E3 season is officially here and dozens of dream announcements are due right alongside it. So if you’re looking out for a Marvel vs. DC fighting game, or just your favorite receiving that fabled Smash invite, I hope you’re satisfied with the news of this week! Mario and Sonic have come to blows, and competition, many times now, but never in the action-platforming style both franchises are cemented in. I want to explore some ideas of this dream collaboration, and truly find out, why have they never taken this path?
Sonic and Mario have always shared very similar types of games, but Sonic the Hedgehog was designed to be explicitly anti-Nintendo. Fast, gritty, and filled with 90s attitude, Sonic’s immaturity is always what has separated the franchise from other notable platformers. How on earth did Sega and Nintendo even begin to merge the two?
Mario has always been about precision platforming and exploration. In 3D, Mario has cemented a sandbox-style that features a clear beginning, and end, but hundreds of ways to get there. On the other hand, Sonic has evolved to be much more linear. The average modern Sonic level sees you flying through levels and quickly dodging obstacles. The speed is not only the vehicle but the reward for playing. It’s impossible to just throw Mario into a boost stage and Sonic certainly wouldn’t work just thrown into a sandbox.
For the longest time, Sega and Nintendo have avoided crossing the two over. The Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchises preserves the personality of the two and perfectly demonstrates how fun mashing the styles together could be, but the Olympics serve as a “neutral ground” where the most common characteristics of both are toned down for a fair competition. It works well for a party game but neither set of fans would be content if they went down that road forever.
Super Smash Bros. is an extremely odd case. The franchise is known for mixing insanely unique characters together in a fighting game format that keeps everything you love, emulates their playstyle, and unifies everything from Pokémon to Bayonetta. Ironically, neither Mario or Sonic got that treatment. Both are extremely underwhelming representations of themselves and fans are still hoping they’ll eventually get the revamp they deserve!
How do you put Mario and Sonic together in the same platformer? I don’t think you’ll ever make it work, but I have an idea that might be better. By design, Sonic and Mario in the opposing world feel alien. I think you should take advantage of this concept. Sonic Generations laid an excellent precedent splitting gameplay in the past. You could do a lot with it here.
Design levels and experiences fit for the character in a completely different world. Imagine Mario getting bounced around by robots in a casino or Sonic jumping from airship to airship simply trying to outrun the Koopalings. There’s a lot of material there. I think it works best if you force them to deal with the opposites allies and enemies. There’s a lot of good jokes to pull off.
I think the ideal crossover is Mario working alongside Sonic, but you could never do that in a platformer. Hopefully, we’ll one day see an RPG or kart racer that truly takes advantage of what both series have to offer. Until then, I suppose the Olympics aren’t so bad. Every move in a fighting game being a ball is horrendous, though.