"What you see is what you get! Just a guy that loves adventure! I'm Sonic the Hedgehog!"
Next to Mario and Pac-Man, the most recognizable video game character is easily Sonic. The blue hedgehog debuted in 1991 on the SEGA Genesis. He quickly became SEGA's mascot and a direct rival to Nintendo. The character is a fan favorite for many reasons. He's got that cool personality and will always stand up for what's right. On more than one occasion he has put his life on the line to save the world. The games are known for one primary thing: speed. From the classic Genesis titles to the next-gen games, you're almost always guaranteed high-speed gameplay.
Since 1991, Sonic has appeared in all different types of media. He's appeared in numerous TV shows, comics, and even his own movie. (He also appears briefly in Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.) He's also appeared in books, on shirts, hats, and just about everywhere. He's a worldwide pop culture icon. He's had many games throughout his 26-year-long career. (He's even guest-starred in other titles, such as Super Smash Bros. and LEGO Dimensions). For this list, we'll be looking at all the main console games ranked. It won't include games on the small console, (such as Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush) games of a spin-off nature (such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Knuckles' Chaotix) and other miscellaneous games. (Such as Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic Boom.) It's time we blast through with Sonic speed and get started.
16 Sonic And The Secret Rings
Sonic and the Secret Rings was the first Sonic game for the Wii. At the time, the Wii was still relatively new, so one could imagine the excitement of a brand new Sonic game for the console. Secret Rings brings the Blue Blur into an Arabian setting, something that could come straight out of Aladdin. This was the first time where players could manually steer Sonic thanks to motion control. Despite these unique aspects, Secret Rings is easily the weakest of the main games.
Secret Rings isn't a terrible game. But it isn't very good either. The controls are known for being infamous, though they aren't horrible. It makes okay use of the Wii remote by tilting it so Sonic can move left or right. Jumping is the big negative because it can be tough to charge a jump at the right moment since Sonic is constantly running unless you have him brake. That's the thing: the gameplay feels more like one of those mobile runner games than an actual console game. If anything else about the game was more than mediocre, this wouldn't be as big of a deal.
The mission format does not work. It gets extremely repetitive, and the actual missions are often filler. Who wants to collect 99 coins or break jars? How about doing those things multiple times? The worlds feature nice visuals (getting to see Sonic run on a dinosaur is a treat) but you'll be seeing these stages over and over again thanks to the many missions. The plot isn't bad, but the storybook cutscenes give the game a cheap look, like there was no budget. The dialogue is also very bad — it's obvious this was aimed at a very young audience.
15 Sonic And The Black Knight
Sonic and the Black Knight is the second in the "storybook" series, after Secret Rings. This time the hedgehog is thrown into the world of King Arthur. The game starts off on a better note than Secret Rings, featuring a fully animated opening cutscene and a much more menacing antagonist. Unfortunately, the cutscenes revert back to being storybook-like afterward. The gameplay is an improvement over Secret Rings. While Secret Rings made okay use of motion control, traditional controls will always win. Motion controls, however, are used for slashing, which can be fun, especially in the boss fights.
However, despite improvements, Black Knight falls into some of the same holes of Secret Rings. The mission format returns, and it is really awful. At the very least, the game isn't quite as long as Secret Rings. While a lot of the dialogue is, unfortunately, mediocre, the true final boss features excellent build-up, and the actual fight is memorable. (It features one of the greatest songs in the franchise, "With Me.") Black Knight is a little better than Secret Rings, but both games are bottom of the barrel compared to the rest of the games on this list.
14 Sonic Unleashed
Sonic Unleashed released in 2008 and was the first true next-gen game in the series since 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog. The game's story is something we've seen before: Sonic has to stop Eggman but ends up taking on a giant monster that the Doctor loses control of. The big innovation is that Sonic gains the ability to transform into a werewolf. Yes, it seems the game took a note from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by having its protagonist morph into a wolf. Sadly, Sonic's "Werehog" form is what puts this game so low on the list.
It's a shame Unleashed has to be listed this low. The daytime levels when Sonic is normal could be the greatest in the series. The sense of speed is incredible, and the transitions between 3D and 2D are fantastic. The addition of the "Quick Step" ability where Sonic can instantly sidestep obstacles while running was also great. The primary problem with the game as stated earlier is the Werehog levels. Whereas the daytime levels are all about speed, the nighttime ones are combat-heavy. This doesn't have to be a bad thing, but the nighttime stages get extremely tedious. It's quite possible to spend up to 30 minutes on a single Werehog level. This is not something one expects to find in a Sonic game. If these levels were minor, the game could be more on the positive side, but these Werehog parts take up almost half the game.
