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Video Game / Sonic the Hedgehog

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Super Speed! Super Graphics! Super Attitude!

Think fast. C’mon faster. What happens when a not-so-common hedgehog reaches supersonic speeds? A Sonic boom, of course. And you'd better get ready for it. Because here comes Sonic The Hedgehog.™ He’s the fastest critter the world has ever seen, and he’s a hedgehog with major attitude.

Watch him smirk in the face of danger as he blazes his way through hilly pastures, underwater caverns, marble ruins, strange cities and a cybernetic world of enemies in a race to save his buddies.

Sonic’s got everything a hedgehog could ever want: tricks, gadgets and speed. Lots of speed. And he's not afraid to use it. Just try to keep up as he gives the bad guys the run-around with his infamous ultra-sonic spin attack. There's never been anything like it.

So don’t blink or you just might miss Sonic The Hedgehog. He's fresh, he's on Genesis, and he's here. Well uh, at least he was here.
Magazine Ad for the game

If you're looking for the 2006 game of the same name, go here. If you're looking for the 2020 live-action film made by Paramount, go here.

Released on June 23, 1991 for the Sega Genesis, it marked the beginning of Sega's beloved Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and is one of the most iconic games of the 16-bit era. An 8-bit Master System / Game Gear counterpart was also released in 1991.

The story begins on the fictional South Island, where the insane scientist Dr. Eggman (or Dr. Ivo Robotnik) is gathering up the intelligent animals that live there and systematically transforming them all into "Badniks" — an army of Robot Soldiers that obey his every command. Using this army and South Island's six Chaos Emeralds, he intends to conquer the planet. Unfortunately for Eggman, there's one problem. South Island is also currently home to Sonic: an unusual blue hedgehog who possesses razor sharp quills, the power to run at supersonic speeds, and an attitude. Not only is Sonic far too fast to be caught, but thanks to his sense of justice, he's made it his mission to free his friends and take the fight to the doctor's doorstep.

It practically re-defined the platforming genre by adding branching paths and physics-based obstacles such as loops and slopes. In addition to the touted high-speed gameplay, gamers of the time were astonished by the impressive graphics, as well as the catchy soundtrack by Masato Nakamura of the Japanese pop group, Dreams Come True. Sonic the Hedgehog put the Genesis on the map and was a catalyst for the console temporarily dethroning The Big N with a 65% market share over the Super NES during the 16-bit Console Wars, at least outside of Japan. This was by far the best-selling game for the Genesis/Mega Drive with over 15 million units sold worldwide.

The game is comprised of six "Zones" with three "Acts" each. The Chaos Emeralds are obtained via collecting 50 or more rings and leaping into a Giant Ring, which appears at the end of Acts 1 or 2 as Act 3 almost always ends with a boss encounter. No 2½D Special Stages like in most Sonic games, but the entire maze rotates as Sonic tries to avoid hitting the flashing-red "GOALS." These ironically-named bumpers evict Sonic from the Stage and cost him a shot at an Emerald. There's no further reward to collecting the Chaos Emeralds other than an extended ending, making them a challenge solely for experienced players.

Sonic the Hedgehog was also remastered for iOS and Android devices, and was released in 2013. This remaster was completely rebuilt from scratch while using a new engine, featuring HD 60 FPS presentation with proper widescreen, a remastered soundtrack, and other quality-of-life improvements. Like Sonic CD's HD remaster, it was developed by Christian "The Taxman" Whitehead (who later headed up Sonic Mania), though this time in collaboration with Simon "Stealth" Thomley. Not only does it allow Tails to be playable (and even follow Sonic and carry him while flying à la Sonic 3, unlike the HD remaster of Sonic CD), but it finally accomplished what the Lock-On Technology of Sonic 3 & Knuckles tried to do and what had once only been possible in an unofficial ROM hack by Stealth himself: make Knuckles playable.

On June 22, 2017, the remastered version of Sonic the Hedgehog was added to the Sega Forever service as an ad-supported free-to-play game. The remastered version of the game, along with remasters of Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles, are included in the Compilation Re-release Sonic Origins, released on June 23, 2022; that game's DLC expansion, Sonic Origins Plus, also adds Amy as a playable character.

The game received two obscure tie-in comics: a three-part Japanese manga whose first volume is believed to predate the release of the game, as well as a one-shot American comic released months later.

The game also received two very similarly named cartoon adaptations at the same time: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog. Despite being based on the same concept, the shows are very different from each other.

