Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog
First releaseSonic the Hedgehog
June 23, 1991
Latest releaseTeam Sonic Racing
May 21, 2019
Spin-offsSonic Boom

Sonic the Hedgehog is a media franchise owned by Sega, centering on a series of high-speed platform games. Sonic, the protagonist, is an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog with supersonic speed. Typically, Sonic must stop antagonist Doctor Eggman's plans for world domination, often helped by his friends, such as Tails, Amy, and Knuckles.

The first Sonic the Hedgehog game, released in 1991, was conceived by Sega's Sonic Team division after Sega requested a new mascot character to replace Alex Kidd and compete with Nintendo's mascot Mario. Its success spawned many sequels and helped Sega become one of the leading video game companies during the 16-bit era of the early 1990s. The first major 3D Sonic game, Sonic Adventure, was released in 1998 for the Dreamcast. Spin-offs have explored other genres, including racing games such as Sonic R (1997) and sports games such as Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (2007).

By March 2011, the series had sold over 89 million physical copies,[n 1] and grossed over $5 billion by 2014.[1] As of 2018, the series has shifted 800 million copies, including free-to-play mobile game downloads.[2] Several Sonic games are often included in lists of the greatest games of all time. Along with video games, the Sonic franchise has also crossed over into a variety of different media, including animation, comic books, and a Hollywood film.


Sega Genesis (1991–1996)

Sonic runs through Green Hill Zone, the first zone of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

The first Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog, is a platform game released in 1991.[3] Players control the anthropomorphic blue hedgehog Sonic, who can run and jump at high speeds using springs, ramps, and loops.[4] Sonic must stop Dr. Robotnik from taking over the world using the Chaos Emeralds.[4] Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)[5] increased the overall size and speed of the series' gameplay[6] and was the second best-selling Genesis game.[7] It introduced Sonic's sidekick and best friend, Miles "Tails" Prower, who followed Sonic throughout the game, and allowed a second player to control him in a limited fashion.[6] This game also introduced Sonic's "spin dash" maneuver, an ability which allows Sonic to burst forwards quickly from a complete standstill, unlike the previous game, where Sonic could only gain speed with momentum.[6] Sonic 2 was followed in 1993 by an arcade game, SegaSonic the Hedgehog, featuring new characters Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel.[8]

The next console game, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, was released in 1994.[9] The game introduced a temporary shield maneuver, often called the "insta-shield",[10] added new shield types to the series,[11] and allowed Tails to be completely playable under a second player's control, as well as adding the option for players to utilize Tails' flying ability in levels.[11] It also introduced the character, Knuckles the Echidna, who served as an additional antagonist with Doctor Robotnik for the game.[11]

Sonic & Knuckles, another platform game in the Sonic series, was released later in 1994.[12] The game featured Knuckles as a playable character with gliding and wall climbing abilities[12] and allowed gamers to plug in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 to the top of the Sonic and Knuckles cartridge as part of the game's "lock on" functionality. This allowed gamers to play the game as it was originally intended;[12] the games were intended to be one game, but were split due to cartridge space and time constraints.[13][14]

Knuckles explores Flying Battery, the second zone of Sonic & Knuckles (1994). The use of shields, checkpoints, and these basic level design and graphical assets were typical of the Sonic series' early years.

There were several Sonic games for the Genesis that were not 2D platform games. Sonic Spinball, released in 1993, was a pinball simulation modeled after the Spring Yard and Casino Night Zones from the first two Sonic games.[15] The game, unlike general pinball simulations, had an overall goal of collecting all the Chaos Emeralds in each level and defeating the levels' bosses.[15] It was one of the few video games that had elements from the cartoons Sonic the Hedgehog and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine was a puzzle game similar to Puyo Puyo[16] that was set in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog universe. Sonic 3D Blast, an isometric, 2.5D platform game[17] released in 1996 and developed by Traveller's Tales,[18] featured Sonic running through pseudo-3D environments while trying to rescue Flickies from Doctor Robotnik.[17]