13 Sonic Lost World
Sonic Lost World is the big Sonic game for the Wii U. It's actually the most recent in the main series. Since SEGA's kind of soft reboot with the character in Sonic Colors, the stories have been more on the simpler, comedic side. It's no different here, but Lost World does introduce some new antagonists in the form of the Deadly Six. Combined with a team up between Sonic, Tails, and Dr. Eggman, we have what should be a fun little adventure. Unfortunately, the story falls flat, and the gameplay is on the mixed side.
The Deadly Six are some of the worst villains in the series. Their stereotypical personalities are painful to watch. Of course, though, the story is secondary to the gameplay. Though it looks similar to previous 3D platformers, Lost World plays a little differently. It can be fun, but sometimes the levels are either extremely annoying to get through or just don't feel like they belong in a Sonic game. (Some of them would be better suited for Super Mario Galaxy.) A lot of the boss fights lack any sense of tension. There are some things to like about Lost World, such as the beautiful visuals and the gameplay at times being a blast. But compared to many of the other 3D games, (and all the 2D classics) it's on the lower side.
12 Sonic CD
Even though there's a Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the third game in the series is actually Sonic CD. (CD released in 1993 while Sonic 3 released in 1994.) CD is an important game in the franchise, as it introduces Metal Sonic and Amy Rose. An interesting feature of this game is the ability to travel into the past and future versions of a stage, complete with a change in scenery and even music. Though CD has some of the things that made its predecessors excellent, it's the weakest of the 2D classics.
Some aggravating and messy level design is what makes CD the weakest of the original games. You can spend too many minutes in the Collision Chaos pinball section as an example of a stage being more on the annoying side than fun. A lot of the levels seem randomly put together, in that Sonic can be running and jumping all over the place with very little focus. Despite these things though, CD is still a classic Sonic game. Palmtree Panic is one of the best zones in the series, and the race against Metal Sonic later in the game was outstandingly done. Even though the levels can sometimes be without focus, they're still mostly fun to play through.
11 Sonic Adventure
Sonic Adventure did for Sonic what Super Mario 64 did for Mario: bring the protagonist into the 3D platformer landscape. Adventure was the precursor to all the modern Sonic platformers. It's also the first game in the series to put a greater emphasis on the story, complete with full-length cutscenes. A fun feature is that there are different characters to play as with interconnecting stories. Despite coming out almost 20 years ago, the game still plays pretty well today.
Yes, the cutscenes are a little cheesy thanks to the dated animation, but the story is very solid. The classic Eggman vs. Sonic plot is given an extra boost thanks to how it links up with Chaos. There's also some genuine emotion with Gamma's story. Though not as fine-tuned as future games, the gameplay is very good. Getting to control Sonic for the first time in a platformer was an awesome feeling for those that played the game back on the Dreamcast. The only drawback, (and it's a big one, pun intended) is Big's story. Here the main goal is to fish for Big's pet frog named Froggy. Unfortunately, it's one of the most tedious things I've ever played through in a video game. It's not peaceful, it's aggravating. Thankfully, the fishing levels are a small part of the game. Almost everything else about Adventure is solid.
10 Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)
2006 was a big year for Sonic, as it was his fifteenth anniversary. What better way to celebrate than with a brand new game? Sonic the Hedgehog was meant to be the Sonic game of the decade, because it was the first game in the series on the, at the time, next-generation consoles PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Unfortunately, the game was rushed for release, which is why there are some drawbacks to what could have been the greatest title in the series. What we do get however is still really good.
From the epic opening cutscene, the player gets a sense that this is the biggest Sonic game yet. The overall look of the game, from the characters to the stages, gives a feeling of a true next-generation experience. Most of the levels are fun and challenging, from Wave Ocean being a tribute to Adventure's opening stage to the epic Crisis City. The emphasis on the story is a major highlight. It may seem complicated to describe, but it's really engaging once you're into the game. Unlike current games, Dr. Eggman is actually portrayed as a serious threat. (It also features one of the greatest antagonists in the series in the form of Mephiles.) The rushed development does hurt the game in some areas. The loading times are brutally long, and the gameplay at times isn't perfect. (And while the story is excellent, the Sonic Elise romance was...strange.) It's a shame Sonic the Hedgehog's development was rushed, because with just a little more work it really could have been the ultimate Sonic game.
9 Sonic Heroes
Sonic Heroes was a big game, featuring most of the series' characters up until that point. Like the Adventures before it, the game has many playable characters with interconnecting stories. The major difference is that the characters are divided into teams, encouraging diverse gameplay. Though not as high-octane as many of the other platformers, Heroes is a lot of fun with plenty of quality content.