This game provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: The aptly-named Bomb Badnik, whom cannot be defeated by Sonic and will self-destruct when he approaches them, scattering shrapnel in the process.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance:
    • The 2013 mobile version added Tails and Knuckles as playable characters, when they originally appeared in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, respectively. Sonic Origins Plus also adds Amy Rose, who, not counting her original appearance in the manga, made her video game debut in Sonic CD.
    • Older releases only had six Chaos Emeralds, with the seventh not appearing until Sonic 2. The 2013 mobile port lets you add a seventh emerald via the level select. Collecting all seven emeralds also lets you become Super Sonic, which originally didn't happen in this game.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Marble Zone Act 2 features a section where a wall of lava chases Sonic down a tunnel.
  • Agitated Item Stomping: If you beat the game with all six Chaos Emeralds, Eggman angrily stomps on the word "END" after the closing credits.
  • Airborne Mook: Buzz Bombers. Thankfully, they fly low enough to be easily dispatched.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: Scrap Brain Zone has enemies from the game's previous stages.
  • All There in the Manual: As was the norm at the time, only the manual explains the premise and characters, and just about every boss machine wasn't named until 2021's Sonic the Hedgehog Encyclo-speed-ia.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Sega of America edited Sonic's appearance on the game's box and in all promotional media to make him look more "punk"-like, shaping his quills to look like a mohawk and giving him a more smug expression. This change is a closer match for Sonic's appearance on the title screen, which carries the same smug expression in all regions.
  • Angry Item Tapping: Sonic taps his foot on the ground as an Idle Animation, showing him getting impatient for the player to input a command.
  • Animated Adaptation: The game received two in the same month of 1993 — Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, which was Denser and Wackier and focused more on episodic slapstick, and Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM), which was Darker and Edgier and played into the game's Green Aesop more heavily. Both also pulled influence from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
  • Arrange Mode:
    • The Mega Play arcade version gives you a much stricter time limit (as an arcade game, this is done to prevent one player from hogging the machine), and also strips out some Zones.
    • The Taxman & Stealth port on smartphones lets you play as Knuckles and Tails or have Tails follow along Sonic.
    • The SEGA AGES version by M2 introduces a Ring Keep mode that starts off every life with some rings, preventing the problem of dying mere seconds after you respawn because you touched an enemy before collecting any rings, as well as only taking away some of your rings instead of all of them when getting hit, effectively turning the ring counter into a health bar. The same port also introduces a time attack mode for Green Hill Zone Act 1 and a score attack version of the Mega Play version where you only get one life.
    • The Sonic Origins Compilation Re-release has Anniversary Mode, which features a 16:9 playfield like the earlier mobile ports and does away with the mechanic of having finite lives. Instead, performing actions that would otherwise get you extra lives instead yields Coins, which can be used for unlocks and Anti-Frustration Features.
  • Assimilation Plot: Eggman's entire plan is to turn literally everyone into a robot that he can command.
  • Attract Mode: If you leave the title screen idle, you'll be treated to demos of the first acts of Green Hill, Marble, and Spring Yard Zones, respectively, along with the first Special Stage.
  • Bonus Stage: The Special Stages, accessed by hitting a Giant Ring with 50 rings at the end of Acts 1 and 2 in every zone except Scrap Brain; this give the player a maximum of 10 tries for 6 Chaos Emeralds.
  • Bonus Stage Collectables: There are six Special Stages each leading to a Chaos Emerald, with ten chances to enter one. If all of them are collected in a single playthrough, the ending is changed slightly. There was no real context for them originally, but they were made more important in the Japanese manual and subsequent games.
  • Book Ends: The game's story begins and ends in Green Hill Zone. The same goes with the end credits.
  • Boss-Arena Idiocy: Star Light Zone's Egg Spiker boss would be unstoppable if not for the seesaws Eggman keeps dropping his bombs onto. The seesaws can either be used to throw the bombs back at him or the bombs can act as counterweights to propel Sonic up to hit him directly.
  • Boss Arena Urgency: Spring Yard Zone's Egg Stinger boss has a spike on its base, and one by one removes the bricks that make up the floor of the arena; this continues until you defeat the boss, or lose all your footing and fall down the Bottomless Pit below. Or defeat the boss, and then carelessly tumble to your death as you go to exit the stage. Yep.
  • Boss-Only Level: The final fight against Eggman is in a separate level from Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 called the Final Zone, though it takes place in Act 2's terrain and is effectively the Eggman fight for the Zone.
  • Bottomless Pit: While this isn't the only Sonic game to feature them, these are a lot more prominent here than in the later installments. Half of the zones have at least one in almost every act.
  • Brick Joke: Cut from the final game, but came to light after the prototype was finally dumped and released. It was known that Green Hill Zone once contained a large rolling boulder in Act 1, but it wasn't known that Acts 2 and 3 each also contained one of these boulders. The boulder only serves to get in Sonic's way and slow him down, and is the same object used as a wrecking ball during Eggman's boss battle for this Zone. All of this adds up to the implication that Eggman simply grabbed one of the boulders and repurposed it into a deadly weapon, a subtle joke lost in the final game.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The 2013 remaster has a hidden seventh Special Stage, accessible only from the Level Select (either by selecting it manually or enabling Seven Emeralds mode). Said Special Stage is much harder than any of the other six.
