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Gotta Go Fast: Ranking All of The Sonic The Hedgehog Games

USgamer takes a look at the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and decides which ones are the best of the best.

Article by USgamer Team, .

One of the things that popped up in many reviews of Sonic Mania is a look back at the troubled history of the franchise. Sega hasn't always put out the best games for Sonic and his pals. Now that Sonic Mania has shown us how to correctly present the essence of the hedgehog, it's time to take look at that long history.

The team at USgamer sat down and ranked most of the mainline and spinoff Sonic games. If you're behind on your Sonic history, we also cover the titles that live in other genres and tangents. So sit back, enjoy this look at Sonic's past, and figure out how you'd personally rank all the Sonic titles.

The Worst of the Worst

27. Sonic the Hedgehog [2006]

It's hard to know where to start with Sonic the Hedgehog—a game so bad that it reportedly forced Sega to completely rethink the direction of the franchise (though it certainly had its hiccups in the years that followed: see Sonic Unleashed).

Everyone likes to fixate on oddities like Sonic kissing a human woman, but the pure fact of the matter is that this game is bad. It mixes the traditional twitchy, Sonic Adventure-style platforming with an awful camera and many, many glitches. And if that's not enough, the franchise Poochie, Shadow the Hedgehog, is there as well.

And vehicles. Oh god, why are there vehicles in a Sonic game?—Kat

Sonic the Hedgehog was so bad that it became synoymous with the decline of the entire series. It's awful, broken, and deserves to be thrown down the memory hole, but nevertheless lives on in ironic Let's Plays, because who doesn't like watching someone play a broken piece of junk?

26. Shadow the Hedgehog

I think life would be better if I never had to think about Shadow the Hedgehog ever again. Not the character, but his very own game.

I can't think of any other game in existence that's more unnecessary. More infuriating. More bizarre. That feels so out of place alongside others in the Sonic catalogue. Shadow the Hedgehog doubles back on the good nature the Sonic series has put forth over its lifespan, and does a 180 with it. Alas, Shadow the Hedgehog exists, like an executive at Sega saw the trend of guns in games, and urged developers against their will to shoehorn weapons into the hands of an Erinaceinae with no qualms.

There is nothing redeemable about Shadow the Hedgehog.—Caty

The Deeply Flawed

26. Tails' Skypatrol

[Editor's Note: Like Nadia said, this game looks cute. But it's also really, really bad. As a pretty obvious cash-in on the brand, Tails' Skypatrol just barely misses tumbling into the Worst of the Worst tier.]

Tails' Skypatrol for the Game Gear is a little-known shooting game threaded with platforming elements. It's adorable, and it looks great for a Game Gear title – but as with many games for the handheld, the giant sprites make deft maneuvers difficult. You won't suffocate and die if you miss out on this one, but if you're super-duper interested in flying with Tails, Skypatrol can also be found the Sonic Gems collection, and as an unlockable game in Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut.

Oh, there's a boss character named Fockewulf, by the way. That rules. —Nadia

25. Sonic Chaos

One of the many, many 8-bit Sonic platformers for the Game Gear. We tried to get as many as we could, but they were almost too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say, they're all really bad.—Kat

24. Sonic Blast

So there was Sonic 3D Blast, an isometric 2D title done by TT Games with the help of Sonic Team. It wasn't really a Sonic game, but it bore the name. These are the other games that came out around the same time. Sonic Labyrinth is the first of the two, sharing the same 2D isometric gameplay as Sonic 3D Blast. Think of Marble Madness with feet, as Sonic has to roll around arenas fighting Dr. Eggman and his robots. It wasn't great.

On the flipside, there was Sonic Blast only a year later. Sonic Blast drops the "3D", but actually ends up being the more traditional Sonic title of the two. Unfortunately, it launched on the Game Gear, Sega's portable platform that was already on its way out the door. The 2D characters were 3D rendered like Donkey Kong Country, but the resulting sprites were actually too big for the Game Gear's tiny screen. It was an unpleasant end to the Game Gear, which was discontinued a few months later. —Mike

23. Knuckles' Chaotix

I never played Knuckles' Chaotix, because like 99.9999% of the world's population, I never owned the 32X add-on extension for the Sega Genesis. The game sure looks great: I wager Christian Whitehead took notice of this game's bold, beautiful colors when he and his team conceived Sonic Mania. However, the game's core mechanic–using partner characters to build tension for speed-boosts via a giant rubber band threaded between two rings–didn't score well with Sonic fans and critics. Chaotix is built around an interesting idea, but it just doesn't work (a problem that plagued many Sonic games released thereafter. Innovation is no substitute for good gameplaly). —Nadia

22. Sonic Triple Trouble

Another Sega Game Gear iteration in the Sonic franchise. Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble is the sequel to the earlier Sonic Chaos. The game is side-by-side story with Sonic The Hedgehog 3, sharing a number of the same characters by in a much easier adventure. Part of Sonic is the additional layer of difficulty preventing you from breezing through the game and Sonic Triple Trouble has none of that. Think of it as the storebrand version of the proper Sega Genesis Sonic games: the same basic idea, but consuming only leaves you with a sense of ennui and despair. —Mike

21. Sonic 3D Blast

The year is 1996. Sega realizes that 3D graphics are going to be a thing in the upcoming era of gaming consoles, so it begins working on Sonic X-treme for Sega Saturn. The problem is X-treme's full 3D presentation is new territory for the company. So it commissions the development of Sonic 3D Blast, a faux-3D game for Sega Genesis and Sega Saturn, just in case X-treme runs afoul of any issues.

