I don’t think there are many video game series that polarise in quality as much as Sonic the Hedgehog. I’ve been a fan since the MegaDrive days and have experienced my fair share of ups and downs. Indeed, the release of a new Sonic title is always tinged with a little bit of angst; “Will this one delight me or break me?!”
But, if by some cruel twist of fate you have never actually played a Sonic game and are wondering which are the series’ shining moments, then look no further! I’m going to give you the lowdown on what I believe to be the top 5 best Sonic games in the history of the franchise. Yes they do exist.
5) Sonic Mania
Sonic Mania is basically a love letter to the MegaDrive heyday. Created by the talented Christian Whitehead and published by Sega in 2017, the game used a bespoke engine that aimed to accurately recreate the 16 bit gaming experience of the 90s – but with a few modern twists. The result is an exhilarating 2D side-scroller comprising of a number of lovingly created original levels, such as the funky Studiopolis and the wonderfully wacky Press Garden. An extended edition – Sonic Mania Plus – was launched in 2018 and saw the inclusion of two bonus characters from Sonic lore: Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel. And for those aching for a little nostalgia, the title included ‘re-imaginings’ of a number of classic Sonic the Hedgehog zones, such as Green Hill and Chemical Plant. They were great!
4) Sonic Generations
Another piece of eye-watering nostalgia, Sonic Generations was released in 2011 to celebrate the blue blur’s 20th anniversary. Like Sonic Mania, the game featured recreations of some of the most beloved levels in Sonic history, albeit brought up-to-date with the high-octane Hedgehog Engine and some nifty 3D modelling. That being said, the game was perfectly balanced between two modes of play: 3D platforming and 2D side-scrolling, with the player being able to choose between Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic as they took on the evil Doctor Robeggmannick and his dastardly plan to unravel the fabric of the space-time continnum. In short, Sonic Generations is a thing of beauty, and I never tire of racing through its 21st century recreation of the classic Green Hill Zone. You should go play.
3) Sonic Adventure 2
Y’know, I can’t tell if this is a controversial addition to the list or not. And in third place no less! But yes, I’m going there – Sonic Adventure 2 is one of the best Sonic games of all time. It divides opinion because of its wealth of additional characters, who are distinctly un-hedgehog like – namely Tails, Knuckles, Eggbotnik and Rouge. Okay, there’s Shadow as well, but most people want to take control of Sonic in a Sonic game (crazy, right?) However, this is no hurdle in my eyes. Sonic Adventure 2 contains some of the best-designed levels in the history of the franchise – in my opinion – and I don’t really mind which character I go there with. Each of the not-Sonics has their own unique style of gameplay which brings considerably variety to the SA2 package, and I defy anyone to bemoan this gem (leave your bemoanings in the comments below.) And what a storyline!
2) Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Okay, so a ‘storyline’ is distinctly absent in this classic game from 1992, but for many people (myself included) Sonic 2 epitomises all that is great about the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. This was my introduction to the series as an innocent 11 year-old, and it was love at first spin-dash. With the somewhat cute and slightly annoying Miles Prower (geddit?) in tow, this is a 2D side-scroller of 11 fun-filled zones, all of which are instant classics in my eyes, particularly Chemical Plant, Casino Night and Mystic Cave, and they drip with creative goodness – even if the rising chemicals in the aforementioned Plant continue to give me nightmares. If you’ve never attempted Sonic 2, it is your moral obligation as a gamer – and indeed as a human being – to give it a whirl. You won’t be disappointed.
1) Sonic Adventure
Please don’t hate me! I’ll preface this by saying there is much to legitimately criticise in Sonic Adventure – the glitchy animations, the camera system, the controls, the plethora of bonus characters… And it’s true that much of my love for this game is tainted by nostalgia, as it takes me back to the fuzzy Dreamcast days of the late 90s, which were glorious.
But there is no denying that Sonic Adventure was a ground-breaking title. The visuals, although dated by today’s standards, were pioneering in 1998. Moreover, this was Sonic’s first proper venture into the world of 3D platforming, and as such is arguably genre-defining. Not that any of this would matter if the levels themselves reeked, but they don’t: they are imaginative, lush, memorable and exhilarating, all paired with pulsing soundtracks that frankly should have gotten a world tour.
C’mon – I defy any Sonic the Hedgehog fan to tell me that they didn’t get a tingle when they first took the reins in the stunning Emerald Coast, or when they snowboarded away from an avalanche in the chilly wastes of Icecap. Yes, Sonic Adventure hasn’t aged well, but there is a certain purity to its intentions and an absolute minimum of cartoon cheesiness. If you’re in two minds as to whether to dust down your Dreamcast (or indeed, your Nintendo Gamecube) then Sonic Adventure will give you the perfect excuse.
So there we are – those are the top 5 best Sonic games as voted for by me. Has this list tempted you to give these titles another look? Have you been struck with an inconsolable rage at the omission of Sonic Colors? Do you think Sonic Adventure is the greatest Sonic game of all time bar none?? Let me know in the comments below!