Primarily because of its Genesis bundling, Sonic the Hedgehog contributed greatly to the console's popularity in North America. Between October and December 1991, the Genesis outsold its chief competitor, Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System, by a two-to-one ratio; at its January 1992 peak Sega held 65 percent of the market for 16-bit consoles. Although Nintendo eventually reclaimed the number-one position, it was the first time since December 1985 that Nintendo did not lead the console market. According to 1UP.com, "Sonic single handedly turned the course of the 16-bit console wars," helping Sega "[become] the dominant player for several years following" and contributing to the company's transformation into "the industry giant it is today."
In 1990, Sega of Japan president Hayao Nakayama decided Sega needed a flagship series and mascot to compete with Nintendo's Mario series. Nintendo had recently released Super Mario Bros. 3, at the time the bestselling video game ever. Sega's strategy had been based on porting its successful arcade games to its 16-bit console, the Genesis; however, Nakayama recognized that Sega needed a star character in a game that could demonstrate the power of the Genesis's hardware. An internal contest was held to determine a flagship game and company mascot, with a specific focus on the American audience. Among the various teams working on proposals were artist Naoto Ohshima and programmer Yuji Naka. The gameplay of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) originated with a tech demo created by Naka, who had developed an algorithm that allowed a sprite to move smoothly on a curve by determining its position with a dot matrix. Naka's prototype was a platform game that involved a fast-moving character rolling in a ball through a long winding tube. Sega management accepted the duo's project and they were joined by designer Hirokazu Yasuhara.
The first Sonic game, released in 1991 for the Sega Genesis, was developed after Sega requested a mascot character to compete with Nintendo's mascot Mario. Its success helped Sega become one of the leading video game companies during the 16-bit era of the early 1990s. Sega Technical Institute developed the next three Sonic games in addition to Sonic Spinball (1993). After a hiatus during the unsuccessful Saturn era, the first major 3D Sonic game, Sonic Adventure, was released in 1998 for the Dreamcast. Sega exited the console market and shifted to third-party development in 2001, continuing the series on Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation systems.
Although Sega of America CEO Michael Katz was certain that Sonic would not catch on with American children, Katz's replacement, Tom Kalinske, arranged to place Sonic the Hedgehog as the pack-in game with the Genesis. Featuring speedy gameplay, Sonic the Hedgehog received critical acclaim, greatly increased the popularity of the Sega Genesis in North America, and is credited with helping Sega gain 65% of the market share against Nintendo. Naka was dissatisfied with his treatment at Sega and felt he received little credit for his involvement in the success. He quit but was hired by Mark Cerny to work at the US-based Sega Technical Institute (STI), with a higher salary and more creative freedom. Yashura also decided to move to STI. STI began work on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) in November 1991. Level artist Yasushi Yamaguchi designed Sonic's new sidekick, Tails, a flying two-tailed fox inspired by the mythological kitsune. Like its predecessor, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a major success, but its development suffered from the language barrier and cultural differences between the Japanese and American developers. While STI developed Sonic 2, Ohshima led a team in Japan to create Sonic CD for the Genesis's CD-ROM accessory, the Sega CD; it was conceived as an enhanced port of Sonic 2, but eventually evolved into a separate project.
A number of Sonic games were developed for Sega's 8-bit consoles, the Master System and the handheld Game Gear. The first, an 8-bit version of the original Sonic, was developed by Ancient to promote the Game Gear and released in December 1991. Aspect Co. developed most of the subsequent 8-bit Sonic games, beginning with a version of Sonic 2. Other Sonic games released during this period include Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (a Western localization of the Japanese puzzle game Puyo Puyo), SegaSonic the Hedgehog (an arcade game), and Knuckles' Chaotix (a spin-off for the Genesis's 32X add-on starring Knuckles).
