Sonic the Hedgehog has had a bit of a rough go of things. Sure, he started off as a major hit, the antithesis of the family-friendly Nintendo that put Sega on top of the console wars for a brief time—but as the character and franchise continued to grow, things began to go south. With the character's transition into 3D and story-based games, Sonic's career took a nose dive, leading us into the modern era of the franchise. Sonic has had a few hits both in his mainline game series and in his ventures into other media, but overall, Sonic media tends to be negatively received. And yet, the character has persevered, fans still love Sonic despite his numerous failures. Perhaps it's because he's so darn lovable, or maybe fans always find something to admire about even the worst games—whatever it is, it doesn't seem like Sonic is going anywhere these days.
Because of Sonic's staying power, he has had a long career throughout all kinds of media, some great, some not so great, so we decided to chronicle the good and bad of the franchise. However, since it's so vast, we're going to exclude a large number of non-mainline games, forgotten or lost media and other small pieces of Sonic media. We are also going to be nixing the nostalgia factor when determining which games, comics, TV shows, etc. are good or bad, since that would put a majority of the games in the good category. With these rules, let's take a look at the Sonic franchise's history of great and terrible media.
30 GOOD: ORIGINAL TRILOGY
Let's start off with the beginning, the original games for the Sega Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (& Knuckles), all of which were smash hits when they came out—the first game, as we mentioned, boosted Genesis sales past SNES sales.
The appeal of these original games was the speed, attitude and action that Nintendo couldn't compete with, their design and mechanics still working and playing perfectly to this day. Without a douby, the original Sonic games are some of the franchise's best.
29 BAD: UPCOMING SONIC FILM
Since we started the good with the oldest Sonic franchise entry, let's start the bad with an upcoming pieces of Sonic media that has already set itself up to be a disaster. In yet another example of a live-action adaptation gone-wrong, those behind the upcoming film deemed it necessary to redesign the character for a realistic setting.
This has resulted in the monstrosity you see above, which tells us that the film is most likely to be a lackluster entry in the franchise, which is only made more evident by the recently surfaced crotch-shot poster.
28 GOOD: SONIC CD
Let's go back in time again to look at one of Sonic's better moments, Sonic CD, a game for the Sega CD addition to the Genesis. Sonic CD followed Sonic on a time traveling adventure that improved upon the previous 2D side-scrolling games for a brand new adventure.
On top of introducing Metal Sonic into the franchise, this game also had some killer anime shorts that, combined with the great gameplay, made it one of Sonic's best titles, perhaps even better than the original three games.
27 BAD: SONIC BOOM (GAMES)
In 2013, Sega announced that Sonic would be going through something of a reboot, releasing images of new versions of Sonic, Amy, Tails and Knuckles that would star in both a new line of games and an animated series. We'll get to the animated series in a bit, but first let's take a look at the disaster that was the Sonic Boom games.
Rushed to release before they were properly finished, the Sonic Boom games, specifically Rise of Lyric were completely unplayable and riddled with bugs, and the story was just as bad, with horrific convolution and a terrible script.
26 GOOD: SONIC SATAM
Let's move away from games and take a look at a series that is still looked back at as one of Sonic's best and most beloved titles, the Saturday morning cartoon simply titled Sonic the Hedgehog. On top of having a dope theme song, this series found a cool setting and story for the character that fit with the original game's theme of nature vs. development.
The cartoon followed Sonic and a group of freedom fighters as they fought to protect their world from Dr. Robotnik's robot empire and used dark tones and themes that brought great results.
25 BAD: SONIC X
On the other end of the Sonic cartoon spectrum is the sub-par anime, Sonic X. Though this series has its merits and worked well for whatever demographic helped it get so many seasons, looking back now, it was pretty weird on a lot of levels.
Instead of being based solely on the games, Sonic X took Sonic out of his world and into the "real" world, where he befriended a "human best friend" character, all of which threw a weird and unappealing monkey wrench into the typical Sonic narrative. Also, what was up with Sonic only having three spikes?!
