For gamers of a certain age, Mario vs. Sonic is the gaming debate that established their preferences and histories. “Back in the day,” countless hours were spent debating which of the two, and their respective systems, were better. Playgrounds, cafeteria tables, walks home, afternoons at friend’s houses, and countless other places served as battlegrounds for advocates of the portly plumber and blue hedgehog to stake their claim as to which was superior.
But which ‘90s mascot is actually better? We put the two legends head-to-head to find out who reigns supreme.
Round 1: Movies
Both gaming icons have recently starred in well-received motion pictures. The two live-action Sonic movies, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, have a 93 percent and 96 percent audience rating, respectively, on Rotten Tomatoes, against a 64 and 69 percent critics rating. The Super Mario Bros. Movie has a 95 percent audience score and a 58 percent critics score. The films aren’t classics but are fun jaunts that respect the source material.
Unfortunately for our plumber friend, as the old saying goes, “the sins of the father are visited upon the children.” The original Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993 is absolutely dreadful. If you’ve never seen it, consider yourself lucky. The film is a 105-minute confusing mess that thrusts Mario and Luigi into a dark and dreary alternate reality full of odd-looking reptilian humanoids and poor writing. The only bright spots of the film are its stars, Bob Hoskins as Mario, John Leguizamo as Luigi, and Dennis Hopper as “President Koopa,” the film’s stand-in for King Koopa or Bowser.
Perhaps mercifully, the film is not available to stream or rent digitally in the United States. The only way to watch this is to acquire a physical copy of the film on DVD or Blu-Ray. Individuals in the UK can watch the film on Amazon Prime Video.
We have to give this opening round to Sonic because of Mario’s initial movie blunder.
Sonic 1, Mario 0.
Round 2: Games
In the early days, both Mario and Sonic found themselves on equal footing. The 8-bit Super Mario Bros. games and the 16-bit Super Mario World were neck-and-neck with Sonic’s Genesis trio of platformers throughout the 90s. Sega and Sonic were a considerable threat to Mario and Nintendo on a 2D plane. However, the move to the third dimension wasn’t as kind to Sonic as it was to Mario.
Mario, frankly, couldn’t miss once he got to 3D. Super Mario 64 is still regarded as one of the greatest 3D platformers of all time. Sunshine proved that creativity and thinking outside the box still had a home in video games. Galaxy 1 and 2 both expanded upon their predecessors to create a pair of magical experiences that perfectly utilized the Wii.
Super Mario Odyssey, Mario’s latest 3D platformer, might be the best Mario game ever made. Even Super Mario Bros. 3D World is better than anything Sonic-related in 3D. Throw in Bowser’s Fury, the open-world side quest that came bundled with 3D World’s Switch port, and you’ve got yourself a murderer’s row of 3D platformers.
For Sonic, it’s been a mixed bag of buggy, glitchy messes that range from “so bad they’re good” to “absolutely horrible with no positive qualities.” Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 are both broken messes that are aided by nostalgia glasses and their soundtracks. “Sonic ’06” is notorious for its putrid existence, terrible story, and busted gameplay. Sonic’s Wii and Wii U entries were fine. But why play them when you can play the Super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Bros. games? Sonic Forces gives off campy, B-movie vibes but is also full of glitches and a boring, repetitive gameplay loop. His latest game, Sonic Frontiers, is a step in the right direction but tries to please everyone and just can’t.
Sonic Generations might be the only good 3D Sonic game in recent memory. After all, it’s a compilation game made up of levels from the past. Since all Sonic games only have one good level, it makes sense that a game of all the good levels would be fun.
We also have to give props to Sonic Mania, a love-letter to the original Sonic games. The game is developed by Christian Whitehead, PagodaWest Games, and Headcannon. Mania is a well-polished, well-designed, and lovingly-created game made for Sonic fans, by Sonic fans. If you haven’t had the chance to play Mania, please do so.
Perhaps if Sonic’s other titles had this level of attention to detail, maybe he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in. Mario wins this round easily.
Sonic 1, Mario 1.
Round 3: An Actual Fight
Both gaming icons have defeated their fair share of threats but only one of them has defeated cosmic threats, world-enders, and giant water monsters.
Sonic and his Chaos Emeralds would easily handle Mario in a one-on-one fight. The Chaos Emeralds give Sonic the ability to control time, see the future, and allow him to harness his golden transformation, Super Sonic. Super Sonic has increased speed and strength, allowing him to destroy everything in his path.
Mario can jump on his enemies, hit them with his hammer, and shoot elemental balls of fire or ice. While he is a formidable foe to Bowser, the Koopalings, and the Broodals, we don’t think he’d match up well against Perfect Chaos, Finalhazard, and Solaris. Give this one to Super Sonic.
Sonic 2, Mario 1.
Round 4: The Future
©Screenshot From Super Mario Bros. Wonder
We have far more faith in Mario’s future than Sonic’s, but at least things for Sonic don’t seem as grim as in years past.
For the first time since 2012, gamers will receive a brand-new 2D Mario game titled Super Mario Wonder. The game takes some of the best parts of the New Super Mario Bros. games like the frantic, four-player multiplayer and expressive, immersive worlds, and addes a new sense of wonder (no pun intended) to the game. Plus, Mario can now turn into an elephant, which is just awesome. Also returning for the first time in almost three decades is Super Mario RPG, a remake of the SNES classic.
Sonic Frontiers will receive more DLC and we’ll also get more Sonic Prime content, whether that’s the Netflix show or the mobile game. But that seems to be it on the Sonic front.
Series director Takashi Iizuka says there is “a lot more” planned for Sonic this year. So far, though, nothing has been announced. Regardless, we don’t have much optimism that whatever Sonic content comes out will be better than what Mario has in store for us.
Sonic 2, Mario 2
Yes, it’s a cop-out, but this fight ends in a draw. It’s not the ‘90s anymore and we don’t have to pick sides. We can enjoy both of these iconic video game characters and everything they have to offer — the good, the bad, and the glitchy. Let’s throw on some Crush 40 and relive the magic that these two have given us over their three decades as gaming stars.