Surprise! It does run into issues, eventually being cancelled and leaving Sonic 3D Blast as the "3D" Sonic game to carry the name. The result was the next flagship Sonic games was an isometric 2D title developed by Traveller's Tales (the folks who would go on to do everything LEGO) and Sonic Team, hastily ported to the Sega Saturn with only slight upgrades. It wasn't a horrible game, but it probably shouldn't have been a Sonic game. —Mike

20. Sonic Boom

I've lost count with how many times Sega has rebooted Sonic. If you think about it, almost every Sonic game since its original 2D smashes feels like a reboot; endless new directions for the speedy blue star. Sonic Boom is yet another one of those, except alongside a new line of games, it launched with a cartoon as well. Sonic Boom saw a more "fashionable" Sonic. A Sonic with a bandana, extremely long legs, a different color pattern. His friends too, especially the now-super-buff Knuckles, had slight changes to their designs. Sonic Boom was sure a new direction for Sonic, even if it wasn't necessarily a good one.

But hey, at least its cartoon seems like a vehicle for positivity and progressiveness. —Caty

19. Sonic Heroes

To be perfectly frank, Sonic Heroes isn't great. It is however one of the only 3D Sonic games I've played, and that's why I'm writing about it for this list today.

Sonic Heroes has an unwieldy gameplay system that asks players to choose a Sonic team comprised of three members. You'll control have control over all three members of the team during any mission, and swap between them throughout a level. The main Sonic team for example is made-up of the classic trio of Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails. Each character in a team has a class-based specialty like power, flight, and speed. Need to fly over something? Switch to Tails. Got something that you need to break? Knuckles is your dude. Gotta go fast? Tails again. Just kidding, it's your boy Sonic.

Anyways, the point I'm trying to make is that this system was kind of annoying, but in a way, mixing and matching made Sonic Heroes kind of like a puzzle game so that was kind of interesting. Also as a kid I really liked that robot E-102 Gamma and I thought his design in Sonic Heroes was really cool at the time. —Matt

18. Sonic and the Secret Rings

MAKE BELIEVE'S REBORN

MAKE BELIEVE'S REBORN

MAKE BELIEVE'S REBORN

Yeah, Sonic and the Secret Rings' tendency to repeat the first line of Seven Rings in Hand every time you switch a page in the menu is indicative of this Wii game's general quality: Kitschy and kind of cute, but sloppy. Unlike many Sonic fans, I don't mind Secret Rings' odd story, which is a bastardized retelling of Arabian Nights with Sonic smack in its middle. Yeah, it's dumb, but the storybook-stylized cutscenes make it palatable. Unfortunately, the game itself is a relentless collect-a-thon, and its auto-running mechanic is better suited for a free-to-play mobile title than a Sonic game. —Nadia

17. Sonic 4: Episode 1 and 2

Long before Sonic Mania was a twinkle in Christian Whitehead's eye, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was supposed to restore Sonic to his 2D glory. Clearly, it didn't happen. Though the first episode (yes, Sonic 4 is episodic) received a warm reception, the honeymoon phase dropped lower than Satan's own septic tank by episode 2. Episode 3 never arrived, and it probably never will.

What went wrong with Sonic 4? Choose: Bland graphics (though episode 2 pulled off some stunning backgrounds), uninspired music (outside of Splash Hill Zone), flat level design, and clunky physics are just a few of the reasons why nobody looks back on Sonic 4 with much fondness. It was bold of Sega to label the game as the successor to Sonic's Genesis adventures, but this middling Sonic game isn't worthy of its "4." —Nadia

16. Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice isn't a cold puddle of puke like the first Sonic Boom title, but it's not exactly a return to Sonic's glory days, either. It's a pretty-ok side-scrolling platformer that lets Sonic and the crew open new areas by switching between fire-and-ice powers—a bit like Mighty Switch Force, actually. I can't give it a hearty recommendation in a world where a 2D Sonic masterpiece like Sonic Mania already exists, but I'm OK with Sonic Boom's general existence; as Caty mentioned, the sub-series gave us the off-the-wall, self-aware Sonic Boom cartoon. If there is a better game mascot suited for a "Misery" parody that involves fan-obsessed character roleplay and "spicy SonAmy fanfiction," I've yet to meet said mascot. —Nadia

15. Sonic Lost World

My husband marathoned Sonic Lost World with former Archie Sonic comic writer, Ian Flynn for charity. They raised over $2,000 for a children's hospital here in Toronto, but those mind-gelling 24 hours taught me an important lesson about game development: Mario Galaxy-style games should be handled by developers who have the chops to pull them off, i.e. Nintendo. Rolling around Lost World's spherical and cylindrical landscape is fun for a time, but the loose controls made me very appreciative for Mario Galaxy's water-tight physics. Sonic Lost World gets points for trying something new (or rather, applying an old idea to the Sonic universe), but ultimately it's as middle-of-the-road as a Sonic game gets. —Nadia

14. Sonic Unleashed

Pretty much all you need to know about Sonic Unleashed is that it spawned the enduring "Sonic Cycle" meme, which is used to define nerd rage over disappointing announcements to this day.

