The most messed up things in Sonic games

Sonic the Hedgehog isn't a series solely about fun and (video) games — it's also about darkness, death, and existential dread. Sonic's long lineage of games features many instances of themes almost exclusively suited for adult storytelling. Yet, no matter how mature or messed up the content is, it has somehow managed to sneak its way into a franchise about a blue cartoon hedgehog who runs fast. Because, in case you thought Sonic was just a happy-go-lucky fellow who ran around collecting rings, we're here to remind you he's also a cautionary tale on why not to enslave animals or date women who aren't over their last boyfriend.

Most of these wild instances of off-brand intensity occur in the later Sonic titles, since those were the ones that started promoting big, dramatic stories. With that said, we've got something from every era of Sonic on here, because the blue blur's never been totally kid-friendly. Get ready for a trip down memory lane as we revisit the highlights of Sonic and co.'s most messed up moments.

Existential dread and domestic abuse

"The problem of being faster than light is that you can only live in darkness" is a quote that aptly sums up Sonic's experience in Sonic and the Black Knight, a game where the blue hedgehog is forced to outrun the existential dread that his companion is consumed by.

Towards the end of the game, Sonic's lady friend Merlina reveals herself unable to cope with the reality that all things die. Due to the grief this fact causes her, she becomes the game's secret twist villain, bent on using black magic to make a medieval kingdom (the game is set in Arthurian times, if you couldn't guess from the name) that lives on forever, free of death and deterioration.

To this, Sonic argues that the beauty of life is in making the most of the time you have. When Merlina won't listen to him, though, Sonic tries to stop her (his attempts are mild and simply meant to pacify). At this, Merlina ruthlessly beats him until he's bruised and broken. The whole scene is just painful to watch, both in terms of its dreary existentialism and harsh, graphic sliver of domestic abuse.

Infidelity and literal heartburn

Sonic and the Black Knight isn't the only thematically loaded game in the Sonic Storybook Series — there's also the original entry in the spinoff brand: Sonic and the Secret Rings. Just like Black Knight, Secret Rings makes sure it does its fabled setting justice by having a particularly heavy plot, keeping in-line with older mythology's tendency to pack a harder punch than most modern fiction.

Secret Rings' plot is centered around Sonic having a flame in his chest that's continually shrinking and, once it burns out, he dies. This curse is cast upon him by an evil genie who demands Sonic find him the seven World Rings in exchange for the spell to be broken. With the help of a good genie named Shahra, Sonic collects the rings. However, at the end of the game, it's revealed the evil genie isn't going to fix the curse and, worse yet, that Shahra's been in cahoots with him the whole time because she still has the hots for him (they're exes). In other words, Sonic is sentenced to die of literal heartburn while also getting screwed over and cheated on by his sort-of-girlfriend genie companion. It's a tough break, to say the least.

Mind you, the plot's finale gets even wilder from there, so definitely play the game if you want to experience one of Sonic's most fun and thematically intense games firsthand.

The death of Sonic the Hedgehog

If you ever wanted to see a villain succeed in killing Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic '06 is the game for you. The kicker is, it's not even Sonic's arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman, who does the deed. It's the new bad guy on the block, Mephiles, who succeeds in lethally energy-spearing Sonic through the chest.  

It's not even a fight. Mephiles ambushes Sonic from behind while the latter is taking a walk in the park with his girlfriend. There's no honor or dramatic struggle involved, just a one-hit cheapshot from the back.

What makes this whole scene even sadder is that Sonic's just collateral damage; Mephiles doesn't even care about defeating the hedgehog for personal reasons. All the villain wants is to make Sonic's girlfriend cry because of some voodoo magic locked away within her tears, and Sonic's death happens to be the easiest way to break her.

The whole plot point of Sonic's death is just relentlessly dark and sad in every aspect. It's essentially Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice transmuted into a story about anthropomorphic hedgehogs and frail human princesses.

Animal enslavement

Ever since Sonic's 1991 debut, the speedy blue hedgehog has had to contend with one of the most messed up things in all of gaming: a villain who is obsessed with capturing, enslaving, and harvesting the life energy of little woodland critters. You can see this in numerous Sonic games, including the classic Sonic the Hedgehog: whenever Sonic destroys a badnik, a little animal hops out. And, at the end of levels, Sonic has to hop on top of portable prison cells to free more animals. All of these entrapped creatures are the result of Dr. Eggman's obsession with hurting wildlife. Plus, he constantly deforests their homes and destroys their biomes to build mechanical, pollution-creating factories.

