If there’s any video game character who had a turbulent history it’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic got a promising start as a high-speed side-scrolling platformer. There’s been some amazing entries on the 2D front since then. However, we’re looking at some not so promising 2D Sonic games. Rather than race to the finish, these games slip, trip, and stumble. This list ranks the 10 Worst 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games from loathsome to downright horrible.
10. Sonic Advance 2
Sonic Advance 2 is not the worst 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game there is. The game is part of a decent trilogy when it comes to it. To give credit where it’s due, Sonic Advance 2 really knows how to bring the speed. The first few zones start promising enough, but things begin to change immediately. There’s a difficulty spike that seems to come out of nowhere following Ice Paradise. Boss encounters can be a skill check, too, as some of the toughest in the whole 2D series of Sonic games.
This difficulty spike can be a bit polarizing. However, it’s also the level design that comes under heat. Developer Dimps peppers the stages with odd enemy placement and bottomless pits are repeat offenders. It’s very satisfying to keep Sonic’s speed going along loop de loops only to have an enemy placed atop a ramp, colliding with the player. With the small aspect ratio of the screen, it can be hard to foresee these obstacles coming. Players are best keeping to the higher levels of these zones as much as they can.
9. Sonic Rush
Sonic Rush is Dimps’ first Sonic game on the Nintendo DS and unfortunately it goes the way of its Game Boy Advance counterpart. The game has the trappings of a top 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game. Its chiefest concern is once again the layout of the levels in the game. Bottomless pits are all over the place. It’s a shame because the boost and tricks mechanic is an excellent idea to keep Sonic’s speed meter constantly filled. Successfully chaining together tricks keeps the coming, almost infinite if you’re dextrous. The bosses also get a lot of heat due to some unfair instakill attacks. Looking at you, Egg King.
To its credit, this Sonic game at least introduced us to a really cool new character in Blaze the Cat. Blaze goes on to appear in the critically panned Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) or Sonic ‘06. Additionally, the boost style of gameplay that the Sonic Rush series is known for gives the franchise a much needed shift in game design. The boost mechanic would be featured greatly in Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is a marginal improvement to the travesty that was Sonic 4: Episode I. More on that game later. Sonic 4: Episode II could have had a few things go right for it. The whole Sonic 4 project could be better. The game’s physics feel like they improve marginally at best. It’s better than Episode I for sure, but Episode II doesn’t hold a candle to the classic Sonic games on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.
Taking inspiration from Sonic 2, this game buddies up Sonic and Tails yet again. The game’s most notable new mechanic is having the duo roll into a big ball and speeds the game up. It’s the closest the game’s engine comes to replicating the exciting velocity Sonic is known for. Sonic 4: Episode II is also terribly short as a standalone Sonic game. Furthermore, of the game’s four traditional length zones, two look original in their designs. Too bad, Sonic 4: Episode II could have been a top 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game leading to an eventual Episode III but this project has since been canned.
7. Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble
The Sega Game Gear seems like it earns the credit of being the little handheld that could. In all honesty, Sonic Triple Trouble runs pretty well for a handheld. There’s the occasional framerate drop when things get busy on screen. On the surface, this Sonic game seems like a so-so adaptation of its 16-bit equivalents. Yet you’ll find there’s not really a lot of meat on its bones. Sonic Triple Trouble is a breeze of a Sonic game, lacking in populated levels, challenge, and feeling too short in length.
Now, that isn’t to say that Sonic Triple Trouble is without its merits. For one thing, its ambitious legacy warranted an unofficial fan remake called Sonic Triple Trouble 16-Bit and it’s absolutely worth having a look at.
6. Sonic Chaos
Sonic Chaos is another Game Gear entry, and Sonic’s first original game on the handheld system that wasn’t a port. Like Sonic Triple Trouble above, Sonic Chaos suffers from biting off more than the Game Gear can chew. The game’s levels are bland in execution and don’t offer much in the way of challenge. Additionally, the Game Gear chugs along at a sorry pace, attempting to keep up with Sonic’s speed and fails to.
The game’s special stages are also repetitive. What’s more is that they gravitate towards certain gameplay concepts like using rocket shoes, invincibility, and springs. The trouble is that the dev team would have been better off staying focused on one idea and refine it with each stage. Instead, the outcome is repetitive and baffling.
