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Sonic News Network
Sonic News Network

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, also known as Sonic Spinball (ソニックスピンボール Sonikku Supinbōru?), is the first adventure/pinball game released for the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It was originally released for the Sega Mega Drive in 1993.


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

The title screen for Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball.

Dr. Robotnik has assumed control of the volcanic mountain of Mount Mobius, and built the gigantic Veg-O-Fortress there in order to establish his plans of conquering Planet Mobius. He has also kidnapped thousands of Animals to transform them into Badniks with his Veg-O Machine inside the fortress. Aware that Mount Mobius is an active volcano however, Robotnik has used Chaos Emeralds to keep the mountain stable. The Emeralds themselves are also protected by a "Pinball Defense System" Robotnik has established inside his fortress.[1]

Eventually, Sonic the Hedgehog and Miles "Tails" Prower try to attack the Veg-O-Fortress with their airplane, only for Sonic to get knocked off the wings of the airplane by a blast from the fortress. He falls into the water, but is rescued in the last moment by his animal friends. As such, he manages to make his way into the Toxic Caves, the lowest point of the Veg-O-Fortress. Afterward, Sonic goes on a hunt for the Chaos Emeralds in order to destabilize Mount Mobius and destroy the Veg-O-Fortress. After Sonic succeeds in making the Veg-O-Fortress crumble, Dr. Robotnik tries to escape in his rocket ship, only for Sonic to invade it and defeat the doctor onboard it, destroying his ship. With both Sonic and Robotnik falling from the sky, Sonic is saved by Tails with the latter's airplane, while Robotnik falls into the crumbling Veg-O-Fortress as it sinks into the sea.


Sonic in Toxic Caves, the first level in the game.

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is a 2D side-scroller pinball-themed game where the player must guide Sonic (who assumes the role of the "ball") through several levels. While Sonic is curled into a ball, the player can use flippers to launch Sonic upward and/or across the respective levels. When Sonic is not curled into a ball, his moveset resembles that from the main titles in the Sonic games; in addition to being able to walk around on the floors of the pinball table-based levels, Sonic can also jump, duck, and perform the Super Spin Dash.

Throughout the game, the player's objective is to collect Chaos Emeralds, which are hidden around the levels. Each level has a different amount of Emeralds to collect. Their collection is obligatory, as collecting them all lets the player fight the boss of the level and progress with the game. Each Emerald is required to be collected in different ways though.

Like other Sonic games, Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball features a lives system. However, the player cannot take conventional damage throughout the game; Sonic can only die if he falls off a level's pinball table. If Sonic dies, the player will be able to continue playing at the cost of a life. Losing all lives will result in a Game Over. Various actions in the game (such as collecting Rings or destroying Badniks) reward the player with a determinate amount of points. Collecting twenty million points will grant the player an additional life.

The Status Strip[2] is an unique feature that appears in Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball. It is basically a dark blue notification bar located on the top part of the HUD. In gameplay, it gives the player useful information about their progress. Depending of what the player does, the Status Strip may give them the following pieces of information:

  • Player Number and Lives: Shows which player is playing, their current level, their points, and lives.[2]
  • Emeralds: Shows how many Chaos Emeralds the player needs to snag in a level. It also shows the player's progress while trying to find an Emerald.[2]
  • Urgent Orders: Tells the player to hit a target nearby. It also warns about a dangerous event that is about to happen.[2]
  • Loop Successes: Shows how many loops the player has completed.[2]
  • Score Update: Shows the player's current score.[2]
  • End Totals and Bonuses: Totes up the player's score, loops, Rings and time at the end of a level.[2]
  • Sonic Status: Notifies that the player has lost a life. If the player does not have any lives left, the Status Strip will tell the player that they have received a Game Over.[2]