  • Cap: Sonic has a rather tight speed cap in the original game compared to the sequels, and it has some specific quirks to go with it. Holding in the direction you're moving automatically triggers the cap, even if you just got bounced forward by a spring (this can even happen in the middle of a jump), while not holding in any direction won't trigger it until you hit an obstacle. Otherwise, rolling is the only way to bypass the game's default speed cap.
  • Cartoon Penguin: Pecky, a penguin that's sometimes freed in Labyrinth Zone and Scrap Brain Zone Act 3.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: The only checkpoint in the whole of Star Light Zone is set before the stage's boss.
  • Chromosome Casting: Sonic and Eggman are the only characters, and both are male.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation:
  • Company Cross References: The little birds Sonic frees from the Badniks are called Flicky, a reference to Sega's early arcade game Flicky.
  • Conspicuous Electric Obstacle: Scrap Brain Zone has Tesla Coils that periodically become active, hurting the nearby player.
  • Controllable Helplessness: After you beat the Scrap Brain Zone Act 2, the Final Zone music suddenly starts and the game lets you run to the right, at which point you come upon a bridge and a force field in the way with Dr. Eggman on the other side. While you can still move and jump normally, Ratchet Scrolling prevents you from backing off the bridge, and after a few seconds, Eggman hits the button on the other side and drops you into Act 3.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: In Marble Zone, Sonic can get within mere inches of boiling hot lava without breaking a sweat. In fact, if an animal is freed from a badnik, such as a seal, they'll hop or swim right through the lava.
  • Credits Medley: The credits music is a medley of the various zones' theme songs.
  • Cyberpunk: Sonic is a Nature Hero fighting against an Evil Genius who is systematically turning the world's inhabitants into robots.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: No, there is no Spin Dashing in this one — at least if you're not playing an Updated Re-release.
  • Down the Drain: Labyrinth Zone.
  • Drought Level of Doom: The Final Zone has no rings.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • Sega's U.S. marketing department had Dr. Eggman changed to Dr. Ivo Robotnik for the Western release. They're also the ones who coined "Badnik" for his Mecha-Mooks, which were just called "Eggman robots" in Japanese. As of the Dreamcast era, Yuji Naka has stated that Eggman is his nickname or alias, while Robotnik is his actual name. This is reaffirmed by his relatives' surnames, as well as numerous references throughout the series.
    • Sega of America also renamed all of the small animals besides Flicky the bird. Cucky the chicken became Chirps, Pecky the penguin became Tux, Picky the pig became Porker Lewis, Pocky the rabbit became Johnny Lightfoot, Ricky the squirrel became Sally Acorn, and Rocky the seal became Joe Sushi.
    • Sonic's home planet is left unnamed in Japanese, but heavily implied to be our Earth — South Island is said to be located in the Pacific. Sega of America instead described the setting as an alien planet called Mobius, which was adopted by most early western media associated with the franchise.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: There are several things that set this apart from the later titles in the series:
    • The Spin Dash doesn't exist in the original Genesis version. Various ports of the game added an option to use it: Sonic Jam for the Sega Saturn, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis for the Game Boy Advance, the M2 version for Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch, and the 2013 remastered version.
    • With the exception of Final Zone, there are three Acts per Zone rather than two. This can make them seem overly long to someone who played later games first. Only the Metropolis Zone of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 would feature three full Acts within a single Zone, while Sonic the Hedgehog CD and the 8-bit games would feature third Acts, but as Boss Only Levels.
    • Getting 50,000 points doesn't grant an extra life in the original version.note 
    • There are two Zones (Marble and Labyrinth) that you can't just rush through, forcing the player to go really slow.
    • There are a few zones with rather bland one word names (Marble, Labyrinth, Final), whereas every subsequent 2D Sonic game would either give the zones two word names or one big word as a name. Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 is also unusual in that it uses the Labyrinth Zone tileset with a very muted color pallet in contrast to continuing the Zone's industrial theme.
    • Most of the same Badniks appear in multiple levels, instead of each level having its own unique set of them.
    • There are only six Chaos Emeralds to collect, and Sonic can't turn into Super Sonic. Additionally, collecting all six Chaos Emeralds in this game only rewards you with purely cosmetic differences for the ending. Other than Sonic creating flowers with the Chaos Emeralds when he returns to Green Hill Zone and Eggman throwing a hissy fit above the text "End" (instead of tauntingly juggling any Chaos Emeralds the player failed to collect with the text "Try Again"), there's no significant difference to going for the good ending. The cinematic closing credits are unchanged, and the player doesn't even get so much as a "Congratulations" for their efforts. This is subverted in the 2013 mobile port. This time, beating the game unlocks Tails, and beating the game with all six Chaos Emeralds unlocks Knuckles.
    • In all classic Sonic games, there's an arbitrary limit on how fast Sonic can go by just running. In order to go faster, he must roll to build up momentum, which bypasses the limit entirely. That limit is noticeably slower here compared to the rest of the series.
