The blue haze has reappeared. Sonic the Hedgehog fans have finally gotten a proper follow-up to the original Sonic games from the Genesis era with Sonic Mania, after what seems like an eternity. Furthermore, the game itself is a lot of fun, combining classic levels with new concepts and designs, and was produced by Sonic fan game producers in collaboration with Sega.
It’s a true gem that every Sonic fan, new or old, should play. But, once you’ve finished, what’s next? Fortunately, good Sonic games haven’t been hard to come by in past years. Let’s take a look at five recent Sonic games to play the time once you’ve finished Sonic Mania.
1. Sonic Lost World
The best 3D platformers are acclaimed for the predictability of their jumping and movement, which creates a sense of rhythm and control, much like a good sports car is praised for the predictability of its grip and braking performance. Lost World, to its credit, looks the part. The framerate is fixed at 60 frames per second, and each act’s visual motifs hit all the right notes.
World one pays homage to Sonic history with the “Green Hill” aesthetic, and it grows from there to include a variety of classic themes, ranging from pinball casinos to beachfront resorts. Colors are vibrant and well-saturated, yet they can appear flat at times, lacking the depth and vibrancy I expect from such a diverse palette. Though it marginally dulls Lost World’s appearance, it doesn’t make it any less appealing to look at.
If only it was as enjoyable to play. Lost World is an odd sort of design achievement in that nothing is wrong, yet there’s a subtle, but major tuning decision lurking around every corner that conspires to throw a monkeywrench in the works.
I’ve become acclimated to how controlling Sonic feels, just like any other long-time Sonic fan, and Lost World throws that familiarity out the window in some jarring ways. Sonic, for one, does not accelerate as quickly as he has in the past.
Moving the left stick puts him into a leisurely jog that’s more Italian plumber than blue hedgehog, and his speed felt deficient even while dashing with the right button depressed. Furthermore, jumping depletes your forward velocity, resulting in leaps that are significantly shorter than you may think.
Sonic no longer accelerates during his jumps, thus you’ll have to rely on the double-jump (returning from Sonic Colors) to go through all but the tiniest of gaps.
Sonic’s wall running has also grown in popularity, which I’d be all for if it weren’t for the fact that he has a habit of wall running on whatever vertical surface he’s airborne near, whether I want him to or not. A new secondary lock-on attack has you homing in on adversaries and punting them forward to clear out their mates as well, but everything comes to a standstill every time you do so.
Its goal is to draw attention to the hit, but all it accomplishes is to disrupt the flow of movement. Lost World stopped me from the speed and precision I sought almost every opportunity. I’ve played a lot of Sonic games over the years, and the controls have never felt as strange or unresponsive as they do here.
Sonic’s usual speed is conveyed in a few scripted instances, although these are largely mini-cutscenes that take control away from you. Only a few levels got out of my way long enough for me to build up a real head of steam, but for the most part, I was trapped watching Sonic go fast rather than making him go fast.
The level designs, which feel to be influenced by Super Mario Galaxy, exacerbate these issues. I’ll gladly give them credit for expanding my exploring options, but putting much of the 3D environment on cylinders and spheres also forces a bunch of lateral movement, which goes against my natural hedgehog desire to run towards the horizon.
In fact, Lost World makes every effort to make you play it like a Mario game, but it lacks the intelligent layouts and raw imagination necessary to succeed.
The inconsequential puzzle aspects add nothing to the experience, and the slow, overly-long jumping segments are more a test of patience than talent. The gamepad-based mini-games, however, come across as desperate attempts to cram a second-screen experience into a game that doesn’t really need one.
You’d think the 2D portions would be able to break away from this design impasse, but they don’t. The same control flaws persist, compounded by level designs lacking the rhythm and coherence that defined the franchise in the 16-bit era.
There was an opportunity to inject some life into the experience with some traditional Sonic precision, but Sonic is forced to bumble along instead. On top of that, the almost eight-hour story of Lost World is sprinkled with extra mediocre moments.
