In the 60’s and 70’s it was The Beatles vs Rolling Stones. In the 80’s it was Lakers vs Celtics. In the 90’s the topic that saw so many schoolyard arguments was indeed Mario vs Sonic. Who would win in a fight? Who would win in a race? Who cooks a better omelet? You name it, it was argued. There were no characters as recognised to children of the 90’s as Sonic and Mario, with Sonic’s “Q Score” (a rating that rates something based on it’s popularity) even surpassing that of Mickey Mouse. With such results, it seemed obvious this rivalry wouldn’t die out quickly.
Contrary to popular belief, Mario made his debut in the 1981 Donkey Kong game for the arcade. Although he was called “Jumpman” he looked exactly the same as the Mario that appeared in the first game with his name in the title “Mario Bros.” This was a basic game that didn’t scroll, and it required killing all the enemies in a “Phase” and then progressing to the next phase. In this age, it is hard to see the appeal of this game, but in it’s time it was rather entertaining.
Mario’s game that propelled him to the status of a household name was the first “Super Mario Bros” for the NES which is now the best selling video game of all time. This was the first side scrolling Mario game and it set a standard for all the 16 bit Mario games to come. While it was not the first side scrolling platformer, it was the first done well, and allowed other developers to copy the formula. For this reason, this game is hailed by many as the saviour of the video game industry as the industry was in a great deal of trouble before it’s release.
Possibly more noteworthy, was Mario’s transition into the 3d world. Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64 received perfect scores from countless professional review companies. It is still seen today as the best ever 3d platformer, and many have tried but failed to replicate the success of Super Mario 64.
Sonic’s creators knew from the beginning that Sega needed a mascot for it’s Genesis/Mega Drive system that could help market it’s console to compete with Mario and the Super Nintendo. They looked at Mario and perceived him as stuffy and uninteresting and decided to tap into the younger generation who was after something “cooler” with more attitude. After many considerations including “Mighty the Armadillo” Sonic the Hedgehog was decided on and a team of 15 began work on what would be the first Sonic game, “Sonic the Hedgehog” for the Genesis/Mega Drive.
Popular opinion said Sonic didn’t really hit his straps until the second game for the 16 bit console. In this his little sidekick Tails was introduced and collecting all the chaos emeralds saw Sonic transform into “Super Sonic” which was a yellow, super fast super strong version of the character.
Sonic’s 3d games however have not seen the success of it’s rival Mario. Sonic 3d Blast for the Genesis/Mega Drive was an average attempt, and it wasn’t until the Dreamcast where we saw a 3d Sonic game that was really worth playing called “Sonic Adventure.” However, since creating that formula that worked perfectly, Sega have made odd choices with games forcing you to play as Sonic’s less entertaining sidekicks to access the fun Sonic levels. Sonic the Hedgehog on the 360/PS3 received awful reviews. Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii seems to be the only game since Sonic Adventure that has really got it right with Sega finally realising that what made the originals so fun, was Sonic’s blistering speed.
Sega’s decision to no longer create consoles has no seen the creation of the first game where Mario and Sonic can go head to head called “Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.” After selling about 1 million copies of this game, it is clear this rivalry is still alive and kicking. Many have no doubt thought back to those schoolyard arguments and thought “Finally! I can prove x is better than y!”
Whatever your opinion is, it’s no doubt you haven’t seen your last debate on the topic. Just remember when you’re ready to rip someone’s throat out, it’s only a game.