The speedy blue blur has been an iconic video game mascot for over 25 years, and for us veterans of the '90s console war who pledged our allegiance to the Sega Genesis, Sonic was the coolest dude in gamesville.
1. Sonic the Hedgehog Was Almost Feel The Rabbit
Before taking on the prickly form we all know and love, Sonic was almost a rabbit called Feel. Feel the rabbit would pick things up with his prehensile ears and then throw them at enemies.
But this mechanic proved too complicated to implement without slowing down the game's pace, and Sega would ditch the unfortunately-named Feel in favor of a 'rolling' animal that could weaponize its body. The choice came down to a hedgehog and armadillo, and we're glad to say Sega made the right call.
Feel's gripping and throwing mechanics were eventually repurposed for another classic Genesis platformer, Ristar.
2. Actually, He Could Have Been A Whole Bunch Of Things...
Sega were big on crowdsourcing ideas from their employees. They had great success doing this for their company song, and they also held an internal competition to design the next superstar mascot that would lead the charge against Nintendo's plucky plumber.
Although Feel the Rabbit was a serious contender, some of the other characters, like the guy in Mario-esque overalls, and that patriotic wolf, are even more dubious. The winning hedgehog design was done by artist Naoto Oshima, but the name came a little later.
3. One Of Which Actually Became His Arch-Enemy
The mustachioed pajama-man up there was actually intended to be the protagonist of Sega's new platformer, but after settling on the hedgehog design, this rejected character concept was revived for the recognizable villain, Dr. Eggman a.k.a. Robotnik.
4. Sonic Wasn't Always Called Sonic
Even after Sega settled on Naoto Ohshima's Hedgehog, they went with a rather sinister-sounding moniker to begin with: Mr. Needlemouse, which sounds like someone trying to come up with a name for the animal from scratch. (Needlemouse would be re-appropriated as the code name for the later game Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I during its development in 2009).
5. Sonic's Color Scheme Comes From A Lab Accident...And Marketing
According to game lore, Sonic was originally a brown hedgehog of regular ambulatory locomotion, but he gets his blue color and supersonic speed from a lab accident.
Of course, in the real world, blue was the go-to color for Sega because it nicely matched their logo. Nice work staying on-brand.
6. Sonic Originally Had A Human Girlfriend
Yep. A human woman girlfriend for our perpetually 15-year-old hedgehog hero. A human girlfriend called...Madonna. This concept art shows a clearly ill-advised mismatch of both species and size that Sega thankfully decided to ditch because Mario had already done the whole damsel in distress plot, and also because they deemed Madonna a little too racy for their young target audience.
7. Sonic Is Suicidal
What is Sonic really running from? In Sonic CD, if you've leave our hero idly pondering the meaninglessness of existence for over three minutes, he'll commit suicide by jumping off the stage. Is he upset that Sega took Madonna away from him?
And that's not the only seriously dark secret in that game...
8. There's A Message From The Devil Hidden In Sonic CD
Sega's anti-piracy software in Sonic CD would show offenders the following screen, which reads: 'Infinitely fun. Sega Enterprises. Signed Majin.' Majin can be translated as 'devil' in English. Those distorted sonic faces, accompanied by creepy music along with an ominous laugh, sure makes it seem like Sega had decided to combat piracy with threats of eternal damnation.
9. Sonic Can't Swim Because Of A Mistake By The Designer
Any Sonic player knows how incredibly frustrating it is that our main dude dies so easily when immersed in water. Sonic can't swim and has to hunt for air bubbles in order to navigate those infuriating water levels.
Hedgehogs are actually great swimmers! Check out the vid below:
A lot of trouble could've been saved if Sega had bothered to do some research though. Legendary developer Yuji Naka actually believed that hedgehogs couldn't swim in real life, but as a matter of fact they're pretty good at it!
10. His First Appearance Wasn't Even In A Sonic Game
Before the release of the first Sonic the Hedgehog our boy in blue could be seen dangling from a rear-view mirror as an air freshener in Sega's coin-operated arcade racer Rad Mobile. I like to think he'd appreciate this cameo in a game about going fast.
11. Rumor Has It That Michael Jackson Composed The Music For Sonic 3
For a while it was popular for rock and pop superstars to get involved in the video game business, and Michael Jackson had already collaborated with Sega in their advertising campaigns. There's evidence that Michael Jackson composed a lot of the music for Sonic 3, but apparently disappointed with the sound quality the King of Pop declined to put his name to the game.
12. The Original Game's Soundtrack Was Performed By A Famous Japanese Band
MJ might have passed on the opportunity to lend his name to Sonic, but the soundtracks for the original game are a pretty big deal in Japan. Sonic the Hedgehog and its sequel were scored entirely by the Japanese pop trio Dreams Come True, who went on to provide music for films including Sleepless in Seattle and the animated film The Swan Princess.
13. Sonic the Hedgehog was released in the U.S. before Japan
In a break with standard procedure, the first Sonic game actually made its debut in the west before coming out in Japan. This was because the character had been so carefully crafted to appeal to a North American audience. But Sega of America had serious doubts about Sonic's success for one weird reason...
14. Sega of America believed that Sonic the Hedgehog would fail because Americans "had never even heard" of a hedgehog
Yep. Apparently Sega's American branch didn't have a whole load of faith in their audience to put their trust in an animal not native to their continent. Good thing they pushed ahead though, because American kids loved him to bits.
15. Sonic Was The First Video Game Character To Float At The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Sonic made history back in 1993 by being the first video game character to have a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (suck it, Mario). Unfortunately, he was also the first video game character to have a balloon pop in the Parade. Sonic hasn't let that break his spirit though, and has made repeat appearances at the event since.
Fans Still Can't Get Enough Of Sonic's Side-Scrolling Superspeed
25 years since the release of the first game, Sonic's star may have faded somewhat when compared to his old rival Mario, but as it turns out the era of classic Sonic platforms isn't over yet.
Check out the trailer for Sonic Mania, a new 2D Sonic platformer coming in 2017:
That's right, our spiky blue racer is coming back to the format that made him famous in the first place. One thing's for sure, I'll bet Mr. Needlemouse wouldn't quite have managed a comeback like this.
What's your favorite Sonic The Hedgehog game?