Due to strange spin-dash and lock-on attack flaws, I died a lot of cheap deaths. While screaming lines like “I’ve been dreaming of banging your pitiful blue butt!” the major villains offer up some of the most boring battles in the series’ history. I wish I wasn’t making it up.
And I’m here to tell you that whoever approved Lost World’s ice show, Frozen Factory, must despise fun. Sonic encases himself in a giant snowball and slowly and uncontrollably slips and slides across narrow ledges flanked by bottomless pits. That’s the only explanation for a five-minute level where Sonic encases himself in a giant snowball and slowly and uncontrollably slips and slides across narrow ledges flanked by bottomless pits.
This is a huge disappointment for Sega’s speeding blue bullet after the popularity of Sonic 4, Colors, and Generations. Sonic Lost World clumsily takes all the wrong pages out of the Super Mario Galaxy playbook, losing the frantic speed and fluidity that distinguishes a Sonic game. It may talk the talk graphically, but the controls and level design can’t even walk the walk, let alone run it.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I
Over the last decade, SEGA’s mascot has endured a long and often punishing journey. After a string of missteps on consoles, SEGA reverted to a time when Sonic was the king of platforming. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a part remake, part sequel that recreates four zones from the original Genesis game while adding enough bells and whistles to make it feel new.
Take a deep breath, Sonic enthusiasts. SEGA got it right on this one. Dr. Eggman is up to his old tricks once more, and it’s up to Sonic to stop him. You’ll pursue the wicked doctor across four zones, each with three acts and a boss battle, as well as a final boss battle stage that will put your Sonic talents to the ultimate test. If the stages appear familiar, it’s because they are.
These are all places inspired by the original Sonic game, but once you go past the Splash Hill Zone (previously the Green Hill Zone), the levels begin to diverge significantly from the original Sonic.
In the Lost Labyrinth, you’ll use a torch to look for the exit in the dark and light dynamite to blow up obstacles. At one point, you even get to ride on a bizarre mining cart. Playing cards flip over as you run past them on Casino Street, forming poker-style hands that reward you bonuses as you go through the level.
In the Mad Gear Zone, you must run across huge gears to open new passageways, as well as the usual vacuum tubes that propel you through the level. The special stages are also back, with Sonic freefalling across a rotating level on his approach to acquiring a Chaos Emerald.
Though the art style is similar to that of the original Genesis game, the visuals have been modernized. This is a very nice Sonic game. The levels are well-designed, with plenty of detail and vibrant colors that explode off the screen. SEGA did a good job of recreating the original’s feel without making it look antiquated.
In terms of gameplay, there hasn’t been anything changed. Sonic continues to win by running, leaping, and bonking his way to victory.
All of the original power-ups, such as superspeed, invulnerability, and the bubble shield, have returned and work back as they did when Sonic first sped into gamers’ homes and hearts. However, the levels are varied, so it doesn’t feel like a repeat.
Sonic 4 is a good mix of classic Sonic with a few quirks to keep things interesting. Obviously, the experience was to reproduce the joy of discovering new paths and the worry of attempting to complete a level without losing your rings, which SEGA accomplished admirably.
But, since this is Sonic 4, I’d have liked to see more of a progression from the game I played as a youngster. At the very least, instead of going back to the beginning, I’d like to see some of the features introduced in Sonic 2 and 3 (like co-op!).
The lock-on targeting technique is the only substantial gameplay improvement (for a side-scrolling console Sonic game). You may now target an enemy or a bumper with ease and fly directly for it. This isn’t just for fun; it’s essential to progress through certain of Sonic’s levels.
It’s a significant departure for a typical Sonic side-scroller, yet it doesn’t detract from the experience. If you’re a purist, you’ll probably despise this. If you’re a purist, however, you should just play a port of the original game. It’s not like the lock-on hasn’t been employed in Sonic DS games in the past decade.
Sonic 4 is a breeze, which may be due to the fact that I spent so many hours of my childhood playing Sonic the Hedgehog. The game is rather simple, with only a few mild problems in each of the four zones.
