I have decided to set myself a challenge: try to play as many Sonic games as possible. This will be between different games and not non stop after each other.
I will be playing the best versions of games rather then the very original ones, although vastly different versions will count separately (16 bit and 8 big Sonic the Hedgehog, Console and DS Colours and Generations for example). Some will require emulation as they haven’t had releases since, or I have no platform to play them on. I have also added a few select ports as I think they deserve mentioning.
Instead of release order, I have randomised the order I will play it in. However, Series of games will be played in order (So if Sonic 1 is #23 and Sonic 2 is #19 they get swapped around).
There are some games which I may not be able to play. There seem to be some old mobile games which don’t exist anywhere online, and Sonic Free Riders is probably a bit expensive to play considering it’s quality (requiring a Kinect…I don’t even know if my 360 is compatible with it or if it needs an update as it doesn’t have WiFi).
This will probably take ages, but I’ll update this thread for each game. I may not be good enough to complete them all but I’ll try my best, as long as I put a decent amount of playtime relevant to each game.
1. Sonic The Hedgehog (8-bit)
- Original Platform: Master System
- Version Played: Game Gear
- Where to get: Second Hand, Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, 3DS Virtual Console
The first time I’ve played this version of Sonic the Hedgehog, and it really isn’t that bad. It plays faster than I was expecting for a simplified port. The smaller view isn’t ideal, and rings don’t seem as important as long as you have one. The special stages are cool but don’t serve much point, while emeralds are hidden in the levels.
This isn’t just a port of the original 16-bit version, though, it has different level design and some completely different stages (although with fairly dull names like Bridge and Jungle). They’re not as complex in terms of loops, although Scrap Brain Zone is a bit of a maze. Music is very cheery and is done well on the 8-bit platform, although Scrap Brain Zone just sounds a bit off.
I thought it was an entertaining game, even if it’s nothing special. It’s an interesting look at an alternate take of the original Sonic, and I think it’s worth playing at least once.
2. Sonic Labyrinth
- Original Platform: Game Gear
- Where to get: : Game Gear
- Where to get: Second Hand, Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, 3DS Virtual Console
An isometric maze/platform game made for the Game Gear and it’s quite poor. The object of the game is to find three keys hidden in the level and then make your way though the exit. With it being isometric, is means that the entire game is spent going diagonally, which D-pads weren’t designed to do constantly. Your one move is a spin dash, where you charge up for a more powerful one.
After three acts, you fight a boss which involves avoiding attacks and then spin dashing into. It’s a fairly short game, but some levels are confusing and involve doors that connect to each other differently (so come out of one and go back and you’ll be somewhere else).
3. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii)
- Original Platform: Wii
- Version Played: Wii
- Where to get: Second hand
These Olympic Games will be some of the ones that I play a reasonable amount of to get a feel rather than “complete”, as completing requires a lot of repeat stuff. I played all starting events, some missions and a few circuits to get a good idea of how this plays.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympics feels like Sega made this without playing Wii Sports at all. Wii Sports felt amazing because of how intuitive and simple the controls were, yet they still felt deep. In this, they just feel like they’re in the way. Table Tennis is a great example: we all know how simple Wii Sports Tennis is. Mario & Sonic table tennis requires different button presses for different strokes, but also feels really delayed and unresponsive.
Other events are just too strict, now allowing for the unresponsive controls. Instead of just making you perform poorly or allowing more leeway, you’ll encounter lots of “faults” from starting a race (which resets the pre-match charging so you have to go through it each time) to trying to time a long jump or a triple jump (which I managed to get to work once).
This also feels like Sonic and Mario are just in a generic Olympic game. You can unlock a couple of “dream” events but the whole style just isn’t a celebration of either franchise.
4. Sonic at the Olympic Games (Java)
- Original Platform: Mobile
- Where to get: Not available, unless you happen to buy an old phone with it installed.
A very simple mobile minigame collection, designed for pre-touchscreen phones. For it’s limitations, it’s not a bad little game. There are 5 events: Discus, 1500 Metres, Triple Jump, 500m Hurdles and Javelin. Discus, Javelin and Triple Jump work in a similar way where you build up energy and then once you throw/jump, you can use the energy to increase your height, dodging enemies and collecting rings. The running challenges have you tapping a button at the right times to maintain your speed – a bit like a free runner game, but on a simple course – although the running one has multiple paths and loops.