Sega approached the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in 1992 about producing two television series—"a syndicated show for the after-school audience" and a Saturday-morning cartoon—based on Sonic. Kalinske "had seen how instrumental the launch of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon series was to the success of the toyline" during his time at Mattel and believed that success could be recreated using Sonic. The two cartoons, the syndicated Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993) and ABC's Sonic the Hedgehog (1993–1994), were produced by DIC Entertainment. DIC also produced a Sonic Christmas special in 1996, and Sonic Underground in 1999, to promote Sonic Adventure. DIC's Sonic adaptations are generally not held in high regard.
Shogakukan published a Sonic the Hedgehog manga series in its Shogaku Yonensei magazine, beginning in 1992. Written by Kenji Terada and illustrated by Sango Norimoto, it follows a sweet but cowardly young hedgehog named Nicky whose alter ego is the cocky, heroic Sonic. According to character artist Kazuyuki Hoshino, the manga was part of Sega of Japan's promotional strategy to appeal to primary school children. The Sonic design team worked with Shogakukan to create new characters; Amy Rose and Charmy Bee originated in the manga before appearing in the games.
One of the world's most popular video game characters, by 1992 Sonic was considered more recognizable to children than Disney's Mickey Mouse. In 1993, Sonic became the first video game character to have a balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and was one of the four characters inducted on the Walk of Game in 2005, alongside Mario, Link, and Master Chief. One of a class of genes involved in fruit fly embryonic development, called hedgehog genes, was named "sonic hedgehog" after the character. Additionally, a Japanese team developing the Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) instrumentation for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer spacecraft, to be launched by ESA and Airbus in 2022, received approval to use Sonic as the mascot. Sonic and Eggman appear as minor characters in the Walt Disney Animation Studios films Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018), while Sonic makes a cameo in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One (2018).
Following the release of Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, Yasuhara quit Sega and Naka returned to Japan, having been offered a role as a producer. He was reunited with Ohshima and brought with him Takashi Iizuka, who had worked with Naka's team at STI. With Naka's return, Sonic Team was officially formed as a brand. In 1996, towards the end of the Genesis' lifecycle, Sega released Sonic 3D Blast, an isometric game based on the original Sonic 3 concept, as the system still had a large install base. In Japan, Sonic Team was developing a new intellectual property, Nights into Dreams (1996), for Sega's 32-bit Saturn console, so 3D Blast was outsourced to the British studio Traveller's Tales. While 3D Blast sold well, it was criticized for its gameplay, controls, and slow pace.
Licensed Sonic merchandise includes books, clothing, accessories, board games, soundtracks, and toys such as figures and plushes. Sega and McDonald's collaborated for Sonic-themed Happy Meal promotions in 1994 and 2004 to advertise Sonic 3 and Sonic Heroes, respectively. First4Figures has produced a large number of vinyl and resin Sonic figures since 2008. In January 2012, Sega and RHM Solutions opened an online Sonic store, and PlayStation Gear began selling Sonic items in December 2017.
Once development on Sonic 2 concluded, Cerny departed and was replaced by Roger Hector. Under Hector, STI was divided into two teams: the Japanese developers led by Naka, and the American developers. The Japanese began work on Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Sonic 3 was initially developed as an isometric game using the Sega Virtua Processor (SVP) chip, but was restarted as a more conventional 2D game after the SVP was delayed. The game introduced Sonic's rival Knuckles, created by artist Takashi Thomas Yuda. Due to an impending promotion with McDonald's and cartridges size constraints, the project was split in two: the first half, Sonic 3, released in February 1994, while the second, Sonic & Knuckles, launched a few months later. The Sonic & Knuckles cartridge contains an adapter that allows players to connect it to Sonic 3 so the game can be experienced as intended. Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, as with their predecessors, were acclaimed. When Sega management realized Sonic the Hedgehog 3 would not be completed in time for the 1993 holiday shopping season, it commissioned the American team to make a new game, the spin-off Sonic Spinball. While Spinball was poorly received, it sold well and helped build the reputation of its developers.
