Gaming

Iconic Themes From The Mainline Games

Highlights

  • Sonic the Hedgehog has consistently produced high-quality and diverse music throughout its 30-year history.
  • The music of Sonic games, ranging from hard-rock to orchestral and vocal songs, has left a lasting impact on fans.
  • Crush 40, an in-house band of SEGA, is particularly popular among the fan base, and their music has become iconic within the franchise.


Since the Blue Blur’s debut in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog has built up a solid fan base and game library. However the games may have performed critically and commercially, it’s safe to say that the music accompanying them is consistently of a high standard. Throughout Sonic’s history, fans have been treated to a diverse array of music, from hard-rock, bossa nova and electro-pop, to thrilling orchestral and vocal songs. SEGA has consistently collaborated with mainline music groups, and also has an in-house band, Crush 40, who are very popular among the fan base.

Related

Sonic the Hedgehog: Modern-Era Soundtracks, Ranked

If there’s one thing the Sonic franchise is known for, it’s the music. These modern-era games each sport unique and memorable soundtracks.

In 2021, the “30th Anniversary Symphony” was live-streamed, made up of both orchestral and rock performances of the mainline series’ most iconic tunes. Currently, the “Sonic Symphony: World Tour” is underway. It’s clear that Sonic has a large musical presence and following, from over 30 years of gaming history. These themes, from home-console releases, live on in players’ memories as a way to define each Sonic game from the main series.


1 Green Hill Zone

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

Sonic running in Green Hill Zone

Sonic the Hedgehog

Released
June 23, 1991

Genre(s)
Platformer

The simple yet upbeat melody first welcomed players to Sonic’s homeland over 30 years ago. Despite the limitations of the Genesis hardware, Masato Nakamura was able to craft a sweet-sounding tune that remains beloved to this day. It’s one of video gaming’s most iconic songs, well-liked for its joyful sound, and is hard not to bounce along to its tune.

The whole original Sonic soundtrack is iconic in its own right, but another favorite stand-out song is “Star Light Zone.” The relaxing happiness of the melody is a fan favorite, and was even remixed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games’ opening ceremony!

2 Chemical Plant Zone

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)

Sonic Approaching A Stack Of Blocks

Sonic 2’s second level has one of the most funky and chaotic themes in the series. The almost aggressive sounds and fast-paced melody complement the increased difficulty in this zone. The melody is harsh, yet extremely catchy. The fact that the zone and its music have been reused in Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania is a testament to how iconic they are.

Like its predecessor, Sonic 2’s soundtrack is well-loved, and themes from the funky “Casino Night” to the intense “Death Egg Robot” are notable iconic tunes.

3 Stardust Speedway Bad Future/ Sonic Boom

Sonic the Hedgehog CD (1993)

US cover art, plus shot of opening animation

Sonic CD

Released
November 19, 1993

Genre(s)
Platformer

This game is famous for having two soundtracks. The original release has many beaty tracks, with Stardust Speedway’s “Bad Future” being arguably the most well-known. The iconic image of the Blue Blur racing the villainous Metal Sonic through a glittering night city with Dr. Eggman’s laser behind him pairs perfectly with the slapping base and iconic distorted vocals.

The main theme, “Sonic Boom,” is the US version’s most iconic theme, performed by the jazz trio Pastiche. This energetic yet chilled track is a fan favorite, and memorable among the many vocal songs in the series.

4 Ice Cap Zone

Sonic 3 and Knuckles (1994)

sonic on a snowboard in Ice Cap zone

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Released
February 2, 1994

Genre(s)
Platformer

Of all the Classic-era games, Sonic 3 is most well-known for its soundtrack, since a fair amount of it was composed by Michael Jackson. “Ice Cap Zone” features the iconic scene of Sonic snowboarding down the mountain to one of the funkiest and most legendary Sonic themes. Ice Cap’s melody has a strong beat, yet is also quite soothing.

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10 Best Sega Genesis Games, Ranked

The console features several video games that are still considered shining examples of the medium.

“Hydrocity Zone” is another extremely funky track, and as Sonic runs through the cloudtop ruins of “Sky Sanctuary”, the piercing beauty of its theme also stands out as memorable.

5 Green Grove Act 1

Sonic 3D Blast (1996)

Sonic 3D Blast
Platform(s)
Sega Saturn , Sega Genesis Mini , Linux , Microsoft Windows , macOS , Wii

Released
January 1, 1996

Genre(s)
Platformer , Adventure

Just like Sonic CD, this game had two soundtracks, being released on both the Genesis and Saturn consoles. Though the Saturn soundtrack was original, fans may recognize certain songs from the Genesis version. This is because Jun Senoue composed them, and being limited by the hardware, revisited certain tracks for the first full 3D title, Sonic Adventure.

