Sonic the Hedgehog: 25 Years of Being the Fastest Thing Alive

Sonic the Hedgehog made his videogame debut on this date twenty-five years ago and to celebrate this achievement we have compiled a list of the most notable Sonic the Hedgehog games to give you an idea of how the franchise has evolved through the years. Of course this list won’t feature every single game released, we have saved that honour for the video above, but this list will contain the most notable and favourite releases of the franchise.

Before we jump to the list; it’s worth noting that while Sonic the Hedgehog made his ‘own’ videogame debut in 1991 on the SEGA Mega Drive sonic actually made his videogame debut in SEGA’s Rab Mobile; an arcade game which was released into arcades a few months before the release of the SEGA Mega Drive game. Ironically enough Sonic wasn’t a playable character, he was still an item dangling from the mirror, but technically this was his first appearence into a videogame.

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991): sonic1-screen

The game that started sonic’s career as SEGA’s mascot began on the 23rd June 1991 and it saw players enter a colourful world of platforming adventure. As we all know Sonic the Hedgehog put players in control of the speedy blue hedgehog ‘Sonic’ as he attempts to defeat Dr Robotnik, later named Eggman, and rescue the flickies which are being captured and transformed into robots.

Unlike Super Mario Bros on the Super Nintendo Sonic the Hedgehog offered a wider array of enemies, a faster platforming experience and multiple routes per level. Additionally if players completed the level fast enough, and had enough rings in their possession, they could enter a secret bonus stage with a Chaos Emerald up for grabs. While Sonic the Hedgehog is the first game in the franchise on the SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis) ports of the game were released onto the SEGA Master System and SEGA Game Gear each of which offered a slightly different gameplay experience to the Mega Drive variation.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992): sonic 2 screenshot

The sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released just a year later onto the SEGA Mega platform and it featured many improvements from the original game. For starters players could now spin-dash, which would result in Sonic running at faster speeds, and the introduction of Miles ‘Tails’ Prower and his flying abilities.

Other new additions in Sonic the Hedgehog saw 2-player co-operative and competitive gameplay added. In the main game player 1 would control sonic while player 2 would control tails; however in the ‘multiplayer’ side players would race against each other on selective levels with the winner getting to the end first. Various ports of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, as well as spin-offs featuring tails as the protagonist, were also released onto the SEGA Master System and Game Gear following the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 onto the SEGA Mega Drive.

Sonic CD (1993): sonic CD screenshot

Sonic CD, otherwise known as Sonic the Hedgehog CD, used the Mega Drive add-on feature known as SEGA MEGA CD and saw the introduction of Compact Disc media being used to play game. The concept of Sonic CD was similar to previous games in the franchise however this time players would be able to travel to the past, present or future depending on which gates they run through. Sonic CD also introduced the antagonist Metal Sonic; which is of course the robotic form of Sonic the Hedgehog created by Dr Robotnik.

The interesting aspect of this game was that elements changed in the past will effect the future. Another interesting aspect of this game was that it also included a fully animated opening sequence which sees Sonic the Hedgehog chasing after Dr Robotnik in his newly developed Death Egg. Since release Sonic CD has been re-released onto various platforms including PC, XBLA and PSN.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994): sonic 3 screenshot

Released in the same year as Sonic & Knuckles, which is actually an expansion for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 that unlocks newcomer Knuckles as a playable character and offers a different perspective on the story, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 saw Sonic and Tails attempt to once again foil Doctor Robotnik’s plans. Unlike past installments Sonic the Hedgehog 3 allowed players choose which character to play the game with (Sonic, Tails or Both) and also allowed players to save their game and continue on after turning the console off.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3, otherwise referred to as simply Sonic 3, also became famous for featuring music created by the late Michael Jackson; a fact which has only been proven recently after several years of debat.

Sonic 3D Blast (1996): sonic 3D Screenshot

Sonic 3D Blast, otherwise known as Sonic 3D: Flickie’s Island, is a 3D variation of the Sonic games that was released onto the SEGA Mega Drive and SEGA Saturn and it saw players control sonic in an open-world styled environment.

The game wasn’t as fast-paced as previous Sonic the Hedgehog games but it did offer an alternate gameplay style whereby Sonic would need to rescue a number of flickies, the animals which Robotnik uses to create robots, before being able to progress forward onto the next level.

Sonic Adventure (1999): sonic-adventure-screenshot

Sonic Adventure was the launch title for the SEGA Dreamcast and was the debut game to see Sonic the Hedgehog in 3D polygon’s rather than sprites. Sonic Adventure marked a major turning point for the franchise as not only did the game move from sprite-based gameplay to 3D polygons but it introduced full english voice acting, CGI cut-scenes, a hub-world, which held many secrets and collectable items, a large selection of new characters each with their own storyline and a punk-rock styled soundtrack that continues to entertain the world to date. An interesting part of Sonic Adventure was the name change for Dr Robotnik; as from this game onwards his name was changed to Dr Eggman (the japanese name for him) as opposed to the previously used Dr Robotnik. The sudden change confused many players at the time but it fitted well with the voice acting and humor that was included.

