The Secret Origin of Karnov: Nintendo's Strangest Hero

Posted by Steven Collier on Jan. 25th, 2016

By the late 80s Mario was the official mascot of Nintendo and he was everywhere. Mario was the face of Nintendo, appearing on every product and service the company offered. He helped make the NES a household name. Other video game developers took note of Nintendo's success and wanted to create their own iconic characters to represent their brand. So, in 1987 Data East created an all-new video game character to be the face of their company: Karnov!

A Forgotten Video Game Legend

So, who is this burly stranger? Jinborov Karnovski (Karnov for short) is a Russian ex-circus strongman, who can also breathe fire. The whole strongman gig wasn't paying the bills, so Karnov has taken up the far more lucrative profession of freelance treasure hunter and monster slayer. However, that's only according to the American version. The original Japanese backstory for Karnov is a little darker.

Circus Performer, Treasure Hunter, & Monster Slayer!

Data East's official Karnov lore states that he is actually a resurrected criminal. Apparently, Karnov was such a bad dude that when he died God ordered him to go back to Earth and atone for his sins by saving the world. And the only way he could do that was by slaying a giant dragon with his bare hands.

Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!

Unsurprisingly the undead Russian circus performer didn't really connect with audiences as much as Nintendo's relatively simpler concept of a plumber who fights dinosaurs in his spare time. But that didn't stop Karnov from appearing in a variety of games over the years. In fact, just last November he made a cameo in the new game: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse.

Now that you've been reintroduced to this forgotten 8-bit hero, do you want to experience his original adventure?
You can find Karnov in all his weirdness here.

But, how many of you remember Data East's now-obscure mascot? Did you know that Karnov even had a backstory? As always, I'd love to hear all of you memories about Mr. Karnovski in the comments section.

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