So, Sega has this character or “mascot” named Sonic the Hedgehog and they’ve released a few games with him in the starring role throughout the years. While most people today are more familiar with Sega’s other mascot, Alex Kidd, we still feel that Sonic plays a very important role for Sega even if he’s more “behind-the-scenes”.
Because of this we thought we’d put all our minds together and create a list of the 10 Sonic games everyone should check out to get an idea for what this little blue creature is all about. Who knows, maybe someday Sega will start using Sonic as their go-to mascot instead of Alex Kidd…
Hit the jump to read our top 10 Sonic games!
10. Sonic Adventure 2
Tom Kyzivat: Okay, I’ll admit I’m not crazy about Sonic talking and carrying on in a convoluted plotline that ends with giant lizards, but Sonic Adventure 2 was as solid as a 3D Sonic game could hope to be, especially for its time, and especially compared to some of the later 3D Sonics. The graphics were good, it integrated all the other characters (for good or ill), it provided an entire universe of Chao raising, the gameplay was fun, the levels were well-designed, and it was fast. What more could you want from a Sonic game? Well, more Sonic, I suppose, and less Shadow. For my money, the only worthy Sonic duplicate is made of metal, but I digress. The mark of any good game is how fun it is, and I kept going back to this game, playing the living hell out of it. It might be old, and certainly not as flashy as some modern incarnations, but Sonic Adventure 2 definitely got it right.
9. Sonic Colors
Brett Hatfield: It’s no secret I’m a fan of the current Sonic playstyle. I obviously adored Generations, and I’ll defend the PS3 version of Sonic Unleashed til the grave pretty much (except for the medal hunting, grrr.), but, in my opinion, I think we’ll look back years from now and see Colors as the true gem of the current era of Sonic. The way they refined Unleashed’s gameplay was spot on, making it less about boosting and more about having speed as a reward, and focusing on platforming. The wisp powerups, aside from a couple, were handled very well and were far more of a perk than a hindrance. Add in a lighthearted, hilarious tone, one of the best soundtracks in series history, and some of the most uniquely designed levels in the franchise, and you’ve got possibly the best 3D Sonic ever, for my money at least.
8. Sonic Advance
Flake: Last week, I gave a perfect C+ to Dimps’ latest stab at Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 4: Episode 2. My biggest gripes were the tacked on Tails sections and the stop and go level design. What grinds my gears about those two mistakes is that Dimps practically made the game that should have been the blue print for Sonic 4 over a decade ago. It is called Sonic Advance. In fact, I almost want to refer to it as ‘Sonic 4dvance’ from now on but Alex probably will not let me.
Sonic Advance is a Sonic game with few gimmicks, high speed gameplay, and absolutely gorgeous 2D sprites. Yeah, Tails is in it…as a fully playable character! Along with Knuckles and Amy (okay, no one cares about that last part) with unique game play for each. When it came out for the Gameboy Advance, it was initially hailed as a sign of the final days come upon us. It was hard enough seeing Sega’s logo plastered all over Dreamcast re-releases for the Gamecube but to have a full fledged, original Sonic game on Nintendo’s wanna be Game Gear was too much for gamers…until they got to play it. Even with two more GBA sequels and a horde of spiritual successors on the Nintendo DS and 3DS, Sonic Advance stands out as the best, non-console based, Sonic game of all time.
7. Sonic CD
Sven Wohl: Sonic CD is the only good thing that ever came from the Sega CD. Yeah, you heard me! It has a great art style, one of the most badass ennemies of all time, aka Metal Sonic, open leveldesign and, best of all, time travel! Yup, that means three time periods per level and you have to alter the past in order to have a better future. It’s like back to the future with Sonic, except not. In all seriousness, it’s a great game and it comes with two soundtracks. Not too many Sonic games can claim that. Go get it!
6. Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Michael Westgarth: I remember well the first time my brothers and I put our precious copy of Sonic 3 into Sonic & Knuckles, that mighty tower of 16-bit goodness sticking awkwardly out of our beloved Mega Drive, reluctantly switching the power on for fear of somehow ‘doing it wrong’ and setting the Mega Drive on fire, and most of all not quite knowing what to expect… Safe to say that our minds were blown from pure, tubular radicalism and to this day Sonic 3 & Knuckles remains as my favourite Sonic game.
Playing both games combined resulted in a longer, twelve zone, platforming epic with a single story line involving the new Super Emeralds that unfolded before your eyes as you progressed through the game. Of course, a very similar experience can be found by playing that two games separately, but I have always felt that combined, the adventure is much more cohesive. The most attractive addition to gameplay for many players will, however, be the ability to play as Knuckles in Sonic 3, finally allowing for the exploration of previously, and frustratingly, unreachable areas. Also, having Tails in Sonic & Knuckles allowed my brothers and me to fly all over the place, cheating our way through the game like we did with in Sonic 3. What, you’re telling me you never did that as well?
Many Sonic fans, including myself, consider Sonic 3 & Knuckles to be more than the sum of its parts and its own distinctive entry in the Sonic series, so with that being said, it cannot be denied an entry in this top ten.
5. Sonic Adventure
Josh Newey: There’s no question in my mind that this will be one of the more controversial entries on this list, and honestly, I couldn’t blame anyone for hating this game. Sonic Adventure is home to some of the worst glitches the franchise has ever seen, and the needlessly force-fed cast of extra characters feels like little more than a manufactured veil pulled over the player’s eyes to trick them into thinking the campaign is far deeper than it really is.