Button formation Movement
Sonic Pinball
Controlpadds.png left/right Move left/right
Controlpadds.png up Look Up N/A
Controlpadds.png down Duck
A Button (Sega Genesis).svg Jump Tilt left Flippers
B Button (Sega Genesis).svg Tilt right Flippers
C Button (Sega Genesis).svg Tilt both Flippers
Controlpadds.png down + A Button (Sega Genesis).svg/B Button (Sega Genesis).svg/C Button (Sega Genesis).svg Super Spin Dash N/A
A Button (Sega Genesis).svg + B Button (Sega Genesis).svg + C Button (Sega Genesis).svg N/A Shake (Bonus Stages)



Gimmicks and obstacles


Playable characters

Non-playable characters



  1. Scorpius (Toxic Caves)
  2. Roboiler (Lava Powerhouse)
  3. Veg-O Machine (The Machine)
  4. Robotnik's Ship (Showdown)


Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball consists in four levels, where the player's main goal is to find a certain number of Chaos Emeralds in order to advance. Doing so will allow the player to enter a boss room where they will fight the boss of that level. The levels are:

  1. Toxic Caves: A stinky cavern full of toxic sludge and mine carts. There are three Chaos Emeralds to collect here.
  2. Lava Powerhouse: A power station of sorts that uses magma and steam energy to run various machines. There are three Chaos Emeralds here.
  3. The Machine: A high-tech level where Animals are robotized. Five Chaos Emeralds must be found here.
  4. Showdown: A rocket ship Dr. Robotnik tries to use to escape. There are five Chaos Emeralds here.

Bonus Stages

A Bonus Round.

At the end of each of the first three stages, Sonic gets to play a Bonus Round. They are set up like real pinball machines, with Sonic at the controls. The player is given a task to complete and three balls to play with. Flipper controls are the same as in the normal game, but the ball cannot be controlled with the D-pad like Sonic. Pressing all the flipper buttons at once will make Sonic shake the machine, though repeated shakes will cause a 'tilt' and lock the flippers.

Completing the Bonus Rounds are optional, as they only serve to increase the player's score.

Other modes


The Options menu in Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball.

Options is the settings menu for Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball which holds the following options:

  • Mode: Select one to four players. All players will take turns controlling Control Pad 1.
  • Speed: Choose a Normal or Fast game.
  • Music: Turn the game's music ON or OFF.
  • Flippers: Choose one's desired settings for buttons A Button (Sega Genesis).svg, B Button (Sega Genesis).svg and C Button (Sega Genesis).svg.


Because of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 being a commercial success for the Sega Mega Drive in 1992, Sega wanted a Sonic game to be released in the console in 1993 as well. After realizing that Sonic Team in Japan was busy making Sonic the Hedgehog 3, which would not be released until 1994, Sega of America tasked the Sega Technical Institute, the team that developed Sonic the Hedgehog 2, to make a Sonic game that could be published during the 1993 holiday season.[3][4]

Based upon research from Sega, the crew came to the conclusion that Casino Night Zone was considered one of the best Zones in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. This gave developer Peter Morawiec the idea of making a pinball-styled game, combining the Commodore Amiga game Pinball Dreams with Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay mechanics. Collaborating with three colleagues, Morawiec designed basic animations depicting Sonic as a pinball ball. The project was eventually approved after the animations had been demonstrated to Sega's senior management.[3]

Sega tasked the developers to complete the game in time for the 1993 holiday season, which was considered a "tight" schedule for a game that would capitalize on the series' popularity in North America according to Morawiec. In an attempt to speed up production, Sega sent Japanese staff to help with the project, including Sonic the Hedgehog artist Katsuhiko Sato. However, the game was still not predicted to be finished in time. Because of this, the developer team had to change the production code for the game from assembly to C to accelerate development. This was considered an atypical approach for the Sega Mega Drive, and it caused several frame rate and optimization problems.[5][3] Despite this, the team managed to polish and complete the game within a month.[3]


