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Why Sonic CD is one of the greatest games ever made

Instead, levels allow and encourage you to backtrack as you hunt for time posts and Hologram transporters, even degenerating into wide-open, multi-tiered sections linked by disappearing platforms. It’s a constant assault on your preconceptions about how a Sonic game should work, which makes it feel like a new game if you come to it fresh today.

And that’s where the best news of all comes in. The original Mega CD version suffered from some dropped frames and now-fuzzy RF connections. But the game was recently remastered from the ground up and released on PSN, Xbox 360, PC and iOS. It’s a stunning conversion, especially on handheld iDevices where it’s arguably the greatest handheld Sonic game ever.

And then there's the way the story is delivered. Fancy FMV cartoon intro and ending aside, it's all told through gameplay and in-engine set-pieces. Amy isn't annoying (being just a pink hedgehog, she's actually an obvious and likable love interest for Sonic), Metal Sonic looks deliciously evil, and Robotnik is a pure pantomime villain, especially when he turns up in his pink contraption in the Good Future of Palmtree Panic.

Completing the game doesn’t take a mammoth effort and can be achieved in a couple of hours, roughly double the time it takes to finish one of the original Sonic games. However, completing it properly will take much longer, and that's where the game's hidden depths really shine through.


The game awards you a Time Crystal for successfully completing a Special stage, which works in much the same way as the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic 1. Get them all to see the true ending. But you can also get the true ending by disregarding the Time Crystals and concentrating on fixing every act of every level with the time travel mechanic.

Which ever way you do it, fact is there’s a load of content (including Tails in the new version as a playable character) that you might not see on your first playthrough thanks to the various versions of the future you can shape. And all of them have something of worth to see and do. It’s just a pity such a great game didn’t find a home on mass-market hardware until almost 20 years after its initial release.

Still, at least it’s here now. For anyone longing for a proper 'new' 2D Sonic, this is unquestionably it.

"Why _____ is one of the greatest games ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

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5 comments

  • Sugarjumper - July 28, 2014 5:01 a.m.

    I must say, I disagree entirely with the notion of Sonic CD being considered "the greatest" or "one of the greatest" Sonic games. Years ago, I was so eager to play this game because I heard all the wonderful things about it, then I actually played it and was disappointed. While the idea is ambitious and the music is great and fits the atmospheric changes, the level design is atrocious. The only level I recall playing that I genuinely enjoyed playing was Palmtree Panic. Even as famous as Stardust Speedway is, it's a total maze. I mean, look at Collision Chaos and Wacky Workbench. How can that be considered "good level design"? And while the whole time travel thing is interesting, it can be difficult sometimes to time travel without coming to a stop and losing your stream. And some people say that "if you know the level layout well enough, it's not hard," but see, that poses another problem: A level shouldn't force you to memorize every little thing about it. That's BAD level design if you have to remember everything just to time travel.
  • Rowdie - February 10, 2013 1:26 p.m.

    Best Sonic Ever. The CD had a done of unlockables as well. Not sure if the recreations retained all that content. Seems to me getting through bonus stages in record times was a big part of the unlockable puzzle. IIRC the final item I unlocked was the Pencil Test. Not sure if it was intended to be funny. It showed pencel sketches of Sonic accelerating to full speed. Easily Sonic CD is one of the greatest games of all time.
  • DREAMCASTSATURN - February 6, 2013 4:25 p.m.

    Great article, Sonic CD is one of my favourite games. Unfortunately, the one thing I disagree with you on is the soundtrack. Both the North American and European/Japanese have good songs and bad songs. I first listened to the NA one, but that doesn't mean I don't think the other is stellar. Its just that both are good in their own way. In some areas, the U.S songs fit better (Wacky Workbench, Tidal Tempest) where in others, the Japanese tracks are better (boss theme, Palm Tree Panic). But to each their own. Regardless, great article!
  • ThatGamerDude - February 6, 2013 3:35 p.m.

    Despite not having played Sonic Cd till last year, I have to say it was one of the best Sonic games I have played. I just wished I could have played it earlier in my life.
  • AlexMS - February 6, 2013 12:18 p.m.

    Fantastic article, that's what I've always been saying, Sonic CD is one of the best 2D sonic game because it has so much depth, you can speed run it (there's even a time trial menu), you can just beat the stages, beat it with the time stones, with breaking the two machines in the past, going to see all good futures or any combination of these.

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