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Mario vs. Sonic: Racing

Updated on February 15, 2015
Two different racers. Two different receptions.
Two different racers. Two different receptions.

Racing Games

Sometimes when certain franchises in video games felt like they should try expanding into are genres, sometimes they are met with success. Sometimes with mediocrity. Two examples were Super Mario Kart, released by Nintendo in 1992, and Sonic Riders, produced by Sega in 2006. Super Mario Kart and Sonic Riders were two examples of two popular video game companies using their game mascots in an attempt to expand their brand into different video games genres, often being met with praise or scorn. For racing games, sometimes just making a game with barely any story was ultimately better than including a story that many people would find incoherent. When making a game where your character tries something new, it helps to not introduce new characters that could potentially ruin whatever story was being told. Making the controls easy in a simple environment for first-time players also helps increase people wanting to buy one's games rather than introducing brand-new mechanics in a difficult environment, which would result in people not really wanting to buy the product; especially if that product continuously created more games which constantly change how to play the game well. Mario has made a game which resulted in a long franchise of racing games, whereas Sonic the Hedgehog's racing game ultimately was cancelled.


When Super Mario Kart was released in 1992 the main selling point was that it was a racing game. There was no story reason as to why the game had different Super Mario and classical Donkey Kong characters together, they were just there. It was a game that let players old and new come together and enjoy a game for the sake of having fun. it showed popular characters doing something that was never seen before, the random abilities that could be given to any racer at anytime were fun and helped make the races become very interesting in regards to who won, and its success and the successes of its sequels helped other developers attempt to duplicate its success.

Sonic Riders, a game released in 2006, was one attempt by Sega to appeal to more players via a different game genre. However, Sonic Riders tried to appeal to players by using more overt measures. Rather than use existing vehicles for a racing game; hoverboards were used, rather than make a game where players could race each other for fun's sake; there had to be an actual story included with the game, and rather than make a game where anyone could pick-up a controller and play adequately well; the difficulty was made so that only experienced players of Sonic Riders could really play the game well. As a result Sonic Riders received more negative reviews compared to Super Mario Kart.


What made Nintendo such a popular game was that its characters were the major icons in the industry. Mario and Donkey Kong made the first step in popularizing video games with the 1981 game Donkey Kong. Needless to say, when 1992 had the release of Super Mario Kart, players were excited to see those characters, and the additional characters from other Super Mario, used in a way that did not add or subtract anything to the characters' personalities. There was no story that explained why the heroes and villains of several Super Mario games raced each other in Super Mario Kart. There was no reason that explained why the villains agreed to race the heroes on equal terms. Super Mario Kart was a game that focused on providing players a fun, simple game that anybody could play without worrying about logic. As a result, this game developed into its own franchise.

One game used already established characters to promote the racing game. The other used entirely new characters to promote the racing game.
One game used already established characters to promote the racing game. The other used entirely new characters to promote the racing game.

Sonic Riders as a game did things differently to try to appeal to new players. As a way to get new players to buy the game Sega introduced new characters exclusively for this game. Jet the Hawk, Wave the Swallow, and Storm the Albatross were members of the Babylon Rogues, the main antagonists of the game. The game also included a Story Mode which eventually unlocked more characters for the player to use, so that meant playing a game which included numerous event scenes that had to be watched before any of the races began. While they were not very long, had voice actors that viewers thought were inadequate. Add to that questionable controls in a confusing track and that resulted in a game not a lot of people enjoyed for a long time. In the end Sonic Riders was a game that not a lot of people enjoyed, nor did they enjoy the other Sonic the Hedgehog games made in 2006.

Controls and Sequels

Super Mario Cart and Sonic Riders were games that had very different controls and how to approach their mechanics in the game. Super Mario Kart and its sequels used simple controls that emphasized fun, with the difficulty set relatively low, so that anyone who had an interest in playing the Nintendo racing game could just pick-up a controller and enjoy the entirety of the game. Sonic Riders and its sequels proved that appeal to what was cool or hip without trying to make the controls simple can hurt sales. As a result Sonic Riders ended up cancelling its series earlier than Super Mario Kart, which is still making games in 2014.

Both franchises at least had enough popularity to make sequels for new game systems. Unfortunately, one of those game systems sucked.
Both franchises at least had enough popularity to make sequels for new game systems. Unfortunately, one of those game systems sucked.

See, after Sonic Riders, there were two sequels. In the year 2008 one sequel was called Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity for the Wii and Playstation 2, and in 2010, with the introduction of the Kinect for the Xbox 360, Sonic Free Riders was released. While both games were graphically improved compared to the game Sonic Riders, both games still retained that difficulty in its mechanics that prevented many people from just jumping into the game and simply enjoying it, Sonic Free Riders even more so because it required the Kinect peripheral to play thus increasing its price. As a result Sonic Free Riders has been the last Sonic the Hedgehog racing game for a long time. Compared to Super Mario Kart, whose relatively simple controls yet graphic improvements have helped it create many more sequels. In 1996 Mario Kart 64 was released, Mario Kart: Super Circuit was released in 2001, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! was released in 2003, Mario Kart DS was released in 2005, Mario Kart Wii was released in 2008, Mario Kart 7 was released in 2011, and Mario Kart 8 was released in 2014. The Super Mario franchise ultimately succeeded in making more sequels because the core racing mechanics from Super Mario Kart were barely changed in later games. All that ever changed were different driving controls for the karts or maneuvering through a track, the introduction of kart customization, diverse track design, and graphics changes.


Mario and Sonic were the first mascots for Nintendo and Sega respectively. As a result most of their games either tried to be original or take something from the rival game and improve on it. Sonic Riders tried to be as popular as Super Mario Kart by making its racing game futuristic and cool for new players. Characters raced with hoverboards, everyone wore clothes meant to emphasize their attitudes, and the graphics at the time allowed tracks to look more vibrant compared to other racing games. Unfortunately, poor controls, confusing tracks, and high difficulty made Sonic Riders and its sequels receive poor receptions and were ultimately cancelled as a franchise. Super Mario Kart and its sequels, with their simple controls, character availability, and minor improvents, allowed people to adapt to newer games that came out and enjoy the content so much that the franchise as a whole was capable of creating more sequels that can appeal to huge amounts of people annually.


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