The 8 Best (& 7 Worst) Sonic Games, According To Metacritic
Sonic Games has been around since 1991 and while he had several incredible games with his name, others are quite lacking.
Sonic Games : Best And Worst
Sonic The Hedgehog is a beloved franchise, sometimes despite its own best efforts to be a raging dumpster fire. The 2020 film was one of the best (and only) films of 2020 despite all its flaws, which is indicative of both the good and the bad of Sonic. The franchise certainly has earned its place in people’s hearts as well its place in pop culture as a laughing stock.
While great Sonic games are truly great, the bad ones are downright atrocious, so low quality that most other franchises wouldn’t have survived, but SEGA continues to make and release Sonic games at an alarming rate.
Updated January 9th, 2021 by Tanner Kinney: As a franchise, Sonic has a bit of a bad reputation. This is despite a number of games in the series being some of the best platforming has to offer, at least in 2D. Sonic can absolutely work in 3D, but it’s clear that the series is at its finest in two dimensions. There are also a number of party games and racing titles, all of which vary in quality. Sonic fans absolutely deserve to have the best games in the series celebrated, even if there are more duds than most long-standing franchises. There are plenty more classic games to acknowledge, along with some of the more middling messes.
Best: Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (82)
This entry refers primarily to the Xbox 360 Arcade port of the classic title, but is overall still a recognition of the Genesis at its best. While the first game was a showcase of the Genesis’s speed and power as a gaming console, the sequel added in so much more for fans to love. New characters, faster levels, cooler set-pieces, and a great soundtrack help push the game over the edge.
It can be argued whether Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 is a better title, and most would likely go to bat for Sonic 3. That game truly was a swan song for the Genesis, pushing everything about the console to its limits without the need for gimmicky add-ons (aside from the Knuckles cart). Sonic 2, while maybe not as bombastic, still has excellent platforming and is a great representative for the classic trilogy.
Worst: Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 (54)
In 2010, following the trends of both episodic games and the resurgence of 2D platformers, Sega and Sonic Team released Sonic the Hedgehog 4 on digital markets and storefronts. The game, despite having designs for modern Sonic, was a direct sequel to the classic series of games. While critics were mostly fine with the game, they noted that there was something off about the physics engine of the game. It was outright a less satisfying experience to play compared to the Genesis classics as a result.
The 2012 follow-up, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 would be the second title in a trilogy that would never reach completion. Although critics noted that physics issues were mostly mixed, the boss battles and level design lacked the flair and charm of the original series. It was limp and uninspired, and the price point was far from attractive for its length. That and the PC port was a bit of a garbage fire in terms of controls.
Best: Sonic Rush (83)
The DS was home to a number of Sonic titles, and most of them weren’t even that bad. There was a wide selection of oddities, including a whole Bioware RPG set in the Sonic universe with some of the worst music the DS soundcard was capable of producing. However, the system also brought Sonic Rush, one of the fastest and finest platformers on the system.
The game was a follow-up to the Sonic Advance series, cutting back a lot of Sonic’s friends while also adding the enigmatic Blaze the Cat, who quickly became a fan-favorite. Critics praised the game for its tight controls, great level design, and easy to pick-up and play gameplay. It was a refreshing take on the series that was celebrated as one of the best DS titles of 2005.
Worst: Sonic Shuffle (54)
Despite Sonic being so fast, it was always a shame to see him chasing trends during his peak years. This includes one of the most bizarre entries to the series that was an official product: Sonic Shuffle. The Dreamcast title from 2000 is clearly inspired by the success of Nintendo and Hudson Soft’s Mario Party series, focusing on creating a digital board game with chaotic minigames.
However, Sonic Shuffle would have been better off being a direct rip-off rather than trying its own thing with a story mode and extra layers. While Mario Party is like busting out a game like Sorry!, Sonic Shuffle had so many mechanics and rules that it made getting into a game a slog. This is not including long load times and slow gameplay overall. It, at least, isn’t the party game mode from Sonic and the Secret Rings, but that’s a low bar most things can clear easily.
Best: Sonic Advance 2 ( 83)
The Sonic Advance series on the Gameboy Advance are regarded, in hindsight, as some of the best games from that era of Sonic’s life. While the 3D titles were fumbling in how to deliver fast and fun gameplay, the 2D successors on a portable console were running victory lap after victory lap.
Sonic Advance 2, according to critics, delivered some of the largest and most expansive 2D levels the series had seen to that point. Although it rehashes a lot of what the first title did, its biggest addition is more playable characters and levels tailor-made for those traits. Each character can approach the same level in different ways, leading to new and exciting strategies. Plus, the visuals are gorgeous for the console, full of color and life. The GBA series is certainly a shining beacon of the franchise’s glory days.
Worst: Shadow The Hedgehog (51)
Spin-off games about side characters are something that has worked extremely well for Nintendo over the years and in 2005, SEGA decided to take a crack at it. Shadow the Hedgehog follows the “edgy” counterpart to Sonic, Shadow.
