Seven Underrated Sonic Games

Sega has finally announced what we all secretly suspected was coming: the Dreamcast classic Sonic Adventure 2 is being ported to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, likely with a shiny coat of HD paint to boot.

This was one of my favorite games growing up, so much so that I still play it today. Sonic Adventure 2 is held in high acclaim by most Sonic fans, but what about the ones that aren’t so well-looked upon?

In honor of Sega’s big announcement, I’m presenting you a list of seven Sonic games that I think deserve more praise than they got. Sure, some of them are weird and wonky, but if you spend a little time with them, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Probably.

Here we go.

7. Sonic R (Saturn, PC)

Okay, this game is scorned by a lot of people. A lot of people. Essentially, you’ve got Sonic and his cohorts racing around various colorful courses in pursuit of…well, I don’t really know. I think there’s a poor excuse for a story in the manual, but that doesn’t really matter.

The physics aren’t top notch, but they’re certainly masterable with a little effort. This game has great music, although of the variety that will probably get you some weird stares if you pump it in public. Composed by Richard Jacques (who’s involved with another game on this list) with vocals by a woman named T.J. Davis, it’s sort of a happy Euro-pop. There’s a fair amount of hidden characters and items, bringing in some respectable replay value as well.

Of particular note is the debut of Tails Doll, a disturbing hidden character that has become so infamous in the Sonic community that there is a whole website of creepypastas dedicated to him.

Sonic R is definitely a weird game, but it deserves a chance.

Sonic R

6. Sonic the Fighters a.k.a. Sonic Championship (Arcade)

This is a strange game, both in tone and execution. Before being packaged with the Sonic Gems collection (GameCube), Sonic the Fighters was an arcade-only title that you weren’t likely to find outside of emulation or a really cool arcade, neither of which were available to me as a child.

The story is standard fighting game fare, giving Sonic and all his friends a flimsy excuse to beat the ever-loving crap out of each other. The fighting is heavily combo-based, which means the game has a steep learning curve. That being said, The Fighters is surprisingly rewarding for what is, at its core, a gimmick game.

Every character plays uniquely and caters to a different play style. Uncommon characters like Espio and Nack the Weasel are playable, and familiar locations like South Island and Mushroom Hill make a return. The music, while not Sonic-esque in any way, is catchy and fitting.

Not groundbreaking or mind-blowing, but a solid entry nonetheless.

Sonic The Fighters

5. Sonic Riders (GameCube)

I will never understand why this game got so much hate.

Actually, I sort of do. Sonic Riders is incredibly difficult. The controls are hard to understand, the tracks are slick and lack barriers, and the trick system is finicky. This is a game that does not tolerate a lack of effort on the player’s part and can be insanely frustrating, but players who are willing to put the work in can find quite a lot to love about this game.

As with the majority of the entries in the Sonic series, the music is bumpin’ and perfectly suits the onscreen action. Once you master the controls and find a character class and board type that fits your play style, you will become addicted.

Diverse, vibrant locales, loads of characters, and a crap ton of unlockables make this game one you’ll be sorry to miss.

Sonic Riders

4. Shadow the Hedgehog (GameCube, XBOX, oh God, don’t get it on PS2)

Drag me into the street and beat me senseless with crowbar if you will, but I love Shadow the Hedgehog.

There, I said it. Shadow’s not as bad as everyone says it is.

At least, not all of it.

I won’t lie, the game is extremely frustrating. There’s something in the physics system that is undeniably broken. I’ve died a lot of cheap deaths in this game, but I managed to somehow see past it after awhile.

The game features an interesting morality choice system that’s massive in scope compared to any other Sonic game. The gameplay is mission-based, and gives Shadow the ability to use firearms, which was almost universally hated. I kinda liked that element. As long as you have the game on Gamecube or Xbox, the auto-aim for the guns works fine (mostly) and adds an interesting layer to the combat.

The music is almost exclusively composed by Sega mainstay composer/musician Jun Senoue, and is suitably dark and anthemic. Plus, the theme tune by Crush 40 (another project of Jun Senoue that has been a part of Sonic games since Adventure) is absolutely bonkin’.

Yeah, the game isn’t perfect. But there’s some really interesting ideas and atmospherics floating about. Shadow is worth your attention.

Shadow The Hedgehog

3: Sonic Heroes (GameCube, XBOX, don’t get this one on PS2 either)

Heroes is the direct prequel to Shadow the Hedgehog and, in terms of pretty much everything, is the superior game. But as the game that followed up Sonic Adventure 2, Heroes has been a polarizing title.

The unique gameplay feature was that you controlled three characters at the same time, all the time, each with a distinctly different ability needed to traverse the game environment. There are four teams with a total of twelve characters. Eleven of the characters hail from past Sonic games (spoiler alert: one of them is Sonic) and there’s one new character, a homicidal E-Series robot named Omega.

Some people hated Heroes because it was different and not the Sonic Adventure 3 they’d been expecting. Reviews for Heroes were mixed, and the main gimmick of the game turned a lot of people off, but just try it.

