In recent years, Sega’s iconic Sonic the Hedgehog series has become something of a punchline in the gaming industry. Thought the company is slowly winning back fans with its return to the classic Sonic formula, the series was in a sort of critical limbo from the late 90s to the 2000s. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), for example, was almost legendary in its awfulness, and the deluge of annoying and unnecessary side characters found in later games was enough to turn fans off of the franchise forever.
However, there was a reason why Sonic ever got popular in the first place. Released on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive in 1991, the original Sonic the Hedgehog was a cheery and fast-paced answer to Nintendo’s wildly popular Mario series, and quickly caught the attention of gamers worldwide.
Part of the game’s appeal was its equally cheery and fast-paced soundtrack, composed by Masato Nakamura of Dreams Come True fame. Though the soundtrack was fairly small for the time period (the game featured 11 background tracks and 7 incidental tracks), it introduced some of gaming’s most iconic music.
Any child playing games in 1991 had the Green Hill Zone theme drilled into their head at some point. Bright and cheery, the track is often the first piece of music people think of when asked about the series. The drowning theme – a loud and harsh, yet strangely catchy piece which plays when Sonic touches water – terrorized countless players. Another notable track is Scrap Brain Zone, which utilizes the game’s distinctive bass-heavy style most effectively.
Though Sonic’s glory days are long gone, his games consistently deliver in the music department. This goes all the way back to the game that started it all. Catchy and fun, the music of Sonic the Hedgehog set the gold standard for games of the early 1990s, and is still being enjoyed over 20 years later.