Where would video gaming be without Sonic the Hedgehog? From his early years, locked in mortal combat, er, with Mario the plumber, to the more recent versions of the loveable blue streak, Sonic has been ever-present in video gaming. He took off in a blur after Sega launched him in 1991, spinning, rolling and richocheting across console screen after console screen.
No one is quite sure how many Sonic the Hedgehog games there are – partly because no one wants to include the RPG aberrations or his bit-part performances as best supporting hedgehog in novelty mobile racing games – but there’s no doubting his impact. So let’s take a look at the top 10 Sonic the Hedgehog games, before your dad can say “but it doesn’t even look like a hedgehog.”
1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
The Sega Mega Drive was the console to own in the 90s and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the reason. The “2” was important – this was the first appearance for Tails, controlled by your best mate as you flew up platform after platform, hoovering up any rings you’d missed doing the Spin Dash.
2. Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic the Hedgehog 3
It’s not cheating to put two titles together – no it’s not – because these two Mega Drive cartridges were designed to be played together. By flipping the back of one cartridge, you could insert the other and play both games at once. Also: Knuckles. The scowling echidna with built-in knuckledusters is the coolest of Sonic’s extensive cast and this is the first time we got to play him.
3. Sonic Chaos
The 8-bit beauty of this game is what gives it a medal position for us – the Spin Dash, the presence of Tails as a properly playable character and the sheer speed of the game are all in its favour. The designers might have felt that the platform was too old tech, but for retro gamers everywhere, the 8-bit magic of this game is what makes it special.
4. Sonic Rush
In other games, Sonic can stop, think and maybe commune with his inner Mrs Tiggy-Winkle while pondering the puzzles ahead. In this DS game from 2005, Sonic is speed incarnate in 3D – he isn’t allowed to stop running, rushing headlong into whatever disaster awaited the unsuspecting newbie, or the all-too-knowledgeable player on the verge of a blue-tinged rage-quit.
5. Sonic Spinball
Controversial? Only if you forget how important pinball is to the video games industry. Without pinball, who would have thought of putting an arcade game in a pub or sports club? This pinball version of Sonic was ideal for Mega Drive players who just wanted a bit of tilt-tilt, flip-flip action.
6. Sonic the Hedgehog
The cheeky grin, the decisive finger pointing at the sky – the original game deserves a place in the top ten on the basis of the box cover alone. Everything in that picture is delivered in the game, and more, with superb tunes that were earworms long before the term was invented. The only thing holding it back is that it was the last Master System release – the Mega Drive technology propelled the sequel into
7. Sonic CD
Sonic has had many more incarnations than Doctor Who and Sonic CD introduced the evil Metal Sonic, creation of Dr Robotnik, in a time-travelling episode for the Mega Drive which puts three different spins on each level depending on whether Sonic is in the past, present or future.
8. Sonic R
Okay, so we dissed racing games earlier on, but actually Sonic R has plenty to recommend it. First, it’s a foot race – there are no oil slicks, no nasty screeching tyres. Second, you can play it in single player mode without any competition and the gameplay is thematically similar to other Sonic games – picking up rings to give you power-ups, short cuts to explore and there are even nods to previous games in the design.
9. Sonic Adventure 2
The final release on the Sega Dreamcast deserved more praise than it got – the teething troubles of the first Adventure were ironed out in this game which had all the razzamatazz and high-octane adrenaline of the earlier games.
10. Sonic Adventure
The side-to-side scrolling platform was always a big part of Sonic games, and moving into 3D hasn’t always worked but the third-person RPG character presentation gave our favourite hedgehog a twist that has been under-rated in some quarters, possibly because it was released on the unloved Sega Dreamcast.
Sonic is dear to every retro gamer’s heart, and there are plenty of side-scrolling platformers and Sonic-influenced games at Dice, the new retro gaming website that’s perfect for getting a good solid hit of nostalgia.