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Sonic News Network
Sonic News Network
For other articles of a similar name, see Sonic the Hedgehog (disambiguation).

It's Super Sonic!!!

— Tagline for the Game Gear version.

Sonic the Hedgehog (ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ Sonikku za Hejjihoggu?) is a platforming game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series and the 8-bit version of the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive for the Sega Master System and then ported to the Game Gear. Released in October and then ported in December 1991, the 8-bit game was developed by Ancient Corp. in collaboration with a few Sonic Team members. Being released on Sega's previous 8-bit console and the first handheld title in the Sonic series, it is a separate game rather than being a straight port from its 16-bit counterpart. The game features several new gameplay elements which would become implemented in later 8-bit handheld titles.

The game is noticeable for featuring Sega's freelance composer Yuzo Koshiro, who is recognized as one of the finest game music and chiptune composers in the 1980s and 1990s. Koshiro rearranged many of Masato Nakamura's iconic music tracks from the game's 16-bit counterpart while also composing original content for this 8-bit version. Like later Game Gear and Master System games, this game has been re-released on numerous compilation titles or as unlockable mini-games, including re-releases in the Virtual Console for the Wii and Nintendo 3DS.


Title screen of the Master System version of the game.

The game's storyline is almost the same as the original game on the Sega Genesis for both the Japanese and Western releases: Dr. Ivo Robotnik is working to take over South Island and gather Chaos Emeralds, having kidnapped all of the island's animal habitants to turn them into robots called Badniks to do his dirty work. Hearing of Robotnik's plot, Sonic the Hedgehog heads to South Island to save his animal friends.[1] The North American instruction manual also adds that his greatest challenge is lurking in Robotnik's flying blimp.[2]


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

Sonic the Hedgehog is a side-scrolling platforming game with a lot of gameplay elements imported from its 16-bit counterpart, where the goal is to reach the end of each Act of a Zone (a level in the game) in ten minutes. At the start, the player begins the game with three lives. For the entirety of the game, the player takes control of Sonic, whose basic maneuvers and attacks include the Spin Jump and Super Sonic Spin Attack.

In each Zone, Rings appear everywhere. Like in most Sonic the Hedgehog games, collecting Rings protects the player from taking damage, though they cannot protect from drowning, bottomless pits or Time Overs. When taking damage, Sonic loses all his Rings (which shown as a single Ring being dropped). Getting hit without Rings costs the player a life and make them restart from either the beginning of the Act or the last Arrow Monitor. Losing all lives ends the game or provides another chance with Continues. Collecting Rings also grants points and getting 100 Rings gives an One-Up. However, it also restarts the Ring counter from zero.

The game features Video Monitors with the same power-ups from its 16-bit counterpart, including Super Rings (grant ten extra Rings), One-Ups, Shields (protects from one hit), Power Sneakers (increases speed briefly) and Invincible (grants brief invulnerability), though some power-ups are rarer than others. If the player survives an Act with the Shield, they will keep it for the next Act. There is also a single One-Up Video Monitor for each Act. Collecting them all makes the last 1-Up monitor available in the third Act as a bonus. Also, exclusive to this game are Arrow Monitors which save the player's progress in an Act after being broken, similar to Lampposts in the 16-bit version.

Exclusive to the game are the Bonus Panels at the end of the first two Acts of a Zone and Special Stages. Upon being passed, the Bonus Plates will spin and give awards based on the image they show. In Special Stages, Bonus Panels will always have a Robotnik bonus when flipped. The rewards are:

Question point
(From the start)
Dr. Robotnik Sonic Ring Exclamation point
Just wait you'll see how messed up Sonic is on next plate XD.png
10 extra Rings
Access to the Special Stage

A Chaos Emerald hidden in the Zone.

Due to the hardware limitations of the Master System and Game Gear, the game's level design is significantly more straightforward than its 16-bit version. There are no Shuttle Loops or alternative pathways as the game is based around basic side-scroll platforming, and the only way to gain more momentum is to use slopes, Springboards and ramps. Because of this, the game tends to be challenging due to a large number of obstacles and different level gimmicks. Another feature players can find in the levels are the Chaos Emeralds. In one of the two main Acts for every Zone, there is a Chaos Emerald hidden and ready to be collected. Collecting all six affects the game's cinematic ending and grants extra points.

Scoring system


Button formation Movement
Sonic-Icon-Sonic-the-Hedgehog-8-Bit.png Sonic the Hedgehog
Controlpadds.png left/right Walking/Running
Controlpadds.png up Looking up
Controlpadds.png down Crouch
Game Gear I Button.png/Game Gear II Button.png Spin Jump
Controlpadds.png right/left + down Super Sonic Spin Attack
START button Pauses the game.