The Sega Genesis had "add-on" systems that incorporated Sonic games. Sonic CD, released for the Sega CD, was a 2D platform game[19] released in 1993.[20] The game introduced the characters Amy Rose[21] and Metal Sonic and featured levels that differed depending upon whether Sonic was in the past, present, or future time frames.[19] Knuckles' Chaotix, a spin-off released in 1995 for the Sega 32X,[22] featured Knuckles and a new group named Chaotix fighting against Dr. Robotnik.[23] The game featured a two-player cooperative system in which the on-screen characters were connected by magic rings.[23] There was also Sonic Eraser, a puzzle game released exclusively on Sega Game Toshokan in 1991.

Due to the success of Sonic games on the Sega Genesis, the series was introduced to the Master System and the Game Gear. Sega began by releasing Sonic the Hedgehog, a 2D platform game, in 1991.[24] The game featured Sonic's ability to run and to jump at high speeds like its Mega Drive/Genesis counterpart but with notably different level designs and music.[25] Sega later released Sonic the Hedgehog 2, another 2D platform game, in 1992. The game differed from its Genesis counterpart with different levels and music and by not including a "spin dash" maneuver. It also featured a different storyline in which Doctor Robotnik kidnaps Tails, who is non-playable in the Master System/Game Gear version.[26] Sonic Chaos/Sonic and Tails (Japan), released in 1993,[27] was similar to the earlier two Sega Master System/Game Gear Sonic games, but featured Tails as a playable character.[28] A sequel, Sonic Triple Trouble/Sonic and Tails 2 (Japan), a 2D platform game, was released in 1994[29] for the Game Gear and introduced a new character, Nack the Weasel, who, along with Knuckles and Doctor Robotnik, raced to collect the Chaos Emeralds. One of the last games for the Sega Game Gear, Sonic Blast, was released in 1996[30] and featured prerendered sprites.

Several spin-off Sonic games that were not 2D platform games were also released. Sonic Labyrinth, released for Game Gear in 1995,[31] featured an isometric view and slower exploration-based gameplay that resulted from Robotnik's replacing Sonic's shoes with "Speed Down Boots." Sonic Drift was a kart racer released in 1994.[32] It later had a sequel, Sonic Drift 2, which was released in 1995.[33] Tails also received two spin-offs. Tails' Skypatrol, released in 1995,[34] allowed players to control an always-flying Tails. Tails Adventure, released in 1995,[35] featured a mix of platforming and RPG elements.

Sega Saturn (1996–1998)

Few Sonic games were released for the Sega Saturn, and none were a standard platform game originally made for the system. Sonic 3D Blast was released in 1996[36] alongside the Genesis version. Like its Genesis counterpart, the Saturn edition used isometric, 2.5D graphics, but it added FMV cut-scenes, enhanced music and visual effects,[37] and a real-time 3D special stage.[38] Sonic Jam, a compilation released for the Saturn in 1997, contained the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, as well as a "Sonic World" mode, which allowed the player to control Sonic in a small 3D world.[39] The Sonic World was mainly a means of accessing the disc's multimedia features, which included character artwork, the soundtrack, and Japanese Sonic videos.[40] Sonic R, a foot racing spin-off and also the Sonic series' first fully 3D game,[41] was released in 1997 for the Saturn[42] and ported to the PC in 1998.[43]

The Sega Technical Institute attempted to develop a Sonic game for the Saturn called Sonic X-treme. It was originally intended to compete with Nintendo's Super Mario 64 and Sony's Crash Bandicoot. However, due to time constraints and issues between STI, the Japanese division of Sega, and Sonic Team, the project was canceled in late 1996.[44]

Dreamcast (1998–2001)

Sonic grinds a rail in City Escape, the first level of Sonic Adventure 2

Sonic Adventure, a launch game for the Dreamcast, was released in 1998 in Japan and 1999 in North America.[45] The game was re-released for the GameCube and PC as Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut in 2003[46] with some graphical and gameplay tweaks,[47] and, in late 2010, ported to Xbox Live Arcade[48] and PlayStation Network.[49] Its sequel, Sonic Adventure 2, was released for the Dreamcast in 2001, and was the last game in the series to be released for the Sega platform.[50] In 2002 it became the first game in the series to appear on a Nintendo platform when it was ported – with several enhancements – to the GameCube as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle,[51] and in October 2012 it was ported to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network with a version released on Steam in November the same year.

