Many people may remember this classic debate. Mario or Sonic? Which one was better? This also stemmed from the Super Nintendo or Genesis war that began the true fan boy console wars. I gathered up the writers and gave them a simple task. I asked them who had the better games between 1990 and 1999? Mario or Sonic? This included every single game that had either character from Mario Teaches Typing to Sonic R. Everything was fair game. Except compilations, sorry Super Mario All-Stars.
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If you’ve read about much about video games, then you’ve probably heard of the console wars during the 90’s. SEGA VS Nintendo was the main battle , but their respective flagship characters fought in the back of the battlefeild.
It all started off with Sonic the Hedgehog for the SEGA Genesis and Game Gear in 1991. The brilliant color display of SEGA’s Game Gear vs the black-and-green of Nintendo’s GameBoy may not have taken the handheld further than the GB, but it was a great port of the amazing Genesis hit. Later Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hit the Game Gear. It was a tougher challenge than the first game (anyone who’s played the Scrambled Egg Zone knows what I mean) and it is the first to let you play another Zone and Boss if you collect all the hidden Chaos Emeralds. The Console version’s Final Boss battle against a Robotnik Humanoid Robot is amazing , and so is the memorable Music! Chemical Plant’s Music will probably bring you right back to this masterpeice.
Sonic took the role of a Pinball in Sonic Spinball, as he flippered his way through Robotnik’s Badnik’s and even to the mad scientist himself! Lots of fun, especially the Game Gear Version.
Sonic 3 (which never got a Game Gear port) was one of the few Games to feature RAM on the SEGA Genesis , which is good seeing that Collecting ALL the Chaos Emeralds is something not to be forgotten. It even had seperate RAM for when you lock it onto Sonic & Knuckles. If you lock on S&K, you play the two Games combined into one mega-Game, and you can collect 7 more Emeralds called Super Emeralds, which give you even more power than the regular Emeralds.
Between Sonic 2 and 3, Sonic CD was released for the SEGA CD add-on for the Genesis. It features Time Travel, and the debut of Amy Rose and Metal Sonic! You can travel to the past and destroy Robotnik’s Time Machines to get a good future (which I never have accomplised, YET!) . The Game is super fun and the Level design is crazy!!
Jump to 1996. Sonic gets prerendered into a psuedo-3D Game titled “Sonic 3D Blast”. Sonic runs through isometric Zones in search of Badniks. Each Badnik contains a Flickie; collect all five and warp them back home to advance to the next section of the Zone! It also got ported to the SEGA Saturn, and I like that port the best. The music is so great! The graphics make it look more 3D, even though it’s truly a 3D illusion. I love the fact that you can explore, something that isn’t much in newer Games.
It *Sorta* got a port to Game Gear. it was named “Sonic Blast” and featured prerendered sprites in the usual 2d environments.
Close to that same time Sonic R was released. It was the first fully 3D Sonic Game, and it is a racing Game. Sonic and friends run around pyramids , city buildings , Robotnik’s machinery , palm trees , and even giant diamonds. Fun to me!
Finally, in 1998 , Sonic and crew got redesigned for an Adventurous 3D Dreamcast hit! Later ported to the GameCube, this Game featured lots of voice acting and exploration and even the chance to play as one of Robotnik’s Badniks!
Now that’s been alot of Sonic the Hedgehog, but what about the little oddities on the SEGA Game Gear?
Sonic Drift 1 & 2 were both Racing Games featuring Sonic and Friends in vehicles. Fun tracks based on the original Games (for Drift 1).
Drift 2 featured all new tracks , some lightly based on the original Games. I love the speed and obstacles! Both Games are great to me.
Sonic Triple Trouble was very similar to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Knuckles, Robotnik, and Fang the Wolf all antagonize Sonic, with Fang fighting Sonic int he special Stages. Great Boss Battles and the Special Stages, though some hard, are nice!
So , what about the Sonic series is fun to me? Well, I love the speed and the big levels with the little Badnik’s blocking your path (or just being a hazard you can leap right over). Plus the Boss battles really are fun. Find a way to knock that Egg right out of the sky! My opinion, though not fact.
I’m going to try to stay objective despite that fact that I grew up a huge Sonic fanboy. The games, the comic books, the cartoons… I ate chili dogs as much as possible! But casting my bias aside, let’s compare the games of The Blue Blur vs The Mustachio’d Mushroom Chomper.
Mario came out the corner swinging in 1991 with the release of Super Mario World. It’s a beautifully designed, lengthy quest with colorful worlds and plenty of secrets to find. Definitely a worthy follow-up to the amazing Super Mario Bros 3 and the save feature is a VERY welcome addition.
