Sonic the Hedgehog[a] is a Japanese video game series and media franchise created and owned by Sega. The franchise follows Sonic, an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog who battles the evil Doctor Eggman, a mad scientist. The main Sonic the Hedgehog games are platformers mostly developed by Sonic Team; other games, developed by various studios, include spin-offs in the racing, fighting, party and sports genres. The franchise also incorporates printed media, animations, a 2020 feature film, and merchandise.
The first Sonic game, released in 1991 for the Sega Genesis, was developed after Sega requested a mascot character to compete with Nintendo's mascot Mario. Its success helped Sega become one of the leading video game companies during the fourth generation of video game consoles in the early 1990s. Sega Technical Institute developed the next three Sonic games, plus the spin-off Sonic Spinball (1993). After a hiatus during the unsuccessful Saturn era, the first major 3D Sonic game, Sonic Adventure, was released in 1998 for the Dreamcast. Sega exited the console market and shifted to third-party development in 2001, continuing the series on Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation systems.
While Sonic games often have unique game mechanics and stories, they feature recurring elements such as the ring-based health system, level locales, and fast-paced gameplay. Games typically feature Sonic setting out to stop Eggman's schemes for world domination, and the player navigates levels that include springs, slopes, bottomless pits, and vertical loops. While Sonic and Eggman were the only characters introduced in the first game, the series would go on to have a large cast of characters; some, such as Miles "Tails" Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, and Shadow the Hedgehog, have starred in spin-offs. The franchise has crossed over with other video game franchises in games such as Mario & Sonic, Sega All-Stars, and Super Smash Bros.