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This is terrible! Hurry! Sonic the Hedgehog - everyone is waiting for your help!

— The Japanese manual for Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog (ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ Sonikku za Hejjihoggu?) is a 2D platform video game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Mega Drive. Featuring Sega's new mascot, the titular Sonic the Hedgehog, this game served as the launch title for the famous video game franchise known as the Sonic the Hedgehog series.

The game was originally released for the Sega Mega Drive in North America and Europe on 23 June 1991, with a Japanese Mega Drive release following a month later on 26, July. Advertising its fast gameplay based on Sonic's extraordinary speed, the concept of a high-speed platform game was unique for its time and solidified the style of gameplay the series would be best known for. Due to the Mega Drive's Motorola 68000 processor, the power of the console would allow for faster gameplay (dubbed by some as "blast processing"), and impressive 16-bit graphics, making it much more powerful than Sega's preceding Master System.

The game was well praised by critics and was a massive commercial success, which gave the Mega Drive, and by extent Sega, a huge boost in popularity, enough so that Sega could directly compete with Nintendo, who soon followed up with the release of their Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This would result in what would be the first counterattack in a long company rivalry that lasted throughout the 90s. In recent years, the game has been ported numerous times on many other consoles, with some ports adding newer features to the original game.


Spoiler warning: Plot, ending details or any kind of information follow.

The title screen of Sonic the Hedgehog.

On the lush, tropical paradise of South Island, Sonic the Hedgehog's animal friends begin disappearing one by one. When he discovers that the evil scientist, Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Dr. Eggman), has been kidnapping them and converting them into robotic Badniks as part of a plot to collect all six of the fabled Chaos Emeralds, Sonic decides it's up to him to save them, and leaps into action, as he embarks on a quest to free his friends, locate the Chaos Emeralds first and thwart the evil schemes of Dr. Robotnik.

As Sonic races through the Zones of the island, he engages in numerous confrontations with Dr. Robotnik and his deadly machines, and one by one frees the animals from their robotic shells and capsules placed at the end of almost every zone. In their final confrontation, Dr. Robotnik prepares his last dastardly contraption to end his adversary but proves no match for Sonic's awesome might, and his machine is totaled. Fleeing with his tail between his legs, Dr. Robotnik abandons his laboratory as it explodes, crumbling to scrap, with Sonic narrowly escaping.

Later, Sonic will arrive at Green Hill Zone. The game's ending will depend on whether or not the player has collected all six Chaos Emeralds:

  • If the player does not collect the Chaos Emeralds, the game will simply end and play the credits. Later however, Dr. Robotnik will be seen with all the Chaos Emeralds the player has not collected.
  • However, if the player has collected all six Chaos Emeralds, Sonic will utilize the gems to spread flora throughout Green Hill Zone, shocking him. Later, the credits will play. Afterwards, Dr. Robotnik will be seen angrily jumping on top of a text that reads "END", finishing the game.


Sonic in Green Hill Zone, the first Zone in the game.

Sonic the Hedgehog is a 2D side-scrolling platform video game. The only playable character here is Sonic the Hedgehog. The main goal of the game is to get through a series of Acts for different Zones in less than ten minutes. When passing through each Act, the player will be contending with different types of enemies called "Badniks" and various terrains that have different gimmicks and obstacles along them. The level designs all vary, each with different types of gimmicks and layouts that may differ between Zones. Along the way, the player can earn points by collecting items and defeating Badniks. In order to conclude the first two Acts of a Zone, the player has to pass a Goal Plate at the end of said Acts. To complete the final Act of most Zones on the other hand, the player typically has to open a Capsule at the end of the Act, after a boss fight. Also upon completing an Act, the player's overall score will be tallied, with bonus points being granted based on their performance.

Sonic's most basic ability is running, which can reach impressive speeds when momentum is build up, allowing him to run through shuttle loops or up ramps and launch himself high up into the air. For offensive maneuvers, Sonic has a full-body rolling maneuver called Super Sonic Spin Attack and a spinning jump called the Super Sonic Spin Jump. These techniques allow him to destroy breakable objects and enemies.

