Is there any rivalry in video games more legendary than the Nintendo/Sega schism of the '90s? That's not a rhetorical question: I'm at a loss to think of any others, so if you have any ideas, post them to the comments. Since the Nintendo/Sega rivalry is the biggest that comes immediately to mind, I've decided to focus on the two games that defined an era, those games being Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World, both available right now on Wii's Virtual Console for less than ten bucks.
If someone had told a kid in the early '90s that there'd be a day when you could play a Sonic game on a Nintendo console, they probably would have been like "Chyeah, right!" before they rollerbladed off to a rave. The rivalry between the two companies was heated. Sega, riding high on the blast-processing-fueled wave known as the Genesis, was talking as much smack as they possibly could about Nintendo. Hence, the "Genesis does what Nintendon't" campaign.
Nintendo, generally viewed as the kid-friendly company who made zillions selling the original NES to every man, woman, and child in America, decided to jump on the '90s bandwagon and tubularify their image. They countered Sega's in-your-face, Poochy-style ad campaign with a campaign that was even more outrageous and full of 'tude. It's embarrassing to watch now, but it was kind of embarrassing to watch even then. Sort of like seeing your dad try to rap along with an Ice Cube song. This commercial from the "Play it Loud!" campaign is exactly what future history professors will show their classes when they reach the chapter on the 1990s. It's the nineties distilled into 58 seconds. I mean, that's the Butthole Surfers!
Mascots were a very important part of video game companies in the '90s, and Sega and Nintendo had Sonic and Mario, respectively. Mario had been around for years by that point, and was a loveable scamp who jumped on top of things to kill them and occasionally dabbled in fur-play with things like the Tanooki Suit. Sonic was the new kid on the block, a blaze-blue Hedgehog who ran at extraordinary speeds and represented a maturing of video game mascots…kind of. I mean, the maturing was from "pre-tween" to "tween," but that marketing demographic label didn't exist back then.
But which is the better game? To answer that, I've written a compare-and-contrast essay as done in the voice of a seventh-grade Sonic fan:
a compare and contrast essay
Sega Genesis is the first 16 bit system that was released in the world, much before Nintendo decided to copy them with the Super NES. The Super NES comes with a game called Super Mario World, which is a sequel to some old games called Super Mario Bros. They are not very good compared to Sonic which has more speed than the Super NES and also the sound is better. The Genesis makes Sonic run fast because it comes with blast processing which is a way to make graphics very fast. The Super NES does not have this and also it has Mode 7 which is just making the screen spin. Because of this the Super NES is slower. The main differences between Mario and Sonic is that Sonic collects rings instead of coins and also Sonic is a better game. Sonic has to rescue animals and also there is a comic book for Sonic. In conclusion, Sonic the Hedgehog is better than Super Mario World because it is faster and the game is better overall.
It's impossible to decide. And why should we decide? Both games are great and are still a ton of fun. However, in the over-arching storyline of video game quality, Mario games have maintained and often exceeded their previous levels of quality while Sonic has... well, Sonic's had a bit of a tough time of it.
Now that you vehemently disagree with whatever Seth's just written, be sure to check him out on Gizmonic Institutes Radio this week, where he talks about Mystery Science Theater 3000!