    • The "spike bug"note : in this game, if you touch spikes during Mercy Invincibility, it won't count and you will still get killed. If you get hit by spikes and fall back onto more spikes, you will die. Such behavior was removed in the sequel and all subsequent games.
    • Sonic and Eggman are the only real characters in the game: Sonic's friends only serve as items to be rescued.
    • Eggman's boss fights are much simpler, only using just a simple tool or weapon attached to his Egg Mobile to kill Sonic, compared to how he would later use different machines each time for his boss battles. This can be considered justified in-universe; Eggman wasn't expecting Sonic to fight back, so his machines start out as hastily-built countermeasures rather than purpose-built attack vehicles.
  • Easter Egg: Among the hidden content in the 2013 remaster are many of the objects that were originally cut from the game, such as the wrecking ball hazard from Green Hill, the bunny Badnik Splats, the goggles for safe swimming (they now let him stay underwater for longer before drowning) and even the mysterious flying saucers in Marble Zone. All of them are now finished and can be placed in the debug mode. Also available are Super Sonic and a new Special Stage, as well as use of elemental shields and the Insta-Shield.
  • Easy Level Trick:
    • For all the flak it gets for being a slow level, some of the areas in Marble Zone where you have to push a block over the lava pools and ride on it can be cleared by simply jumping over the platforms in the way. Act 3 also features a nice shortcut behind a certain wall.
    • Labyrinth Zone Act 1 has a very hidden shortcut that cuts through most of the level.
    • Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 has a Dungeon Bypass right at the beginning of the level that skips almost all of it. It has traps and holes on the way, though, so you'll still have to work for that shortcut.
    • In the first Special Stage, if you don't press any buttons, Sonic will be brought straight to the final chamber.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Just look at the page image. The box art and game intro both establish Sonic as our Mascot with Attitude.
  • Eternal Engine: Scrap Brain Zone is both Eggman's headquarters and the engine powering his entire operation.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Averted in the original REV00 version, however, the REV01 revision rewards extra lives for every 50,000 points similarly the later games.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Scrap Brain Zone is a horrible place for living creatures. Crushers and circular saws suspended over fast-moving conveyor belts in cramped corridors, temporary platforms placed right next to flamethrowers and lightning bolt generators, swinging spiked balls on chains, Caterkillers and Bombs lurking around. Finally, Act 3 is actually a harder version of Labyrinth Zone.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The final Zone of the game is called Final Zone.
  • Excuse Plot: The entire plot can be summed up as this: "Dr. Eggman is kidnapping the animals and trying to take over the island, and Sonic has to stop him!"
  • Fan Remake: A fan decompilation project for the 2013 Retro Engine mobile ports of this game and Sonic 2 was released in 2021, allowing these port to be natively played on PC, and even has support for mods. It does, however, require extracting the data files from the mobile versions in order to run the decompilation. The project is also open-source, meaning those who are tech-savvy can also port the decompilation to run on other operating systems or consoles.
  • Fireballs: Wall-mounted statues of heads in Labyrinth Zone periodically shoot out balls of fire. This also applies to those located under water.
  • Final Boss: The Final Zone's Egg Crushernote  boss takes place inside a giant piston engine with a lightning ball generator on the right.
  • Flame Spewer Obstacle: In Scrap Brain Zone, damaging flames are emitted from ends of the pipe or broken pipes.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • If Sonic is going too fast as he is rolling through the tunnels in Green Hill Zone Act 1, he will reach the bottom of the screen and die as if it were a Bottomless Pit. Fortunately, this was fixed in later releases of the game.
    • At the end of either Labyrinth Zone Act 1 or 2, if Sonic rolls and pans the camera down after passing the end of level signpost, the game crashes just as it attempts to load the end-of-level text.
    • At the end of the final boss fight, it is possible to hit him as his defeat animation is playing. This sets his health counter from 0 to 255, making the fight unwinnable given the time limit. It's also possible to jump into the bottomless pit after you defeat the boss. Later games would put an invisible block in places like that.
  • Game Mod: The original Genesis/Mega Drive release is considered fairly easy to ROM hack by fans, and as a result, has seen many modifications over the years.
    • Besides common sprite swap hacks, one of the earliest and most famous ROM hacks was one that put Knuckles into the game. Due to palette limitations, Knuckles was infamously not added to this game with the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on like he was with Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which the hack avoided by changing the game's palette codes. At the time of release (2005), it was widely considered the "holy grail of ROM hacking", due to how it circumvented the color problem and implemented Knuckles' climbing and gliding ability. The creator of this hack, Stealth, later went on to help out with the Retro Engine ports of Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, allowing Knuckles to be officially playable in this game.
    • There are other hacks that incorporate characters with their own distinct playstyles, such as Ray the Flying Squirrel, Mighty the Armadillo, Amy Rose, Sally Acorn, Bunnie Rabbot, Eggman, and even a Motobug!
