Today’s Videogame Deathmatch Nerdfight pits two iconic Nintendo franchises against one another. Mario meets Legend of Zelda in a no-holds-barred battle for the hearts of gamers everywhere. Stephen Johnson is defending the honor of the great Mario, and Nikole Zivalich is reppin’ Link in the Legend of Zelda. Hopefully they'll still be friends when all this is over.
Steve: I’m going to try to keep my temper for this Nerdfight. I’m not going to threaten to punch anyone, and I’m not going to kick anything. No more holes in the wall of my apartment. But come ON; Mario is the most iconic figure in video game history. Zelda is nice and all, but seriously, this is MARIO we’re talking about, and Mario deserves respect and reverence. Mario is a household name. Every Mario is more awesome than every other game. Mario games have been the god-standard, double-plus top of gaming since the freakin’ 1982. Mario is universally recognized as the face of video games. There is no other franchise fit to kiss Mario’s overall-clad ass. Mario IS video games.
Nikole: No one is arguing whether or not Mario is iconic. He's the poster boy for Nintendo, but he's not the only one. If Shigeru is the father of Nintendo, then Mario's younger, better-looking brother is Link. The difference between the two is one represents the birth of video games while the other embodies the evolution of video games. The Legend of Zelda series invented dungeons, it perfected boss battles, and it told the story of Hero who had to understand the significance of having courage, the importance of relying on wisdom and the dangers that come with power. Come on, I'm not the only person with goosebumps right now.
Steve: Wait, a hero who has to be courageous? I can’t believe the innovation and originality! Mario has been evolving and changing with video games as a medium since the arcade days, whether it’s one-screen classics like Donkey Kong, platforming games like Super Mario Brothers 3, 3D platformers like Super Mario 64, party game collections like Mario Party or even RPGs like Super Paper Mario. With the exception of first-person shooters, the Mario juggernaut has strong entries in just about all game genres. Zelda, on the other hand, made a big leap when Ocarina of Time came out for the Nintendo 64, but that was, what, 15 years ago?
Since then, we’ve been treated to nothing but rehashes of the same game, again and again. That would be fine, if the game was getting progressively better with each iteration, but it isn’t. No Zelda game is good as OOC, and one incredible game and bunch of near misses makes for a great franchise, but not the best franchise on earth.
Nikole: Mario was completely void of emotions, and yes Link's character was innovative and original in 1986. In the 22 years since its release its set the bar for how a game should be laid out. It combined RPG elements, puzzles, exploration, combat, and side-quests. Mario has been strictly platformer since day one. He has the same motive, the same enemies, and practically the same art-style since the beginning. He even wears the exact same thing in every game. Now Link, there's a fashion forward hero, he has three tunics to choose from and boot choices!
While Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was an amazing gaming experience it wasn't the first nor the last Zelda game to be influential or critically received. The Legend of Zelda, and LoZ: Link To The Past, even the gameboy game Link's Awakening were unique to what current games offered at the time. After OoT Nintendo released Majora's Mask which built off of OoT. Nintendo tried something totally different with Wind Waker, a risk they've never taken with Mario. Twilight Princess was, in my opinion, the best Wii launch game. TP is the closest we're ever going to get HD graphics on the Wii and Skyward Sword will look even better. Phantom Hourglass utilized the DS' stylus to produce, possibly, the best DS game.
Steve: This Friday night, I spent hours playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii with my wife and child-- I lead a very exciting life -- and I was amazed. I play video games all the time, and demand a certain level of challenge or I’m bored. My wife never picks up a controller, it’s not her thing. My son is three, so he can’t do anything except be cute. But even given the disparity in our backgrounds and styles, we played 3-player and everyone had an amazing time. I enjoyed the completism of getting all the gold coins and figuring out all the secrets of levels.
My wife was challenged by just staying alive through stages, and little Dexter was able to enter a bubble (“bubble up,” as he put it) and ride out the levels until we got to the pole at the end. I can’t think of any other game series that could provide that level of fun for that group of people. It’s not an accident or an anomaly, either. Nintendo has been honing the Mario franchise since your mom was born in the early 80s, and put in millions of man-hours on creating the greatest game franchise of all time. Mario is the winner. There is no contest.
Nikole: I've played Ocarina of Time so many times that my brother and I have time-trials so see who can get through the Fire Temple the fastest. It's probably the easiest level even on Master Quest so we speed through it, trying to distract each other. We have those cliched family bonding experiences with Zelda too. But Zelda is so much more than spending time with my family; it's spending time with the characters and the universe of Zelda.
LoZ has cannon, Mario has gimmicks. LoZ has emotion, Mario has sound effects. LoZ has a female character that doesn't always need to be saved. On rare occasions where Peach actually gets to do something she bakes a cake to distract her captor. When you play a Zelda game you can't complain about familiarity. With Mario, you're playing the same inconsequential plot that won't affect anyone and won't matter as the series progresses. Mario is iconic, sure, but as a franchise it's The Legend of Zelda as a series has evolved, has changed and no matter the installment has offered solid gameplay, an immersive story and fluid combat.
Two Nintendo icons are fighting it out in a battle that is getting far more violent than either game franchise should ever allow. Sadly we had to cut off this Nerdfight because Steve insulted Navi, so Nikole came back with some derogatory words about koopas. Things got ugly. Nikole and Steve have been placed into time-out corners to think about what they’ve done. You must finish what they’ve started and decide what represents the Best Videogame Franchise! Vote now, or forever live in regret!