In Sonic the Hedgehog, the gameplay operates on a life system, while Sonic takes damage when touching a Badnik or hazard, or getting attacked by a boss or Badnik. Throughout the Acts however, Rings lie scattered about, which Sonic can pick up by simply touching them. Rings give an extra life after collecting 100 or 200 of them, grant points and protect the player from taking damage. If Sonic takes damage, they will drop all their Rings, though some can be recollected before they disappear. Taking damage without any Rings will cost the player a life. Sonic will also lose a life, regardless of the Rings he holds, if his spends too long underwater without replenishing his air supply (air underwater lasts for thirty seconds), falls into a bottomless pit, gets smashed to the ground by a crusher, or runs out of time. Losing a life makes the player start from the last Lamppost they touched, or from the beginning of the Act if they have not passed any Lampposts. If a character loses a try when the number of tries remaining is zero, the game will end. Also scattered throughout each Act are Video Monitors which contain various power-ups beneficial to Sonic's performance.

if the player has at least fifty Rings on hand at the end of the first or second Act of a Zone, they will be able to enter one of six Special Stages through a Giant Ring that appears above the Goal Plate. Once the player has cleared all six Special Stages, the Giant Rings will no longer appear. If Sonic does not jump in before the Goal Plate stops spinning, he will automatically run off of the screen, preventing the player from entering the Special Stage. At the end of each Act, the player can also jump through the air during the score tallying to find invisible Secret Bonuses that are added to the score.

Beside the game's main goal, the player can also collect the Chaos Emeralds, which are earned by completing the different Special Stages. Collecting all six Emeralds and completing the Final Zone will unlock the game's good cinematic ending.

Scoring system

Sonic's abilities

Name Sprite Description
Walk Sonic walk.gif Push left or right on the D-pad to initiate Sonic's movement in either direction. As the player holds the button down, Sonic gains speed.
Run Sonic run.gif Begin walking and hold down the button to make Sonic gain speed. After a few seconds, he'll break into a run.
Screech halt Sonic screech.gif While running, quickly press and hold the opposite direction on the D-pad to make Sonic screech to a halt. He'll skid for a short distance, based on how fast he was moving.
Look up Sonic lookup.gif While standing still, press up on the D-pad to make Sonic gaze to the sky. As the player holds up, the camera pans upward, giving player a view of Sonic's overhead surroundings.
Crouch Sonic crouch.gif While standing still, press down on the D-pad to make Sonic duck down. As the player holds down, the camera pans downward, giving player a view of the stage beneath where Sonic stands.
Super Sonic Spin Attack Sonic kaiten.gif Often called the Spin Attack or just the roll in later games, pressing down on the D-pad while moving will make Sonic curl into a rolling attack. He'll remain in this position until the player jumps or slows down. The speed of Sonic's movement while in spin mode is based on how fast the player was moving when they initiated the Spin Attack.
Super Sonic Spin Jump Sonic kaiten.gif Renamed the Spin Jump in later games, pressing an action button at any time will make Sonic leap into the air with a rolling attack. The height of the jump is proportional to how long the player held the button down.
Push Sonic push.gif Certain blocks can be pushed by running up against them. Continue holding the D-pad against the offending cube to have Sonic push it along the ground. This sprite will also be shown if the player attempts this with an object that can't be pushed that doesn't harm them.



Gimmicks and obstacles


Playable characters

Non-playable characters



  1. Egg Mobile-H
  2. Marble Zone boss
  3. Spring Yard Zone boss
  4. Labyrinth Zone boss
  5. Star Light Zone boss
  6. Final Zone


Sonic the Hedgehog has seven Zones. The first six Zones contain three full-length Acts, with the third one having a battle against a boss, and the final one only consists of the final boss machine.

  1. Green Hill Zone
  2. Marble Zone
  3. Spring Yard Zone
  4. Labyrinth Zone
  5. Star Light Zone
  6. Scrap Brain Zone
  7. Final Zone

Special Stages

If Sonic finishes the first or second Act of any of the first five zones with at least fifty Rings, a large, spinning ring will appear. If he jumps into it, he will warp into a "Special Stage", which conceals one of the six Chaos Emeralds. In these stages, Sonic, in ball form, falls through a series of rotating mazes.

If he can avoid the "GOAL" spheres along parts of the stage's walls (presumably labeled "GOAL" to entice the player into exiting the Special Stage), he will eventually find the Chaos Emerald encased in colored diamonds; touching the diamonds repeatedly will cause them to change color from blue, to green, to yellow, to pink and ultimately disappear, allowing access to the Emerald. The stage will end when Sonic either touches the Emerald or hits a "GOAL" sign. If fifty Rings are collected before Sonic makes contact with a "GOAL" sphere or gets the Chaos Emerald, then a 'Continue' will be awarded to the player, indicated by a brief, distinct change in melody. Super Sonic does not appear in Sonic the Hedgehog because the seventh Chaos Emerald was not yet introduced.

