Game Theory: How Fast is Sonic the Hedgehog?

MatthewPatrick13

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How Fast is Sonic the Hedgehog?

Just how fast can Sonic the Hedgehog actually run? VSauce3 recently examined the "Science of Sonic," but their conclusions were all based on Sonic running faster than the speed of sound. Based on evidence from the Sonic video games, can this SEGA mascot really break the sound barrier? Today, Game Theory takes its second look at the Sonic franchise.

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Lightknight

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Nov 26, 2008
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Ok, I've got to admit that you did your homework here. Perhaps diehard sonic fans (of which I'm not one) can now claim that Sonic experiences time differently and so the clock is relative to him and not the world around him which is actually experiencing time slower than that.
 
Jan 12, 2012
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The methodology of a lot of this is flawed. You judge Sonic by the time it takes him to cover the entire level in his first game (which includes jumps, loop-de-loops and other delays) and Mario by the time it takes him to get to the first warp pipe (which also includes jumps, but significantly less obstacles over a much shorter distance). You figured out a decent system for determining the size of both characters, and how large the levels are; why not only judge their speed on a flat piece of ground? Saying that Mario is faster than Sonic when you compare them running two very different courses is disingenuous.

The rest of the math holds up as far as I can tell, and it was an enjoyable episode, but that was a bit sloppy.
 

MatthewPatrick13

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Jun 17, 2014
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Well duh. Do you honestly think a level designer would make huge levels to compensate for the speed? And that gamers would have the reflexes to deal with the actual speed of sound? Answer is no.

Hell, hardware back then wouldn't be able to keep up the needed frame rate for such a high speed. Are you seriously going to say a human can have accurate reflexes at the speed of sound at 30 fps? If we are being generous here? That isn't enough for a game of COD, on the franchise's tiny maps.

We would need well over 312 fps to compensate. No way any console or PC back then could pull those numbers with how much is changing on screen. Hardware now can pull those numbers easily on 2d games, but not back then. With any 3d game, you'd be hard pressed to run it at all thanks to the constant swapping of textures and such.

So they condensed the levels, and told you you are going super fast. Because the hardware at the time wouldn't be able to handle it.

Sonic would never be that fast, no game character would. Even vehicles never go as fast as their real world counterparts, with the biggest offenders being Battlefield.

You don't need math to show that sonic is slow. Him going the speed of sound is impossible on a technical, game play, and level design level.
 

RJ 17

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Nov 27, 2011
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Thunderous Cacophony said:
The methodology of a lot of this is flawed. You judge Sonic by the time it takes him to cover the entire level in his first game (which includes jumps, loop-de-loops and other delays) and Mario by the time it takes him to get to the first warp pipe (which also includes jumps, but significantly less obstacles over a much shorter distance). You figured out a decent system for determining the size of both characters, and how large the levels are; why not only judge their speed on a flat piece of ground? Saying that Mario is faster than Sonic when you compare them running two very different courses is disingenuous.

The rest of the math holds up as far as I can tell, and it was an enjoyable episode, but that was a bit sloppy.
While I must admit that I am a fan of the Game Theory channel, it really is a good thing that he ends all his videos with "But that's just a theory....a GAME Theory!" because...yeah, he gets a lot of his research wrong and/or leaves out important factors that should be noted. As you pointed out, the best way to compare Mario's speed to Sonic's would be to time them running across flat surfaces.

Still, though, the best thing to take away from this video is that Robotnic is faster than Sonic.
 

bdcjacko

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Jun 9, 2010
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Yeah, playin sonic one is brutally slow. Is he at least fast for a hedgehog?
 

dragongit

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Feb 22, 2011
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Their science isn't' completely infallible. After all they once estimated Wario to be 10 feet tall. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj_TMREGHSY
 

contla

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Jan 17, 2012
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But 2d Sonic and 3d sonic aren't the same size. In Sonic Generations Old School Sonic is much smaller the New Sonic.
 

nathan-dts

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contla said:
But 2d Sonic and 3d sonic aren't the same size. In Sonic Generations Old School Sonic is much smaller the New Sonic.
True and loops aren't factored in, either. However, since 2D Sonic is smaller, he actually ran a shorter distance in that level so he's even slower.
 

Rellik San

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nathan-dts said:
contla said:
But 2d Sonic and 3d sonic aren't the same size. In Sonic Generations Old School Sonic is much smaller the New Sonic.
True and loops aren't factored in, either. However, since 2D Sonic is smaller, he actually ran a shorter distance in that level so he's even slower.
Wouldn't shorter Sonic be running a longer distance because his physical stride is shallower?
 