In August 1994, Sega of America signed a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Trilogy Entertainment to produce a live-action animated film to tie in with Sonic X-treme. In May 1995, screenwriter Richard Jefferies pitched a treatment, Sonic the Hedgehog: Wonders of the World, to Sega. The treatment saw Sonic and Eggman escape from Sonic X-treme into the real world and Sonic collaborate with a boy to stop Eggman. No agreement was reached and the film was canceled. Jeffries, with permission from Sega, pitched his treatment to DreamWorks Animation, but it was rejected.
Some Sonic characters have headlined spin-off games. Eggman is the featured character of Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, a Western localization of Puyo Puyo. Sega chose to replace the Puyo Puyo characters with those from the Sonic franchise because it feared the product would not be popular with a Western audience. In 1995, Sega released two Game Gear spin-offs featuring Tails—Tails' Skypatrol (a scrolling shooter) and Tails Adventure (a Metroidvania game) —and the Knuckles-oriented Knuckles' Chaotix for the 32X. 2005's Shadow the Hedgehog was developed in response to the Shadow character's popularity and to introduce "gun action" gameplay to the franchise. Iizuka has commented that future spin-offs, such as sequels to Knuckles' Chaotix and Shadow the Hedgehog or a Big the Cat game, remain possibilities.
The Sonic platformers released during the 1990s were widely acclaimed and have been listed among the greatest video games of all time. Sonic was touted as a faster, cooler alternative to Nintendo's contemporary Mario game, Super Mario World (1990). According to Kotaku's Zolani Stewart, Sonic's rebellious character was representative of the culture of the 1990s, "when the idea of individual rebellion seemed inextricably linked to consumer culture". Writing in The Guardian, Keith Stuart observed that Sonic the Hedgehog's emphasis on speed departed from accepted precepts of game design, requiring that players "learn through repetition rather than observation" as "the levels aren't designed to be seen or even understood in one playthrough... Sonic is incorrect game design and yet ... it's a masterpiece." Sonic 2, Sonic CD, Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles were praised for building on the first game's formula; in 1996, Next Generation described the Genesis games as "the zeitgeist of the 16-bit era". In 1995, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, told Edge: "I think Sega succeeded in making a good, strong character. There are lots of games that try to imitate Mario but Sega did especially well with Sonic. Despite his resemblance to Mario, there are some special points that make him different: the energy, for example. Among Mario’s imitations, Sonic is a good one."
In Japan, Sega and Sonic Team collaborated with Studio Pierrot to produce a Sonic original video animation (OVA). The two-episode OVA, Sonic the Hedgehog, was released direct-to-video in Japan in 1996. To coincide with Sonic Adventure's Western release in 1999, ADV Films released the OVA in North America as a 55-minute film dubbed Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie. Sonic the Hedgehog, produced with input from Naka and Ohshima, is loosely based on Sonic CD (with certain elements borrowed from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3), and recounts Sonic's efforts to stop a generator taken over by Eggman from exploding and destroying their world. Retrospectively, The A.V. Club's Patrick Lee called the OVA "the only cartoon to adapt the look, sound, and feel of the Sonic games", with scenes and music that closely resemble the source material.
In 1997, Sega announced "Project Sonic", a promotional campaign aimed at increasing market awareness of and renewing excitement for the Sonic brand. The first Project Sonic release, the compilation Sonic Jam, included a 3D overworld used by Sonic Team to experiment with 3D Sonic gameplay. Sonic Team and Traveller's Tales collaborated again on the second Project Sonic game, Sonic R, a 3D racing game and the only original Sonic game for the Saturn. Sonic Jam was well received, while Sonic R's reviews were more divided. The cancellation of Sonic X-treme, as well as the Saturn's general lack of Sonic games, are considered important factors in the Saturn's commercial failure. According to Nick Thorpe of Retro Gamer, "by mid-1997 Sonic had essentially been shuffled into the background... it was astonishing to see that just six years after his debut, Sonic was already retro."