24 GOOD: ARCHIE COMICS
One of the most enduring pieces of Sonic media was the Archie comics series, which ran for a record-breaking 290 issues. Lasting for over 20 years, the series was based on the premise of the Saturday morning cartoon, continuing and building upon the story.
The comics had their ups and downs, but throughout its massive run, it was a consistent delight that was perfect for Sonic fans who wanted an epic, action-packed story that presented the best versions of their favorite characters. Though the comic ended in late 2016, it will be remembered as one of Sonic's best franchise entries.
23 BAD: SONIC ADVENTURE
This may be the entry where we get a fair amount of hate, but before those angry comments start rolling in, remember that we're attempting to take nostalgia out of the equation. Thus, we have to look at the first Sonic Adventure with a modern lens, and when we do, it's not great.
The game did a lot for the franchise; it brought it into the modern era and introduced story-heavy gameplay, but both the 3D gameplay and the writing were lackluster. Though the game has a special place in fans' hearts, it could have been a lot better.
22 GOOD: IDW COMICS
Though Archie's Sonic has ended, IDW has taken up the torch of Sonic comics. Taking place in a world similar to Sonic Forces, IDW's Sonic comic series has condensed and streamlined everything that works about the world and characters of the franchise.
IDW's Sonic comics are still in early issues, but what has come out thus far has been a master work of the character, giving us the perfect modern adaptation of everything we know about Sonic, doing the same for the rest of the characters as their story plays out in a fantastic new direction.
21 BAD: SONIC ADVENTURE 2
If we're looking at the first Sonic Adventure with a modern lens, we have to do the same for Sonic Adventure 2, which is perhaps more beloved. This game introduced Shadow into the franchise, making for another story-heavy game that is not as great as people remember.
Taking off the nostalgia glasses to look at Sonic Adventure 2 shows that it was majorly flawed; it was riddled with terrible writing, cheesy story elements and overall poor gameplay that might be fun at first to go back and play, but soon becomes infuriating. Though, the soundtracks to both Adventure games still rip.
20 GOOD: SONIC MANIA
Sonic more or less lost his way as the franchise transitioned into 3D, so it makes sense that one of the best Sonic titles to come out in recent time was a tribute to the original 2D games, Sonic Mania.
Mania was created with the direction of Sonic fan game designer Christian "Taxman" Whitehead, who helped give a return to form for the franchise. And it worked, Sonic Mania was a smash hit, garnering praise as one of the best Sonic games ever, due in no small part to how well it captured and updated the feel of classic 2D Sonic.
19 BAD: SONIC HEROES
Sonic Heroes deserves a lot of credit for trying something new, introducing team and character-switching mechanics, making for an interesting idea that was unfortunately not well-executed. On top of a number of terrible gameplay mechanics, things like the bad story, voice acting and camera angles are very noticeable when removing the nostalgia glasses.
Thus, we have to categorized Sonic Heroes as one of the lesser entries in the franchise, despite offering some variety to the usual 3D Sonic game style. Though, once again, the over-the-top attitude rock soundtrack is one of its redeeming features.
18 GOOD: SONIC COLORS
Fast forward a bit, and one of the first signs that Sonic games were starting to improve a bit came in the form of Sonic Colors, a 2010 title that received a fair number of strong reviews. Sonic Colors was the first mainline series entry wherein Roger Craig Smith took over voicing the character, a voice change that marked a new era for the franchise.
Colors included a lot of new ideas, including Wisp power ups, that would reinvigorate stale gameplay an all these new mechanics earned Sonic Colors praise, many stating it to be Sonic at his best.
17 BAD: SONIC UNDERGROUND
In 1993, there were two different Sonic cartoons, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the Saturday morning series, and in 1999, a third cartoon came out by the title of Sonic Underground, and boy it was weird.
This version of Sonic was one of triplets—he was joined by brother Manic and sister Sonia—that were all secretly the heirs to the throne, split up at birth after their mother went into hiding. Oh, and did we mention they all played instruments and there was a musical number in each episode? Man, the '90s were weird.
16 GOOD: SONIC GENERATIONS
After the success of Sonic Colors, Sega learned from what made it great and applied it to one of their most beloved games thus far, Sonic Generations. This game was a tag-team between current Sonic and classic Sonic as they completed adventures from their past in order to repair a broken time stream.
Though the game had its fair share of flaws, it was an overall success, taking things back to the old days while introducing new stuff to make the modern games work much better, resulting in a game that many reference as one of Sonic's best.
15 BAD: SONIC THE LOST WORLD
Sonic the Lost World received praise for and deserves some credit for its colors and visuals, which feel like a combination of classic Sonic and the Speed Racer film. However, beside the visuals of the game, Lost World was not one of Sonic's better titles.
Like previous poorly-received 3D Sonic games, Lost World was criticized for its bad gameplay and terrible story and writing, all of which led it to be one of the franchise's lackluster titles. It tried a few new things, like the cylindrical level design, but otherwise Lost World was a lost cause.
14 GOOD: SONIC FORCES
The culmination of all the positive strides that 3D Sonic games had made came in the form of Sonic Forces, which streamlined these elements and threw in some great mechanics like custom character creation, a dark storyline and lots of fun gameplay and special challenges.
Sonic Forces wasn't perfect by any means, but it showed that the franchise was heading in a good direction when it comes to the 3D line of games, and the great elements of the game shined brighter than the flaws, making it one of the best Sonic games of all time.
13 BAD: SHADOW THE HEDGEHOG
Shadow the Hedgehog is a character that simultaneously has a lot of potential and also feels like nothing more than "Sonic, but darker." The epitome of the latter came in the form of the character's spin-off game, Shadow the Hedgehog.
The game is... interesting to say the least, featuring a choice-and-consequence storyline that depicts Shadow as a hero or a villain depending on how you play. Beyond this interesting idea, however, the game was an edge-lord mess of bad story and gameplay that couldn't be saved by its killer, over-the-top soundtrack.
12 GOOD: SONIC BATTLE
Though we stated we'd only be looking at mainline games, one of the few Sonic spinoffs that deserves praise is Sonic Battle, a fighting game that, though much different from the franchise's usual platformer titles, was a unique entry in the franchise.
On top of having one of the coolest art styles of all time (which we wish would make a return), Sonic Battle was a whole lot of fun, featuring interesting battle mechanics and stages that are worth playing if you can get your hands on an old copy of the game.
11 BAD: SONIC CHRONICLES
If we're looking at a great spin-off game, we also have to look at one of the lesser ones, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. The idea for this game, like Battle, is interesting and could have been a great veer from the usual, but it was unfortunately not well executed.
Not only did the game spurn on a lawsuit involving Archie comics Sonic characters, the game was also pretty bad, flubbing the RPG format in a way that only Sonic could. Perhaps Sonic could work as an RPG, but The Dark Brotherhood was not the way to go.
10 GOOD: SONIC ADVANCE
In a time when 3D Sonic games were doing okay, there was a series of 2D side-scrollers that were bringing back the classic feel of the character, the Sonic Advance series. Totaling 3 games, Sonic Advance marked the character's first foray into hand-held consoles, and they were, by all means fantastic.
Though they had a few issues—mainly the biggest issue with Sonic gameplay, going super fast over a long scape of track only to be stopped by spikes or other obstacles—the Sonic Advance games were fantastic to play and had some amazing graphics.
9 BAD: SONIC UNLEASHED
Like other lackluster entries on this list, Sonic Unleashed does deserve some credit for trying something new, both in its introduction of the 3D-to-2D perspective changes throughout the game and in the different day and night gameplay. However, the latter was not executed very well, resulting in yet another flop.
Sonic Unleashed had a mountain of issues with both the usual Sonic levels and with the "werehog" levels, but despite these failures, the new elements introduced in regular Sonic gameplay ended up laying the groundwork for better titles to come.