It may seem daunting to control Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles at once, but the game pulls it off wonderfully. The speed sections are fun, and switching to another character is a smart way to diversify gameplay in every stage. The story is one of the best in the series, juggling all these different playable characters (Shadow, Espio, Cream, among others) and having Metal Sonic be the epic final confrontation. The music is usually great in Sonic games, and Heroes might have the best soundtrack of them all. To top it off, the game is one of the most beautiful looking in the series.
8 Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)
This is the game that started it all. In 1991, SEGA gave Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. a run for its money when they released Sonic the Hedgehog. Getting to play as a speedy character zooming through diverse stages was a treat then, and is still a blast today. Yes, the original game holds up.
It's amazing how fantastic the first zone of Sonic the Hedgehog is. Like how World 1-1 perfectly introduces the player to Super Mario Bros., Green Hill Zone does a marvelous job throwing the player into the world of Sonic with its fantastic level design and music. Each of the zones are well designed, proving a satisfying challenge. Though some of the zones aren't as good as the levels in sequels, (Labyrinth Zone is a bit on the boring side) they're still fun to play through. Sonic the Hedgehog set the standard for the series with greatly designed running-based stages and one of the best soundtracks in gaming.
7 Sonic Colors
Sonic Colors was a notable game in the franchise for a few reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is that it was part of a kind of revamp. Most of the characters got new voice actors and greater emphasis was placed on playing as Sonic as opposed to other characters. After previous games got negative reviews, SEGA really tried to make sure this game was well received. The company succeeded, because Colors is one of the best platformers in the series.
Remember how outstanding Sonic Unleashed's daytime levels were? We get that quality gameplay for almost all the levels in Colors. The gameplay goes from 3D to classic 2D seamlessly. The Wisp abilities are fun gimmicks, perfectly utilized. Unfortunately, with the revamp, SEGA decided to cut back on the deep storylines most of the previous games had in favor of a simplistic, comedic plot. This was definitely a mistake, as the story is probably the most mediocre in the series and the cutscenes seem to be aimed squarely at an extremely young audience. The gameplay, however, is so good it's easy to get through the rather poor story.
6 Sonic The Hedgehog 4
After many complaints that the Sonic series had lost touch with its former self, SEGA brought back the old-school gameplay with Sonic the Hedgehog 4. It was an ingenious tactic to make the game a direct sequel to Sonic and Knuckles, thus bringing back longtime fans who may have left the franchise by that point. Interestingly, the game has been released as two episodes digitally. Sadly, Episode III was canceled. It's a shame, because with Episode III Sonic 4 could have been one super game. What we do have however is a fantastic tribute to the classic Genesis titles.
Right from Splash Hill Zone, the player is in for a treat. Most of the levels and boss fights are homages to the classic games, but there's plenty of unique things as well. In the visual department, the game shines incredibly. How about getting to see Sonic ride on a stack of cards in Casino Street Zone? Even better is White Park Zone, feathering beautiful Christmas Trees and an amusement park background. The levels are fun and challenging, featuring fantastic stage design. (Sonic having to use a torch to light the darkness in Lost Labyrinth Zone is just one example of many great level designs.) In Episode II things are even grander with the use of Tails as he has to help Sonic with challenging platforming. There's so much to like about Sonic 4; it's definitely worth playing both episodes.
5 Sonic Generations
Sonic Generations was the 20th anniversary game for the franchise. For the first time, Sonic in his original, Genesis form met up with the modern day version of himself. The story is on the lighter side, but it's a blast. (It's fun when characters mistake the past Sonic for his current self.) To properly celebrate the long-running series, zones from previous games were remade in Generations, providing an epic nostalgic trip down memory lane. The greatest thing about the game, of course, is the gameplay, which is pretty much perfect in showcasing what Sonic speed is all about.
From Green Hill Zone to Planet Wisp, all of the zones have been excellently remade. The visuals are beautiful, giving everything a cinematic look. The gameplay takes a note from Unleashed's daytime stages, having the fantastic "Quick Step" ability. Also, some of the iconic boss battles in the series were remade. What beats battling Perfect Chaos with modern day graphics with a remix of "Open Your Heart" playing? If there's one negative thing to be said about Generations, it's that it's too short. Another 30 minutes worth of zones could have been added to make the game feel more complete.
4 Sonic And Knuckles
Sonic and Knuckles is the direct continuation to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. (Both games were released the same year, and with unique "lock-on technology," they could be merged into one super game, Sonic 3 & Knuckles.) The story picks up right after the Death Egg crashed. Following that, Sonic eventually runs into Knuckles, and the latter realizes Eggman was tricking him. So Knuckles ends up helping out Sonic near the end. It's a fun story, which is accompanied by the excellent gameplay the series had become known for.
