Sonic Mania is out, and it is exactly what everyone wanted it to be: a damn good Sonic game. Check out our review if you haven’t ; it is a super positive one! Frankly, I think this is a cause for celebration. Games like this don’t happen so often, and when they do the energy surrounding them is intoxicating. So let’s celebrate Sonic, because despite the guy’s spotty history, there are plenty of excellent games throughout history that are still worth revisiting today. Here are my ten favorites.
Sonic Advance 3
The Sonic Advance games were sort of like blueprints for the Sonic Rush series, and you could tell there was a lot of fun, experimentation, and love put into these. That especially holds true for Sonic Advance 3 , a game that packed so much stuff in such a small cartridge. It looks great, plays great, and even sounds great. Try it out if you missed it.
Sonic Adventure 2 Battle
I would be dishonest if I didn’t suggest the Sonic Adventure games don’t really hold up to scrutiny today. But I’d also be dishonest to say I didn’t love the hell out of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the Gamecube. This game came out at the perfect time for my generation and launched a fandom explosion that is now the butt of jokes made by the same people. That’s cultural power.
I have mixed feelings about Sonic CD , but there’s no denying its spot in most Sonic fans’ hearts. It’s big, arguably too big, but it’s gorgeous and that opening anime cutscene is legendary. It’s another great soundtrack, and the Sega CD gimmick only expanded the capabilities of the classic, Genesis-era Sonic the Hedgehog formula. It’s a monumental release in retro games history and worth tracking down on Steam or mobile platforms.
Sonic Generations was a largely successful effort by Sonic Team in an era when people were about ready to give up on Sonic entirely. But it took what people liked about games like Sonic Colors and added a whole bunch of fun nostalgia on top. It’s a fascinating hybrid between the two styles of Sonic, and considering what Sonic Forces looks like, the new standard for what Sonic is going forward.
Sonic Color is the lowkey best modern Sonic game that never really got the attention it deserved, mostly because it was on the Wii and not pushed as hard as it should have been by Sega. People dismissed it, despite the desperate pleas from the hardcore Sonic fanbase. Later on, it was revisited and currently sits on a pedestal as a great modern Sonic game that got more right than it got wrong.
Some may argue its sequel was better, but I absolutely adore Sonic Rush . It does a lot with the DS’ two screen gimmick. DIMPS had an intriguing take on the Sonic formula, making it even more about crazy speed and acrobatics than it ever was before. Especially for the 2D games. Also it has the most amazing soundtrack in modern Sonic history.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 did a great job taking what was perfected in Sonic 2 and playing with it to interesting means. It feels like the team knew Sonic 2 wasn’t going to be topped, so experimentation in key areas was what the series needed. A visual overhaul, significant style changes in the music and other new features defined Sonic 3 for the better.
Sonic and Knuckles
Sonic and Knuckles was a ridiculous gimmick, but it totally worked. A cart with an opening to insert other carts, Sonic and Knuckles let you add Knuckles to other Sonic games. And the base game itself was a hoot too. Knuckles added a different style of play to the Sonic formula, with meatier jumps, gliding, and wall-climbing, a combination that was distinct enough to endure all the way to today.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
This is the standard-bearer for what it meant to be a Sega fan in the 90’s. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an all-timer, a historic milestone, a measuring stick for anything that has tried to imitate it since. And it deserves that reputation for sure. Clever level design, amazing music, and that whole blast processing thing all peaked at this point.
This is it, the new hotness that inspired this list. People are calling Sonic Mania the best game in all of Sonic the Hedgehog history, and that’s a legitimate argument. It relies a lot on Sonic history to be as effective as it is, so in that context you need the others for this one to really work. That said, this is a brilliant game, the kind of modern 2D game I’ve always wanted.