At one point in time, Sonic the Hedgehog was the Michael Jackson of the video game industry. He was a symbol of everything that was cool (at least by ’90s standards). Over time, Sonic shared the fate of Sega and lost his place among the icons of video gaming. We still see the occasional Sonic game but a lot of what made him special has been lost to time.
With so many Sonic games being created over the years, it is only natural that a lot of interesting stuff was left on the cutting room floor. The rush to meet a deadline has forced a lot of very cool secrets to be hidden away within the Sonic games.
We are here today to sift through Sega’s hidden files and uncover the fascinating (and sometimes, disturbing) secrets of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. From the mysterious unused power up of the original Sonic game to the bizarre lost levels of Sonic 2, here are 15 Secrets Hidden Inside Sonic The Hedgehog Games!
15. The Goggles, They Do Nothing
The first Sonic the Hedgehog title owes a great deal to the Super Mario Bros. series. Sonic was meant to be a faster and cooler replacement for Mario. Once the 16-bit era started heating up, the rivalry between the two characters grew fiercer. As time went on, each series found its niche. The Sonic games were all about high-speed action and needing quick reflexes to survive. The Mario games had a bigger focus on exploration and rewarding the player with secret routes and levels.
One aspect in which Sonic copied Mario was the power up system. Sonic could destroy item boxes that resembled a television set in order to gain a boost. In the first game, these ranged from increasing Sonic’s speed to granting him temporary invincibility.
Fans have dug through the code of Sonic the Hedgehog and discovered sprites for an unused power up. There exists an item box that grants Sonic a pair of goggles. A sprite of Sonic wearing the goggles is incorporated into the game, but it has no effect. It has been speculated by fans that these goggles would have granted Sonic the ability to breathe underwater.
14. Surfing Sonic
During the introduction of Sonic 3, Sonic is flying on top of Tails’ plane. He leaps from the plane and transforms into Super Sonic, flying to the floating Angel Island, where he is attacked by Knuckles (who is one of the few people to have ever damaged Super Sonic). Sonic drops the Chaos Emeralds, which Knuckles grabs, before running off.
Originally, Sonic was intended to arrive on the island by surfboard. Fans discovered sprites for Sonic and a surfboard within the game. This must have been from an early stage in development, as the sprite for Sonic comes from the second game in the series.
This was likely changed for two reasons, Angel Island being changed into a floating landscape is probably the biggest reason. Having Sonic arrive there by plane also ties into the ending of Sonic 2, allowing for a direct transition between the games.
13. The Devil Inside Sonic CD
Sonic CD is considered by many to be the best game in the series. When it comes to appearing in a game that was on optical media, rather than a cartridge, Sonic had Mario beaten by almost a decade. Sonic CD took advantage of the extra storage space granted by a disc and included some of the highest-quality music in the series.
When it comes to secrets hidden within a video game, Sonic CD has some of the most bizarre of them all. By entering a series of button commands on the title screen, it is possible to access the sound test for the game. If you then select certain options within the sound test, you will access pictures left by the developers.
Some of these hidden images are fairly innocent (like one of Tails standing next to a car). One of the images shows Sonic in an 8 Mile-style rap battle against Metal Sonic. One of the images shows what looks like Frank Miller’s version of Sonic the Hedgehog, or the outfit Bruce Wayne would wear to a Furry convention.
The final image shows Sonic with a disturbing human face, while unsettling music plays in the background. The writing on the page is dedicated to “Majin”, which is the Japanese word for Devil. This is actually the nickname of Masato Nishimura, one of the people that worked on the game.
12. The Lost Sonic Fighters
While a lot of games have elements that go unused, the one thing we rarely see is unfinished playable characters. This is especially true of fighting games, as they probably put more work into their characters than any other kind of game.
The one big exception to this is Sonic the Fighters (also known as Sonic Championship in some regions). This was an arcade fighting game starring Sonic characters, that was released in 1996. The game isn’t fondly remembered, due to its slow speed and janky visuals.
Sonic the Fighters has a total of six unused characters. One of them is an animal version of Honey from Fighting Vipers (who would actually be made playable in the HD remake of the game). There is also a Mech version of Dr. Eggman, a rocket powered version of Metal Sonic, Dr. Eggman on his own (without robotic assistance), a giant Dr. Eggman, and Dr. Eggman riding in a UFO. There is also incomplete data for a version of Dr. Eggman where he is riding in a robot that has tank treads.