It’s nothing special, but manages to capture the spirit of Sonic over the main Wii game. I could see it as a decent minigame in a handheld Sonic game.
5. Sonic Jump (Android)
- Original Platform: Android/iOS
- Version Played: Android
- Where to get: Re-released as “Sonic Jump Pro” on Google Play, just “Sonic Jump” on iOS store
I was pleasantly surprised by this, it’s a nice mobile game – and a remake of a much older Java mobile game. Sonic automatically jumps up, and you have to reach the goal high up in the sky using tilt controls, which are actually very responsive. The levels are properly designed (although a random endless mode is also available), and utilise different kinds of platforms.
Some platforms will collapse after one jump, others won’t bounce you up (although you gain your double jump back – activated by tapping the screen – so it’s not instant death), some move, some spin, some fade out in a pattern. The game doesn’t tell you what these are the first time you encounter them, but they’re self explanatory.
Sonic Jump is a very solid mobile Sonic games, with some lovely backgrounds that remind me of Rayman Origins.
Sonic Jump has an item store, where you can spend rings (or real money). But these are essentially just cheats, and the game can be completed without any at all.
6. Sonic Riders
- Original Platform: GameCube
- Where to get: Second hand
Sonic Riders on the surface looks like it’s a slightly different Kart racer. It has a mascot, item boxes and crazy looking tracks: something that could be simple but a ton of fun. Sonic Riders is not like this at all, instead it’s a fairly unique racer with some complex mechanics.
The game will just throw you into it, so if you haven’t read the manual you will not understand what it happening in the slightest, with gusts of winds flying at you from other characters, stopping because your hoverboard (Extreme Gear as the game calls it) has run out of air. Upon reading up, and it’s more confusing than it really needs to be.
Air is fuel, you collect it by preforming stunts, getting it from item boxes or going through pit stops (which will hold your character in place until charged up). You can use this to boost, but use too much and you’ll have to run instead. Following air waves left by players in front of you make you go faster, and allows you to perform stunts for more air and speed. However, you can miss shortcuts because of this.
Shortcuts are also dependant in type of character: Speed characters use rails, Fly characters can fly though rings (with very difficult controls so you’ll probably just fall instead) and power characters can smash through walls…although other character can do so with a slight drop in speed. From what I experienced, Speed racers simply have better shortcut access.
Some shortcuts can be accessed by making higher or longer jumps of ramps which I only got to work a couple of times. Item boxes seem less what they are in Mario Kart and will mostly be air or rings (which upgrade your characters for the race, making you faster). There are a couple of weapons, but they seemed to be very rare.
There’s a story mode with a fairly dull story (and involves characters giving Robotnik chaos emeralds for a tournament he’s hosting…no surprise he has something up his sleeve) and some new characters who are descendants of an ancient group of thieves called Babylonians. Voice acting is especially bad, even for Sonic.
Sonic Riders is really just a confusing mess. The main thing I liked about it was the starting grid. You can walk backwards for more of a run up, then run forward to get your speed as high up. There’s an electric fence across the starting line that will stun you if you run into it before the countdown timer finishes. It’s way more fun than tapping a button at the right moment.
7. Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal
- Original Platform: 3DS
- Where to get: 3DS eShop
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal was the 3DS companion game for the infamous Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric on Wii U. From a technical standpoint, Shattered Crystal is a marvel compared to the Wii U game, as I didn’t encounter any problems.
In Shattered Crystal, you can switch between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Sticks – a crazy, paranoid badger with a boomerang – at any point by tapping the screen or the d-pad. All the characters feel the same in terms of how they run, jump, use their grappling hook and attack but they all have a unique ability: Sonic can dash through blocks (and gain extra height), Tails can glide and use gusts of wind, Knuckles can dig through tunnels and Sticks can throw her boomerang, mainly to activate switches.
When you have a decent platforming section, Shattered Crystal is really good fun, stringing together jumps, homing attacks and grapples is very satisfying. Sometimes having to switch characters can slow this down, but when the game lets you go fast, it’s a very solid game.
But Shattered Crystal isn’t about going fast. It’s about exploring overly large maze-like levels. To progress the game, you will need to collect Sonic badges. Completing each level will get you one, but this isn’t enough to progress, so you will need to find 6 blueprints and 4 crystal shards in each level. You need to find all of each in a level to get the Sonic badge (so collecting 5 blueprints in multiple levels is useless).
