Pinball ruled the arcade scene long before video games ever had a chance to take hold, and pinball machines still maintain a cult like popularity today. But of course, you can only do so much with pinball mechanics in the real world – so it’s not surprising that video games took on the basic pinball idea and put a real spin on it.
One successful example of this was Sonic Spinball, which debuted for the Sega Genesis 25 years ago this month. Releasing on November 18, 1993, the game took the titular blue hedgehog and turned him into the ball for a romp through four different pinball levels. The player could maneuver Sonic in order to help guide him while in the air after being launched off of the bumpers or flippers, and the goal was to collect all of the Chaos Emeralds in order to access and then defeat each level’s boss.
For a pinball game, Sonic Spinball had quite a hefty story. For Sonic series fans at large, it’s notable as being one of the few games in the franchise that’s set in the world of the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog animated series. As far as the plot went, Doctor Robotnik is at it again, building a huge fortress on top of a volcano in order to transform the local wildlife into robots. The fortress is defended by pinball-like systems, which Sonic and Tails must break through in order to collect the Chaos Emeralds and free the abducted animals.
During development, Sega had concerns about how well the game would be received, as it was a staunch departure from the typical speedy platforming of a main Sonic game. However, thankfully Sonic Spinball sold quite well, and received a lot of positive attention for its graphics and music. Ten years later, a second pinball game was released for the Sonic franchise, called simply Sonic Pinball Party.