11. Super Sonic Cameo
Knuckles Chaotix had one of the most peculiar developments of all of the Sonic games. It originally started out as a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game, known as Sonic Crackers (though this was likely just a temporary name). Sonic Crackers involved Sonic and Tails being tied together by a chain that made from with rings. This meant that they couldn’t move too far from each other and had to solve puzzles in tandem.
Sonic Crackers was eventually turned into Knuckles Chaotix, a game that was released for the Sega 32x. The game stars Knuckles, who worked with a team of new animal characters (rather than Sonic or Tails). By going through the files of the game, fans have discovered sprites for both Super Sonic and Tails (with his plane). Based on their placement within the game’s files, it is thought that they were intended to appear during the ending of the game.
10. The Lost Level Of Sonic Adventure 2
When a video game is in its earliest stages of development, it will often contain something known as a “test level”. These are levels filled with basic objects that are used to test certain facets of the game. Within these basic levels, the developer can test things like the jumping mechanics and collision data. These levels are usually removed after the debug period has ended. Some games, like Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, still contain test levels that can be accessed through hacking.
It is possible to access the test level in Sonic Adventure 2. You can do this by getting a Chao key without it coming into contact with the character you are playing. If you manage this and finish the level, you will be sent to the secret testing area, instead of the next stage.
9. The Censored Sexy Sign
There exists a stage in Sonic Adventure that is called Casinopolis. As the name suggests, it is based around a casino and has several features based around slot machines. Depending on which character you choose to play as in the stage, you will be given a different set of tasks to complete. Sonic has to collect rings and destroy capsules, Tails must complete a series of tasks before Sonic can and Knuckles has to collect emeralds that are hidden around the stage.
In the original Japanese version of the game, there is a huge neon sign that resembles a scantily clad woman in a cowgirl outfit. She holds a large glass of wine and makes sexually suggestive sounds when hit by Knuckles. This was removed from the game for obvious reasons (suggestive themes + alcohol references). It was replaced with a more generic looking entrance to a casino. The beta version of the game was originally going to depict a girl in a Playboy bunny outfit instead, but that was changed (possibly due to the potential of a lawsuit).
8. The Knuckles Missingno
One of the most curious secrets in all of video game history has to be Missingno, the Pokémon that should not exist.
In Pokémon Red & Blue, it is possible to make the game spawn a Pokémon from random data within the game. This would create a Pokémon with a unique sprite and set of stats that couldn’t be found anywhere else.
Knuckles Chaotix for the Sega 32x holds a very similar secret to that of Missingno. By messing around with the options in the Color Test menu, you can access a character that is made from leftover data. At one point during development, Tails was intended to be a playable character. He was only partially completed and had most of his assets stripped from the game. By performing the button inputs, you can play as something entirely new…
The new character is a version of Knuckles with an unsettling new colour palette. “Wechnia“, as the fans have dubbed him, is Knuckles with white skin and red eyes. Despite looking like Knuckles, Wechnia possesses Mighty’s moveset. In earlier versions of the game, Wechnia can fly (as elements of Tails are still within the game at this point).
7. The Lost Viral Chao
Pokémon Red & Blue managed to create one of the most interesting secrets in gaming. It was reported that there was a hidden 151st Pokémon within the game that could not be accessed through normal means. This Pokémon was called Mew and he prominently featured in the first Pokémon movie. The only way you could catch Mew in Pokémon Red & Blue was to go to special Pokémon live events and have it traded into your game.
There was a Sonic RPG game on the Nintendo DS that attempted to replicate the Mew event. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood featured five Viral Chao monsters that could not be acquired through normal means. They were meant to be given away at special live events. Only one such event was held, with the rest being cancelled due to the low attendance at the first. This means that all five Viral Chao are impossible to get within the game. They were made available in the Japanese version of the game through regular cheat codes.
6. The Unused Dragon Robot
Sonic Adventure had several stages where Sonic is riding on top of Tails’ plane as they fend off Dr. Robotnik’s army of flying robots. The level called “Sky Chase” was originally going to feature an awesome miniboss, but it was cut early on in development, due to the strict time constraints brought on by the game’s upcoming release.
Sky Chase was originally going to include a flying two-headed dragon robot as a boss. A 3D model exists for it in the game and it can be loaded back in with the aid of a cheating device. While the dragon robot has basic movement animations, it possesses no attacks nor collision data of its own. It is impossible for the boss to harm you or for you to defeat him. If loaded back into the stage, the dragon robot will simply chase you for a while before flying off. Of all the things to cut out of the game, an awesome dragon robot should have been the last thing on the list. It had so much potential to be an awesome boss battle!
