I mean, where else could we possibly start? Buggy to the point of being unplayable with confusing controls and an even more confusing story, this is still the nadir of all Sonic games. Not even the Sonic Boom games are quite this bad.
Not all Mario Party clones are created equal, but a lot of them try to shake the formula up somehow. Sonic Shuffle entered the world through the Sega Dreamcast and tried to spice up the party game atmosphere with battles and playing cards instead of rolling dice. But the confusing mechanics on top of some of the most vicious AI ever programmed ensure that this shuffle might end with more than just bruised friendships.
Busted, broken, and buggy seems to be a trend with a lot of Sonic games, and Rise of Lyric is no exception. The first game out the gate for the mildly popular Sonic Boom spinoff series didn't do the series any favors: control issues and badly designed levels make parts of the game virtually unplayable while the characters don't even make the story or cutscenes worth the effort. If you're so inclined, just go watch the show.
The thought of an infinite runner game starring Sonic isn't the worst idea in the world. The thought of controlling Sonic with shoddy Wii remote turns is terrifying. The thought of navigating poorly laid-out worlds in a third-rate Nights of Arabia ripoff with a shit jump button is somehow even scarier. The nifty RPG elements and attempt to make the "Escape From The City" lightning strike twice with "Seven Rings In Hand" can't save this one.
*see above but also include shitty swordplay. Bonus points for the nice color palette, though.
If you thought the idea of Sonic on a hoverboard was bad with a controller, just wait until you try it out when your body is the controller. A cool concept and fun characters ruined by the series' old problems and an over-reliance on the XBOX's dreaded Kinect motion-sensing camera. There's a reason most other consoles have left this in the past.
I wish I could put this game a little higher. If Sonic were to hop on any sort of vehicle, a hoverboard seems as good a decision as any. But in an "extreme" racing game like Sonic Riders, controls and vibe are everything. The rush of pulling off tricks as the characters was a nice feeling, but loose controls and other stale mechanics kept this one on the ground. It's really this low because it was so much of a disappointment.
Sonic and parkour sound like they would work amazingly on paper, but Sonic Lost World proved otherwise. Navigating the brightly colored worlds with the new parkour mechanics just isn't fun and even The Wisps and new villains The Deadly Six don't do anything to save the proceedings.
Ah, a Sonic game where he's actually running around on foot! The third racing game in the series' history stumbled across a novel idea here, but even for its time, it was hardly considered a classic. Its visuals were praised at the time but everything else, from the controls to the fact that you could run through the entire game in less time than a lunch break, taste like fine wine mixed with Sonic brand soap. It's fun but ultimately frustrating in the way most childhood guilty pleasures are. Not even one of the catchiest video game soundtracks in history can save this one.
The Game Gear's streak of Sonic games proved to be mediocre at best, and Sonic Blast was no exception. On top of the chunky pre-rendered graphics, lack of iconic sound effects, and very short length, it committed one of the cardinal sins of Sonic games: it was slow. The platforming, running, loop-de-loops, bonus levels; everything moved like molasses. A Sonic game without momentum is barely a Sonic game at all.
In one of many attempts to one-up Mario, Sega decided to give Sonic his own isometric puzzle game reminiscent of Super Mario RPG. The only thing worse than making Sonic slow, which Sonic Labyrinth absolutely does, is attempting to stuff him into genres where he doesn't belong. You don't throw those two-tone shoes on to solve puzzles in this or any other lifetime.
Our third trip with Sonic and his hoverboard riding friends. This game at least attempted to correct some problems with the first, including ditching the air gauge and a slightly more streamlined trick system. But the controls are still too loose and the mechanics are still too confusing to make this more than a $20 weekend play.
If there's one thing Sonic fans have been begging for, it's a customizable character. Forces was poised to give fans this and an engaging story revolving around the teamup of "Classic" and "Modern" Sonic that had worked so well in Sonic Generations, but it never quite made it that far. The bosses and stage design are bland, which is a shame considering that zipping around as your character can be a ton of fun. An expected step up turned out to be a shaky step on the verge of an ankle sprain.
Shadow is one of the most iconic Sonic characters ever created, so it was only a matter of time before he got his own game. But getting one this bad feels offensive. It's hard to take a cuddly hedgehog seriously when they're cursing and firing off oversized guns, especially drenched in the Hot Topic aesthetic that Shadow The Hedgehog is. This game is a popular whipping boy for the series next to Sonic 2006, and while it isn't quite that bad, it's not too far off.
Mario and Sonic coming together in the spirit of the Olympics is a moment to pause and consider the divide between video game mascots that used to exist. It also requires a moment for you to consider that this the third game in a mini-franchise that doesn't feel the need to grow beyond featuring a handful of mini-games and some smiling animals and people taunting you and your wasted $50. A pretty game that's fun with friends, but little more than that.