Eggman's not even doing all of this in the service of a big endgame, like wanting to create a purely artificial world — if that were the case, he wouldn't rely on tiny animals to power his sinister creations. No, this is the mindset of a villain that just likes to hurt defenseless creatures because it's easy. If that's not messed up, nothing is.

Maria's murder

In case the assassination of Sonic himself wasn't enough to mess you up, there's always Shadow the Hedgehog's murder of a young girl to make you feel strange while playing a Sonic game.

Shadow the Hedgehog's entire character is defined by the death of this girl, as she was his best friend. Her name was Maria and she, along with Shadow, habitated a space colony run by Dr. Eggman's grandfather, Gerald Robotnik.

Though it's heavily alluded to in Sonic Adventure 2, Maria's actual murder only really gets a spotlight in Shadow the Hedgehog, when armed soldiers are seen cornering her seconds before she makes sure Shadow escapes the colony safely via a shuttle. Because the soldiers are tasked with killing Shadow (since he was one of Gerald's many problematic science projects aboard the space colony), they kill Maria to try to stop her from rescuing him. And Shadow has to watch this all from within his escape pod, unable to help the only person he cares about.

Shadow scrambles the Eggman

In a strange way, killing the main villain of a franchise is quite similar to killing the main hero — it's an extreme rarity that always draws gasps from audiences. After all, Batman and Joker, Superman and Lex, Spider-Man and Green Goblin — guys like these are built to tussle for eternity. The only times a villain with this kind of stature actually dies is usually in a spin-off story, and even then, it leaves a mark on fans.

Such is the case with Shadow the Hedgehog, the E10+ spin-off game with multiple edgy endings — a few of which include Shadow's murder of the Sonic franchise's main villain, Dr. Eggman. The game features "hero," "neutral," and "evil" choices in every level, and depending on what combination of these you choose across the campaign, different finales will see you, Shadow the Hedgehog, put the nail in Eggman's coffin. Though the game's cutscenes neglect to show the finishing blow in its entirety, it's heavily insinuated that Shadow karate-chops the not-so-good doctor's skull open, leaving him as little more than a scrambled egg.

The fracturing of Earth

In Sonic Unleashed, Eggman summons a monster from within the earth's core and splits the world apart to give said monster room to breathe. This involves tearing the earth's crust into massive, continent-encompassing puzzle pieces. Though that's obviously a "bad" thing, Sonic Unleashed never explores the matter any further.

This begs the earth-shattering question (see what we did there?): what happened to the earth's water supply and the millions of people who were living along the fault lines? Did the majority of the world's oceans drain and evaporate into the center of the earth? How many millions, if not billions, of lives were lost when the earth split and entire cities fell into the planet's molten core? Sonic Unleashed never tidies up these morbid plot holes, leaving us to wonder just how much damage Eggman really did. Everyone likes to think of him as a goofy, mildly endearing caricature of "evil," but we figure that's only because they're not thinking about the time he drained most of earth's water supply while also instantaneously murdering a sizeable chunk of the world's population.

Tails' inappropriate timing

There's a reason (almost) no one likes Tails. It's not because he ruined every special stage in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It's not because of his pitiable, defenseless nature. It's because of the nonsense he spouts at the worst possible times. Case in point: the bookend cutscene of Sonic Adventure.

After Super Sonic and Perfect Chaos go toe to toe, the city they do battle in is left in ruin. Station Square is flooded to a degree that makes Hurricane Katrina look mild, and it goes without saying that countless civilians die (off camera) during the proceedings. Thousands, if not millions, drown to death, and we're not even discussing the billions in property damage. Though Sonic defeats the monster, the cost is astronomically high.

It's pretty messed up, then, that after all of that death and destruction, Tails sees fit to unironically say, "All's well that ends well, right?" in his perfectly chirpy, childish voice. No, Tails, when there are countless deceased human bodies floating through a flooded city, and everyone still alive is now homeless, that's not the time to say things ended well.