Even the previously vexing water passages are now engineered to make it quite easy to survive without running out of oxygen.
The last boss level is the only exception, since it pits you against enhanced versions of all four boss encounters, as well as a ludicrous ultimate boss. In relation to the rest of the game, it’s far too long and challenging. I don’t mind working hard, but the difficulty bump is unexpected.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 doesn’t offer much in the way of new features. Instead, it transports you to a time when Sonic was king.
I wish I could have brought a friend along to play as Tails and experience the old Sonic levels in a new light — in co-op. Aside from that, there’s not much to complain about. Sonic 4 is a short, delicious game that is well worth the download.
3. Sonic Colors Ultimate
Sonic Colors highlighted the Blue Blur’s return to form. It put Sonic’s 3D blunders to rest by focusing solely on what makes the series fun: the sensation of being the fastest thing alive. Sonic Colors: Ultimate is the same game, rebuilt for newer platforms with enhanced lighting, 4K/60 FPS support (except on Switch), a remixed soundtrack, and a few other minor gameplay changes.
None of these improvements make Sonic Colors: Ultimate a must-have for returning Sonic fans, but for those who missed out owing to the likes of Sonic 06 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1, this trip to Eggman’s Interstellar Amusement Park is already a good suggestion.
The story of Sonic Colors will be familiar to everyone who has played the series before: Eggman is up to no good, attempting to harness the power of extraterrestrial energy to fuel a mind-control device, and it’s up to Sonic and Tails to stop him.
The plot is obviously not what anyone is here for, but it is at least well-acted and sprinkled with a few chuckles here and there, thanks to Cubot and Orbot, Eggman’s two robot henchmen, who have their own running gag about Cubot’s voice chip constantly being damaged and replaced, much to Eggman’s chagrin.
The story’s significance, though, is that it introduces the Wisps, the microscopic colorful aliens that Eggman is on the lookout for. These Wisps are the major game that distinguishes Sonic Colors from all past and current mainline console Sonic games.
Consider them transformation power-ups akin to those seen in Mario games, with the added benefit of being able to select when to use them. Pink Wisps can transform you into a Spike Ball that can attach to walls, yellow Wisps can dig underground, and teal Wisps can transform you into a laser that can bounce off prisms and travel at the speed of light.
They’re unlocked as you continue through Sonic Colors, but you can always go back and replay old levels with Wisps you’ve gained later to open new paths, which is something we’ll talk about later.
There are a total of nine Wisps to unlock in Sonic Colors: Ultimate, including a brand-new Ghost Wisp that wasn’t in the original game, and they largely improve two things of the game: your speed (obviously), and the many paths that allow you to pick your own path through a level.
A pink Wisp may allow you to completely bypass a slow platforming section by zipping up a wall, a Drill Wisp may lead you to a subterranean path that is much faster than the one above ground, and a Laser Wisp may allow you to instantly shoot across a section lined with enemies, eliminating them all at the speed of light.
These wisps do an excellent job of changing up the level design without ever slowing down Sonic. There are also Wisps that are more focused on secret hunting, mild puzzle solving, and platforming.
While less interesting than those based on speed, they nonetheless make exploring and repeating levels with new powers a lot of fun, since they can help you discover new paths that drastically alter the flow of a level, as well as help you increase your time or score.
The new Ghost Wisp is perhaps the weakest of the bunch, as it’s mostly employed to mix up the positions of the hidden Red Rings from the original game. You can use it to float through walls by dragging yourself to an anchor point, but that’s all there is to it. Unlike the other Wisp powers, it is never used in an innovative or fulfilling manner.
Because the Wisps are unlocked one at a time during the game, the first time you play through the early levels of Sonic Colors isn’t as as fun as it is when you can replay them with all of the Wisps unlocked. This makes the first few hours a chore because you’re often forced to go along slow and dull paths.
