Balloon year: 1993
These were the good old days for Sega. Its Genesis system was a rousing success. It was drawing gamers away from the video game industry's reigning champion, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and forced its rival to release the Super Nintendo in 1991. Most importantly, it had gained a mascot in Sonic The Hedgehog that could go toe-to-toe with Nintendo's Mario. Unfortunately, Sonic's lighter-than-air incarnation proved a bit more unwieldy than his video game counterpart. It crashed into a streetlight at Columbus Circle (this happens a lot during parade history, which really makes us wonder about streetlight placement along the parade route). The debris from the light injured an off-duty cop, a big no-no in NYC. Sonic disappeared from the parade lineup for two decades, while Sega began a slow slide into obscurity that began with the release of the poorly received Sega Saturn in 1995 and ended with Sega out of the console game altogether by 2001. The next time Sonic appeared in the Thanksgiving parade in 2011, it was as a character in Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games for former rival Nintendo's 3DS system. How deflating.