten the balloon treatment. That leaves a whole slew of deserving mascots sitting on the sidelines, watching the floats pass by with the rest of us.

Consider this my proposal to the parade committee. There are plenty of great video game characters that deserve to fly in next year’s show. Here are a few of my most practical picks.


Kirby appears as a big round ball in Kirby's Dream Buffet.

Frankly, it’s a little surprising that Kirby isn’t already a staple of of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The pink puffball is already a living balloon, making him a perfect choice from a design standpoint. He especially deserves it at this point in history though, as Kirby and the Forgotten Land is one of Nintendo’s finest games Nintendo has released in years. Personally, though, I’d love to see a balloon fashioned after his orb-like appearance in Kirby’s Dream Buffet.

The Rabbids

An angry Wiggler ambushes the heroes from behind in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.

Let’s call a spade a spade: Rabbids are the Minions of video games. They’re annoying but endearing little creatures that are brimming with slapstick energy. Though they’ve been popular for well over a decade now, they’ve yet to be treated as gaming royalty like Pikachu. This year’s excellent Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope proved that these little freaks are more than just a gimmick, so it’s the perfect time to bring them into the fold. If we have to pick just one, I vote that Rabbid Peach gets the spot so she can take the world’s biggest selfie.

Chris Pratt’s Mario

Mario stands on a mushroom in the Super Mario Bros. movie.

Mario is no stranger to the Thanksgiving Day parade. He’s gotten to fly through his city wearing his yellow builder outfit from Super Mario Maker. However, there’s a new version of Mario on the horizon that’s going to make gaming biggest star even more famous. The Super Mario Bros. movie is set to release next year and introduce the world to Chris Pratt’s spin on the iconic plumber. Naturally, the movie version of Mario deserves to be immortalized to commemorate the release, complete with some matching voice lines delivered in Pratt’s vague Brooklyn accent. The best part about this is that it’ll be a relatively cheap balloon to create since the designers won’t have to use much material when replicating movie Mario’s paper-thin butt.

Master Chief

Master Chief meeting the Weapon in Halo Infinite.

While the big parade usually focuses on kid-friendly characters, there’s plenty of room for gaming’s more mature icons. Case in point: Master Chief. Xbox’s big green mascot is a gaming legend at this point, and his recent foray into live action TV has made him a cross-media superstar. The team creating this balloon could even take some cues from Halo Infinite‘s development to make sure the project is ready for 2023. It can just rush a first draft of it out next year and release the full balloon in 2024.


Kratos looks at the Leviathan Axe.

Kratos has always been one of gaming’s most iconic faces, and that’s only become more true in recent years thanks to the series’ successful soft reboot. With this year’s critically acclaimed God of War Ragnarok (which picked up a whopping 10 Game Awards nominations), it’s become clear that Kratos deserves to be one of gaming’s household name, like Pikachu. I propose inflating the big bald dad up and floating him down Sixth Avenue with a tiny Atreus balloon at his side. Just picture the commentary: “And here comes the God of War himself, Kratos, flying with his boy in tow!”


Joel and Ellie in HBO's The Last of Us.

Speaking of Sony’s top franchises, The Last of Us is slowly turning into a cultural institution worthy of a balloon. That’s thanks in part to its upcoming HBO adaptation, which is sure to bring the survival-horror story some mainstream attention. To make sure the parade is ahead of the curve, it’s only right that The Last of Us protagonist Joel get to fly alongside Kratos. The folks pulling that balloon just need to be careful, though; I’d hate to see Joel’s head collide with a light post.


Balan holds a girl in Balan Wonderworld

OK, look, Balan Wonderworld is infamously bad, and you could argue that it doesn’t “deserve” a spot here. But think of its inclusion more as a tribute to its creator, gaming legend Yuji Naka … who was recently arrested for insider trading. It’s a complicated story, but allegations state that Yuji Naka and two other Square Enix employees used their inside knowledge of the then-unannounced Dragon Quest Treasures to buy tons of shares in developer Aiming. But should that information stop Macy’s from proudly flying a giant replica of the game’s top-hat-toting hero? Probably, yeah.

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