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What's With All the Sonic Hate?

I channel my inner '90s mascot attitude and explore a recent troubling trend.

At last year’s PAX East I attended a panel hosted by one of the marketing magicians for Sega of America in the '90s, Al Nilson. At that panel I got up to ask a question about the NEMO project he worked on in the late '80s, but before I did I told this quick story about the time I borrowed the first Sonic the Hedgehog game off my friend when it was first released:  While I was at home being blown away by the technical achievement of Sonic Team’s new baby, my friend called me and said his mother was mad he lent out his new game and was making him come by in a couple hours to pick it up. Since my time was now limited to how much of this amazing new game I was going to be able to play,  I decided to hunker down and try to beat the game before he came to get it. I focused and played as carefully as I could. I ended up beating the game without continuing and with all the Chaos Emeralds. I had the honor of telling Al Nilson it was one of the best "Gaming Zen" moments of my life. He appreciated my story and my love for Sonic.

I wasn’t the only one expressing my Sonic fandom. There were many others attending the panel that had plenty of questions for Al and the blue blur. It’s no wonder, Sonic The Hedgehog blew up the video game scene in the '90s, Sega’s marketing to sell Sonic as the high-speed hip alternative to the old Mario style of platformer worked well. Along with a superior sports lineup and the bloody version of Mortal Kombat, Sonic helped propel the Sega Genesis as an equal peer to the Super NES. The new Sega mascot was a success and spawned its sequels; the arguably superior Sonic 2, the trilogy ending Sonic 3, and the superb Sonic CD.

Despite the sheer amount of current and past fans and its rich legacy, I’m starting to see a trend on the internet of people hating on the original games. They feel not only do the original Sonic games not hold up over time, but were never good games in the first place.  Unfortunately these bashers are not just happy with saying they don’t like the games, they have to prove that Sonic the Hedgehog is and always was a piece of garbage, and anyone who still thinks Sonic 1 is a good game is not only blinded by nostalgia, but a subspecies of human not worthy of playing the same gamespace as the rest of them. I’m surprised to see how widespread this has become, but not as surprised as I am at the IGN GameScoop podcast crew’s treatment of Sonic and his fans.

First off, I love the GameScoop podcast and I really like the IGN crew, but I’m very disappointed by their bandwagoning Sonic bashing as of late. One host was asked how long he hated Sonic, and he replied “ever since I developed something called good taste.” Another acknowledged there is a solid Sonic fan base “for some reason,” but “can’t understand why.” The little Sonic jabs continued in later podcasts as a running joke, including how Sonic fans “just want to have sex with Big the Cat.” Now I’m not just a fanboy who got butthurt because someone said something bad about a game I like, but it did take a game I was passionate about to make note of a phenomenon where millennials are hanging on every word of their favorite YouTube star and regurgitate their opinions without forming their own by playing the game themselves.  It creates an artificial negative outlook for a game that never had one.

You see, Sonic wasn’t the first franchise to get some negative revisionist history. Something similar happened to Seaman for the Sega Dreamcast. The Angry Video Game Nerd put out an episode dedicated to it and very shortly after the game went from a well respected oddity in the Dreamcast library to showing up on everyone’s top 10 worst Dreamcast game lists, citing the AVGN’s video as “proof” of their reasoning for adding it. AVGN did make fun of the game, which is what he does, but if you watch the whole video he is actually quite impressed by its strong points, particularly its ability to convincingly pull off the feeling of having a real conversation with a video game character, something that still hasn’t been surpassed today. Also a few years ago it became trendy to hate on the US version of Super Mario Bros. 2. Once a new generation of gaming masses discovered it wasn’t a “real” Mario game, but a hack of Something-Something Doki-Doki Panic, that it somehow cancelled any credibility it had as a “real” Mario game, and in effect, couldn’t possibly be any good. That’s funny, I remember absolutely loving the game when it came out. Sure, Super Mario Bros. 3 was the “real” successor to the original Mario formula, but this didn’t take away from SMB2 by any means. The SMB2 trolls were eventually silenced by people like me who stood up for the game and laughed in the face of all the parroting haters. Pair that with the rumors that Miyamoto had a hand in the game after all, and this SMB2 bashing slowed if not stopped, the tone of internet chatter about SMB2 is once again that of acceptance and respect.  

Not everyone is going to like every game, and not everyone is going to agree on what games they think are good. Even universally beloved titles will be extremely disliked by someone. I dislike some games that are considered legends and there are universally panned games I like. But for every game I hate I completely understand why people like it, I even understand why some people like games that are universally panned. In fact, I’m happy that there are people who still enjoy something that someone put so much hard work in to. What I don’t like is taking your disliking of a game and considering it the final say-all of the quality and entertainment value of the game and dismissing the people that feel otherwise.  Sure, as a game reviewer your job is to evaluate a game and rate it, but of course it’s still just your opinion, even paid game reviewers know not every will agree with their take on a game.

