Sonic the Hedgehog: The incredible secrets left on the cutting room floor

20 years ago today, Sonic the Hedgehog was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world, transforming the gaming landscape in a blur of blue. But while we'll be celebrating that classic original in its own right today, it was almost very different. Unused features buried in retail cartridges, preview screenshots and even instruction manuals all hint at features we never got to play in the very first Sonic game. But thanks to the avid Sonic fan community, we can now see them all! So roll up for the Sonic freak show - you won't believe your eyes.

Disclaimer: It's important to point out that Sega scrapped all of these things for a reason, and so should not be considered a part of the classic Sonic. We're just fascinated to see what almost went into this classic videogame. 


Sonic 1

Looking back at preview screens of Sonic 1, there are some strange differences. For instance, at the end of each act, Sonic would leap triumphantly into the air:

Above: An old magazine screenshot circa 1991 and the actual sprite as discovered in the final game's code 

This was changed to simply running off the screen to the right, unless you jumped in the space to the right of the screen as the auto-run kicked in, in which case you could jump around as much as you liked... though sadly still not with this mega-cute sprite. Perhaps his grin didn't have enough 'attitude'?

Also in pre-release Green Hill Zone, there were going to be giant balls that you could run on like a treadmill. With the animation cycle obviously working well but the balls-as-level-furniture a bit iffy, they were scrapped late-on and the sprite was re-used for the iconic Green Hill boss battle.

Above: The magazine preview image with the ball mid-level, and how it appears in the level 1 boss fight

The instruction manual for Sonic 1 shows a clear picture of a 1-Up icon in the special stage. Simple enough to grasp. However, it only appears outside of the normal play area, meaning you can only get to it by using the debug cheat and moving Sonic through the wall, ending up in a glitchy area that looks like this:

Above: Note the 'Zone 3' icon too. That's not even in the manual and how it would have worked is unknown

Emeralds everywhere! This could be explained by the cartridge using available tiles to display otherwise missing graphics for another unfinished feature. This happens elsewhere too - if you approach the spinner of any act fast enough even in the finished game, it will look corrupted for a brief moment as the game displays the graphic with the wrong tileset. Still, whatever the technical reason for it, the sight of these lost tiles in the actual game is rather eerie.

It also appears that Sonic 2's method of accessing special stages through the restart point lampposts was prototyped in Sonic 1. There's a routine for Sonic disappearing with a white flash as he runs past one, before reappearing again a moment later:

Above: A bit slapdash, pehaps? Looks like the quality control at this point for Sonic was very high indeed


UFOs in Marble Zone... in Wayne's World!

One for the 'WTF' pile. Early images of Marble Zone featured UFOs in the sky. It's like an alien invasion and makes the whole level look much more sinister. But it's not just the odd pre-release screenshot that show it to be true. The commercial for 'Noah's Arcade' in Wayne's World features footage in the background. We're looking at Sonic 1. Only... that's not Sonic 1. Isn't that weird? 

Garth - that was a haiku.  

Above: The strange UFOs in the Marble Zone. But what's that behind Benjamin? Noah (yes) and Sonic's UFOS 


  • Ariaka - June 25, 2011 10:24 p.m.

    Ha, Neko Kit Su at Sonic Retro and X-Cult, Aeonic Butterfly at TCRF here. XD Only contribution I got for Sonic is pointing out the Robotnik monitor was used in Sonic 2 (multiplayer mode), but I do a fair bit of page cleanups, research and testing for TCRF XD
  • 8bitBaby - June 24, 2011 3:36 a.m.

    that last image is sonic surfing. he's definitely surfing.
  • ThatGamerDude - June 23, 2011 11:36 p.m.

    They should have an article like this for every Sonic game or at least for all the 2D ones.
  • KnightDehumidifier - June 23, 2011 10:26 p.m.

    What was up with the proportions of that guitar-playing monkey? That is too lanky for even Lanky Kong.
  • FortyVsZero - June 23, 2011 9:57 p.m.

    Great Article Justin, I was always a Nintendo boy when I was younger, but did revisit Sonic when I was a bit older, so he was sort of a part of my gaming childhood. As for that last picture...Sonic yoga.
  • Dave3087 - June 23, 2011 2:26 p.m.

    That last picture...... he's clearly DJing.
  • SonicX_89 - June 23, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    The goggles wouldn't have made sense in Labyrinth Zone , but I'm pretty sure 5 year old me would not have cared about that. Other than that, great article.
  • rxb - June 23, 2011 12:32 p.m.

    Also sonic generations demo on xbox live today. Apparently its only playable for 20 days.
  • rxb - June 23, 2011 12:27 p.m.

    I loved playing Sonic 1 back in the day, dont you missed the days when a released game was finished and didnt need a day 1 patch.
  • pimlicosound - June 23, 2011 11:26 a.m.

    Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice-cream flavour, he'd be pralines and dick.
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 23, 2011 11:13 a.m.

    @DarkTone - apparently not. It was just meant to be a sound test screen... although who knows how the series would have incorporated them later?
  • BattleReachRising - June 23, 2011 10:41 a.m.

    If she was a President, she'd be Babraham Lincoln. Great piece.
  • FoolyCoolyKid - June 23, 2011 10:34 a.m.

    It was 20 years ago today, that Sonic the hedgehog was released to play! He was going pretty fast with style, and in 90s children he raised a smile. So may I introduce to you, after 7 years of shitty games! Sonic the hedgehog's awesome secrets!!! Gotta love Beatle's parodies.
  • dcbernman - June 23, 2011 7:19 p.m.

    Oh man. The Sega chant was only the coolest thing ever back when I was 3. The first time my old babysitter's son uploaded Sonic 1 on his Genesis, and the chime came up, I KNEW something unbelievably magnificent was about to go down.
  • Sjoeki - June 23, 2011 3:40 p.m.

    He's catching a wave in that last picture but lost his board. Congrats Sonic, but I hope your adult years will be better for you (and us) then those akward teenage years, talk about the puberty from hell.
  • WTeen8 - June 23, 2011 2:47 p.m.

    We just got edjumacated. And the end sprite could possibly be for an animation where he engages the Boss fights...or maybe Sonic was supposed to be a power ranger. Great article.
  • nadrewod - June 23, 2011 2:04 p.m.

    I think that final animation frame would have been for rail grinding (which there is a lot of in Sonic 1 and 2). He is keeping his feet in line to keep them on the rail, holding his hands out in opposite directions to keep himself balanced (since the player only has control over his momentum and his height, AKA 2 dimensions, while it takes 3 dimensional control to accurately simulate grinding a rail), and staring down the track, trying to figure out the best time to crouch (and speed up), bunny hop (and avoid small obstacles), and jump off (to keep his momentum going when the Rail ends).
  • MikeMov89 - June 23, 2011 12:51 p.m.

    They should remake the game similar to the retro style of Megaman 9-10 In the form of a directors cut and incorporate everything that was originally cut from the game due to technical limitations. The sound test screen and missing enemies etc.
  • HardlyBirdman - June 23, 2011 12:35 p.m.

    Man, I can't imagine Sonic 1 without the SEEEEGGGGAAAAAAAA. 1/8th of the cart, though... either they had room to spare, or he REALLY knew that sound was iconic and had to have it in. Awesome feature.
  • KREATIVEassassin - June 23, 2011 12:18 p.m.

    Fantastic article. I love stuff like this. Very interesting stuff!

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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