Don't forget to check out the 15 greatest moments in the epic Sega and Nintendo console war!
Sonic the Hedgehog originally debuted on the Sega Genesis more than 20 years ago. Despite getting up there in age, he’s still in top shape, and will return for battle in Nintendo's latest Super Smash Bros. game, as well as a fresh new 3D action/adventure, Sonic Boom, coming later this year.
To celebrate Sega's zippy hero, we took a look back at his greatest moments in gaming, from his humble beginnings to his glory days in the current generation.
The Blue Blur’s Super Sonic Debut
Sonic the Hedgehog arrived for Sega Genesis in 1991, and everything that we had come to expect from the console wars changed. With Yuji Naka's creation, Sega was able to fight Nintendo's Mario when it came to platforming dominance. For good measure, Sonic's first adventure was certainly a lot faster, thanks to the power of the Genesis' "blast processing," which was highly touted in TV ads.
When Sonic Shined on the Go – and in 8-bit
Along with the Genesis Sonic, Sega also produced a handheld version for the Game Gear. While not as detailed as the 16-bit edition, it held its own with great gameplay and sharp visuals. For good measure, Sonic also came out for the Master System, though the game saw limited production in the U.S. due to the system's lack of popularity. In Europe, however, it did substantially well, and led to the release of multiple sequels.
When Sonic Picked up a Sidekick and Lifelong Friend
Not wasting any time with producing a sequel, Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for Sega Genesis a year after the original's debut. The second chapter improved upon the first in every way, with bigger levels, better graphics and music, 3D bonus rounds and the introduction of Sonic's sidekick, Miles "Tails" Prower. This introduced a new two-player split-screen co-op mode to the game, and helped make it the second best-selling Genesis game of all time.
When Sonic Met Lock-on Technology
After the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 – and the introduction to Sonic's arch nemesis Knuckles the Echidna – Sega produced Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, allowing players to choose between the two characters. For good measure, it also introduced lock-on technology, allowing players to plug in older Sonic games to play as Knuckles. This introduced a new experience to familiar Sonic titles – something you just don't see that often.
When Sonic Made his Sega CD Debut
Shortly after the release of Sonic 2, Sega decided to do something different with its next Sonic adventure, the Sega CD-exclusive Sonic CD. In addition to bigger, more challenging levels, the development team introduced time-travel components, with items changing in the environment through each time period. The game wasn't a huge hit – mainly due to the Sega CD's low-end sales – but it eventually found its way to different platforms. More on that later.
When Sonic X-Treme was Cancelled – Relax, it's a Good Thing
Back in the Saturn era, Sega attempted to revitalize its famous hedgehog in an all-new 3D adventure, aptly named Sonic X-Treme. Unfortunately, the game never made it past the production phase and was abruptly cancelled, leaving many wondering what might have been. However, Sega happily filled the void with a trio of memorable Sonic adventures – an enhanced port of its Genesis game Sonic 3D Blast (with new 3D stages and a wonderfully remixed soundtrack), the compilation package Sonic Jam (with an open-world interface ripe for exploration), and the on-foot racing game Sonic R.
As for Sonic X-Treme's concept, it would eventually make a return in the Wii U/3DS release, Sonic: Lost World.
When Sonic Went on a Dreamcast Adventure
The Sega Dreamcast made its debut in fall 1999, and with its arrival, Sega ushered Sonic the Hedgehog into a whole new dimension. Sonic Adventure introduced 3D exploration-packed levels with plenty of hidden secrets and beautiful (by 1999 standards) details that brought out the best in the system. It also introduced us to Chaos, little creatures that players cared for in a separate area of the game.
When Sonic First Appeared on a Nintendo System
After spending over a decade appearing on Sega consoles, Sonic made the shift to a Nintendo system shortly after the company switched to third-party publishing. Sonic Advance made its debut for the Game Boy Advance in 2002, introducing players to the same fast-paced platforming action that Sega fans had come to enjoy over the past few years. It ended up being quite popular, leading to two sequels.
When Sonic Took up Hoverboarding, Back to the Future Style
In 2006, Sonic returned to the racing front with Sonic Riders, a game that features the blue hedgehog and a number of his allies (and enemies) riding on hoverboards in a 3D futuristic environment. Despite slippery control issues, the game was well received, leading to the release of Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity for PlayStation 2, as well as the Kinect-empowered Sonic Free Riders for Xbox 360.
When Sonic Became Friends with Mario
Sonic and Mario were the headliners in the console wars throughout the 90s, as detailed in this cool history piece. However, in 2007, they officially buried the hatchet with the release of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, a sports compilation featuring characters from both universes. The game was an huge success and led to the release of several summer and winter Olympic-themed games, including this past year's Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
When Sonic Teamed Up with Bioware
Considering the powerhouse developer Bioware has become over the years with its more mature-themed franchises, it's a bit of a shock that it once teamed up with Sega to produce a Sonic-based role-playing adventure. However, that's exactly what happened in 2008 when Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood came out for Nintendo DS. Featuring compelling exploration and combat-based battles, along with an intricately designed world, it became a sleeper hit with fans.
When Sonic Entered the Super Smash Bros. Arena
The Super Smash Bros. series is known for surprise entrants – Solid Snake, Mega Man, etc. – but in 2008, players were floored when Sonic the Hedgehog made his debut in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, complete with his trademark Green Hill Zone background. Since then, he's become a popular favorite for the series, and will continue to be so when he returns later this year for Wii U and 3DS.
When Sonic Dominated Behind the Wheel
Sonic has appeared in racing games before – the aforementioned Sonic R and the kart-based Sonic Drift series – but none have been as effective as the 2010 release Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. Developed by Sumo Digital, this racing game gave Mario Kart a run for its money with a diverse cast of characters, several tracks based on classic Sega franchises and online play. Sega followed up two years later with the superior Sega & All-Stars Racing Transformed, with bigger tracks, transforming vehicles and even more content to unlock. This is one area where Sonic had no problem getting up to speed.
When Past and Present Collided in Sonic Generations
In 2011, Sega thought it would be a great idea to combine Sonic the Hedgehog's classic side-scrolling origins with wonderfully designed 3D levels. The end result was Sonic Generations, a game that gave players the option to play as old-school 2D Sonic or full-blown 3D adventure-based Sonic across a number of stages. Many were inspired by previously released Sonic games, including Chemical Plant and Green Hill Zone, and the collectible Wisps from Sonic Colors also made their return in the game. It was everything a Sonic fan could've wanted.
When Sonic CD Made a Triumphant Return
After debuting on the Sega CD add-on 18 years prior, Sonic CD made its long-awaited return to a new generation of games in 2011. Released as a digital title for Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and mobile, Sonic CD had everything players could ever want – the ability to choose between U.S. and Japanese soundtracks, solid controls (with a little help from development mastermind Christian Whitehead) and the option to play as additional characters. The $5 asking price doesn't hurt either.
Now find out why growing up in the 90s was awesome!