Retro Engine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Retro Engine
Developer(s)Christian Whitehead
Written inC++
TypeGame engine

The Retro Engine[a] is a multiplatform game engine developed by Australian programmer Christian Whitehead, best known for its use in Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog series.


Unlike most modern game engines, the Retro Engine is primarily tailored for creating two-dimensional games like those released for 32-bit or below-era consoles, such as the Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. For this reason, the engine focuses more on raster graphics and palette manipulation, although it does feature support for widescreen graphics and online functionality.[1]


Australian programmer Christian Whitehead created the Retro Engine for use with a 2007 fangame entitled Retro Sonic, which is based upon the original Sonic games released for the Sega Genesis. The game became notable after its release for its accuracy to the games, despite not being a ROM hack or modification to an existing Sonic game.[2] Retro Sonic later merged with two other Sonic fangames, Sonic XG and Sonic Nexus, to form Retro Sonic Nexus.[3]

In 2009, Sega asked fans for ideas on a game to port to iOS. As a response, Whitehead produced a proof-of-concept video showing Sega's 1993 Sega CD game Sonic CD running on an iPhone.[4] Sega later officially released the port in 2011 for various platforms, such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, iOS and Android. Whitehead, along with fellow Sonic scene member Simon "Stealth" Thomley, were later commissioned to create remakes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 using the engine, released for mobile platforms in 2013.[5][6]

In 2014, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the release of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Whitehead and Thomley produced a proof-of-concept showing the game using the engine on an iPhone. Despite fan support, Sega did not approve of the project.[5] Thomley speculated that this was due to legal problems regarding the music.[7] In 2015, Whitehead, Thomley's studio Headcannon, and PagodaWest Games collaborated on an original Sonic game using the Retro Engine titled Sonic Mania, which released August 2017,[8][9] with DLC titled Sonic Mania Plus being released in July 2018.

In 2019, Whitehead, in collaboration with other members behind Sonic Mania, founded a new video game studio named Evening Star. In reference to the studio name, the Retro Engine initially had been renamed the Star Engine.[10][11] In October 2021, Evening Star announced development was underway for a game using the Star Engine.[12] In conjunction with this, it was announced that the Star Engine had been turned into a separate engine with a focus on 3D rendering, with the Retro Engine remaining as their 2D game engine.[13] In January 2021, an open-source decompilation of the Retro Engine versions of Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 were released, allowing the latter two games to be run natively on PC platforms.[14]

The Retro Engine was also used for the compilation Sonic Origins in 2022, which includes remakes of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles.[15][16]


Year Title Developer(s) Platform(s)
2007 Retro Sonic Christian Whitehead Windows, Dreamcast
2008 Sonic Nexus Christian Whitehead, Brad Flick, Hunter Bridges Windows, Mac OS X
2011 Sonic CD Original game by Sega; adapted by Christian Whitehead and ported to PC and consoles by BlitWorks Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS, Android, Ouya, Windows, Apple TV, Windows Phone
2013 Sonic the Hedgehog Adapted by Christian Whitehead and Headcannon from the original games by Sonic Team and Sega Technical Institute iOS, Android, Apple TV
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
2017 Sonic Mania Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games, Hyperkinetic Studios Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows
2022 Sonic Origins Sonic Team, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 adapted by Christian Whitehead and Headcannon, Sonic the Hedgehog CD adapted by Christian Whitehead and ported to PC and consoles by BlitWorks, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles adapted by Headcannon[17] Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows


Reviewers praised the Retro Engine for its performance, which has been called superior to simply emulating the original games. TouchArcade has referred to the remasters of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as "spectacular".[5]

Whitehead has named games such as Ristar, Knuckles' Chaotix, and Dynamite Headdy, as well as non-Sega games like the Castlevania series, as others that would be possible to port to the engine.[2][4]


  1. ^ Also known as the Retro Software Development Kit
  1. ^ Whitehead, Christian. "Technologies: Retro Engine". Archived from the original on 21 January 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Mawson, Chris (2 April 2015). "Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Remastered Interview with Christian 'The Taxman' Whitehead". Power Up Gaming. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  3. ^ Ponce, Tony. "The joy of fan games, pt. 2: Fan game heroes!". Destructoid. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b Hodapp, Eli (29 July 2009). "Christian Whitehead On 'Sonic CD' and His Retro Engine". TouchArcade. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Nelson, Jared (19 October 2014). "Hey Sega! This 'Sonic 3 & Knuckles' iOS Port Needs to Happen". TouchArcade. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Sonic 2 Mobile". Retrieved August 31, 2021.
  7. ^ Thomley, Simon (February 9, 2015). "Regarding Sonic 3". Tumblr. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  8. ^ D'Argenio, Angelo. "Do fan games have a future? AM2R, Sonic Mania, and the creative process". GameCrate. NewEgg. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  9. ^ "Kotaku on Hackers and Modders for Next Sonic Project". Retrieved August 31, 2021.
  10. ^ "Evening Star - Technologies". Archived from the original on 28 February 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ Batchelor, James (February 12, 2019). "Sonic Mania dev Christian Whitehead co-founds new studio Evening Star".
  12. ^ Stewart, Marcus (1 October 2021). "The Developers Behind Sonic Mania Are Working On An Original 3D Platformer". Game Informer. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  13. ^ "Evening Star - Technologies".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Orland, Kyle (20 January 2021). "PC fan port of early Sonic games lets you zoom the camera way, way out". Ars Technica.
  15. ^ McWhertor, Michael (April 20, 2022). "Sega's Sonic Origins retro collection coming this June". Polygon. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  16. ^ Carter, Chris (April 20, 2022). "The Sonic Mania studio helped work on Sonic Origins". Destructoid. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  17. ^ Whitehead, Christian [@CFWhitehead] (April 20, 2022). "I updated the engine to allow all versions to run in a collection, but all the game content in Origins has been worked on by SEGA and @Head_cannon" (Tweet). Retrieved April 20, 2022 – via Twitter.

External links[edit]