Sonic movie poster from Sonic 2

Sonic the Hedgehog Has the Best Movie & TV Adaptations

It’s a good time to be a fan of video game adaptations. What was once a maligned subgenre of films, with infamous movies like Super Marios Bros. and the entirety of Uwe Boll’s library, has given way to an era of critical and commercial hits. In the past year, we’ve had TLOU, Castlevania: Nocturne, and The Super Mario Bros. Movie find success, and it’s only been a few weeks since Fallout released to strong praise. Yet none can compare to the consistent output and quality of Sonic the Hedgehog adaptations. 

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Oh sure, when you think of Sonic, your mind will probably jump to the series’ spotty game output that has made him into a punching bag for most of his career. However, while his video games have languished, whenever he stepped outside of them into the world of movies and television, he has almost always found success. In terms of overall output, I can safely say that Sonic the Hedgehog has had solid and entertaining adaptations when compared to other game franchises.

There are plenty of different TV series that the Blue Blur has starred in ever since the ’90s. In total, Sonic has starred in six different shows and only one of them, Sonic Underground, I would personally say isn’t very good. The rest – The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic SATAM, Sonic X, Sonic Boom, and Sonic Prime – all range from being fun to pretty dang good. Each has its distinct charms that separate them from each other while also proving the franchise isn’t afraid to experiment and change with the times.

The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog header

The world of children’s television has shifted like crazy over the three decades since The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog first came out in 1993. While that show was modeled after short slapstick comedies like Ren & Stimpy, by the time we reach Sonic Prime, which just had its last season earlier this year, we have a show that has a serialized narrative featuring Sonic bouncing around the multiverse on an adventure to stop Dr. Eggman.

Each series appealed to a different audience, gaining popularity because it understood the current trends in children’s television. Fans of the anime aesthetic, like myself, gravitated towards Sonic X as it was airing in the early 2000s, while fans of more adult-oriented humor found something to like with Sonic Boom. Plus, people who wanted a darker take on the franchise had Sonic SATAM.

I bring all this up because, even though the shows’ overall themes and how Sonic is presented may change, these adaptations don’t forget who Sonic is. Sonic is a free spirit yet knows when to be serious and when to quip to lighten up the mood. He’s tried to maintain that cool attitude since his inception and while the games may fumble with that in Sonic 06 or Sonic Colors, the shows have always understood who and what he is.

I look at movies like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and while I do see exactly what I envisioned the Mushroom Kingdom to be like since I was a kid, I can’t say that Chris Pratt’s Mario or Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong are at all how I imagined them to be. A part of that comes down to the writing of the characters and the actors that played them. No matter if it’s Jaleel White or Deven Mack, whenever I see Sonic voiced in any movie or TV show, I can safely nod my head and say “That’s Sonic.”

Adapting a video game to television or film is hard. While it may seem as simple as just taking what worked in the game and inserting that into a TV show or movie, it’s a lot more complicated. Many video game adaptations have failed to transition because they opt to try to do a greatest-hits version of iconic moments you remember from the games, like the latest Mortal Kombat movie or Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Others seem embarrassed that they’re based on a game at all and do everything in their power to ape film franchises, like Uncharted or Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil films. The balance is somewhere in the middle, but even then, if you’re just trying to fully adapt a game and retell the same story just in live-action, as The Last of Us did, then it makes me question why I’m watching the show when I could just be playing the far more engaging and interesting game it’s based on. 

A scene from Sonic Prime

Sonic has consistently found that balance. The franchise, for the most part, is one that doesn’t have a grand overarching plot, so it has the freedom to experiment with whatever it wants to be. It’s not beholden to continuity or an overarching narrative. As long as you keep the core tenets of the series intact and Sonic is the same carefree guy that gamers fell in love with back in the ’90s, you can get away with a lot. You can still have your story, like how Sonic SATAM, Sonic X, and Sonic Prime did, but they never made that the sole focus. The focus was always to entertain kids and even adults. 

Gamers, both young and old, can enjoy these adaptations. Sonic fans come in from all ages and anyone can hop into it and find something to enjoy. As I said, there are plenty of different Sonic shows that appeal to all ages, and that’s especially true for the film series. I’ve neglected to mention that aspect of the franchise so far because, at least in the past few years, that’s where Sonic has seen the most growth and popularity. I mean, if the first film was able to earn over $300 million during a global pandemic, then there has to be an audience for it. 

The films excel at finding a great balance between appealing to younger and older fans. Older fans can have the joy of seeing famous set pieces from the game come to life and see acclaimed actors like Jim Carrey and Idris Elba voice some of the most iconic video game characters ever made, while kids can have fast-paced action and silly humor. It’s not exactly the deepest family-friendly movie series in the world, but it puts a smile on people’s faces, and that’s good enough for me.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 movie

It’s clear that those involved in making these Sonic adaptations care about what they’re doing. Too many times, video game adaptations are made just because corporations think they’re an easy cash grab. Gran Turismo is popular, so let’s make a Gran Turismo movie that’s just a generic racing movie. People seem to like Assassin’s Creed, so why not fart out a lukewarm movie that barely connects to the series. Sure, Sonic has new adaptations because Sega wanted to keep the brand alive while the next game was being developed, but if it wasn’t for the creators actually caring about what they’re making, then these projects would be absolutely soulless. All I’m saying is that if people didn’t care about Sonic the Hedgehog, he would have kept his original movie design.

Video games have, for the longest time, tried to gain the respect of mainstream audiences by having television and movie adaptations. They’ve attempted to remove a lot of the joy that made these games unique in favor of appealing to a wider general audience, but Sonic never gave in to that trend.

Sonic has, and always will be, a franchise aimed at children, and every single adaptation has been able to endear itself to children of its generation. They did so because they remembered that they’re based on video games and captured that same sense of joy and fun that Sonic inspired in gamers. Then when those kids became adults, they shared that exact same joy with their kids and still champion the series whenever a new adaptation is announced.

So with Knuckles having just dropped on Paramount+ and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 set to release in December, I can safely confirm that Sonic’s legacy in the world of movies and television has been secured.

People may be quick to herald the latest big show or film based on a game as the best video game adaptation ever, but never forget just how consistently solid Sonic’s output has been. Without such consistent quality, people probably wouldn’t be as obsessed with the Blue Blur as they are now and probably wouldn’t have kept him as relevant in pop culture if it wasn’t for them.


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Author
Jesse Lab
Jesse Lab is a freelance writer for The Escapist and has been a part of the site since 2019. He currently writes the Frame Jump column, where he looks at and analyzes major anime releases. He also writes for the film website Flixist.com. Jesse has been a gamer since he first played Pokémon Snap on the N64 and will talk to you at any time about RPGs, platformers, horror, and action games. He can also never stop talking about the latest movies and anime, so never be afraid to ask him about recommendations on what's in theaters and what new anime is airing each season.