Immediately before Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball was released, the developer team was informed that Sega did not own the rights to the theme music for the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Later, Hirokazu Yasuhara, the lead designer on Sonic Team, explained that the music was owned by Japanese band Dreams Come True, whose songwriter Masato Nakamura composed the soundtrack for the first two Sonic main titles. As such, Morawiec tasked lead composer Howard Drossin to write a new theme within two hours.[3]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 61.00%[6]
Metacritic 68% (iOS)[7]
Review scores
Publication Score
Computer and Video Games 73%[8]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 7/10[9]
Eurogamer 4/10 (Wii)[10]
GamePro 7/10[11]
GameSpot 6.1/10 (Wii)[12]
IGN 7.5/10 (Wii)[13]
Mean Machines Sega 81%[14]
Nintendo Life 4/10 (Wii)[15]
Sega Power 90%[16] 15/20[17]
Entertainment Weekly C[18]

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball received mixed reviews from critics, holding a score of 61.00% at the video game review aggregator GameRankings.[6]

The visuals of the game were praised.[9][13][17] A reviewer from Electronic Gaming Monthly thought that the game set inside "a pinball machine" was a novel idea, and also labelled the game's visuals, music, and sound effects as "top notch".[9] In the same review however, another reviewer thought that the graphics were not as "sharp" as other Sonic the Hedgehog titles, and also thought the sound was unimpressive.[9] In a retrospective review, Lucas Thomas from IGN said that the visuals "matched those from other Sonic games on the Genesis", and felt that the Bonus Rounds were visually distinct and well-done.[13] A reviewer from thought that the graphics were "generally good", but also felt that there were other visually superior Genesis games.[17] In a similar vein, William Avery of GameSpot noticed that the game contained some slowdown.[19] Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead criticized the game's sluggish frame rate and slowdown that occurred when "things threaten to get hectic" in-game, noting that it suffered from "the old Mega Drive problem".[10]

Several other aspects of the game, especially the controls and physics, received mixed criticism.[10][13][18][11] A reviewer from GamePro criticized the control configuration and felt that the game was a mediocre example of a pinball game, but admitted that it had a similar feel to previous Sonic the Hedgehog titles.[11]'s reviewer enjoyed how Sonic himself acted as a pinball ball, but noticed that the controls were less precise and responsive when compared to other platformers.[17] Dan Whitehead said that the game's controls were "muddled by the half-and-half approach", and criticized the "clunky" game engine, saying that the game's control scheme ruined the pinball environments.[10] Thomas stated that "there are aspects of the control that could have been tighter, and its difficulty level may be a bit too extreme for new players."[13] Damien McFarren from NintendoLife said that the game comes across as both a poor platformer and a poor pinball game due to its unconvincing ball physics and frustrating platform elements.[15] Bob Strauss of Entertainment Weekly felt that the game initially boasted a terrific concept, but had an ultimately flawed execution, saying that Sonic, acting as a pinball, often moved like a "leaden marble".[18] Rich Leadbetter from Mean Machines Sega criticized the game's lack of replay value, saying that despite its addictive gameplay, the four levels were not enough, especially given the price.[14]


The front cover of Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog issue 6.

The Sonic the Hedgehog comic series published by Archie Comics made an adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball in issue 6. The story covered the first two levels of the game, and several elements are also reused here.


Image Game Platform Description
Sega Smash Pack.jpg Sega Smash Pack PC Released in a compilation of other Sega Mega Drive games in 2002.
Sonic Mega Collection cover artwork.jpg Sonic Mega Collection Nintendo GameCube Released in a compilation of other Sega Mega Drive games in 2002.
Sega Smash Pack (GBA).jpg Sega Smash Pack Game Boy Advance Released in a compilation of other Sega Mega Drive games in 2002.
SonicMegaCollectionPlus.png Sonic Mega Collection Plus PlayStation 2
Microsoft Windows
Released in a compilation of other Sega Mega Drive and Sega Game Gear games in 2004.
Gc sonic gems collection p o5pa9w.jpg Sonic Gems Collection Nintendo GameCube
PlayStation 2
Released in a compilation of other Sega Mega Drive and Sega Game Gear games in 2005.
Spinball Wii US.png Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball Wii Released for the Virtual Console in 2007.
PlaySEGALogo.jpg PlaySEGA Browser Made available for VIP users to play on a Sega browser game service, which launched in 2008.
SUGC boxart.jpg Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection Xbox 360
PlayStation 2
Released in a compilation of other Sega Mega Drive and Sega Master System games in 2009.
Steampicturespinball.png Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball Steam Released in 2010.
SonicSpinballAppStore.png Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball iOS Released in 2010, removed in 2015.[20]
SonicUltimateBundle.jpg Sonic the Hedgehog: Ultimate Bundle PC Released in a compilation of other Sonic games released for Steam in 2020.
Sonic-spinball-usa.png Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball Nintendo Switch Available with a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership, included in the Sega Genesis library in 2022.