In a quest to discover the truth about his past after being created by Dr. Eggman’s grandfather. The game featured more of the messy 3D platforming of other Sonic games at the time combined with third-person shooting, because why shouldn’t Shadow have a gun. Not a single gameplay aspect of the game feels anything but imprecise and a failed attempt to make a serious and mature entry.
Best: Sonic Advance (87)
At a time when the main console entries for Sonic had shifted over to 3D characters and gameplay, it seemed as if the series 2D roots had been lost. However, the Gameboy Advance was a portable powerhouse for 2D sprites, so it made perfect sense for a new 2D Sonic game to be produced.
Featuring Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, and Amy all as playable characters, Sonic Advance went right back to the formula that made the series great and did an excellent job revisiting it. The game succeeded enough to warrant two direct sequels also on the Gameboy Advance.
Worst: Sonic The Fighters (47)
Originally an arcade cabinet and later brought to the Xbox 360, Sonic the Fighters is an awful, 3D fighting game, featuring 10 Sonic characters (many of which never made a reappearance) and an 8 level ladder to defeat Metal Sonic and Dr. Eggman. The game is as barebones of a fighting game as possible and not good by the standards of 1996 or any other year.
All the models look terrible and the game moves like a sluggish mess. The Xbox 360 release gave online capabilities which did nothing to improve the game, just allow for this terrible experience to be shared over the internet.
Best: Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (89)
Unconventional is a strong descriptor for the series as a whole, but making a racing game with the world’s fastest hedgehog that involves driving cars is a bizarre concept that totally worked. Sonic characters mixed in with other iconic SEGA characters, like AiAi from Super Monkey Ball and Ryo-F from Shenmue.
The game features very high-quality arcade-style racing, making a very comparable SEGA version of Mario Kart. Even with it being a great game, it still seems weird that Sonic would ever drive a car for any reason.
Worst: Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal (47)
One of the prequel games to the cartoon of the same name, Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is a 3DS title focused on exploration and puzzle-solving, two things Sonic isn’t known for. The levels feature hard stopping points where Sonic is no longer allowed to run, forcing the switch to a different character to make use of their special abilities to move forward, putting a hard roadblock in the “gotta go fast.”
The game also forces several playthroughs of every level to be able to advance forward in the game. A few classic sonic racing levels shine through but not nearly enough to make this game enjoyable.
Best: Sonic Adventure 2 (89)
Learning from past mistakes is a common theme in many video game franchise, but something Sonic doesn’t always manage. That said, Sonic Adventure 2 took the original and refined in a way that made for an excellent sequel.
Cutting down on the amount of time spent in open-worlds and the amount of over-top voice acting, refining the game-play to levels based on classic Sonic, shooting for Tails and exploration for Knuckles. The game also has a dark story with similar levels played through dark characters, with no open world nonsense in between. The game also brings back the fan-favorite Chao World, which is objectively the best part of the game.
Worst: Sonic The Hedgehog (2006) (43)
There are some pretty wildly insane things about the 2006 release of Sonic the Hedgehog, including the fact that it’s not the worst-rated Sonic title. This 3D open platformer has no real idea why people like the original games and misses the mark entirely. Sonic, doesn’t go very fast and is forced to stop constantly and none of the other characters are ever interested in any capacity.
The telekinetic Silver is just one of many aspects of this game that is wildly bonkers by itself. The game has very few redeeming qualities and features Sonic having a not very platonic relationship with a human girl, something that many children of the 2000s will never forget.
Best: Sonic Mania Plus (91)
The Sonic franchise is a wild rollercoaster of emotions and the 2018 release of Sonic Mania Plus is the most recent turn. Having a 2D classic Sonic platformer that is excellent just goes to show that you really shouldn’t fix what ain’t broke.
The game was developed by people making bootleg Sonic games because they were frustrated with the current state of games. This classically styled platformer works to revitalize the franchise, whatever nonsense that may result in.
Worst: Sonic Boom: Rise Of Lyric (32)
The WiiU exclusive Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric proves how resilient the blue hedgehog is because very few game series, or any media, could release something so awful and continue to exist. The strangest part is that the cartoon of the same title is pretty solid as far as cartoons go.
The combat is incredibly boring and repetitive and the platforming is nearly unplayable with unresponsive controls and bad design. Nothing about the game is redeeming or interesting and proves as a completely terrible entry, even worse than Sonic the Hedgehog (2006).
Best: Sonic CD (93)
It feels weirdly appropriate that space and time traversing are the main features of the highest-rated Sonic game. Sonic CD sees Sonic try and save Little Planet, an extraterrestrial body from Dr. Robotnik.
It combines classic 2D platforming with strange time travel mechanics that change the level based on the period your in. The game has one of the more interesting stories with top-tier gameplay, creating an excellent combination.