The Saturn version was composed by Richard Jacques. There are many good songs in both versions of the game, but the most iconic is “Green Grove Act 1”, being the first level. The Saturn version is a remix of the title screen theme, and the Genesis version became Windy Valley’s theme in Sonic Adventure.

6 Azure Blue World

Sonic Adventure (1999)

Sonic Adventure

Sonic Adventure

Released
September 9, 1999

Genre(s)
Platformer

The first game to have Jun Senoue as Sound Director left a lasting legacy on Sonic. He and his team crafted many incredible hard-rock melodies. Station Square’s hub-world theme is iconic due to the fact players hear it frequently. The main theme “Open Your Heart” was the first of Crush 40’s epic “butt-rock” songs.

As for stage themes, “Azure Blue World” is instantly memorable. Upon starting, the drum beat and short electric guitar segment is absolutely thrilling. Then, the electric sitar’s melody takes over, captivating and carefree, reflecting the chilled scene of sun, sea and sand as Sonic crosses Emerald Coast.

7 Escape From The City

Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)

Sonic skateboarding down a street

Sonic Adventure 2

Released
June 19, 2001

Developer(s)
Sonic Team USA

Genre(s)
Platformer

This game boasts one of the series’ strongest soundtracks, well-known for its hard-rock music. “Escape from the City” is the theme of Sonic’s first level, and it doesn’t cease to blow players away with its catchy vocals and melody, as Sonic ‘snowboards’ through the city streets. The vocals, performed by Ted Poley and Tony Harnell, reflect Sonic’s carefree nature as well as his escape from GUN pursuit.

Other iconic tunes are Crush 40’s beloved song “Live and Learn”, an epic hard-rock anthem with lyrics resonating both in and outside the game. Knuckles’ Rap Music” is cheesy, but iconic for its uniqueness.

8 Sonic Heroes

Sonic Heroes (2004)

Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles posing

Sonic Heroes

Released
January 5, 2004

Genre(s)
Platformer , Racing , Fighting , Action-Adventure

Bright and cheery, this song is one of Crush 40’s most iconic tracks. The catchy lyrics, combined with the band’s unique rock style, make it a fan favorite. It’s been featured numerous times in the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series, a testament to how well-known this song is.

“Seaside Hill” also has a memorable tune, being the first level in the game. It shares the same upbeat rock style that “Sonic Heroes” has, reflecting the lightheartedness of the game as a whole.

9 His World

Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

Zebrahead singers, and Sonic the hedgehog 2006 cover art

Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

Released
November 14, 2006

Genre(s)
Action-Adventure , Platformer

This title has an undeniably fantastic soundtrack. Its theme, “His World,” which recurs throughout the game, has become one of the most iconic songs of the entire franchise, known for its thrilling hybrid of rock, orchestral and rap music. It was written and performed by the group Zebrahead.

Orchestral rock is the backbone of the game’s score. “Crisis City” blends a tense violin melody with a slapping drum pattern, creating a sense of urgency. ‘His World’ appears in remixed form for the final boss battle against Solaris. Both ‘Crisis City’ and “Solaris Phase 2” are fan favorite tracks.

10 Rooftop Run (Day)

Sonic Unleashed (2008)

Sonic grinding on rails over rooftops

Sonic Unleashed

Released
November 18, 2008

Genre(s)
Platformer , Beat ‘Em Up

This game has a truly amazing soundtrack, full of diverse instrumentation. The “Day” variant of “Rooftop Run” stands out as truly iconic, and was remixed in Sonic Generations. It’s also an unlockable track in the Olympics spin-off series. Composed by Tomoya Ohtani, the thrilling blend of rock guitars and violins makes for a mesmerizing and engaging musical theme.

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10 Most Emotional Songs from the Sonic the Hedgehog Games

Sonic the Hedgehog is known for his speed, but the games are also known for harboring some emotional songs that could make the players shed a tear.

The whole soundtrack boasts such quality, and the wide range of classical instrumentation orchestrated into such captivating tracks is commendable. The upbeat main theme “Endless Possibility” also stands out as one of the series’ most iconic vocal tracks.

11 Splash Hill Zone Act 1

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (2010)

screenshot of sonic 4 gameplay and cover art

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

Released
October 7, 2010

Genre(s)
Platformer

Divided into both “Episode 1” and “Episode 2,” Sonic 4 has a soundtrack reminiscent of the original Sega Genesis games. Episode 1’s first level, “Splash Hill Zone,” has an upbeat theme divided into 3 acts. Act 1 in particular has a recognizable tune, attempting to inspire a sense of nostalgia. The zone and its music were used for the “Dream Curling” event in the long-running Olympics series.