Me saying all this is null and void if my only playing of Sonic was back in the '90s. So to be fair, I gave it another shot to see if I’m really blinded by nostalgia or if I could still enjoy Sonic the way I used to. I downloaded the Nintendo 3DS 3D-ified version and gave it a serious playthrough. Yes, its fun. It’s a good game. There are so many little touches that people take for granted. Like the idle animations which became a trend in mascot games soon after.  I guess I can see how some people don’t like it, platformers have definitely evolved over time. The idea of Sonic in a lot of people’s minds is a fast and furious turbo ride of a platformer, but it’s not just that. Sonic has some technical platforming areas to go along with the speedy parts. It’s like a game of Chutes and Ladders, you push through some tricky areas and if you get through that, you are rewarded with a high speed burst. I guess some don’t feel the reward is enough to offset the work to get there. Another aspect people complain about is “cheap deaths”. I find this surprising because games still considered classics like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts are one long cheap death, requiring you to memorize nearly every inch of the game. Why does Sonic's cheap deaths make it a terrible game? It doesn’t, you just either stink or lack patience.

The original Sonic the Hedgehog was an achievement in its day, and paved the way for games to come. The character and worlds are oozing with personality. '90s XTREEEME-ism  would later become a joke, but Sonic broke the trend of every game character skipping along with a big goofy smile on their face and added drive, determination, and most importantly energy into its main character. I really hope the upcoming Sonic Mania is as good as it looks. The new Drop Dash move looks exciting, and the reimagined classic levels with the new retro styled levels looks like a lot of fun.

So, Sonic fans need to speak up. We need to be heard and reverse this ridiculous trend of Sonic Bashing. Sonic 1 and 2 a great games, period. Yes, OK, fine, some things don’t hold up, some gameplay is a little rusty, but new releases of the older games fixed some of the problems, particularly adding the spin dash to the original game. You also can’t deny its importance in gaming history, especially its integral role in the 16-bit generation and the evolution of platformers in general.  

I’m curious to know what the rest of the PixlBit community feels about the original Sonic games. Were you always a fan? Always a hater? A former fan, now a hater? A former hater, now a fan? Don’t worry, if you think Sonic stinks I won’t attack you, everyone is entitled to their opinion, just don’t hate on the people that are still fond of the red-shoed rodent.

Please send all your Big the Cat erotic fan fiction to @IGN #gamescoop




10/18/2016 at 01:43 PM

I've not really either a fan or a hater of Sonic.  I never had a Genesis, so when I was young I would always be eager to play the much-hyped Sonic whenever I was at a friend's house who owned one.  I do think it was visually very cool, especially for the time.  But through the years after I spent enough time with the original games, I realized that they just weren't for me.

I wonder if alot of the current hate comes from the way that Sega tried to make it a direct competitor to Mario back in the early marketing.  Looking back, most people still consider the early Super Mario Bros games to be platforming materpieces.   When you compare Sonic to them, they are nothing alike.  When Sonic slows down, it actually becomes a pretty awful platformer.  Of course, it's not meant to be played that way.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/18/2016 at 05:54 PM

I think the Sonic hate from the media actually comes from Sonic fans not shutting up about it. Much like the Final Fantasy VII uber fans, rabid Sonic fans come out of the woodwork constantly. From what I've seen (and experienced firsthand in retail), the really hardcore Sonic fans are obsessive to a level that few games reach, and it can be off-putting.

For the record, I never cared for the Sonic series, but I was a dyed in the wool Nintendo fan. I thought Sonic 2 was good back then, but I don't think those games hold up well over time, especially when compared to the Mario games of the same era. But to your point of revisionist history, I get annoyed with that, also. I have remarked many times on Nerds Without Pants that "Nintendo Hard" isn't some badge of honor; it stemmed from people not play testing their games. Similarly, I laugh at how Final Fantasy IX has become a darling of the Final Fantasy series, when at the time of its release the masses hated it with a firey passion.


10/18/2016 at 09:04 PM

The rabid fanbase does have some backing to that on the late 2000s and early 2010s era (i've experienced it), but I think nowadays the fanbase has become more chill. We can't also really measure how much there are rabid fans compared to normal ones either way.

Cary Woodham

10/18/2016 at 06:39 PM

Even when it was new and fresh, I was never reallly a fan of the first Sonic game, so if I bash on it now, it's not because it's trendy to do so.  And the only thing I liked about Sonic 2 was that Tails was in it.  The first time I was actually impressed by a Sonic game was with Sonic 3.  I actually really like that game.  Even though I'm not a big Sonic fan, I'm always willing to try whatever new Sonic game is out, because I never know if it'll be one I like or not.  Some Sonic games that I like are popular choices, like Sonic Adventure, while others are ones that I only seemingly like, such as Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D Blast.  I guess I'm just weird.

