The main objective in these games is to race through each stage and beat your "rival" to the finish line. Stages are broken up by boss fights, where both characters fight against one of Dr. Eggman's robots, with the winner determined by who can land more hits.
Sonic, Knuckles, Shadow, Silver and Metal Sonic are playable in the first game, while Tails, Rouge and Espio are added to the playable roster in the second game.
- Two Point Five D
- Comeback Mechanic: Anyone not in the lead gets his or her top speed increased.
- Green Hill Zone: Blue Coast
- Heroic Sacrifice: Metal Sonic tears out his processor to save Shadow, trapping Eggman Nega
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Eggman Nega unleashes the Ifrit, and upon it's defeat is sealed in the Ifrit's dimension.
- Monster of the Week: Ifrit
- Mirror Boss: Once a level, actually.
- No Export for You: These games were developed in the United States, and were never released in Japan.
- No Name Given: Two of the Bosses in Rivals 2.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Eggman Nega
- Palette Swap: With the exception of super moves, all the characters play exactly alike.
- Playing with Fire: Ifrit
- Robot Me: Metal Sonic 3.0.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Similar to the US version of Sonic CD, hard rock plays on every level, even the bright and cheery ones.
- actually Eggman Nega from 200 years in the future disguised as Eggman