Lightknight

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contla said:
But 2d Sonic and 3d sonic aren't the same size. In Sonic Generations Old School Sonic is much smaller the New Sonic.
It's also important to recognize that characters of the same name aren't necessarily of the same universe. Referee Mario likely isn't Doctor or regular Mario for example. So you can't make universal claims about them since one may be taller or shorter than the other since they're technically different versions of the same personhood.
 

nathan-dts

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Rellik San said:
nathan-dts said:
contla said:
But 2d Sonic and 3d sonic aren't the same size. In Sonic Generations Old School Sonic is much smaller the New Sonic.
True and loops aren't factored in, either. However, since 2D Sonic is smaller, he actually ran a shorter distance in that level so he's even slower.
Wouldn't shorter Sonic be running a longer distance because his physical stride is shallower?
No, the reason he measured Sonic was as a means to measure the stage. He used 3D Sonic measurements on the sprite of 2D Sonic to determine that distance and divided it by the world record time on the stage. He should have used 2D Sonic's size and the stage would've been measured as shorter.
 

Buidoirican

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While I am a fan of Game Theory, it bothers me that all the content thus far is just re-uploads from youtube.
 

daxterx2005

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Buidoirican said:
While I am a fan of Game Theory, it bothers me that all the content thus far is just re-uploads from youtube.
Same, I'm sure it has to do with contracts and what have you.
I doubt NEW material will ever premier here.
 

angel85

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Dec 31, 2008
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Other commentors have pointed out that Sonic isn't running at his full speed during gameplay, because he HAS to move slow enough for human reflexes to act on obstacles. Perhaps the most objective way to measure his true potential is to have a cutscene where he is running at full speed, though those are pretty rare and in the few I can think of it would be nearly impossible to figure out the physical measurements. However, the measurement of Sonic's height is flawed, since you took a measurement from modern Sonic and applied it to his classic sprite, since Sonic generations revealed that Sonic has in fact grown over the years of his franchise, I even ran the calculations myself which you can review here: http://wakeangel2001.deviantart.com/art/I-m-crazy-and-obsessed-400453569 which made me conclude modern Sonic is actually closer to 4'10." Also Green Hill is a terrible place to gauge Sonic's speed because it is hilly and full of obstacles, you needed to pick a stretch of ground that was flat and Sonic can run at full speed unimpeded. Your measure of his speed in Sonic Unleashed is good, I think the final Shadow boss fight from Sonic Adventure 2 could also work, but we don't have a way to measure how long the road the 2 of them were running on is so go with Unleashed. Actually the best place to accurately measure Sonic's [gameplay] speed is Green Hill Zone...from the DS port of Sonic Generations. There is a spot near the beginning of the level that is at the base of a hill, a nice flat bit of ground that is long enough for Sonic to run for a couple seconds and since it's at the bottom of a hill he is at his full running speed as soon as he reaches it. All you need to do is measure the length of that flat ground and you can easily calculate classic Sonic's speed. Modern Sonic is even easier because there are LOTS of regions of flat ground you can have him run on for a couple seconds at full speed (which is easy to get to because of the boost ability.) Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to measure the distances in the DS Generations levels so I don't really have my own conclusions about Sonic's speed, but all the stuff needed to calculate it is there in that one game!
 

DrTesla

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I was thinking, maybe Sonics brain also runs over-clocked. If so, he would perceive world faster making the world around him seem to act slower than normal human experience and make faster speeds seem slower like in the games. Or maybe just the speed of sound is slower in the Segaland.
 

Something Amyss

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Dec 3, 2008
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Dammit, another cartoon theme song lied.

Thunderous Cacophony said:
The methodology of a lot of this is flawed.
It's Game Theory. I love the series, but it's basically Mythbusters for video games.

bdcjacko said:
Yeah, playin sonic one is brutally slow. Is he at least fast for a hedgehog?
He's fast for a hedgehog, but only when he's wearing sneakers.

daxterx2005 said:
Same, I'm sure it has to do with contracts and what have you.
I doubt NEW material will ever premier here.
Someone from the Escapist (I think it was Greg) commented that they were hoping to get new episodes in the future.

The Salty Vulcan said:
How long have the Game Theorists been on Escapist!?! I love these guys on Youtube!
3-4 weeks, I think. They're all reups as others have mentioned, though.

DrTesla said:
I was thinking, maybe Sonics brain also runs over-clocked. If so, he would perceive world faster making the world around him seem to act slower than normal human experience and make faster speeds seem slower like in the games. Or maybe just the speed of sound is slower in the Segaland.
Maybe things are just shorthanded in video games and trying for hard science applications are pointless.

But it is kind of fun.
 

Fsyco

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Feb 18, 2014
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Lightknight said:
Ok, I've got to admit that you did your homework here. Perhaps diehard sonic fans (of which I'm not one) can now claim that Sonic experiences time differently and so the clock is relative to him and not the world around him which is actually experiencing time slower than that.
As someone who studies physics, I can tell you that that isn't the case. If he can't break the sound barrier, there's no way in hell he'd experience time dilation. You have to go much faster than the speed of sound to see Time Dilation on a meaningful scale. And if you did, in fact, go fast enough to experience time dilation, you'd also see lengths contract. So the world around Sonic would shrink.

Also if Sonic just plain-old experienced time differently, he wouldn't be able to interact with other people the way he does in cutscenes. Everyone else seems to experience time the same way.