  • The European version of the game has a faster intro theme and options theme, as well as faster background music for Lava Powerhouse.
  • The total Chaos Emerald count in Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is sixteen, as opposed to the standard set of seven. Also, all the gems are colored blue.
  • This marks the first and currently only appearance of the characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog television series in a Sonic game, and the first attempt to introduce them to Japanese markets.



  1. Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Sega Genesis) United States instruction booklet, pg. 2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Sega Genesis) United States instruction booklet, pgs. 10-11.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Machin, Cole (January 2011). "The Making of: Sonic Spinball". Retro Gamer (Imagine Publishing) (85): 37-39. Archived from the original. Retrieved on 30 January 2020.
  4. Retro Gamer staff (March 2007). "Company Profile: Sega Technical Institute". Retro Gamer (Imagine Publishing) (36): 30. Archived from the original. Retrieved on 22 March 2020.
  5. Horowitz, Ken (20 April 2007). Interview: Peter Morawiec (STI Programmer). Sega-16. Archived from the original on 15 March 2013. Retrieved on 30 January 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball for Genesis. GameRankings. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved on 11 February 2017.
  7. Sonic Spinball (iOS). Metacritic.
  8. Ahmet, Deniz (December 1993). "Review: Sonic Spinball". Computer and Video Games (145): 77. Archived from the original.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 EGM staff (March 1994). "Review Crew: Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball!". Electronic Gaming Monthly (Future plc) (53): 48. Archived from the original. Retrieved on 22 March 2020.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Whitehead (18 May 2007). Virtual Console Roundup. Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 4 September 2017. Retrieved on 13 February 2017.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 GamePro staff (September 1994). "ProReview: Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball". GamePro (IDG Entertainment) (62): 136. Archived from the original.
  12. Provo, Frank (19 March 2007). Sonic Spinball Review. GameSpot.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Thomas, Lucas M. (27 March 2007). Sonic Spinball VC review. IGN. Archived from the original on 10 September 2017. Retrieved on 4 February 2021.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Leadbetter, Rich (December 1993). "Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball review". Mean Machines Sega (EMAP) (14): 70–72, 109. Archived from the original. Retrieved on 21 October 2017.
  15. 15.0 15.1 McFarren, Damien (13 March 2007). Review: Sonic Spinball (Virtual Console / Sega Mega Drive). Nintendo Life. Archived from the original on 27 September 2017. Retrieved on 13 February 2017.
  16. Mortlock, Dean (December 1993). "Mega Drive Review: Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball". Sega Power (49): 95,96. Archived from the original.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Test Sonic Spinball sur MD (French). (29 January 2010). Archived from the original on 21 October 2017. Retrieved on 4 February 2021.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Strauss, Bob (11 February 1994). Sonic CD; Sonic Chaos; Sonic Spinball; Sonic 3. Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 21 October 2017. Retrieved on 4 February 2021.
  19. Score, Avery (2 November 2004). Sonic Mega Collection Plus Review. GameSpot. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved on 13 February 2017.
  20. SEGA Flips Sonic Spinball App into the App Store. IGN. Archived from the original on 18 February 2017.

External links

Sonic the Hedgehog spin-off games
Sonic the Hedgehog handheld games