Sonic Mania is a great game; not just great for a Sonic game, but just a great game in general. The game looks great, the soundtrack is amazing, the stages are a blast to speed through, the soundtrack is amazing, the game is full of clever nods to the series, and did I mention HOW FREAKING GREAT THE SOUNDTRACK IS? BECAUSE OH MY GOD IT'S SO GODDAMN GOOD YOU GUYS! HOLY SHIT IT'S AMAZING AND MAKES ME BELIEVE IN MAGIC AND LOVE AND OH MY GO-
....Sorry about that, I got a little excited there. The point is that Sonic Mania is a really great game that fans of the series should absolutely pick up (assuming they haven't done so already), and while I'm a little hesitant to call it (as some people have) "TEH GREATEST SONIC GAEM EVAR!11!", it's easily in the running for my personal Game of the Year, alongside Breath of the Wild, Persona 5, Nier Automata and Super Mario Odyssey (yes, I'm confident enough to say that about Odyssey). So now that everyone is once again in love with Sega's blue woodland critter with attitude, it's time to remind people why we kicked him out of the house in the first place.
That's right kids! We're talking about the five worst games that Sega ever slapped Sonic's name, because no asked for it. Like before, the only rule for this list is that you have to be able to play as Sonic, which means that once again Shadow the Hedgehog escapes my wrath, but know that one day the game will know my fury and come to understand what real fear is; or something. Before I start tearing into the blue hedgehog, I just want to say right now that this was a lot tougher list than the last one. Not because there aren't any bad games, believe me there are, but because, and as much as I hate to admit this, a lot of the "bad" Sonic games aren't really that bad; they aren't great mind you, but a lot of the games that got low scores aren't the worse thing in the world. But I pressed on and was able to find some of the worse games in the Sonic series. And here they are; God help me.
Of all the slots on this list, number five was the one that I had the hardest time with. The bronze, silver, and gold were already covered, so what was I to pick for the fifth place? Like I said, there are bad Sonic games, but most of them aren't bad enough to warrant being in the top five. After thinking it over, I narrowed it down to two games: Sonic Shuffle and Sonic 3D Blast. While the former is a terrible Mario Party clone with confusing rules and an even more confusing plot (yeah, it has a plot for some reason), Sonic 3D Blast just barely squeaks by and makes to into the top five due to some terrible design choices and even worse controls. Soundtrack’s decent though.
Though Sega doesn’t mention it anymore, Sonic 3D Blast was pushed by a lot of people as being Sonic’s first foray into 3D, when really it was more pseudo 3D, which is when developers make 2D games using 3D looking sprites. This isn’t a bad thing, as games like Vectorman, Super Mario RPG, and the Donkey Kong Country games did the same thing. The difference being is that while those games were good, Sonic 3D Blast isn’t. This is because instead of making the game a 2D platformer (though fun fact Sega did that later it was also pretty bad), developer Traveler’s Tales decided to make the game an isometric game where Sonic has to explore mostly empty levels that look the same, looking for enemies to defeat just to proceed, made even worse by the fact that Sonic himself controls terribly, making him feel both strangely heavy and slow yet also slippery when he does hit top speed, like trying to drift in a tank on ice. The end result is a game that feels, looks, and plays like rubbish.
I know there are people who like Sonic 3D Blast (and hey if you're one of those people, more power to you), and to be fair the game is a significant part of Sonic's history, as this was the first game to introduce what would later be known as the Homing Attack. Additionally, a few tracks from this game’s pretty good soundtrack (on the Genesis anyway) were added to Sonic Adventure. However, neither of those take away from the fact that this game just isn’t good, with terrible controls, bland and empty levels, and gameplay that doesn’t belong in a Sonic game. Even worse is the fact that the game’s biggest selling point, the 3D sprites and gameplay, got blown out of the water by both the first Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario 64, both of which released in North America on September 9, 1996 and September 20, 1996 respectively, three months before Sonic 3D Blast's initial release of November 30th of that year for the Genesis. So, while PlayStation owners got the first entry in a new platforming series (though admittedly that game hasn’t aged well), and Nintendo 64 owners were blown away by the game that revolutionized 3D platformers (though admittedly that one hasn’t aged all that well in places either), Genesis and Saturn owners were stuck with this game. Whoops.
So originally, I was going to put either Sonic R or Sonic Free Riders on this list and call a day. But after looking both of them up, something occurred to me: Sonic's had quite a few racing over the years, and most of them have been terrible, ranging from okay to just plain bad. It'd be a little hard to narrow it down to just one, so I’m going to cheat here and include every Sonic racing game aren’t Sega All Stars and All Stars Transformed. Yes, all of them. Hey, it’s my list.
