In the 1980s and 1990s, the two biggest console manufacturers created flagship characters to help encourage the sale of more hardware and games. For SEGA, this character was Sonic the Hedgehog, a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog that was named after his ability to run faster than the sound barrier.
Sonic was SEGA’s answer to Mario, a character created by rival Japanese firm Nintendo in 1981. This Italian plumber had been synonymous with platformer titles for a decade before Sonic showed up, but both featured in some of the best titles from the 1990s alongside other hits like Doom and Tomb Raider.
There are many similarities between the two characters and the games they appear in. Both are cartoonish, both have become the mascots for their respective companies, and both started out in platformer titles but expanded out into a range of different games.
However, you may be wondering which of the two is better. Let’s take a look.
Sticking to Its Roots – Mario
Mario has become one of the most successful video game franchises of all time because Nintendo has understood what made the early games great, and then offered this same experience to fans over and over again without games getting repetitive and boring.
Some players criticise Mario games for being “samey”, but Nintendo has been able to keep things fresh for four decades by adding new features and functions over time while still retaining everything that made earlier releases fun.
This helps Mario games to feel like they’re a better quality gaming experience. By sticking to the formula that Nintendo has refined and tweaked over the years, the company can churn out new and exciting games that feel like a lot of attention has been paid to them.
Experimenting with New Ideas – Sonic
In contrast, Sonic has appeared in a whole range of different titles with very different appearances and content. The first game, Sonic the Hedgehog, was a very bright and cheery game, but in Sonic and the Black Knight, he took to wielding a sword in a title with a much darker theme.
While the developers should be applauded for their bravery in experimenting with so many ideas, it does mean that Sonic games can feel very different from each other. So while one release may appeal to one group of gamers, the next one may not, resulting in a confusing and diluted brand.
Faster-Paced Game – Sonic
For the most part, you can take Mario platform games at your own pace as the time you’re allocated is very generous. Even when the music speeds up to create a sense of urgency, you still have 100 seconds left, giving you plenty of time.
However, Sonic platformers have a much greater sense of speed. This, obviously, shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to anyone who hasn’t played a Sonic game since the clue is in the name.
The fast-paced feel can make the game more enjoyable if that’s what you’re looking for.
Better Spinoffs – Mario
Mario has appeared in over 200 different games, so it’s a given that not all of them will have been platformers. Over the years, Nintendo has put their moustachioed plumber into various different genres, including kart racing, golfing, fighting, and role-playing.
Every single Mario game feels just as fun and exciting as the rest. From the moment you turn it on, it looks, feels, and sounds like a Mario game.
In fact, Mario Kart has become an entire series in its own right with nearly a dozen different releases over the years.
As the Mario franchise expands with new characters, powerups and elements, so does Mario Kart. The original release, Super Mario Kart for the SNES, included eight playable characters: Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Donkey Kong Jr., Toad, Peach, Yoshi, and Koopa Troopa. By Mario Kart 7, this had doubled to include Metal Mario, Honey Queen and Wiggler.
Of course, Sonic has also had several spinoffs, including a series of racing games with various names. However, none come close to matching Mario Kart.
Overall, it’s difficult to say that one is better than the other. They each have their own qualities and quirks that make Mario and Sonic unique. Instead, we should appreciate them for what they are, instead of just arbitrarily declaring that one is better than the other.