What’s better, Mario or Sonic?
People of a certain age will remember growing up with this debate dominating conversations at school in the ’90s.
Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog led the gaming charts back then, and ultimately became two of the most recognisable faces in the industry, spanning countless spin-offs and even recent feature films.
The debate began to fade as the mascots moved into 3D games, and has now all but vanished as they both star in tie-in games for the Olympics.
But the rivalry may yet be speeding back after a landmark event, with the two rivals having released games in the same week for the first time for more than 30 years.
The last time this happened was in 1992, when Super Mario Land 2 and Sonic 2 both came out in the last week of November in the UK.
For Argick, a Scottish Twitch streamer with about 20,000 followers, it is “literally like being back in the ’90s”.
“I have fond memories of moving into the home that I’m currently in, way 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 releasing at the same time, there’s just a lot of nostalgia for it.”
Sonic Superstars, which was released on Tuesday, and Super Mario Bros Wonder, which came out on Friday, are both about returning to the series’ roots.
You might even be forgiven for thinking these two games were made by the same team, such are the visual similarities between them.
They are both side-scrollers – games viewed from the side of the characters, where the camera follows them as they move left and right throughout the levels.
They are also both platformers – a fairly nebulous genre where the goal is generally to bypass obstacles and enemies by utilising different platforms in a stage.
And they both can be played by up to four people at once, too.
But gaming journalist Helen Ashcroft explained that while these games may look similar, they play quite differently.
“They are both platformers but take very different approaches to things,” she said.
“While the characters have similar roots, they’ve evolved in different ways and these days feel like very unique experiences.”
Similar, but different
Sonic’s similarities to its original games go further than the visuals. The sound is being composed by Jun Senoue, who first worked on 1993’s Sonic 3, and the game itself is being made by the original designer.
Naoto Ohshima, who has not worked on a Sonic game in two decades, said he wanted to bring the franchise back to its roots with the new one.
“When it comes to Sonic, the thing that comes to mind first has got to be his speed and how good it feels to race through levels,” he said in a YouTube video.
“Creating maps that capitalise on that classic sense of speed and that allow for iconic pinball action was extremely important for us.”
Meanwhile Takashi Tezuka, who has worked on Mario games for 39 years, said he wanted Super Mario Bros Wonder to be an evolution of the series – a 2D game filled with hidden surprises.
“We wanted to create a game with much more to offer than ever before,” he said in a post on Nintendo’s website.
“2D Mario games often had the reputation of being unforgiving… in this game, we’ve changed that.
“We’ve designed it so that players can conquer the game with their ideas and use their heads, not just their skills, to progress.”
That is one of the same design principles behind Sonic, with Ohshima saying they have 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 Argick, that bit might not be too important.
“Nobody tries to make a bad game,” he said.
“Honestly, I want both games to be good and both communities get to enjoy it – because it means I get two great games to play.”