With those flaws in mind, I still stand by Sonic’s first official foray into 3D (if you don’t count his adorable little stint in Sonic Jam) as a charming, exciting, and appropriately fast-paced member of this list. While I have no problem admitting that nearly every supplementary stage is absolute crap, most of Sonic’s stages are really quite fun, offering massive, sweeping set pieces that set the stage for a more awe-inspiring, grandiose Sonic in the years to come. While much of the game has not stood the test of time, I still return to Sonic Adventure even today for the inviting (if shallow) semi-open world layout, the light-hearted (if corny) music, and stages like Emerald Coast, Windy Valley, City Escape, and Red Mountain. Sonic Adventure may be very flawed, but its upbeat tone and some of its more ambitious gameplay moments gave me some of my very favorite moments on the Dreamcast.
4. Sonic 3
Scott Morrison: On February 2nd, 1994, the day named, “Hedgehog Day,” Sonic the Hedgehog 3 released during what was arguably Sonic’s most successful portion of this life. Sonic had Happy Meal toys, two cartoons, a comic book series, and any other endorsement under the sun, and I was a happy 9-year-old wrapped up in all of it. However, the best part of 1994 for me was Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The beautiful graphical update from Sonic 2 was immediately apparent as you ran through a jungle engulfed in sweltering flames. The bonus levels kicked the 3D world up a notch and felt even more rewarding after navigating some rather intense orb patterns. A save system was also introduced with Sonic 3, as well as the ability to play as Tails, who could fly wherever his two-tailed heart desired. Knuckles the Echidna was introduced, whom I thought was the coolest anthropomorphic animal since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Imagine my amazement when I was able to actually play as Knuckles in the 2-player mode, which even had its own specific levels and item boxes. Some of my favorite Sonic levels are found in Sonic 3: Hyrdrocity (yes, believe it or not I enjoy a water-based level), Marble Garden, and Carnival Night. Each level had some of the more creative designs and personality and overall a very awesome soundtrack. Though it is somewhat short, playing through the game as Tails provides replay value as well as collecting all the emeralds to then blast through the game as Super Sonic. Even though it was only one half of what Sega originally intended to release, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is one of the best Sonic games of all time in my opinion.
3. Sonic & Knuckles
Michael Westgarth: If the experience of playing Sonic 3 over and over left child-Michael Westgarth with one thing, it was an undousable urge to play as Knuckles the Echidna; Sonic’s totally slammin’ Mega Drive rival. When I heard in the playground that a new Sonic game was coming out with Knuckles having his own single-player mode, I had to have it and when I finally got it for Christmas I almost pooped my Sonic & Knuckles boxer shorts (I still have them).
Playing as Knuckles really gives this game an edge over all Sonic games before it as it allows for the same levels to be approached in slightly different ways with slightly different paths to take, giving even more reason for the game to be replayed. While graphically on par with Sonic 3, I have always felt that Sonic & Knuckles managed to generate more of an atmosphere of speed and tension. Whether I’m carefully avoiding falling to my death in the Flying Battery Zone, or fleeing nightmare-inducing ghosts in the Sandopolis Zone, there is always a new challenge in every subsequent stage. The game also features more story telling elements which are played out via ‘scripted’ scenes as well via background animations. I’ll never forget the one-on-one fight against Knuckles in the Hidden Palace Zone, or seeing the Death Egg emerge from the clouds at the start of the Sky Sanctuary Zone. Oh, and let’s not forget that Sonic & Knuckles features some of the best music to come out of the Mega Drive.
Throw in the renowned lock-on technology, allowing Knuckles to be playable in both Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 and it becomes clear why Sonic & Knuckles is an obvious choice for this top ten (Or as I referred to it as for over a decade, Sonic 4. It’s funny how things turn out, huh?).
2. Sonic 2
John Doherty: Saying that Sonic 2 is your favorite Sonic game is kind of a generic answer, however it’s generic for a reason. The game is damn good. When I was just a wee boy my parents bought me a pretty extreme christmas gift, a Sega Genesis. With that Genesis came Sonic 2. I played the game constantly as a kid. I was enthralled by the graphics, music, and speed of the game. It connected with me in a way no other games did at the time.
As I got older and gaming advanced I found myself consistently going back to Sonic 2. I have played the game thousands of times and have never once felt bored by it. Every time I boot it up the same child like amazement comes over me.
As some of you may know I’m an indie game developer. I can confidently say that the reason I make games is because of how much I truly love Sonic 2. It will always be my favorite game and as far as I’m concerned the pinnacle of 2d gameplay.
1. Sonic Generations
Tom Kyzivat: The cool thing about this game being in the top ten is the fact that the other games in the top ten are what makes this game so cool! Granted, Sonic Generations is a fabulous game in its own right–great gameplay, gorgeous graphics, etc., etc., but the fact that it references all of our favorite levels from past Sonic games makes it a masterpiece. Of course, a lot of the material it draws from is from games I never played, or from the more “infamous” stage in Sonic’s career, but I can’t even describe in typed-out English words how cool it was to play the classic levels, redone. Chemical Plant Zone, which I’ve had a fondness for ever since 1992, came alive in a whole new, immersive, beautiful way. I can say, without exaggeration, that it was as breathtaking as God himself parting the heavens and handing me the keys to his solid gold rocket car. With a full tank. Nice. The bottom line: Sonic Generations is everything we love about Sonic, past and present–and maybe most importantly–future.