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Gold rings are items used in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise of games. They are Sonic's regular source of life, though they act differently than in other games like the Mario franchise in that as long as Sonic possesses one ring, he cannot lose a life from an enemy attack. However, when attacked, Sonic loses all of his rings (up until the game Sonic and the Black Knight, where not all rings were lost) and if he has 0 of them, then he'll lose a life.
Upon obtaining 100 rings, Sonic earns an extra life.
The rings debuted in the Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis. Rings could be collected throughout the levels. During the Sonic 1 and Sonic CD games, completing an Act with 50 rings let Sonic enter a giant ring portal into a Special Stage. During Sonic 3 and the Sonic and Knuckles games, the Giant Ring portals were hidden throughout the levels.
Rings can also be found by reaching specific monitors, offering different ring amounts depending on the monitor and game.
Rings contribute to Sonic's score earned at the end of the levels, with each ring earning 100 points while later games earns him 10. (For example, in the game Sonic Adventure, if Sonic has 266 rings, then he'll score 2,660 points for the level.)