This is a problem that exists in the original Sonic Colors, but one that Sonic Colors: Ultimate brings for the first time in its remixed soundtrack. Any world’s first three levels play a newly remixed tune, while the last three levels play the original versions.
The only downside is that you can’t pick which version you want to hear, which is a disappointment because I’ve found that most of the original themes are far superior to the excessively produced versions. Don’t get me wrong, the music is still fantastic in general, but it seems odd to have two versions and not be able to choose which one you want to hear at any given volume.
A Rival Rush mode, which is essentially a dressed-up time trial, allows you to race against Metal Sonic. Itfeels a fun way to push yourself to complete a level quickly, but it seems like it should be something you can do on every level rather than only one every world, for a total of only six races.
This remaster also includes cosmetic items, allowing you to personalize Sonic’s shoes, gloves, aura, and boost effect by spending new currency collected during each level. However, none of them are especially outstanding – they’re all just recolors, simplistic visual effects, and cheesy patterns. I ended up going for a more traditional design.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate keeps up admirably in things of graphics for a Wii game that is nearly 11 years old. The sequences, which were not rebuilt and are extremely low-res on a current screen, are the only flaw. However, the actual gameplay works at a smooth 60 frames per second in 4K on the PlayStation 5, and the lighting and character models have been improved.
Above all, Sonic Colors: Ultimate benefits from the fact that it was a beautiful game to begin with. Its levels are some of the most innovative in the series’ history, ranging from the Rainbow Road-inspired Starlight Carnival, which sees Sonic speeding across space while an intergalactic battle rages in the backdrop, to the dreamy Sweet Mountain, which is entirely built of junk food.
Every world is brimming with inventiveness, and the fact that it’s all part of an amusement park is just icing on the cake.
Sonic races through theme park-inspired environments to save a colorful alien race from Dr. Eggman’s clutches in Sonic Colors Ultimate, an improved version of the high-speed action-adventure. An amazing amusement park has been sighted circling around Sonic the Hedgehog’s home planet, and reports are circulating that the nefarious Dr. Eggman is holding an alien race of Wisps, who have a distinctive colorful energy, imprisoned there.
Sonic realizes he can employ these unknown alien forces to aid the Wisps in their escape shortly after arriving at the amusement park. <P> Sonic is able to absorb the Color Powers of the alien Wisps featured in the game once they have been freed while speeding across the many theme park inspired planets. Sonic can use Wisp energy to drill into the ground (Yellow Drill) or speed through the stage as a laser to create new paths through the stages (Cyan Laser).
When you combine the Wisp power-ups, you obtain a combo that boosts Sonic’s boost gauge even faster. In Sonic Colors Ultimate, try out the all-new ‘Ghost Racer’ mode to set new records, compete with friends online, and conquer the global leaderboard.
4. Sonic Rush adventure
In 2005, SEGA and its Sonic Team demonstrated that using two screens as a single vertical display in a 2D scroller was the only Nintendo DS innovation they could come up with for their Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. It’s not the most innovative use of the concept, but that’s fine because Sonic Rush is one of the best 2D Sonic games for any platform.
The publisher let that game sit on store shelves for nearly two years before bringing the blue hedgehog back for the Nintendo DS. Sonic Rush Adventure is the sequel; the lack of a number pretty much tells you how far this one will go as a sequel.
There’s a new story, new level designs, new characters, and new touch screen mini-games, to name a few things… What’s more, you know what? Despite all of the new content, the sequel has the overall impression of being a rehash of the original Sonic Rush.
Dimps, the Japanese development studio that has been in charge of the Sonic brand on Nintendo platforms since the original Sonic Advance on the Game Boy Advance, is in charge of this well-made Nintendo DS product once again.
The studio pumped up its original Sonic Rush engine, which was a fantastic blend of 2D and 3D features that allowed for two-screen tall platforming concepts, with a bit more energy and slick in-your-face level layouts that take advantage of the hybrid aesthetics.