Sonic’s best outings included the 1994 classic The Sonic & Knuckles Saga, which allowed you to play an epic quest from the perspective of two different characters across two separate cartridges (Sonic 3 linked to Sonic & Knuckles via a slot on top of its cartridge). The games are fast, bright, colorful, and diverse. The music is amazing and Michael Jackson KILLED IT on the Sonic 3 soundtrack! Sonic & Knuckles was so innovative for the time, and the fact that you could even attach the Sonic 2 cart into the S&K cart to play Sonic 2 AS Knuckles was mindblowing!
1996 saw the unleashing of Super Mario 64. It completely changed the gaming industry with its brilliant 3D design and controls. Everyone wanted their mascot in polygons after that (but no one could ever figure out the camera). Great hub world, tons of levels to quest, and a nice new move set really made Mario 64 a memorable experience that I regularly play to this day.
In 1999, Sega’s hardware swansong, the Dreamcast brought forth The Blue Blur’s first REAL 3D outing (I pretend Sonic 3D Blast never happened) known as Sonic Adventure. At the time, it was beautiful, colorful, and had a lot of characters to play the game as (I pretend Big the Cat never happened). But revisiting it made me realize how frustrating the controls are. Controlling Sonic is almost impossible when he’s at full speed, the camera isn’t great, and most of the characters quests are pointless.
Here we go, here’s the part where people think I’m crazy. In 1997, Sega dropped a Sonic racing game on the Saturn called Sonic R. It looks like a mess, controls like dogs sliding their butts on ice, and the music annoys pretty much everyone that plays this hot mess of a racer, and I… LOVE IT! I LOVE SONIC R! I love the music, I love the janky controls and the ridiculous level design, and I love how it makes no sense because Sonic is “the fastest thing aliiiiiieiiiiive!” (I just sang that) but everyone he knows can keep up with him in a footrace… but despite all that, I played this game to death when I was a kid. So it’s pure nostalgia.
Nintendo just killed it with Mario Kart 64. It had great, memorable, diverse tracks. It had a fun cast of characters and great power-ups. It had an addictive multiplayer for you and 3 of your friends. This game has it all and keeping with my promise of objectivity, this game destroys Sonic R in every aspect… except the music… “Livin in the City” is my jam and you can’t take that from me.
This is where things take a turn for the worse. In 1996, Sega’s AM2 team (developers of the Virtua Fighter franchise) brought Sonic to the arcade as a… one-on-one 3D fighter. The game looks good enough and plays like a dumbed down version of Virtua Fighter, except the characters (most of whom no one cares about) have huge heads and little arms so it’s like pitting two Tyrannosaurus Rexes against each other in a boxing match. Too few characters and no depth in the fighting system doomed this game to never launch on a home console.
And then, in 1999, Mario delivered the final smash to Sonic with the release of Super Smash Bros. Beloved characters from far reaches of the Nintendo universe face off in a hectic, up-to-four player fighter in different Nintendo game themed levels. It was chaotic, fast, and frantic. While the single player mode lacked, the multiplayer mode is what fuels its fire. Entire weekends of 4 friends on a couch destroying each other as adorable Nintendo characters launched this game from experimental release, to the much-hyped, heavily anticipated series it is today… so much so, that Sonic himself joined to roster of fighters in Super Smash Bros Brawl. That says everything you need to know.
I love Sonic the Hedgehog. He was a big part of my childhood and I hold his games dear to my heart, but cut and dry, Nintendo’s plumber in red just had the best games across all genres. Mario did party games, sports games, and even art games better than Sonic. As sad as it is for this fanboy to say, Mario gets the win over Sonic for best games of the 90’s.
To say that Sonic had an early influence on my life would be an understatement. My favorite color went from red to blue, I started participating in every race I could, and I began eating hotdogs as frequently as possible. Looking back, perhaps Sonic wasn’t the best influence, what with all those unneeded calories I consumed under the influence of the Blue Blur.
But, to be a little more serious, Sonic was always the name of my game. The “dude with the ‘tude” was always front and center in my earliest gaming experiences (and continues to be a part of it to this day).
That’s not to say I didn’t like Mario. I spent untold hours playing through Super Mario World, collecting colored Yoshis, and devouring everything I could. As for Super Mario 64… that was a game I dare say my childhood would have been incomplete without.
But there was always something about Sonic that brought me back. Sonic was fast, cool, and all about saving the day. Not that Mario didn’t save the day, but Sonic’s heroics always seemed more front-and-center to me. You jumped on the robots and saved the animals, you jumped on the container and let the Flickies out, you defeated Dr. Eggman and rescued Amy Rose, or the little critters, or the world itself.
