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 its earlier release of the Sega Genesis in the 16-bit era and its reliance on its successful arcade business to port games to the console. However, Nakayama recognized that Sega needed a star character in a game that could demonstrate the power of the hardware of the Sega Genesis. Sega's mascot, Alex Kidd, was considered too similar to Mario. Some sources indictate that an internal contest was held to determine a new mascot, although designer Hirokazu Yasuhara indicated the instruction was given to only him, artist Naoto Ohshima, and programmer Yuji Naka. Regardless, the winning character was a teal hedgehog created by Ohshima. The gameplay of Sonic the Hedgehog 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 original prototype was a platform game that involved a fast-moving character rolling in a ball through a long winding tube, a concept fleshed out with Ohshima's character design and levels conceived by Yasuhara.
The first Sonic game, released in 1991 for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, was developed after Sega requested a new mascot character to replace Alex Kidd and 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.
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 in November 1991. Level artist Yasushi Yamaguchi designed Sonic's new sidekick, Tails, a two-tailed fox that can fly and was inspired by Japanese folklore about the kitsune. While STI made Sonic 2, Ohshima led a team in Japan to create Sonic CD for the Sega CD. 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.
A number of Sonic games were developed for Sega's 8-bit consoles, the Master System and Game Gear. The first, an 8-bit version of the first game, was developed by Ancient to promote the handheld Game Gear and was released in December 1991. Aspect Co. developed most of the subsequent 8-bit Sonic games, beginning with a version of Sonic 2. Other notable 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).
A Sonic the Hedgehog manga series was published in Shogakukan's Shogaku Yonensei magazine, beginning in 1992. Written by Kenji Terada and illustrated by Sango Norimoto, the Sonic manga followed a sweet but cowardly young hedgehog named Nicky whose alter ego was the cocky, heroic Sonic. According to character artist Kazuyuki Hoshino, the publication of the Sonic 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.
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 (1999–2000) to tie in with the release of Sonic Adventure. DIC's Sonic adaptations are generally not held in high regard.
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 upcoming Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer spacecraft, to be launched by ESA and Airbus in 2022, was able to gain Sega's approval to use Sonic as the mascot for the device. Sonic and Eggman appear as minor supporting 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).
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 to work on Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. The two were intended to be one large game, but time was limited and the manufacturing costs of a 34-megabit cartridge with NVRAM were prohibitively expensive. The team split the game in half, giving the developers more time to finish the second part, and splitting the cost between two cartridges. The games introduced Sonic's rival Knuckles, created by artist Takashi Thomas Yuda. 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. 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.
Efforts to adapt Sonic to film began in August 1994, when 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 escaping from Sonic X-treme into the real world, and Sonic collaborated with a boy to stop Eggman. However, none of the companies could agree, so the film was canceled. Jeffries, with permission from Sega, pitched his treatment to DreamWorks Animation, but 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.
Conversely, 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.
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".
With X-treme's cancellation, Sega ported 3D Blast to the console with updated graphics and bonus levels developed by Sonic Team. 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 to produce the second Project Sonic game—Sonic R, a 3D racing game and the only original Sonic game for the Saturn. 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 struggle to find an audience. The series' popularity diminished; according to Nick Thorpe of Retro Gamer, "[b]y 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. The Saturn's limited capabilities made development difficult, so Sonic Team transitioned development to the Dreamcast, which Naka believed would allow for the ultimate Sonic game. Sonic Adventure, released in 1998, was one of the largest video games ever created at the time, and introduced elements that became series staples. Artist Yuji Uekawa redesigned the characters to better suit 3D, with a style influenced by comics and animation. Sonic Team's American division, Sonic Team USA, developed a sequel, Sonic Adventure 2 (2001), designed to be more action-oriented. 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's hardware. Dimps also developed Sonic Rush (2005) for the Nintendo DS, which uses a 2.5D perspective. 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 to the series included Richard Elson, Nigel Kitching, Andy Diggle, and Nigel Dobbyn, among others. Sonic the Comic featured Sonic stories aimed at children, in addition to news and review sections. Although Sonic the Comic adapted the events of the games, the writers (such as Kitching) introduced concepts that allowed them to establish their own unique 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 where the official series left off.