There are a total of ten opportunities to get Chaos Emeralds, meaning the player can fail a Special Stage up to four times if all six Emeralds are to be collected before the end of the game. Scrap Brain Zone will not have a large ring at the end of both of its acts, even when finishing with fifty rings, despite the acts ending before it. If the player fails a stage, that stage is skipped and is returned to after attempting the sixth and final Special Stage.

It is stated in the North American and European manuals that a 1-Up item can be found in Special Stages, but they are not seen anywhere unless placed in the game's secret Debug Mode. It is possible, however, to earn extra lives by collecting a hundred rings in a single stage, indicated by the same sound used in the main zones.


These are the achievements which add to the player's Gamerscore on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation 3 versions of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Icon Name Requirements Trophy Class Gamescore
Clear Green.jpg Clear Green Clear Green Hill Zone. Bronze 5
Star Light Zone.jpg Star Light Zone Get to Star Light Zone. Bronze 5
Spring Yard Zone.jpg Spring Yard Zone Get to Spring Yard Zone. Bronze 7
Labyrinth Zone.jpg Labyrinth Zone Get to Labyrinth Zone. Bronze 8
Fast Green.jpg Fast Green Beat Green Hill Zone Act 1 in under 35 seconds. Bronze 10
Chaos Emerald.jpg Chaos Emerald Get one Chaos Emerald. Silver 10
Centurion.jpg Centurion Get 100 or more Rings. Bronze 10
Fast Marble.jpg Fast Marble Beat Marble Zone Act 1 in under 80 seconds. Bronze 15
Win.jpg Win Beat the game. Silver 25
Fast Win.jpg Fast Win Beat the game in under 40 minutes. Silver 30
Chaos Master.jpg Chaos Master Get all the Chaos Emeralds. Silver 35
Perfect Win.jpg Perfect Win Beat the game without dying. Gold 40

Cheat codes

  • Level Select - At the title screen, press UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, then hold A and press start.
  • Debug Mode - At the title screen, press UP, C, DOWN, C, LEFT, C, RIGHT, C (or C, C, UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT), start, then hold A until the game starts.

Note: These codes do not work on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network versions of the game. They also do not work in the game unlockable in the Xbox 360 version of Sonic Generations.



Image Platform Description
Sonic Classics 3 in 1 - Sega Genesis.jpg Sega Mega Drive Included in Sonic Compilation (later released as Sonic Classics) on the Sega Mega Drive.
Sega Classic.png Sega Mega Drive Re-released on the Sega Mega Drive in a new package under a "Sega Classics" logo.
Mega6.jpg Sega Mega Drive Mega 6 Volume 3 was a Sega Mega Drive cartridge consisting of six games, one of which was Sonic the Hedgehog.
SixPackNA.jpg Sega Mega Drive 6-Pak was a Sega Mega Drive cartridge consisting of six games, one of which was Sonic the Hedgehog.
Arcade title screen.png Arcade This was one of the games adapted for release in arcades using MegaPlay and MegaTech technology in 1993. The game is almost identical to the console version except Labyrinth Zone and Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 have been removed.
Sonic Jam USA Cover.jpg Sega Saturn Playable in Sonic Jam for the Sega Saturn console. A new Spin Dash option was added, which also fixes the so-called "Spike Bug".
Sega Smash Pack (DreamCast).jpg Dreamcast Included in SEGA Smash Pack for the Dreamcast console.
Sega Genesis Collection.jpg PlayStation 2 / PSP SEGA Genesis Collection for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable includes this game.
Sonic mega collection.jpg GameCube Available in Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube.
Sonic Mega Collection plus.jpg PlayStation 2 / PC / Xbox Available in Sonic Mega Collection Plus for the PlayStation 2, PC and Xbox.
Sonic Mega Collection Plus, Super Monkey Ball Deluxe 2 in 1 combo pack.jpg Xbox Available in Sonic Mega Collection Plus / Super Monkey Ball Deluxe 2 in 1 combo pack for the Xbox.
Gc sonic gems collection p o5pa9w.jpg GameCube / PlayStation 2 Sonic Gems Collection allows you to play the final boss of this game in the museum mode. If you beat the Final Zone under the time limit, you can continue on to the beginning of the game until your time runs out.
Sonic1-2005-cafe-title.png Mobile Phone

In 2005 this game was ported as a mobile phone game and offered on the Sonic Cafe service in Japan.