Gimmicks and obstacles


Playable characters

Non-playable characters



The world map of the Zones across South Island.

Sonic the Hedgehog consists of six Zones with three Acts each. The first two Acts involving standard platforming, while the third is a shorter one followed by a boss battle with Dr. Robotnik. The third Act also does not contain any Rings. After beating a boss, the player has to open the Metal Cage to free Animals inside and move onto the next Zone. Along with familiar Zones from the 16-bit version, this game features new ones too:

  1. Green Hill Zone
  2. Bridge Zone
  3. Jungle Zone
  4. Labyrinth Zone
  5. Scrap Brain Zone
  6. Sky Base Zone

Special Stages

The Special Stages are extra levels that can be accessed by passing Bonus Panels with at least 50 Rings. Since the Chaos Emeralds are not found here, Special Stages in this game serve as bonus stages for collecting Rings for extra lives and Continues under a strict time limit. These Stages take place in huge rooms with large amounts of Rings and bouncing gimmicks everywhere, like Bumpers, Springs, Flippers and pillars.


Sega's former freelance composer Yuzo Koshiro composed the original chiptune music of Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as rearranging the variations of Masato Nakamura's original music tracks from the original 16-bit game. Nakamura is credited as the sound producer of this game.

Though it is unknown whatever is accurate, few of Yuzo Koshiro's composed tracks have been sampled for unrelated music singles, such as the background music of Bridge Zone for the 1997 single "Together Again" from Janet Jackson[3][4] and the Jungle Zone's track for the single "Accidentally Kelly Street" from the Australian folk-pop group Frente! in 1992.[4]


Like the 16-bit counterpart, the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog received positive reviews from gaming journalists and magazines during its release. The December 1991 issue of Computer and Video Games give a claim for the game's speed, gameplay and graphical detail, but noting the game for being too easy.[5] Similarly, the December 1991 issue of Mean Machines praised the game for its graphics, the speed and being favorably comparable to the Sega Genesis version.[6] In March 1992 issue of GamePro, the game is praised for its speed and graphics as well.[7]

The 2013 re-release of the game received 8 out of 10 score from NintendoLife, praising its tight controls, a great sense of speed and plenty of personality, while concluding the review by stating the game as "a speedy, smile-inducing classic".[8] IGN wrote that although it was not as visually appealing, fast, or as ambitious as its 16-bit predecessor, the 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog was still a competent game in its own right with unique level designs that managed to retain the feel of the original.[9] GameSpy, reviewing Sonic Mega Collection Plus, felt the 8-bit Sonic and Sonic Chaos were the series' only Game Gear installments worth playing.[10]

Sonic the Hedgehog also received the fourth place on GamesRadar's "Best Sega Game Gear games of all time" list, which stated that "Speed isn’t what it would become in Sonic’s later adventures, but your reflexes will still be tested in later levels; surely a little space to get up to speed is forgivable, after all." [11]


Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Mobile.

Like many later Master System and Game Gear games, Sonic the Hedgehog has been featured on numerous re-releases and completion titles. The Game Gear version is a mini-game in Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut for the Nintendo GameCube and PC which can be unlocked by completing the first 20 missions or collecting 20 Emblems. In the same year, the Game Gear version was ported into the Palm OS phones like Palm Tungsten C, Tungsten T, and Zire 71 under the Sega Mobile. The Game Gear version was yet again released in 2004 on the compilation game Sonic Mega Collection Plus. In 2008, the Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog appeared in the officially licensed Tectoy's plug and play console "Tectoy Master System 3" and was re-released on the Virtual Console for the Wii for the price of 500 points. In 2013, the Game Gear version was re-released on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS for the price of 300 points.[12] In 2020, the Game Gear version was included in the black Game Gear Micro.

Master System and Game Gear differences

Both Master System and Game Gear versions of the game are the same with differences related to hardware limitations. These include:

