The golden rings featured in nearly every Sonic game are one of the series' most recognizable features. Found everywhere from outer space to deep underground, in pocket universes and the core of the Internet, these golden hoops are of great and varied utility to Sonic and friends.
While they usually act first and foremost as a sort of shield against damage, rings' uses are many and varied, and their precise role in gameplay varies from title to title.
By far the most recognizable and prevalent attribute rings display is their function staving off loss of lives. In general, the rings a character holds prevents them from dying when hit by the spikes or claws or kill-bolts of foes. If an (unshielded) character is hit by an enemy and is holding rings, he drops the rings and is usually rendered flickering and invincible for a short period. Being hit with no rings in pocket, on the other hand, will cause the character's death. The rings' one weakness is to stop turning, and that was makes them disappear. However, it is impossible to get exactly all your rings, unless you have a few (1-3 rings). In the great majority of Sonic games, a hit causes the character to drop all their rings, regardless of how many they are holding in total. There are exceptions, however: for example, 50% of rings are dropped when hit in Sonic Unleashed (provided you have 40 or more); a set loss of 10 rings occurs in some games such as Sonic Blast and Shadow the Hedgehog; while Tails loses varying numbers depending on the severity of the hit in Tails Adventures.
Rings also serve as fuel for characters' super transformations. In the older games, one of the conditions for attaining Super Sonic was to collect 50 rings and tap jump twice. Once in his golden form, Sonic's ring count falls steadily, and he reverts to his normal blue self once it reaches zero. The decreasing ring count is a general feature across many player-controlled super forms, including the Hyper transformations and Burning Blaze.
The great ubiquity of the rings as the series' generic 'collectible item' has seen them serve a variety of additional minor purposes over the years, including:
Rings seem to have a higher purpose in the Archie comics. In one issue Sonic is able to use a ring to teleport himself, in another he uses one as a sort of fortune teller.
|Items in the Sonic the Hedgehog Game Series|
|Collectibles||Ring | Red Star Ring | Emblem | Chaos Drives | Material|
|Power-ups||Shield (Water, Lightning, Fire, Gold) | Invincibility | Power Sneakers | Power Core | Light Cores|
|Level Objects||Monitor | Spring | Spikes | Checkpoint | Time Warp Plate | Signpost | Goal Ring | Giant Ring | Capsule | Button | Bumper | Speed Booster | Chao Container|
|Powerful Items||Chaos Emeralds | Super Emeralds | Master Emerald | Time Stones | Chaos Rings | Precioustone | Sol Emeralds | Jeweled Scepter | World Rings | Excalibur | Phantom Ruby|
|Weapons||Piko Piko Hammer | Chaos Energy Cannon | Caliburn | Wispon|
|Devices||Remote Robot | Combi Confiner | Mother Computer | Nega's Camera | Arks of the Cosmos | Miles Electric|
|Other||Chili Dog | Scepter of Darkness | Cacophonic Conch|