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Video Game Rivals – Episode 2 – Super Mario vs Sonic The Hedgehog
In the 1980’s and 90’s rival video games were heating up. The 2D platform genre was established and 2 franchises emerged. These two games would ultimately compete for the gamer trying to win them over. These contenders were Super Mario Bros. by Nintendo and Sonic the Hedgehog by Sega Enterprises. Both games pushed the genre in different iconic ways, each with their own unique play styles and musical scores.
In 1985 Super Mario Bros. showed us a new gameplay style, giving us a level design that hasn’t aged in nearly 30 years. (If you don’t believe me, just look at Super Mario Maker on the Wii U) Sonic The Hedgehog showed just how fast a 2D platformer could be and helped to start the 16bit era. The two franchises duked it out for generations, and with various spinoffs and even team-ups, to a degree are still fighting each other today.
In today’s episode of Video Game Rivals, we dive into the 2D Platformer genre and take a look at two of the most iconic franchises in video game history with Super Mario Bros vs. Sonic The Hedgehog.
Welcome to episode 2 of Video Game Rivals. In this episode, we have the grandfather of 2D platformers and a worthy challenger. I give you Super Mario Bros. vs. Sonic The Hedgehog.
Super Mario Bros. was released on the Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985 as a follow up to 1983’s Mario Bros. The game was a major success, selling over 40 million copies worldwide in its lifetime. It spawned many successful sequels on the 8-bit hardware, like Super Mario Bros 2, and 3, as well as countless others for later generations. There has been at least 1 Mario game released on all of Nintendo’s video game systems to date, including the ill-fated Virtual Boy, with Mario Tennis. (Which I might add was a great game!)
Nintendo’s mascot Mario is very much like Disney’s Mickey Mouse, he is known all over the world. Because of this, gamers have very high expectations when a new Mario game is released. Nintendo always makes sure that their games are polished 100%. In my opinion, it helps that there has never been a bad Super Mario game, which would include all of the spinoffs. For most of the 1980’s and heading into the 90’s, Super Mario had no competition, spawning 5 major releases, or 6 if you include the Japanese version of Super Mario Bro’s 2. Nintendo enjoyed the huge success in the 80’s and early 90’s while having zero competition until Sega introduced Sonic The Hedgehog in 1991.
[INTRO TO SONIC]
In 1990 Nintendo released Super Mario World on the Super NES, to major fanfare. It was a smash hit and Sega realized that if they wanted the Genesis (or Megadrive in other parts of the world,) to be successful, they needed a mascot to take on the mighty plumber.
Sonic The Hedgehog came out a year after Super Mario World, which in itself was a huge competitor. Both Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario World played completely different, with the only thing in common being that they were 2D platformers and had incredible music. Both games gave each other some major jabs. Super Mario World had several things going for it, the sheer size of the game and Mario’s history. It did have 5 previous games after all. It was a large scaled Super Mario game that offered many more gameplay features than its predecessor, Super Mario Bro’s 3. It had brought new power-ups and a new playable character, Yoshi.
Sonic had something that Mario didn’t though, he was FAST! Sonic The Hedgehog was fast-paced platforming at its best. I remember when I first played it, it blew me away from just how fast Sonic could run. It had to be the Blast Processing. It was totally unlike anything that Super Mario had done. Sonic’s sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, released in 1992 and improved upon the original design of the first game. Sega added a new character, Miles “Tails” Prower, which is a pun on Miles Per Hour due to how fast Sonic could run. He would follow Sonic throughout the game and would allow a second player to control him in a limited fashion.
This was a big deal for my brother and I growing up, as I would race through the stage as Sonic, and he would control Tails. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 also added in the now famous “Spin Dash” maneuver, which allowed both Sonic and Tails to burst forward quickly from a crouched stance, spinning into a ball.
Sonic The Hedgehog 3 released in 1993 and later was followed by Sonic and Knuckles in 1994, which was a continuation of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Together they actually complete how the game was meant to be played, but due to time constraints and the size limitations of the cartridge, they were released separately. Together, they introduced yet another character, Knuckles, and new shields and improved graphics among other things. Sega was pumping out great Sonic games as fast as they could, for all of their systems at the time. The Sega Master System, The Game Gear, and the Genesis or Mega Drive. 2 years later, Nintendo would release the last 16bit Super Mario to compete with Sega and its now very successful mascot.
In 1996, Nintendo brought Mario into the 3D world. Super Mario 64 was something that gave gamers a fresh look at what a Mario game could be. It got rid of the time limits that the previous games had, and instead of the normal power-ups, added in hats or caps that had temporary powers, such as the winged cap, which would allow Mario to fly, and the Metal Cap, which would turn Mario into a metal version of himself, and the Vanish Cap, allowing him to walk through obstacles. All three caps gave the player the powers necessary to beat each world.
A few years later, Sega released the Dreamcast, which launched with Sonic Adventure. Sonic had been in the 3D world before, but not quite like this. Sonic Adventure was a leap forward for the series. When it released here in the States back on September 9th, 1999, it was the first game I got to try out on my new Dreamcast. It was breathtaking, with that first major level, with the wale jumping and crashing into the dock you were running on, it was an incredible site that was very memorable.
There are many Super Mario and Sonic The Hedgehog games out there, too many for me to list and compare right now, but this battle has been going on for the better part of 25 years. For me, it’s hard to choose the best franchise, as I love both of them. However, Super Mario was first, and in my opinion, has never had a bad game. Sonic, well, lately they have had several mediocre releases that have plagued Sega for years.
The most recent releases from both franchises though are pretty great. Super Mario Odyssey on the Nintendo Switch is pretty incredible, and Sonic Mania, which brought back Sonics roots is a gem. Sonic Forces, on the other hand, I’ll just say that it’s not great, but it’s not bad either, it’s kind of In between for me. I think Sega could have done a bit better there, or, perhaps let Sonic Mania be a stand-alone release for 2017 and brought out Sonic Forces in 2018 with a bit more polish.
With the amount of history these two have, I may have to make another video that dives into each game 1 on 1. Let me know your thoughts on that idea in the comments.
As a franchise, my favorite is Super Mario Bros, but I do have some Sonic games that I prefer over the competing Mario game.
Of the two, which franchise is your favorite?
I would like to thank you for watching episode 2 of Video Game Rivals. Hit that like button if you liked it and subscribe if you haven’t. If you would like to support me on Patreon, my link will be in the description.
Thanks a bunch, and like always, happy gaming.
– Mark T. Schoenrock