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Sonic the Hedgehog 20th Anniversary
It’s been twenty years since the famous hedgehog was first seen back in 1991 when Sega were still making their own consoles before eventually just focussing on making their games. The characters from the Sonic universe were incredibly recognizable and iconic, branding in toys, comic books, television shows, clothing, cereals and many other items and merchandising. Sonic the Hedgehog has become so famous that he has even featured in games outside of his own franchise, including Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Sega Superstar Tennis.
To celebrate the character and his franchise, we have compiled a history on some of the most loved and loathed games to see how the series has changed and managed to keep players engaged for all these years. Even though we managed to include a lot of games, we couldn’t include every game as some of the games are not released outside Japan or we could not simply fit them on this one article. Please feel free to comment below on what your favorite game is, your worst game or even your best memory of the series!
Sonic the Hedgehog - 1991 - Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
The game that started it all! Sonic the Hedgehog has been cherished by fans to this very day and is still considered to be one of the best games within the series of all time. From playing through the Green Hill Zone to trying to obtain all of the Chaos Emeralds, this game managed to give Sega a mascot they can be proud of and give gamers a new platformer to compete against Nintendo’s Mario.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - 1992 - Sega Mega Drive
Being the first sequel to the original game, the game polished over the graphics and designs that went into the first one and gave players more detailed levels to play through. We were also introduced to Tails, Sonic’s two-tailed sidekick that follows him throughout the game. It also included a two player mode in various levels where you can both race across each zone.
Sonic CD - 1993 - Sega Mega CD
Rather than having to defeat Dr. Robotnik, Sonic had to stop his latest invention through each zone in the traditional gameplay for this franchise: Metal Sonic. It also utilized the power of the Sega Mega CD and made the levels more detail and in-depth that the Sega Mega Drive or the Sega Genesis had. Oh, and it introduced Amy Rose as the heroine that needs rescuing.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball - 1993 - Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
Blending the gameplay of the pinball table and Sonic games, Sega made a very obscure entry into this series of games and would only prove to be the first of these peculiar games. Using Sonic as the ball, players had to use the flippers to get high points and to defeat enemies while trying to avoid the traps that laid hidden within the game.
A second pinball game was released for the Game Boy Advance back in 2003 that would feature special tables from other games from Sega, including Nights and Samba De Amigo.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 - 1994 - Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
Sonic and Tails returned to Sega Mega Drives and Sega Genesis and while the gameplay was similar to the second game, new features included the ability to play two characters in the same game and a save system (which I personally loved!). As well as Dr. Robotnik returning to cause the mayhem, Knuckles was introduced as a second bad guy before Sega changed him in being one of Sonic’s friends.
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine - 1994 - Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
Despite being a rip-off from the Tetris game, this happens to be a classic among a number of fans and featured the three robot characters that were seen in the Sonic the Hedgehog animated television show. The fun gameplay and amusing style has been good enough to see the game being re-released in some special compilation games, most recently with Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Sonic and Knuckles - 1994 - Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
With Tails absent this time around, Sega decided to have the option of either playing Sonic or Knuckles throughout massive levels and we also saw the change of Knuckles changing from a villain to a hero. It’s a shame that the save system didn’t return from Sonic 3, but with the gameplay changes between Sonic’s speed and Knuckles’ gliding ability was enough to make this one of my personal favorite games in the series.
Knuckles’ Chaotix - 1995 - Sega 32X
Knuckles became a popular character since his debut in 1994 and was finally given his own game. The game saw Knuckles trying to stop Robotnik from stealing the emeralds that are powering the floating island that he is looking after and we see him joining one of the four members of the Chaotix Crew (Vector the Crocodile, Espio the Chameleon, Mighty the Armadillo and Charmy Bee). Knuckles is joined to each member by two rings that have a minimal length between them that caused frustration and made this a game that had mixed reviews when it was released.
Tail’s Adventure - 1995 - Sega Game Gear
After Dr. Robotnik and Knuckles received their own games, it was time that Sonic’s sidekick received his own game. Tail’s Adventure mixed platforming and RPG elements to bring a game to Sega’s handheld system. Even though he starred in his own games before this, they were only available in Japan and this was one of the rare Japan-only released games that was eventually released in Western markets.
