Back in the late eighties and early nineties, we had two video game companies going head to head for supremacy. Nintendo and Sega. While the Sega Master System made plenty of waves in Europe it never quite got the same market that Nintendo had with the NES in North America, that was until the Sega Genesis (known as the Megadrive to the rest of the world) came onto the scene in all its 16-bit glory becoming real competition for Nintendo, which would later come out with the Super Nintendo, and both companies had its signature mascot as seen above.
On the left representing Nintendo, a plumber who needs no introduction, but I'm giving him one anyway, Super Mario! And on the right, Sega's very own Sonic the Hedgehog! Mario made his formal video game debut in the arcade game Donkey Kong in 1981 and then got his own arcade with his brother Luigi in 1983 which was also ported to the Atari 2600 later on. By 1985 with the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System we got Super Mario Bros, a game that still to this day is being talked about. By 1991 Sega would create a legit alternative to Nintendo's favorite Italian plumber in Sonic the Hedgehog, a game which allows a quantity of speed that many going in wouldn't have thought possible. I struggled trying to decide which one to base a review on seeing that I already planned to look at old Atari games to cap off the month until I said to myself:
So, without further ado, let's dive into Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog!
It was the eighties.
Super Mario Brothers is divided into eight worlds, four levels each. At the end of each world is a castle level you go through where you face Bowser at the end. The levels range from land, underground, underwater (I hate those levels) in the air, and who can forget that douchebag on a cloud who keeps dropping Spinies at you? But no matter what the obstacle, chances are you're going to be doing a lot of jumping. If there's one thing you can count on in any platformer is jumping, jumping, jumping, jumping, so much jumping! I hope the guy doesn't get a leg cramp.
Over on the Sonic side of things it's not much different. There's still going to be plenty of jumping, only what sets Sonic apart so much from Mario is the speed in which you can run. Once you get going you'll be speeding across the area at an amazing rate that the next thing you know you run right square into an enemy and lose all the rings you collected.
Like Mario, Sonic is also separated, not by worlds but by zones. Instead of it being four levels each, they're three levels each (called acts) and at the end of each zone you face your reoccurring boss, only it's not a dragon with a spiked turtle shell, it's a man named Doctor Robotnik!
With both games you have an overall score that goes up with how many coins/rings you collect and enemies you eliminate. Mario starts off with five lives while Sonic only gives you three. Neither one has a health bar, but there are ways where you can avoid dying in one hit. With Mario you collect a Mushroom that makes you grow, and then a fire flower that turns you into Super Mario, it'll take being hit three times to lead to death. With Sonic it depends on how many rings you collected, as each time you're hit you lose more and more rings and if you're hit while the count is zero it's game over. When you get a game over you start back at the beginning of the game. There were no save files back then, but to counterbalance that the games themselves weren't all that long, but to counterbalance that the games were much, much more difficult to keep you at bay.
Both games has a timer as soon as they start, only difference is Mario's clock is counting down, Sonic starts from zero and counts how long it takes you to complete the level. Sonic allows for more exploration of each area, but Mario keeps you going right and there is no going back.
Mario can collect gold coins that are found on land, on blocks, in the air, or by breaking blocks. Sonic's rings on the other hands are mostly just found on land, platforms, the air, and through special items.
Between the two, they have about the same amount of special items to utilize as you play. In Sonic you can rack up a total of ten rings at once, as already mentioned, become invincible to your enemies, generate a blue barrier around yourself for protection, and get a speed boost power up that lets you go even faster than usual. You can also get an extra life. In Super Mario Brothers the special items are the mushroom, the fire flower, the star that makes you invincible, and the 1 Up mushroom that gives you an extra life.
But what does one have that the other one doesn't? Well, Super Mario Brothers is up to two players, allowing a second player to take control of Luigi and play through each stage after the first player is finished with Mario. This is something that wouldn't be introduced in Sonic until the second game, and then the second player is mostly just stuck with playing Tails alongside Sonic, which wasn't that appealing to a lot of people playing the second game.
