A Glance into the Sonic The Hedgehog Spin-Off Universe
Friday, 24th April 2020, 4:53pm (UTC), 0 Comments
Sonic the Hedgehog arrived with a bang on our SEGA Genesis consoles back in 1991, and has since produced a wide range of video games and related merchandise. As any successful franchise, it has also inspired a series of spin-offs, which are sometimes underrated and occasionally completely unknown even to hardcore fans. Here are our top picks across the Sonic the Hedgehog universe.

Sonic the Hedgehog movies: from obscure anime to blockbuster

It is not unusual for a successful video game to have its own series of spin-offs. for example, the Lara Croft gaming title series has produced a few popular movies, with the latest installment being the 2018 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film starring Alicia Vikander. Another popular gaming franchise that received the Hollywood treatment was Assassin's Creed, first created by Ubisoft in 2007. Released in 2016 and starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, Assassin's Creed did not perform that well at the box office and was panned by critics, despite the promising potential of its source material.

With the pattern of transforming games to movies only increasing over the years, it was only a matter of time before an iconic video game franchise like Sonic the Hedgehog would be turned into a movie.

Fans were waiting for a long time to see Sonic on-screen, and for it to be done well: the first Sonic video game was released in 1991, and development for a film adaptation began a little later in the 1990s. Yet it was only in 2020 that a project actually moved past the planning stages, and only after Sony acquired the rights.

Starring James Marsden and Jim Carrey, the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog film was an instant hit with fans and at the box office. With $58 million, it has had the biggest gross opening weekend across the US for video game-inspired movies. This means that it surpassed Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, which rose to $54.4 million, the original 2001 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, at $47.7 million, and the Angry Birds Movie, which brought in $38.1 million on its opening weekend.

Yet, hardcore fans will remember that there was, in fact, another Sonic movie that came prior to this. Released in 1996, Sonic the Hedgehog the Movie was a Japanese animated film in two installments, which was released directly to video in 1999 in the UK and US. Even though the anime style looks a little outdated by today's standards, it was popular upon its first release, and remained very true to the spirit of the video games - which had just seen the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 in 1994.

Sonic pinball, Sonic slots, and Sonic comics!

More recently, the blue hedgehog made it into the slot universe, with the latest line of Sega Slots featuring the beloved character prominently. It is not uncommon for online slots to take inspiration from pop culture; for example, some online casinos offer slots based on other popular franchises like Game of Thrones, Narcos, or Immortal Romance - which taps into the vampire hype generated by Twilight. So, it was only a matter of time before a pop culture icon like Sonic also got a slot revamp. Developed by Sega itself, the slots were received warmly by fans, but they never seemed to reach such a mainstream audience as the rest of the franchise that inspired them.

Yet a little-known gem titled 'Sonic Eraser' seems to have reached even fewer fans. With gameplay similar to Tetris, this retro puzzle game was originally released in 1991, making it the very first Sonic spin-off. It remained almost completely unknown until it was rediscovered in 2004, arguably by a die-hard Sonic fan. True to that 1990s vibe, the second spin-off game was none other than 1993's 'Sonic Spinball'. Putting a Sonic spin on classic pinball games, it offered fun elements across multiple levels, with Sonic himself acting as the pinball for most of its gameplay. It incorporated ideas from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 which was released in 1992, produced a second Sonic Spinball installment, and gave its name to the spinning Sonic-themed roller coaster ride in British theme park Alton Towers - a must-visit for Sonic fans.

1993 also saw the release of Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, which also reminded fans of Tetris, while 1994's underwhelming Sonic Drift was the franchise's first contribution to the racing genre. A more popular Sonic racing game was probably 1997's Sonic R, with several hidden elements and secret items to discover, followed by Sonic Riders in 2006.

While it is hard to keep track of every spin-off genre Sonic veered into, no list would be complete without an honorable mention of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series released by Archie Comics, in collaboration with Sega. Running from 1992 to 2017, the introduced many fans to the Sonic universe and have inspired their own spin-offs, including Sonic X and Sonic Universe by the same publisher.

Few video gaming characters have had such an impact on pop culture as did Sonic the Hedgehog. Ever since his first appearance in 1991, the gaming icon and his entourage of friends and foes have inspired a wide range of spin-offs and, after the success of the 2020 Sonic movie, it seems that the sky is the limit for our favorite blue hedgehog!
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