Sonic’s a franchise that’s wandered many roads. The famous blue hedgehog has a history of trying many different genres – not always to great effect though. For every classic outing, there’s a Sonic game that brings down the quality. These are the offerings that hurt the franchise more than they helped it.
10. Shadow the Hedgehog (Xbox, PS2, GC, 2004)
Shadow the Hedgehog is a weird outing for the Sonic series. It features the blue hedgehog as a supporting character – directly opposed to the main character.
The introduction of guns and weaponry outside the series normal ventures upset many, breaking the gameplay flow and shifting focus to a more action orientated affair. The big issue with the game though is just how forgettable its level design is. Some of the worst 3D levels are in this game – creating one mess of an experience that never quite hits its stride. Not helping this is a complicated level progression system that saw the game featuring 11 possible endings to your campaign – with only one considered canon. To see this ending though, you have to work through the other 10.
Have fun with that.
9. Sonic Blast (Game Gear, 1996)
A woeful 2D entry to the series that lacked much of the charm or fun that made the previous outings so enjoyable. The graphics look chunky (Attempting to marry a 3D style onto the 2D experience) leading to a hilariously dated date.
But it’s not just the visuals that struggle to meet the series standard. Because of the limited hardware, the decision was made to slow the gameplay down. The controls are an exercise in torture and limit your ability to do much beyond jump and hope. It’s a tragically underwhelming sidearm to the main series.
8. Sonic Spinball (Genesis, 1993)
The idea of taking Sonic and pushing him in a pinball game almost makes sense. Then you realise that the reality of the game is one of pre-determined paths and awkwardly precise button presses.
It’s not that the game isn’t fun, it’s just not hugely entertaining for long periods – as it tries to combine platforming elements with the pinball mould. As the levels get more complex, things get more frustrating – it’s at this point you’ll probably give up and not return.
7. Sonic R (Saturn, 1997)
I remember playing Sonic R back when I was a kid and finding it really ambitious. You can imagine the horror of returning to play this game all these years later to see what a mess this game has ended up being over time.
It just doesn’t when the controls make you feel like you’re handling a broken Tesco trolley. It’s a shame really as graphically this game is lovely and if there was more of it (The game is hilariously short on content) there might be at least some long-term replayability to the whole thing. As it stands, Sonic R struggles to justify itself as a lazy Mario Kart knockoff.
6. Sonic Free Riders (Xbox 360, 2010)
The Sonic Riders series had proven quite popular for Sega, who found fans comparing the previous outing somewhat favourably to Mario Kart. So naturally the decision was made to gut the game entirely and
The graphics look fairly great in this game, but for some earth shatteringly dumb reason, the developers decided to make the game Kinect only. This effectively renders the game unplayable, near impossible to control and destroys the multiplayer aspect of the game almost single-handedly.
There is an online component but good luck finding anyone else silly enough to invest in this game. Not even worth the curiosity of a second-hand purchase.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (GBA, 2006)
Putting the original Sonic game onto Nintendo’s popular handheld must have seemed like a great idea – but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The game struggles to recapture the magic, with awkward limitations imposed and a lot of slowdown where there shouldn’t be any. Perhaps most disappointing, the game struggles to be enjoyable in this environment. It’s a port – but sadly not a great one.
4. Sonic Labyrinth (Game Gear, 1995)
Take Sonic, a character known for his blistering speed and land him in a game that plays like it’s running through custard. Add in some glaringly awful graphics and a soundtrack that sounds like the composer was bashing his head against an electric keyboard and you’ve got Sonic Labyrinth.
Things probably wouldn’t have been so bad had the game controlled decently; but alas our favourite blue hedgehog moves like a tank – making precise jumps impossible. The game is a chore to experience and a disaster on every level.
3. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U, 2014)
The wheels come off the franchise for the second time in a game that makes a solid shout for being the worst experience on Nintendo’s Wii U console.
Cutscenes bleed into each other awkwardly (The opening cutscene in particular is poorly edited) while the gameplay is ravaged by a bank of glitches that render entire sections of the game unplayable. Sometimes the worlds don’t load in. Sometimes the enemies won’t spawn. If you’re really lucky you’ll bump into one of the many out-of-bound areas and fall into the abyss beneath the world.
It’s a mess and if it wasn’t for the fact that the attempted re-imagining of the characters isn’t awful (Just mildly terrible) then this would have been rock bottom. As it stands, Rise of Lyric was a fairly limited release thanks to landing only on the Wii U.
2. Sonic The Fighters (Arcade, 1996)
I debated heavily whether to include this one on this revised list of games – then I realised Sega had the gall to release the game to the public – and so all bets were off
. Attempting to mix Virtua Fighter 2 and Sonic in a bafflingly bad way, Sonic The Fighters feels more like a bad fan project than a proper gaming, with awful controls and tediously laughable graphics throughout. The game suffers from the distinction of being the worst Sonic spin-off in my eyes, with some of the worst fighting mechanics and sound design in the franchise. Everything feels heavy and slow, an underwhelming outing that showcases how bad things were getting post Mega Drive for the franchise.
1. Sonic 2006 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, 2006)
But of course this game falls into last place. Not only was it a god awful mess that took the Sonic name and ran it into the dirt; it was also intended to be the franchises outing for the 15th anniversary. The introduction of Silver the Hedgehog, a time-travelling hedgehog from the future, leads to a plot that’s both dull and wildly out of sync with the rest of the franchise. It’s clear from the start that the game was rushed out the door with bugs and glitches littering the experience and interrupting the flow of gameplay.
This isn’t just considered one of the worst Sonic games of all time – its considered one of the worse period. It’s hard to argue with that assessment, and it’s hard to understand how Sega ever thought a game of this shocking quality could ever be released to the public.