The only other Dreamcast Sonic game was Sonic Shuffle, which was released in 2000 and featured cel-shaded graphics and a board game concept similar to that of the Mario Party series.[52] Dreamcast sales began to decline after the launch of the PlayStation 2,[53] and therefore few Sonic games were released for the system.

Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure was also released on SNK's Neo Geo Pocket Color portable console, made in the same style of the Genesis/Mega Drive era of games.

Move to non-Sega systems (2001–2006)

After the commercial failure of the Dreamcast, Sega ceased producing its own video game hardware, focusing solely on manufacturing software for the GameCube, followed by releases for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

Sonic's transition to the Game Boy Advance was completed with Sonic Advance, the first original Sonic game released for a Nintendo console. The game featured 2D platforming, similar to the original Genesis games, and new gameplay mechanics from more recent Sonic games as well, such as grinding on rails.[54] It was released in late 2001 in Japan and early 2002 elsewhere,[55] and ported to Nokia's N-Gage on October 7, 2003, as SonicN.[56] Two sequels, Sonic Advance 2 and Sonic Advance 3, followed in March 2003 and June 2004, respectively.

Between Sonic Advance 2 and Sonic Advance 3, two other Sonic games were released: Sonic Battle,[57] a 3D fighting game, and Sonic Pinball Party,[58] a pinball simulation. The last Sonic game that was released for the Game Boy Advance is Sonic The Hedgehog Genesis on 2006, which features the original Genesis game and the 15-anniversary mode with the Spin Dash.

The first game released for the GameCube was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, followed by Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut, each ports from the Dreamcast. Sega later released Sonic Heroes,[59] the first Sonic game made for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. It was released on all three systems on December 30, 2003 in Japan, with American and European releases following soon after. The game was similar to that of the Adventure games, although the player now controlled the lead character of a team of three, with the other two following behind. The player could then switch to a new leader at any time in order to use that character's special abilities.

Shadow the Hedgehog was released in late 2005 in North America. It was built on a more advanced version of the engine used for Sonic Heroes. It focused on Shadow the Hedgehog as he tried to uncover his past. The game contained multiple paths and endings, as the player chose to take good or evil paths for each level. It also added wielding weapons and driving vehicles to 3D platforming.[60][61]

Sonic Riders was the first Sonic racing game since Sonic R; in contrast to the previous game, the characters used hoverboards, bikes, and skates rather than racing on foot. It was the last game for GameCube & Xbox.[62]

Due to the extended life cycle of the PlayStation 2, it also received ports of Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity[63][64] and Sonic Unleashed.[65][66] Two Sonic games appeared on the PlayStation Portable: Sonic Rivals and its sequel, Sonic Rivals 2. Both games were 2.5D style games.

Seventh generation consoles (2006–2013)

There were a number of different Sonic games released for the Nintendo DS. The first was Sonic Rush, released in 2005, featuring gameplay similar to the Sonic Advance series. It received a sequel, Sonic Rush Adventure, in 2007, which featured some additional new elements, such as the driving of jet skis and submarines. Along with the Wii, the Nintendo DS saw the beginning of the Mario and Sonic crossover games. The first, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, was released in late 2007, and featured characters from both series competing in Olympic-themed mini-games. Its sequel, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, was released in October 2009, and featured an emphasis on winter-based sports. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, a spin-off released in September 2008, was a turn-based role playing game developed by BioWare.