It’s original Dreamcast release also introduced the Chao’s, a new type of creature that later acts as a tutorial creature for players, but in this Dreamcast release players could interact with the chaos in the chao garden and manage their skills in a selection of mini-games. The Chaos garden was also extend to the Dreamcast VMU (Visual Memory Unit) which allowed mini-games to be played on the device like tamagotchi animals.  Since it’s release Sonic Adventure has been ported to other platforms, including the Nintendo Gamecube, Playstation Network, Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC; each of which have received some form of visual updated or content added.

Sonic Adventure 2 (2001): Sonic-Adventure-2-screenshot

Two years later Sonic Adventure 2 and was designed to celebrate the franchises 10th Anniversary. In Japan a special ‘Birthday Edition’ of the game was released for two days only (23rd and 24th June) which featured a soundtrack CD, featuring music from the past ten years of sonic games, a commemorative coin and a booklet featuring information about each game. In terms of gameplay then Sonic Adventure 2 was very similar to it’s predecessor, except for the lack of a hub-world, but featured updated visuals, a new range of power-ups and new types of mini-games – including racing segment.

Unlike past games Sonic Adventure 2 offered two different perspectives of the story; one from the Hero Side, which saw Sonic, Tails and Knuckles trying to protect the earth from Dr Eggman’s clutches, and the Dark Side, which saw Dr Eggman team up with jewel thief Rogue the Bat and genetically engineered Shadow the Hedgehog.  Shadow the Hedgehog’s origins still remain a mystery today; but his introduction into the franchise during Sonic Adventure 2 proved a key point in Sonic’s history as the rivalry between the two is as cut and dry as you can get.

Sonic Advance (2001): sonic-advance-screen

In an attempt to challenge Nintendo’s reign of the handheld market SEGA released a portable Sonic the Hedgehog game, known as Sonic Advance, onto the Game Boy Advance. The game, which later spawned two additional sequels and a port onto the Nokia N-Gage, saw Sonic and friends attempt to stop Dr Eggman’s latest plan. Unlike the previous games Sonic Advance was played in it’s iconic 2D platforming style and saw sonic able to grind rails, like in Sonic Adventure, as well as homing attacks.

Sonic Advance may have seemed like a way to cash-in on the Nintendo handheld but each game offered a variety of game worlds and characters to use them with. As an example the original Sonic Advance would allow you to play the game as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles or Amy and once each level was completed they would be unlocked as a time trial level. Future instalments of the franchise introduced new locations, each with their own style and sound, as well as characters – including Cream the Rabbit. These sequels were released in 2002 (Sonic Advance 2) and in 2003 (Sonic Advance 3).

Sonic Heroes (2003): sonic heroes screenshot

The release of Sonic Heroes in 2003 was one of the first sonic the hedgehog games to be released onto numerous platforms at the same time as it was released onto the Sony Playstation 2, Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft Xbox.  Sonic Heroes is a team-focused game and as such each of the notable characters in the sonic franchise were separated into Team Sonic, Team Dark, Team Rose and Team Chaotix; each of which would offer Speed, Power and Flight for abilities.

The core-principle of getting to the end in the fastest possible time, to stop a plot by Dr Eggman, remains true in this game except this time players must use all three characters in a team effort to progress forward. Some parts of the game will rely on speed, such as Sonic (for Team Sonic) or Shadow (for Team Dark), while other elements will rely on flight, such as using Tails (Team Sonic) or Cream (Team Rose). Basically it opened up a different gameplay design and added team-work as a fundemental of the game to which some disliked and others loved.

Sonic Rush (2005): sonic rush screenshot

The arrival of Sonic Rush proved to be an important role in re-establishing the sonic franchise onto a Nintendo handheld device, namely the Nintendo DS, and along with it came the introduction of a new character to the franchise; Blaze. Sonic Rush is a 2D platformer in a similar design to the Sonic Advance games except this time players can choose to control either Sonic the Hedgehog or Blaze the Cat; furthermore as the Nintendo DS had two screens the gameplay would shift between the top screen and the bottem screen depending on the route that was being taken. The bottem screen was also used for mini-games, boost possibilities and the end of level chaos emerald games and for the first time offered new ways to interact with sonic beyond button pressing.

