A 2016 profile by Red Bull Gaming’s Sam Pettis documented the full process of how Sega attempted to create its own mascot to compete with Nintendo’s rival Mario on a global scale. By 1990, the two companies were embroiled in what can only be described as a marketing war as the two Japanese companies attempted to expand the two’s massive influence in the industry to the western world. The process of developing an instantly recognizable character, in turn, would be the opposite of how Mario began. One of the earliest candidates for Sega’s global marketing ambitions was ToeJam and Earl, a duo of characters suggested by American programmer Mark Voorsanger.
Portrayed as aliens with an odd affinity for hip-hop, Sega saw ToeJam and Earl as potentially appealing to Western audiences. Sega President Hayao Nakayama liked the concept but ultimately decided against it, fearing the characters might be “too American” to be the Japanese company’s visual doubles. Although Sega didn’t quite make it as Sega’s main source of branding, in 1991 Sega greenlit a game based on the duo “ToeJam and Earl” for Sega Genesis. The product was well-received and has retrospectively been seen as an early precursor to the modern roguelike genre.