In January 2001, Sega announced it was discontinuing the Dreamcast to become a third-party developer. Afterward, Sega released an expanded port of Sonic Adventure 2 for the Nintendo GameCube, chosen for its 56k technology. Sonic Team USA also began developing the first multi-platform Sonic game, Sonic Heroes (2003), for the GameCube, Microsoft's Xbox, and Sony's PlayStation 2. The game was designed for a broad audience, and Sonic Team revived elements, such as special stages and the Chaotix characters, not seen since the Genesis era. 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 Sonic spin-off starring Shadow, a character introduced in Adventure 2. While Shadow retains most elements from previous Sonic games, it was aimed at a mature audience and introduces third-person shooting and nonlinear gameplay. Shadow the Hedgehog was critically 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. Following this string of poorly received Sonic games, Sonic Team refocused on speed and more traditional side-scrolling, and Iizuka was installed as the head of the department. 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, expanding 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. The British studio Sumo Digital developed Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (2010) and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (2012), crossover kart racing games featuring Sonic and other Sega franchises.
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 game faced serious development problems; Naka 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 in particular was panned and became regarded as the worst game in the series. Game Informer wrote that the game "[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 that Jun Senoue contributed to, and, 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. Additionally, 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 a multitude of Sonic games, and Tee Lopes—who is 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). At the beginning, 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 took over writing duties in 2006 and remained the head writer until the series' cancellation. Following a lawsuit by Penders for ownership of characters he created, in 2013 the series was rebooted; the reboot resulted in hundreds of characters being dropped, leaving only those who were introduced in the games or predated Penders' run.
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), and a version of Unleashed were also developed for the Wii and PlayStation 2. Sega 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 to tie in with the 2008 Summer Olympics, and sequels based on the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics were released in 2009 and 2011. Dimps returned to the Sonic series with Sonic Rush Adventure, a sequel to Sonic Rush, in 2007. DS versions of the Mario & Sonic games were produced, 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).
At the time of its cancellation, Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog was the longest-running American comic book to never be relaunched, and in 2008 was recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest-running comic based on a video game. 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 being set after the events of Sonic Forces. Fans also took it upon themselves to continue the Archie series unofficially, including finishing the issues that remained unpublished.
Since 2007, Sonic has appeared with Nintendo's mascot Mario in the Mario & Sonic series of Olympic Games tie-ins. Sonic also appears as a playable character in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series of 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 first 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 Brawl's sequels, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014) and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018). Additionally, Shadow and Knuckles appear in Smash as non-playable characters, while numerous Sonic characters make cameos through collectible stickers and trophies.
The series has inspired various internet memes, which have been acknowledged by Sega and referenced in games. "Sanic hegehog", a poorly-drawn Sonic from 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 Syfy Wire as "perfect proof of the twisted love and appreciation many have for [Sonic]." In January 2018, players flooded the virtual reality video 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 from fans of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds streamer Forsen, who often make references to the African country Uganda in the chat section of his streams. The 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 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 their upgrades received considerable praise. Sonic Dash (2013), a Temple Run-style endless runner, was developed by Hardlight and was downloaded over 100 million times by 2015, and received a Sonic Boom-themed sequel that year. 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 Sega's flagship franchise and one of the bestselling video game franchises, selling 89 million by March 2011 and grossing over $5 billion by 2014. The sum of series sales and free-to-play mobile game downloads totaled 920 million by 2019. Several Sonic games appear on lists of the greatest games of all time, and the series has influenced internet and popular culture, as well as games featuring animal mascots. However, Sonic games have also been criticized for a perceived decline in quality over the years.
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the bestselling video game franchises. The series' cumulative sales reached 89 million units by March 2011 and over 100.54 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 . The sum of series sales and free-to-play mobile game downloads have totaled 920 million units as of 2019 .
In 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment acquired the film rights to Sonic the Hedgehog, 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 three 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. 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, critics found Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mediocre and panned the Sonic Boom games. Nonetheless, the fifth Mario & Sonic game, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, a Shattered Crystal sequel, were 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 runs 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, respectively. 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-themed 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 received mixed reviews when it was released a few months later.
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 directed at its short length. At SXSW in March 2019, Iizuka confirmed a new mainline Sonic game was in development, although he did not specify any details. Additionally, Sumo Digital developed another Sonic kart racing game, Team Sonic Racing (2019). Unlike its predecessors, Team Sonic Racing only features Sonic characters, as Sumo Digital wanted to expand the series' world and character roster.
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. Against an estimated budget of $81–95 million, the film has grossed $111 million worldwide, and set records for a video game-based film during its opening weekend.