The art style is funky and vibrant, the music (again, primarily Jun Senoue) is fantastic and, as a bonus, this is the last console game featuring the Sonic Adventure-era voice actors, which is the superior voice cast in my ears.

Sonic Heroes

A warning: Both Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Heroes suffer from low-quality PS2 ports that feature broken controls and numerous glitches. Stick with the Gamecube or Xbox versions.

2. Sonic Battle (Game Boy Advance)

The title of this game is easily confused with Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (the SA2 update for the GameCube), but Sonic Battle isn’t anything like that.

Set somewhere during the Heroes/Shadow-era, Sonic Battle is like a dark Sonic Adventure 2 subplot. Confusing? Yes. Interesting? Also yes. The title is exactly what it implies, though, slick, fast paced combat with heavy layers of strategy.

The basic groundwork that was laid by Sonic the Fighters is expanded upon fantastically here, with every character playing very uniquely. The best part of this game is “Emerl,” a fighting robot with strange connections to Shadow’s past. Emerl has the unique ability to observe Sonic and his friends in combat and copy their fighting moves, then combine them to develop his own unique and effective fighting style. You can, for example, give Emerl Sonic’s running speed mixed with Shadow’s forward heavy attack and Knuckles’s punches.

And that’s just on a very base level.

The possibilities for customization are huge, and you’ll have loads of fun creating your own fighting style and pitting Emerl against the Sonic crew.

The music is good, appropriately upbeat and catchy, and the art style is an interesting “urban” look that has not cropped up in a Sonic game before or since.

One of my all-time favorite Sonic titles.

Sonic Battle

1. Sonic 3D Blast a.k.a. Sonic 3D: Flickies Island (Saturn, Genesis, PC)

I’ve seen this game on a few “Worst Sonic Games Ever” lists. That is a travesty.

Sonic 3D Blast was a rushed release, forced out on the market to compete with Mario 64 after Sonic Xtreme (a much-touted game with funky graphics and physics) was canceled. And when you put 3D Blast up against Mario 64, yeah, it’s pretty underwhelming. Judged on its own merits, though, Sonic 3D is a lot of fun.

Sonic’s world, which we know so well in 2D, is rendered from an isometric viewpoint, giving you a whole new angle to look on things. The whole game takes place in a new location, the eponymous Flickies Island, named after the colorful birds that inhabit it.

3D Blast is far slower-paced than the previous games in the series, focusing more on adventure and platforming. The goal of each level is to collect a certain number of Flicky birds and escort them safely past Robotnik’s numerous devious traps and robots.

The Saturn and Genesis version have separate soundtracks, both of which are great. The Genesis version is the more well-known one, featuring some compositions by (once again) Jun Senoue, some of which were later rerecorded on guitar and placed into Sonic Adventure (Green Grove from Blast is Windy Valley in Adventure). The Saturn version features music that’s less typical of the Sonic series, composed by Richard Jacques (remember Sonic R?) in a very jazzy, atmospheric style.

Overall, this game is a serious departure from the series and, while it’s weird and different, once you get the hang of it you may find yourself enjoying it quite a bit. Both versions of the game are very enjoyable, and actually quite similar in most ways aside from the soundtracks.

Sonic 3D Blast

Note: Sonic 3D Blast is included in the Sonic Mega Collection and both Sonic R and Sonic The Fighters are part of the Sonic Gems Collection, both of which were released for numerous consoles.

So, there you have it. My personal favorite underrated Sonic games.

Many will likely vehemently disagree with me, but the only way you can know for sure is to go out and put the time in. Hit me up in the comments and feel free to tell me how wrong I am.

And don’t forget to purchase Sonic Adventure 2‘s re-release when it hits XBL and PSN this fall.

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3 thoughts on “Seven Underrated Sonic Games

  1. Pingback: Eleven Sonic Songs Worth Listening To « Nerdy but Flirty

  2. Thank you very much. And I agree, Sonic Colors is fantastic. They nailed it on every front. I also really like the voice acting and dialogue in that game. I’ve never gotten the chance to play Sonic Jam, but running around in that 3D Green Hill Zone overworld looks really interesting and fun, so I’ve been waiting for a chance to play through it.

  3. I love Sonic 3D Blast and I hated Sonic R. The interface for moving around in Sonic:Battle (between battles with the arrows) was really frustrating. All of that said, great list. I love pro-sonic articles. It’s so cool and easy for everyone to say Sonic sucks and hasn’t made a good game in years, and it’s also becoming vogue for people to bash the original sonic games. I think this list kind of shows what’s so great about sonic, he does different things and Sega took risks with him. Sonic Heroes was good times. I looooove the snow level for Sonic 3D blast, that game was a favorite Saturn game, I also had bought the Sonic Jam collection with Sonic museum world and all of the orginal games on it. A worthwhile game to play, it’s probably the best sonic compilation ever made.

    My favorite Sonic game of all time is Sonic Colors for wii. I have been a die hard sonic fan for longer than I would like to admit and that game was a paradigm shift for me. The scenery is majestic and beautiful. The levels are layered perfectly for multiple runs, and the story is there but doesn’t take itself too serious. My favorite wii game, and the pinnacle of sonic for me.

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