If you’ve stuck it out with Sonic the Hedgehog over the years and you’re not familiar with the Sonic Cycle, it’s best to prepare for what comes next. Like the slopes he rolls along, so, too, has Sonic seen many ups and downs.
Fortunately, in the realm of 3D, Sonic has been mostly triumphant. There’s more good games to play than there are bad games. That said, there’s a reason there’s a Sonic Cycle in the first place. In this list, we’re ranking the worst 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games from mediocre to laughably bad.
7. Sonic Lost World
To give some praise to Sonic Lost World, at least it attempts to do something different. That’s why it’s the least offensive item on this list. This Sonic game released after the Boost style of gameplay was introduced in Unleashed, refined in Colors, and perfected in Generations. The most prominent departure from the Boost games is that Sonic’s full sprint is now related to a shoulder button. Parkour is another feature in Sonic Lost World but executing these moves disrupts speed rather than amplifies it.
Super Mario Galaxy has an influence on this Sonic game. From its orchestrated soundtrack down to its spherical level design. The game is pretty to look at but frustrating to play once dropped in these worlds. The Deadly Six enemies are among the most generic villains in the series. The odd tube-like levels call for imprecise platforming. Sonic Lost World may not be downright terrible, but exploring a tube of Pillsbury Cookie Dough sounds like a more delightful use of your time.
6. Sonic and the Secret Rings
Sonic and the Secret Rings released on Nintendo Wii. As you can imagine, this Sonic game utilizes the Wii Remote’s motion controls. The “Sonic Storybook Series” are on-rail platfomers. At the start of each stage, Sonic will automatically run forward on a predetermined path. Players hold the Wii remote horizontally and rotating it on its axis controls Sonic’s speed. Sonic and the Secret Rings appears intuitive but playing the game feels obsolete out the gate.
The novelty of tilting and tipping the Wii remote to-and-fro loses its luster fast. Sonic and the Secret Rings would have benefitted from options in controls but it was not to be. It could be worse. The game’s strength is in its story. Adapting the Arabian Nights against a Sonic background is a clever idea. The same can be said of its aesthetic and music but not much more keeps us coming back.
Sonic Forces was hyped up to be a solid game in the series. Early previews of the game show Dr. Eggman is successful in conquering the world and the action stages appear dilapidated. It looks like a turn for the worse for Sonic. How unfortunate that this statement would be true in more ways than one. The ploy of Sonic Forces is having players create their own custom characters. Moreover, Sonic Forces is another Boost style game. Sounds like a no brainer. Admittedly, the character creation system is a novel concept.
The problem is that Sonic Forces feels blatantly phoned in. Not only does Sonic Forces reuse a recurring gameplay formula, it doesn’t even do that well compared to Generations or Colors. Classic Sonic returns again but somehow controls worse in poorly optimized side-scrolling stages. Sonic Mania released months prior to Forces. What a punch to the gut after that strong outing.
4. Sonic and the Black Knight
Did you know that Sega delisted subpar Sonic games from retailers in order to make the Sonic the Hedgehog brand more appealing? Sonic and the Black Knight was one of those last straws. Taking inspiration from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. If Sonic goes around hacking and slashing his way around the world that’s perfectly fine. Stranger things have happened in this franchise. However, this is the selling point of the game and it’s implemented poorly.
Sonic Team did not get the response time down on the Wii Remote for this next storybook game. The game takes seconds to register swinging the controller to have Sonic swing his sword. Couple that with the game’s tiring gameplay and it’s a done deal. Sonic and the Black Knight doesn’t overstay its welcome as it’s not a long game. This Sonic game is one you can pass on.
3. Shadow the Hedgehog
Shadow’s solo debut easily could have gone with the name: Shadow the “Edgehog.” It’s the vibe the game is infamously known for. Shadow the Hedgehog is far from a top 3D Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s known that this game isn’t great, but that’s why we remember it fondly. One look at the box art and you’ll see how strong of a departure Shadow takes from the franchise. It’s an early 2000s game through and through. Sega attempted to appeal to the dark and edgy trends of the time and Shadow the Hedgehog floundered upon arrival.
Guns, guns, and more guns. These weapons act as the focus of the game. Shadow the Hedgehog contains janky controls, wearying missions, and a storyline with so many branches. If players want to see a “true” ending then a lot of replaying is required. There are 326 possible story branches depending on the mission taken in each stage. The problem is that Shadow doesn’t evoke replay value in its level design. Why repeat stages when Shadow’s homing attack is prone to careening players off screen, ride vehicles that slow down Shadow, or using weapons that can’t register their intended targets?
The best thing that came out of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is the Sonic Boom animated series. This trainwreck has a long, sad story regarding its time in development. Look it up. Developer Big Red Button is not totally at fault. Rather, much of the game’s poor performance stems from the interference of Sega themselves. The end result is a buggy, messy, and laughably awful game. Try not to laugh as duplicate versions of the characters t-pose amid gameplay.
If there’s any enjoyment to be had from Sonic Boom it hinges on whether you can accept this cult-estranged game with all its bumps and bruises. The frame rate is terrible, Knuckles has an infinite jump glitch, and combat is too simple and overly repetitive. The sad part is that this game received patch support and still remains a travesty. Years later, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric makes an easy pick for any worst 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game. Also, Sonic has blue arms.
1. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Sonic 06, as the game is more commonly known, was intended to celebrate 15 years of Sonic and act as a reboot for the series. The opening cinematic sets up a strong precedent. Then everything goes downhill after this point towards a slow, painful, dumpster fire. It was difficult whether or not to place this game behind Sonic Boom, but the vivid nightmares of those loading screens still conjure anxiety. If one is to suffer through a terrible Sonic game then why prolong the inevitable?
Sonic 06 is not only encumbered by terrible load times, but even the loading screens will return following pointless cutscenes that transition into a mission or action stage. Sonic controls stiffly, making one correct a jump in midair. What’s more is that the action stages are poorly optimized. Sonic can be prone to launching off the intended path from certain automated loop-de-loops or ramps. The high-speed running segments are rife with the worst collision detection. Any lives collected are easily lost here. And remember that time a human kissed a dead Sonic to bring him back to life? We’re still cringing.