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Tim Turi's Top 10 Sonic The Hedgehog Games Of All Time

by Tim Turi on Apr 21, 2015 at 01:38 PM

I grew up playing the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis. That's what my family had. I adored my upbringing with Sega's consoles, but always felt like a black sheep watching my friends revel in Nintendo system classics like Mario, Zelda, and Mega Man. While I remained jealous of my peers' NES and SNES consoles for years, I took great pride in my wide collection of Sonic the Hedgehog games. Playing as the Blue Blur and his pals was an obsession for me at an early age. My fandom grew past his 16-bit titles to comic books, toys, TV shows, and running around with my friends pretending to be made-up Sonic characters until we were probably a little too old for it.

Stay tuned, I promise this is about ranking Sonic games...

Fast-forward several years to an interview with Game Informer's Andrew Reiner and Jeff Cork to determine whether I had the chops necessary to be the newest intern. I winced when they asked what systems I grew up playing, because I knew much of the GI staff cut its teeth on Nintendo hardware. Suddenly my Sonic and Sega-filled past, which I perceived as a potential detriment, was turned into a positive. My two interviewers expressed interest in the new perspective I offered. That internship eventually led to a full-time position, where the obligation of reviewing Sonic games was passed to me. The Hedgehog's career was flagging hard, and my familiarity with the series and newcomer status made the responsibility mine.

Combine my history growing up with Sonic and my time at Game Informer reviewing the Hedgehog's later career, and it's safe to say I have a comprehensive knowledge of the Sega mascot's lineup (though there are many passionate, outspoken fans who are happy to share their dissenting opinions about my reviews of recent entries). With no further ado, after 24 years of playing Sonic games, these are my 10 favorite entries.

10. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine - Sega Genesis (1993)
I still remember my potent disappointment after bringing home this game from the video store at a young age. I knew something was up right away, since the art for the game is pulled from the crappy Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon (not the awesome Sonic Saturday morning show). I didn't fully appreciate this match-four puzzler at first, but over the years it grew on me. Yes, it's essentially a Puyo Puyo Panic clone with badass 16-bit music, but the extra bit of Sonic flair from Robotnik's creations has made it something I continually return to.

9. Sonic Adventure - Sega Dreamcast (1999)
When Sonic Adventure first released on Dreamcast in 1999, I remember it lit my brain on fire with possibilities. Everyone recalls Sonic speeding away from a raging orca, but my fondest memories involve soaring through a lush, open jungle as Knuckles. The freedom to explore the colorful space as one of my favorite characters ever was captivating, even if the controls and design didn't stand the test of time. I also have a soft spot in my heart for raising the adorable little Chaos on my VMU. Rest in peace, little dudes.

8. Sonic Rush - Nintendo DS (2005)
Sonic has always been fast, and his useful spindash move is a helpful way for him to quickly pick up the pace. This DS title took things a step further by introducing an instant boost that turns Sonic into an unstoppable blue ball of energy, which was integrated into some of the later entries. Combined with side-scrolling level design in line with the 16-bit era, and you've got a fun, fast-paced twist on a solid formula. While the core 2D action is satisfying and familiar, Sega's ambitions to integrate 2.5D boss fights fell a little flat.

7. Sonic Advance - Game Boy Advance (2002)
Sonic Adventure set the hedgehog off on a new trajectory into a new dimension, complete with longer legs and green eyes. Sonic Adventure 2 released in 2001, and while the 3D sequel never captivated me, another Sonic game released the same year that satisfied my love for the 16-bit era games. The side-scrolling Sonic Advance was a combined developmental effort from Sonic Team and Dimps; the latter developer would go on to be responsible for some of the better 2D Sonic games in years to come. Sonic Advance took Sonic's new Sonic Adventure look back to its 2D roots, allowing players to speed through colorful levels, hunt down chaos emeralds in Sonic 2-style bonus stages, and attack levels differently depending on which character you choose. The rest of Dimp's Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush titles are solid, but this one really struck a chord with me.

