SONIC has had its ups and downs over the years, going from the driving force behind the Sega Mega Drive, to a laughing stock.
But there are some surprising hidden gems in the series that you may not know about.
Ah yes, Sonic with a sword,
While the good games and the bad games might seem obvious, without a ranking, you could miss out on a classic.
Here are all the mainline Sonic the Hedgehog games ranked best to worst.
The best Sonic game had to be a 2D one, but surprisingly it’s not one that comes from the 2D era.
Mania started out as a fan project that finally became official, and brought a lot of modern improvements to the beloved 2D games.
The remixes of classic levels bring nostalgia, while the original levels will challenge even hardened Sonic fans.
Introducing the Drop Dash created more ways to maintain your momentum, and pushed the skill ceiling high for time trials and speed +runs.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
Sonic 3 and Knuckles were developed at a time when the ambition at Sega went beyond what they could fit on one Mega Drive cart.
So the one game was released as two, giving you multiple ways to play, and introducing new playable characters to older games.
This felt magical at the time, and it boasts some of the best level designs that the series has ever seen.
Take into account the soundtrack 3 is rumoured to have been written in part by Michael Jackson, and the save system which was rare for the Mega Drive, and you’ll see that Sonic 3 was way ahead of its time.
The Rush series is still beloved by fans, showing how Sonic could be translated into handheld, with these fantastic DS games.
It answered the call of fans, who were asking for some classic Sonic platforming gameplay among a sea of terrible 3D games.
Rush Adventure is the better of the two, with ocean fairing minigames and challenging boss fights.
It may be popular because of the time it was released, but it was a refreshing answer to our prayers.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
As we said, 2D Sonic is best Sonic, and this one has long been considered one of the series best.
It lacks the innovation that the third game in the series brought, but it still maintains a solid level design, and the fundamentals of momentum that make the series great.
Sonic 2 features some great boss fights, and arguably the best Chaos Emerald mini-game of the series.
It’s an incredibly solid game, and the baseline that Sonic games should try to at least reach.
Best 3D Sonic game may sound like a backhanded compliment, but Frontiers is so far beyond the rest of the pack that it’s meant as a sincere one.
Frontiers took the series into a completely open world, making the gameplay fresh for the first time in years.
It also introduced new speed mechanics, and ways that you can travel around and explore.
Most of all it shows that Sonic Team can and should experiment with the formula and find out what works, and what doesn’t, for the blue blur.
It’s true that we like this one thanks to the fact that you can play the original Sonic the Hedgehog in it with unlimited continues
However, it also provides a lot of worth in its own right, with good level design throughout both the 2D and 3D platforming sections.
Generations doesn’t overcomplicate things in the way that other 3D Sonic games do, which is its main strength.
When people talk about how terrible 3D Sonic games are, they’ll usually whisper that Generations is the exception.
Sonic 4 made things a little weird, and since then fans have considered Sonic CD the true fourth entry in the series.
Sonic CD was originally being developed by Sega’s Japanese team as an enhanced version of Sonic 2, and eventually became its own well-defined game.
It doesn’t feel like a classic Sonic 2D platformer, even though this is the central gameplay.
However, it did add time travel elements that changed up levels, and brought another amazing Sonic soundtrack, making it one worth playing.
Before Sonic Rush, Sonic Advance was the first handheld Sonic spin-off that truly benefited from the way Sonic games were floundering on home consoles.
Advance also has a great use of multiple characters, and a unique visual design that has given it a boost.
The Advance games aren’t the best that Sonic has to offer, but fans of the 2D games will find more of that here.
Sonic the Hedgehog
The original Sonic the Hedgehog set the foundation for what makes the series so great, but lacks aspects that make the sequels must-play games.
One vital ingredient missing from the original is the ability to do Sonic’s signature move, the Spin Dash, and all the momentum that goes with it.
It still has interesting level design, difficult bosses, and fun worlds to run through, but the later 2D Sonic games just do it better.
The Sonic Adventure games are not as good as you remember, and do not hold up by modern standards, no matter what your brain is telling you.
While we now think that Sonic’s transition to 3D started strong, it still suffered from a lot of issues, including the controls, and the camera.
It does have bombastic cutscenes, and some strong platforming sections, but these are bogged down by core frustrations.
If you must play one, play the sequel, but be warned that it isn’t as good as you remember it.
