Sonic, he can really move...
Sonic once had a shaky reputation for game quality that's not entirely unearned, but his games have been on a noticeable upswing in recent years. In fact, Sega's been creating enough good Sonic games lately that, when combined with all the quality titles early years of his career, we could create a list of the 25 best Sonic games that the Blue Blur can be proud of.
In honor of the release of the very good Sonic Lost World, we expanded and updated our list of the greatest games to star the most famous hedgehog in the world. So, if one wanted to play the best Sega's mascot has to offer, where would you start? Well...
25. Sonic Adventure 2
One of the endearing qualities of the Sonic series has long been its trans-Pacific development history, with Japanese and US teams both having contributed to the franchise over the years. Sonic Adventure 2 may have marked the series last outing on a Sega console--the Dreamcast had been discontinued months earlier--but it was also the first to be developed primarily by Sonic Team USA, whose San Francisco streets influenced the games urban environments.
Just as US input had seen the Genesis' Sonic 2 expand substantially on the originals high-speed bravado, Sonic Adventure 2 was a much zippier, more stunt-filled experience than its comparatively plot-heavy predecessor. Its an influence that served the series well, and would ensure positive receptions for later ports of the game, even if some of the non-Sonic stages have aged pretty poorly (and weren't that great to begin with).
24. Sonic Spinball
The early Sonic games had developed a uniquely satisfying rhythm: jump on a few baddies, collect a ring or twenty, then hit a hill and bounce around until you found out whether you were epileptic. And for many players, that third high-speed component of the experience was where the money was at. So hey, figured Sega, why not fashion a whole game out of those bits?
The Genesis was already the console of choice for many pinball fans with a puzzling aversion to actual physical pinball tables, and Sonic Spinball held its own alongside the likes of Dragon Fury, Psycho Pinball and Crue Ball. And if you weren't a huge Sonic fan, here was a game consisting of nothing but opportunities to bash the mouthy mascot around the head with huge flippers. Everyone wins!
23. Sonic Rush Adventure
Built for fast-paced dual-screen challenges, for a long time the Rush titles were the best way of getting old-school side-on action with a pinch of next-generation flair. Rush Adventure thrives in plus-sized side-on platform bursts, but also offers bouts of well-executed 3D to remind you that youre playing on a machine with some chops.
Technical aptitude aside, heres a game that keeps Sonic and Tails off the streets, and introduces a non-mortifying new character in Marine the Raccoon, a character that serves as the springboard for a story of piracy, multidimensional invaders and interplanetary conflict. In its day, this was the title you fired up to disprove anyone who said the series had lots its way.
22. Sonic & the Secret Rings
Intended as yet-another rebirth for Sonic to coincide with Nintendos then-upcoming Wii console, Secret Rings takes its cue from the Arabian Nights--meaning developers were free to wear their Prince of Persia influences on their sleeves. The title played to Wii strengths with an emphasis on racer-style platform action and level design which favored speed-runs over precision-jumping challenges.
For an early Wii title the game holds up well today, with graphics that impressed on release and still turn heads. Critics at the time suggested that Secret Rings might mark a turning-point for the series then ailing fortunes; history and replay value prove them right.
21. Sonic R
Sonic and racing had always seemed an obvious fit, and Sega had made early forays into the concept with the Game Gears Sonic Drift titles. This Saturn title offered a substantial tech injection for Sonics pole-position aspirations, with co-developers Travellers Tales tweaking the games design to squeeze as much speed and detail out of the 32-bit hardware as possible.
Its a short, colourful burst by todays standards, which is no bad thing; and offers a look at the early days of what would become quite the profitable little sideline for Segas mascot. Later Sonic racers would only improve on the concept, making Sonic R an embryonic taste of what would become titles like Sonic All-Stars Racing.
20. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Expanding the hyperkinetic Sonic series into role-play territory was a stunt guaranteed to raise eyebrows, and you can bet Sega wasnt about to just fob the job off on anyone. After all, Mario hadnt gone the HP-n-battle-scenes route until Squaresoft was ready to do the concept justice--so similar interest in Segas experiment was piqued when genre titans BioWare were given the task.
While geared more toward the DS youth audience than fans of Mass Effect or Dragon Age, the game remains among Sonics stronger cross-genre ventures--to say nothing of more ambitious. Sequel rumors have been teased since the games release, but following BioWares incorporation into EA, these seem rather unlikely to come to fruition.
19. Sonic Colors
Assuring players that their aim was to rectify the missteps of earlier Sonic titles, Sonic Team gave players reason to look out for this Nintendo-exclusive soft reboot geared toward players too young to have grown up with the series side-on originators. The result, released for the DS and Wii in 2010, showed the wisdom of this strategy.
Instead of trying to roll together everything anyone had ever liked about a Sonic title, Colors was fast, tight, and offered variety via well-placed power-ups and environments built around high-speed thrills. Which, come to think of it, was pretty much everything older fans had always liked about Sonic games as well.
18. Sonic Unleashed
Okay you know what? Its been years since Sonic Unleashed, and Werehog jokes have put several GamesRadar children through college by now. Were finally ready to lay the matter to rest and admit that Sonic Unleashed is actually a good game. It looks beautiful, plays fast n flashy, and certainly cant be accused of coasting on earlier successes.
Besides which, its worth bearing in mind that the Sonic games take place in a world where animals are always being turned into creepy creatures. The whole reason the Sonic/Robotnik beef got started in the first place was due to the latter turning animals into monsters. Meanwhile Mario is getting turned into frogs and bees and mythical Japanese raccoon without so much as an objection. And besides that, the non-Werehog bits of Unleashed were a welcome return to form for the Hedgehog, bringing 2D perspective and high speed thrills back to the forefront.
17. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear/Master System)
The Master System and Game Gear versions of Sonic 1 had hewn fairly close to the Genesis standard, but Sonic 2 on Sega's 8-bit systems bore little comparison to the 16-bit title of the same name. The game looked different, sounded different and played like a Sonic title, but one built for the smaller systems strengths. If the high-speed multiplayer pyrotechnics of Sonic 2 Genesis were reined in slightly for this version, in their place were new vehicle modes and gameplay gimmicks to push the 8-bit hardware.
Did the different approach pay off? While the 16-bit Sonic 2 is the one thats remembered, this title remains a thrilling challenge with plenty of surprises for first-time players.