One thing Sonic does have over Mario is a special bonus stage you can warp to if you grab the giant ring that some times appear at the end of a level. This brings you to an area that works a lot like a pinball machine where you try to navigate through it to get rings for additional points. On the other hand, Mario has secret areas you can find through vines and pipes, but they're not their own separate stage.
Graphics wise, I'd have to give another point to Sonic. Even to this day the visuals still hold up to scrutiny with its backdrops and use of bright colors. Mario's graphics can be seen as dated, but that's part of the charm. They have tried to upgrade them twice now on the SNES, and more recently with New Super Mario Bros for the DS, but nothing will ever compare to the original.
Onto the music side of things, that's an easy point for Mario. While Sonic does have a great soundtrack that sticks in your head after you've played, the original music in Super Mario Bros has stood the test of time, and has become iconic as the years gone by, reaching a point where almost anyone can instantly recognize it as being part of a Mario game. Until I picked it up again, I have forgotten most of the tunes I heard on Sonic, but I will never be able to forget the music that accompanies Mario.
Let's look at the enemies of both games. Mario has the ever infamous Goomba, which is basically a brown head shaped like a mushroom that has feet. Then you have the Koopa Troopa, yellow turtles with either a green or red shell. Some times they have wings allowing them to fly, well, more like hoping up and down when they appear on screen. The Buzzy Beetle, an enemy with a fireproof black shell that renders him immune to Super Mario's fireballs.
We also have Bullet Bill, a missile that flies across the screen in certain levels. This brings us to Cheep-Cheep, fishes that are normally found in water levels but can also jump out of the waters into large arcs in a couple other stages, and can be very annoying. Another creature you'll only find in the water level is Blooper, a white squid that likes to get in your way and kill you.
Beware of green pipes, because while some are harmless, and others will lead to secret areas, the rest will have a Piranha Plant that comes out of the pipe looking for a midnight snack. I'm fairly certain this is where Ocarina of Time got its idea for the man-eating plants in their game. They're pretty easy to take out with the fireball, but don't even get me started on the Hammer Brothers! Easily the most annoying enemy in the game. They're always jumping from platform to platform flinging hammers at you, and you have to time it just right if you want to get by them without incident. Otherwise, you're dead. You always want to be Super Mario when you see them, but you never are.
Meanwhile, on the Sonic side of things we have a bunch of robots called Badniks. Created by Doctor Robotnik. You have Crabmeat, a robot crab. Buzz Bomber, a wasp type robot that flies around in the air and shoots at you. Very annoying. Then there's the Chopper which is Sonic's own badass fish jumping out of the water trying to kill you. There's the Ball Hog, a robot that looks like a pig who drops bombs on you. Bat Brain, a blue bat that resides on the ceiling before coming down to fly at the player. An enemy that wouldn't make an appearance again until 2012, that's a long time to be absent.
Next enemy on the list is Bomb. Just Bomb. They appear gray and red and it's actually recommended that you just avoid them. Let the bombs fall where they may, just not on you. These bombs can walk. Walk on land, walk on ceilings, and take you out by taking itself out. Burrobot is a drilling machine that moves on treadmills and has a drill-like nose giving it the ability to pop out from beneath the ground. There is also the incredible deadly Caterkiller, who is pink with yellow spikes on its body, and parts of its body can split apart if one of the spikes are hit. The only way to take it out is by going for the head, which is pretty much the unwritten rule of anything if you're a demon hunter.
From there we have Jaws, no not the shark. Well, it is a shark, a pink one. Is it just me or is Doctor Robotnik obsessed with the color pink? These sharky fellas can be found deep, deep under water, but they're vulnerable to attack and aren't all that difficult to challenge. Then we have the Moto Bug, based off of Lady Bugs and are normally found going back and forth and only really causes damage if you run into them.
Both are classic games and popular platformers for a reason. Mario has stood the test of time for having a favorable formula that it has stuck to since the beginning, fun stages, memorable characters, villains, and music, that is still listened to to this day. Sonic has stood the test of time thanks to visuals, its own cast of memorable faces, bright colors, and being able to perform at a speed that Mario could only dream of. If I had to choose a winner, then it would go to Mario, but only by a hare.
Super Mario Bros: Get it
Sonic the Hedgehog: Get it