And here we are at the first time Sonic ever hopped behind the wheel of a car. Sonic and pals (and enemies) took to racing each other on a small set of tracks with twists, turns, and randomly placed springs that make your life a living hell. It's bland and samey enough to warrant all the comparisons to Super Mario Kart.
The PSP isn't exactly known for many innovative games, but that didn't stop developers from trying. Sonic Rivals is all the proof you need that platforming and racing almost never go well together. Awkward button presses and attack patterns and the worst Sonic running animation of all time are just a few reasons this one never made it past the PSP.
Sonic Unleashed was supposed to be a gamechanger; a trip back to Sonic's 2D roots after the debacle that was Sonic 2006. Those 2D levels with the newly introduced speed boost mechanic were a good try to bring Sonic onto then next-gen platforms proper, but the werewolf levels added an element of God of War/Bayonetta beat-em-up fighting that brings the momentum to a complete stop. A rubbery werewolf and stilted dialogue do not a good hedgehog make.
Sonic 3D Blast is even more proof that Sonic doesn't work well in isometric environments. Let's get that out of the way right now. The pace is as slow as the gameplay is clunky and the story of Sonic attempting to save the Flickies is silly, but as one of the first games to bring Sonic into 3D, it was a decent try. You will not catch me re-downloading this one, though.
Games revolving around characters in Sonic's universe very rarely strike the way Sega clearly wants them to. Tails' SkyPatrol was an attempt to give Tails and his shiny ring time to shine. It shares many of the same problems with its cousin on the Game Gear Sonic Blast, but unique mechanics with the ring and a legitimate sense of speed help it come out on top. Now let's give Tails his own proper platformer, dammit!
Patches of innovation can only take you so far. Knuckles' Chaotix came out of the gate in 1995 with plenty of ideas: a new team of animals in the Chaotix, including Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile, and Charmy the Bee, and a ring-tethering technique used to solve puzzles. The ideas were cool and the color scheme for the game was bright in a way a Sonic game hadn't been before, but the easy difficulty and cumbersome mechanics, however unique, held this back.
Keep. Sonic. Out. Of. Isometric. Environments. Especially when he has to fight other people that he can't hit cleanly. I don't care how great this game's GBA-era graphics still look. Just stop it.
When one thinks of speed, what's the first game that comes to mind? That's right, pinball! Like many characters in the late 90s and early aughts, Sonic got his own pinball game for the Game Boy. It's technically sound and features a fun multiplayer mode, but the physics make, you know, actually playing the game of pinball exceptionally hard.
A Sonic fighting game sounds like either the best or worst possible game to play on paper. The prospect of new characters like Fang The Sniper, Bean The Dynamite, and Bark the Polar Bear going up against Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Amy and more sounded like fun. And it was...to an extent. Sonic The Fighters was a Virtua Fighter clone that stripped back the controls and laid on the charm, with cute graphics and music. The gameplay left much to be desired, so there's probably a reason why we've never seen those new characters in any game ever again.
When Mario and Sonic come together and bring all their friends. it's either to beat the shit out of each other or play some friendly Olympic games. The gang's initial stab from 2007 was the weakest of the bunch, a good effort at a party game that had to deal with indistinct Wii remote controls and an overreliance on Olympic marketing, which isn't the worst complaint in the world. Shot-putting as Knuckles will never ever get old
In retrospect, this game should be a lot lower on the list: Sonic running a schoolhouse that looks an awful lot like the hallways of Doom and Wolfenstein where numbers, letters, and balloons with pictures on them float menacingly around? Not a pretty thought. But Sonic educating the youth? That's the only reason this game is anywhere near the halfway point of this list.
If you're going to put Sonic in a car, the game better be amazing. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing...isn't amazing; it's a serviceable kart racer featuring a cadre of Sega characters who run the gamut from all-stars to barely recognizable. It's fun but hardly remarkable, like any good Mario Kart clone. That might be an unfair comparison, but the first 3D Sonic kart racer had that coming.
After botched and half-finished attempts to bring Sonic into the third dimension, Sonic Adventure finally arrived to do it in style. This is the first time 3D has been kind to Sonic, with well-designed levels and a thrilling sense of speed, but new problems began to plague the series: bad voice acting, clunky dialogue, and bad camera control keeping it from perfection. This is also the game that introduced the homing attack and the Chaos to the series, so we'll be taking the bad with the good here.
Sonic on land, sea, and in the air? You would think this wouldn't change much about All-Star Racing's already established formula, but the 2012 sequel really is an improvement. Better controls, cooler characters and tracks, and more distinctive powerups really make quite a bit of difference. Don't say we didn't tell you that driving around as the Super Monkey Ball monkey was super fun.