    • Then there are hacks that tweak core game mechanics for a twist, such as "OMG the Red Rings" (where touching any ring kills Sonic) or "Sonic 1: Gotta Go Fast Edition", (which speeds up Sonic's movement more with every ring he grabs), Sonic 1 Over 9000 (which bumps up Sonic's Super-Speed up to eleven, to the point of him being near-uncontrollable) and the infamous "An Ordinary Sonic 1 ROM Hack" (which revamps the game into what can only be described as a survival horror platformer).
    • The release of the mobile decompilation project has also opened up modding possibilities for the 2013 Retro Engine remasters. Some of the mods the community has created for this game include restoring the original Genesis-quality audio files, restoring a famous Attract Mode bug, giving characters movesets and abilities from the later 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games, and even replacing characters, such as swapping Sonic out for Mighty the Armadillo or swapping Knuckles for Rouge the Bat.
  • Good Is Not Soft: After the final boss fight, Sonic can either watch as Eggman escapes in his Egg Mobile, or smash it to pieces and watch as Eggman crash-lands in his own mechanical city, leaving him for dead. He survives, but still.
  • The Goomba: Moto Bugs. They're not the most common of enemies, but a Moto Bug is the first enemy you see and they pose as much of a threat as an actual Goomba.
  • Green Aesop: Sonic is a Nature Hero fighting against the encroaching destruction of his natural world. Eggman, if left unchecked, will enslave and/or destroy all life on the planet. Just compare the pristine waters and grassy fields of Green Hill Zone to the smog-filled dystopia of Scrap Brain Zone.
  • Green Hill Zone: The grassy tropical fields that open the game. When compared to its simpler successors, however, Green Hill is actually rather demanding for a first level. It features a good number of enemies and mechanics, and has platforming over bottomless pits as soon as Act 2. To make up for that, it also cuts the player some slack with easily obtainable invincibility items.
  • Green Rocks: The Chaos Emeralds — magical gemstones that contain the power of nature. In this first game, there are six of them, all different colors. Obtaining all of them is necessary to earn the Golden Ending, in which their power is used to restore nature. Fail to obtain them all, and Eggman will have any that you missed, implying that he'll use their power for his nefarious purposes.
  • Idle Animation: If you leave Sonic alone for a few seconds, he will impatiently tap his foot and glare at the player to get him moving again.
  • Insistent Terminology: The game's manual refers to any action in which Sonic curls up as the fairly wordy "Super Sonic Spin Attack", in places where "jump" or "roll" would suffice.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: Smash a monitor with three stars in it for temporary invincibility. Sparkly stars trail behind Sonic while the effect is active.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: The "Bomb" robots in the Star Light and Scrap Brain Zones. Even if Sonic has invincibility himself, he just passes straight through them.
  • Kaizo Trap:
    • There's nothing stopping Sonic from taking a fatal lava bath after he defeats the Marble Zone boss.
    • Similarly, after beating Eggman at Spring Yard Zone, Sonic can easily fall into the gaps in the floor and die.
    • It's possible to free the animals at the end of Labyrinth Zone Act 3 and still get killed by Eggman if Sonic runs ahead of him.
    • After Sonic beats Eggman in Star Light Zone, he can still get killed by shrapnel from mines left over from the battle.
    • In Final Zone, there's a bottomless pit after the final boss that Sonic can very easily jump into.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Marble Zone.
  • Level 1 Music Represents: Green Hill Zone. This is actually due to legal serendipity more than anything deliberate: the composer, Masato Nakamura, has copyright over his contributions to the series. As such, Sega pays royalties to him whenever his music is used. Both the main title tune (which was only ever heard in Sonic 2 and Sonic Generations after this game) and Green Hill's music fall under this, but Sega's frequent use of Green Hill's theme in later installments (Sonic Adventure 2, Advance 3, etc.) ensures that it's the music that most commonly gets associated with the original game.
  • Mascot with Attitude: Thanks to the success of this game, Sonic served as the inspiration for dozens of knock-offs who had an edgy attitude.
  • The Maze: The Labyrinth Zone and Scrap Brain Zone's third act are hard-to-navigate mazes.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Present, but the so-called "spike bug" completely bypasses it. If you land on a set of spikes, you take more damage if the knock back sends you into another set of spikes. This was because the Mercy Invincibility only activated when Sonic landed on the ground after taking damage. This was fixed in ports and sequels.
  • Metropolis Level: Star Light Zone, where you run around on metal girders with the lights of a nighttime cityscape in the background. Various secondary sources have claimed this zone is an "unfinished highway" to justify the loops and other stage hazards.
  • Minimalist Cast: Sonic and Eggman are the only primary characters; the Badniks and the kidnapped animals, while having names, are an indistinct mass.
  • Motion Parallax: At the time, the main draw to the game was the incredible graphics it displayed; half of it due to close attention to it and half owing due to the clever use of parallaxes that took into account Sonic's acceleration as well as vertical movement.
  • Mythology Gag: The 2013 iOS/Android remaster has plenty for the hardcore Sonic fan. Poke around the debug mode and you'll find they actually finished and implemented long lost features like the Green Hill rolling wrecking ball on its own, which now functions properly, the swimming goggles, which now prolong the time Sonic can spend in water, Splats the robot bunny, and the Marble Zone UFOs.
  • New Game Plus: The 2013 mobile remaster features the ability to revisit previously cleared Zones on a cleared game save. Any Chaos Emeralds collected are also retained, and if the player failed to get any from the initial playthrough, they can return to previous stages and attempt to collect them again.
