Sonic the Hedgehog is a media franchise owned by Sega, centering on a series of high-speed platform games. Sonic, the protagonist, is an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog with supersonic speed. Typically, Sonic must stop antagonist Doctor Eggman’s plans for world domination, often helped by his friends, such as Tails, Amy and Knuckles.
The first Sonic the Hedgehog game, released in 1991, was conceived by Sega’s Sonic Team division after Sega requested a new mascot character to replace Alex Kidd and compete with Nintendo’s mascot Mario. Its success spawned many sequels and helped Sega become one of the leading video game companies during the 16 bit era of the early 1990s. The first major 3D Sonic game, Sonic Adventure, was released in 1998 for the Dreamcast. Spin-offs have explored other genres, including racing games such as Sonic R and sports games such as Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.
Take a look below for 10 of the best Sonic the Hedgehog games ever released.
1. Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 is a 2001 platform game developed by Sonic Team USA and published by Sega. The sequel to Sonic Adventure, it was the final Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Dreamcast after Sega discontinued the console. It features two good-vs-evil stories: Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles “Tails” Prower and Knuckles the Echidna attempt to save the world, while Shadow the Hedgehog, Doctor Eggman and Rouge the Bat attempt to conquer it. The stories are divided into three gameplay styles: fast-paced platforming for Sonic and Shadow, multi-directional shooting for Tails and Eggman, and action-exploration for Knuckles and Rouge.
Development began soon after the American release of Sonic Adventure in 1999 and lasted 18 months. The game was produced in commemoration of the Sonic series’ tenth anniversary and was designed to be faster-paced and more action-oriented than the original. The development team also expanded upon the presence of the Chao creatures and other player characters. Its locations were influenced by American locations such as San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. Sega announced Sonic Adventure 2 in October 1999 and exhibited it at E3 2000. It was released on June 23, 2001.
Sonic Adventure 2 received generally positive reviews for its gameplay variety, visuals, and audio, though some criticized its camera, voice acting, and plot. An enhanced port for the GameCube, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, was released worldwide in 2002; this version features improved textures and multiplayer options. Sonic Adventure 2 was also released as a downloadable game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows in late 2012.
2. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a platform game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis console, released worldwide in November 1992. It is the second main entry in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and introduced Sonic’s sidekick, Miles “Tails” Prower, controllable by a second player. In the story, Sonic and Tails must stop series antagonist Dr. Ivo Robotnik from stealing the Chaos Emeralds to power his space station, the Death Egg.
Development of the game began in November 1991. The game was developed by both Japanese and American staff at Sega Technical Institute. Art director Tim Skelly designed the appearance of the new 3D special stages based on a tech demo created by Yuji Naka. The staff increased the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in comparison to its predecessor. As with the first game, the soundtrack was composed by Masato Nakamura.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 sold over six million copies, making it the second-bestselling Genesis game behind the original Sonic the Hedgehog. It received highly positive reviews from critics, who commended the game’s level design and visuals, although its multiplayer mode was criticized. It has been re-released on various platforms; a remastered version developed using the Retro Engine released on iOS and Android in December 2013. Two direct sequels, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, were released in 1994.
3. Sonic Generations
Sonic Generations is a 2011 platform game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, and Microsoft Windows. An installment in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, the game—which was produced in commemoration of its twentieth anniversary—follows Sonic and his sidekick Tails as they form an alliance with their past selves to stop an evil entity from erasing all time. It features two gameplay styles: “Classic”, which plays from a side-scrolling perspective like that of the original Sega Genesis Sonic games, and “Modern”, 3D levels similar to those in Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors.
Development of Sonic Generations began in 2009, following the completion of Unleashed. Sonic Team sought to re-imagine the most popular aspects of the franchise in high-definition, and developed the game using the Hedgehog Engine. Each location and many bosses in the game are previously seen in an earlier entry in the series, with the game including numerous other references to past entries. Devil’s Details and Dimps helped create the Windows and 3DS versions, respectively. The Windows version is noted for its active modding scene, where a dedicated community creates new gameplay mechanics, levels, and assets for the game.
The game received positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success, selling 1.85 million copies by May 2012. Reviewers found its visuals, audio, and gameplay to be highlights, and called it a good tribute to the franchise. It also received some criticism, mostly for its occasional frame rate and control problems. Reception to the 3DS version was mixed; reviewers criticized its short length and design, and deemed it worse than Dimps’ previous Sonic games. The Classic iteration of Sonic introduced in the game has continued to make appearances throughout the franchise.
4. Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (also known as Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic 3 Complete Version or Knuckles in Sonic 3) is a platform video game which is the result of locking-on Sonic & Knuckles with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 using the former cartridge’s unique “lock-on” technology. It is essentially a large combined game of its two lock-on components which contains all Zones from the said games and also contains special features unique to this game. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles is the original Sonic the Hedgehog 3 the developers intended to release but time constraints by Sega resulted in the game being split into two.
