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Is 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' the latest addition to the Nintendo/Sega rivalry?
While sports teams may come to mind when thinking of the all-time greatest rivalries, they exist in almost every sphere. For beverages, it’s Pepsi vs. Coke. For comic books, it’s DC vs Marvel. For video games, it was undeniably Nintendo vs. Sega from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s in the Great Console War.
Nintendo and Sega were constantly trying to 1-up each other for a larger share of the console market. After playing a years long game of console Mortal Kombat (the Sega version), Nintendo delivered the KO punch. Sega stopped making consoles in 2001, ending the console war between them, but with Sega still making games featuring our favorite blue haired hedgehog, did this end the rivalry?
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is practically printing money grossing over $1 billion worldwide making it an undeniable success for Illumination and Nintendo. This also means it’s the all time highest grossing movie based on a video game ahead of Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which made $319,715,683 and $405,421,518, respectively.
All are successful in their own right, but does this represent the rivalry shifting to the big screen? Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is already in development for 2024, and we would imagine a Mario sequel will be announced any day now, considering the success of the first film. To see where the Nintendo/Sega rivalry is now, and how these movies add to it, we have to delve back into where it was at its height.
The Great Console War
There are entire books about this rivalry, so for the sake of time we’ll skip some super interesting facts, such as Nintendo originally starting in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi to make Japanese playing cards, and Sega starting in 1940 as coin operated slot machines in Hawaii.
By the early 1980s, Sega had a solid hold over the arcade space, until Nintendo came out with the iconic Donkey Kong (1981) starring Jumpman. By 1985, Nintendo was breaking into the North American game market with the at-home gaming system NES.
Sega had trouble breaking in, releasing the 8-bit Master System, as a lot of people already had a Nintendo system. Of course, Nintendo also had Mario, who Sega tried to beat with Alex Kidd, but he just didn’t have the same staying power.
Then, Sega came out with the Sega Genesis: a 16-bit system with better graphics and speed than their 8-bit Nintendo competitors. But they still couldn’t join the Mario Party. Not to take sides here, but the NES and then especially the SNES were kind of better than the Genesis in almost every other way. If only they had a way of showing off their superior speed and creating a legend to rival Mario?
Sonic the Hedgehog came out in 1991, selling 2 million units within its first year. Sega coined the term “blast processing” to emphasize the faster gameplay you got with Sonic over Mario games. This successfully popularized the Sega Genesis, and there were actually times they controlled more of the market than Nintendo. Sega started getting bolder, and launched this ad to attack the software inferiority of the Nintendo systems.
Dr. Robotnik would be proud! But after a disaster with the Sega Saturn, and the introduction of Sony’s PlayStation, Sega released its final console, the Dreamcast, in 1998.
SEGA continues to develop games for Nintendo systems, and even did a 2007 collaboration with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.
The Rivalry Now
In a way, that brings us to the present. There is no more fight for market space in the Console War, but Mario and Sonic are certainly mascots for their respective companies. The video space isn’t new, with the Sonic the Hedgehog TV show and The Super Mario Bros. live action movie both in 1993, and the Sonic the Hedgehog animated movie in 1996. They even each have respective comics to go along with these… masterpieces.
The biggest difference now vs. during the Console War? The Mario and Sonic movies aren’t competitors. Sure, among U.S. adults in 2021, according to Gallup, a whopping 61% didn’t see a movie in theaters; 31% only see one to four movies a year; and just 9% see five or more. But this doesn’t mean someone is necessarily less likely to see a hypothetical The Super Mario Bros. Movie 2 because they already saw Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Besides, the movies have so far been released at completely different times.
In fact, it’s good to see each company be successful, because it elevates the video game to movie genre as a whole. If you don’t believe us, ask what Atari games did to Nintendo and Sega's credibility in the early '80s. Obviously, we hope our prediction of a Super Smash Bros. Movie will come true, but you know what might make a great initial crossover? A Mario & Sonic movie!