Sonic's first original foray onto a Nintendo console (not counting the GameCube port Sonic Adventure DX) had a pretty big first impression to make. Sonic Advance made the transition fairly smoothly, with colorful visuals and that sense of speed everyone comes to expect from a Sonic game. But it wasn't all good; much of the gameplay lacked polish, particularly a set of special stages that border on EarthWorm Jim levels of difficulty. Regardless, it was a step in the right direction for just about every kid with a Game Boy Advance at the time.
Before he was rechristened as Dr. Eggman, Robotnik had a gaggle of goofy helper robots and his own falling block puzzle game. Mean Bean Machine is actually a port of Puyo Puyo from Japan, which itself was a Dr. Mario/Tetris clone, stacking and destroying sets of colored beans had never been so fun. That focus on puzzling proved to be both a strength and a weakness for the game, as most people found the core gameplay to be too challenging and the game itself wholly lacking in variety.
It's amazing what better controls and more variety will do for a sequel, and Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Winter Games is proof of that. More characters, tighter controls, and the new Dream Events helped Mario and Sonic's trip to Vancouver stand out among the Wii's cluttered party game catalog. Also, the thought of Vector the Crocodile bobsledding is hilarious and you can't tell me otherwise.
Sonic Spinball proved that there could be a difference between a Sonic pinball game and a game of pinball given a true Sonic spin (forgive the pun). Sonic is trapped on an island with a giant castle and has to serve as the fleshy pinball through all six levels of bumper-knocking, flipper-fueled action. A novel approach to a tired formula and some appropriately cheesy 8-bit techno pushed this past the stiff controls and extremely short runtime. Even as a childhood favorite, I couldn't push this one past number 25.
Teamwork makes the dream work even in Sonic's universe. The franchise tried to put another spin on its multi-tiered stories by creating four teams - Sonic, Dark, Rose, and Chaotix - and having them run through a generic Eggman takes over the world with plenty of robots story. It's unique and inspired, even as far as outlandish Sonic games go, but the transition to team-based gameplay wasn't perfect. Jumping with your team of three could be a problem and the combat eventually got a little samey for most tastes, and that's not even considering the PlayStation 2 version's game-breaking graphical issues. A good idea that could've used just a bit more polish.
Speed will forever be Sonic's game, and the transition to mobile proved to be challenging to that pillar of the games. That's why so many people were surprised when Sonic Pocket Adventure emerged with the same level of speed and platform precision as many of its console cousins. Released about a year after Sonic Adventure made its debut on the Dreamcast, this Neo Geo Pocket Color title had something to prove and it did it the Sonic way.
Sonic has jumped on platforms and raced both in cars and on foot, but Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is his first step into a full-blown RPG. Bioware and SEGA created a breathing world populated by the alien Nocturns, taking over bad guy duty for a missing Eggman and Chaos Emeralds. The combat is punchy and graphics are pretty, but the music and story left a lot to be desired, especially for a company as beloved for their stories and dialogue trees as Bioware is. Either way, Sonic's first RPG was enjoyable and innovative enough to keep him in good graces for a little while longer.
Tails solo adventure! The two-tailed fox helmed his third game in Tails Adventure, a slower but no less fun version of the platformer that his buddy Sonic helped make iconic. Tails being stuck on an island and forced to battle the Battle Kukku Army doesn't just involve running from side to side; Tails collects items like bombs and little robot friends to use in combat. It's a cute title that manages to tone down the series' trademark speed in a way that doesn't feel like a drawback. Also every chance we get to celebrate Tails is never soon enough.
Many players like to bemoan the state of 3D Sonic games, but Colors was the series reminding them that even the speed-boosting version of Sonic could be fun under the right circumstances. The story involving Eggman capturing new creatures called Wisps to help power a theme park and a mind control ray to take over the world is hardly the point. The Wisps add a creative new element to the Sonic series that Unleashed tried and failed to do with the werehog: puzzle solving instead of random beat-em-ups. It wasn't perfect but it was a great return to form for 3D-era Sonic.
15 years is a long time to keep any sort of franchise moving, especially one involving a disproportioned blue hedgehog. Sega decided to simultaneously send us back and forward in time by uniting Classic and Modern Sonic for a run through the series' greatest hits, which turned out to be a better idea than anyone could've expected. Sonic's history makes more sense having these two iterations stacked side-by-side, which helps because they're both incredibly fun to play. It's easy to get confused about how each of the different characters works on occasion and the NPC mini-games that pop up when you rescue your friends feel forced, but otherwise, this was the bridge that attempted to get Sonic fans of all generations on the same side.
The team-up to end all team-ups...back in 1994. Sonic and Knuckles coming together led to yet another trip to find the Chaos Emeralds and one of the most fun experiences in Sonic's entire franchise. The controls are crisp, the music is catchy, the lock-on mechanic is engaging and Knuckles' gliding ability never ever gets old. It's just similar enough to its predecessor Sonic 3 to feel a bit derivative, but fixing what isn't broken isn't always the best approach.