While the gameplay in Sonic 3 & Knuckles generally remains identical to its two components, there are new features exclusive in this game and there are a large number of gameplay changes present.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles received critical acclaim, with many fans still regarding it as the best Sonic the Hedgehog game of the franchise.
5. Sonic Heroes
Sonic Heroes is a 2003 3D platform game in Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog series. The player races a team of series characters through levels to amass rings, defeat robots, and collect the seven Chaos Emeralds needed to defeat Doctor Eggman. Within each level, the player switches between the team’s three characters, who each have unique abilities, to overcome obstacles. Sonic Heroes abandons the action-adventure and exploration-based games of its predecessors Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 and instead returns to the linear style of Sega Genesis-era Sonic games.
The game was the first multi-platform Sonic game, produced for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Windows, and Xbox platforms. Sonic Team USA’s Yuji Naka and Takashi Iizuka led the game’s 20-month development. The team wanted Sonic Heroes to appeal beyond Sonic series fans and so designed a game that did not depend on the continuation of its predecessors. The team revived elements not seen since the Genesis Sonic games, such as special stages and the Chaotix characters. Sega released Sonic Heroes in Japan in December 2003 and worldwide in early 2004.
Reviewers were polarized. They praised the game’s focus on fast gameplay and noted its similarities to the series’ original 2D entries, a choice that some considered an improvement from the Sonic Adventure games. Reviewers also highlighted its graphic design and detailed environments and textures. Critics, however, derided the game for not addressing the problems of previous series games, such as poor camera controls and voice acting. Despite mixed reviews, it was a major commercial success, with 3.41 million copies sold by 2007.
6. Sonic Colors
Sonic Colors is a 2010 platform video game published by Sega. An installment in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, it follows Sonic’s quest to stop his nemesis Doctor Eggman from enslaving an alien race and taking over the world. The gameplay is similar to prior Sonic games, with players collecting rings and defeating enemies; the camera perspective occasionally switches from third-person to side-scrolling perspectives. The game also introduces Wisps, power-ups the player can use to increase attack power and reach new areas.
Development of Sonic Colors began in 2008, following the completion of Sonic Unleashed. Examining criticisms of past games, the developers made Sonic the only playable character and worked to balance speed and platforming; the Wisps were introduced to diversify the gameplay without slowing it down. Two versions of the game were developed: one for the Wii by Sonic Team, and one for the Nintendo DS by Dimps. The game was designed for a wider demographic than previous games, specifically children and fans of the Super Mario series. In anticipation of the game’s release, Sega delisted several Sonic games with sub-average Metacritic scores to increase the value of the brand.
Sonic Colors received positive reviews. Critics recommended the title for its graphics, audio, gameplay, replay value, and considered it an improvement over previous installments. However, some criticized its difficulty and weak multiplayer mode. The game was a commercial success, selling over two million copies. The Wisp power-ups introduced in Sonic Colors became a staple of the Sonic series.
7. Sonic Adventure
Sonic Adventure is a 1998 platform game for Sega’s Dreamcast, and the first main Sonic the Hedgehog game to feature three-dimensional (3D) gameplay. The story follows Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles “Tails” Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose, Big the Cat, and E-102 Gamma in their quests to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds and stop Doctor Robotnik from unleashing Chaos. Controlling one of the six characters—each with their own special abilities—players explore a series of themed levels to progress through the story. Outside the main game, players can play minigames like racing and interact with Chao, a virtual pet.
Following the cancellation of the Sega Saturn game Sonic X-treme, Sonic Team began work on Sonic Adventure in 1997. A 60-member development team created the game in ten months, drawing inspiration from locations in Peru and Guatemala. Yuji Uekawa redesigned the characters for their transition to 3D, and features were added to take advantage of the Dreamcast hardware. Sega announced the game in August 1998; it was released in Japan that December and worldwide in September 1999.
The game received critical acclaim and, with 2.5 million copies sold by August 2006, became the Dreamcast’s bestseller. Reviewers lauded the visuals and gameplay, calling it a major technological advancement; some speculated that it could re-establish Sega as the dominant console manufacturer after the relatively unsuccessful Saturn. Others were frustrated by the camera controls and glitches, and reactions to its audio were mixed. Despite this, journalists have ranked Sonic Adventure among the best Sonic games, and it is recognized as an important release in both the series and the platform genre. A sequel, Sonic Adventure 2, was released in 2001.
Sonic Adventure was ported to the GameCube and Windows in 2003 as Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut, featuring updated graphics and more challenges. A high-definition version was released digitally for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, and for Windows in 2011. Reviews for these versions were less positive; critics felt the game was not ported well to newer hardware and that it had not aged well, while running at an inconsistent frame rate.