  • New Jack Swing: Spring Yard Zone's BGM was heavily influenced by Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step" and laid the groundwork for later Sonic Team games to feature more New Jack-inspired songs in their soundtracks.
  • Non-Indicative Name: You might think that the "goal" lines in the Special Stages are, you know, your goal. In actuality, they result in failure, kicking you out of the Special Stage without giving you the Chaos Emerald.note  This makes slightly more sense if you read the manual, which claims that the "Special Zone is really a trap." Ironically, this kinda raises more questions.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Final Zone gives you no rings when facing the final boss.
  • One-Wheeled Wonder: Several Badniks have only one wheel as their entire propulsion, most notably Moto Bug.
  • Overflow Error: A Game-Breaking Bug causes the final boss to be unbeatable if you hit Dr. Eggman while his HP is 0. His programming doesn't check to see if his HP is already at 0 when you're hitting him, thus, giving him 255 HP, which can't be depleted within the time limit the game imposes on each level.
  • Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: Present throughout Labyrinth Zone and Act 3 of Scrap Brain in the 16-bit version. The bubbles appear to generate less often in the latter.
  • Oxygen Meter: Sonic has the ability to hold his breath for thirty seconds before drowning. Warning bells sound at five, ten, and fifteen seconds. At eighteen seconds, a terrifying 12 second countdown starts, at the end of which Sonic drowns. The Labyrinth Zone is full of Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles to keep Sonic alive. Labyrinth Zone Act 3 in the 8-bit version is an exception: you are entirely underwater with no air bubbles and can never drown.
  • Palette Swap: Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 is a palette swap of Labyrinth Zone.
  • Pinball Zone: Spring Yard Zone, which is full of pinball bumpers, as well as the Special Stages.
  • Player Nudge: To encourage players to take advantage of the extra momentum Sonic can get from spinning, as well as realize they have another means of attack besides jumping, Green Hill Zone put strong emphasis on steep sloping hills that make you go faster as you move down them. There's tunnel routes where Sonic is forced into spinning, giving the player the idea to try doing this themselves.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The background of Scrap Brain Zone Act 1 is a polluted wasteland that wouldn't look out of place in Blade Runner.
  • Pop-Star Composer: The soundtrack was written by Masato Nakamura of the J-pop band Dreams Come True. Some of their songs reuse themes from the games or vice versa, including the Green Hill and Star Light Zone themes.
  • Pressure Plate: Present in Marble Zone.
  • Protagonist Title: Sonic the Hedgehog is the game's Hero Protagonist.
  • Purple Is the New Black: The water from Labyrinth Zone is purple in the palette-swapped version in the game's final main act. This level is below Eggman's labs.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: The information is in the manual so it's not a Guide Dang It!, but the game itself never tells you that the large bubbles that arise from the sponges in Labyrinth Zone are Air Bubbles that replenish your oxygen. This can lead to players who bought the game second-hand or from a digital store initially thinking they're supposed to "run" through the water sections as quickly as they possibly can, only to drown over and over again.
  • Regional Bonus: Due to the game coming out later in Japan, this one received an updated version with bug fixes and extra visual effects. Outside of Japan, this version is fairly rare.
  • Rewarding Inactivity: In the first Special Stage, if you don't press any buttons, Sonic will be brought straight to the final chamber.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: There are computer monitors scattered throughout the game that contain powerups. You get the powerups by breaking said monitors.
  • Rise to the Challenge: The drastically rising water level that makes up part of the "boss fight" in Labyrinth Zone Act 3.
  • Rolling Attack: Sonic's signature attack move. He runs at his opponent, and then tucks into a rapidly spinning ball, ramming into them and shredding them with his sharp spines. With enough momentum, he can tunnel through solid rock.
  • Saw Blades of Death: Ceiling-mounted saw blades make an appearance in Scrap Brain Zone act 2.
  • Scare Chord: If Sonic stays underwater for too long without catching a breath of air from a bubble, the music will suddenly shift to very tense music that will speed up rapidly towards a crescendo before Sonic dies. The drowning music has become ingrained in fans of the series to the point that most players will admit feeling a slight grip of panic upon hearing the music even if they haven't played the game in years.
  • Scenery Porn: One of the game's major selling points was that its scenery was not only awesome but the fact that it could scroll past so rapidly when Sonic was at high speed helped graphically (no pun intended) demonstrate the Genesis' power. The Green Hill and Star Light Zones in particular stand out.
  • Scoring Points:
    • Players can earn points by defeating a Badnik, whom are 100 points each, but if the player were to defeat multiple Badniks in succession, the points steadily increase to 200 (2nd hit), 500 (3rd hit), 1,000 (4th-15th hits), and finally 10,000 (16th hit and onward) each. Bouncing off bumpers earn 10 points consistently until the 10th bounce. Jumping around the signpost after passing it can reward a secret 100/1,000/10,000 point bonus before Sonic leaves to the next Act. Defeating Eggman at the third Act of each Zone is worth 1,000 points. Players are also rewarded extra points based on how many Rings were collected (100 each) and how quickly the stage was cleared at the end of each Act.
    • The game also has a high score system, but there's no table for it, so it's considered an afterthought. The fact that several levels are explicitly impossible to beat in under 30 seconds (which gets you a 50,000 point bonus) and two levels that give no points at all (Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 and Final Zone) makes it even more superfluous. Later games would downplay the time bonus aspect (most notably Sonic 3 & Knuckles, where none of the levels can be beaten in 30 seconds), but they would reward you with Continues if you got a certain number of points.
