They are two of the gaming world’s most iconic characters, and have probably starred in a million games, movies and TV shows between them, but Sonic and Mario have had an interesting ride through history. They are of course on separate sides of the gaming divide. Sonic is a SEGA creation, and Mario is a Nintendo character.
It’s arguable that we will never see their like again. These days, video games are huge business, and the world doesn't really pay attention to the characters in games. Some games do have involving characters, but Sonic and Mario are different because they were simple, easy to draw and include in merchandising, and purely based on fun and laughter.
Sonic and his growth
Back in 1991, Sonic first appeared to the world in a blue blur of 16-bit glory. Back then the character was a flagship title for the Sega Megadrive. The fast and frenetic pace of the game truly captivated gamers, and a legend was born. Even back then it was clear that the character had a lot of potential. The 16-bit technology was new, and it gave gamers a brand new look and feel to play with. Sonic was a big part of that.
Then in 1992, it really blew up. Perhaps one of the first ever fully realised gaming sequels (apart from the Mario series of course), Sonic The Hedgehog 2 raised the bar. It had the same graphics and feel that the first title had, but it also added a novel two player mode. Sonic and Tails could go head to head and try and collect the most rings. This was more significant than we might think now, for a game to have this kind of functionality was something truly special.
In 1993 we had Sonic Spinball. This game isn't really one for the history books but it does have a great feel to it. The graphics are on a par with the original Sonic titles, and the fact that you play Sonic as a pinball makes perfect sense.
In 1994 Sonic reached the very top of his potential with Sonic 3. This one had a save feature (again, something we are all used to now) and the addition of some incredibly large stages for the character to sprint through. It was an instant hit and is still regarded as the best Sonic game ever.
In 1995 things went a little awry in that there was a game called Sonic Drift. This was Sonic’s first ever car racing title (things would get better) and it didn't add too much to the racing experience for gamers. Some of the tracks were lacking in any real design, and it wasn’t a great-looking game. But it showed us that the character was definitely one that could sell a title on name alone.
In 2010 there was another high point with All Star Racing. Eventually released on multiple platforms, it capitalised on the Mario Kart phenomenon, and wasn’t too bad, to be honest. It is actually quite difficult in multiple places too, something Sonic fans were not too used to.
Mario and his growth
Arguably even cuter than the famous hedgehog, the plumber Mario has been through seemingly hundreds of adventures.
Mario first appeared back in 1981 in Donkey Kong. He was called ‘Jumpman’ back then, but pretty soon the Mario name stuck. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released four years later and he was the star of the game Super Mario Bros, which was the game that all new owners of the NES received as part of the bundle.
Super Mario Bros 2 allowed players to be Mario, or Luigi (his brother) as well as other characters. This landmark move cemented the character’s place in history. Nintendo even brought Mario to the Gameboy console in 1989. This again established Mario as the corporation’s flagship character.
An RPG was released on the SNES in 1996, marking the character’s first appearance in this genre. It was a gripping game and it proved that Mario had the ability to cross genres from platform to RPG with little trouble.
However, 1996 also brought Mario into 3D in Super Mario 64. While not the smoothest playing experience, it was a stunning game to look at. The N64 also saw Mario feature in racing games as well as multiplayer party games.
In 2007 Super Mario Galaxy was released on the Wii. It is widely regarded as the best Mario game ever. And in 2008 Mario Kart was released on the Wii and sold massively.
Both characters have had huge careers and are arguably the most successful gaming characters of all time. While SEGA may not be the force it once was, it still rides on the back of Sonic. And Nintendo, still fiercely competitive, has one of the most recognisable gaming brands around with Mario. Two amazing characters that have been served well by gaming progress.