Sonic the Hedgehog turns 20 today. There's no denying that the blue hedgehog is one of the video game industry's most enduring characters, but his path has been bumpier than the Green Hill Zone itself. Here we take a look at Sonic's highs and lows over the years. For a more personal look at Sonic's influence in the 90s, head over to Martin's Sonic and Me article.
Sonic's impressive youth
There is a reason Sonic is one of gaming's most iconic characters: his initial games on the SEGA Mega Drive (Genesis to our US readers) and Mega CD were brilliant. Back in a time when SEGA fans fought with Nintendo devotees in playgrounds across the country, Sonic was a big deal. These 2D platformers are some of the best ever created.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA Mega Drive) - 1991
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Mega Drive) - 1992
- Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA Mega CD) - 1993
- Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SEGA Mega Drive) - 1994
- Sonic & Knuckles (SEGA Mega Drive) - 1994
Sonic's 3D misadventures
The jump from 2D on the 16-bit machines to 3D on newer hardware wasn't easy for our spiky blue friend. Sonic 3D didn't go down well with Sonic fans, and although Sonic Adventure wowed with its visuals it suffered from some severe gameplay problems. What followed was a string of disappointing releases, each packed with more missteps than the last.
- Sonic 3D (SEGA Mega Drive) - 1996
- Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast) - 1998
- Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast) - 2001
- Sonic Heroes (GameCube, PS2 and PC) - 2001
- Shadow the Hedgehog (Xbox, PS2 and GameCube) - 2005
Sonic's 2D revival on handhelds
This was a golden era for 2D Sonic games. SEGA managed to produce a string of brilliant games for the GBA and DS, with the PSP getting in on the 2D love with the not quite as impressive but still good Rivals games. Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush should be played by every Sonic fan.
- Sonic Advance (GBA) - 2001
- Sonic Advance 2 (GBA) - 2002
- Sonic Advance 3 (GBA) - 2004
- Sonic Rush (DS) - 2005
- Sonic Rivals (PSP) - 2006
- Sonic Rivals 2 (PSP) - 2007
- Sonic Rush Adventure (DS) - 2007
Sonic's confused teenage years
We're not sure SEGA knew what was going on during this period, delivering gamers a string of titles that didn't seem to have any consistency. The supposed reboot, Sonic the Hedgehog, was so appalling most people have tried to forget it existed. Sonic and the Secret Rings was only marginally better, Sonic Unleashed saw Sonic turn into a werehog (yes, it's what it sounds like) and Sonic and the Black Knight is better not spoken about ever again.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Xbox 360 and PS3) - 2006
- Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii) - 2007
- Sonic Unleashed (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PS2) - 2008
- Sonic and the Black Knight (Wii) - 2009
Sonic dabbles with new experiences
This is a random collection of Sonic oddities that really baffles our brains. We can kind of see how SEGA thought these would all work, but most failed terribly. Sonic looks a bit like a ball so a pinball game might have made sense in a boardroom somewhere, and Sonic is fast, so a running game and strange hover board titles probably sounded like good ideas too. They weren't. Only Sonic Chronicles, BioWare's RPG, managed to do anything good with a change from Sonic's normal gameplay style.
- Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (SEGA Mega Drive) - 1993
- Sonic Drift (SEGA Game Gear) - 1994
- Sonic R (SEGA Saturn) - 1997
- Sonic Shuffle (Dreamcast) - 2000
- Sonic Riders (Xbox, PS2 and GameCube) - 2006
- Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (PS2 and Wii) - 2008
- Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (DS) - 2008
- Sonic Free Riders (Xbox 360/Kinect) - 2010
Sonic betrays everyone
Remember what we said about the playground fights between SEGA and Nintendo fans. Had this partnership happened in the early 90s fights would have been the least of our problems. There would have been Armageddon. Having said that, these sports collections are quite good fun.
- Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii and DS) - 2007
- Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (Wii and DS) - 2009
- Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Wii and 3DS) - 2011
Sonic finally gets things right again
Perhaps it was due to the dawning of a new decade or just because even SEGA had grown tired of churning out sub-par Sonic games, but the end result is a much happier future for the speedy Erinaceinae. Sonic Colours got the ball rolling, Sonic 4 almost nailed the classic 2D gameplay, All-Stars Racing is the best Mario Kart clone on the market, and Generations is shaping up to the become Sonic game we've wanted for about 10 years.