The daytime sections were a fair sight better than those of Sonic the Hedgehog 06, boasting improved graphics and a better camera, but the gameplay was derailed by the awkward, pace-breaking brawling of the Werehog sections. Taken together, it could have been a lot worse, but the very idea of Sonic becoming a "Werehog" at all remains a byword for bad ideas.—Kat

13. Sonic and the Black Knight

Sonic and the Black Knight is the second–and last–game in Sonic the Hedgehog's storybook adventures. It's an auto-running game like its predecessor, and the mechanic still isn't compelling, but at least the collect-a-thon aspects that bog down Secret Rings are scaled back a little. Sonic also deals less with evil spirits and djinns, and more with dragons and other ferocious medieval beasts.

Black Knight casts Sonic's friends as the Knights of the Round Table and other Arthurian figures, and if you don't think that's tight, get out of my face. OK, but seriously, it's probably a good thing this series was put down before we inevitably reached "Sonic in Narnia" or whatever Sega had planned – even though I'd kill to play a retelling of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe with Shadow as Edmund. —Nadia

12. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

We did our best to hew as closely as possible to the more traditional platformers while leaving out the spinoffs, but Sonic Chronicles is big enough that it definitely bears a mention. After all, how often is it that you see a major developer like BioWare make a Sonic game? The nearest equivalent is Squaresoft taking on Mario back in 1996, but even that doesn't quite compare to the disparity here.

Anyway, Sonic Chronicles is clearly geared toward younger players and is thus extremely simple and easy. But it's reasonably polished as DS games go, and it starts to gets interesting around the third hour or so. Its Mario RPG-like combat and navigation both make heavy use of the stylus, bringing familiar elements of the series (loop-de-loops and such) while still being something unique.

It's honestly not much more than a curiosity, but it's better than it could have been. And in the context of the bad old days of 2008, that definitely qualifies as progress for the series.

11. Sonic Adventure

Sonic's first major 3D game isn't one I long to replay, but I appreciated it in 1999. Though Sonic Adventure is arguably the start of the hedgehog's mindless "press right to go fast" phase, the sheer novelty of burning up the 3D scenery at Mach 2 made me giddy. I didn't appreciate that clumsy hub world, though. I still don't.

As neat as Sonic Adventure seemed at the time, I suppose it also marked the start of Sonic's decline as an unfailingly cool character. If Sega wanted to maintain Sonic's reputation as a faster, edgier Mario, it should have spent more than $10 on Sonic Adventure's voice acting and lip-syncing.

That's not a slight against the game's theme song, Open Your Heart, which is perfect in every way. —Nadia

10. Sonic Generations

Sonic Generations was Sega's first answer to sad Sonic fans. "Give us old school Sonic," they often cried in the face of projects like Sonic 06 and beyond. Eventually, Sonic Generations was Sega's answer.

Sonic Generations marries the two playstyles known across the series, even if it doesn't offer a pure 2D Sonic like Sonic Mania does. On one end of Sonic Generations, Sonic adopts his true side-scrolling perspective. On the other end, Sonic embraces the 3D space, and runs along the world like he does all too often today. Sonic Generations has a clever twist, revisiting iconic levels from every Sonic game's past while reimagining them in both ways with slight changes, obviously to accommodate, along the way.

In Sonic Generation's opening hours, the levels are great. You remember how great Green Hill Zone is for the millionth time, and how pleasant it is to see it in a 3D way. You feel the same about City Escape, but vice versa. But once you move past Sonic Adventure 2's offerings, it becomes clear just how troubled the Sonic name became. Nonetheless, Sonic Generations represents a Sega that wanted to try to make all of Sonic's fans happy. It just reminded most of us of Sonic's dark days he's dwelled in for far too long.—Caty

The Good Sonic Games

9. Sonic Adventure 2

[Editor's Note: The staff is actually pretty divided on this one, but Caty is pretty passionate in her defense of Sonic Adventure 2, so we'll give her this one.]

I think often about what befell my carefully cultivated Chao garden that both the good guys and bad guys collaborated on. I miss my little demonic Chaos in their hellish lair, where Shadow would visit often. I miss my angelic Chaos that lived in a place that was bright, sunny, and truly a heaven. Sonic Adventure 2 is without a doubt in my mind the greatest 3D Sonic game, and not only for its endearing Chao-raising simulator stuffed into the middle of the game. It's for everything else about it.

After all, there's a reason why people still to this day say, "Rolling around at the speed of sound."

Sonic Adventure 2 is a mess to play, especially revisiting it in recent years. Yet it's a wonderful mess to exist. It's where the series first embraces attitude for the first time, introducing angsty characters like Shadow the Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat. Its levels stick out in your mind, whether it's the steep San Francisco-like hills of City Escape, the Golden Gate Bridge-reminiscent map of Radical Highway, or the haunted open spaces to glide around in Pumpkin Hill.

Sonic Adventure 2's locales burned in your mind not only because of their design, but for the perfect tunes that backed them. City Escape's theme is frankly iconic. Radical Highway's harsh guitars are an unforgettable contrast to the glowing pop-rock of City Escape theme (much like the dichotomy between Sonic and Shadow). Pumpkin Hill's Knuckles the Echidna-themed rap is too catchy for its own good. The Sonic the Hedgehog series has always been one with superb music, but Sonic Adventure 2 was the first Sonic game to define itself by it. And for that, it's one of the best Sonic games to exist.—Caty

8. Sonic and Knuckles

Knuckles was always one of my favorite Sonic characters to play as, so naturally I pretty much only played as him in Sonic and Knuckles. And why shouldn't I? He plays so much better than Sonic, what with his gliding and wall-climbing abilities.

