Gaming has produced many amazing video game characters, but there are a select few whose impact, intrigue, and influence are so great that they span across multiple generations. When you talk about the greatest characters to ever grace a video game, you simply cannot have that conversation without including the Blue Blur himself, Sonic the Hedgehog.
June 23 marked the 30th anniversary of one of the most iconic video game characters and franchises of all time, Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a celebration!
Like many 90’s babies who grew up with Sonic, the speedy hedgehog holds a special spot in my heart that few can occupy. In 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog was released as Sega’s flagship series and counter to archrival Nintendo’s Mario. The game became a huge hit and an instant classic as the first of an equally celebrated trilogy of Sonic the Hedgehog games for the Sega Genesis. Thus, the super cool speed demon hedgehog, Sonic, was born.
Upon its release and massive success, in late ‘91, Sega briefly dethroned Nintendo as the leader in the console market, which at the time hadn’t happened since December 1985. Thus, Sonic the Hedgehog was a factor in popularizing the console in North America, solidifying it as a competitor to Nintendo and their Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
The Genesis Sonic games have been described as representative of the culture of the 1990s and listed among the greatest of all time. The franchise has maintained its popularity with a number of animated tv series, a 2020 feature film (with a sequel expected next year), and a plethora of games, including multiple let’s say “uneventful” ones unfortunately. Nonetheless, Sonic’s contribution to platform gaming is undeniable.
2017’s Sonic Mania, in commemoration of the series 25th anniversary, was a return to form for the series paying homage to its original games, and was the highest rated Sonic game since 2002. The speedy blue hedgehog is also featured in the world’s most popular fighting game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and has been a part of the Smash series since 2007.
Sonic’s unrivaled swag and cool persona have resonated with gamers for three decades, along with his rebellious, care-free, adventurous attitude. The thrill-seeking hedgehog can blitz across the screen at ridiculously high speeds which has in part made him such a lively and playable character. His edgy mohawk and cheeky grin were calculated trademarks of Sega’s strategy to appeal to the teenage crowd aging out of Nintendo’s family-friendly games. The icon’s impact spawned all sorts of offbeat video game characters, from Crash Bandicoot to Spyro the Dragon to Conker the Squirrel and Rayman.
Sonic is simply a national treasure to video games and has been championed as Sega’s mascot ever since his arrival. He’s starred in over 80 games, which is a testament to the franchise’s success as one of the best-selling video game franchises in history, grossing over $6 billion as of 2020.
Sonic the Hedgehog is firmly cemented among the greats in the esteemed pantheon of video game characters, and this article exists only as a brief commemoration. Some of my earliest and fondest memories of video games come from playing the legendary trilogy of Sonic games for the Sega Genesis. As a nostalgic relic of my childhood, I speak for millions when I enthusiastically say happy birthday, and happy 30th year anniversary to Sonic the Hedgehog!