Mario, Sonic Facing Off For Game Of Olympic Proportions

Nintendo Wii/DS title 'Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games' to be released for Christmas season.

Not since Jay-Z signed Nas to Def Jam has such a long-running beef been squashed in a way that makes everyone happy. On Wednesday (March 28), Nintendo and Sega announced that Mario and Sonic, video game rivals for 16 years, will finally star in a game together: "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games."

Though the new title is set at the 2008 Beijing Games, it will be released for the Nintendo Wii and DS for the 2007 Christmas season in North America, Europe and Japan.

"Mario and Sonic have been respectful rivals since the early days of video games," Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's most respected game designer and inventor of Mario, said in a press release. "In fact, for a long time they have been discussing the possibility of one day competing against each other. Now that they have been given the perfect opportunity to meet at the Olympic Games, we may finally learn who is actually faster, Mario or Sonic."

Miyamoto certainly knows Mario and Sonic are not real and cannot really have been talking to each other, but game fans have been talking about a team-up for years. Mario and Sonic were the mascots for rival consoles during the battles of Super Nintendo against Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64 against Saturn (the latter a battle the mascot-poor Sony won with the PlayStation). Sega's final console, the Dreamcast, was released in North America in 1999 and failed within a couple of years. By 2002, Sega was releasing new "Sonic" games on Nintendo's GameCube, and a team-up seemed inevitable.

While Nintendo has published an avalanche of Mario games that guest-star other company characters, the Japanese company hasn't let him play with many outsiders. In late 2005, Nintendo introduced "Mario Kart Arcade GP," an arcade version of the series that included Pac-Man as a playable kart racer — it was the first time that character was in a game with Mario and friends (see "Pac-Man And Mario's Worlds Collide In New Arcade Kart Game"). That same year, the company showed a trailer for the yet-unreleased "Super Smash Bros. Brawl," a Nintendo all-star fighting game that is slated to guest-star Konami's "Metal Gear" hero Solid Snake. Sega has kept Sonic's circle of friends even tighter, never having let the blue hedgehog meet up with non-company characters until now.

So what will Sonic and Mario do together? Will they rescue a princess? Will Mario grab rings and run in loop-de-loops while Sonic eats mushrooms and jumps into giant green pipes? Maybe someday, but the characters' announced team-up will be more of an Olympic affair. According to the announcement, players can expect to race Mario and Sonic in a 100-meter heat, have a swim-off and compete in table tennis, among other things. Other playable characters include Luigi and Yoshi from Mario's world and Knuckles and Tails from Sonic's.

Though "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games" is the first official team-up of Nintendo and Sega's most famous characters, there have been a couple of unauthorized mash-ups. In 2005, a fan-made game called "SmashGpsp" took the unauthorized step of porting the Nintendo 64 fighting game "Super Smash Bros." to Sony's PlayStation Portable and then opened the game up to allow — again, unauthorized — fights between Mario, Sonic and other companies' characters. Code for a game called "Somari," which lets Mario run through levels based on the first "Sonic the Hedgehog," has also floated around the Web. The game most assuredly does not have an Official Nintendo Seal, nor one from Sega.

Mario is also expected to star in his next major adventure, "Super Mario Galaxy," due later this year. Sonic — whose "Sonic the Hedgehog" (Xbox 360 and PS3) and "Sonic and the Secret Rings" (Wii) games were just released over the last several months — is not announced for a new adventure at this time.