I'm not a huge expert on the 2D Sonic games, and I'm even worse at playing them. Sonic and Knuckles was pretty much the only one I played because I was much better at playing as Knuckles than I was at Sonic in any given 2D Sonic game.

Sonic and Knuckles also had that famous "lock-on" technology that let players combine the Genesis cartridge with the Sonic 3 cartridge to essentially create the definitive version of Sonic 3 and Knuckles . That feature carried over to the Virtual Console version of the game (which I played), but I kind of wish I could see the Genesis version in action. —Matt

7. Sonic Colors

Sonic Colors never seems to get any love. Maybe it's the unassuming name? Anyway, Sonic Colors applies many of the lessons learned from previous failures: it's more or less a pure platformer and it focuses on the classic characters. The main wrinkle is that Sonic can acquire powers with the help of colored Wisps, which feels like a Sonic-themed take on the classic Mario formula.

Of the two games, I personally prefer the DS version developed by Dimps—the same folks behind the excellent Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush games. But Sonic Colors on the Wii—which basic motion controls and some 3D platforming—doesn't lag all that far behind, so the two are getting combined into one entry. In many ways, Sonic Colors signaled the beginning of Sonic's turnaround. Or at least, it made it a lot more palatable.—Kat

6. Sonic Advance / Sonic Advance 2 / Sonic Advance 3

Bless Japanese developer Dimps for making some of the best looking Sonic games I've ever played. The last two Sonic Advance titles in particular are examples of beautiful bursts of colors and gorgeous sprite work. They're also hands-down my favorite 2D Sonic games.

As for gameplay, Sonic Advance introduces a couple concepts from the 3D games into 2D such as rail grinding, and special melee attacks. All these mechanics were translated great for the Game Boy title, and help mitigate the fact that these games were also hard as hell. Some people also had problems with the team-up mode in Sonic Advance 3, but I didn't mind it so much. Hell I even kind of liked it, although Sonic Advance 2 remains my favorite of the GBA titles.

Ultimately, these three games represent the best Sonic has ever looked in 2D. While these games never felt like the classic 2D Sonic games, their modern twists help them to stand out in the long history of Sonic games. —Matt

The Best

[Unranked for Now]Sonic Mania

5. Sonic the Hedgehog

Folks talk a lot these days about developers and publishers just doing things for money. To which I say, "Yeah, that's the point." Which brings us to Sonic the Hedgehog. The development of Sonic the Hedgehog began in 1990 when Sega looked at Mario, realized how much money Nintendo's mascot was making and decided to get in on that action. Hell, Sega programmer Yuji Naka started with the idea of a Super Mario Bros game but faster.

But it worked. Sonic the Hedgehog was a hit almost immediately, catching rave reviews, great sales, and establishing a rival mascot to Mario himself. From the first level, Sonic the Hedgehog had bright colors that just popped off the screen and a fast style of gameplay that sometimes had Sonic just careening one end of the level to the other. The soundtrack by Masato Nakamura was a dream come true. It was a beautiful game that actually did nearly everything right, which is amazing when you look back on the creation of the character and the franchise.

Without Sonic the Hedgehog, you don't have the franchise. You don't have Sonic Mania. You don't have this list. Sega knocked it out of the park with the first game, and while it's not the best in the series, it's still a damn sight better many of the games that followed it. —Mike

4. Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Sonic 3 was probably the most ambitious Sonic game of them all. It was so big that Michael Jackson was rumored to be involved as an uncredited contributed to the soundtrack. It represented Sega at its apex, which is one of the many reasons it tends to be remembered fondly by fans. And who doesn't love Knuckles—the quasi-villainous echidna?

But Sonic 3 might have too big for its own good. Indeed, it wound up being split in two, possibly to its detriment. Still, there are more than a few people who enjoy Sonic 3 for its sheer scope and polish. Hydrocity Zone and its rushing water, as well as the inventive Launch Base Zone, are routinely ranked among the best levels in the series.

Whatever your opinion of Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles, it was definitely the end of an era. There would not be another mainline Sonic game until the Dreamcast, where he would kick off a whole new adventure… and many new challenges.—Kat

3. Sonic Rush / Sonic Rush Adventure

Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure are some of the best Sonic games this side of the original games. Developed by a handful of Sega veterans including the venerable Yuji Naka, the Sonic Rush games successfully merge 2D and 3D elements to create a kind of hybrid between the old style and the new. In addition to being the absolute fastest games in the series, they mix in a handful of extra elements, like Sonic's snowboard.

Of the two, fans tend to like Sonic Rush Adventure the most, praising its massive and memorable boss encounters. Both have stories have to tell, neither of which are particularly great, but they are thankfully much easier to ignore than the ones from the later games. Mostly, they're a fun, fast evolution of the classic design that points to what a successful Sonic game can look like in the 21st century.

Best of all, they're compatible with the Nintendo 3DS, so you can still play them today. And they look great, too.—Kat

2. Sonic CD

Sonic CD was much like Sonic 3 in that it wanted to be big. But unlike Sonic 3, Sonic CD focused on unique gameplay mechanics, namely its Time Crystals. With these crystals, Sonic could travel to the future or the past and affect the level in various ways. The result still resembles your typical Sonic platformer, but it's definitely more nuanced than the rest of its 16-bit brethren.

Sonic CD was unfortunately hampered by its platform in a number of respects. Aside from the fact that hardly anyone played it—the Sega CD wasn't exactly a besteller—it tended to suffer from dropped frames. It wasn't until a few years ago that it received a facelift, bringing it in line with our fond memories.

