Sonic the Hedgehog: A Smooth Criminal?

Hey hey, this is Smiles here with another blog post. This past week, I was listening to my music when I came across “Beat It” and started jamming to some old Michael Jackson tunes.  I can’t believe it’ll almost be 3 years since the King of Pop left this world. Nowadays, his image is used to promote the less than stellar “Michael Jackson: The Experience” videogame. But back in my day, Michael Jackson made some serious contributions to the videogame industry. And no, I’m not referring to “Moonwalker,” although it was a good game.

If you couldn’t tell by the title, I’m talking about Sonic the Hedgehog. More specifically, Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Despite the fact that Jackson’s name isn’t in the credits, it’s been heavily rumored that he composed the music for the game. This isn’t some baseless conjecture from a raving fan of Sonic and Michael, there’s some merit to these claims. For one thing, interviews with both Michael Jackson’s people and SEGA allude to this.

Sonic and Michael meeting up. Maybe MJ taught Sonic how to moonwalk.

A while back, SEGA Technological Institute head Roger Hector said Michael Jackson was brought in early in the project. His claims have repeatedly been called into question by other interviews stating that no contracts or formal agreements exist between SEGA and Jackson.

Of course, the biggest clue  is simply listening to the music. Immediately, you can tell similarities between Carnival Night Zone and Jam, and The End Credits and Stranger in Moscow. I’m no expert on music theory, so I can’t go in depth as to how the chord progression is similar. There’s an awesome YouTube video that goes more into depth about this.

Posthumously, the cat was let out of the bag in an interview with Black and White magazine. In 2009, Brad Buxer, who worked with Michael Jackson, confirmed that Jackson and him were involved in Sonic 3 and that the base from “Stranger in Moscow” came from the End Credits theme. So the King of Pop actually did contribute to the music of the blue hedgehog. But why wasn’t he credited? That would have surely been a great marketing strategy to claim that MJ composed the music for their game.

There have been many theories behind this. One is that around the time, child-molestation charges were pressed against Jackson. Another is that he wasn’t happy with the output sound the Genesis made, and didn’t want his involvement known. A third yet odd reason could be similar to what he did in the Simpsons episode “Stark Raving Dad.” Michael was credited under a pseudonym to see if his brothers could guess if he was really the singer or not. It’s quite possible he had the same idea with Sonic 3.

Michael Jackson’s involvement with Sonic 3 was one of videogaming history’s longest running mysteries. It’s pretty amazing that Michael lent some of his talent to one of SEGA’s best games. While the King of Pop may no longer be with us, I’ll always think of him when I kick it old school with my SEGA Genesis.


Edit: Some people asked to see the article that Brad Buxer confirmed Michael’s involvement. I don’t have the actual article, but Sonic Retro posted a translation of the article on their website.,_November/December_2009%29#Page_74

-Stephen “Smiles” Ramirtha