The Sonic Rivals games are side-scrollers that are exclusive to the PSP. The gameplay hook in these games is competing in an on-foot race between Sonic and friends. Think of the race between Sonic and Metal Sonic from Sonic CD. Sounds like a good concept on paper but doesn’t translate as well in practice. Sonic Rivals 2 is the greater of the Rivals duo, but not by much.
Of the two Rivals games, Sonic Rivals 2 has a steep learning curve from the start. It’s not a good sign when the game’s unfair AI can catch up to you so easily. However, the AI begins to suffer from the game’s eventual complicated level design itself. The player will no doubt get a hang of things, but the AI eventually gets boring and repetitive to race against. At any rate the story of Sonic Rivals 2 is a bit more appealing than the first game. We get to explore more of Silver the Hedgehog’s character and expand more on the origins of Eggman Nega.
4. Sonic Rivals
Between the PSP games, the first Sonic Rivals is easily the worst of the two games. Sonic Rivals draws much of its ire from rubber banding problems. That’s to say that no matter how much the player has an advantageous lead on the CPU characters, the latter somehow finds a way to catch up. Worse still, is that the CPU will spam projectile items and stop your progress continuously. The extra malicious Blue Shells from Mario Kart Wii feel more forgiving than Sonic Rivals.
Inversely, Sonic Rivals will have an easy start but gets progressively complicated in the mechanics of the later stages. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Sonic Rivals is what it contributes to the overall Sonic story. Attentive Sonic fans will recall that the character of Silver the Hedgehog returned to his own timeline. In fact, the events of Sonic 06 were undone and Rivals acts as a reintroduction of sorts for Silver. Right, the lore implications are more engaging than gameplay.
3. Knuckles’ Chaotix
Do you remember the Sega 32X add-on for the Sega Genesis/Master System? It didn’t perform as well as you might imagine. Neither did one of its exclusives in Knuckles’ Chaotix. This game is another example of an interesting idea that just didn’t take off. The concept behind Knuckles’ Chaotix looks identical to any top 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game. The catch is the tether mechanic that the game utilizes.
Playing scores of 2D Sonic games leaves an impression on what you can expect from their physics. Knuckles’ Chaotix goes against the grain. Think of the tether mechanic as another instance of rubber banding like Sonic Rivals. What’s worse is that the player is tied to the CPU. When the CPU’s inertia is stalled, the same will happen to the player and vice versa. There’s no doubt it’s fascinating to think about, but it’s a chore to play. At least many of the characters in Knuckles’ Chaotix were repurposed in future games. That is, before Sonic’s friends overstayed their welcome.
You know that Sega themselves goofed up with Sonic 4 when they omit mentioning the game in the present. If you recall the trailer for Sonic Mania, Sonic and friends are ascending an elevator whose “floors” represent each main series console game. 1, 2, 3, K, and, finally, M. Notice the number 4 is intentionally absent. Oh boy, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is one of the worst 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games there is. It’s not just how the game performs. It’s an all-encompassing letdown for a game predicated on paying tribute to Sonic’s legacy.
The Sonic 4 project originally started as a mobile game before shifting to multiplatform development. It was intended to be a trilogy not unlike how Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles was intended to be one complete package. Episode I’s most noticeable flaw is its physics. Lookup footage of Sonic literally “Spider-Maning” his way up a steep slope at a brisk stroll. The game feels so stiff compared to its Genesis/Mega Drive counterparts. Dragging the complete package down further is its uninspired level design, plasticky visuals, and Dimps’ fondness for pits.
1. Sonic Blast
Just because the Sega Game Gear can do something like run pre-rendered 3D graphics doesn’t mean it should. This is specifically true when the game in question is Sonic Blast. This game is the last Sonic game produced for the Sega Game Gear and does very little for the series. The pre-rendered sprites for Sonic and Knuckles have so few frames of animation. It makes the sluggish gameplay feel even more excruciatingly slothful. Even the special stages run slower and the payoff is not worth the time spent.
If you want to understand what it’s like to play Sonic Blast at its best, then think of every 2D Sonic game that has an underwater stage. Imagine, then, to play this on the Game Gear hardware on its small screen and limited field of view. It’s cringe-inducing. What more can be said about Sonic Blast other than it still haunts us to this day? Truth be told, the game has been ported to three Sonic compilations, among them the recently released Sonic Origins collection. Thankfully, the game is no longer accessible on Nintendo 3DS due to its eShop going belly up. Sonic Blast takes the cake as the worst 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game.
One Sonic fan’s rejection can be another fan’s cup of tea. What’s your least favorite 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game? Let us know in the comments below!