With its freshly remastered graphics, Sonic CD is a bit more esoteric than its siblings, but it's undoubtedly among the best in the series. Just make sure to play it with the Japanese soundtrack. You'll thank us later.—Kat

1. Sonic 2

You don't get better than Sonic 2. Full stop.

I got in an argument with a friend once about the Sonic series. He argued, "Is there even a definitive Sonic game?" to which I said, "Sonic 2." (Along with maybe a swear word or two embellishing that.) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the definitive Sonic game. That's because more than its predecessor, Sonic 2 is a game with smart level design, level design that rivaled the best of Mario—Casino Night Zone and Chemical Plant Zone specifically among the series' best.

Where the original Sonic was a game that too often stopped you dead in your tracks, destroying any momentum you once had, Sonic 2 is a game wholly about retaining that drive. It still bears consequences if you mess up, but the halts never feel cheap. It's a game that not only tells you "gotta go fast," but helps you sustain it in the long run. Sonic 2 was like the training wheels for the other Sonic games to come: establishing his speed, learning the ropes, the post-origin story for the blue-spikey fellow. Sonic, at last, went fast. —Caty

So after reading our rankings, where would you rank the Sonic games? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments 51

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  • Avatar for CK20XX #1 CK20XX A year ago
    I know you did your best to cover everything you could, but since you included Tails' Sky Patrol, I'm surprised you missed Tails' Adventure. It was quite a competent Metroid-like where you visited multiple stages, collected tools and upgrades, and explored a vacation island as you sought to kick the Battle Bird Armada off it. Tails started showing off more of his mechanical genius in it with his remote robot that could transform into a flying submarine, and it was honestly one of the best Game Gear games ever developed.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #2 yuberus A year ago
    My hot take (which isn't that hot): the game gear/master system sonic games up through Triple trouble are leagues better than all the 3D sonic games. The screen size issues simply don't exist on 1, 2 and Chaos' SMS versions, and triple trouble does some real cool stuff with its level design. Blast is total trash though, and Tails' Adventure is... weird.

    Chaotix was a game I absolutely loved as a kid, as my aunt had it and a 32x. For all the flack it gets, it's definitely better than the myriad 3D sonic games as well, despite the lack of Sonic.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #3 riderkicker A year ago
    Can't argue with this list. Sonic 2 is king, it's not complicated, pick up and play and well designed. Peak Sonic, Peak Sega.
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  • Avatar for themblan #4 themblan A year ago
    Sonic 2 is my favorite as well, but I don't "get" CD. I see this all the time but listing "time-travel" as a feature of the game is being deceptive, very generous and hyperbolic. Chrono Trigger has time-travel.Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2017 by themblan
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #5 Roto13 A year ago
    I will never forgive Sonic 2006 for the horrifying Eggman with realistic proportions.

    Shadow is where I gave up on the 3D games in the series. I thought Heroes was better than everyone said it was, but Shadow was even worse than its reputation. I bought it anyway, and played through it once (doing one path, because there were branching paths that took you through different levels and endings) and never went back.

    I remember when Sonic Unleashed was announced and they only showed the Sonic gameplay and it looked great. Then they revealed the Werehog (man hog?) and everyone rolled their eyes but they assured us that he was only a small part of the game. Then the game came out and you spent 80% of the time playing as the Werehog. They knew nobody fucking wanted it, but they scammed everyone and made a game about it anyway. Most of the time, when I play a bad game, at least its heart is in the right place, but that really doesn't seem to be the case with Sonic Unleashed. I don't think I've ever played such a maliciously bad game.

    I always lament the fact that Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure are ignored despite being super fun, but putting them above Sonic 3 in a ranked list isn't quite what I had in mind.\

    Sonic CD is a bad game with busy graphics and poor level design that sends you in circles if you take the wrong path. Fight me.Edited August 2017 by Roto13
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  • Avatar for superberg #6 superberg A year ago
    What about the NeoGeo Pocket Sonic?
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #7 Vonlenska A year ago
    I like Chaotix a lot. Admittedly, 99% of it's the art and music, but I like the core mechanic. It's rough, but it's not as bad as its reputation implies.

    ♥ Sonic Colors, too.



    Really, if there's any area where Sonic games are consistently excellent, it's the music.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #8 CK20XX A year ago
    @Roto13 Ow, I wouldn't say Sonic CD is THAT bad. I'd say it merely failed to reach the goals it set for itself. The levels aren't designed to be exploration friendly and it's way too easy to stumble upon the end of the stage, at which point you're forbidden from backtracking to find that transporter and hologram projector you traveled to the past for. In fact, there's not much point in time traveling anywhere but the past; the future levels barely have any difference from the present aside from their tile sets. When played like a normal Sonic game, it's rather nice, but that just makes its ambition a shame and a waste.
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  • Avatar for odaiba-memorial #9 odaiba-memorial A year ago
    @CK20XX I've heard that the "Good Future" versions of each zone are meant to be the "paths of least resistance," so to speak. Fixing the future and traveling to the newfound utopia offers the fewest obstacles and enemies to contend with, and the level geography is slightly altered to better support just casually holding right to get to the end of the stage.

    The problem is that after going through all the effort of destroying the capsule in the past, you're usually halfway through the level already and can't be bothered to find TWO time-travel signposts to travel that far into the future just for a slightly less trying run through the remainder. Getting all the Time Stones turns all futures into Good Futures automatically from that point on, but since Sonic CD uses the Sonic 1 style of gem-collecting, meaning one attempt per act if you play your cards right, that effectively means you're already halfway through the damn game by the time you get them all anyway (if you don't mess up at all!).

