Top 10 Sonic the Hedgehog Games
With the recent announcement of Nintendo-exclusive title Sonic: Lost World, I felt a range of mixed emotion. I talked to a range of people including Sonic fan communities, general gaming communities and even random people on the street. I would ask these people about their thoughts on Sonic: Lost World, and they would all respond with the same mixed feelings. The best word to describe it is: skepticism.
In the past ten years, SEGA have become increasingly known for pumping out Sonic the Hedgehog games that have hurt the series’ credibility. While the most die-hard of fans of other series’ never waver, the Sonic series has found itself on the end of questions over quality and statements of the series’ faults.
In my experience, I haven’t seen any other game franchise that has induced that feeling of skepticism in so many people. Every game series has lovers and haters, but is there any franchise out there that creates such a degree of uncertainty as Sonic?
Recently, the tides have turned for the Sonic series, and while skepticism remains, a lot of the people I have spoken to have commended SEGA’s efforts with Sonic Colours, Sonic Generations and Sonic 4: Episode II. So, I took it upon myself to ask everyone I could find what their favourite Sonic game is.
I went from Facebook groups, to discussion forums, to family, to friends, to find the most accurate answer to “what is the best Sonic the Hedgehog game?” Here were the top ten responses.
#10) Sonic Colours
The Wii-exclusive Sonic Colours sold 2.18 million copies within four months of release. While it might not have made “Call of Duty money” for SEGA, it sold enough that SEGA has trusted Sonic’s sales on Nintendo’s platforms enough to make the next three games exclusive.
Sonic Colours took Sonic’s high-speed and launched him into an interplanetary amusement park. I felt the story was pretty boring. However, some people would say they play games on Nintendo platforms for the gameplay, and not the story. Others might completely debunk that and say they enjoy the stories of Nintendo’s games, but that’s neither here nor there.
At the core of Colours’ gameplay was an environment switching between 3D and 2D. This type of level design was utilised since Sonic Unleashed in 2008. The main strategy was to boost through the 3D sections and be slowed to do some platform hopping at the 2D sections.
The most mentioned criticism of why this game wasn’t ranked #1 by its fans was because of something people have called “cheap deaths”. I can’t really explain it, but I understand that they mean some levels seem to be designed so that you will fall to your death if you don’t jump at the right time. This takes the momentum away from the game and could likely induce anger if it happens often.
Play It Now: Wii games work on Nintendo Wii U.
#9) Sonic Rush
Speed. Speed. Speed. What more can be said about Sonic Rush? The DS-exclusive 2D platformer differentiated itself from Mario much in the way that the original Sonic the Hedgehog did back in 1991. The difference is that Sonic seems much faster in Sonic Rush as there are speed boosters everywhere.
However, negative comments towards this game included the dual-screen style of gameplay, where if Sonic ran up a hill, the gameplay would shift to the top screen of the DS. The cheap deaths that have become a trademark for the series through the years were present in an early form in this game too. It also introduced another forgettable character in the form of Blaze the Cat to the already over-crowded roster in the Sonic universe.
Regardless, Sonic Rush sold just enough to get its own sequel, Sonic Rush Adventure, which was one of those games that was less than favourable.
Play It Now: Nintendo DS games can be played on Nintendo 3DS.
#8) Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Not your typical Sonic game, Racing Transformed was the sequel to the 2010 kart racing title, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. While its predecessor focused on offering a Sonic alternative to Mario Kart with an emphasis on speed, Racing Transformed took that framework and gave it a transformation (Hehe pun).
As you race around the 20 tracks based on locations from various SEGA games (including Golden Axe, Burning Rangers and Panzer Dragoon), the track will change mid-race, and you may have to adapt to a different style of race as your kart adapts to the track by changing into a boat or a plane. This feature makes for some interesting handling and adds an extra layer of depth to the gameplay.
Some tracks even differ by having laps end at a different point from where you started, making you unable to memorise the track in your first lap to gain an easy victory.
While it doesn’t have the polish or long-lasting brand recognition of a Mario Kart, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is the closest in quality you will get to a Mario Kart game on multiple platforms.
Play It Now: Available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. Coming Soon to iOS.
#7) Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)
The Game Gear and Master System version of the original Sonic the Hedgehog game was a lower quality, lower resolution and lower
budget copy of Sonic’s high speed. However, the game appears to have been fun enough to become the seventh most favoured Sonic game on this list.