6. Sonic Colors - Nintendo DS (2010)
From the early 2000s on, Sonic games would become some of the most divisive on the market (until last year's universally loathed Sonic Boom, anyway). While fans frothed at the mouth debating the ups and downs of the main series, the Hedgehog enjoyed a series of excellent, under-the-radar portable games. Sonic Colors DS marks the end of Dimps' streak of killer side-scrollers. Sonic Colors DS pulls from its big-brother Wii counterpart by offering Sonic a variety of colorful power-ups, like a drill or ricocheting laser transformation. These elements, combined with an excellent soundtrack and old-school level design make Sonic Colors DS one of the best Sonic games in recent years.

Up next: The defining era of Sonic...

5. Sonic CD - Sega CD (1993)
Sega's line of Genesis-expanding peripherals confused the hell out of me as a kid, and if I didn't understand their function/appeal, then there was no chance my parents would ever think to buy me a Sega CD. For that reason, I missed out on Sonic CD way back when, left to only drool at grainy magazine screenshots and quietly dream. Years later, I was finally introduced to the game as part of the Sonic Gems Collection. I loved seeing Sonic's sprite from the first Genesis game come to life again with new running animations. The time-traveling mechanic befuddled me at first, but eventually I grew to appreciate the solid level design and Robotnik boss fights. A goal of mine is still to acquire all the time stones, master the time-travel manipulation mechanic, and take down Robotnik in the true final encounter.

4. Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis (1991)
Franchise creator Yuji Naka's first Sonic game kicked off a legendary series, and the original is still one of the best. This classic has been rereleased, repackaged, and replayed so many times that many players can practically blast through Green Hill Zone with their eyes shut. Sure, Sonic's iconic and useful spindash is missing, but the multi-pathed level design gives players several routes to make it to the end. Also, each zone has three acts, tripling the amount of fun per level compared to many other Sonic titles. The original Sonic is an undisputed classic and a must-play for anyone who cares about gaming's roots.

3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Sega Genesis (1992)
This sequel retained everything that its predecessor got right while innovating on all the right fronts. Sonic earned his aforementioned spindash, allowing him to curl into a ball and shoot off from 0 to 60 instantly. The addition of the flying fox, Tails, gave your friends something to do besides watching you hog the controller. Using the near-invincible Tails to deal damage to one of Robotnik's inventive killing machines is one of my fondest memories of the series. Sonic 2 also ramped up the epic feeling of the adventure, like soaring through the skies in a flying stage, blasting off into space, or confronting Robotnik's monstrous final machine. Layer on a powerfully colorful palette and some of the catchiest tunes in any game ever (Chemical Plant Zone, everybody), and you have one of the best sequels ever made.

1 & 2. Sonic 3 & Knuckles - Sega Genesis (1994)
The top entry on my list is a tie between Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. These two games get unique treatment, because - due to the then mind-blowing lock-on technology - their combination is greater than the sum of their individual parts. Sonic 3 allowed players to save for the first time, making Sonic and Tails' adventure from meeting Knuckles on Angel Island to confronting Dr. Robotnik at Launch Base Zone more accessible. Sonic 3 also made co-op more fun, allowing the second player to control Tails' flying and even give Sonic a lift to hard-to-reach spots. Sonic & Knuckles, while not equipped with a save function, allowed players to finally control Knuckles in the events immediately following Sonic 3. Appreciated separately, these are two of the finest side-scrolling games to come out of the 16-bit era. But when these games are locked on to one another, they unite to form the definitive Sonic the Hedgehog experience.

Combining these cartridges allows you to seamlessly play both games from the beginning of Sonic 3 all the way to the end of Sonic & Knuckles (Sonic & Knuckles could also be used to magically play through Sonic 2 as Knuckles). The freedom to experience Knuckles' journey from the moment he's duped by Dr. Robotnik, to the moment he gets revenge at the end of the saga melted my 9 year-old brain. Even better, you're treated to the "real ending" after collecting all the chaos and hyper emeralds. I didn't discover this until I'd already spent months endlessly playing through Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Unlocking the Doomsday Zone, becoming Hyper Sonic, and chasing Robotnik through the stars was a revelation I'll never forget.

What are your favorite Sonic games? Feel free to tell me how wrong you think I am, or how much you agree.