Sonic the Fighters - 1996 - Arcade
One of the few arcade machines to feature the Sonic characters and this was the only few that could have been seen outside of Japan. Fighting in a variety of arenas that are based on the classic zones and itsaw your favorite characters beating against each other, from Sonic, Knuckles and Tails to Amy Rose, Fang the Sniper and Espio the Chameleon. It also featured some lesser known characters that have not been seen since, including Bark the Polar Bear and Bean the Dynamite.
The only other fighting game was Sonic Battle for the Game Boy Advance and despite trying to give fans something new, the game received disappointing reviews.
Sonic 3D - 1996 - Sega Mega Drive/Saturn
With the success of the Nintendo 64 and showing how good 3D graphics can be, Sega released Sonic’s first 3D game and pushed the hardware to accomplish the change of gameplay and focussing more on exploration and platforming then the speedy platformer that we have been used to. The game received mediocre reviews and even though it was eventually released on PC and available to download on consoles now, it still receives a mixture of reviews from critics and gamers to this day.
Sonic R - 1997 - Sega Saturn
Taking a page from the Mario Kart games, Sonic did previously star in his own racing games (Sonic Drift and Drift 2) and this particular game continued to push the series into 3D graphics. Developed by Traveller’s Tales (who are recently known for their Lego games), they tried to make a racing game that fans would be pleased to see and the game received bad reviews for only featuring five race courses and a limited selection of characters to play.
Even though Sega tried to get Sonic back on the racing scene with the Sonic Riders games and even though it had three games, each one has been given terrible reviews that saw characters riding on hover boards rather than driving in vehicles or even running.
Sonic Adventure - 1998 - Dreamcast
Many fans saw this game as being the start of Sega trying to tell a serious story compared to the simple “going through zones and releasing small animals” approach, which was part of a big re-design for the characters and the gameplay. At the time when Sega were still making their own consoles, the Dreamcast version was very positive at the time from various critics and it was only when it was re-released on the Nintendo GameCube that it was less appreciated.
Sonic Adventure 2 - 2001 - Dreamcast
Following up on the original success of the first Sonic Adventure game, players were treated to the follow up that featured a couple of new characters: Rogue the Bat and Shadow the Hedgehog. The gameplay was split into three separate stages and they are platforming (Sonic and Shadow), robot adventuring (Tails and Dr. Robotnik) and treasure hunting (Knuckles and Rogue) in order to give a variety of gameplay mechanics that would be pushed a bit further with the virtual pets called Chaos for the GameCube re-release. Since Shadow’s debut, he has been seen in many of the series’ games that would follow.
Sonic Shuffle - 2001 - Dreamcast
The Mario Party games were a massive success on the Nintendo 64 and since Sonic already followed him through the racing genre, it was only time before the hedgehog and his friends had their own party game. Using the similar board game approach, each player uses their own sets of cards to determine the next mini game that they will play. This would be one of Sonic’s last appearances on Sega’s last console before they just develop games for other companies’ consoles.
Sonic Advance - 2002 - Game Boy Advance
Going back to it’s roots, Sonic returned to the traditional 2D platforming with a modern twist by seeing the characters move faster than they have ever been. As well as playing as Sonic, you also had the option to play as Tails, Knuckles and Amy Rose, each of which had their own abilities and approaches to solving numerous puzzles hidden in each level. Chaos were also seen in this game, giving players a nice diversion from the main game to look after your own virtual monster and you could also trade them onto the GameCube version of Sonic Adventure 2.
The success of the first game managed to make two more sequels and while the gameplay in each game was only tweaked a little bit, the introduction of Cream the Rabbit as a playable character gave these games something new in each installment.
Sonic Heroes - 2004 - GameCube, Xbox and Play Station 2
After the disappointment that fans received from the re-releases of the Sonic Adventure games, Sonic Heroes was supposed to be the answer to these problems and was supposed to be a fun platformer that introduced a team-based gameplay. It was also the first time that a Sonic games was released on multiple consoles on one release date.
Seeing famous and not-so famous characters teaming up to tackle each level with their own unique abilities and it was also great to see Metal Sonic return as being the main villain this time around.
Shadow the Hedgehog - 2005 - GameCube, Xbox and Play Station 2
Since his debut back on the Dreamcast, Shadow the Hedgehog was a popular character that a majority of the fans really liked for being a darker, more serious character compared to Sonic’s laid-back attitude. His popularity was enough to give him his own game and while the main structure of the game was similar to Sonic Adventure, they introduced many features that can’t be seen in a Sonic game. This included some motorbike sequences, using guns to take down enemies and seeing a system that affected the way that the story would be seen.