After so many attempts to revive the brand, Sega and developer Dimps decided to take it all back to their roots by continuing the proper Sonic The Hedgehog series. Side-scrolling, jumping on enemies, loop-de-loops, and more were finally playable in glorious 1080p, but that's not the reason this game managed to break through to my top 10. The main reason for that is having the HOMING ATTACK IN A 2D SONIC GAME. It works wonders within the environment and I'm concerned that Sega and other developers hadn't thought to add it before. There's reverence and there's just sloppy game design. The homing attack and the overall quality of the episodic series (it was released in two parts or "episodes") makes this a fresh-ish twist on a classic formula.
The DS has had some very good and very bad platformers, but Sonic walked away with one of the better experiences across the board. The sense of speed that comes with rushing through any of the different levels while working your way through the different screens is exhilarating, if not overwhelming. It moves like fluid with both Sonic and newly introduced character Blaze The Cat, the boss battles are innovative and with a kickass soundtrack to boot. This carried further into the game's sequel Sonic Rush Adventure, which added boating minigames and more fun with the DS touchscreen.
For a series that started Sonic's run of original games on Nintendo consoles, Sonic Advance only seemed to get better with time. Keeping friends around as secondary sidekicks is a great way to divide up the platforming action and added a replayability to the game that not very many Sonic games possess, mobile or otherwise. It's just fun thinking about Shadow and Cream The Rabbit running around anywhere together. Also this game has the best Knuckles gliding animation by a country mile.
This is where the world of Sonic Advance first started to come together. Sprawling levels that you could play with multiple characters -- including the newly introduced Cream The Rabbit -- pristine GBA graphics, and more jumping and loops than your stomach will allow. This game was and is the pinnacle of Sonic on mobile.
The core of Sonic's gameplay will never be able to (forgive the pun) outrun its 2D roots. Sega and newly recruited developers Headcannon and PagotaWest Games realized this and decided to bring the series back to basics -- again. PagotaWest and Headcannon's extensive history of creating Sonic mods and ports came in handy during the creation of Sonic Mania. It pleased hardcore and casual fans of the series alike with tight gameplay, beautiful candy-colored graphics and a sense of speed and momentum, but that isn't why a Sonic game released in 2017 is one of the greatest in the entire series. After so many false starts and good games that went unnoticed and unplayed, the perfect homage revealed itself. By re-creating the series' glory days, Sonic Mania only helped extend them.
The one that started it all. A blue hedgehog running through sunny sprite-filled worlds collecting rings and hitting loop-de-loops while fighting a wildly shaped man with a serious mustache. It's a series that's gone through the gamut of genres and styles but everything leads back to this first design. I mean, how else can I say it? This is the grandfather of every Sonic game, so of course it goes right here.
I can already hear the waves of criticism for putting this game in the top three, but let me explain. An entire generation found themselves in Sonic's 3D exploits in the first Adventure game, and many of those elements were polished to a mirror sheen in the sequel. An admittedly silly but sprawling story told from two different perspectives, a killer multiplayer mode and the Chao garden factored into the 3D environment's twist on the speed that makes Sonic great. This Gamecube redux of the Dreamcast original is just the most fun you'll have with any Sonic game ever.
The addition of Tails helped to reinvigorate the franchise, but where could Sonic possibly go after two-tailed foxes and the ever-iconic spin dash attack? A red flying echidna, of course! The Sonic Universe's resident tough guy made his debut as the protector of the Master Emerald here, but he's not the only new addition. Tails being able to fly and a cadre of new special levels that have become staples of the 2D games only improved what was already great. Three games in, Sonic was only growing stronger.
If you want to talk about the biggest Sonic games ever made, look no further than Sonic CD. Developed by Sonic Team for the Sega CD after a potential Sonic 2 port was shot down, this is a game that had a lot to prove, at least to its developers and parent company. Not only did they manage to step up with soon-to-be iconic characters like Metal Sonic and Amy Rose, but adding in a time-travelling mechanic on top of the vast level designs where games like the Sonic Advance and Adventure series would cull inspiration from only makes it look that much better. And did I forget to mention the theme song and Toei-animated intro cinematic? A classic from start to finish.
There are many reasons why Sonic's second outing on the Game Gear/Genesis is still his best. The introduction of Tails enhanced the gameplay by adding one more player and the spin dash added another essential layer to the game's iconic speed. The level design is tight yet sprawling, the music stays catchy, and the bosses are extremely tough but satisfying. Sonic 2 took a good foundation and built on it in ways that have affected the entire series to this day, and for that reason alone, this is the best Sonic game ever made.