  • The Game Gear version uses a Sega screen with a jumping Sonic sprite, where the Master System version lacks a Sega screen, as one is already provided by the Master System's BIOS.
  • Since the Game Gear has a smaller screen resolution but variable yet generally increased color palette, the game was given a narrower screen. In response to this, Sonic was given a smaller sprite, and his control was made a bit tighter.
  • There are minor graphical changes in Green Hill Zone. One of the totem pole faces was removed from the Game Gear version, but the flowers look like their 16-bit counterparts and there are warning signs in certain areas due to the narrow screen and game momentum.
  • In the Game Gear version, the Special Stages had a makeover - specifically, all the sprites are now the same color. This is in contrast to the Master System version, where each color indicates a different bouncing height.
  • In the Game Gear version, Jungle Zone Act 2 allowed for vertical descent without losing a life, which made the Zone easier. Labyrinth Zone's level design was largely redone, with its Chaos Emerald relocated.
  • Two bosses were heavily modified for the Game Gear version - most notably, the boss of Bridge Zone appears on a tricky curvy bridge rather than between two-level terrains with an island in the middle. The final boss in Sky Base Zone Act 3 also had its defense mechanism changed entirely and does not enter a "panic" mode. In addition, each boss is fought in more compact arenas due to the screen size, resulting in every other boss being lowered.
  • The Master System version of the ending credits differs with the alternative text ("Game Program" and "Sound Produce") and includes extra credit for the original character design.


  • Original character design: ©Sega
  • Game programmer: Shinobu "Pinbot" Hayashi
  • Graphic designer: Ayano Koshiro, Takefuni Yunoue
  • Sound producer: Masato Nakamura
  • Rearranging and original music: Yuzo Koshiro
  • Special thanks: Yoshio Y, Lunarian SG
  • Presented by: Sega


  • Sonic the Hedgehog is the only Sonic game released for the Sega Master System in North America. Later Sonic-themed titles would be released on the Game Gear and programmed as ports for the Master System, that are only released in Europe, South America and South Africa.
  • Unusual for 2D game installments, water sections in Green Hill Zone Act 2 and Jungle Zone Act 1 occur differently, as the function of water is to slow and slip Sonic, and he is in no actual danger of drowning. However, this is the exception in the first two Acts in Labyrinth Zone.
  • Despite the box artwork for the Sega Master System version depicting Sonic inside a loop in the Green Hill Zone, there are no loops in this game, something which would be added in the Master System/Game Gear version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
  • This is one of two games, along with Sonic Blast in Master System and Game Gear line, where Robotnik appears as a boss in each Zone of the game, as since Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Robotnik sends off Master Robots or larger Badniks to serve as bosses.
  • What the Chaos Emeralds exactly do in the good endings differ between the 16-bit and 8-bit games. In the 16-bit game, they are just shown circling Sonic in Green Hill Zone, then vanish as new plant life comes into existence. In the 8-bit game, they are more clearly surrounding the entirety of South Island, then ridding it of its pollution as they disappear.
  • Coincidentally, parts of the main melody for the Bridge Zone is known to sound eerily similar to what can be heard from the beginning of "Believe In Myself," Tails' theme song in Sonic Adventure.
    • Similarly, the music for Savannah Citadel, a stage in Sonic Unleashed, also has a familiar-sounding melody in comparison to the ending credits theme from this game.
  • Unlike its 16-bit counterpart and later Game Gear Sonic the Hedgehog games, there is no dedicated jingle that plays when the player gets a Game Over.
  • Green Hill Zone, Labyrinth Zone, and Scrap Brain are the only Sonic stages that previously appeared in the 16 bit version of the game.



Sonic the Hedgehog Game Gear Commercial (1991)


SEGA タカハシの旅はゲームギア 92年春CM


  1. Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear) Japanese instruction manual pgs. 4-5.
  2. Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear) North American instruction manual pg. 3.
  3. Yuzo Koshiro (Sonic the Hedgehog). Sample Happy. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved on 1 November 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Music Box: Hey, That Sounds Familiar. Gameaxis Online. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved on 1 November 2015.
  5. Rignall, Julian; Boone, Tim (December 1991). Review: Sonic the Hedgehog.
  6. Leadbetter, Richard; Rignall, Julian (December 1991). Review: Sonic the Hedgehog. International Data Group.
  7. Earth, Angel (March 1992). Pro Review - Sonic the Hedgehog. pp. 57–58.
  8. Sleeper, Morgan (15 June 2013). Review: Sonic the Hedgehog (3DS eShop / GG). NintendoLife. Retrieved on 1 November 2015.
  9. M. Thomas, Lucas (4 August 2008). Sonic the Hedgehog (Master System Version) Review. ÍGN. Retrieved on 19 January 2019.
  10. Baker, Chris (1 November 2004). Sonic Mega Collection Plus (PS2). Gamespy. Retrieved on 19 January 2019.
  11. Best Sega Game Gear games of all time. GamesRadar (6 March 2014). Retrieved on 1 November 2015.
  12. Four New Game Gear Titles for the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Sega Blogs. Sega (13 June 2013). Archived from the original on 18 June 2013. Retrieved on 1 November 2014.

External links

Sonic the Hedgehog handheld games