Being a hero was a life-long dream I had as a kid. I grew up wanting people to be able to depend on me to help them, and Sonic allowed me to feel that kind of empowerment. Plus, Sonic was fast and progressive. When I played a Sonic game, I felt like I was going places. Mario games were always more about reaching the flagpole at the goal. Sonic was more about the journey there. And I liked that.
Sonic was born in the 90s. The era belonged to him. He turned the Genesis upside down with his games, and he dared to go where no other fictional anthromorph had gone before—through tunnels, around loops, across water, through the air… anywhere his supersonic feet could take him. This spirit of adventure that was so key to early Sonic games is what made him stand out to me. Mario was traditional. Sonic was revolutionary.
Not to mention that games like Sonic 3 enabled a co-op option, allowing a second player (my sister in this case) to jump into the game as Tails. Looking back, some of the earliest bonding moments I had with my sister happened over playthroughs of Sonic classics.
From his debut game, Sonic the Hedgehog, to his advent on the Dreamcast, Sonic Adventure, the “fastest thing alive” ran at hypersonic speed through a golden era of gaming. We won’t talk about what happened afterwards.
Except for Sonic Adventure 2.
Sonic Adventure 2 was good.
Is this even a contest? Mario is the video game OG, already a well-established household name by the time of the inception of Sonic back in ’91. Additionally, the list of video games starring or featuring Mario is far, far greater than the list of games starring or featuring Sonic. Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Sonic the Hedgehog, but let’s face it; he simply can’t hold a candle to Mario. Now, it’s hard to have a direct Mario vs. Sonic debate without it disseminating into a Nintendo vs. Sega debate, since each was their respective company’s mascot, and star of their respective flagship series. So, Sega initially gathered a large following with their catchy slogan: “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” Cute. But for all their bravado, the Genesis would end up being Sega’s magnum opus. For after the Genesis came the Sega 32X, then the Sega CD, then the Sega Saturn, then the Dreamcast. All of these ventures would be considered commercial failures, which were so profound that not even the popularity of their biggest franchise icon could stop them from happening. Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64 frequently rank in many people’s top X games of all time. Personally, all 3 of them rank in my top 25. Sonic? Eh. I might put Sonic 2 in the 26-50 range, but it’s questionable.
So, I state proudly that 90’s Mario is vastly superior to 90’s Sonic.
On one hand we have Sonic, the fastest thing alive. In his games, you run around saving animals that have been manipulated to control robots or have been turned into robots themselves. You collect rings while navigating fast-paced maze-like stages. Sure, it’s fun but I’ve still never really liked Sonic. He’s always been just a bit too smug about his speed for my taste. Yeah, Sonic, we get it. Your name is Sonic and you run really fast. You don’t have to be so in your face about it.
On the other hand we have Mario, the princess-saving plumber in red. What does he have going for him? He’s got family and friends, he saves princesses, expertly competes in go kart competitions, he’s got a professional-level golf swing – ALL THE WHILE he takes time to teach you how to type and holds what we can only assume is an 8-to-5, full-time plumbing career. Mario is even kind enough to show grace to one of his biggest enemies and work along side them (Super Mario RPG).
I believe the choice is clear. Mario was definitely the hero of the 90’s.
2500+ words so far have tried to convince you of either Sonic or Mario. I am a man of fact personally, so we need to break this down into something simple. Who had more good games in the 90’s? Mario or Sonic? I will list all of the good games by both contenders and then do a tally at the end. What qualifies as a good game? It needed to be well received by the public.
Dr Mario (1990) – NES
Super Mario World (1990) – SNES
Super Mario Kart (1992) – SNES
Mario Paint (1992) – SNES
Super Mario Land 2 (1992) – Gameboy
Super Mario 64 (1996) – N64
Mario Kart 64 (1996) – N64
Super Mario RPG (1996) – SNES
Mario Golf (1998) – N64
Mario Party (1998) – N64
Mario Party 2 (1999) – N64
Super Smash Bros (1999) – N64
Total # of good games – 12
Sonic The Hedgehog (1991) – Genesis
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992) – Genesis
Sonic The Hedgehog CD (1993) – Sega CD
Sonic Chaos (1993) – Game Gear
Sonic The Hedgehog 3 (1994) – Genesis
Sonic & Knuckles (1994) – Genesis
Sonic Adventure (1998) – Dreamcast
Total # of good games – 7
Based off of how many good games that each character had between 1990 and 1999, it seems as if Mario wins handily. I must admit that my favorite Sonic game was Sonic Adventure 2 but that was not released until 2001.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments!