Ever since the Blue Blur made his debut on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis 16-bit consoles back in 1991, Sega’s Sonic The Hedgehog franchise has become nothing less than an industry legend with its extreme speed, hyperkinetic platforming gameplay and bop-worthy pop tunes. Some thirty-one years on, the franchise has grown exponentially with all manner of new entries which have emerged since that original sublime offering. Because we’re a helpful lot, our totally correct and indisputable guide will outline the best Sonic games and best Sonic fan games ever made.
The Best Sonic Game – Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Though there are no shortage of superb Sonic games out there, only one can take the crown as the best Sonic game of all time and that happens to be Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Meaningfully evolving the series formula, Sonic 3 & Knuckles excelled with a soundtrack that is arguably among the series the best, while also providing players with the ability to play as both Sonic and Tails by the flick of a single button.
Beyond these improvements, Sonic 3 & Knuckles also introduced a truly superb set of levels in the shape of the visually arresting Angel Island, Marble Garden and the Carnival Night zones. Perhaps the coup de grâce of the whole affair is that after connecting a special cartridge to the main Sonic 3 & Knuckles cart, you not only get to play as the angry, punchy Echidna himself, but a whole heap of extra content – in the form of additional levels, bosses and more – also become available. Look, Sonic 3 & Knuckles is basically brilliant and if you haven’t played it yet, stop what you’re doing and get that mess sorted.
The Best 3D Sonic Game – Sonic Generations
Despite making its bones as a two-dimensional effort, the Blue Blur has also ventured out into the third dimension from time to time. Arguably sitting at the apex of 3D Sonic games, Sonic Generations makes a compelling case for itself as the best 3D sonic game by some way. A heady mixture of 2.5D and full 3D furiously high-speed platforming shenanigans, Sonic Generations doesn’t just perform affectionate mimicry of the best 2D Sonic games from years past, but it also avoids the pitfalls of many of the 3D entries too with hybrid platforming that is hugely satisfying and a deeply nostalgic storyline that deftly taps into the series history to boot.
Best Sonic Fan Game – Sonic Robo Blast 2
Given the gargantuan global fanbase that the Sonic franchise enjoys, it perhaps shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to discover that the community has been hard at work on Sonic fan games that pay tribute to Sega’s indomitable icon. The most noteworthy and radical of these is Sonic Robo Blast 2.
Representing a full conversion of the classic DOOM engine, Sonic Robo Blast 2 is an impressively full-blooded 3D Sonic title that has players scooping up rings, bashing enemies and tearing through 3D worlds at great speed. Quite simply, Sonic Robo Blast 2 is the best Sonic fan game available right now and it isn’t even close.
If you want to check it out for free – head over to their website and get playing now.
Best Sonic Games – Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Teaming Sonic up with Miles ‘Tails’ Prower for the first time, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a true sequel to the ground-breaking original in every sense of the word. Though some behind the scenes conflict between the American and Japanese staff which worked on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 would unfortunately result in a wealth of cut content, Sega’s first Sonic sequel nonetheless gave a good account of itself.
Including a range of fiendishly designed new levels (hello Aquatic Ruin Zone), an all-new 3D bonus stage that has Sonic and Miles collecting Chaos Emeralds and the co-op play for the first time with players controlling Sonic and Miles respectively, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 deserves far more praise than its troubled development history might otherwise suggest.
Best Sonic Games – Sonic Mania
A heartfelt love letter to traditional 2D Sonic that was developed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the series, Sonic Mania is a timeless reminder about how good 2D Sonic can be when a decent development team is given stewardship. In the case of Sonic Mania that team has its origins in the Sonic fan game community and the result is that Sonic Mania is easily the best Sonic game in years, allowing players to play as either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles across a wide variety of new, old and remixed stages from previous games in the series.
An undisputed return to form for the franchise after an extended and uneven dalliance with 3D Sonic games, Sonic Mania was followed up in 2018 with Sonic Mania Plus, an augmented version of the game that provided additional stages and new, uniquely playable characters in the form of Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel.
Best Sonic Games – Sonic CD
With its stylish (for the time) full-motion video anime introduction and CD quality soundtrack, Sonic CD sought to make the most of Sega’s new Mega/Sega CD hardware. Originally intended to be an improved version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on account of the latter’s poor sales in Japan, Sonic CD thankfully morphed into its own beast, cleverly leveraging a new time-travel mechanic that allows players to access alternate versions of existing stages complete with reworked visuals, layouts and music. Happily, Sonic CD would go on to be the best selling game for Sega’s CD add-on, racking up an impressive 1.5 million units sold.
Best Sonic Games – Sonic Adventure
Whipping the franchise into full 3D for the first time, Sonic Adventure wasn’t just a noteworthy launch title for Sega’s dearly departed Dreamcast home console, it also provided an eye-opening look at how Sonic would fully embrace the third-dimension going forward. Emerging from the ashes of Sonic X-treme, the previous attempt at a full 3D Sonic game on the Sega Saturn, Sonic Adventure deftly merged the old and new together, keeping the ring based health, high speed and rapid-fire platforming of the previous games but thrusting it into a gorgeous full three-dimensional world.
In addition to allowing players to control Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Big the Cat, Amy Rose and robot E-102 Gamma as they attempt to scoop up those pesky Chaos Emeralds, Sonic Adventure also features a largely excellent rock soundtrack that distances itself from the pop-laced beats of previous Sonic games.
Best Sonic Games – Sonic The Hedgehog
Marking the origin point where all of this Blue Blur business began, Sonic the Hedgehog was in every way a truly disruptive platformer at a time when folks were used to much more leisurely paced offerings. With its heady combination of vibrantly colourful levels, blistering speed, rollercoaster platforming, pop tunes and challenging bosses, there really wasn’t anything quite like Sonic the Hedgehog when it was released on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis all the way back in 1991. Though the first entry in the series has arguably been long eclipsed by a number of its sequels, Sonic the Hedgehog nonetheless remains an essential platformer that everybody should play.