Sonic Drift 1 & 2 are nothing more but a poor man’s Super Mario Kart, with uninteresting tracks, bland music, a limited number of characters to play as, and an emphasis on drifting that just doesn’t work, made worse by the fact that both games are on the Game Gear. Sonic R may be remembered for its hilariously god awful soundtrack (seriously, it’s so bad), but once you look past that, you’ll find a game that has terrible physics and controls, the original Saturn version only supporting two players (later versions supported four players, though why you would drag three of your friends to play this piece of crap is beyond me), confusing track layouts (not to mention that the game has only five tracks to race on), and cheap A.I. that among other things will always use the best character that you unlocked against you; hope you don’t mind using Super Sonic until the end of time. Sonic Rivals 1 & 2 aren’t god awful, but they feel sluggish on the PSP, and you’ll only get the most fun out of these two if you play with a friend. I remember picking up Sonic Riders when I was a dumb teenager, and man do I remember having a bad time with it, with its confusing mechanics, not that great level design, and at times cheap A.I. To be fair though, Riders is still miles better than its two sequels: Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, which has terrible motion controls in the Wii version, slightly less confusing game mechanics, bland level design, and a plot that reads like “Ancient Alien” fan fiction, and Sonic Free Riders, which is a Kinect exclusive game that doesn’t work. Try not to act too surprised.
Unlike Mario, the Sonic series hasn’t really gone crazy with spinoffs. But you would think that of all the genres the blue hedgehog would excel at, it would be the racing genre, since the big sticking point of the series has always been speed. And yet despite that, most of Sonic’s racing games have either been really bad or just really boring, with none of them coming even close to surpassing the Mario Kart series. Granted, a couple of these games can be fun with friends if everyone’s in the right mode, but even then most of you will get bored and want to do something else. Individually, they may not be the worse, and if I had a gun to my head, I'd probably pick the first Sonic Riders, but as a whole they’re pretty bad, and I’m glad Sumo Digital exists so that the series knows what it’s like to have a great couple of racing games.
I like the Sonic Boom cartoon. It isn’t perfect, but it’s well animated and I do occasionally chuckle at a lot of the jokes. For a show made for kids, it’s pretty good. The reason I’m telling you this because the game Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, which was meant as a jumping off point is an absolute train wreck of a game, and should be avoided at all costs.
Did you ever say to yourself “boy, I love these Sonic games, but I wish Sonic wouldn’t move so fast?” Well no, no one ever said that, yet developer Big Red Button decided to do that with Rise of Lyric, a game that downplays Sonic’s speed (you know the one thing the game is known for) and replacing it with a dull combat system, an awkward tether mechanic, and uninspired sections where he and the gang run on rails (as well as the only time anyone in this game runs fast). None of that alone is enough to make Rise of Lyric bad or even one of the worse Sonic games ever (though it certainly doesn’t make it good either), but the fact that the game’s a buggy mess certainly does. I’m sure you can find videos of the various bugs and glitches that show up, and while some of them are hilarious, it takes a game that could have been at best tolerable and turned it into something that is borderline unplayable. And yes, I know the game was patched after launch to fix some of the game’s most glaring problems, but that doesn’t make it any better.
Look, I wasn’t expecting Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric to be good. Like many of you, the previews didn’t exactly win me over, and since everyone involved kept insisting that it was a spin-off and its own thing to what Sonic Team was working on, no one was really expecting much. Yet the game couldn’t even exceed these low expectations, and the end result is a game that feels like a terrible licensed game that everyone thought died off in the late 2000s and less like a Sonic game. I know some fans don’t consider it the worse game in the series, and while I do agree there are a lot worse *glares at Shadow the Hedgehog*, it’s still a pretty atrocious mess of a game. At least the cartoon is decent though.
Remember that one episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer had to take care of Mr. Burns? And at one point he has to make Mr. Burns breakfast, but everything he makes ends up catching fire, including a bowl of cereal? That scene is obviously played for laughs, but if I were to describe Sonic the Hedgehog: Genesis, a Gameboy Advance port of the original game, it would be that bowl of cereal. Except the cereal is a port of the first game in the Sonic series on the GBA, and the fire is what happens when Steve the Intern is was put in charge of making the game at two in the morning. God damnit Steve.
Released alongside Sonic ’06 to celebrate the series’ 15th anniversary, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis is a laundry list of how not to port a game, with its biggest sin being that it suffers from screen crunch. For those that don’t know what that means, screen crunch is what happens in handheld and mobile games (though it can happen in some console games) where the player’s view is limited, thus making it harder to see what’s ahead of them, and is usually seen in ports and remakes of console games. Developers for handhelds will try to prevent this by making the sprites smaller so everything fits on screen, but sadly the developers of this game were not that smart, as the screen is zoomed in so close that unless you’re willing to go slow through each level (you know, the exact opposite of what Sonic games are known for), you’re going to get hit a lot by stuff that you can’t see. Of course, you have no say in whether Sonic runs fast or not, as the game suffers from slowdown, which makes the game even harder to play, as Sonic will randomly shift from moving at a snail’s pace to going fast, which in turn makes it even harder to see where you’re going. Combined with its terrible physics (which makes the game’s bosses super easy, as you can bounce on Robotnik repeatedly), equally terrible controls, random bugs, and one of the worse soundtracks I’ve ever heard (seriously, the GBA could do so much better), and you have what easily the worse version of a beloved classic. But hey, it does have an Anniversary Mode, which is just like the original, only now you can Spin Dash; in levels that were never designed with the Spin Dash in mind. God, I need a drink.