In Sonic Rush blaze the cat is mysteriously pulled from her world into sonic’s world and after an amusing conversation between the two, as this Nintendo DS release featured dialogue sequences in between levels, it’s discovered that Blaze must find the Sol Emeralds – which are similar to Choas Emeralds – in order to return to her world. Of course Dr Eggman becomes aware of this situation and tries to stop both Sonic and Blaze from finding the emeralds so that he can use them for his own world dominaiton. As you would expect it’s the traditional ‘sonic must defeat eggman’ storyline we have seen before; but it has a refereshing spin to it – plus with the old-skool 2D gameplay (but with a 3D character model) this is easily one of the better handheld sonic games. A Sequel, known as Sonic Rush Adventure and featuring a different set of characters on a tropical island, was later released in 2007.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): sonic 06 screenshot

The most controversial sonic title on this list is the 2006 reboot of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise for, at the time, next-gen systems such as the Xbox 360 and PS3. What was announced as a ‘new-age of sonic the hedgehog game’ seen turned into a sour note with its glitches, difficult boss fights and never ending onslaught of tedious tasks. For me Sonic the Hedgehog, or Sonic 06 as it was later nicknamed, is a game i enjoyed playing as it used elements taken from Sonic Adventure, such as the massive hub world within a city and different storylines interlinking with each other, and expanded upon it with new challenges; however when it came to the latter stages of the game then it proved to be riddled with bugs and undefeatable boss fights.

To this date Sonic 06 is the only Sonic the Hedgehog game on this list that I have never beaten; I got close but ultimately died a short distance away. Most fans will want to forget this particular sonic title, mostly because of the odd relaitonship between Sonic and the human girl within the games main campaign, but it does have some enjoyable moments. The structure of some levels and the detailed ‘realistic’ darker visuals gave this sonic title a different approach to those of past games.

Sonic and the Secret Rings (2007): sonic secret rings screenshot

Moving away from the realistic visions of SONIC TEAM from Sonic the Hedgehog and we jump into Sonic and the Secret Rings; a Wii exclusive that went for a different kind of Sonic experience. Unlike past games which all saw sonic attempting to stop Dr Eggman from causing destruction Sonic and the Secret Rings saw players thrust into the visionary world of the arabian nights whereby a mysterious creature is erasing the content of the book. Sonic, who at this point is joined up with Shahra, must venture through the pages – which in turn are stages – to stop the contents being erased.

If the story alone doesn’t confuse you then the gameplay itself will as unlike other games players had no real control over sonic and as such he would run throughout the level. The only movement players had were to jump, attack and move left and right. By using the Wii motion controls additional commands can be done for attack sequences, such as chaining attack together or preforming the jump motion, but majority of the time you would find yourself controlling sonics speed rather than attacking enemies. A spiritual sequel, known as Sonic and the Black Knights, was also released in 2009 for the Wii except in this game it saw Sonic during the medievil time peroid.

Sonic Unleashed (2008): sonic unleahed screenshot

Continuing on the trail of ‘questionable’ sonic storylines was the arrival of Sonic Unleashed; a multi-platform sonic title that saw Dr Eggman turn sonic being into a werehog (werewolf) from one being trapped in one of Eggman’s inventions. The opening sequence which shows this happen is more than enough reason to give Sonic Unleashed a go; but it also introduced a new style of gameplay that we haven’t seen from the sonic franchise before. For starters game modes were seperated into Day levels and Night levels; in Day levels Sonic would appear normal and was able to run at fast speeds, with gameplay swiftly moving between Sonic Adventure style and 2.5D classic style, while in the Night levels sonic would transform into a werehog and move in a slower fashion.

The difference between fast and slow meant that the Day levels would focus on speed and getting to the objective as quickly as possible while the Night levels would see brute force come in to play and as such sonic would use his newly acquried ability to destory an onslaught of enemies. Both Night and Day levels were shared evenly and both had a balance between them; additionally sonic could travel between various locations from a world map and access hub worlds which feature people to talk to and shops to purchase items from; a feature that wasn’t really seen in sonic games until now.

Sonic Colours (2010): sonic colours screenshot

Excluding Sonic Generations, which was released a year later, Sonic Colour has to be my favourite sonic title of recent years as it manages to get the balance of new and old spot on. In Sonic Colours, or Sonic Colors if you are an American, Dr Eggman has created an amusement park in space and invites sonic to come and ‘experience’ the park before it opens; but unbeknown to sonic Dr Eggman has actually captured an alien lifeform known as WISP’s and is keeping them hostage within the facility. Upon discovering this fact Sonic, joined by Tails, explore the entire theme park in an attempt to rescue the wisps and restore peace to the galaxy.

