Sonic the Hedgehog is an international cultural icon, one of the first poster-children of video gaming and a franchise of massive proportions. His unique blue hue has made him instantly recognizable along with his bold persona and ability to run at super speed (hence the name). However, it hasn't always been plain sailing for the miscolored mammal and he had his ups and downs. As the blue blur turns 25 today, we look at some of his highs, lows and moments that caused mixed emotions amongst fans as he races head first into the next 25 years.
High - Sonic The Hedgehog
Let's start with where it all began, shall we? Sonic the Hedgehog was born out of a need to compete. Nintendo had a firm grip on the video game market and it mainly revolved around the exploits of a giant Gorilla and a pair of plumbers in red and green overalls respectively. Super Mario had become the first superstar icon of video games with his instantly recognizable red hat and bushy mustache and SEGA wanted to challenge this. They were soon to launch their new console and needed a frontman for it, an icon that would represent them how Mario represented Nintendo and so everyone within the company was asked to come up with a design for a character.
Of the designs that came out on top, one was a friendly rabbit inspired by the popularity of the Disney brand, another a large, affable fat man with a bushy mustache (like Mario) based heavily on former US President Theodore Roosevelt and finally, a superfast hedgehog initially dubbed Mr. Needle Mouse. The rabbit was quickly done away with but the other two characters were held in high regard. It was decided, however, that Mr. Needle Mouse could become everything Mario wasn't. Rather than a character based on trial and error, Needle Mouse could be about speed and reactions and rather than red he'd be Blue. The fat man was re =purposed and soon became the enemy to this hog and after a quick rename to reflect his speed and attitude, Sonic was born along with the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik (or Dr. Eggman in Japan). Released in 1991 on the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis, The Sonic the Hedgehog game became a mega-hit and set up one of the biggest global business clashes around as thus began the console wars between SEGA and Nintendo.
High - Sonic The Hedgehog 2
The release of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was a masterstroke for SEGA. It kept everything about the speed and style of the original game that made it so great and actually changed it very little. Where they did make tweaks is what firmly cemented the franchise as a fan favorite with updated graphics, an amazing soundtrack and the inclusion of a multiplayer, footrace style competition and the introduction of the now famed sidekick Miles 'Tails' Prower. The fox with two tails who can fly when he spins them. This sidekick brought in the multiplayer dynamic to the game and game fans another face to associate with the brand.
High - Sonic The Hedgehog 3
The Sonic brand was well and truly launched and, at this point, really riding high. In another twist, the game developers introduced us to Knuckles, a red echidna who was a haughty adversary and later friend when it revealed he and Sonic were to be battling Robotnik together. Bringing in new elements to the gameplay, this game had a flying mission where you were on a plane piloted by Tails and so broke free from the bonds of just standard running and jumping. It was long rumored that the legendary artist Michael Jackson worked on the soundtrack to this game and this was confirmed as true last year. More dynamic yet holding onto everything that had made the series great, this game had it all.
High - Sonic & Knuckles
Initially intended to be part of Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles was an innovation at the time. In today's era of downloadable content and expansion packs, many gamers take the extra content bonus for granted but in the 90s, the fact that you could attach a second cartridge to your game and get more out of it was mind-blowing! This content also allowed you to play as a character that wasn't Sonic for the first time outside of a multiplayer setting as you could get to grips with the super strong Knuckles who could climb walls and glide down from great heights although obviously much slower than his blue counterpart.
Mixed - Knuckles Chaotix
The first spin-off game of the Sonic series, it built on the popularity of the new character Knuckles and introduced his team of buddies the Chaotix. These characters were great and each had different and unique abilities which diversified the series away from just being all about speed. Charmy the Bee could fly, Espio the Chameleon had stealth skills and Vector the Crocodile had strength like Knuckles. however, moving away from what the series was all about opened it up to being a bit slow and bland and it just wasn't quite as good as anything with Sonic himself in and reviews reflected this.
Low - Sonic R
Before you jump on my back for categorizing this as a low moment, I want to point out that this was a pretty solid game, well received critically and commercially but it is what it signifies that makes it a low point for the hog. By this stage, it has been 6 years since the first Sonic game was released and technology is catching up with the speedy hog. This is his first foray into 3D and the look and feel aren't quite right. Just a basic racing game, it doesn't really add much to the canon of the series but it was the first stumbling block for the much-loved mammal who would soon start to struggle with the translation from 2D to 3D games.
High- Sonic Adventure
By the time Sonic Adventure came out, the series was struggling a little bit. SEGA had launched its new console, the Dreamcast, which was struggling for sales and needed its mascot to pull things out of the bag. 3D had not been kind to Sonic at this point and it needed something to reinvigorate it. Sonic Adventure did that by making it more an adventure game than the classic platformer we'd seen him in before. What it did successfully for the first time is bring the speed element into 3D gaming without compromising on gameplay and so hopes were high that this is what would make Sonic a gaming hero once more. It also brought about the incredibly popular boarding and grinding elements to the game with missions where you would skate down hills and grind on rails at great speed that would test your reflexes and reaction times.
High - Sonic Adventure 2
With the Dreamcast still struggling for sales but Sonic team back onto a winning formula, this follow-up to Sonic Adventure was met with delight by fans. It kept the winning formula of the first Sonic Adventure game but brought about an innovative and slightly darker edge to the storyline with a secret weapon that happens to be a Sonic clone called Shadow. The first Sonic Adventure had introduced yet more secondary characters and so another one at this point created further character fatigue but the gameplay and graphic update made it a winner. It was so popular that fans are still campaigning for a third although it is yet to surface.
Mixed- Sonic Heroes
SEGA were struggling, there Dreamcast console had died an ignominious death and the company announced they were no longer going to make consoles anymore. One time competitor Nintendo had been joined by Microsoft and Sony in the gaming market and they had been beaten out by a litany of failures coupled with poor luck and lack of innovation. Sonic had been in several pretty dire games at this point with him not really translating into the 3D realms very well outside of the Sonic Adventure series and fans getting bored of the rapidly ballooning character list. Heroes is far from a classic Sonic game but it did introduce a team-based system that made use of all of these characters and utilized their individual characteristics once more like speed, strength, and flight. It provided a ray of hope in dark days for Sonic, SEGA, and their respective fans.
Low - Shadow The Hedgehog
In an absurd move away from everything that Sonic had been built around, Shadow the Hedgehog delved into the backstory of the edgy character introduced in Sonic Adventure 2. It was dark, it was gloomy and the protagonist was given a bike and a gun! These are not things that should ever appear in a Sonic game and it tanked heavily. A far cry from what Sonic once was and it was at this points that fans became severely disillusioned about ever seeing they're classic hero return to his pedestal that he was once on.
Low - Sonic Riders
Not Sonic at his worst but this game brought in a group of yet more characters and tried to combine the fun elements of several previous games without any originality. Bringing in racing from Sonic R and other iterations and the grinding levels of the Sonic Adventure series, it was a clumsy mishmash of styles that saw you race on hoverboards over a flimsy pretext in order to defeat these new enemies that no one really cared for.
Low - Redesigns
Sonic has undergone several redesigns in his lifetime in order to update his look or to introduce him to a new generation, but each time it seems to have further distanced him from his original fanbase. We've all had some bad looks over the years but the time when Sonic's characteristic spines became floppy, dreadlocks and he grew in length to a lanky, odd humanoid was definitely his worst. Currently, a bit of a hipster, sporting a trendy scarf and, for some reason, bandages there is always some question as to why he can't just be left alone. It was not just poor Sonic who got a redesign though but also his long-suffering nemesis Dr. Robotnik. Always called Eggman in Japan, he was rebranded this for European games as well as it came across as more family friendly but it now just seems less imposing in any way.
Low - Sonic The Hedgehog 
Sonic was flailing in 2006. After a litany of disastrous games, poor reviews, and desperate media tie-ins, SEGA decided to re-launch their icon and bring out a game with the original title to introduce him to a whole new generation. With the idea of it having an epic scope in storytelling and gameplay, it rapidly devolved into something of a convoluted mess with an incomprehensible storyline and yet more characters with a Silver The Hedgehog being so much like the Shadow character of previous games that it caused exasperation in many quarters. The production quality was also low with a focus once again being on speed, camera angles would quite often veer off or not be able to keep up with the titular character making the whole thing near unplayable. So widely panned is it that SEGA don't even like to acknowledge it themselves. What should have been a glorious start anew for our spined hero was a further plummeting of his credibility.
Mixed - Sonic Colors
Not a classic by any means but the team behind Sonic knew they needed to churn out a solid game if they didn't want to completely kill off the aging icon. It had its roots in the original gameplay of sidescrolling speed and brought in new powers for Sonic to play with. It was hardly boundary pushing but it was a revitalized look at what Sonic could still do within his classic element and saved that final nail going into the coffin just yet.
