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Breaking the Sound Barrier: The Music of Sonic the Hedgehog

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

Join us as we celebrate over 30 years of music from the Sonic franchise!

Skiing (Intellivision)
Sonic… Conducting the classics!
Over the years, we’ve seen specific genres of music representing each main character; including melodic hard rock / metal, hip-hop, pop, punk, orchestral, classic vgm, and more.

Whether you’re a fan of the classic chiptunes in the Master System, Genesis, or Game Gear games, or the robust CD sounds found in Sonic CD, the Adventure games, and beyond, the Sonic series has a little something for everyone to enjoy. In this retro-spective on over three decades of Sonic music, we’re looking back at some highlights from the blue blur‘s legendary musical repertoire. So, without further ado, let’s open those hearts… to the music of the Sonic series!


From Yuzo Koshiro’s (Streets of Rage, Revenge of Shinobi) fantastic chiptune soundtrack for the Master System and Game Gear versions of Sonic the Hedgehog (Bridge Zone theme anyone?) and Masato Nakamura’s (Dreams Come True) iconic 16-Bit soundtracks to Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2

on the Genesis and Mega Drive, to the CD soundtracks for Sonic R on the Saturn and the Sonic Adventure games on the Dreamcast, we have seen Sonic music evolve much like the main characters of this beloved series. Over the years, we’ve seen specific genres of music representing each main character; including melodic hard rock / metal, hip-hop, pop, punk, orchestral, classic vgm, and more. We’ve also seen original lyrics that compliment and enrich Sonic lore, and a seemingly limitless list of incredible guest musicians lending their talents to each and every game, offering head-bopping, beat-grooving, fist-pumping anthems with each outing.


And of course no talk of Sonic music could be complete without mention of veteran Sega music composers Jun Senoue (Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Team Sonic Racing) and Tomoya Ohtani (Sonic Rush Adventure, Sonic Unleashed). While both famed composers / musicians have their own distinctive styles, no matter the Sonic game you're playing, they both succeed at creating unique soundtracks that are undeniably, and cohesively Sonic.

Jun Senoue has been playing an integral part in creating soundscapes for the Sonic franchise since 1994's Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and is most well-known for his work on the Sonic Adventure games (and various other Sonic / Sega games) from the past three decades. His collaborations with melodic hard rock vocalist Johnny Gioelli (Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell) lead to the formation of the band Crush 40, creating a legendary pairing that has been aging like a fine polygonal wine since 1998's Sonic Adventure.


From the epic hard rock anthems Open Your Heart’, and ‘Live and Learn’ from the Sonic Adventure games on the Dreamcast, to the Sonic Heroes’ theme, and Knight of the Wind’ from Sonic and the Black Knight, the dynamic duo of Senoue and Gioelli have been a series mainstay. No current Sonic game seems to feel complete without one of their melodic, infectious anthems leading the way. (Their most recent song together, ‘Green Light Ride’ can be found in 2019's Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch racing game Team Sonic Racing.)


Along with the dynamic Crush 40 duo of Senoue and Gioelli, the Sonic games have also had an extensive list of guest musicians contribute their skills to a number of memorable fan-favorite theme songs over the years, including Ted Poley (Danger Danger), Tony Harnell (TNT), Matty Lewis and Ali Tabatabaee (Zebrahead), Jaret Reddick (Bowling for Soup), Jean Paul Makhlouf (Cash Cash), Douglas Robb (Hoobastank), Nathan Sharp (NateWantsToBattle), and many more. It’s always exciting to see who may be appearing in each Sonic game that releases.


Tomoya Ohtani, who began his musical sonic adventurings on the Dreamcast / Gamecube classic Sonic Adventure 2, has since gone on to compose, and

'Endless Possibility', a classic vocal track for Sonic Unleashed

arrange (along with wearing various other hats) on several heavy-hitting Sonic games such as Sonic Rush Adventure for the Nintendo DS, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Forces to name a few. The songs 'Endless Possibility' from Sonic Unleashed, and 'Reach for the Stars' from Sonic Colors have remained immensely popular tracks for Sonic fans. (Ohtani’s soundtrack for the oft overlooked mobile title Sonic Runners also comes highly recommended.)