Elements of Sonic Colours remind me of Super Mario Galaxy, mostly because of it’s colourful nature; but unlike Super Mario Galaxy this game provided a more authentic experience to the original design of sonic games. Unlike past Wii games Sonic Colours allowed players full control over sonic and featured the natural blend of 3D to 2.5D gameplay that Sonic Unleashed offered but combined with a new WISP ability. Basically each new location contain a different kind of WISP power ability and sonic would be able to use these powers to progress further into the game. Unlike other franchises these WISP’s could only be used at chosen points in the game and did not hamper the experience. It was fast, colourful, fun and easy all the way through to th end; which is possibly why this design concept was used for future games to come. A Nintendo DS port of the game was also released alongside the Wii version.

Sonic Generations (2011): sonic generations screenshot

This particular Sonic game was designed to celebrate the twenthy anniversary of the franchise and when released it saw a special collectors edition bundle become available for all platforms. This particular collectors edition contained a statue of both classic sonic and modern sonic, an artbook, a behind the scenes look back at the franchise on DVD, a golden ring and a soundtrack CD collection all packaged carefully into a presentable box that any sonic fan would treasure. Unlike traditional collector’s edition bundles very few were produced and as a result it quickly sold out.

The game itself however saw modern sonic warped into a bizarre dimension along with Classic Sonic and both team-up together to stop the evil Dr. Eggmans’s latest scheme of trying to take over the world. The unique aspect of this game was that it allowed you to play levels from previous sonic games from two different perspectives; Modern Sonic would feature high-speed 3D worlds that jumped from 3D to 2.5D while Classic Sonic would feature 2.5D levels. It was a great way of showcasing how Sonic the Hedgehog games have evolved over the past twenty years but it also showed how older levels would look like if they were recreated in 3D/2.5D visuals. More importantly iconic boss battles, such as Metal Sonic, Shadow, Silver and Dr Eggman, were also recreated in a new form and offered that refreshing but familiar experience that you do not see too often. A 3DS game, which featured a slightly different set of levels and challenges, was also released at the same time.

Sonic Lost World (2013): sonic-lost-world-pc-screenshot-5

The latest greatest sonic game was previously released onto the Wii U as an exclusive; but as of last year it was re-released onto the PC with a full High Definition makeover. It’s known as Sonic Lost World and it sees Sonic the Hedgehog once again attempting to foil Dr Eggman’s plans; the difference here however is that Dr Eggman has recruited a set of evil minions known as the Deadly Six and as such each of the six worlds featured within the game have two boss fights centering around each member of the group.

There is a comical story to be found within Sonic Lost World, and in some ways plays out more like a movie than a TV show; but what Sonic Lost World did in positives also earned in frustration with it’s varied level design. Some levels would use the 3D open-world aspect but on a limited playing field (most of which had platforms you could fall off of like in Super Mario 3D World) whereas other levels retained that 2.5D approach we had seen in previous sonic games. Some levels worked incredibly well; while others became frustratingly difficult but even then it proved to be a fun sonic experience from start to finish. Owners of the Wii U version were also treated to ‘platform exclusive’ DLC Content; content which saw Nights into Dreams, The Legend of Zelda and Yoshi’s Island franchises as individual levels or game-worlds in the game. Truly unique Wii U experience that should be enjoyed by every sonic fan. A 3DS version of the game was also released and despite being called the same it had slightly different level designs and challenges.

Sonic Boom (2015): sonic boom screenshot

Potentially the worst game on this list, and ironically the last, is Sonic Boom; a new vision of the sonic franchise from development studio Big Red Button. Unlike past games which changed very little this game changed everything and it changed so much that even SONIC TEAM and SEGA had to explain that this variation of the sonic characters will run alongside the usual design choice. While many critised the appearence of the characters it only got worse with the game; as the focus was more on ‘adventure’ rather than speed; with players able to switch between Sonic, Knuckles, Tails and Amy at will depending on the siutaiton at hand.

Just like in Sonic Heroes players could choose which character is best for that given situation; but unlike Sonic heroes the focal point was to just defeat enemies and casually move along; similar to Crash Bandicoot gameplay styles. It was an experience very few enjoyed; but while the Wii U game, and it’s 3DS counterpart, proved unpopular the animated TV series with the same name managed to succeed with fans as it had everything a sonic cartoon should have and then some. As it stands now a sequel to Sonic Boom, known as Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice, is due to be released onto the Nintendo 3DS during this year.

Overall:

Throughout the past twenty-five years the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has evolved from a singular character with a single objective of speed to a narrative driven experience filled with friends and enemies; it’s a game that continues to evolve and it will be interesting to see where the next twenty-five years of the franchise will take us.

Of course not all of sonic’s games from the past twenty-five years are included in this list, as their are just too many to list and talk about; but you can experience them all in this ‘History of Sonic the Hedgehog’ video we compiled earlier in the year.

You can play a variety of Sonic the hedgehog games, including those from the Mega Drive, Master System, GameBoy Advance and Dreamcast on the JXD, BLAZE TAB and GPD XD; all of which are available to order from www.funstockretro.co.uk.