For Episode 2, “White Park Zone” has a memorable theme, even including a segment from “Twinkle Park’s” theme from Sonic Adventure. As Jun Senoue was the lead composer for both games, this is an Easter Egg for the most dedicated players.

12 Planet Wisp Act 1

Sonic Colors (2010)

The homeworld of the Wisps has a theme of extreme beauty. Despite being fast-paced, it fuses a soothing piano-led melody, timed absolutely perfectly with the beat. Composed by Kenichi Tokoi, this theme is a brilliant example of a peaceful, yet energetic tune. Act 1 stands out as the most iconic, welcoming players to the beautiful, yet devastated planet.

The electronic-based score of Sonic Colors houses other fan-favorite tunes. “Aquarium Park Act 1” would be a runner-up for the game’s most iconic level theme, well-liked for its perfect harmony of an upbeat yet peaceful nature, like “Planet Wisp.”

13 Windy Hill Zone 1

Sonic Lost World (2013)

Banner image for Sonic Lost World

Sonic Lost World

Released
October 29, 2013

Genre(s)
Platformer

The game’s first level is a fast-paced yet beautiful orchestral theme. The violin-led piece, alongside cheerful instrumentation, gives off a sense of adventure as Sonic begins his exploration of Lost Hex. Sound director Tomoya Ohtani worked with 70 other musicians to craft a fitting score for this game, and “Windy Hill” is memorable for its upbeat, lively nature.

In contrast, “Sea Bottom Segue,” which also uses violins, is a more emotional track, reflective and somber in nature. This is a fan favorite piece for its elegant instrumentation, yet is emotional simultaneously.

14 Friends

Sonic Mania (2017)

Sonic and Tails running through Studiopolis Zone

Sonic Mania

Released
August 15, 2017

Developer(s)
PagodaWest Games , Headcannon

Genre(s)
Platformer

Another well-known musical track is Sonic Mania’s opening theme “Friends” by Hyper Potions. This is such a catchy track reflecting Sonic’s upbeat nature and the power of friendship, as the hedgehog and his pals take on Eggman and his “Hard Boiled Heavies.”

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The 10 Best 2D Sonic The Hedgehog Games, Ranked

Despite their age and visual limitations, these great 2D Sonic games have stood the test of time.

Though the game revisits familiar zones from across Sonic’s history, it also introduces some truly unique new ones. “Studiopolis Zone” is an amazing location, and its Act 1 musical rendition, “Lights, Camera, Action!,” is lively, jazzy, and funky. As such, it’s easily Mania’s most iconic original level theme.

15 Infinite

Sonic Forces (2017)

Sonic Forces Infinite

Sonic Forces

Released
November 7, 2017

Genre(s)
Platformer , Shooter , Fighting , Adventure

The theme of Infinite is an entry in the series’ darker vocal songs. Fusing electronic music with aggressive lyrics and growling hard-rock guitars, the theme was performed by two singers from metal band Dangerkids. The combination of powerful instrumentation and lyrics leave a strong impact on fans.

Aside from the main theme “Fist Bump,” players will hear the theme “This Is Our World” often. Serving as background music on the World Map screen, this beautiful and dramatic orchestral theme was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

16 I’m Here

Sonic Frontiers (2022)

sonic-frontiers-super-sonic-cutscene-screenshot

The song “I’m Here” is synonymous with this game, as it’s the main theme. Aside from the title screen music, five other versions of the track exist. From an instrumental rendition to a revisited version with vocals by Kellin Quinn, players will become very used to this song as they progress through the game. A re-edited version even plays in the fight against the Titan Supreme on Ouranos Island.

Sonic Frontiers has multiple hard-rock songs for its boss encounters, which serve to make the fights even more intense for players. The first Titan, Giganto, is fought to the theme “Undefeatable,” one of the game’s best tracks. Sung by Kellin Quinn, the song packs a punch with a thrashing melody and lyrics that hit home, with the theme of facing one’s fear.

17 Bridge Island Zone Act 1

Sonic Superstars (2023)

A promotional image of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy in Sonic Superstars.

This soundtrack was worked on by a number of composers, with veteran musician Jun Senoue at the helm. The score reflects the musical style of the original 2D games and Sonic Mania. “Bridge Island Act 1” brings a fresh, catchy melody to the first level, yet delightfully retains this iconic sound, especially as Sonic Mania’s lead composer, Tee Lopes, worked on it.

Another iconic track is “Speed Jungle Act 2,” memorable for its vast difference in musicality compared with Act 1. However, this doesn’t detract from it being a brilliant melody. It stands out independently due to its extremely catchy tune and drum sequence. These tracks are bound to stick in player’s minds.

MORE: All Main Vocal Themes in Sonic, Ranked

Antonio Josse

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