With its Sonic Jam experiments, Sonic Team began developing a 3D Sonic platformer for the Saturn. The project stemmed from a proposal by Iizuka to develop a Sonic role-playing video game (RPG) with an emphasis on storytelling. Development moved to Sega's new console, the Dreamcast, which Naka believed would allow for the ultimate Sonic game. Sonic Adventure, directed by Iizuka and released in 1998, was one of the first sixth generation video games. It introduced elements that became series staples, such as artist Yuji Uekawa's new character designs influenced by comics and animation. In 1999, Iizuka and 11 other Sonic Team members relocated to San Francisco and established Sonic Team USA. Sonic Team USA developed the sequel Sonic Adventure 2 (2001), designed to be more action-oriented. Between the two releases, Ohshima left Sega to form Artoon. While both Adventure games were well received and the first sold over two million copies, consumer interest in the Dreamcast quickly faded, and Sega's attempts to spur sales through lower prices and cash rebates caused escalating financial losses.
Sega continued to release 2D Sonic games. In 1999, it collaborated with SNK to produce Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, an adaptation of Sonic 2 for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Some SNK staff went on to form Dimps the following year and developed original 2D Sonic games—Sonic Advance (2001), Sonic Advance 2 (2002), and Sonic Advance 3 (2004)—for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance (GBA). Sonic Advance was outsourced to Dimps because Sonic Team was understaffed with employees familiar with the GBA. Dimps also developed Sonic Rush (2005) for the Nintendo DS, which uses a 2.5D perspective. Dimps' projects all received generally favorable reviews. To introduce older games in the series to new fans, Sonic Team developed two compilations, Sonic Mega Collection (2002) and Sonic Gems Collection (2005). Further spin-offs included the party game Sonic Shuffle (2000), the pinball game Sonic Pinball Party (2003), and the fighting game Sonic Battle (2003).
Sonic the Comic, a British comic published by Fleetway Publications, lasted for 223 issues from 1993 to 2002; contributors included Richard Elson, Nigel Kitching, Andy Diggle, and Nigel Dobbyn. Sonic the Comic featured Sonic stories aimed at children, in addition to news and review sections. Although it adapted the events of the games, the writers established their own lore. The final story arc was a loose adaptation of Sonic Adventure in 2000, but the series continued until 2002; the last 39 issues were reprints of old stories. Following the series' cancellation, fans started Sonic the Comic Online, an unofficial webcomic that continues the stories.
In January 2001, Sega announced it was discontinuing the Dreamcast to become a third-party developer. The following December, Sega released an expanded port of Sonic Adventure 2 for Nintendo's GameCube. Afterward, Sonic Team USA developed the first multi-platform Sonic game, Sonic Heroes (2003), for the GameCube, Microsoft's Xbox, and Sony's PlayStation 2. The game, again directed by Iizuka, was designed for a broad audience, and Sonic Team revived elements not seen since the Genesis era, such as special stages and the Chaotix characters. Reviews for Sonic Heroes were mixed; while its graphics and gameplay were praised, critics felt it failed to address the problems of previous Sonic games, such as the camera. After completing Sonic Heroes, Sonic Team USA was renamed Sega Studios USA. Its next project was Shadow the Hedgehog (2005), a spin-off starring the popular Adventure 2 character Shadow. While Shadow retains most elements from previous Sonic games, it was aimed at a mature audience and introduced third-person shooting and nonlinear gameplay. Shadow the Hedgehog was panned for its mature themes and level design, but was a commercial success, selling at least 1.59 million units.
Sonic Team began working on Sonic Unleashed (2008) in 2005. It was conceived as a sequel to Adventure 2, but became a standalone entry after Sonic Team introduced innovations to separate it from the Adventure games. With Unleashed, Sonic Team sought to combine the best aspects of 2D and 3D Sonic games and address criticisms of previous 3D entries, although reviews were mixed. Iizuka was installed as the head of Sonic Team in 2010, and became the series' producer. Iizuka felt Sonic was struggling because it lacked unified direction, so Sonic Team refocused on speed and more traditional side-scrolling. Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a side-scrolling episodic sequel to Sonic & Knuckles co-developed by Sonic Team and Dimps, began with Episode I in 2010, followed by Episode II in 2012. Later in 2010, Sega released Sonic Colors for the Wii and DS, which expanded on the well received aspects of Unleashed and introduced the Wisp power-ups. For the series' 20th anniversary in 2011, Sega released Sonic Generations for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows; a separate version was developed by Dimps for the Nintendo 3DS. Sonic Generations featured remakes of levels from previous Sonic games and reintroduced the "classic" Sonic design from the Genesis era. These efforts were better received, especially in comparison to the 2006 game and Unleashed.
For the franchise's 15th anniversary in 2006, Sonic Team developed Sonic Riders, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a GBA port of the original Sonic. Sonic Riders, the first Sonic racing game since Sonic R, was designed to appeal to Sonic and extreme sports fans. With a more realistic setting than previous entries, Sonic the Hedgehog was intended to reboot the series for seventh generation consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The development faced serious problems; Naka, the last of the original Sonic development team, resigned as head of Sonic Team to form Prope, and the team split so work could begin on a Nintendo Wii Sonic game. According to Iizuka, these incidents, coupled with stringent Sega deadlines and an unpolished game engine, forced Sonic Team to rush development. None of the 15th-anniversary Sonic games were successful critically, but Sonic the Hedgehog became regarded as the worst game in the series, panned for its bugs, camera, controls, and story. Brian Shea of Game Informer wrote that it "[became] synonymous with the struggles the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise had faced in recent years. Sonic 2006 was meant to be a return to the series' roots, but it ended up damning the franchise in the eyes of many."
Sonic 3 was the first Sonic game composer Jun Senoue worked on. With his band Crush 40, he has composed the music for most Sonic games since Sonic 3D Blast. While the Genesis Sonic soundtracks were characterized by electropop, Senoue's scores typically feature funk and rock music. Tomoya Ohtani has been the series' sound director since Sonic the Hedgehog in 2006, and was the lead composer for that game, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors, Sonic Lost World, Sonic Runners, and Sonic Forces. Richard Jacques has composed music for several Sonic games, and Tee Lopes—known for releasing unofficial remixes of Sonic tracks on YouTube—was the lead composer for Sonic Mania and a contributor to Team Sonic Racing. Recent games have featured contributions from notable musicians; for instance, the main theme of the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog was performed by Ali Tabatabaee and Matty Lewis of the band Zebrahead, while Hoobastank lead singer Doug Robb performed the main theme of Sonic Forces.
The longest-running Sonic-based publication is the 290-issue Sonic the Hedgehog, an American comic book published by Archie Comics from 1993 until its cancellation in 2017. Archie also published a number of spin-offs, such as Knuckles the Echidna (1997–2000) and Sonic Universe (2009–2017). Archie's comic drew its premise from the Sonic the Hedgehog television series, with Sonic and a resistance force fighting the dictator Eggman. Originally written as a "straightforward lighthearted action-comedy", Sonic the Hedgehog became more dramatic after Ken Penders began writing it with issue #11. Penders remained the head writer for the following 150 issues and developed an elaborate lore unique to the series. Ian Flynn became head writer in 2006 and remained until the series' cancellation. Following a lawsuit by Penders for ownership of characters he created, in 2013 the series was rebooted, leaving only characters introduced in the games or which predated Penders' run.
Since 2007, Sega has collaborated with former rival Nintendo to produce Mario & Sonic, an Olympic Games-themed crossover with the Mario franchise. The first Mario & Sonic game was released in 2007 for the Wii and in 2008 for the DS to tie in with the 2008 Summer Olympics. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, based on the 2010 Winter Olympics, was released in 2010 for the Wii and DS, and Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, based on the 2012 Summer Olympics, was released for the Wii in 2011 and the 3DS in 2012. The fourth game, 2013's Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, was exclusive to the Wii U, but the following game, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (2016), was released on both the Wii U and 3DS. After a brief hiatus, the series made a return in 2019 with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 for the Switch, based on the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The first Sonic game for the Wii, Sonic and the Secret Rings (2007), takes place in the world of Arabian Nights and was released instead of a port of the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog. Citing lengthy development times, Sega switched plans and conceived a game that would use the motion detection of the Wii Remote. Sega released a sequel, Sonic and the Black Knight, set in the world of King Arthur, in 2009. Secret Rings and Black Night form what is known as the Sonic Storybook sub-series. A Sonic Riders sequel, Zero Gravity (2008), was developed for the Wii and PlayStation 2. Dimps returned to the Sonic series with Sonic Rush Adventure, a sequel to Sonic Rush, in 2007, while BioWare developed the first Sonic RPG, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (2008), also for the DS. Backbone Entertainment developed two Sonic games exclusive to the PlayStation Portable, Sonic Rivals (2006) and Sonic Rivals 2 (2007).
In 2008, Guinness World Records recognized Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog as the longest-running comic based on a video game, and by 2016 it was one of the longest-running American comics in the market. While Archie planned to publish at least four issues beyond #290, in January 2017 the series went on an abrupt hiatus, and in July, Sega announced it was ending its business relationship with Archie in favor of a new partnership with IDW Publishing. IDW's Sonic comic began in April 2018. Although the creative teams from the Archie series, such as Flynn, returned, the IDW series is set in a different continuity. Flynn said the IDW series differs from the Archie comic in that it draws from the games for stories, with the first story arc set after the events of Sonic Forces. Fans continued the Archie series unofficially, including finishing unpublished issues, while Penders is using the characters he gained ownership of for a graphic novel, The Lara-Su Chronicles.
Sonic appears as a playable character in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. crossover fighting games, beginning with Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008. Alongside Solid Snake from Konami's Metal Gear franchise, Sonic was the first non-Nintendo character to appear in Smash. He was considered for inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001), but the game was too close to completion so his introduction was delayed until Brawl. He returned in the sequels Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014) and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018). Shadow and Knuckles appear in Smash as non-playable characters, while Tails and Knuckles costumes are available for players' Mii avatars. A Sonic amiibo figurine was released for the Smash games, and is also compatible with Mario Kart 8 (2014), Super Mario Maker (2015), and Yoshi's Woolly World (2015).
Sonic has inspired various internet memes, which have been acknowledged by Sega and referenced in games. "Sanic hegehog", a crude Sonic drawn in Microsoft Paint, originated in 2010; typically, the meme uses one of Sonic's catchphrases but with poor grammar. The Sonic Twitter account has made numerous references to it, and it appeared in official downloadable content for Sonic Forces on in-game shirts and as a visual gag in the Sonic the Hedgehog film. Sanic also inspired similar memes and parodies, and was described by William Moo of Syfy Wire as "perfect proof of the twisted love and appreciation many have" for Sonic. In January 2018, players flooded the virtual reality game VRChat with avatars depicting "Ugandan Knuckles", a deformed version of Knuckles the Echidna. The character stemmed from a 2017 review of Sonic Lost World by YouTube user Gregzilla, as well as fans of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds streamer Forsen, who often reference the African country Uganda. The Ugandan Knuckles meme was controversial for its perceived racial insensitivity, and the creator of the avatar expressed regret over how it was used. In response, the Sonic Twitter encouraged players to respect others and donate to a Ugandan charity through GlobalGiving.