Sonic moves with remarkable fluidity, and the designers don’t spend any time putting the small leap in and out of the foreground just to make the player exclaim “ooh, neat!”
It’s pretty much your typical Sonic 2D platformer: you’re encouraged to run really, really fast all over the place, and many of the levels are designed to allow Sonic to run around as freely as possible.
Bumpers will ricochet a high-speed Sonic in the opposite direction, while launch pads will rocket him into the air, and as long as the players keep an eye on what’s happening on, they can keep the person moving at top speed all the way to the end. There are some typical platforming sections, but let’s be honest: Sonic’s hook is to “run really, really fast.” In Sonic Rush, the level designers take the hook to its logical conclusion.
Technique is important since if you just have Sonic run through the levels, you’ll be left with almost nothing at the end of the game. In Sonic Rush, there’s a trick system that boosts a power bar on the side of the screen either flipping around airborne or moving the feet while rail sliding (a simple matter of rapidly tapping the A and B buttons). Sonic may use this power bar to fire fast energy blasts while sprinting, making him indestructible for a brief moment.
Enemies are dispatched in well-timed spurts, thus players are encouraged to maintain Sonic flipping while arching through the air. And the level designers make sure to keep you on your toes with some nice goodies that can only be obtained if you use the Up + R move at the right moments.
You won’t be able to reach certain power-ups or rings if you don’t use the Up + R move while in the air, and the designers make sure to keep you on your toes with some nice goodies that can only be obtained if you use it at the right moments.
The term “adventure” associated with the Sonic Rush brand simply refers to the development team’s inclusion of more dialogue and the addition of exploration features to the experience. The idea is still essentially “run incredibly fast” platforming, but there are now touch-screen oriented boating mini-games in between the typical “two side-scrolling levels and a boss battle” structure.
It’s similar to how you arrange your course in the upcoming DS version of Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and then embark on a journey to get there. There are four different varieties of these mini-games, and while they provide some diversity to the mix, they aren’t really tough.
It’s hard to remove the feeling that they’re just there to fill time while the game clock ticks simply. Or, as the original Sonic Rush didn’t have many touch-screen elements, SEGA may have imposed the issue on the development team.
Similarly, because of the game’s design, you’ll have to play levels numerous times during the adventure to proceed. You see, at the end of each round, you’re given metals, which are then transformed into “stuff” that advances the story. You “purchase” a boat, hovercraft, or radio tower with the earned things – often multiples of the same metal.
As a result, you may need to return to a level and replay it in order to earn the required number of metals. It’s one thing to encourage players to do so – perhaps a level is so good that you’d want to play it. But to structure a game’s growth in such a way that players must play it at least twice with no change in goal? That’s basically pressing the issue and lengthening the play unnecessarily.
Oh, if you’re good enough, you can definitely get all the metals on the first try by scoring those A rankings every time, but let’s face it: most of the levels will be difficult to break C ranks on your first try.
Dimps and the Sonic Team have proven time and time again that 2D is the ideal canvas for the Sonic the Hedgehog design. Sonic Rush Adventure is a better and more deserving sequel to Sonic Rush, and it’s the game to acquire if you haven’t already done so with the original.
It’s a lot of fantastic ideas in a fun package…but Sonic Rush Adventure simply doesn’t have the same “oomph” as the first game because it recycles a lot of the original title’s content.
5. Sonic Generations
It’s almost shocking to see SEGA finally follow through on their generation-old pledge to “do what Nintendo doesn’t.” Sonic has been repurposed as a platforming mascot that is, for the first time in a long time, wildly defined on its own merits rather than trying to keep up, tagalong, or sorority sister with its mustachio companion in crime.
Instead of spending decades chasing Mario’s happy-go-lucky hop and bop, vacational romps through paradise, Sonic Generations opts for a ferociously fast and punishing speed drive through dystopia that prioritizes expertise over effervescent luck.
Sonic Generations delves into the nostalgia of Sonic fans who, despite all odds, have expressed their devotion for the blue blur for the past two decades. The story, albeit largely unnecessary, pays homage to previous Sonic games.