  • Screen Crunch: Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis for the Game Boy Advance — which has been criticized for being a very sloppy port of the game — must have hit some sort of zenith, with this trope being partially responsible for the port's massive slowdown problems alongside the fact that the port was derived from the mobile phone port. The result? The engine chokes while trying to deal with the massive sprites due to crunching the game's original resolution from 320x224 on the Genesis to a pitiful 240x160 screen on the Game Boy Advance.
  • Seesaw Catapult: In Star Light Zone, there are seesaws that have spiked balls on one end. Sonic can launch the spiked ball to the other end, then run to the end the spiked ball was originally on so it can launch him in the air, causing him to reach higher places. At the end of Act 3, the battle against Eggman involves him dropping spiked bombs onto empty seesaws, which can either be used as counterweights to propel Sonic up directly, or used to throw the bombs back at Eggman.
  • Sequence Breaking:
    • Green Hill Zone Act 3 has some walls that can secretly be destroyed if you roll into them fast enough, and they can be used to bypass big chunks of the level and save time.
    • Marble Zone Act 1 has a spiked chandelier near the end of the course that is impossible to pass until it falls, robbing you of precious time—unless you exploit the knockback damage Sonic takes from touching it, which allows you to get on the upper ledge and bypass it quicker. Not very useful for normal gameplay, but it's crucial for speedruns. Marble Zone Act 2 has a peculiar bug where if you stand on the edge of the levels first floating ledge as much as possible and let Sonic sink into the ground with it and jump at just the right frame, his collision detection will go bonkers and it'll cause him to zip all the way past the level and reach the goal, allowing a skilled player to beat the level in 11 seconds. You can also use the glitch in Act 3, but it risks killing you if you don't pull it off right, and you still have to fight Eggman at the end.
    • Spring Yard Zone Act 1 has a shortcut where if you use the Speed Up Shoes and a spring, you can bypass the lower parts of the level and thus get to the goal faster. Act 3 has a glitch where if you crouch and let a certain platform crush you in a certain way, it'll push you into the building and allow you to pass by part of the level instead of killing you.
    • Labyrinth Zone Act 1 has a shortcut that allows you bypass a large chunk of the level by pressing a switch and then backtracking a little to find a secret platform that carries you to a shorter and much easier alternate route to the goal. Act 2 has a glitch involving a switch and a stone platform that, if you land on it right as it goes into the wall on the left, it'll push Sonic right to the end of the level.
    • Star Light Zone Act 2 has a minor break where, if you stick to the top of the level, you can jump over a building and fall through it past the descending platform, saving you a bit of time. Act 3 has a glitch where you can sink into the ground near the top of the level, which glitches you ahead through a big chunk of the level.
    • Scrap Brain Zone Act 2 has a glitch where if you go the trap door pit near the top of the level and fall between the floor and the trap at the right, it'll push you to another part of level and let you finish it quicker. Act 3 has a glitch where, if you let the sliding platform cut off the shortcut, you can make yourself sink into the ground by pushing on the right side of it, which will propel you directly to the end of the level.
  • Sinister Swine: Ball Hog is a robotic pig who stands in one place, attacking Sonic by tossing bombs at him.
  • Skyscraper City: Star Light Zone.
  • Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom: The most notable ones are in Marble Zone, though they make a return in Scrap Brain Zone Acts 1 and 2 (and they move at breakneck speeds here). The final boss fight is mostly this.
  • Song Style Shift: The Scrap Brain Zone theme starts out grim and serious, but changes to a happier melody about halfway through.
  • Spike Balls of Doom: Spiked balls make an appearance in Spring Yard Zone and Labyrinth Zone levels. Sometimes they slowly move back and forth, sometimes they spin around (on chains in Labyrinth Zone).
  • Spikes of Doom: Spikes make their first appearance in this game. Unlike in other games, the game doesn't give you Mercy Invincibility when being hit by spikes.
  • The Spiny:
    • Sonic himself is a playable spiny that moves very, very fast.
    • The hermit crab Spikes, aptly enough, has spikes on its back, making jumping on them from above useless. If Sonic rolls into one, he'll be fine.
    • The caterpillar Caterkiller is similar, but potentially more deadly. It's a caterpillar made of purple spheres, one of which serves as a head while the rest have spikes on top. If Sonic hits it anywhere other than the head, not only does he get hurt, but the spheres it's made of go flying around and there's a chance that they will hit Sonic again, probably killing him.
  • Springs, Springs Everywhere: The yellow springs give Sonic a good jump height or boost, while the red ones launch him skyward. The Spring Yard Zone has tons of springs all over the place as the level's gimmick.
  • Sprint Shoes: Smash a monitor with a shoe in it for temporarily increased acceleration and speed. Sonic's trademark is the ability to move at high speed, but this takes it to another level.
  • The Stinger: Beat the game without collecting all the Chaos Emeralds, and you will see Eggman over a "Try Again" sign, juggling those you didn't get. If you get the good ending, Eggman will furiously jump on an "End" sign instead.
