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Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)

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For other articles of a similar name, see Sonic the Hedgehog (disambiguation).
Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear) boxart





Ayano Koshino
Takefune Yunoue


Sonic the Hedgehog series

Release date(s)

Master System
NA 25 October 1991
EU 25 October 1991

Game Gear
JP 28 December 1991
NA December 1991
EU December 1991

Virtual Console
JP 5 August 2008
NA 4 August 2008
PAL 19 September 2008


Single player

  • Cartridge
  • Digital download
  • CD-ROM
  • DVD-ROM (Sonic Adventure DX)

Sonic the Hedgehog is a 2D platformer video game released on the Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear in 1991. The gameplay is similar to most side-scrolling Sonic games, and as with the other early outings, the plot is scarcely more sophisticated than the typical "Get the Emeralds and stop Robotnik!". As was often the case for the 8-bit releases, the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic the Hedgehog are hidden about the zones instead of residing in a Special Stage.

The game's zones each contain three Acts, the first two involving standard platforming, while the third is a shorter stage containing the Boss.

Unusually for an early Sonic game, the 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog included a world map which appeared between zones, showing the player's physical progress across South Island.


16-bit predecessor

Differences between the Mega Drive/Genesis original and its 8-bit counterpart include:

  • Sonic is still able to collect 100 Rings to earn an extra live but the ring counter resets to 0 rather than increasing past 99. It is also not possible to enter a Special Stage after collecting more than 99 rings, as no stages in this game have 150 rings.
  • Checkpoints take the form of Arrow Monitors rather than Lampposts.
  • Chaos Emeralds aren't found in Special Stages. One of each Chaos Emerald is hidden in one of the levels of the six regular zones instead. Every Chaos Emerald is also blue.
  • The Special Stages act like a Bonus Stage where players can collect continues and extra lives, but no additional reward is given for collecting all items. No Chaos Emeralds can be found in these stages due to how they are each hidden within one of the six zones.
  • At the end of Acts 1 and 2 of each zone, the Bonus Panel at the end of the stage now gives a reward based on what it lands on. If it lands on Robotnik, the player gets nothing. This panel appears most often in the entire game, provided the player's ring count is below 50. If it lands on a Ring, 10 rings are added to the final ring tally. This will happen most of the time if the player's ring tally is under 50 and ends in a zero. If it lands on Sonic, the player is given an extra life. This will trigger depending on the player's rings tens counter (for example, having 11-19 rings will trigger an extra life on Green Hill Zone Act 1, but having 10 rings will trigger a Ring and give Sonic 10 rings instead), and the amount of rings required differs between each Act. If it lands on an Exclamation Point, this triggers the Special Stage. It appears if 50 or more rings are still in possession when passing the panel. Special Stages cannot be visited in the Scrap Brain or Sky Base Zones. The Bonus Panel also appears at the end of each Special Stage, however it will always be a Robotnik (no bonus) when flipped.
  • There is a music that plays when the player dies rather than a sound effect.
  • In the 8-bit game, bodies of water naturally occur in more zones. The function of water is to slow and slip Sonic, and he is in no actual danger of drowning except in Labyrinth Zone.
  • There is absolutely no similarity between their level designs and bosses, making this an entirely different game.
  • The music in this game is different and has a slower beat due to the game being 8-bit.
  • Despite the box artwork for the Sega Master System version depicting Sonic inside a loop in the Green Hill Zone, there are no loops in this game, something which would be added in the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Between console and handheld versions

The Master System version had differences with its Game Gear port, including:

  • The Game Gear version uses a Sega screen with a jumping Sonic sprite. The Master System version lacks a Sega screen. One is provided by the Master System's BIOS.
  • As the Game Gear has a smaller screen resolution, there is less of a viewing area. In response to this, Sonic was given a different, smaller sprite, and his control was made a bit lighter.
  • There are minor graphical changes in the first zone. One of the totem faces was removed from the Game Gear versions, but the flowers now animate like the 16-bit game and there are warning signs in certain areas due to the high speed combined with the narrow screen.
  • In the Game Gear version, the Special Stages had a makeover - specifically, all the sprites are now the same color. This is in contrast with the Master System game, in which each color indicates a different bounce height.
  • In the Game Gear version, Jungle Zone Act 2 allowed for vertical descent without losing a life, which made the stage easier. Labyrinth Zone's level design was largely redone, with its Chaos Emerald relocated.
  • Two bosses were heavily modified for the Game Gear release - most notably, the second boss appears on a tricky curvy bridge rather than two platforms with an island in the middle, and the final boss had its defense mechanism changed entirely and does not enter a "panic" mode. In addition, each boss is also fought in more compact arenas due to the screen size, resulting in every other boss being lowered and allowing Sonic to attack at almost any time.


  1. Green Hill Zone
  2. Bridge Zone
  3. Jungle Zone
  4. Labyrinth Zone
  5. Scrap Brain Zone
  6. Sky Base Zone

There are also Special Stages accessible if you pass the Goal with at least 50 rings.

Beta Elements


  • The storylines from the game manuals are completely derived from the 16-bit game - North American and European plots were altered to mention the different Special Stage and final level, but the Japanese storyline is literally a condensed version of the same text.
  • Bridge Zone is the only land level of a Sonic game in which the screen scrolls automatically - this otherwise only occurs in sky levels.
  • Years later, the background music for the Bridge Zone was remixed as "Believe in Myself", Tails' theme music in Sonic Adventure.
  • This game reappeared in Sonic Adventure DX and in Sonic Mega Collection Plus alongside other Game Gear titles.
  • Power-ups (aside from the Shield) are extremely rare in this game. The Power Sneakers only appear once in Green Hill Zone Act 1 and the Invincibility Monitor appears twice: Green Hill Zone Act 1 and Labyrinth Zone Act 2.
  • There's only one "1-Up" monitor per stage. If the player finds all of them, the last 1-Up monitor becomes available in the final stage as bonus for collecting all of them.
  • This game was not made by the Sonic Team.
  • This game is featured on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console eShop.
  • The signpost mechanics are reused in later 8-bit titles, with few differences. For example, Dr. Robotnik's panel from Sonic Chaos lands on the Ring icon if the player has a multiple of 10 rings, and an extra life is triggered if the player clears an act with no damage taken.
  • What the Chaos Emeralds exactly do in the good endings differ between the 16-bit and 8-bit games. In the 16-bit game, they are just shown circling Sonic in Green Hill Zone, then vanish as new plant life comes into existence. In the 8-bit game, they are more clearly surrounding the entirety of South Island, then ridding it of its pollution as they disappear.
  • Music from Marble Zone is in the ROM data of the Master System of the game.
  • Savannah Citadel, a stage in Sonic Unleashed, reused the ending credits theme from this game.



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