The twin hedgehogs fight an unknown power that is attempting to destroy time itself. They zoom across legendary stages from nine distinct Sonic games, reliving each other’s memories. It’s almost as if SEGA resurrected the entire series with a single game, catching you up on 20 years of hedgehog history.
It’s pure joy to watch old-school Sonic zoom about his new brilliantly rebuilt Rube Goldberg-ian playgrounds and MC Escher-esque mazes, with SEGA finally capturing what made this game so fun in the first place after years of failed tries.
Sonic’s new 3D character model (based on his original sprite-based roots) is charming and almost claymation-like. You speed through stages, carefully navigate platforming portions, and smash open item boxes as if it’s 1991, and you’re still giddy about “blast processing” and Jaleel White’s voice acting.
Modern Sonic, on the other hand, displays an attitude that belies his age. This Sonic is older and wiser, but he still has the innocence of a child. His recollections are of foreign worlds and burning cities, not green hills and sky temples. His levels emphasize blistering speed, as if he were an unstoppable force capable of annihilating every foe in his way.
Sonic stands up to his name by physically breaking the sound barrier with his speed. He’s mix super hero, part professional skateboarder. Every Modern level eventually transforms into a 2D platformer, showcasing Sonic’s new attacks. Imagine a little Sonic Rush in the middle of your Sonic Colors, and you’ll get the bit. Neither Sonic, on the other hand, is without flaws.
The Classic version can feel floating at times, whereas his Modern counterpart can stop dead in his tracks with even the tiniest mistake. But these are minor gripes when contrasted to the thrill of playing a Sonic game that never slows down to make you to struggle with stretched arms.
Switching back and forth between the two modes can lead to accidents; it’s easy to forget that 2D Sonic lacks his 3D counterpart’s homing strike, which can result in ring loss and death. In the same way, instead of a spin dash, Modern Sonic has a limited boost meter.
Sonic Generations features a multi-path racetrack in every level. You’ll fly through ramps, leaps, hidden insignia, and entire new levels before realizing you could have sped through them with a second’s more attention. Then, as a faster and more purposeful blur of cold-calculated genius on the rollercoaster setpieces intended for your driving demolition, you’ll return to redeem your wrongs.
Newcomers will flail as they hit with barriers, hurdles, and timers designed to either keep them out of the franchise for good or turn them become ruthless masterminds. Dedicated gamers, on the other hand, will give it the thrashing it deserves, and they’ll do so by triumphing over thick and balanced gameplay rather than fighting against the insurmountably broken beliefs that now pervade most Sonic the Hedgehog games.
After you’ve destroyed the major Acts, you’ll be able to take on extra, primarily optional Challenges that will put your talents to the test. Sonic battles huge adversaries, navigates deadly death traps with iconic shields, and teams up with his teammates to overcome apparently insurmountable hurdles.
The majority of the Challenges are fun, but there are a few duds in the bunch (usually featuring an annoying side character). If you’re a perfectionist, it can be aggravating, but the fun challenges outnumber the annoying ones.
Sonic Generations only disappoints Sonic fans because of its restricted amount of boss bouts and mediocre Chaos Emerald levels. In the entire game, the Sonics face only four bosses, two of which are quite short. What happened to the days when there was a boss at the end of each level? The Chaos Emeralds are obtained through defeating the bosses in the Rival Battle stages, which act as mini-bosses versus Shadow, Silver, and Metal Sonic, Sonic’s more obnoxious clones.
A separate Chaos Emerald stage was required in this game, a hallucinogenic, dizzying, infuriatingly difficult mini-game in which you must earn the emeralds rather than being given them. It’s good to be able to report that Sonic is back on track.
His upward trajectory from the previous year has continued, and he’s only getting stronger. Sonic Generations is primarily a game for the most ardent of Sonic fans, but it’s also a game for the millions who have wonderful memories of narrowly avoiding spikes, grinding on rails, or even that time he was a pinball.