With such an impressive pedigree of composers and musicians contributing to the series' uplifting, colorful, and varied scores over the years, a rock solid foundation has been established, and in turn has inspired a newer generation of composers that are now contributing their considerable talents to this treasured gaming franchise. Composers Tee Lopes (Sonic Mania, Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom ), and duo Hyper Potions (Sonic Mania, Team Sonic Racing) are two prime examples of this newer generation of talent, adding their own unique passion, and stylings to the blue blur's musical legacy.


Time-traveling back to the present Sonic CD style, Sega themselves saw fit to celebrate Sonic‘s incredible musical history with the ‘Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony’ event. This almost two hour musical odyssey contains medleys from various outings from Sonic‘s three decade battle against our old pals Dr. Robotnik and Co. The medleys and songs are performed with the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, and also includes special sets from the Tomoya Ohtani Band, and Crush 40. It’s a thrilling and enjoyable tribute to Sega’s flagship franchise, and can be viewed in full on YouTube, or streamed audibly on Apple Music and Spotify.


With such a storied history, countless games to enjoy, an endless list of incredible composers, musicians, and guest artists, along with a variety of ways to listen to and enjoy the Sonic universe, an amazingly vast and wonderful soundscape awaits to be rediscovered or newly explored... fast!


What are your favorite Sonic soundtracks and songs?


 

Bonus Stage: While various Sonic soundtracks can be found on CD, LP, iTunes, and streaming services (Apple Music and Spotify direct links available below), several Sonic listening experiences can also be found within the original games themselves. The original 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis and Mega Drive for example, includes a 'Sound Test' for you to... well test, but also enjoy those stellar Masato Nakamura chip-tunes! (To access the Sound Test, on the title screen press: Up, Down, Left, Right; when you hear the chime, hold the 'A' button, and press 'Start'). Additionally, during the Sega CD and Saturn era, many CD games of the time contained 'Redbook Audio', which allowed access to,

at times, the full soundtrack on the game disc itself if played in a CD player (though always skip to Track 2, as Track 1 contains game data that is presented in some rather intense 'data' sounds, that can potentially damage speakers). A prime example of this Redbook Audio feature is the much beloved soundtrack to 'Sonic R' by famed composer / arranger Richard Jacques; containing such classic Sonic staples as 'Can You Feel the Sunshine', 'Radical City: Living in the City', and 'Super Sonic Racing' to name a few. The full soundtrack is available in the Redbook Audio format if you have the original game disc (though for a much easier, and potentially safer listening experience, the 'Sonic R' soundtrack is also available on Apple Music and Spotify). Other titles such as 'Sonic Jam', also for the Saturn, has the feature 'Sonic World', which acts as both a free-roaming 3D action stage and virtual museum of sorts, offering a plethora of Sonic media to explore, such as classic commercials, and of course offers a 'Sound Museum' where you can listen to the soundtracks for Sonic 1, 2, 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic Jam itself.



(Seen in the pictures above, we have the Retail version of Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Gear, Sonic Adventure OST, Sonic Adventure Remix, the Sonic Adventure 2 Birthday Pack 10th Anniversary with Gold CD soundtrack, SA2 Cuts Unleashed Vocal Collection, Team Sonic Racing for Nintendo Switch, Sonic Unleashed for the Xbox 360, Sonic Mania OST and Hyper Potions' 'Friends' track on Apple Music, and Sonic Jam (JP), and Sonic R (NA) for the Sega Saturn. *Also displayed is an unofficial, Sonic AirPods case available on Amazon.)


Below, please find a streamlined list of direct links to artist / album pages on Apple Music and Spotify. Happy listening!


Crush 40: Apple Music / Spotify

Hyper Potions: Apple Music / Spotify

Jun Senoue: Apple Music / Spotify

Masato Nakamura: Apple Music / Spotify

Richard Jacques: Apple Music / Spotify

Sonic / Sega Soundtracks: Apple Music / Spotify

Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony: Apple Music / Spotify

Tee Lopes: Apple Music / Spotify

Tomoyo Ohtani: Apple Music / Spotify

Yuzo Koshiro: Apple Music / Spotify



 

3 Comments


Jordan Itkowitz
Jordan Itkowitz
Jun 23, 2022

That might be the most well-researched, thorough, and detailed article about Sonic game scores ever written! 100 rings for you!

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Jordan Itkowitz
Jordan Itkowitz
Jun 23, 2021

Chemical Zone theme!!

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coinsnconsoles
coinsnconsoles
Jun 24, 2021
Replying to

Indeed a classic tune!! Awesome choice!! 🎶🦔

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