The top video game rivals of all time have starred in franchise canons that have immersed their players in a world that seems almost real; with the physical, mental, and emotional conflict at work in the plot, players may actually become sympathetic to the plight of the hero and root for the downfall of the villain. As video games have grown in popularity and provided millions with escapist entertainment, certain gaming rivalries have become especially notorious.
Mario and Bowser
The plucky Italian plumber known as Mario has appeared in hundreds of games for Nintendo, including the original Super Mario Bros. platformer on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System that almost single-handedly resurrected the home video game industry. Since that original bout with Bowser, the reptilian tyrant seems to appear in every successive major Mario adventure, whether in platforming action titles, role-playing games, sports endeavors, even kart-racing titles. With a repeatedly kidnapped princess in the mix, these two have provided dozens of direct conflicts for millions of gamers worldwide.
Link and Ganon
The Hyrulian hero known as Link has starred in many high-quality Legend of Zelda video games, and though not all of them feature Ganon as the primary villain, many have, in various forms. Since the original NES cartridge that listed the character as “Gannon,” the despotic Gerudo overlord has continually sought the three pieces of the Triforce in order to make his reign permanent and unstoppable. Fortunately for this fantasy world, Link seems available to save the day whenever Ganon strikes.
Sonic and Dr. Robotnik
With the nefarious agenda to turn the world’s creatures into autonomous mechanically enhanced slaves, the evil Dr. Robotnik has repeatedly run across the blazin’ blue Sonic the Hedgehog. Whether the two are competing for Chaos Emeralds or Sonic is “merely” trying to avert Robotnik’s globe-conquering endeavors, super speed will be required to prevent the bad doctor from burning down more jungles or starring in puzzle games of questionable quality.
Ash and Gary
The first Pokemon video game, the Blue and Red versions released on Nintendo’s portable Game Boy system, were smash hits that gave the world a red-hot cultural phenomenon for years to come. At the crux of the pocket monster craze was the intense rivalry between Ash and Gary, which also became immortalized in the animated television series, movies, trading card game, and countless other promotional products. Although the characters change throughout each iteration of the franchise, it was Ash and Gary that set the tone for the “gotta catch ’em all” mold that persisted as the canon continued.
Sub-Zero and Scorpion
The initial Mortal Kombat video game, which was massively successful in arcades and the 16-bit Sega Genesis and SNES consoles, thrust video game violence into the limelight as a hot-button issue, along with introducing fighting-game fans to a genre-busting example that downplayed tactical play and emphasized gory brutality. Even though that first sample of Kombat had a roster of playable characters that did not even break double digits in amount of available choices, the two Shaolin monk combatants known as Sub-Zero and Scorpion immediately became among the most popular characters of the franchise, and would continue to appear in most of the sequels as well. Representing opposite ends of the temperature spectrum, their ongoing explicitly combative feud ranks them as among the top video game rivals of all time.
As further releases emerge on successively advanced gaming systems, there will surely be more entrants on the list of top video game rivals of all time. Hopefully, their fighting will result in many more enjoyable games for gamers everywhere.