As the most important meal of the day, breakfast has historically served as a time for nerds everywhere to disregard healthy eating in favor of vitamin-fortified sugar. Thankfully, nearly every leading food producer has been happy to feed this need. When their own creativity in producing kid-friendly brands waned, the mad scientists responsible for feeding a culture of addicts reached out to marketing experts, who quickly slapped established intellectual properties on boxes with little-to no real modification of their products. The results have been good to nerd kind, feeding fans of some wonderful franchises the finest near-nourishment approved by the FDA. Read on to celebrate these catalysts of many wonderful mornings for nerds of all ages.
12) Bill and Ted’s Excellent Cereal
Based on Bill and Ted‘s lackluster animated series, the Wyld Stallyons’ cereal managed to find some semblance of coolness by utilizing musical notes for marshmallows. Between both Bill and Ted films, it’s unclear whether either hero exhibited any real musical flair, but the fact that they seemed to like sheet music in their cereal is encouraging. Plus, they were willing to destroy the fabric of time and space by supplying medieval knights with food from the far future in the name of deliciousness, which proves they’re fit to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. Most excellent!
11) Pok?mon Cereal
Big props to Kellogg’s for translating a video game commodity into a marshmallow cereal that tasted better than a mother’s sincerest attempts at clever cooking. Ungrateful children everywhere could enjoy their favorite (well, some favorites – nobody likes Oddish) pocket monsters in delicious Lucky Charms-style bites. Sure, the operation was pure kid-sploitation, but that doesn’t mean the actual product didn’t deliver with 12 or so essential vitamins and minerals. Better still, Kellogg’s followed up with Pok?mon Pop-Tarts, making sugar comas fashionable from Palette Town to the Indigo Plateau.
10) Pac-Man Cereal and Donkey Kong Cereal (tie)
The two kings of the arcade world both got their breakfast due with cereals from titans of the cereal industry. Pac-Man’s legacy with General Mills would last through many incarnations (and advertising campaigns), whereas Donkey Kong’s edible moment in the sun would fade more quickly. The secret to Pac-Man’s success may have been the marshmallow advantage, or maybe the awesome dance it inspired. Regardless, Donkey Kong’s crunch resulted in Mario’s default first breakfast appearance, which he’d later reprise as a much bigger star. Of course, Donkey Kong Jr. got his own cereal too, meaning the only clear winners from this era of video game cereals were those lucky enough to eat them all.
9) G.I. Joe Action Stars
Where most cereals settle for playing up their most flavorful feature, G.I. Joe strikes with precision with a name that tells kids everything they need to know: This cereal is full of action – patriotic action – possibly involving ninja throwing stars. Kids who were stealthy enough to make it past the completely unarmed cobra troopers who guarded their kitchen got to chow down on the sweetened star-shapes, which gave them the power to fly without the aid of a jet pack. The benefits seem pretty limitless, but Starduster is no fool. He wears a jet pack because he knew the explosive power of action stars caught up with eaters on the way out.
8) Smurf-Berry Crunch/Smurf Magic Berries
There are a lot of folks (and stoners) who argue that the Smurfs were godless commies and/or asexual beasts with a lust for trannies. While Smurf-Berry Crunch and Smurf Magic Berries do little to diffuse those theories, they do reinforce Papa Smurf’s role as a grand leader. Post probably never intended to depict Papa as an alchemist monster with the power to bend reality to his violent marshmallowy will, but by golly, they did. Don’t piss off the big man, kids. You will get “smurfed.”
Only the nerdiest man of the ’90s would think to create a breakfast cereal in the name of love. That man? Steven Q. Urkel. According to Urkel’s advertisements, he made the o-shaped cereal to win the affection of Laura Winslow, after all, chicks love cereal. While the food never really showed up on Family Matters, it’s a historic fact that Steve eventually won Laura’s hand and she got “Urkelized.” Or is it? Nobody watched the show after it got moved from ABC to CBS.
6) Mr. T Cereal
Mr. T knows cool, so how else would he describe his breakfast cereal: “It’s cool!” What more can you really say about a cereal shaped like t’s? Of course, Paul Reubens always had a way of saying things without saying things:
Case in point.
5) Croonchy Stars
Of all the Muppets deserving of a licensed breakfast cereal, none were more worthy than the Swedish Chef. Knowing this, Post unleashed the appropriately titled “Croonchy Stars.” The name blatantly mocks the good chef’s accent, which is kind of a dick move considering how hard he was obviously trying to speak English for American television audiences. Or maybe “croonchy” is an actual word in his native tongue and they left it literal in the name of authenticity? Either way, he talked funny and his cereal ruled.
4) The Real Ghostbusters Cereal/Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters Cereal
Ghostbusters Cereal did two things very well: 1) Bastardized Ray Parker Jr.’s timeless Ghostbusters theme music with new lyrics about juice and toast and 2) Combined fruity o’s with marshmallows. It’s such a tasteless move, it’s no wonder kids loved it. Why, they loved it enough to somehow build cereal-shooting proton packs that effectively trapped ghosts. Genius! It’s probably these same geniuses who talked their parents into serving this foodstuff with a tall glass of Ecto Cooler. These whiz kids grew up to be successful captains of industry. Look around. They’re the ones with the yachts who tip well at IHOP even when the service is slow.
3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal
No cereal should be forced to justify the triumphant blend of generic rice Chex with marshmallows, but the fine folks at Ralston went above and beyond the call of duty when they called the things “ninja nets” for the sake of their TMNT cereal. They repeated this winning formula with a cereal based on Spider-Man‘s mid-’90s animated series with “crunchy webs,” earning a place in history for being superior to any of Kellogg’s half-hearted movie-based offerings. The TMNT cereal even took the liberty of arming its marshmallow turtle shapes with their signature weapons — seriously a triumph in cereal design.
From a purely sugar-crazed standpoint, there’s nothing inherently special about C-3PO’s. The cereal looks like a remotely dressed up Cheerios with shapes that mean little to nothing to the average Star Wars fan. However, the cereal ultimately rates high on this list for its friggin’ rad box art and arguably genius name. It’s so clever it’s stupid – like something a little kid would say as a joke, which makes it the perfect collectible. The sheer nerdiness of this offering is a testament to how cheesy merchandising should be handled – with something resembling class (they even put C-3PO in an apron!). Kellogg’s may not specialize in choking kids on sugar with its nerdy intellectual properties, but by the moons of Endor, this cereal is a classic. If only it came with blue milk…
1) Nintendo Cereal System
It may not have won any taste awards, but the indecision behind the Nintendo Cereal System is as legendary as Zelda herself. Ralston held the rights to both Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, two of the biggest videogame franchises of the late ’80s. They could have easily packaged the two cereals separately, but being awesome, Ralston decided to package “Two cereals in one! Wow!” The cereal didn’t last long, but the ridiculous advertising behind it is seared into the minds of a generation of eaters, just like its filmy berry aftertaste.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.