In October 2010, Sega delisted Sonic games with average or below-average scores on the review aggregator website Metacritic, to increase the value of the brand and avoid confusing customers. That month, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I was released to general praise, with Goldstein summarizing it as "short but sweet and well worth downloading". Sonic Colors, released shortly afterward, was hailed as a return to form for the series, as was 2011's Sonic Generations. However, Evans-Thirlwell, while considering Sonic Generations the best 3D Sonic game, also called it "an admission of defeat" for depicting the 2D and 3D incarnations of Sonic "together only to remind us of their profound differences". Sonic Lost World was released in 2013 to more mixed reviews, with some critics considering it a fresh take on the Sonic formula and others a poorly designed mess, while the two Sonic Boom games received widespread negative reviews. Both became the worst-selling games in Sonic history, selling only 490,000 copies combined by February 2015. That year, Iizuka admitted that Sonic Team had prioritized shipping games over quality and did not have enough involvement in third-party Sonic games such as Sonic Boom. Sega CEO Haruki Satomi acknowledged that Sega in general had "partially betrayed" the trust of the longtime fans and hoped to focus on quality over quantity.
Sega began to release more Sonic games for mobile phones, such as iOS and Android devices. After he developed a version of Sonic CD for modern consoles in 2011, Australian programmer Christian "Taxman" Whitehead collaborated with fellow Sonic fandom member Simon "Stealth" Thomley to develop remasters of the original Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for iOS and Android, which were released in 2013. The remasters were developed using Whitehead's Retro Engine, an engine tailored for 2D projects, and received praise. Sonic Dash (2013), a Temple Run-style endless runner, was developed by Hardlight and downloaded over 350 million times by 2020, and received a Sonic Boom-themed sequel in 2015. Sonic Team released Sonic Runners, its first game for mobile devices, in 2015. Sonic Runners was also an endless runner, but was unsuccessful and discontinued a year after release. Gameloft released a sequel, Sonic Runners Adventure, in 2017 to generally positive reviews.
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the bestselling video game franchises. The series' cumulative sales reached 89 million units by March 2011 and over 140 million by 2016. The Mario & Sonic series alone sold over 25 million units as of 2019 . The Sonic the Hedgehog video games grossed over $5 billion in sales by 2014, in addition to the Mario & Sonic series grossing $1.25 billion as of 2019 . Series sales and free-to-play mobile game downloads had totaled 920 million units as of 2019 .
In 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment acquired the Sonic film rights, and in June 2014 announced it would produce a Sonic film as a joint venture with Sega's Marza Animation Planet. Neal H. Moritz was attached to produce under his Original Film banner, alongside Takeshi Ito, Mie Onishi, and Toru Nakahara. In February 2016, Sega CEO Hajime Satomi stated the film was scheduled for 2018. Blur Studio's Tim Miller and Jeff Fowler were hired the following October to develop the film; Fowler would make his feature directorial debut, while both would executive produce. In October 2017, Paramount Pictures acquired the rights after Sony put the film into turnaround. However, most of the production team remained unchanged, and principal photography began in September 2018 in Ladysmith, British Columbia.
In May 2013, Nintendo announced it was collaborating with Sega to produce Sonic games for its Wii U and 3DS platforms. The first game in the partnership, 2013's Sonic Lost World, was also the first Sonic game for eighth generation hardware. Sonic Lost World was designed to be streamlined and fluid in movement and design, borrowing elements from Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy games and the canceled X-treme. The second was Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (2013) for the Wii U, the fourth Mario & Sonic game and a 2014 Winter Olympics tie-in (see Crossovers section). The deal was completed in 2014 with the release of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the 3DS; these games were based on the Sonic Boom television series (see Animation section). None of the games were well received; Sonic Lost World polarized critics, while critics found Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mediocre and panned the Sonic Boom games. Nonetheless, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, a Shattered Crystal sequel, was released in 2016.