8. Sonic CD
Sonic the Hedgehog CD, commonly referred to as Sonic CD, is a 1993 platform game for the Sega CD. The story follows Sonic the Hedgehog as he attempts to save an extraterrestrial body, Little Planet, from Doctor Robotnik. As a Sonic the Hedgehog series platformer, Sonic runs and jumps through several themed levels while collecting rings and defeating robots. Sonic CD is distinguished from other Sonic games by its time travel feature, a key aspect to the story and gameplay. By traveling through time, players can access different versions of stages featuring alternate layouts, music and graphics based on the time period.
The Sega CD’s flagship game, Sonic CD was conceived as an enhanced port of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but was reworked after lackluster sales of Sonic 2 in Japan. Sonic co-creator Naoto Ohshima directed and Sega developers designed the game to show off the technical capabilities of the Sega CD. The game features the debuts of Amy Rose and Metal Sonic, and includes animated cutscenes produced by Toei Animation. Two soundtracks were composed for the game: the original score was composed by Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata, while the North American score was composed by members of Sega Technical Institute.
Sonic CD is often called one of the best games in the Sonic series and the platform game genre. Reviewers praised its exceptional size, music, and the time travel feature, although some also believed the game did not use the Sega CD’s capabilities to its fullest. It sold over 1.5 million copies, making it the Sega CD’s bestseller. The game was ported to Windows as part of the Sega PC brand in 1996, and to PlayStation 2 and GameCube as part of Sonic Gems Collection in 2005. A remastered version, developed by Christian Whitehead using the Retro Engine, was released for various platforms and mobile devices in 2011.
9. Sonic Unleashed
Sonic Unleashed is a 2008 platform video game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The story follows Sonic as he attempts to restore the world after his nemesis Doctor Eggman shatters it with a powerful laser to unleash Dark Gaia, an ancient evil, while dealing with his “Werehog” form, which he gains after coming into contact with the energy of Dark Gaia. Gameplay features two distinct styles, with each being played either during daytime or nighttime.
Daytime stages incorporate Sonic’s traditional platforming and trademark speed, with a combination of behind-the-back third-person viewpoints and 2D side-scroller platforming; gameplay seamlessly transitions between these two views. Night-time levels see Sonic transform into the Werehog; gameplay slows down to accommodate greater platform play, and involves combat against waves of enemies using the Werehog’s brute strength.
The game’s development began in 2006, after the creation of its game engine, the Hedgehog Engine. It was initially conceived as a sequel to Sonic Adventure 2, but developer Sonic Team began to introduce enough new innovations that separated it from previous games, and it was renamed Unleashed. The Werehog gameplay was conceived to help introduce newer gamers unfamiliar with the Sonic franchise to the series.
The game’s existence was first brought to light when Sega trademarked the Unleashed name in March 2008, and shortly after, images and a gameplay video were leaked. Three versions of the game were developed: one by Sonic Team for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, one by Sonic Team and Dimps for the Wii and PlayStation 2, and one by Gameloft for mobile phones. Sonic Unleashed was released in the west in November 2008, and in Japan the following month.
Public anticipation for Sonic Unleashed was high, as video game journalists saw it as a possible return to Sonic’s platforming roots. While it was commercially successful—selling 2.45 million units—critical reception was mixed. Reviewers praised certain elements, such as the sense of speed in daylight stages and the graphics and audio that make up the environments, but criticized others, such as the Werehog game mechanic, as well as several gameplay and design concepts.
Many felt Unleashed was not the game to reinvigorate the series. Sonic Unleashed was delisted from retailers in 2010, following Sega’s decision to remove all Sonic games with below-average Metacritic scores from sale. Despite this, the game was released on the PlayStation Network in April 2014 and on PlayStation Now in March 2017, and was also given Xbox One backwards compatibility on November 29, 2018.
10. Shadow The Hedgehog
Shadow the Hedgehog is a 2005 platform game developed by Sega Studios USA, the former United States division of Sonic Team, and published by Sega. It is a spin-off from the Sonic the Hedgehog series and follows Shadow the Hedgehog, a creation of Doctor Eggman’s grandfather, Professor Gerald Robotnik, as he attempts to learn about his past while suffering from amnesia.
Shadow the Hedgehog introduces third-person shooter elements and nonlinear gameplay to the Sonic franchise. To defeat enemies, Shadow can use various weapons and special attacks, and most levels have three possible missions that the player may choose to complete. The missions completed determine the game’s plot and subsequently playable levels.
The development team wanted to make a game featuring Shadow to capitalize on the character’s popularity and resolve plot mysteries that began with his introduction in Sonic Adventure 2. Director Takashi Iizuka, who targeted a younger audience with previous Sonic games, strove to attract an older audience with Shadow the Hedgehog; Shadow’s darker character also allowed the team to use elements otherwise inappropriate for the series. The game was revealed at the March 2005 Walk of Game event, and was released for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in November 2005.
Shadow the Hedgehog received generally unfavorable reviews from critics, who disliked its controls, plot, and dark themes, and took particular issue with the addition of guns and other weapons to traditional Sonic gameplay. However, some praised its replay value. The game was commercially successful, selling 2.06 million copies by March 2007.