There is a fairly large, dedicated fan base of Sonic Colors enjoyers, but possibly just as large is the number of haters.
The speed-based 3D levels were a joy to play, but a surprisingly large amount of the game is spent collecting wisps to solve puzzles.
These wisps ended up sucking the life out of what could have been a strong fast-paced platformer, but it’s not the worst Sonic game by a long shot.
Knuckles Chaotix was Sonic’s last attempt at 2D, and it was… okay.
You control two characters tied together by a pair of rings, so you can perform some cool movement by tensing the rope and letting go.
However, this ramps us in difficulty the further you play, and ends up getting quite irritating.
We actually like the daytime levels of Sonic Unleashed, but that doesn’t make up for the nightmare of the levels after dark.
Sonic the Werehog — the name for his wolf form, even though werehog means humanhog, which is what he is usually — is an abomination.
The framerate chugs uncontrollably, and it turns into a rather lacklustre brawler, which makes Unleashed not worth your time.
You may have fond memories of Sonic Heroes, but this is probably because you didn’t finish it.
The 12 playable characters are a nice touch, giving you three different styles of platforming in each team.
However, the longer you stick with it, the more irritating this gets, as you swap characters every few minutes giving this gimmick less meaning.
Sonic Forces exists, but there isn’t much else we can say about it.
When people talk about how bad 3D Sonic games are, this is a solid, extremely dull example.
Sonic and the Secret Rings / Sonic and the Black Knight
While Sonic Team were working on the next mainline games, two Wii exclusives were released.
Both Secret Rings and Black Knight are on-rails auto-runners, where you don’t control how Sonic moves forward, just his direction left or right.
This sucks all the ‘Gotta go fast’ outta Sonic, and makes these games pretty dull.
Sonic Lost World
Sonic Lost World takes this list from dull games, to straight up bad games.
By this point Sonic and Mario had been compared for years, and then Sonic Team decided to unceremoniously rip-off the successful Mario Galaxy games.
However, the differences between Mario and Sonic are too big to make this work. Sonic feels slow, unresponsive and no fun to control.
While Sonic was a Sega console staple for a long time, he didn’t survive the switch to the Game Gear intact.
He has this pseudo 3D-sprite, and the hardware of the Game Gear just didn’t allow for the fun momentum based mechanics that the home console could provide.
When paired with the limited screen space, you usually could tell if you were about to run into a hazard until it was already too late.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4
Sonic Blast was terrible because it was on the Game Gear, whereas Sonic 4 was just bad.
It was supposed to be Sonic’s triumphant return to 2D platforming, but just ended up a mess between the classic games, and the new 3D mechanics.
The homing attack was a mess, and there was no telling what Sonic would lock on to. That aside it’s the ugliest Sonic has ever looked.
Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island
Despite the title this is an isometric game, and this had some unfortunate side effects.
Sonic is very difficult to control, and while this game got his speed and momentum right, the weird terrain can make things difficult to work out.
Finding and collecting all the Flickies could also be a pain as they had a tendency to wander off, and Knuckles kept popping up and stealing all your rings.
The redesign of the characters is controversial to say the least. While many thought they were ugly, they are at least finally expressive.
However, what’s not up for debate is how the game runs. It has an inconsistent framerate, dialogue clipping, and glitches galores.
If you mix this with all the movement exploits, where you can fly pretty much anywhere, and uninspired level design, and Boom is almost unplayable.
Shadow the Hedgehog
Shadow is the edgy bad boy of the Sonic world, and to ensure he stays true to that character this game gave him a gun.
That aside, Shadow is difficult to control even in open spaces, and his momentum is a mess.
This means that you could lock-on to an enemy or you could just end up running off a cliff. It also has the most cringe of all Sonic games, if the rest wasn’t enough to put you off.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2006
Perhaps in an attempt to sway public opinion around to the idea of 3D Sonic games, Sonic Team decided to reboot the series, and this is what they made.
The game is incredibly broken, impossible to control, and you will fall through parts of the level at any moment.
That wouldn’t be so bad except it has a lives system, which was outdated even in 2006.
It’s a terrible 3D platformer which introduces and discards new mechanics at will, and then there’s the Silver fight, and as we know “it’s no use”.
Put all that together and throw in the fact that Sonic has a romantic relationship with a human child, and this is a game we wish never existed.
Written by Ryan Woodrow and Georgina Young on behalf of GLHF.