Sonic Rush - 2005 - Nintendo DS
The first DS game took the original concept of the Sonic Advance games and embraced the graphical power of the handheld and saw Sonic move at his fastest yet around the zones. It used the dual screen to a great effect, making the levels look bigger and crazier than before and it was nice to see the special stages played with the touch screen controls to collect all of the Chaos Emeralds.
Sonic Rush Adventure was released a couple of years later and while the levels remained the same, it had a mission mode and a hub where you can navigate to the levels and modes available. Both of the games featured Blaze the Cat, who is a bit slower than Sonic, but had some fire abilities to destroy enemies.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006 game) - 2006 - Xbox 360 and Play Station 3
This installment was seen to be the most graphically impressive within the series yet and was released to be the staple of its fifteenth anniversary. It managed to blend all of the most recognizable and recent characters into one big storyline and even introduced Silver the Hedgehog, who uses his psychic powers to move objects and defeat enemies, giving a new way to play around the levels other than playing Sonic and Shadow in comparison.
Sonic Rivals - 2006 - PlayStation Portable
With the DS and Game Boy Advance being treated to portable Sonic games, Sega made a game specifically for the PSP gamer and saw a side-scrolling platformer that utilized the 3D graphics. Despite the mixed reviews, the success of the first game convinced the developers to make a sequel for Sony’s handheld.
Sonic and the Secret Rings - 2007 - Nintendo Wii
What was supposed to be the first of the Storybook series, these games were not as successful as Sega originally planed and there are rumors that this Wii exclusive will end as a trilogy. The first game, Sonic and the Secret Rings, saw the protagonist enter a book from the Arabian Nights stories, seeing him travel on flying carpets and the cutscenes taking a illustrated, crimson style. Sonic and the Black Knight had Sonic saving Camelot from the corrupted King Arthur that had Sonic using a sword and shield fighting system to take down the enemies.
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood - 2008 - Nintendo DS
From the creators of the Mass Effect trilogy, BioWare made a daring move to make an RPG game featuring the characters from the Sonic series and even managed to make a story that even made the critics interested. It may not be the company’s most loved game, but it was nice to see them try to do something new and trying to give fans a different genre of game for the characters.
Sonic Unleashed - 2008 - Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and Play Station 2
An odd experiment that tried to mix two kinds of game mechanics and was seen as just an overall average quality game. The game was split into two sections, the daylight levels seeing traditional Sonic platforming and the night time levels that turned Sonic into a Werehog and bash enemies in a fighting/adventure gameplay. While the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was in sixty frames per second, the Wii version suffered with a measly thirty frames per second that really affected the overall quality on this version of the game.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - 2010 - Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, WiiWare, iOS and Windows Phone 7
Many previous games tried to bring Sonic and the gang back to their Sega Mega Drive/Genesis days, but this game literally did with the only exception being that they used modern day graphics to make the classic zones, gameplay, controls and bosses come back for the old and new fans. The game is available to download in episodes and despite the massive praise from critics and gamers alike, the company have only released the first episode and are currently working on the second one that will feature Tails as a playable character.
Sonic Colors - 2010 - Nintendo Wii and DS
Sega announced that they were tired of Sonic being included in games that were badly received, so they decided to develop new games that would try to focus on brining him back to form and even brought in some new voice actors to play Sonic and Tails. The protagonist is accompanied with a Wisp, small aliens that give Sonic different abilities by their own color to reach obstacles throughout each level from giving him drilling powers to jumping up to incredible heights to even eating enemies.
Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games - 2011 - Nintendo Wii and 3DS
Since the release of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games, these Wii exclusive sports games have become a hit in many homes and it’s no surprise to see the latest game being released for the upcoming sporting event in London. Promising to include more sports and new features, the game is set to be released in November for the Wii, while the 3DS version will not be released until the first quarter of 2012.
Sonic Generations - 2011 - Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo 3DS
Celebrating the twenty years since the first game, Sonic Generations is set to please fans and looks as though it could be a great game. The game combines the modern day Sonic in the 3D gameplay that has been seen in the last few games, while the classic Sonic is in the old-fashioned platforming and is set to be released in the same month as Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, making it a great month for Sonic fans.