As you explore these maze-like levels you will encounter slingshots that send you to another part of the level, some of which will mean that you are now blocked, so if a collectible was there, you’ll have to do the level another time to progress. Other parts of the game can block progress backwards, too. On top of this, the first 5 or so levels you first play without all characters, so collecting them all is impossible first time round.
All this just makes the game slow, dull and frustrating. It’s a shame, because the core gameplay is solid. There are a couple of different types of levels: there are a couple of race levels which are amazing levels: it’s all about getting from A to B as fast as possible, there are multiple routes but generally the higher ones are quicker. The other kind are “worm tunnels”, where you run into the screen and move left/right to change path to dodge obstacles and collect rings. These levels are also really good.
While this game is based on the TV show, I don’t think it involves any of the writers from it. Sonic Boom’s jokes are surprisingly funny, while Shattered Crystal is just painful to read.
8. Sonic & SEGA AllStars Racing (DS)
- Original Platform: DS
- Where to get: Second hand
A handheld port of the first Sonic & SEGA racing game, and a really good one at that. The track designs have been altered to fit the DS more, ensuring it runs smoothly, but it still has the full array of tracks and characters. Even though there’s no analogue stick, the handling feels extremely solid, particularly drifting, perhaps even feeling tighter than Mario Kart DS.
It’s much harder to defend yourself from items, so you’ll be hit a lot. The best defensive weapon is a Mega Horn, which sends out a shockwave of sounds that hits opponents and destroys incoming weapons (wait, that sounds familiar…).
The DS version of the game features a completely different mission mode to the home console versions. Instead of getting rankings, you gain stars for how well you perform, and stars unlock more missions. These can be races, elimination races, shooting or avoiding obstacles, drifting or driving through rings (some of which I found difficult due to colour choices). It won’t take too long to complete them all, but getting 10 stars on all of them is definitely a big challenge.
9. Sonic Mania
- Original platform: PC, PS4, XBO, Switch
- Version played: PS4
- Where to get: Widely available digitally and physically.
After creating ports of Sonic CD, Sonic 1 and 2 on Android, Christian Whitehead got a chance to work on a new Sonic game. While it looks very similar to the Mega Drive Sonic games, Sonic Mania doesn’t limit itself to what the Mega Drive can do, and lots of small improvements can be noticed such as extra frames of animation on rings and background objects. In a way, Sonic Mania feels like this could have been what Sonic on the Sega Saturn could have been if they didn’t feel the need to go the 3D route.
My biggest issue with Sonic Mania is that it tries to rely on nostalgia when it doesn’t need to. Sonic Mania has 12 main levels, but 8 of them are remixed versions of levels from 1, 2, CD, 3 & Knuckles – including the often revisited Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant Zone. New levels include Studiopolis, Press Garden, Mirage Saloon and Titanic Monarch. All of these levels are brilliant, capturing the feel of classic Sonic levels while including their own twists on the formula. They all have a great style and brilliant music. I just wish the whole game could have been new levels.
Not that the remixed levels are bad. All of the Zones are two acts. The first act of each remxied level is exactly that: it feels like the original level, but different. Green Hill Zone Act 1 is pretty much the first two acts from the original combined,, while other levels have similar but different parts.
The second act of each returning zone, however, is essentially brand new, with new level gimmicks to focus on, some of them even look very different. These are all brilliant levels. Essentially, my main complaint with Sonic Mania is that I wish there was more: two separate games (one focusing on remix levels, one on new levels) would have been amazing to have.
- Original platform: Arcade
- Where to buy: Steam
Technically not a Sonic game, as Flicky was released before Sonic even existed. Nevertheless, Flicky does have ties to Sonic, as he appears in multiple Sonic games as some of the animals trapped inside the Badniks that Sonic has to save, and Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island is a semi-sequel to the Flicky arcade – it was even included in the Sonic Mega Collection.
In Flicky, you play as a small bird who has to rescue chicks. Once you run into them, they’ll follow you, but disperse if a cat touches them (if the cats touch you, do die). You have to gather them all up and take them to a door. These can be done one at a time, but you’ll score far more points if you cash them all in at once.
It’s a simple game, but surprisingly good fun. The jumping can be difficult in the tighter maze-like levels, especially as Flicky bounces off walls, but it’s all very charming – it reminds me of a game I used to play called QWAK.