Sth Mobile 2.PNG Mobile Phone

An emulated version of the game with the title Sonic the Hedgehog Mobile was released for download on Mobile phones in 2005, under the Sega Mobile banner. However, the game is split into two parts. Part 1 contains the first 3 zones, while Part 2 contains the last three.

Sega Mega drive collection 1.JPG Play TV Legends Sega Mega Drive Collection Vol. 1 is a game console which is part of the Play TV Legends plug-and-play series. It has 6 built-in games that can be played when the console is connected to the TV. The title game is Sonic the Hedgehog. This was released in Europe and the US in 2005.
Super Sonic Gold.jpg Play TV Legends Included in Super Sonic Gold, a console that has 4 built in games, but no cartridge slot. Released in the US and Europe in 2005.
Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis.jpg Game Boy Advance

Released on the Game Boy Advance under the title Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis. While it added Spin Dash and save features, the port is considered of extremely poor quality due to incompetent programming.

Sth iPod.jpg iPod

iTunes released a "Click Wheel Game" version of the game for download under the Sega Mobile banner. It was compatible with the iPod Nano (3rd, 4th, 5th Generation) and iPod classic (5th Generation). Not to be confused with the iOS port.

Sonic iphone.png iOS Sonic the Hedgehog was ported to iOS in May 2009. This version's distribution has been discontinued, replaced by an entirely different port using the Retro Engine (see below).
Sonic download.jpg Wii Available for Download on the Wii's Virtual Console.
Boxsonichedgehog.jpg Xbox 360 Available for Download on the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade service. Released on 7 November 2007.[3]
Sonic1PlaySEGA.jpg Browser Made available for the PlaySEGA browser game service in 2008.
SUGC boxart.jpg PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 Included in a compilation disk titled Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
SonicPCCollection.jpg PC Sonic PC Collection is a compilation released in New Zealand and Australia in 2009. This compilation includes Sonic Mega Collection Plus which includes Sonic the Hedgehog.
SCC FRONT 12 2 lrg.jpg Nintendo DS Included in a compilation titled Sonic Classic Collection for the Nintendo DS.
Mega-Drive Classic Collection Volume 1 (UK).jpg PC Included in Sega Mega Drive Classic Collection - Volume 1 which entails 10 classic Sega titles.
Sonic1 PS3 Icon.jpg PlayStation 3

Available for Download on the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network service. Available to PlayStation Plus Members (for Free) from 1 March 2011 to 5 April 2011. Available to Regular Users 29 March 2011.

Android (Kyocera Echo only)

Available for Download on Kyocera Echo via G-Gee by Gmo. It was available for free (including other games by G-Gee and SEGA's Super Monkey Ball) for a short period of time.

Gens.png Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3

In the console versions of Sonic Generations, this game is playable from the hub world. It is unlockable after a Genesis controller is purchased from the Skill Shop. This version keeps track of time (similar to the release of Sonic Jam). In addition, a new bonus feature can be unlocked via the Skill Shop - infinite continues. The Xbox 360 version lacks the level select code, but the PlayStation 3 version has it intact. It is removed from the PC version in favor of slightly enriching the core game experience.

VC3DS 3DSonic1.png Nintendo 3DS
Main article: 3D Sonic the Hedgehog

As a celebration of the Mega Drive's 25th anniversary in Japan, Sega released another port for Nintendo 3DS titled 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, which is part of series of Mega Drive games re-released to take advantage of 3D. The port also features Spin Dash as an optional move, Stage Select feature, input settings, sound settings, the option to toggle the original revisions, and separate display settings with stereoscopic sense to create a 3D experience. It is was released in Japan on 15 May 2013,[4] and was later released in North America and PAL Regions on December 5, 2013.[5][6]

Sega-3d-classics-collection-656x584.jpg Nintendo 3DS Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the Sega games included in a compilation of classic games titled Sega 3D Classics Collection. While it is titled 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, this compilation title takes advantage of stereoscopic 3D to create a 3D experience.
Sonic-1-Android-1.png iOS, Android

Developed by Christian Whitehead and Headcannon, this remastered edition of the original Sonic the Hedgehog includes several features including an optional Spin Dash, Miles "Tails" Prower and Knuckles the Echidna being playable characters and an expanded Level Select and Debug Mode.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Ages.png Nintendo Switch

Re-released as part of the SEGA AGES line for the Nintendo Switch, Sonic the Hedgehog includes some features such as the Spin Dash and Drop Dash from Sonic Mania and two modes: Ring Keep Mode and Time Attack. It was released on September 20, 2018.

Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC The game was included in the upcoming compilation game Sonic Origins, which will be released to celebrate the series' 30th anniversary.


The original Sonic the Hedgehog was very well received by critics, scoring 86% from GameRankings.[7] The game was an instant success that allowed Sega to wrap their video game business around and have a platformer to compete with Nintendo's Super Mario franchise.[8] The gameplay, audio and graphics were praised by reviewers.

IGN reviewer Lucas M. Thomas rated Sonic the Hedgehog an 8/10, praising the simple but fast gameplay, the soundtrack and commended that "few people realize how difficult it was to create Sonic's graphics engine, which allowed for the incredible rate of speed the game's known for. The technical achievement impressed back in '91, and still does so today."[9] Gamespot reviewer Greg Kasavin gave the game a 7.3/10, praising the great soundtrack and memorable sound effects, the fast-paced, responsive platformer action and cute, colorful graphics [that] have a good deal of charm and personality although he felt that the later levels can get frustrating tough, requiring meticulous memorization.[10]


  • The Japanese release added additional storyline details, as the existing plot was virtually a basic outline. The purpose of the Chaos Emeralds is greatly expanded upon, which is elaborated in later games. It is explained that Dr. Robotnik was specifically searching for them on the island due to their incredible energy according to legend. The manual also states that there has already been some unknown animosity between Sonic and Robotnik in the past (which, on the other hand, is not backed up in later games). It also lists the setting as South Island, which is established in later games as well - in the English manual, the setting was originally unnamed.
  • There are two versions of the game. This revision is common in Japan, but contrary to popular belief it was released worldwide in smaller quantities. This update makes some very minor changes to the game's programming, as well as adds some visual effects such as scrolling clouds in Green Hill Zone or water ripples in Labyrinth Zone. It also corrects the Zone order on the level select. This version of the game is used in most subsequent releases. In addition, the scrolling clouds return in most appearances of Green Hill Zone.
  • Rui Sousa holds the high score for Sonic the Hedgehog: 1,559,180. He achieved this on 21 March 2015.[11]
  • There was a sound test that was originally supposed to be in this game but was scrapped. But one character in this sound test appeared in future games (Vector) while the others appear in the Archie Comics as part of Mina Mongoose's band.
  • A variant of this game's Special Stage also appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I.
  • There were only six Chaos Emeralds in this game. A seventh emerald was introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
  • The game's 2013 re-release adds a seventh emerald, making Super Forms possible.
  • In each version of the game's box art, Sonic is making the same pose.
  • Out of the main series classic Sonic games (including both episodes of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Mania), this is the only game whose final boss doesn't take place in space.
  • Masato Nakamura did say in an interview that when he was composing the music for this game, he thought the game as a film to compose the music.
  • This is one of the games to be represented in Sonic Generations. Green Hill reappears as the first stage of the Classic Era in both the home and portable versions.
  • This game's theme music would later be remixed and used as the theme for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic Generations.
  • Also, the opening and ending of this game's ending theme were remixed and used for the opening and ending theme for Sonic Generations.
  • Strangely, the PlayStation Network port of the game was rated E10+ by the ESRB. However, that has been changed to an E rating in 2013.
  • In the G4 special Top 100 Video Games of All Time, the game was ranked at #50.[12]
  • The game was meant to move at an even faster pace, but that idea was cut from the final version, as Yuji Naka suffered motion sickness while playtesting it.
  • The game was listed in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. In addition, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic Adventure were also listed.[13]
  • This is one of the few Sonic games that when it crashes, it has something debug-related happen. In this game's case, sometimes when a crash happens, an error code comes on the screen.
  • The title icon for this game, and several corresponding games, resembles the logo for the restaurant chain Steak 'n Shake.



External links

Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)

Main article | Staff | Manuals | Glitches | Beta elements | Gallery | Re-releases (2005 | Mobile | GBA | iPod | 2013 | 3D | Sega Ages)
Sonic the Hedgehog console mainline games