Best Sonic Games: Ranking The Top 10 Entries In Series History
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Sonic the Hedgehog has a rocky history in the world of video games. Over the span of several decades, the Blue Blur has starred in more than 30 titles--ranging from critically acclaimed classics to universally panned spin-offs. Despite the spotty track record, Sonic boasts a loyal fanbase and remains one of the most iconic mascots in gaming. We've rounded up the best Sonic games of all time.
Rather than ranking every Sonic game ever made, we decided to stick to the top 10 entries in series history. That means that we'd recommend playing every game on this list, and you won't find the less than stellar (read: pretty bad) titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) or Sonic and the Black Knight on here. We also limited our picks to the traditional platforming adventures, but there are some Sonic spin-offs worth checking out, including Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood and Team Sonic Racing.
As you'll no doubt notice with our picks, Sonic the Hedgehog peaked early in its history, but several modern Sonic games managed to snag a spot here. Unsurprisingly, the upcoming Sonic Origins compilation contains four of the best Sonic games ever. Sonic Origins releases June 23 for consoles and PC. All of the other games on this list can be found easily on various modern platforms, too.
10. Sonic Colors
Sonic Colors was such a hit when it launched in 2010 that it earned a remastered release in 2021. The original spent several years in development and helped bring the series back to its roots after a few poorly received installments. Sonic Colors sees you stepping into the shoes of Sonic (and no one else) to tackle some fast-paced, light-hearted, platforming action. It's one of the easier games in series (Sega wanted to ensure the game had wide appeal), but with colorful graphics, a mixture of 2D and 3D gameplay, and tons of replayability, it stands as one of the best modern Sonic games to date. It's difficult to get your hands on the original, but you can enjoy an updated version, Sonic Colors: Ultimate, on most current-gen platforms.
See our Sonic Colors review.
9. Sonic Rush
This 2D platformer made liberal use of both screens on Nintendo DS, with vertical maps spanning both displays. You'll control both Sonic and newcomer Blaze, as you track down Dr. Eggman and Eggman Nega--a doppelgänger that's just as nefarious as his source material. One of its best features is the Tension Gauge, which accumulates after slaying enemies or pulling off tricks. You can then use it to activate a speed boost and quickly blast through levels in record time. Playing this one nowadays is a bit tricky, as few systems meet its dual-screen requirements, but you can still find Nintendo DS versions listed on Amazon for about $20.
See our Sonic Rush review.
8. Sonic Generations
Released as a celebration of Sonic's 20th anniversary, it should come as no surprise that Sonic Generations combines iconic, classic 2D gameplay with modern 3D platforming. You'll control Sonic as he dives into both side-scrolling and 3D worlds, each one coming requiring its own range of skills and unique challenges (such as Spin Dashing in 2D or Homing Attacks in 3D). Regardless of what form Sonic takes, you'll find a bevy of collectible content scattered throughout each level, and longtime fans of the series will notice more than a few familiar faces during their journey. Neither section of the game is perfect, but it’s a fun homage to the Blue Blur's past while still retaining some of its modern conveniences.
See our Sonic Generations review.
7. Sonic the Hedgehog
Despite all the subsequent releases, Sonic's original outing remains one of the best. It's the game that first introduced the world to high-speed platforming, and few titles have managed to better capture the thrill of zooming through loops, soaring over obstacles, and careening towards the end of each zone. The game has aged surprisingly well, and a variety of faithful ports to modern platforms make it easy to dive into its nostalgic worlds. You could also wait for Sonic Origins, which, of course includes Sonic's first adventure.
6. Sonic Advance
Sonic Advance succeeds by sticking closely to the formula established in the original Sega Genesis titles. Aside from Sonic, you'll be able to zip through stages as Tails, Knuckles, or Amy--each with their own skills that offer a different play style. Tails, for example, can fly and swim, while Knuckles can glide over enemies and obstacles. It's a bit on the short side, but Sonic Advance managed to bring the speedy action to Game Boy Advance with few sacrifices (if any). It received a pair of sequels that are worth playing as well.
See our Sonic Advance review.
5. Sonic Adventure 2
As the last Sonic game on Sega Dreamcast, Sonic Adventure 2 sent the hedgehog out with a bang. Built to offer faster gameplay than its predecessor, Sonic Adventure 2 sees you hurtling through 3D locations loosely based on the hills of San Francisco. The title is split into two distinct sections, with one offering a playable Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails, and the other a playable Shadow, Dr. Eggman, and Rouge. These give players a variety of gameplay scenarios beyond blistering 3D platforming, as you'll jump into mechs, explore open-world environments, and attempt to solve a handful of engaging puzzles.
See our Sonic Adventure 2 review.
4. Sonic CD
Originally launched on the obscure Sega CD, Sonic CD eventually went on to get a second chance with ports to PS2 and GameCube--and continues to be available on modern storefronts such as Steam (and soon as part of Sonic Origins). The beloved game stands as one of Sonic's best 2D adventures, introducing the world to both Metal Sonic and Amy Rose. It also boasts plenty of animated cutscenes, a relatively new development for the series. It even brought a wild time travel-based story to the mix, letting you jump into levels during different time periods.
See our Sonic CD review.
3. Sonic Mania
Developed by a team of fans (and led by Christian Whitehead, who had previously worked with Sega to produce mobile adaptions of classic Sonic titles), Sonic Mania is the ultimate fan-service game. It draws heavy inspiration from everything that made the old Genesis games iconic, such as gorgeous pixel art, meticulously crafted levels, and fast-paced platforming. Plenty of hidden collectibles are scattered about each level, giving you more than a few reasons to dive back in and rerun through each level once the final credits roll. You can pick this up on consoles and PC, and we'd recommend opting for Sonic Mania Plus thanks to the remixed Encore mode campaign and additional playable characters.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
It's difficult for sequels to live up to the original, but Sega managed to knock it out of the park with Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Developed by a split staff of Japanese and American developers, a load of content was cut from the final game due to numerous setbacks, but what emerged was a polished version of Sega's now-iconic platformer. Better levels, faster action, and improved visuals offered more of what fans loved about the original. Toeing the line between staying faithful to its predecessor and innovating when necessary (such as the addition of Spin Dash), Sonic 2 is a must-play entry in this long-running series.
See our Sonic 2 review.
1. Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 took the series to new heights. A stunning soundtrack, beautiful new environments, and the ability to control both Sonic and Tails brought players back to the lightning fast platformer in style. What makes it even better, however, is the addition of Knuckles--who becomes a playable character after connecting an additional Genesis cartridge to the base game. It's a bit like an old-school version of DLC, and Sega pulled it off flawlessly. The dual-cartridge functionality did more than add Knuckles to the fray, as it also featured new endings, new bosses, and a handful of new areas to explore. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 virtually perfected the original Sonic formula.
See our Sonic 3 review.