How Did Sega's 'Sonic The Hedgehog' End Up on Nintendo’s Switch?

It’s a dream come true for '90s-era game fans

Key Takeaways

  • Nintendo is adding Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64 games—including Sonic!—to its Switch online service.
  • You’ll also be able to buy wireless versions of the N64 and Genesis controllers.
  • The first games launch in October.
A Sega GameGear portable surrounded by gaming cartridges.

Ben Griffiths / Unsplash

Soon, you'll be able to play Sega Genesis games on your Nintendo Switch. Yep, you read that right.

With its newly announced Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, Nintendo will add games from its one-time arch-rival Sega to its Switch console. You'll also be able to play a bunch of Nintendo 64 games and buy Switch versions of the N64 and Genesis controllers.

This new "expansion pack" almost certainly will require another payment on top of the existing Nintendo online subscription, but who cares? For 1990s-era gaming nerds, It's going to be worth it to play Sonic on a handheld after all these years.

What Happened to Sega?

Back in the 1990s, Sega was hot stuff. The 16-bit Genesis console (known as the Mega Drive everywhere except North America) launched in 1988, but went stratospheric in 1991 with the original Sonic The Hedgehog game release. Thanks to a cool image and fast-paced games, the Genesis more than held its own against the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

"When it comes to the differences between Sega and Nintendo, I remember those early console wars, and I think it came down to a difference in persona. At that time, Nintendo was the big kid on the block. It was the system with the best franchises, which had saved the video game industry and brought it back to life after the fall of Atari," '90s gaming nerd, self-described "huge Sega fan" (plus author, poet, and attorney) R. M. S. Thornton told Lifewire via email.

A screenshot of the lineup of Sega Genesis games that will be available on Nintendo Online.

"Sega, on the other hand, was the up-and-comer and kind of portrayed itself as the rebel, sort of like Apple did back in the day. It was there to take down the video game establishment. This is evidenced in the fact that they changed their mascot from the relatively non-offensive and mundane Alex the Kid to Sonic, the blue fast hedgehog with attitude. It was a stark contrast to Mario, the slow plumber."

"Long time Sega lover" (also writer and filmmaker)  Daniel Hess agrees.

"Sega was always the more edgy grown-up system to Nintendo's more family-friendly approach. For me, Sega was sort of like that cool older brother that would show you R-rated movies when your parents weren't around," says Hess. 

Then things went downhill fast, like a rolling blue hedgehog. Sega's follow-up consoles were impressive but failed to sell. Its successor, the Saturn, went up against Sony's Playstation and lost. Sony used the same 'rebel' schtick to sell the Playstation, with risqué ads, and even pavement-spraying ad campaigns in the UK. In 2001, Sega stopped console development and focussed on making games. 

Nintendo vs Sega

For 1990s-era games fans, the idea of Sonic on a Nintendo console is as crazy as the idea of modern-day Apple licensing macOS for PCs. And yet here we are. 

Nintendo will launch the new plan in October. Genesis games include Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Ecco the Dolphin, Streets of Rage, Phantasy Star IV, and more.

A screenshot of the Nintendo64 lineup coming to Nintendo Online.

Nintendo 64 games include Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Coming later are The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, F-Zero X, and Paper Mario. Sadly, the best N64 game of all —Goldeneye—isn’t on the list. These games will also feature four-player online multiplayer, where appropriate.

The hardware also looks great. Nintendo made a SNES-a-like controller for its online Super Nintendo games, which sold out. Like that controller, the new Genesis and N64 Switch controllers will only be available to Nintendo online members. If you want one, you might want to act fast. 

The Switch might not be the most powerful console, but, like all Nintendo consoles and games throughout its history, it is the most fun. Exhibit A is Zelda: Breath of the Wild aka the best video game ever made. But while Zelda is best played on the big screen for a fully immersive experience, Sonic 2 is going to be just fantastic in handheld mode. We can’t wait.

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