    I've played through CD plenty of times, but I don't think I've ever actually seen the "Future" versions of non-boss acts without using Level Select to get there.
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  • I'm not sure if I would rank Adventure 2 above both Adventure 1 and Generations but I agree with their overall ranking and positioning as "good-but-flawed".
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  • Avatar for RushDawg #11 RushDawg A year ago
    Generations is deeply flawed? Ridiculous.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #12 yuberus A year ago
    Yeah, I think my personal ranking would swap CD and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. CD's level design isn't terribly good, particularly compared to that masterpiece.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #13 touchofkiel A year ago
    Adventure 2 is just as terrible as Adventure 1 (though I have nostalgia for both), Generations is excellent, and Sonic3/Knuckles should definitely be counted as a single game.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #14 link6616 A year ago
    This list is really surprising. I really cannot believe a number of these placements such as sonic and the black knight
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  • Avatar for orient #15 orient A year ago
    Solid list -- Sonic 2 is correctly the best (well, besides Sonic Mania) -- but the exclusion of the most popular 8-bit Sonic game, Sonic The Hedgehog for Game Gear and Master System, is an odd choice because it should have easily made the top ten. Sonic 2 for Game Gear on the other hand is hot trash on the level of Triple Trouble and Chaos.

    It's also worth mentioning that Sonic Pocket Adventure on Neo Geo Pocket Color is a precursor to the Sonic Advance series featuring classic levels and is also better than most of the games on this list.
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  • Avatar for LK4O4 #16 LK4O4 A year ago
    It seems crazy to me that Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are separate entries while the Sonic Advance games and the Sonic Rush games are crammed together into single entries. Especially since the Sonic Advance games are all quite different (1 and 3 are decent in different ways, 2 is kinda awful). I also find the Dimps (Wii/PS2) version of Sonic Unleashed to be significantly better than than the Sonic Team (X360/PS3) version.

    In another world where Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were a combined entry, I would place Sonic 3 & Knuckles at #2 right behind Sonic 2.
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  • Avatar for greenwichlee #17 greenwichlee A year ago
    Another vote for the first couple of Master System/ Gamegear games, casually dismissed here. I assume you haven't played them.

    However a line up like this shows what a poor series Sonic is. The vast majority of games are mediocre to terrible. The reputation hangs from a couple of classic but still limited and flawed original games.

    Compare to Mario. What's the absolute worst mainstream Mario game? NSMB2 on 3DS? Still many times more polished and fun than practically every game on this list.
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  • Avatar for brodiejohn13 #18 brodiejohn13 A year ago
    @yuberus yeah exactly. It was very lazy for them to write "they all kinda suck" and be done with it. The sms games are awesome.
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  • Avatar for andrewmayes78 #19 andrewmayes78 A year ago
    @Roto13 Honestly, I wasn't surprised Unleashed turned out the way it did -- that shit had been par for the course for 3D Sonic since Day 1.

    The game that seemed malicious to me? Sonic 4. Everything about its marketing turned out to be stretching the truth or an outright lie:

    "It's directed by a major director of the Genesis games!"
    Uhm, it was directed by Takashi Iizuka, the same man who directed drek like Shadow the Hedgehog and was essentially the creative lead of all of 3D Sonic. The only Genesis game he was involved in was Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as a co-director.

    "The music is composed by a major Genesis composer!"
    Um... Sonic 4's composer was Jun Senoue, who had been the series music director since Sonic Adventure. While he did compose for Sonic 3 & Knuckles, he was part of a team of close to a dozen other composers. The only Genesis game he composed a majority of the music for was... Sonic 3D Blast.

    "It's a return to classic 2D Sonic!"
    And yet it uses ugly 3D renders on blurry bitmap backgrounds, and uses the modern Sonic design rather than the classic one.

    About only thing Sonic 4's marketing had going for it was Dimps, who had proven their competency with the Sonic Advance and Rush games. But Dimps' level design has a slew of fingerprints and bad habits, and they can hardly be called a "classic" Sonic developer.

    And finally, the game wasn't even originally called "Sonic 4." It went into development as "Sonic the Portable," a title that can still be seen in some of the graphical assets. The whole idea of it being a "callback" was done as a marketing shtick.

    If any game in the Sonic series should be called out for being a gigantic lie, it's Sonic 4, not Unleashed.
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  • Avatar for chiptoon #20 chiptoon A year ago
    Surprised to see Lost World so far down the list. It's a little janky for sure, but everything else is pretty great, and it's just so full of ideas. I really loved it, got all the emeralds and everything!

    That said the only thing close to Sonic 2 for the top spot is the awesome newcomer.

    Sonic Mania is just fantastic.
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  • Avatar for bring_on_branstons #21 bring_on_branstons A year ago
    Funs great article. What an up and down series. Agree completely - Sonic 2 is the best.

    Wonder where (the completely fab) Sonic Mania would list if you revisited this in a year or so? Top 3 IMO.

    What about that Arcade isometric 3D game you controlled with a roller ball? Never played it and was always disappointed that never came to home consoles (esp considering we could get a perfect port nowadays... and whilst I'm at it I still dream of an arcade perfect Ridge Racer re-release but that's going off topic...)