Seriously, there is no reason as to why Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis is so god awful. It’s pretty clear that Sega didn’t care about this game at all, and it shows, as it's a poorly optimized game that is riddled with bugs, glitches, and slowdown, somehow running worse on a system that's more powerful than a Genesis. Hell, shortly after this game was released, a proof of concept was released for a Game Boy Advance version of the first game, which ran much better than Genesis did, it sounded better, added an improved Spin Dash, and even had a playable Tails and Knuckles! The cherry on this metaphorical sundae was that the proof of concept was developed by famed Sonic hacker and fan game developer Stealth, who you may know as Simon Thomley, the founder of Headcannon. As in the same Headcannon that ported Sonic 1 and 2 to mobile devices and made a little known game by the name of Sonic Mania.
The only reason it’s not number 1 is because while it is a terrible mess of a game, there are at least other versions of this game that you can play, like the original, the ports that are a part of the numerous compilations over the years, the XBL, PSN, and Virtual Console releases, mobile phone, emulating on a PSP......you get the idea. Play any of those versions instead of this one, as there is literally nothing of worth in this hellhole of a port; you had one job Sega, and you couldn’t even do that.
What a twist! I know it’s cliché, and at this point it’s become an easy target, but the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game for the 360 and PS3 is the worse game in the series, hands down. I know it, you know it, everyone and their mom knows it, so I’m not going to waste my time telling you about the terrible controls, the glitches, the terrible story, and the various load times, because everyone's covered that already. Instead, I’m going to discuss something that a lot of people seem to ignore whenever this game comes up for discussion: the impact that it had on the series. Specifically, how the 2006 version of Sonic the Hedgehog (which going forward I will call Sonic ’06) was so bad, that while it didn’t kill the series (contrary to what a lot of people say), certainly put the series in a pretty bad place and causing it to fall into a hole that it's still to some extent struggling to get itself out of, even today.
What may shock a lot of people about Sonic ’06 was that it when it first shown off, it was actually well received by the press at the time, with Ricardo Torres of GameSpot for example saying that it showed “a considerable amount of promise.” You see at the time, nostalgia for the first Sonic Adventure was starting to fade, with many people starting to decry that the series was only good in 2D, while Sonic’s first two outings after Sega went third party were met with at best a lukewarm reception (Sonic Heroes), and at worse unbridled anger (Shadow the Hedgehog); or maybe that last one was just me. Regardless, when the game was shown off, Sonic ’06 got a lot of people excited for future of the series and had a lot riding on it; unfortunately, it obviously failed to live up to that hype, the final game being a buggy almost unplayable mess with terrible load times, god awful controls, and a convoluted plot involving time travel and necrophiliac bestiality (or is it the other way around?), resulting in not only the worse game in the series (if not one of the worse of all time), but also one of the most disappointing of the last console generation. And that last one right there, disappointment, is the reason why I feel that Sonic ’06 is often called the worse game in the series, and one of the worse games of all time.
Look, every major franchise has that one or two games that's terrible: Mario and Zelda have the CD-i games, Metroid has Other M & Federation Force, Crash Bandicoot has Wrath of Cortex, Spyro has Enter the Dragonfly etc., and yet despite these bad games, people are still pining for new games from these franchises (especially the latter two). The Sonic series on the other hand, nosedived pretty hard after the disaster that was Sonic '06, and the series to this day has been struggling to detach itself from its awfulness. I'm not joking either: this game is the reason why Sonic fans cross their fingers every time a new game is announced, praying that it’ll at least be decent. This game is the reason why modern 2D Sonic games are held in high regard, and why there was genuine shock among gamers and the game media when Colors and Generations turned out to be good games. It's also the reason why so many people weren’t at all surprised when Rise of Lyric turned out to be such a mess. And it's also the reason why some people stupidly declared that Sonic finally had a great game with the release of Sonic Mania, which is totally true if you ignore 1, 2, 3, CD, Knuckles, Advance 1 & 2, the Rush games, the All Star Racing games, Colors, and Generations. There are far worse games out there than Sonic ’06, but there are very few out there that can hold the distinction of nearly killing a franchise as badly as ’06 did. And that alone is more than enough to call it the worse Sonic game of all time.
And there we go, the five worst games ever to be associated with the Sonic series. I said at the beginning, but it bears repeating: this was not an easy list to come up with. While the blue hedgehog has been associated with some really terrible games over the years, sorting through the series' history and picking out five of the worst games was no easy task simply because a lot the games really aren't that bad; they aren't all that great either, but contrary to popular belief, the series isn't a complete tire fire. Having said that, I do think it's just as important to understand and analyze the failures of a series as it is to celebrate it's successes, and while it's important to be happy that Sonic Mania (I know I keep harping on this game, but it's so goddamn good) is doing well, let's also never forget that there was a point where Sonic hit rock bottom. As the old saying goes, "those who ignore the past are doomed to life of shitty sequels and spinoffs that no one asked for." Or something.
But hey, enough from me. What did you guys think? Agree, disagree, wanna hear me bang on about Shadow the Hedgehog some more? Let me know in the comments, and I'll see you next time.