Sonic the Hedgehog

15 Best ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Games

This summer marks 30 years since the Sonic the Hedgehog video game franchise first blasted on the scene. In that time, the plucky blue hedgehog has had some of the most mesmerising and memorable adventures in the history of gaming. What better time than Sonic’s 30th anniversary to look back on the best of the best from his extensive gaming catalogue? These are the top 15 Sonic the Hedgehog games.

15) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 8-bit

Every top list has to have one controversial selection, so let’s get this one out of the way early. Most of the side-scrolling Game Gear Sonic titles are quality outings, but the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 stands out. While it doesn’t outclass the other titles in any one specific area, it’s the complete package that makes it a winner, showcasing more personality and originality than its predecessor without falling prey to the slowdown that plagued its successors. Plus, good luck getting the Scrambled Egg Zone theme out of your head.

14) Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice

Sonic Boom Fire and Ice

After the abysmal failure of previous titles in the short-lived Sonic Boom subseries, fans were pleasantly surprised at the quality of its third and final outing. Developed by Sanzaru Games, makers of the previous handheld title Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, Fire and Ice did just what a sequel should do: acknowledge the mistakes of its predecessors and build on what worked. The exploration aspect was toned down, and focus returned to the high-speed platforming the franchise was known for. New mechanics such as the use of energy tethers and double jumps differentiated it just enough from the classic formula to keep players intrigued. Fire and Ice is far and away the best of the three Sonic Boom games and a testament to how good the subseries could have been if given the chance to continue to grow and learn from its missteps.

13) Sonic Colors

Sonic Colors

Sonic Colors was widely regarded as a return to form for the blue blur. After over a decade of complex plots and constant gameplay shifts, Sonic Colors went back to basics. The story is simple: Eggman is powering a giant space amusement park with the energy of small alien creatures called wisps, and Sonic needs to save them. The simple plot is complemented by simple gameplay: for the first time in a mainline 3D Sonic game, Sonic is the only playable character. His abilities are enhanced by the wisps’ energy, enabling him to perform all sorts of feats, such as turning into a laser or drill. While Sonic Colors’ warm reception has cooled over the years — the blocky platforming, short length and cringy dialogue haven’t aged well — many fans and game reviewers alike still look back fondly on it as a step in the right direction for the franchise.

12) Sonic Generations

Sonic Generations

During most of the 2000s, Sonic Team was laser-focused on the future of the series without paying much mind to what made the series so memorable in the first place. But when it came time for Sonic’s 20th anniversary in 2011, they did the then-unthinkable: team modern Sonic up with his classic counterpart in an epic time-hopping adventure. Classic and modern Sonic gameplay collided as the pair blasted through levels from throughout the series’ history, all recreated in beautiful 3D. It was a fitting celebration of all things Sonic that would have ranked higher on this list if not for its notoriously short length and half-baked story.

11) Sonic Advance 2

Sonic Advance 2

Sonic Advance, the character’s first foray on a Nintendo handheld, was an interesting one, bringing back classic Sonic gameplay for the first time since Sonic the Hedgehog 3 with a modern Sonic aesthetic. It is a fun, if unremarkable, romp, but its sequel pulled out all the stops. Rather than going for another classic-style experience, Sonic Advance 2 turned the speed aspect up to 11. After a brief stretch of running, Sonic would go into “boost mode,” jetting off faster than ever before seen in the franchise. Reception among the fandom was mixed. Many loved the new focus on exhilarating speed, while others felt it came at the expense of platforming elements the series was known for. Sonic Advance 3 tried to meld the two gameplay philosophies of its predecessors, with middling results.

10) Sonic Unleashed

Sonic the werehog

After the catastrophic failure of Sonic’s 2006 outing, the hedgehog had a lot to prove — and he did just that. Sonic Unleashed was the first to feature boost gameplay in 3D. Unlike Sonic Advance 2, players could shoot Sonic forward at full speed with but the push of a button. The game was complemented by the best graphics that the franchise has ever seen, even by today’s standards, thanks in part to Sonic Team’s custom Hedgehog Engine. Of course, there’s no denying the elephant in the room: the Werehog. Half of the game features Sonic transforming into a monstrous version of his normal self and fighting his way through hordes of enemies in God of War-esque brawls. While this half of the game wasn’t and still isn’t well-received by critics or fans alike, it succeeds in highlighting the brilliance of the regular Sonic gameplay by comparison, which is still being utilised to this day.

9) Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include the one that started it all. Compared to its successors, Sonic the Hedgehog is pretty tame, being the shortest and slowest game of the original trilogy, but one can’t deny the influence it had on the industry as a whole. This is the game that introduced us to the speediest platforming hero in the history of the medium, and it deserves its props for laying the groundwork for what was to come.

