When thinking of the state of video games in my childhood, one of the main issues that comes to mind is the constant competition between Nintendo and Sega. Sega's goal was to catch up with and then surpass Nintendo, and while they didn't accomplish this in the eight-bit era, they had a major boost in releasing a sixteen-bit system before Nintendo did. This was also the time period when Sega pimped their own mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, as a cooler alternative to Nintendo's Mario. I get the impression that Mario had a reputation as a goody-two-shoes, so Sonic was made to be more of a bad-boy type. Sure, he was on the side of good, but he had an attitude. I suppose it was a bit like Bugs Bunny when compared to Mickey Mouse. And I remember looking in gaming magazines that covered more than one system, and some of them had a quite a bit about how superior Sonic was to Mario. Come on, just because Nintendo and Sega are in competition, that doesn't mean the players and reviewers have to be, does it? Well, maybe, since it was probably more common back then for people to have only one sixteen-bit game system, so you sort of had to choose a side. I was always more of a Nintendo and Mario fan, and while Sonic was a fun character, I kind of think they were too obsessed in the early days with giving him a bad-boy attitude. Mario might have been a goody-goody, but he was hardly perfect. Hey, he's an overweight Italian plumber, not Prince Charming! That said, I always liked Luigi better, due partially to his being more pessimistic and not as relentlessly cheerful (in related media, anyway, and eventually in the games themselves). As for the games, well, I've really only seen the early Sonic games played, and while they have a lot to recommend them (particularly in the graphics and music departments), they seemed much more straightforward than what Mario was doing at the time.
Now, Sega is no longer making their own game systems, and a fair amount of the stuff they develop is for Nintendo. Never saw THAT coming back in the early nineties, did you? Mario and Sonic have even teamed up to participate in the 2008 Olympics. Now that the two old rivals appear to be on friendlier terms, how about some more team-ups between them? Mario and Sonic were both veterans of cartoon shows, although I think the companies that made the characters are now rather embarrassed of them. So we'll probably never see a cartoon that includes both Mario and Sonic, but as someone who has nostalgic feelings for the old Mario cartoons (Sonic not so much, but then I only watched the syndicated weekday show, which by most accounts wasn't as good as the Saturday morning one), I'd like to see such a thing.