This was the alternative for Super Mario Bros. for the players that had yet to upgrade to SEGA’s 16-bit platform, and despite the ailing Master System being in its last couple of years, Sonic breathed life and kept the Master System owners happy.
One of the notable criticisms is the simplicity of the levels due to the smaller colour palette, with the likes of the characteristic Marble Zone and Spring Yard Zone being replaced by (the less creatively named) Bridge Zone and Jungle Zone.
This game is clearly not hindered by its inferior graphics, music and sound effects, however, as its gameplay stands out as being as true to the 16-bit game as it possibly could be, offering an authentic Sonic the Hedgehog experience on a (battery devouring) handheld system for the very first time.
Play It Now: Emulation, or dig out Sonic Mega Collection Plus on PS2, Xbox and PC.
#6) Sonic Advance 2
As with All-Stars Racing Transformed, Sonic Advance 2 was a sequel which improved upon its predecessor. The game was the second of three to be released on the Game Boy Advance.
While the first Sonic Advance aimed to be a throwback to the early 90s to celebrate the series’ 10th Anniversary, Sonic Advance 2 took what Sonic Advance did and re-wrote the formula through conveniently placed speed boosters, offering a greater thrill of speed that would be used throughout the rest of the handheld games on Nintendo platforms.
The creative level design and layouts were unparalleled in earlier Sonic games. Dimps attempted to think forward, and mix between the classic-style gameplay of Sonic Advance and the parkour-esque gameplay of Sonic Advance 3 (which had a hub world and story disaster).
Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy Rose all returned as playable characters from the previous game, while they were joined by a new character, Cream the Rabbit, who would go on to become the icon for the beginning of the Sonic series being over-crowded.
This game is also given the merit (or blame) for starting the trend of cheap deaths that would become present in all future Sonic handheld games, and made its way to console games starting from the 2006 title that has since been disowned by everyone from the fans to SEGA themselves.
The cheap deaths have become a thing that Sonic fans attribute to SEGA’s lack of creativity and “a failure to put in a satisfying exclamation point in their levels”. This references that Sonic Advance 2 (and many games afterwards) usually feature the difficult to avoid death point at the end of a level.
Play It Now: Emulation, or dig out a Game Boy Advance copy.
#5) Sonic & Knuckles
Sonic & Knuckles was the Mega Drive’s equivalent of downloadable content. As a standalone game, it offered satisfying level design,
varied boss battles, and a zany soundtrack sampled by Michael Jackson. However, it was just an expensive extension of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and was missing the ability to save the game’s progress.
Due to the high development costs and delay required, Sonic 3 was split into two separate games with Sonic & Knuckles becoming the second part. They compensated by making Sonic’s new rival from Sonic 3, Knuckles, a playable character. Sonic & Knuckles was also developed in a more advanced cartridge which could have other cartridges inserted into it, as if the game was a system itself.
Sonic & Knuckles unlocked extra content in Sonic 3, by opening up new paths that were omitted from the original game, joining the levels of the two games together as one package. It also added Knuckles as a playable character to the Sonic 3 levels, added seven extra Chaos Emeralds to collect in ‘Special Stages’ and upgraded the save game system to store the number of lives and continues the player has.
The cartridge also unlocked Knuckles as a playable character in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and started a game called “Blue Sphere” (based on the Sonic 3 & Knuckles ‘Special Stages’) when the original Sonic the Hedgehog was attached.
While not the best Sonic game on its own, its contributions to the previous games in the series made it a package that was well worth purchasing.
Play It Now: Available on Xbox Live Arcade and Wii Virtual Console, or on PlayStation 3 through the SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection. It is also bundled with Sonic 3 on Steam.
#4) Sonic the Hedgehog 2
The second title in the series improved on the original Sonic the Hedgehog in every single way. It added a second playable character,
competitive multiplayer, and a second player could control Sonic’s companion, Tails, for sort-of co-operative gameplay during the game.
Levels had a more varied mix of speed and platforming in each level than its predecessor (which mainly altered between a speed zone and a slow zone).
This game also scrapped the first game’s rolling ‘special stage’ in favour of a pseudo-3D special stage which would involve the player moving their character left and right around a half-pipe to collect the required amount of rings before they reach the end of the three sections of the stage. If this is completed successfully, the player would be awarded with a Chaos Emerald.
