The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has been on a pretty crazy journey over the years. From the Blue Blur’s origins on the Sega Genesis (remember blast processing?) to his current status as a strange counter-cultural icon, Sonic has had some good times and some not-so-good times. We’re here to remember the best of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, so here are 10 of his best.
Sonic Colors (Nintendo Wii – 2010)
When Sonic Colors was first released, Sonic was in a bit of a tight spot. The less-than-stellar reception for Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 and only slightly better-received Sonic Unleashed left fans feeling a mixture of hope and dread at the prospect of the upcoming Wii title Sonic Colors. Happily, that’s exactly what it was. Sonic Colors stripped out the ancillary stuff that made Sonic a controversial proposition – the expanded cast and the focus on narrative – leaving a pure platforming experience that might have cribbed a bit too much from Super Mario Galaxy but was a blast to play.
Sonic Generations (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo 3DS – 2011)
Nostalgia is a funny thing. Even while it sustains us and spurs us on to create wonderful things, it can sometimes blind us to the flaws in things we’ve loved. Sonic Generations isn’t interested in warts-and-all re-examination of its franchise though; rather, it’s a loving trip down memory lane for the series, packing in a number of classic Sonic levels and hitting on the rather genius concept of exploring said levels in both Genesis-style 2D and modern Sonic 3D. Many have said that 3D is Sonic’s biggest problem, but on the strength of Generations’ skilful level design and rose-tinted outlook, we disagree.
Sonic Advance (Game Boy Advance – 2001)
While Sonic was going through its awkward 3D developmental stage on Sega’s ill-fated but underrated Dreamcast, the Game Boy Advance was picking up the torch for the Blue Blur’s 2D outings. Sonic Advance is a straightforward continuation of the Genesis titles’ lightning-fast platforming and inimitable sense of style, so if it’s a classic Sonic fix you’re looking for, this is where you should start. It hasn’t aged incredibly well – some of the level design is a tad cheap, and the special stages are a new kind of nightmare – but it’s still a great entry into the Sonic series.
Sonic Rush (Nintendo DS – 2005)
You want fast? You got it. Sonic Rush is probably the fastest title in the Sonic series, and that’s saying something in a franchise built entirely around speed. The dual screen design of the DS proves the perfect home for Sonic level design, making some of those slightly unfair vertical drops feel a bit more predictable. Boss fights are a particular highlight of Sonic Rush, too; the game features some of the most ingenious boss encounters the series has ever seen. The sequel, Sonic Rush Adventure, is well worth checking out too if you like this one.
Sonic Mania (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC – 2017)
Sonic Mania is a great example of fan games done right. Sega and Sonic Team handed over the reins to developers PagodaWest and Headcannon for this one, and the result is even more of a nostalgic trip than Generations was. Sonic Mania is a perfectly observed evocation of the Genesis titles, right down to the blocky pixel art and the reverted Sonic design. The game is a mixture of levels from classic Sonic games and new inventions on the devs’ part, and it’s testament to their skill that the new levels slot right in and never feel out of place.
Sonic & Knuckles (Sega Genesis – 1994)
The rest of this list will come as no surprise to anyone who’s played the Sonic games. Sonic & Knuckles is arguably the worst of the four original Sonic titles, but that’s not a slight on its quality; all of these games are incredible, so being the least incredible of the four is still an achievement. Sonic & Knuckles was released towards the end of the Genesis’ lifespan, and it shows in the game’s packed level design and lengthy exploratory sections. Points also for the cute gimmick where connecting other Sonic cartridges to the game alters those games in some way.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis – 1991)
The game that started it all. The original Sonic the Hedgehog actually feels more like a proof of concept than a full and complete entry into the series. The trademark sense of speed the series would come to be known for is actually largely absent from Sonic the Hedgehog, with the levels feeling much more slow-paced and emphasizing puzzles in many places. Sonic the Hedgehog is still great fun, and you can still while away an afternoon enjoying it, but contextualizing it amongst what’s to come shows its age a little.
Sonic CD (Sega CD – 1993)
Now this is more like it. Sonic CD is a technical marvel made possible by the increased power of the Sega CD Genesis peripheral. Packing a Sonic game onto the CD medium made for incredible visuals, a dizzying sense of speed and verticality, and a number of intriguing gimmicks like 3D sections and alternate time-travel versions of levels. Sonic CD also introduced us to the wonderfully menacing Metal Sonic, who’s been a series mainstay ever since.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Sega Genesis – 1994)
The second best Sonic game is only edged slightly out of the top spot by number one on this list, but it’s still an excellent game. Sonic 3 feels like the culmination of everything the Sonic designers have learned from their efforts creating the franchise thus far. This is the game that brought us Knuckles, as well as the controversial soundtrack which may or may not have heavily featured contributions from pop star Michael Jackson. With level design this good, though, who cares?
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis – 1992)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 may not have been the most technically accomplished game in the Sonic series, but it’s definitely the one that’s most fun to play today. As a sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is pretty much perfect. It changes the emphasis from puzzle-platforming to sheer speed, and creates a sense of visual spectacle that’s still unparalleled as a result. The twisty-turny levels provide a great showcase for Sonic’s new moveset, and hey – in the end, who doesn’t love Tails?
These are our top 10 Sonic the Hedgehog games. Did we miss any? Let us know!
Also Read: 3 Sonic Characters You Will Want To See More