During this timeframe, Sega took the franchise in a number of different directions. The first was Sonic the Hedgehog, which was released in November 2006 for the Xbox 360 and December 2006 for the PlayStation 3. It continued in the Sonic Adventure direction, but was critically panned as a result of its glitches and rushed release. Sonic Unleashed was released in 2008 for the Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3. While possessing the same name and rough themes, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions were markedly different games from the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions.

While the prior game in the era continued the use of numerous playable characters and play styles, the following games would return to only have Sonic playable. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, an episodic high-definition 2D game akin to the 16-bit Sonic games, was developed for the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and WiiWare. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II was released in 2012 for PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Android, iOS, and Windows Phones. Sonic Colors, a game for the Wii and Nintendo DS, was released in November 2010. It introduced a power-up system in the form of alien beings called "Wisps". Sonic Generations was developed by Sonic Team for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Dimps for Nintendo 3DS which was released in November 2011, featuring both modern and classic interpretations of Sonic.[67]

During this time, the franchise also moved into several new spin-off series. The Storybook series, which combines Sonic gameplay with the story and setting of famous books, comprises two games only released for the Wii: Sonic and the Secret Rings (released in 2007) and Sonic and the Black Knight (released in 2009).

Another spin-off series resulted from Sega's collaboration with Nintendo and their Mario series of video games. In the Mario & Sonic games, characters from the Sonic and Mario universes compete in Olympic Games-themed minigames. Separately from that series, Sega also collaborated with Nintendo to include Sonic in their 2008 Wii fighting game Super Smash Bros. Brawl.[68]

Sonic Colors, released in November 2010, expanded further on the Rush series gameplay with the addition of the use of "Wisps", which gave Sonic various new power-ups and gimmicks. Sonic Free Riders was released in November 2010 as a follow-up to the Sonic Riders series, and was developed exclusively for Xbox 360's Kinect system. Later on, Sega Superstars Tennis for the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS was released in 2008 and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing for the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, PC and iOS was released in 2010, followed by a sequel in 2012.

Even early in the system's life cycle, a number of Sonic games were announced for the Nintendo 3DS. At E3 2010, an untitled Sonic game was announced for the system, which later turned out to be a portable version of Sonic Generations. A third installment of the Mario & Sonic crossover series, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games was also released for the Nintendo 3DS.[69] Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was released for the Nintendo 3DS in February 2013, and for the PlayStation Vita in November 2012.[70] In October 2012, Sonic Jump was released on iOS, and in March 2013, Sonic Dash was released.[71]

Eighth-generation consoles (2013–present)

In May 2013, Sega announced a partnership with Nintendo, which established that the next three Sonic games would be developed exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, with Nintendo publishing the games in Europe and Australia. The first game to be released was Sonic Lost World in 2013,[72] followed by Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games by the end of the year. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U, and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the Nintendo 3DS, based on the new Sonic Boom franchise, together formed the final installment(s) in the exclusivity agreement.[73][74] At the end of 2014, Sonic also returned as a fighter in both installments of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.[75] Sonic was added as a playable character in the Lego video game, Lego Dimensions, in November 2016; he is distributed via a "Level Pack" that includes an additional Sonic the Hedgehog-themed level and vehicles.[76][77]

Two Sonic games were revealed at the Sonic 25th Anniversary Event during San Diego Comic-Con 2016. The first game was Sonic Mania, which emulates the gameplay and visuals of the original Sega Genesis games, and was released in August 2017 to critical acclaim, with critics hailing it as a return to form for Sonic. Development was done by PagodaWest Games, Christian Whitehead, and Headcannon's Simon Thomley. The second game, Sonic Forces, was developed by Sonic Team and released in November 2017. Sonic Forces brings back the dual gameplay of Sonic Generations, along with a third gameplay style featuring the "Avatar", a customizable third character who uses special gadgets called Wispons. Both games were released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.

At SXSW in March 2019, series producer Takashi Iizuka confirmed a new mainline Sonic title was in development, although he did not confirm any details.[78]

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