8) Sonic CD

Sonic in Sonic CD

After Sonic the Hedgehog was complete, its development team split in two. Some went on to develop Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The rest were put to work on a Sonic game for the new Sega CD system. If Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the original game on steroids, Sonic CD was the original game on LSD. The extra storage space offered by the CD medium led to visuals and audio quality far exceeding anything the classic trilogy of games were capable of. The game also included a time-travel mechanic that gave each level four different variations: present, past, bad future and good future, each with its own aesthetics and level hazards. Not to be overlooked are the first appearances of Amy Rose and Metal Sonic, who would go on to become beloved series mainstays.

7) Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a textbook example of how to do a sequel right. It’s faster than the original, twice as long, and introduces new gameplay mechanics like the famous spin dash and new characters, specifically, Miles “Tails” Prower. Simply put, everything the first Sonic the Hedgehog did well, the sequel did better. In fact, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is considered the best in the franchise to many in the fandom, but as we’ll see, other games manage to improve the formula even further.

6) Sonic Rush

Sonic Rush

While the Sonic Advance trilogy tweaked the classic Sonic gameplay, Sonic Rush threw it out the window, and it worked. The game’s emphasis on speed even eclipsed that of Sonic Advance 2, making it the fastest game in the 2D series. Performing a string of tricks while airborne would increase Sonic’s boost meter, allowing him to plough through zones and enemies in ways he never could before. Throw in the debut of fan favourite Blaze the Cat and a thumping soundtrack by Jet Set Radio composer Hideki Naganuma, and you have a Sonic game where taking risks and doing things differently paid off handsomely.

5) Sonic Rush Adventure

Sonic Rush Adventure

Sonic Rush Adventure plays virtually the same as its predecessor, but with a greater emphasis on story and exploration. Some who prefer the more straightforward level-to-level Sonic gameplay may find this to be to Sonic Rush Adventure’s detriment, but being able to explore a fully realised world, searching the high seas for new levels to explore, materials to collect and watercraft to build added significant flavour to the Sonic Rush experience and gave it its own distinct feel from other Sonic sidescrollers.

4) Sonic Adventure 2

Sonic Adventure 2

As with the classic games before it, Sonic Adventure 2 took what worked in the original and expanded on it while tweaking what didn’t. In most areas, it succeeded. The number of characters was reduced from six to three, eliminating gameplay styles that players found fault with in Sonic Adventure. Also removed were the original’s adventure fields, leading to a more streamlined level-to-level experience akin to the classic games. Not to be overlooked is the game’s first appearances of series mainstays Rouge the Bat and Shadow the Hedgehog, as well as a more intense story that still ranks among the series’ best.

3) Sonic Adventure

Sonic Adventure

Admittedly, Sonic Adventure is a bit dated by today’s standards, it being Sonic’s first full foray into the third dimension and all, but one might argue it remains the most faithful translation of the classic Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay into 3D. The game featured six playable characters and the most in-depth Sonic story at the time, in which Sonic and crew each have their own individual adventures that overlap one another, leading to an iconic final showdown between Super Sonic and Perfect Chaos in the ruins of a flooded city. What Sonic Adventure lacked in polish, it made up for in heart, and to this day, it remains the best-selling 3D Sonic game.

2) Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania

What’s a surefire way to make a new Sonic the Hedgehog game that will appeal to the largest group of Sonic fans? Let Sonic fans make it themselves! Developed by Christian Whitehead and his team of fellow longtime Sonic enthusiasts, Sonic Mania was the triumphant return of classic Sonic the Hedgehog in every sense of the word, from graphics to gameplay to story to characters. It drew inspiration from the entirety of Sonic history, taking well-known levels and concepts and standing them on their head to create a game that’s both comfortingly familiar and refreshingly new. It’s almost as close to a perfect Sonic game as one can get, though the overreliance on older levels, novel as their execution is, does hold it back ever-so-slightly from reaching the very top of the list.

1) Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles

When it comes to a wholly original, high-speed Sonic the Hedgehog adventure, nothing before or since stands up to the majesty that is the full version of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. It’s the Sonic game so massive, they had to release it in two parts. While the two parts are very enjoyable on their own, it’s only when you put Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic and Knuckles together that you have the complete package. 14 new zones, three playable characters and a simple-yet-immersive story moved along by in-game cutscenes between levels, a first for the series. Even over 25 years later, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles remains the gold standard that all Sonic games should aspire to be and is a shining testament to how absolutely magical the Sonic the Hedgehog series can be.

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