Sonic the Hedgehog is called many different things, but absolutely nobody should call it stingy. When it comes to Sonic games it’s almost impossible to not have access to any of the myriad of different games in the classic series. This is due to the many different re-releases, ports, reboots, and remakes that publisher Sega has sprinkled on different consoles and PC hardward over the generations. However, there is one game that has seen more ports than any others in the franchise combined.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog, or Sonic 1991, has been thrown onto just about every system you can remember. That isn’t limited to just game consoles, either! No, Sonic the Hedgehog has been playable on phones, MP3 players, arcade cabinets, and quite possibly even certain refrigerators at this point. Well, today we’ll be taking a look at a few of the most notable ports of this classic that got the spinball rolling — then rank them from best to worst. Why not worst to best? Because there’s no fun in seeing all the truly weird stuff first.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2013 (IOS and Android)
In 2013, Sonic the Hedgehog was remastered by series hero Christain Whitehead: an independent developer behind just about the absolute best ports of different classic Sonic games. Among those ports is Sonic the Hedgehog 2013, a new version of the game exclusive to smart phones.
This version of the Sega classic retroactively introduced many mainstay features — such as the spindash, playable characters Knuckles and Tails, a controllable partner that allowed for the team flight ability introduced in the Sonic 3 co-op mode, time attack mode, a new special stage, title screen changes, super transformations (due to the implementation of all seven Chaos Emeralds), and other quality of life changes. It’s was a lot. Since its release, this version of Sonic has become the definitive entry. Not bad for a phone game!
SEGA Ages: Sonic the Hedgehog
Sega Ages runs similarly to the 2013 release of the game. However, it lacks much of the additional content. One thing this game did add, alongside the spindash, was the drop dash, first introduced in Sonic Mania (a more recent Whitehead project). Sega Ages also brought back the “ring keeper mode” from 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2, a 3DS port, where players started each level with 10 rings and only lost half of them when hit.
One surprising addition to this port was the inclusion of the Mega Play arcade version of Sonic 1991. This was the first time the arcade port was recreated digitally. A port of a port on a port.
3D Sonic the Hedgehog
3D Sonic the Hedgehog is a port of the classic game released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013. This version of the game served as the base for the superior Sega Ages edition. Besides the 3D gimmick, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog added a few features, such as options to play the Japanese or international version of the game, an instantly accessible level select, filters, different sound options, customizable controls, and the spindash. This is also the only version that allows Sonic to be hurt when doing his signature spindash charge.
Sonic Jam’s Sonic 1991
Sonic Jam may only be remembered for including a glorified Sonic Adventure tech demo as a hub world. Yet it also hosted one of the best ports of Sonic the Hedgehog. This port was basically the Japanese revision of the game, which removed the spike bug (an error that occurred when Sonic landed on a bed of spikes and was knocked back to another bed with no invincibility frames), and added in more stage details and effects. It also gave Sonic access to the spindash. Sonic Jam’s port of Sonic the Hedgehog is also the only port of the game to implement the lost graphic of Sonic leaving skid marks behind when he stops during a run. While it does many things right, this version of the game can run into slowdown issues not previously seen in the original.
Mega Play Arcade
I bet a lot of you had no clue that Sonic the Hedgehog appeared in arcades. Well, back in 1991, Sega developed an arcade board capable of running Genesis/Mega Drive games in an odd attempt to bring the home console experience to arcades. Of course, Sega’s mascot had to make an appearance on such an artifact.
Mega Play Arcade Sonic the Hedgehog is just about the same exact game as its home console father. Besides the removing the continue system in favor of credits, the biggest change was the complete omission of Marble Zone and Special Stages, along with the removal of Act 3 from Labyrinth and Scrap Brain Zone’s . Funnily enough, these stages are some of the least-liked portions of the original game. Depending on how much of a purist you are, this might be the best version of Sonic the Hedgehog yet!
Sonic the Hedgehog, the Mega Drive Re-Release Saga
Yup, Sega didn’t even wait until the death of Sonic’s debut console before it started with the re-releases. In fact, the Sega Megadrive received four different versions of Sonic’s first adventure across three different compilation titles packed with other Genesis games, plus a re-release with the “Sega Classics” logo. These ports packaged were the US and UK versions — which featured the spike bug and fewer stage details.
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Sonic the Hedgehog: Classic iPod
The fifth gen iPod, iPod Classic, and iPod Nano also received ports of Sonic the Hedgehog. This shared version was basically a beat-for-beat recreation of the original, but added a tutorial, auto-saves, unlimited continues, a pause menu complete with options, and loading screens between levels.
One thing that makes this a worse version of the game is the control scheme. The iPod’s click wheel was used to move while the center button was used to jump. A huge oversight was having to hold the play button to crouch… which put the iPod into sleep mode. Otherwise it’s a good port only hurt by a horrible control scheme. At the time, you just couldn’t beat the novelty of having a true classic game on your MP3 player.
Dreamcast’s Sega Smash Pack
Before Sega bowed out of the console realm, it first decided to release the Sega Smash Pack, a compilation of the company’s most well-received games for Dreamcast owners. This game ended up being a critical disaster, however, due to pretty bad sound and performance.
iOS Sonic 2009
After his initial appearance on classic iPod products, Sonic returned to a then-new, fully touchscreen iPod. This was also the beginning of the plague of touchscreen controls on phone ports of classic platformers. And it was rocky then as it is today. This emulated port was also full of bad audio and slowdown.
Sonic Cafe’s Sonic Mobile
Sonic’s earliest venture into the cellphone world was with Sega’s mobile phone service, Sonic Cafe, where subscribers could pay a monthly fee to download from a library of games as they pleased. While this service was exclusive to Japan, a few of the games actually made it out to US and UK phones as well.
One of those games was Sonic Mobile: a mobile phone port of the original Sonic the Hedgehog. And it runs and looks just like you’d expect a Genesis port to an ancient mobile phone would. One thing exclusive to this port was that, depending on your service provider, you might have had to download the game in two parts. Part one of this port included just the first three zones; part two contained the rest. It also removed special stages, awarding the player with a Chaos Emerald for simply jumping into the level entrance. While the game also received minor graphical changes, it was further made easier with a save system, infinite continues, and the removal of certain enemies — such as the Star Light Zone boss.
Verizon and AT&T Sonic Mobile
Sonic Mobile was soon ported to Verizon and AT&T phones with a much lesser-known version. It plays exactly like Sonic Mobile, but… for some reason… each and every sound effect was removed. The reason for the removal was never stated.
The worst and most critically panned port of Sonic the Hedgehog was also part of Sonic’s most cursed year ever (when the cartoon hero infamously kissed a human woman). Sonic Genesis released in 2006 as a part of the franchise’s 15th anniversary. This Game Boy Advance celebration of the game that put the Blue Blur on the map did just about everything wrong imagineable.
The game is a sin in the world of screen crunched games, thanks to visual real estate being shrunk to fit the GBA. It outright hides various deadly obstacles from the player, resulting in many unfair deaths. The gameplay and music desync seemingly at random and lag is more abundant than fun. The game even somehow ruins the physics and music that made the original so well-loved. Somehow the final Sonic game for the GBA was also the absolute worst.
In a way, these many ports of Sonic’s first jump into the world of gaming symbolize his complete history. He has very high highs, and hellishly low lows, but he always somehow bounces back — keeping his spiky blue butt in the hearts of fans and haters everywhere