I also actually liked Big the Cat's character, mainly because other Sonic fans hate him and I like big, stupid characters.  I also enjoyed Super Mario Bros. 2  MORE than Mario 3, but like I said, I guess I'm just weird.

I think that Sonic Mania will be a step in the right direction for Sonic.  I like it because it plays more like Sonic 3 than anything, and as mentioned earlier, that is a Sonic game I like.  I played Sonic Mania at PAX West and the music is also awesome, by the way.

I'm actually working on reviewing Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice right now.  Um, yay?  But like I said, even though I'm not a big Sonic fan, I'm always willing to try out any new Sonic titles that come along.

By the way, have you ever played Freedom Planet?  It's a lot like an old Sonic game, and I think you might like it.  But I imagine you've probably already heard about it. 

Super Step Contributing Writer

02/17/2017 at 07:18 PM

I was always envious of Genesis owners cause at the time it was the "cool" system and I loved playing Sonic 2 at demo kiosks in the mall. Sonic was a big part of that "cool" factor and hell, I even liked the BAD Sonic cartoon (the one with the screeching chicken robot) and didn't know Sonic Sat A.M. existed until later in life. I do remember a show called like Sonic Rock or something ...

Anyway, I also really dug Sonic Adventure when it came out on Dreamcast. It looked great at the time and I still think the speed levels in that and SA2 are good, cheesy fun, even if I don't like the other aspects that make the overall product more "average."

I didn't play the originals the whole way through until much later on through emulation, but I can't tell you how many times I've beaten Sonic CD on my phone. To be fair, CD really isn't my favorite and that was mainly due to having my phone out in a lot of waiting rooms, but there's somehting about the simplicity of just going to the right and jumping a lot that is satisfying.

As others have said, the parts in the original games that slow you down are ... odd. I'd prefer they add some ryhtym sections where you have to jump on cue to slowing the action down. But that doesn't mean they're bad games.

As for the hate, if you say something loud and long enough with no one disagreeing it might as well be true in the minds of many people. There's nothing more arrogant than claiming a piece of media is objectively bad or good based on your subjective opinion. There's such a thing as a demonstrably buggy game, sure, but how fun somehting is isn't a scientific question and people on their high horse can blow it out their ass.

Man of Steel still sucks though ...

Also, didn't furries come from the Sonic fandom, kind of? I have mixed feelings about that.

In short, I like Sonic games well enough, the character has a cool design, and despite enjoying Game Grumps videos bashing some of his 3D outings, I thing he gets more hate than he deserves. Now I want to play Sonic Generations ... but I DON'T want to use PS Now to do it. Uuuughh.  


10/18/2016 at 09:26 PM

I love the early Sonic games. The Genesis was my first console and I have fond memories of getting out of my horrible second shift job at LL Bean and going home too wired on coffee to sleep, nothing on TV, or anyone else awake at that hour and zooming through levels until 3 or 4 in the morning.

And for the record, hedgehogs are insecivores and not rodents.

Super Step Contributing Writer

02/17/2017 at 07:18 PM

Are echidnas insectivores as well?


10/18/2016 at 09:34 PM

I've been a Sonic fan since 2004 and never backed down from the series even on its bad days. Having been in the fandom for almost literally a decade, I think there are certain factors involved:

1. Bad views towards the fanbase: I'm with Julian on the fact that the rabid fans give a bad impression of the kind of people that play the game, with the more common period from what i've know being of the late 2000s and early 2010s era of the franchise where they reared their ugly head. But I do wanna say that measuring the rabid fans from the rest is hard to pinpoint, so for all that it's actually real, it may be just a vocal minority. Also because of the weird, cringy and/or plain bad fanworks, but come on! Every big franchise with a notable fandom isn't inmune to that!

2. Views towards the modern games: Whenever it started with the first Sonic Adventure, Heroes or the spin-off Shadow the Hedgehog, it's been a mixed ride on modern games, some getting good to great recognition (Adventure 2, Colors, Generations, many of the handheld games), other not so much (Sonic 06 as an obvious example). Having played Sonic Heroes (my first ever 3D Sonic, which I loved at the time) two years ago and finding it to be dated in certain aspects, there's some definitely flaws  rearing through and certain mechanics haven't dated well in certain games, which mostly have to do with Sega and Sonic Team trying to find the best way to put Sonic in 3D and later on trying to please a fandom that's broken on what should be done with Sonic, thus creating inconsistencies, which to be fair they seem to have found a good balance with the normal portions of Unleashed and adapting those to the better received games of Colors and Generations.

