The Sonic universe (ソニック, Sonic) refers to the Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties that hail from the world famous media franchise owned by Sega and centered on its company mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. This had been easily the most anticipated new franchise for inclusion in the Nintendo-based fighting game series and is considered the biggest "rival" franchise to Mario. Its logo is a silhouette of Sonic's head, similar to the logo of Sonic Team.
By 1988, Sega had released its 16-bit successor to the Sega Master System, the Mega Drive, worldwide. It was renamed as the Sega Genesis for its North American release due to Sega's inability to secure legal rights to the Mega Drive name in the region. Nintendo's flagship Mario franchise was at the height of its worldwide commercial success, with the recent release of Super Mario Bros. 3 in Japan, a week before the Mega Drive's launch, and both the North American releases of Nintendo's own 16-bit system, the Super Famicom, renamed as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and one of its launch titles, Super Mario World, would be released in mid-1991. Sega made a conscious effort to directly compete against Nintendo's powerful brand with a reliance on a new mascot for both the console and the company itself, one that would help sell systems and broaden its market demographic, and thus began development of its own platformer in April 1990 (two months after the North American release of Super Mario Bros. 3). The game placed an emphasis on horizontally-lengthy levels that could be navigated with a player-character that could run and roll through at a high velocity, with movements that were dictated by elements of momentum-based physics. The original concept for an emphasis on speed was that most video games in the 1980s did not have save files, and thus players would often memorize level patterns and attempt to speed through them as fast as possible to make any real progress. The screen scrolled as fast as it needed to keep up; it was a very technically difficult process to create the game's graphics engine so that it could allow this speed without sacrificing graphical clarity. The end result was the worldwide debut of the eponymous character Sonic the Hedgehog, whose game was released in June 23, 1991 in North America, 2 months ahead of the SNES's launch in the region.
The game Sonic the Hedgehog was both a critical and commercial success, and greatly increased the popularity of the Sega Genesis in North America, especially when it replaced Altered Beast as the game bundled with the console. This was done as part of the console's notable advertisement campaign led by then-CEO and president of Sega's American division, Tom Kalinske, despite the wishes of the company's Japanese division. As a result, the Genesis outsold the Super Nintendo nearly two-to-one during the 1991 holiday season in North America. The game, which would eventually sell 15 million copies and become the best-selling Genesis game in its lifespan, is credited as single-handedly changing the course of the 16-bit generation of video game consoles and providing a legitimate alternative to Mario in the eyes of many consumers, as well as influencing the development of various 2D video games in the following years (many of which were centered on their own mascots). For the first time since 1985, Nintendo was briefly overtaken as the leader in the console market. This subsequently gave way to one of the most notable video game rivalries in the industry's history, the fourth-generation "console wars" of Nintendo's SNES versus Sega's Genesis, which were symbolized to some degree by the image of Mario versus Sonic. The stiff competition between the two 16-bit consoles arguably stimulated both companies' stables of video game franchises, and also spawned some famous historical pieces of marketing; the SNES was technically superior in every specification, with the exception of its clock rate, and Sega capitalized on this by advertising how the Genesis had a "faster" speed in its games, but in place of reciting this technical difference in commercials, Sega marketed it under the name of "Blast Processing". The term itself originates from the DMA unit in the Genesis' VDP graphics processor's capability of "blasting" data to the latter and the DAC at high speeds, allowing for techniques used to great extent in Sonic games for the console, such as mid-frame palette swapping.
Sonic starred in many high-profile follow-ups, not just on Genesis, but on each of Sega's follow-up consoles and handhelds, in a similar pattern to Nintendo customarily releasing a game centered on or involving Mario at or near the launch of each of its own consoles or handhelds. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released in November 1992 and introduced a sidekick to Sonic named Miles “Tails” Prower. The sequel was regarded as a marked improvement over its predecessor and is regarded as one of the best games on the Genesis, while Sonic & Knuckles became the only Genesis game that could have another Genesis cartridge inserted onto the top of it (marketed as "Lock-On Technology"), and this was used to turn the game into a physical expansion of the previous game, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, when it was inserted (Sonic & Knuckles was supposed to be the second half of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, but schedule constraints forced Sonic Team to develop a separate game to wrap up the story). Both of these games were released in 1994 and put the spotlight on another new character, the titular Knuckles, as a direct rival for Sonic. Following the Genesis era, however, Sega's fortunes as a competitor in the console market began to buckle in as the company's Japanese division began to make a series of questionable decisions for its future hardware plans. Two expensive, separate add-ons were developed for the Genesis, the Sega CD and Sega 32X, and both failed to attain their own significant libraries and stretched the company's resources thin. What was intended to be the appropriate next-generation follow-up, the Sega Saturn, was made after Sega of Japan rejected a number of hardware plans for the Sega Saturn with other companies, which would later spawn the console's two main rivals, the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. The console was also infamously released four months earlier than anyone anticipated, including other game developers, in an attempt to gain an edge over Sony and its recent PlayStation console. However, the Sega Saturn, like its predecessor’s peripherals, failed to develop a substantial library of games, and the release of a Sonic game for the platform occurred considerably late in its lifespan. There were many other problems with the console as well, such as it being highly difficult to develop for, along with it competing with consoles with vastly more notable libraries, which ultimately resulted in its short lifespan and commercial failure. Despite Sonic continuing to star in games intended to sell these consoles, Sega had soured many on its own company brand too much, and while some Sonic titles during this period such as Sonic CD for the Sega CD and Knuckles' Chaotix for the Sega 32X are considered to be solid entries in the Sonic series, they were not enough to support Sega alone.