And how could I get away without mentioning Super Sonic? Collecting all seven chaos emeralds in the game and then collecting 50 rings would allow Sonic (or Tails) to become invincible until his rings were depleted. (The rings decrease at a rate of 1 per second).
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 took everything from Sonic the Hedgehog and improved on it enough to become the sixth highest rated Sonic game by the fans.
Play It Now: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Wii Virtual Console
#3) Sonic Adventure 2
What is it that made Sonic Adventure 2 so appealing that it made it into the top 3 of this list. Was it the level design? Was it the two campaigns, with three playable characters in each? Was it the treasure hunting levels? Was it the shoot ‘em up levels?
The reason I received for its popularity was undoubtedly the life simulation mini-game of the Chao World. You would buy different coloured eggs to hatch your own little critters, and then use them in races, karate, school lessons. It was insane.
The downside to this game was that at least 1/3 of the levels were boring as you were playing as characters other than Sonic or Shadow. While the change of pace was sometimes good with the treasure hunting on Pumpkin Hill being a particularly memorable level, the levels featuring Tails and Eggman controlling mechs had no redeeming qualities in a Sonic game. Overall, the game had a decent multiplayer component and the high-speed levels featuring Sonic and Shadow are still a joy to play over ten years on.
Play It Now: Available on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam
#2) Sonic 3
In my opinion, Sonic 3 was the best out of all the Sonic games ever made. It made the most out of a 16-bit cartridge: multi-tier level design which offered exploration to find the giant rings, varied boss battles, scripted cutscenes, a snowboarding section, a save game system and the soundtrack sampled by Michael Jackson.
Despite being cut in half (with the second half being Sonic & Knuckles), Sonic 3 is a good game in its own right. The disappointing part is when the game ends because the game ends with what should lead on to Sonic & Knuckles’ opening. There also of course is the barrel that was impassable by most players until the invention of the likes of GameFAQs and YouTube.
Regardless, I highly recommend you play this game if you haven’t already as it is the most varied of the 2D Sonic titles.
Play It Now: Available on Xbox Live Arcade and Wii Virtual Console, or on PlayStation 3 through the SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection. It is also bundled with Sonic & Knuckles on Steam.
#1) Sonic CD
Sonic CD was released in 1993 for the Mega CD. Its popularity did not come until years later after a PC port, and later a release as part of Sonic Gems Collection. I couldn’t have went on any forum or Facebook page without coming across a handful of people who voted Sonic CD as their favourite game in the series.
When I look at Sonic CD on its surface, all I see is a sequel to the original Sonic game which featured new sprite animations, an animated intro, time travel and a full soundtrack.
Taking Sonic CD at its face value would not make it the best Sonic game ever, but the game’s legacy in the eyes of the fans presented me with a whole variety of reasons given for why it was a person’s favourite.
Sonic CD added 3D environment ‘Special Stages’. These involved sprinting around a map to find a chaos emerald before the time ran out. They were hard to control at times, but what some would say as a technical hindrance, others would call a satisfying challenge.
The time travel story made the game a lot more branched than you would think. Depending on what you did in the past, the future would change. The use of the butterfly effect, along with the added goal of destroying Eggman’s machine in the past would add an extra level of depth to make Sonic CD the most elaborately designed of the 2D games.
Sonic CD also tried something different with boss battles, requiring the use of timing and not memorising a pattern. The first boss battle is Eggman in a mech where he covers his face with springs to stop Sonic jumping into him. The mech also has spikes on its feet to stop Sonic spin dashing into it.
How could we forget the added characters of Metal Sonic and Amy Rose? These two influential characters were first introduced in this game. Amy was kidnapped and required Sonic to save her. It also established that she was in love and wanted to follow Sonic. Meanwhile, Metal Sonic has remained a fan-favourite villain in the Sonic series due to his speed matching Sonic’s in a time before Shadow was introduced. Metal Sonic went on to appear in future games and comics, and even had copies spun-off including Mecha Sonic, Metal Overlord and Metallix.
Sonic CD was remade in 2011 by a Sonic fan who was hired by SEGA after they had seen his work. If that isn’t dedication to a video game, I don’t know what is. The enhanced remake has added Tails as a playable character and remastered the graphics in high-definition, with texture quality and soundtrack options available.
Play It Now: The remake is available on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Android, iOS, Steam and Windows Phone.