8 GOOD: SONIC RUSH
Following in the footsteps of the Sonic Advance series, Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure continued the trend of great handheld Sonic games. Though the graphics of the Nintendo DS at the time were not all that impressive, the game made up for this with the stellar gameplay mechanics and style.
Sonic Rush remains one of the franchise's most well-received games, and the sequel did nearly just as well. Their reception, along with the fact they introduced Blaze, an awesome new character, make them some of the best pieces of Sonic media.
7 BAD: ADVENTURES OF SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
The Saturday morning Sonic cartoon reigned supreme over the three Jaleel-White-voiced-Sonic cartoons, leaving the other two in the dust. We already covered Sonic Underground, so it's time to look at the other lackluster Sonic cartoon, The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
The series definitely has its merits—it's a great example of Looney-Toons-styled slapstick that works in a lot of ways—but overall, the random and senseless humor can't compare to the beauty that was the Saturday morning Sonic, thus Adventures falls into our flop category, especially when removing the nostalgia glasses.
6 GOOD: SONIC BOOM (CARTOON)
Where the Sonic Boom games failed to provide a proper relaunch of the franchise, the cartoon managed to find some success. The Sonic Boom cartoon might not be the adventure series that some have wanted for the characters since the Saturday morning series, but it was a great comedy-action show on all levels.
The series takes a while to get on its feet, but once it does, it is an amazingly self-aware comedy that both pokes fun at the Sonic franchise and at adventure/action narratives in general, resulting in a great contrast to the terrible Boom games.
5 BAD: SONIC AND THE SECRET RINGS
The Sonic Storybook series only had two entries, and both were failures, which is probably why there wasn't a third game. The first game, Sonic and the Secret Rings appears at first to have some new mechanics, but under the surface, it was yet another poorly-made 3D Sonic platformer.
The cutscenes have a pretty cool style that feels like an old book come to life, but beyond this, the game is full of tough gameplay mechanics and glitches that make it nearly impossible to play at times.
4 GOOD: SONIC OVA
Perhaps one of the least-well-known pieces of Sonic media is the OVA, a short anime film that featured an art style similar to Sonic CD and is easily one of Sonic's best animated titles of all time. The story depicted the creation of Metal Sonic and his clash with the true blue Sonic, all of which is part of Eggman's plot.
The voice acting in the Dub is a bit... strange since it predates specific VAs being tied to the characters, but otherwise, the Sonic OVA is a great piece of Sonic media.
3 BAD: SONIC AND THE BLACK KNIGHT
Like Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic and the Black Knight has some interesting visual elements—as well as an awesome transformation sequence before the final battle—but beyond this, the game is incredibly subpar. In terms of gameplay, Black Knight has the same problems as Secret Rings, but with the added poor design of the sword-fighting mechanics and strange mission/level layouts.
The cutscenes are once again great, but there's no denying how much of a mess the majority of Sonic and the Black Knight was, especially with how tough some of the stages were.
2 GOOD: SONIC MANIA ADVENTURES
The final great piece of Sonic media on our list is none other than Sonic Mania Adventures, a series of animated shorts directed by Tyson Hesse that tie into Sonic Mania (specifically its animated intro). The shorts feature a style similar to classic Sonic and the previously mentioned OVA anime, making for a fun and adorable series.
Though the episodes are short and there are only a small number of them, everything about Sonic Mania Adventures is delightful and makes us want more Sonic cartoons in this style, maybe even a full series!
1 BAD: SONIC '06
Last, and certainly least, we have the epitome of Sonic's late '90s, early 2000s series of failures, 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog. Often referred to simply as Sonic '06, this game was an attempt to reboot the franchise that went very, very wrong.
The game was terrible in every way; it had console-crashing glitches, unavoidable deaths, a bonkers story (involving a human-hedgehog kiss) and other awful mechanics that earned it the title of one of the worst games of all time. Though Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric might have dethroned Sonic '06, it still stands as the epitome of terrible Sonic games.