    Special shout out to Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed - the only karting/racing game to come close to MarioKart for me and actually in so many ways betters it! As the side bar says - why no sequel!!?
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #22 DrCorndog A year ago
    Sonic 3 & Knuckles is top. Though, if I had to pick a single retail release, it'd be Sonic & Knuckles.
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  • Avatar for perpetualgrimace #23 perpetualgrimace A year ago
    Sonic 3 & Knuckles is the definitive Sonic game imo, but I'm used to people wrongly thinking Sonic 2 is better so I'll let you guys have it.
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  • Avatar for camchow #24 camchow A year ago
    I actually really liked the 8-bit Sonic games. Sonic 2 had that crazy last level that if you weren't able to reach you just get the bad ending where Tails is just straight up dead I guess. hah. Though fuck Green Hill Zone in that game, seriously wtf. Ok.. maybe that alone is reason enough to score ie low.

    Also who even plays Sonic and Knuckles alone without Sonic 3? At this point we should probably just consider S&K + Sonic 3 the actual versions of Sonic 3.
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  • Avatar for soloskywalker #25 soloskywalker A year ago
    All these games should be tied for #27.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #26 Flipsider99 A year ago
    Pretty good list, I certainly agree with Sonic 2 being the best.

    One thing I disagree with, Sonic Boom's placement. It should be on the absolute bottom, even worse than Sonic 2006! At least Sonic 2006 has a good soundtrack and some interesting things about it, Sonic Boom is complete garbage without a single redeeming feature.
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  • Avatar for Thad #27 Thad A year ago
    @CK20XX Yeah, Sonic CD totally fails to realize its time-travel mechanic. The game encourages you to travel to the past and vainly try to avoid hitting any signposts; the best way to enjoy it is to ignore the damn "make a good future" mechanic and just play it straightforwardly.

    Even then, it's got some slightly wonky controls (the tacked-on spin-dash) and inherits some of Sonic 1's sadistic level design (putting spikes right in front of you and just offscreen at the start of the second level).

    The first two SMS/GG Sonic games aren't mentioned in the article. I remember the first 8-bit Sonic being pretty good but the bosses being especially unpleasant because it didn't give you any rings on the boss levels. And Sonic 2 started with a mine cart level. WHY? WHYYYYY?
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #28 MetManMas A year ago
    @Roto13 I'm probably in the minority on this, but I'd take the Werehog's "Like God of War But..." gameplay over Unleashed's Sonic stages any day.

    Note that I specified Unleashed's Sonic stages instead of Sonic stages in general, though. The problems are that Sonic moves too damn fast, the movement physics are screwy, the homing attack is mapped to a different button so you'll always forget it when you need it, you won't see the spikes until you run right into them, the rail grinding bits are incredibly demanding, the jump pads now require pressing specific buttons, and there's some Dial-A-Q.T.E. ramps where you have to put in 4-6 random buttons in like a second or two or you die. And I'm sure the early Tornado stage and its "Simon says press this button to destroy that missile" sequence was a game ender for many.

    Not that the Werehog mode is without its own sins, though. The levels are too damn long, the boss fights have Q.T.E. gates to get to the next phase, there's no lock-on or camera centering feature, and rail walking is slow and dumb.

    The Wii/PS2 version of the game fixes many of the problems, but I'm no fan of the dumbed down Werehog gameplay or hunting for cutscene triggers on the dumb visual novel map. Maizuri being reduced to a cutscene dump and a boss fight is criminal.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #29 MetManMas A year ago
    Just my opinion, but I would've put Sonic Advance 2 in the Problematic pile. YMMV, but it's got way too many cheap bottomless pit deaths, incredibly infuriating unlock requirements for the Chaos Emeralds and additional content that the previous game had available at the start, and the running bosses are a colossal pain in the ass.

    Really, surprise bottomless pits were a problem in general with the DiMPS Sonics. You rarely saw death by falling in the Genesis games, outside of places where it would be appropriate like Wing Fortress or Flying Battery.
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  • Avatar for Thetick #30 Thetick A year ago
    I enjoyed Sonic adventure 1 and 2 and took my chao everywhere in the VMU. If I had to pick one game it would be Sonic 3 and knuckels. Really great stuff. But the levels in 2 are just so unique in their own way that I love going back to that one as well.
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  • My ranking for the ones I've played and finished.

    12. Sonic the Hedgehog
    11. Sonic Advance 2
    10. Sonic Advance 3
    9. Sonic Rush Adventure
    8. Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut
    7. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
    6. Sonic the Hedgehog CD
    5. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
    4. Sonic Colors (DS)
    3. Sonic Rush
    2. 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2
    1. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #32 DrCorndog A year ago
    @MetManMas I didn't play Unleashed until just a few months ago. I had already experienced Colors and Generations, so Unleashed's day stages felt very rough, frequently frustrating, and sometimes a bit barren. The night stages, on the other hand, were merely uninteresting. I can see where you're coming from.
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  • Avatar for philiprobinson60 #33 philiprobinson60 A year ago
    Sonic Colors is definitely my favorite. I loved the mix of 2D and 3D and the excellent use of the wisp powers made the levels a blast to play (contrast that with Lost World, where the wisps are totally wasted). A return to the core Sonic cast was a relief as well.
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  • Avatar for Jonnyboy407 #34 Jonnyboy407 A year ago
    Must be had to rank these when they're all total garbage.

