The beloved Sonic the Hedgehog games, first released by SEGA in 1991, pleased millions of people worldwide and has become one of the longest (and second best-selling) game franchises in history with it’s latest game release being in 2015.
The Sonic the Hedgehog games are responsible for turning SEGA into the leading video game company in the early 16-bit era. With the first Sonic game being insanely popular and originally selling more than 15 million copies, the franchise continued on and still produces some great Sonic the Hedgehog games.
Disclaimer: I will not be talking about the spin-off Sonic the Hedgehog games such as Sonic Pinball, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (despite this title selling tremendously well compared to other Sonic games), Sonic Battle and so on.
Original Sonic the Hedgehog games (1, 2, 3)
The original Sonic the Hedgehog game released on the Mega Drive/Genesis on June 23rd, 1991 and later also became available on other consoles like the Game Boy Advance in 1996, and the Nintendo 3DS and mobile phones late 2013. This little gem of a game obviously had some faults and issues but the graphics were insanely good for its time.
What made the original Sonic game so special was that it featured a speed and momentum mechanic (which at the time was pretty impressive). You had to be going fast in order to reach the top of the hill you were trying to climb otherwise you would simply slide or fall back down. At the time Sonic was all about speed, going fast and slashing through enemies at top speed was what brought us countless hours of joy. SEGA really set the bar high and everyone else was expected to produce the same kind of quality content in their upcoming video games. SEGA managed to keep their reputation for the next few games, with new franchise releases being Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Released 1992, October 16th) and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Released 1994 February 2nd). But unfortunately, the games did seem to lose their grip and sales started to decline (or stabilise).
Sonic Heroes (2003)
Jumping forward in time, SEGA published a new Sonic the Hedgehog game which was titled Sonic Heroes. Released late 2003, Sonic Heroes was a bit of a stumble for long time Sonic fans. Sonic Heroes didn’t really focus on speeding through levels anymore like it used to. Instead, its focus is lay on combat where you had to attack enemies and switch between characters to make sure you didn’t die.
With Sonic’s core mechanics focusing more on stopping and killing enemies without any way of being able to keep to the old play style where you raced through levels at high speed, was a real disappointment for many fans and it made it feel like the franchise was heading in a direction we didn’t want to go. Yeah, the game may have had alright graphics, but it just didn’t feel like a Sonic game anymore. Every time you had a bit of speed you would get stopped by some random block that was in your way. In order to break it, you had to stop and change characters.
Sonic Colors (2010)
The next release I think was important was Sonic Colors, which released 2010 November 11th for the Wii and Nintendo DS. Sonic Colors managed to somewhat revive the franchise from where it was buried so deep in the ground. First of all, Sonic Colors actually once again lays more focus on what made Sonic so great, speed! Not only that, but it also had vibrant HD graphics that were a delight to your eyes. The only thing it lacked was perhaps a story.
Sonic Colors has sold around 2.18 million copies since its release which is slightly less than some of the less important games of the franchise (Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games for example, which sold over 10+ million copies worldwide and even earned a spot in the Guinness World Records as the “Best-selling gaming character cross-over”).
For better or worse?
Sonic The Hedgehog had it’s ups and downs and perhaps even an identity crisis at some point but with new fans coming in and the world of gaming changing drastically over time it’s safe to say that the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is still loved despite some titles performing terribly compared to others.
The whole franchise has sold around 335 million copies in its lifetime and is currently the second best-selling video game franchise of all time. The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is currently only outperformed by the Mario franchise which sits at an impressive 528 million sales (that was to be expected, right?).
Sonic Dash, which released in 2013 and built in Unity (a free game engine) has been downloaded over 100 million times with an average of 14 million monthly players. To put that in perspective, the original Sonic the Hedgehog game from 1991 sold 15 million times and most Sonic games sell around 1-3 million copies with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games being the exception. Keep in mind that Sonic Dash is a free to play game which probably also helped get the game downloaded so many times.