On June 23, 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog arrived in North America to jump-start sales of Sega's Genesis video game console. The blue blur would eventually become a major hit for Sega, inspiring 130 releases across multiple consoles and selling more than 70 million games worldwide.
Where did it all begin? Well, every company needs a mascot.
Two decades ago, the future was slightly dim for Sega. Nintendo's 8-bit NES console had gobbled up market share around the world, and Super Mario 3 took the market by storm. Sega desperately needed a fresh face to drive game sales for its 16-bit Sega Genesis console, which had hit the market years before the Super NES (also, the Genesis is more powerful than the SNES).
According to 1UP, Sega's president at the time, Hayao Nakayama, challenged the company to create a mascot that could rival Mario in popularity. He wanted to beat Nintendo. Sega's AM8 research and development team created several character designs, but a spiky hedgehog (code-named Mr. Needlemouse) became the frontrunner, eventually helping the company grow to achieve billions in sales. You can read more about how Sonic was created at 1UP.
Sonic's 20th anniversary is an enormous milestone for Sega, and on November 24 the company will fly a 48-feet tall, 60-feet long, and 26-feet wide helium balloon version of the character during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan. In 1993, the hedgehog was the first video game character ever to be featured in the highly popular parade, and it accidentally broke an off-duty policeman's shoulder. Perhaps Sonic thought he saw Dr. Robotnik.
Sonic Generations is also running into the PS3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo 3DS this holiday season in celebration of Sonic turning 20. The demo is available today for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. Spinners run through classic levels in the anniversary-inspired game, which allows players to switch between 2D or 3D views during gameplay. One thing I won't look forward to when I play is hearing that dreaded sound of all my golden rings dropping when I accidentally land on a bad guy.
Also, all Sonic the Hedgehog Digital Games are now available for up to 50 percent off on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network for two days only. Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (for iOS devices) is also discounted at 60 percent off the normal price for a limited time.
Take a look at this memorable montage of Sonic the Hedgehog games compiled by YouTube user sonicguru: