The Games That Changed Us: Sonic the Hedgehog

If I could pinpoint one game that could serve as the spark that ignited my love for gaming, it would be 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog.

It’s the first game I remember playing. When I shared my first adventures with the funny blue character on screen that I’d never seen before, I must have only been three or four years old. I’d come to fall head over heels in love with Sonic the Hedgehog, and in the years that followed, the passion that the platformer had kicked off in me would blossom.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and recall Sonic the Hedgehog in all its glory.

Still have no idea

I have my father to thank for my earliest exposure to video games. I have no idea where it came from or why he’d bought it, but my father picked up a Sega Mega Drive in the earliest years of my life. It was ‘his thing’, but I was lucky enough to play on the considerably popular home console, which had been released years before I was born, in 1988.

Bizarrely, it’d be the last home console that my father ever bought for himself, and after that, gaming more or less became all about me. I transitioned to a PlayStation, and from there, the road ahead of me was set in stone. But it all began with 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog.

There are so many memories of me sitting on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, Mega Drive controller in hand, and guiding this adorable, brightly-coloured character through perilous stages. I loved the way that Sonic popped on the screen, and how fluid the game felt – I could move so fast, and I was unstoppable. I needed to collect more rings, save more cute animals, and defeat Dr Robotnik once and for all.

To this day, I still haven’t bothered to find out where that Mega Drive came from, but I remember it stuck around for years. With my father, I’d play multiplayer games like Streets of Rage, and I’d bug him by constantly stealing the chicken and apples from under his nose. But, even today, almost thirty years later, I still revisit Sonic the Hedgehog and the subsequent releases that emerged to flesh out the franchise, and I still adore it.

Why did it feel different?

Let’s be honest – retro games feel tougher than today’s creations, right? In Sonic the Hedgehog, I always found myself struggling as the game progressed, and I’d typically need help from my father right around the time that I arrived at the Scrap Brain Zone. It seems strange to think about it, but I never fell in with the platformer genre, and to this day, I couldn’t name another game within that niche that I’ve enjoyed as much as Sonic the Hedgehog.

It defeated me over and over again, but I still went back, and I still kept trying. I can’t say that I’ve mimicked that behavior with many games since.

However, as I boot Sonic the Hedgehog up today on my PC, mobile, or Nintendo Switch, I realize that… It really wasn’t all that difficult. It’s all about timing, placement, and pressing the jump button at the right time to jump over a trap or an incoming attack. With a little patience, the game can be dominated – but when I was younger, I struggled immensely. That’s just how it goes though, isn’t it?

I also remember revisiting Grand Theft Auto III just recently, as that was another game that had me stumped when I first played it twenty years ago. Again, now that I’ve become older and wiser, it seemed like a walk in the park.

Ultimately, it was flawless

Okay, so it wasn’t flawless, but in the eyes of a child, it was absolutely perfect. As I sat there on the bedroom floor, I’d while away the hours running the same stages over and over again. I’d bounce off the top of the strange Motobugs and Choppers, collect the massive gold rings, and engage in the same fight with Dr Robotnik swinging his wrecking ball over and over again. I loved the soundtrack – and even today, it boasts some of the most memorable tracks in the history of gaming.

I’m looking at you, Green Hill Zone.

It’s strange – I don’t think there are many games emerging today that’ll ever have the hold on me that Sonic the Hedgehog did. I had a similar relationship with other games over time – GTA San Andreas and Call of Duty 4, for example, but none of them had the staying power that Sonic the Hedgehog power. Even as I write this, I’ve got my phone balancing on a Sonic Cable Guy and I’ve got a Sonic the Hedgehog blanket draped over me.

There’s now an opportunity to pass down that nostalgia. I have a son of my own now, and with emulators and re-releases, there’s nothing stopping me from eventually introducing him to Sonic the Hedgehog, and who knows – perhaps it’ll ignite that very same spark in him that it did in me almost three decades ago.

Today, Sonic the Hedgehog has gone from being Sega’s simple competitor to Nintendo’s Super Mario and turned around into a global phenomenon. It’s a multimedia titan that has spawned countless games, television shows, and movies, and like Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog will likely be around for a very, very long time to come.

And that’s totally fine by me.

Read next: The Best Pokemon Games for GBA

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