Mixed - Mario & Sonic at The Olympics
Starting with Beijing 2008, in a move that would have caused shockwaves in the gaming community about a decade beforehand, Sonic was now teaming up with his arch rival Mario. In an uninspired turn of events, every year that the Olympics, or Winter Olympics rolls around, a video game with the two legends and a cast of supporting characters from their respective franchises is released where they do battle in a series of sports from the Olympics with the background being whichever host city it is held in at the time. These aren't amazing or unique games but they are good party games and had the novelty factor of being the first where both appear in them.
High - TV Shows
Sonic has appeared in many TV shows over the years, usually as a tie-in to his latest game or console launch but for the most part, these TV shows have stood on their own exceptionally well. The range of characters that have made the games clunky and boring actually lend to his television exploits. Starting way back when with his Japanese anime, Sonic moved to American and European screens with The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog where we could see his banter and back and forth with long-suffering enemy Robotnik. Some iterations haven't been stellar but even now, the television show is a markedly decent affair given that the games aren't all that good.
High - Sonic 4
Released in two episodic formats for smartphones, this game is in the same style as the original 3 games and so plays heavily on nostalgia. Classic gameplay doesn't really push the boat out but when Sonic's home country of Japan was hit by devastating tsunami's sales of this game helped contribute vitally needed funds to those affected by it and showed that the gaming community could rally around for a good cause. Sonic a hero in both virtual and real worlds.
Low - Sonic Unleashed
Lacking any real innovation, game developers turned to the quirky to try and save Sonic and that went as miserably as previous attempts to reinvent him. In this game, Sonic gains the ability to turn into a werehog - half wolf, half hedgehog type creature with super strength and stretchy arms. It was a sharp departure from what we'd seen previously in the series and seen by many as a desperate, desperate attempt to try and bring something new to the ailing franchise.
High - Sonic & SEGA All Star Racing
This game passed a little under the radar at the time but was a solid racing game built around the Mario Kart model. The problem is that Mario Kart has always been king in this party game racing genre with many pretenders to the throne come and gone. This game did nothing original to that with maybe just a slightly different set-up but it was solid and proved that Sonic could still compete as a franchise and make decent, fun games.
Mixed - Sonic Lost World
In a bid to regain some lost ground on Mario, Sonic Lost world took the Mario Galaxy formula and applied a liberal dose of speed to it. The problem with this is that the Mario games made it more of a puzzler situation whilst in Sonic you were still trying to race through it and so it wasn't quite as successful as one might have hoped. It also, yet again, introduced more characters that were tiresome and unwieldy. Gamers appreciated the variation in style but it didn't quite translate.
Mixed - Super Smash Bros.
In another game where Sonic meets up with his old foe Mario, he got added to the roster of the long-running Super Smash Bros. franchise. The game has been long established and Sonic is a decent addition to it but it didn't bring anything new to it. What it did allow for though, was a sonic amiibo add on as a statuette you could purchase which pleased fans but only really brought a level of novelty to the whole thing and no real depth.
High - Sonic Generations
For the 20th anniversary of Sonic The Hedgehog, developers knew they would have to pull something great out of the bag. There's been a long line of poor games featuring Sonic and the original fan base would not put up with another sub-par showing in an anniversary game. Playing heavily on nostalgia this game revisits classic Sonic outings in a time traveling caper that sees the old Sonic and new Sonic team up in a fantastic reimagining of his previous games. Stylistically well done and perhaps not the most original since it does cover old ground, it plays to all of the key strengths that made the first games so great but in a new medium and finally showed what could be done with the original set-up in a 3D medium.
Low - Sonic Boom
In his latest form, Sonic is back with classic friends such as Knuckles and Tails but has another new character to add to the ridiculously long list of characters now on the roster. The redesign did not go down with classic fans and the games are rehashes of old adventure games without much new or exciting to them. It would seem that Sonic's finest hour is long behind him, although with it being his 25th anniversary something big is rumored to be in the pipeline.
Mixed - Film Announcement
Excitement and trepidation were abound when it was announced that a live-action Sonic The Hedgehog film was in development. Fans had seen their icon go through the ringer over the past 25 years and it filled them with worry. This film could go either way for them and they will be hoping it is a genuinely great adventure. Both Sonic and Eggman made a brief cameo in the successful Wreck-It Ralph and fans will be delighted if his own film matches up to that.
High - Social Media Presence
Whatever is happening in Sonic's in-game world or future projects, whoever runs his social media account is some sort of abstract genius. Memes that reference the highs and lows of Sonic with a wacky sense of humor, challenging other game social media presences to witty duels of the mind and basically being a nerdy Sonic fan who has official backing, the social media account of Sonic is a sight to behold.