Sega's final console to be released, the Sega Dreamcast, was released in the West on September 9, 1999. As the first console of the sixth generation of video game hardware, it was widely hailed as ahead of its time, both technically and for its pioneering of online console gaming, and is retrospectively agreed to have been a much better-thought-out and executed system by Sega. The one out of its eighteen total launch titles that became the undisputed killer app for the console was Sonic Adventure, the first game in the series to feature free-roaming three-dimensional gameplay. It received glowing reviews for its successful transition of the fast Sonic style into three dimensions and became the best-selling Dreamcast game. But despite the console's financial success, Sega was in dire financial straits because of its failed hardware plans in previous years, and when the other high-profile consoles for the sixth generation were unveiled — the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube — Sega discontinued the Dreamcast in the West early March 2001, a year and a half after its launch, and withdrew from the console hardware business altogether and restructured itself as a third-party developer.
As a third-party developer, Sega was now in a position to release its titles for consoles that were formerly its competitors. The first releases of Sonic games on systems owned by Nintendo, its former archrival, were widely publicized; these included enhanced ports of both Sonic Adventure and its direct sequel on the Nintendo GameCube, as well as the Sonic Advance subseries on the Game Boy Advance. The Sonic franchise settled into a more stable release schedule, and the series continually branched out into a variety of genres for all of the competing platforms, though there were several releases that were met with notably mixed or negative reception; Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2006, was notorious for technical issues (resulting from it being rushed into the system's launch window, while also coinciding with the franchise's 15th anniversary), control problems, and a slant towards story and characterization that were negatively received as uncomfortably melodramatic, while Sonic Free Riders served to highlight control issues with the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360.
Nonetheless, there have also been commercially successful forays back into the series' platforming roots, particularly throughout the 2010s. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 releases on modern consoles' downloadable services in an episodic format starting in October 2010, albeit ending prematurely at Episode 2 due to both episodes' commercial failure. Sonic Colors was released exclusively on Nintendo hardware in November 2010, bringing the focus back to a simple lighthearted story premise and introducing new power-ups to the franchise known as “Wisps.” Sonic Generations was released for the Nintendo 3DS and other home consoles in November 2011 and celebrated the franchise’s 20th anniversary by revitalizing many levels from the most noteworthy core games in the franchise in both the modern “boost” gameplay and the classic momentum-based platforming gameplay, the latter of which also brought about the reintroduction of “Classic Sonic” as his own entity. The most recent of these back-to-basics forays is Sonic Mania for eighth generation consoles in August 2017, including the Nintendo Switch, which was developed by experienced indie developers in the Sonic fan community (namely Christian Whitehead, Simon Thomley, and Tee Lopes) and received universal acclaim for its gameplay and presentation, with many outlets claiming Sonic Mania to be the best game in the franchise in over 20 years.
The legendary scenario of former video game archrivals Sonic and Mario crossing over in the same game was finally realized in late 2007 with the release of a game that pit the two against each other in a very unexpected scenario: a sports-themed minigame collection titled Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, where selectable characters from both the Sonic and Mario franchises compete against each other in all of the sporting competitions associated with the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, China. This became a subseries - developed by Sega, published by Nintendo, and officially licensed by the International Olympic Committee - that would regularly release new installments for both Nintendo's consoles and handhelds at a biennial rate to correspond to each of the subsequent Olympic seasons - the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, British Columbia; the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London, England; the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia; the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and the 2020 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan, with a new 2D retro mode set at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics. Meanwhile, Sonic was chosen as one of the first two third-party characters to co-star alongside Mario and many other Nintendo characters in the Super Smash Bros. fighting game series, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, becoming a mainstay of the series ever since.