3. Lastly and what I feel to be the main one; many gaming "journalists" are simply dicks: Honestly, this article right here explains what I mean by that (and even mentions that Podcast). The only thing I can add is the fact that of course there's trolls and fan haters that only focus on the negative aspects and rabid fans, thus trying imply that the whole franchise is that way.

Anyway, I feel that for those who are still loyal to Sonic like me it's been really rough on the last couple of years, but I do think there's bright things to come, mostly on Sonic Mania and Sega even seeking co-peration with fans for game projects. Either way, we've been incredibly close on many fronts and rather than take a negative outlook on the franchise, we welcome the positive changes and most of us have pretty much started to ignore most mainstream gaming sites for being incredibly unreliable.

Anyway, i've been rambling for too long, so i'll just say that this was a pretty great article Chris and i'm with you in defending the franchise from badly done criticism (either of older games or otherwise).

Chris Iozzi Staff Alumnus

11/03/2016 at 11:29 AM

I took a look at the article you linked, he got it right too, glad I'm not the only one noticing this and fighting back.


10/19/2016 at 10:06 AM

Mostly consider myself now a "closet" Sonic fan. Was hardcore back in the day (thus my original screen name) but after Sonic Adventure, the later 3D titles and the lackluster Sonic 4 left me disinterested with the franchise. Until recently the only Sonic title that got my interest was Sonic Generations. But you won't see me bash on the originals. To me they were the only good sonic games out there now a days, with a few possible expections like Sonic Colors. I didn't realize the old skool Sonic titles were getting hate. I can understand the Adventure games given how they might not have "aged well". Honestly you won't find me bashing old skool Sonic but I won't exactly be defending it either, especially after the botched Sonic Mania reveal and Sonic Boom...

Chris Iozzi Staff Alumnus

10/20/2016 at 09:40 AM

Thank you for the great responses, everyone. Especially Rangergirls clarification! I appreciate the different views you all present and glad so see some fans chiming in.


10/20/2016 at 11:28 AM

I enjoyed the Genesis Sonic games more than the 16-bit Mario games, to be honest, and I was a SNES owner. My big gripe with Sonic is that for all the emphasis on speed, there are too many levels that don't let you charge through at top speed or you'll get killed. That was always a bit of a contradiction of design for Sonic.

One of Sega's biggest failings with Sonic was putting him on the back burner for the Saturn and throwing all of its resources behind Virtua Fighter instead. Don't get me wrong, VF is my favorite fighting franchise, and Sega emphasized Virtua Fighter because that was what was popular in Japan. But had Sega worked more on Sonic during the Saturn era, he might have had better fortunes, and the Saturn might have done a bit better in a three-way rivalry with Mario and Crash Bandicoot. That said, Sega saturated the Genesis with Sonic (Sonic 1-3, Sonic and Knuckles, plus spinoffs), so Sonic may not have been enough to overcome all of the Saturn's other issues. One thing that keeps Nintendo's properties high-value is that Nintendo usually (not always, though) spaces them out and leaves folks wanting more.

Sonic is ultimately a relic of a time when Sega was a console maker. He was the "face" of the Genesis and the Dreamcast. Now Sega doesn't make consoles anymore and hasn't offered Sonic as a mascot for either the PlayStation or the Xbox to keep up a rivalry with Mario, so Sonic has a bit of a hard time finding his place in the gaming market. This reflects in the many directions Sega has tried to take him that didn't pan out. However, he is still Sega's most successful and recognizable property. Sega needs to find one direction with Sonic that works, and stick with it.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

10/20/2016 at 09:08 PM

Really enjoyed reading this. As many have commented, I think part of the Sonic hate is merely a reaction to the mega Sonic fans that maybe pushed a little too hard to get people to see why it was the "greatest series evaaaar".  LOL.

However, I also think that alot of it involves the realization that, while Sonic was marked as a speedster, many stages after the initial zone in Sonic 1 really weren't designed to let you cut loose and speed through it. If anything, there were too many spikes, chasms, and enemies to really floor it in later stages. I think since very few of us as kids (if any) really noticed it back the 90's, perhaps now that we've gotten older, an increasing number may see the game merely as an adverage platformer when you take away the speed aspect of it. That's just my theory anyway.

Personally, I loved both the Sonic and Mario series back in the day.  Sonice the Hedgehog was THE game that made me aware of the Genesis system. I think it was great for its time. Admittedly, I also had to admit to myself that the game isn't nearly as speedy as I remembered it. But realistically, every game is going to show its age if you give it enough time. That just how it is. I feel no need to bash it because the haters have become more vocal.

Chris Iozzi Staff Alumnus

10/24/2016 at 01:08 PM

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Jamie, Thank you!

Chris Iozzi Staff Alumnus

11/03/2016 at 11:25 AM

Here is a great video addressing the same issue. Has a great rundown of each level, points out the strong and weak points of the game, a few I didnt consider.

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