The game features two of the greatest zones in the series: Sky Sanctuary Zone and Death Egg Zone. These are two masterpieces, especially Sky Sanctuary. (It's no wonder why it was chosen to be remade in Generations.) This is not to say the other zones in Sonic and Knuckles aren't good, because they are all solid, just that these two, in particular, are in a league of their own. The game also features unique and challenging boss battles, right from the Eggman showdown at the end of Mushroom Hill Zone. Though the "final" boss fight uses the same music from Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the tune really elevates the showdown against the Kyodai Eggman Robo. The battle is one of the most epic from the Genesis games. To top it off, if the player manages to acquire all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic will be able to turn Super and enter the Doomsday Zone, which features the true final battle. It's an epic trek through space and a fantastic way to end the game.
3 Sonic The Hedgehog 3
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 introduced Knuckles to the series. That's just one reason of many why this game is one of the greatest in the franchise. Technically, it's not wildly different from its predecessors, gameplay-wise. But the zones, the atmosphere, the music ... there's just so much to love about this game.
Sonic 3 features one of the best openings in the series. Unlike the games before it, it doesn't just simply drop the player into the zone. We get a cutscene with Sonic and Tails along with the Chaos Emeralds. This is nice continuity between Sonic 2 and 3. The best part, however, comes next. Sonic turns Super and arrives in Angel Island, but when he gets there the music changes as he's ambushed by a grinning character that we come to know as Knuckles. The echidna steals the emeralds, and then Act One begins. This adds a layer of tension as the player treks through the expertly designed Angel Island Zone. The zones continue to be great. IceCap Zone's snowboarding intro is one of the most fun sequences in the franchise. Launch Base Zone is one of the most atmospheric levels, as the player can see the Death Egg in the background. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 doesn't have too many zones, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the best in the series.
2 Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 has everything that makes a 3D Sonic game good. Firstly, its emphasis on an engaging story is great. The opening sets the stage: we have Sonic escaping a military helicopter. We then learn there's an impostor running around. We would come to know this, as Sonic would call him, "faker" by the name of Shadow. Shadow's arc is arguably the true focus of the game, and his backstory is powerful. To back up the great story, the gameplay is also fantastic.
Right from the epic boarding intro to City Escape, players know they're in for a treat. The Sonic/Shadow stages are a lot of fun, featuring the high speed one would expect and also challenging platforming. (Who doesn't remember the incredibly hard Crazy Gadget stage?) Like how the first Adventure had some different gameplay styles, Adventure 2 features some interesting ideas. The Knuckles/Rouge stages feature them searching for the missing shards of the Master Emerald. The Tails/Dr. Eggman levels are shooter based. These different modes of gameplay are good ways to mix it up.
The story can be played from the heroes' perspective of course, but a fun feature is that it can also be played from the villains' point of view. Completing both will unlock the last part of the story. The cutscenes are filled quality and emotion. Later in the game when Sonic realizes he's seemingly about to die, he turns to Tails and says, "I'm counting on you." Great stuff. The final battle could be the most epic in the series, featuring Super Sonic and Super Shadow against the Biolizard in space with the fate of the Earth in the balance. Adventure 2 is the quintessential 3D Sonic game, one where it combines great story and great gameplay.
1 Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is the definition of a perfect sequel. The first game in the series did a great job introducing the world to Sonic's unique gameplay style. The zones were nicely designed and colorful, plus the soundtrack was stellar. The sequel builds on every one of these things. In short, Sonic 2 is the greatest Sonic installment and one of the greatest games of all time.
Each of the zones have an amazing level of quality. Chemical Plant Zone is one of the most iconic stages in the franchise for good reason. Casino Night Zone could be the best casino-themed stage in the series. From the bright Hill Top Zone to the darker Mystic Cave Zone, there's a solid amount of diverse stages. Sky Chase Zone is a fun change of pace as it takes place completely in the air. Sonic rides on his buddy Tails' plane and the two have to contend with various badniks. Then, of course, Wing Fortress Zone is an absolute masterpiece.
The final battle could be the hardest in the whole series. First, Sonic has to get through a robot version of himself called Mecha Sonic. (It predates Metal Sonic.) The next part is the hardest, as Sonic will have to face Eggman's Death Egg Robot. This wouldn't be so bad, but the game on purpose doesn't give the player access to any coins here. This increases the tension and eventually immense satisfaction when Sonic lands the finishing blow. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 looks great, plays incredibly, and feels like a complete, satisfying experience thus earning it the top spot on this list.