5. Racing To Robotnik’s Head
The hidden sound test within Sonic CD holds several secrets. The disturbing human face of Sonic is only one of them.
By changing all three of the sound test numbers to “07”, it is possible to access a secret level of the special stage. In Sonic CD, the special stage involved Sonic running around a large open area. The levels actually resembled the original Super Mario Kart in terms of graphics and stage design. By completing tasks in these levels, Sonic could earn the Time Stones (which resemble the Chaos Emeralds from the other games in the series).
The secret level of the special stage is incredibly difficult compared to the others. It is filled with enemies and obstacles for Sonic to overcome. If that wasn’t bad enough, you have to stare at the giant head of Dr. Robotnik in the distance. Whether this was a scrapped stage that was intended to be part of the main game or a special challenge for die hard players, is unknown to this day.
4. The Chao Event
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood was not the only game in the series to attempt to copy the Mew distribution event from Pokémon. In Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, there existed several Chao monsters that were based on characters from the game. Some of them were impossible to get through regular means, due to them being restricted to Japan.
In Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, there were three unique Chao monsters based off Tails, Knuckles and Amy. The only way to get the Tails Chao in the non-Japanese version of the game was an event that involved Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II. In the Japanese version of the game, the only way to get all three unique Chao was either at events (that you could bring your GameCube memory card to) or through a unique giveaway. Nintendo gave away a disc called “Nintendo GameCube 2003 E-Soft Catalog”. This disc contained both demos for new games and the unique Tails, Knuckles and Amy Chao that you could load into the games.
3. Knuckles Does Not Chuckle
Sonic 3 had a troubled development. A lot of elements had to be stripped out of the game in order for it to meet its deadline. All of the unused material was turned into a separate game, called Sonic & Knuckles. By combining the cartridges of the two games together, it became possible for players to experience Sonic 3 as it was meant to be played.
At the time of release, some of the sceptical fans thought this was all just a marketing ploy and that the Sonic & Knuckles stuff was always intended to be a separate game. In recent years, we have learnt that this is not the case. Sonic 3 has numerous hidden elements within its files that went on to be in Sonic & Knuckles, proving that it was intended to be one game.
In 1996, a PC version of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles was released. As the code of both games is already compiled, it is possible to play as Knuckles during the regular version of Sonic 3. The game is playable enough that you can reach the final boss as Knuckles before crashing (as he has no ending).
2. The Slow Stage
Like all of the early Sonic games, Sonic 3 contained a special stage where you could acquire the Chaos Emeralds. In the original Sonic game, you had to reach the centre of a stage that was constantly rotating. In Sonic 2, both Sonic and Tails had to collect a certain amount of coins on a race track. Sonic CD featured Sonic destroying bad guys whilst avoiding obstacles in an open area. Sonic 3’s special stage involved Sonic running around a track collecting blue spheres, whilst avoiding red ones.
By accessing the sound test mode and selecting certain numbers, you can access a hidden eighth special stage in Sonic 3. This stage may have been included as an extra for the fans to discover. It is more likely that it was cut from the regular game due to hardware issues. If you try playing this stage and collect one of the blue spheres, then it will cause the game to suffer slowdown to the point where it becomes almost unplayable.
1. Take Me Down To The Genocide City
Sonic 2 has the most cut content of any game in the series. This is exacerbated by the fact that several prototypes of the game have leaked over the years, revealing more secrets that the player was never meant to see.
In some of the promotional material for the game, it was revealed that there was going to be a level called the “Hidden Palace Zone”. This level did not appear in the final version of the game. Fans went digging through the code of the game and found only an empty stage bearing its name.
A prototype of the game was discovered in 1998 (called the “Simon Wai prototype“, after its discoverer). This version of the game had several unfinished levels, including a more fleshed out version of the Hidden Palace Zone. There also existed an unfinished forest level, called the “Wood Zone”.
The most intriguing unfinished level is called “Genocide City Zone“. The level itself is completely empty and starting it will only cause Sonic and Tails to fall to their death. According to Sonic 2’s level designer, Tom Payne, the name comes from the Japanese development team being unfamiliar with English. They chose a name that sounded scary, without knowing the full ramifications behind its meaning.
In recent years, the Hidden Palace Zone has actually made it into the iOS version of Sonic 2. This means that at least one of the many lost Sonic the Hedgehog secrets did appear in its game as planned.