Sonic the Hedgehog games are set in an Earth-like world populated by wildly anthropomorphized, colorful animal characters, but unlike Star Fox, humans are a feature in this world as well. The main character is Sonic, a blue hedgehog with an attitude and a pair of striped shoes as his only articles of clothing, and he has the capacity to run extremely fast and curl up into a rolling sphere. In a format similar to both Mario and Mega Man, Sonic's most persistent adversary is a mad human scientist bent on world domination named Dr. Ivo Robotnik (most commonly called "Eggman"), and Sonic speeds his way through levels to defeat him in his various combat machines and free innocent animals that have been transformed into robots by Eggman. Powerful jewels called Chaos Emeralds are both what Eggman covets for his schemes and what Sonic must collect to temporarily transform into an invincible Super state that can help him defeat his enemies. Over the chronology of the Sonic games, Sonic has encountered a vastly-expanded cast of side characters, allies, rivals, and enemies, and has battled even greater threats to the world than Eggman himself in narratives that have become increasingly involved. Meanwhile, Sonic has starred in several animated TV series, an upcoming movie series distributed by Paramount Pictures, and an expanded alternate universe for Sonic has been the focus of a long-running comic book continuity published by Archie Comics, which holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest-running comic book based on a video game character. While the comics were eventually cancelled in 2016 after running for over two decades, the series' publishing rights have been picked up by IDW Publishing, which started a brand-new series in 2018, led by the same creative team from the late Archie series.
It has been verified that nothing to do with Sonic or anything from his franchise exists in Melee at all, in spite of the infamous rumor detailed below. However, when Yuji Naka was asked if Sonic had appeared in Melee in an interview with Edge Magazine, he stated that Sonic could not be included in the game due to time constraints.
In the April 2002 edition of the video game magazine EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly), an Aprils Fool's claim was that Sonic and Tails, the two biggest mascots of the game company Sega, could be unlocked as playable characters in the game Super Smash Bros. Melee by defeating 20 or more Fighting Wire Frames in Cruel Melee.
Players have proven this rumor false both in premise and in practice. It would be highly unlikely that Sega (which, during Melee's development, was not yet a full-fledged third-party company, and thus was in competition with Nintendo) would sell its characters for use in a Nintendo game. There are no provisions to include Sonic and Tails in Melee's All-Star Mode (which showcases every playable character in the game), and an in-game message also indicates that Mr. Game & Watch is the last unlockable character (or whoever the player unlocks last). In addition, another message tells the player that they have unlocked every trophy. As beating single-player modes with Sonic and Tails would yield new trophies, this is impossible. Along with all of this, analyzing the game data reveals absolutely nothing of Sonic or Tails existing in the game.
Additionally, during an interview with someone at the head of SEGA, they claimed that they had talked to Smash series director Masahiro Sakurai about Sonic appearing in Super Smash Bros. Melee, but had ultimately decided not to put him in the game because the game was nearly complete in its development and Sonic had no existing games on any Nintendo system at the current time, although Sonic Adventure 2: Battle was currently in development.
Additionally, Cruel Melee strategies showed very quickly that Sonic and Tails did not appear after obtaining 20 KOs - in particular, a video of a Japanese player KO'ing 565 Wire Frames with Pikachu, along with an older video of a Danish player getting 10,000 KOs with Samus, disproved the rumor spectacularly. They can be seen here and here.
The Sonic franchise makes a sensational debut in the Smash Bros. series in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
On the final character select screen (after all characters are unlocked), Sonic occupies the ninth column (miscellaneous characters) along with Mr. Game & Watch, Snake, and the random option.
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (Sonic the Hedgehog series)
Main article: List of stickers (Sonic the Hedgehog series)
Sonic the Hedgehog is the only third-party series introduced in Super Smash Bros. Brawl to return in Super Smash Bros. 4. Sonic is officially referred to as a "guest character". Content from Sonic games released between Brawl and Smash 4 - such as Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World - is featured in the games.
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash titles.
Compositions and arrangements directly sourced from the Sonic series with no alterations.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Sonic the Hedgehog series)
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Main article: Trophy Box
The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise received a slight boost in representation in Ultimate from the post-Sonic Lost World titles, with one new Assist Trophy, several new music tracks, several Spirits, and both stages from past games returning, making the Sonic series the only third-party franchise with multiple stages in one Super Smash Bros. installment.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Sonic The Hedgehog series)
Tracks sourced directly from the Sonic games.
Main article: List of spirits (Sonic the Hedgehog series)
Mii Fighter Costumes
The following Mii Fighter costumes were released as DLC as part of version 3.0.0, within the first wave of Mii Fighter outfits and separate from Challenger Pack 1.
Games with elements from or in Super Smash Bros.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit)
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Other games and media