Sonic Boom, a computer-animated series produced by Sega and Genao Productions, premiered on Cartoon Network in November 2014. It features a satirical take on the Sonic mythos, and the franchise's cast was redesigned for it. According to Iizuka, Sonic Boom came about as a desire to appeal more to Western audiences, and it ran parallel with the main Sonic franchise. To promote the release of Sonic Mania Plus, a five-part series of animated shorts was released on the Sonic the Hedgehog YouTube channel between March 30 and July 17, 2018. The series depicts Sonic's return to his world following the events of Sonic Forces, teaming up with his friends to prevent Eggman and Metal Sonic from collecting the Chaos Emeralds and Master Emerald. The shorts were written and directed by Tyson Hesse, with animation by Neko Productions and music by Tee Lopes. Similarly, Hesse and Neko Productions produced a two-part animated series to tie in with the release of Team Sonic Racing in 2019. Sonic and Tails also appeared as guest stars in OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes in August 2019.
In June 2015, characters from the Angry Birds RPG Angry Birds Epic (2014) appeared as playable characters in Sonic Dash during a three-week promotion, while Sonic was added to Angry Birds Epic as a playable character the following September. Similar crossovers with the Sanrio characters Hello Kitty, Badtz-Maru, My Melody, and Chococat and the Namco game Pac-Man took place in December 2016 and February 2018. In November 2016, a Sonic expansion pack was released for the toys-to-life game Lego Dimensions (2015); the pack includes Sonic as a playable character, in addition to Sonic levels and vehicles.
In June 2015, the Sonic public relations manager Aaron Webber took charge of the series' Twitter account. Under Webber, the account, @sonic_hedgehog, became renowned for posting internet memes and making self-deprecating comments about the Sonic franchise's critical decline. According to Allegra Frank of Polygon, Webber "had an important effect on the franchise, cultivating a new persona for the character, one that has created a renewed sense of hope". The announcement of Sonic Mania in 2016 brought further hope for the Sonic franchise's future. Journalists described it as a true continuation of the Genesis games, succeeding where previous Sonic games—such as Sonic Rush and Sonic 4—had failed. It became the best-reviewed Sonic game in 15 years upon its August 2017 release; Matt Espineli of GameSpot summarized it "exceed[ing] expectations of what a new game in the franchise can look and play like, managing to simultaneously be a charming celebration of the past and a natural progression of the series' classic 2D formula." Many called it one of the best games in the series and expressed excitement for Sonic's future, although Sonic Forces, released a few months later, received mixed reviews.
In a 2015 interview with Polygon, Iizuka acknowledged that contemporary Sonic games had been disappointing. He hoped, from then on, that the Sonic Team logo would stand as a "mark of quality"; he planned to release quality games and expand the Sonic brand, while retaining the modern Sonic design. At the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2016, Sega announced two Sonic games to coincide with the series' 25th anniversary: Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces. Both were released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows in 2017. Sonic Mania was developed by the independent game developers PagodaWest Games and Headcannon with a staff comprising members of the Sonic fandom; Whitehead conceived the project and served as director. The game, which emulates the gameplay and visuals of the Genesis entries, was hailed as a return to form for the franchise. Meanwhile, Sonic Team developed Sonic Forces, which revives the dual gameplay of Sonic Generations along with a third gameplay style featuring the player's custom character. Sonic Forces received mixed reviews, with criticism for its short length. At SXSW 2019, Iizuka confirmed a new mainline Sonic game was in development. Additionally, Sumo Digital developed a Sonic kart racing game, Team Sonic Racing (2019).
Paramount originally scheduled Sonic the Hedgehog for a November 8, 2019 release, but delayed it to February 14, 2020, to accommodate the redesign. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who felt it exceeded the low expectations typically associated with video game-based films; Carrey's performance in particular was praised. Criticism was directed at a perceived lack of originality or ambition, and while Sonic's second redesign was praised, some felt it set a negative precedent for the film industry by giving fans the power to influence the filmmakers. With an estimated budget of $81–95 million, the film has grossed over $306 million worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 2020 so far. In March, it became the highest-grossing film based on a video game in US box office history. Fowler has expressed interest in returning for a sequel.