    I kid! I kid! Please dont find me and murder me, Sonic fans!
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  • Avatar for Jonnyboy407 #35 Jonnyboy407 A year ago
    @soloskywalker hahaha! Well played, sir
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  • Avatar for LilSpriteX #36 LilSpriteX A year ago
    Deleted August 2017 by LilSpriteX
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #37 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    Sonic Generations in the deeply flawed category but Sonic Adventure 2 in the good category OK GUYS WHATEVER
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  • I may not feel as strongly about the Sonic franchise as many, but this article at least reminded me that I do feel very strongly about the Kirby series and that I hadn't commented on that article.

    So... hope you don't mind my late-to-the-party arguing about how The USGamer Team Is Collectively Wrong over there.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #39 VotesForCows A year ago
    I've played about 8 of these, but the article has made me realise i only ever enjoyed Sonic 1 and 2 on the Megadrive...
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  • Avatar for link6616 #40 link6616 A year ago
    @NiceGuyNeon it's the deep story that pushed it above I suspect. ;)
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #41 SuperShinobi A year ago
    Great: Sonic CD, Sonic 2, Sonic Mania, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic 1, All-Stars Racing Transformed

    Good: Knuckles Chaotix, Sonic Adventure, Colors, Generations, Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog

    Okay: Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Heroes, Sonic Dash 1 & 2 iOS

    The rest are either poor, like Spinball, or games that I've missed such as the handheld games. I haven't been keen on the handheld ones, as I think great visuals are crucial for a Sonic game and underpowered handhelds with low-res screens aren't ideal for that.

    If I had to pick a favorite of the classic 2D Sonic games, it would be Sonic CD, simply because of the incredible soundtrack. While the level design in Sonic CD isn't as good as in 2 or 3, the soundtrack just adds so much to the game. The time travel mechanic is also a nice addition. The only modern Sonic games that can match the originals for me are All-Stars Racing Transformed and the just released Sonic Mania.

    Knuckles Chaotix comes close though. It has the Mega Drive-beating visuals and the soundtrack and the innovative gameplay mechanics, but the sometimes aimless and bland level design falls short of the original games.

    I like the exploratory "hub" sections in Sonic Adventure 1 and the 3D levels are also excellent in that game, so it probably remains my favorite of the 3D games. I replayed some of it recently and the visuals on the Dreamcast still look pretty. Colors and Generations were also quality releases from Sega.

    Unleashed would've been good, but the beat'em-up sections are a tad too repetitive. Otherwise it's a good one with pretty great visuals and nice music and it may have the best story in Sonic games. The werehog stuff was cool - a bit freaky maybe, but cool.

    And finally Shadow the Hedgehog gets the thumbs up from me. From the back of the box: "Hero or villain? Uncover the truth about Shadow the Hedgehog. He carries a dark past shrouded in mystery. The choices you make determine the outcome of Shadow's future."

    You gotta love a dark and gritty game starring cute talking animals. It's ridiculous, in a good way. There should be more games like that. If only the game was mechanically as sound as the Ratchet & Clank games, which showed how a platformer with guns works, then it would be a top game. Shadow isn't the most polished game, but it's still a fun and original game.
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  • Avatar for TerryTrowbridge #42 TerryTrowbridge A year ago
    Saw Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 at a garage sell for $6, I thought "how bad could it be?"

    Needless to say, I was ripped off.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #43 Sturat A year ago
    Clearly the best Sonic game is Nights into Dreams.
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  • Avatar for INSOMANiAC #44 INSOMANiAC A year ago
    After playing so many mediocre and plain bad Sonic games I have asked myself over recent years whether I actually liked Sonic, or just had fond memories of the first three games on Megadrive. Turns out Sonic Mania restored my faith in the blue swine, and showed that 2D sonic games aren't just a left to right dash to the end. In that sense I think Mania is probably the best of the bunch although Sonic 1 will always hold a special place in my heart, I collected literally every ring in that game.Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2017 by INSOMANiAC
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #45 Roto13 A year ago
    @TerryTrowbridge I borrowed Sonic '06 from the library and I felt ripped off.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #46 link6616 A year ago
    @TerryTrowbridge my first date involved sonic 06 and I was ripped off.
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #47 JamesSwiftDay A year ago
    Sonic Adventure 2 above Generations? I don't think so.

    Also, Sonic Rush and Rush Adventure above Sonic 3 and Knuckles? Hmmm.

    Was Spinball missed out?Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2017 by JamesSwiftDay
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  • Avatar for KCC #48 KCC A year ago
    Just throwing this out there; the mobile port of Sonic CD is great. Bought it last year for I think $2, and it's really just terrific. Plays wonderfully even with touch controls; feels tight, responsive and unhampered by the platform. I played it on my iPhone SE (the littlest one, fyi) and didn't have any issues with it.

    So if you never owned a SEGA CD, just know the mobile version is a perfectly fine way to play the game.
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #49 JamesSwiftDay A year ago
    @KCC why play the mobile version if you have the PS3/360/PC ports though?
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  • Avatar for SPN-86 #50 SPN-86 11 months ago
    @soloskywalker Piss off you tasteless loser troll
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  • Avatar for SPN-86 #51 SPN-86 11 months ago
    @orient You don't know what "correctly" means, moron.
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  • Avatar for SPN-86 #52 SPN-86 11 months ago
    What a laughably abysmal, troll-worthy ranking.

    Here's an actual intelligent list for once:

    1. Sonic 3
    2. Sonic Adventure
    3. Sonic The Hedgehog
    4. Sonic Adventure 2
    5. Sonic Mania
    6. Sonic Generations
    7. Sonic 2

    The rest is forgettable tripe.

    You're welcome, clueless loser nerds.Edited 2 times. Last edited December 2017 by SPN-86
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