Throughout the years, a war has been waging that has claimed the lives of many a mascot, but I think we need to pay special attention to the severity of the Mascot Wars of the 1990’s — and take note of the impact it has had on the overall landscape of video games.
Mario had already been around for years by the early 1990’s, strutting his mustache around the video game block, but in 1991, the first REAL competition for the overweight plumber came a knockin’: Sonic the Hedgehog. Now I realize I talked about Sonic in my first article, and it may seem like I’m slightly biased when it comes to the whole Mario vs. Sonic debate, but I’m not… I promise!
If you actually want to know a little secret about myself, well, here you go: I love both of these series, and although Mario has had a much stronger lineup of games continuously throughout the years, there is no doubting how much I love and appreciate the classic Sonic games.
It’s kind of amazing to look back and see the kind of command that Nintendo had over the entire video game market back in the 80’s and most of the 90’s, but in January of 1992, Sega took the lead over from the almighty Nintendo, and it was all thanks to the blue hedgehog with attitude. Gamers were looking for something different, and something different is what they got.
Sonic was edgy as all hell, and kids truly latched onto this aspect of the character — considering him a less-childish alternative to Mario. Perhaps it was Sonic’s tapping foot and swaying finger? Sonic the Hedgehog featured sharp graphics and an amazing sense of speed as gamers had the ability to whip Sonic through the levels with ease, finally breaking away from the slightly sluggish feel of the Marioverse. It wasn’t until Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came out the following year, however, that the legion of Sonic fans grew tremendously.
As the years went on, Nintendo knew they had a something up their sleeves that would essentially put Sonic (and Sega) down for the count. Oh, and that little something just so happened to be Super Mario 64, the most influential 3D game of all time; its influence can even be seen in games that are being released to this day. The release of Super Mario 64 was definitely a blow that I think sparked the decline of the Sonic franchise, and it may have also contributed to the decision by Sega to leave the console market and focus primarily on software instead, as well as positioning Nintendo back on top of the video game world.
I’m almost positive that if you took someone from the 90’s and had them time travel to today, they would/should have a look of utter disbelief on their faces. The once mighty Sega, now just a software developer for other consoles, is in a partnership with their greatest enemy. It’s easy to understand why they made the “Mario & Sonic” games though, because from a marketing standpoint it is an easy sell to anyone that grew up in the bloody era of the 16-bit wars, but it still kind of makes me uneasy to see these two powerhouse mascots competing in Olympic events to solve their differences.