  • Sudden Gameplay Change: The Special Stages are weird levels that take place in a bizarre outer dimension. Accordingly, the level design is very weird. Additionally, the sudden transition from the fast paced Green Hill Zone to the much slower Marble Zone can feel like this for first time players or for people who played later Sonic games.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: If Eggman didn't ride in one of the pistons of the final boss, it would be impossible to damage him at all. While it could be the controls are inside the pistons, that would be a really stupid design on his part since there's no reason he can't just make another room where he can control them remotely.
  • Tech-Demo Game: The whole reason for Sonic's signature Super-Speed was to show off the Sega Genesis's "blast processing", which allows it to process and load things faster than the Super Nintendo (which was its main competitor at the time).
  • Temple of Doom: Labyrinth Zone and Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 are mazes partly underwater and set in what appears to be an ancient ruin. It's yellowish-gold with green vines and blue water in the main Labyrinth, but Scrap Brain turns the water and vines purple and the scenery white.
  • This Is a Drill: A few badniks have drill-based weapons.
  • Timed Mission: The console versions have a 10-minute time limit - if the time runs out, you lose one life. This is actually very generous, since most levels can be cleared in 2 to 3 minutes. However, the Mega Play version for arcades makes the time limit much more strict, to the point where if you're not approaching the game with the mindset of going as fast as you can, you're going to lose your lives to Time Overs. Justified in that case, as if the time limit was left as-is, someone could just easily hog the machine for an hour with six lives.
  • Trap Door: There are plenty of them in Scrap Brain Zone 1 and 2. One of them actually leads to some rings, but the others are death traps.
  • Traveling Landmass: The setting of South Island is this, making it unchartable. According to the Japanese manual, it moves thanks to the Chaos Emeralds existing in a distortion within the island.
  • Underground Level: Parts of Green Hill Zone, half of Marble Zone, and the entirety of Labyrinth Zone take place underground.
  • Underwater Ruins: Labyrinth Zone.
  • Unwilling Roboticization: Eggman's Badniks are actually organic beings that have been unwillingly stuffed into a servile robotic shell. The fleshy being inside serves as little more than a Living Battery for the robot to get energy from: they have no say in what the robot shell does under Eggman's orders.
  • Updated Re-release:
    • The Retro Engine mobile version developed by Christian "The Taxman" Whitehead and Simon "Stealth" Thomley includes widescreen support, a remastered soundtrack, leaderboards for high scores, Tails and Knuckles as playable characters (including "Sonic & Tails" as with Sonic 2), a seventh Special Stage and Chaos Emerald that enables Super forms, and a vastly expanded Debug Mode with numerous Easter Eggs. There are also numerous bug fixes and stage tweaks. This version is also included in Sonic Origins, which also adds Amy as a playable character via DLC.
    • 3D Sonic the Hedgehog for the Nintendo 3DS includes a 3D visual option, as well as the Spin Dash, a freely-accessible level select, customizable visuals and controls, Japanese and International versions of the game, and two sound options.
    • SEGA AGES Sonic the Hedgehog for the Nintendo Switch has most of the features from 3D Sonic the Hedgehog minus the 3D option, and adds Ring Keep Mode from 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the relatively-obscure Mega Play (Arcade) version of the game, which features time limits and fewer Acts with streamlined level design. This version also includes the Drop Dash and two Challenge Mode options, one to clear Green Hill Zone Act 1 the fastest, and a variant of the Mega Play version that aims for a high score and only affords one life.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis for the Game Boy Advance tried to include features such as a save system and the Spin Dash, but due to the game being hastily ported from the mobile phone version for Sonic's 15th anniversary, it also introduced many problems and game-breaking bugs the original game or prior re-releases never had.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Final Zone.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Eggman always flies away every time you defeat him. But, at the end of the 16-bit version, you get the chance to destroy his escape pod and leave him for dead. In the 8-bit version, Sonic will do it in a cutscene at the end.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Marble Zone's Egg Scorcher boss, especially if you're low on rings.
  • Warm-Up Boss: The Egg Mobile-H (aka Egg Wrecker). It's a contraption that swings a wrecking ball back and forth, but it's rather easy to avoid.
  • Whack-a-Monster: The final boss is a variation of this. Two capsules drop down each round, and Eggman is in one of them. You have to hit the one he is in without having the capsules squish you.
  • Word Salad Title: Scrap Brain Zone manages to be both this and I Don't Like the Sound of That Place.
  • Wreaking Havok: Complimenting the great speed that Sonic could go at was a highly advanced physics engine (for the time) that allowed you to pick up speed from running or rolling down a hill. This is best seen in Green Hill Zone, where you pick up massive speed from rolling down two S-shaped pipes then get launched into a large pile of rings.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: A common source of silly deaths is the Spring Yard Zone boss fight. You defeat Eggman, then carelessly fall to your death through one of the gaps in the floor he made, and have to fight him again as a result.

Don't just sit there and waste your precious time. When you want to do something, do it right away. Do it when you can. It's the only way to live a life without regrets.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sonic The Hedgehog 1991, Sonic 1


The Drowning Music

You get 30 seconds in the water in most 2D Sonic games (and some 3D ones such as the Sonic Adventure series). For approximately the last 10 seconds, the infamous drowning theme plays, warning you to get out of the water or find an air bubble.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / CriticalAnnoyance

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