- By Tom Gerken
- Technology reporter
Which is better, Mario or Sonic?
People of a certain age will remember growing up with this debate dominating school conversations in the 1990s.
Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog topped the gaming charts back then and eventually became two of the most recognizable faces in the industry, spanning countless spin-offs and even recent feature films.
The debate began to fade when the mascots moved into 3D games, and now it’s all but disappeared as both are participating in joint games for the Olympics.
But the rivalry may yet return after a landmark event with the two rivals playing in the same week for the first time in more than 30 years.
The last time this happened was in 1992 when Super Mario Land 2 and Sonic 2 came out in the last week of November in the UK.
“I have fond memories of moving into the home I’m in now, back when I was a kid, the first thing that came out of the truck was the little cube CRT TV and the Mega Drive,” he said.
“These were the games I grew up with as a kid, to have both Sonic Superstars and Mario Wonder out at the same time, there’s just a lot of nostalgia about it.”
Sonic Superstars, which was released on Tuesday, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which came out on Friday, are about returning to the series’ roots.
You could even be forgiven for thinking these two games were made by the same team, such are the visual similarities between them.
Both are side scrollers – games viewed from the side of the characters, where the camera follows them as they move left and right through the levels.
Also, they’re both platformers, a rather nebulous genre where the goal is usually to get around obstacles and enemies by using different platforms per stage.
Both can be played by up to four people at once.
But gaming journalist Helen Ashcroft explained that while these games look similar, they play quite differently.
“They’re both platformers, but they have very different approaches to things,” she said.
“While the characters have similar roots, they’ve evolved in different ways and feel like very unique experiences these days.”
Similar but different
Sonic’s similarities to the original games go further than the visual effects. The sound is composed by Jun Senoue, who first worked on Sonic 3 from 1993, and the game itself is made by the original designer.
Naoto Oshima, who hasn’t worked on a Sonic game in two decades, said he wants to return the franchise to its roots with the new one.
“When you think of Sonic, the first thing that comes to mind has to be his speed and how good it is to race through levels,” he said in a YouTube video.
“Creating cards that capitalize on that classic sense of speed and that allow for iconic pinball action was extremely important to us.”
Meanwhile, Takashi Tezuka, who has been working on Mario games for 39 years, said he wanted Super Mario Bros Wonder to be an evolution of the series – a 2D game full of hidden surprises.
“2D Mario games often had a reputation for being unforgiving… in this game we changed that.
“We designed it so that players can conquer the game with their ideas and use their heads, not just their skills, to progress.”
It’s one of the same design principles behind Sonic, with Ohshima saying they introduced tutorials as well as new gameplay features to make it easier for beginners.
So if both games are competing for the same players, which one will come out on top?
For Argik, this part may not be too important.
“Nobody’s trying to make a bad game,” he said.
“Honestly, I want both games to be good and both communities to enjoy them – because that means I get to play two great games.”